Tag Archives: We Need Diverse Books

Pinch Me

My new puppy, Kiku, is joining in on the celebration!

Today, my debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi launches with the first two books: Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. This is the culmination of over 15 years of writing, learning, growing, revising, querying, submitting, and collecting rejections. Having my chapter books published is a dream come true.

I’ve talked about my journey on this blog and elsewhere so I won’t rehash it except to say, for Jasmine, it’s been seven years from the spark of an idea to book release. And it’s been a little over two years since my wonderful editor, Grace Kendall, made the offer to publish Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, not as a stand-alone, but as a series. It’s been a truly wonderful experience working with my editor Grace, my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and the FSG team. I feel so fortunate.

I’ve revised, copyedited, and proofread (with the help of the sharp eyes of professional copyeditors and proofreaders). I’ve reviewed and loved the art. Jasmine Toguchi is part of a Macmillan bookseller campaign called “Got Character?” that features six series. Jasmine is on a poster! The reviews (all good, thankfully) are in. Mochi Queen is a Junior Library Guild fall selection and a pick for Amazon’s Summer Book Club – New Favorite Series for Kids. I’ve been interviewed by some awesome bloggers. I’ve stumbled upon Twitter conversations and Instagram posts about Jasmine. And I’ve held the actual books in my hands. I’m giddy!

So when does it feel real? This still feels like a dream. A very wonderful dream but, still, a dream. I can’t believe that a book I wrote with characters I conceived is really going to find its way into the hands of readers. Perhaps that is when it will feel real – when a child reads my books.

Pre-launch, so much energy and focus is on getting the words and the art just right, on waiting for the reviews to come in, on planning events, on promotion and marketing. All of this is, of course, relevant and important and fun. But during all that, sometimes it’s easy to forget why I wrote the story in the first place, for whom I wrote the story – for a child. When I started my writing career over 15 years ago, I didn’t know about Kirkus or School Library Journal, or the effect of sales numbers or earning out, or how important it was to get parents and educators on board. All I thought about was the child who might pick up my book, read the story, connect to the character, and fall in love. And today, I’m remembering that. I can’t wait for readers to meet Jasmine and, I hope, fall in love with her.

Art copyright Elizabet Vukovic

Maybe that’s when it will feel real. When a child reader says, “I read and loved your book.” That is the review I’m holding my breath for.

In the meantime, I am celebrating this dream come true. I’m pinching myself to make sure this is really happening. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me along this journey, who has believed in me, who has talked up my books, and who has helped make Jasmine and her stories come alive. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And extra special thanks to my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, to my amazing editor Grace Kendall, and to my husband B0b and daughter Caitlin!

————————————

Enter to win Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

 

 

Advertisements

38 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Launch, Thankfulness

Show Yourself in Your Work: An Illustrator’s Story

It’s launch week! It’s launch week! Hold onto your summer floppy hats, we have a book…well, actually two to launch into the world this week. A little bit from the publisher about our first book baby!

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!

She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie—something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.

But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

And even better? This is the first book in a series. The second book is also available this week! At the end of this post, you can enter to wind a copy!

To kick off a week of Jasmine Toguchi celebrations, I sat down with illustrator Elizabet Vukovic. Ok, technically, she was in the Netherlands and I was in Maine… but laughing all the way through our video chat, it was as if we were sitting at the same table. Elizabet is not only talented and brilliant, but she’s bubbly, fun, spunky, and there are some big surprises in her journey.  You are going to love her as much as I do. Let’s get to it.

evukovic_02

Elizabet knows exactly what it’s like to have a big sister who gets everything first! Reading the pages of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen, Elizabet related to Jasmine immediately. She laughed heartily as we talked about her own childhood and the misery of hand-me downs.

Growing up in the Netherlands, Elizabet lived around the corner from a bicycle store. Every summer, she looked through the shop window at the new bikes. So shiny! So new! And every summer, she watched her older sister pick out a new bike… while Elizabet got her sister’s old bike to ride. (Eventually Elizabet would get a new bike, but not until high school!)

Elizabet wore her sister’s hand-me-down clothes and played with hand-me-down toys––until one day Elizabet had enough. It happened in the toy store. The girls had begged their father to walk into the toy store, promising only to look at the toys. Finally, their father agreed. The three of them walked into the store and that’s when Elizabet saw it: a microphone. Not just any microphone, but one that echoed. Elizabet was always singing and this microphone would be the perfect accessory. She had to have it.

She asked her dad to buy it. He said no.

So Elizabet refused to leave the store––without that microphone. That’s when her father and big sister left her there and went home.

But Elizabet did not budge.

Finally, her father returned to the store. And he bought Elizabet that microphone!

As we talked about this story, Elizabet’s eyes sparkled and her grin grew wide. Tapping into these experiences, brought Jasmine to life for Elizabet. She says the illustration on page 37 of the book put in a fine point on what both girls dealt with. (And no sneak previews. The only way to see this emotional scene is to buy the book or request it at the library or win it in our book give away! Also, it’s totally worth it.) But, it’s that illustration in particular that captured both Elizabet’s experience and Jasmine’s: complete frustration and irritation. The contrast of Jasmine’s level of anger juxtaposed to the oblivious prancing around of her older sister really nails the dynamic.

Elizabet says that level of personal connection is critical to her work. You can learn anatomy, she explains, but you have to put yourself in those characters. “Show yourself in your work,” Elizabet said.

But Elizabet’s path to accomplishing that, to creating the space where that’s even possible is interesting. She is the child of immigrants from Croatia. Her parents are hard workers and always expected that of their kids. Because they had to overcome so much and accomplish so much to establish their new lives in the Netherlands, they are also very practical and pragmatic.

Elizabet was interested in drawing as a very small child. Her kindergarten teacher used to say to her parents, “You have a real Picasso on your hands.” Even in high school, a teacher mentioned that Elizabet should go into drawing.

But as a profession? That was hard for Elizabet’s parents to accept or encourage. After all, they wanted Elizabet to have a paying job, security. .. all of the things they had immigrated to the Netherlands to build.

But as effervescent and charming as Elizabet is, she also has steely determination and an unyielding drive to prove herself.

So, what could she do in that situation? First, Elizabet got a degree in optometry. That’s right, optometry. She worked full time in the field to save money for art school. She worked during the day and studied illustration at night through online coursework until she graduated from the San Francisco Art Academy.

Then, she rode her bike 45 minutes to work every day, put in her hours, rode her bike home––which was another 45 minutes, climbed into her studio chair and began working on her illustration portfolio. Every night.

But Elizabet swears that something magical happened in those late hours. It was like her illustration time was protected. Because she had a full time job, she could really give herself permission to go for it at night. Permission to take risks, to enjoy her passion. Her artwork was not burdened with the responsibility of having to make money.

work_ev

Once her portfolio was ready, Elizabet prepared herself mentally for the process. She was ready for the rejections, the long, hard, and difficult path to an agent and publication.

She started by picking her top three agencies. Then one morning, she submitted her work by e-mail. She had an offer by that afternoon. She ran around her room screaming. Elizabet doesn’t remember much of her call with her agent Justin Rucker, just that he said he loved her work. “I was so high on emotion and he talked a lot and I kept thinking is this real? Oh my God!” she remembers.

And Elizabet brings all of that to these illustrations. You’ll see it immediately, the joy and spunk…. the struggle and conflict. They flow out of her pen onto the page. These masterful illustrations are a treasure for readers and an invitation to all of us to show ourselves in our work.

Enjoy!

Anna Crowley Redding

P.S. Elizabet and her older sister are close friends today !

P.P.S. Keep reading, there’s a book give away at the bottom of this post!

Also available this week: Book 2 in this delicious, unforgettable series:

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (Book 2)

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

It’s a big weekend for Jasmine Toguchi! She’s excited to celebrate Girl’s Day―a Japanese holiday honoring women and girls―with her sister, mother, and best friend, Linnie. When Linnie comes over to plan for the Girl’s Day celebration, Jasmine’s neighbor lets them play dress up in her garage. But the garage is dark, which is kind of scary. And Linnie decides to go home early, which is kind of weird. And Jasmine’s big sister, Sophie, doesn’t seem to want to join in the Girl’s Day fun this year, which is kind of confusing. WHAT is going on?

As her big weekend plans start to unravel, Jasmine must use her sleuthing skills to spot the clues around her. Then maybe, just maybe, she can fix things and make sure the Girl’s Day celebration happens!

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

Enter to win MOCHI QUEEN and SUPER SLEUTH! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Enter by midnight EST Sunday July 16th. Good luck!

headshot_ev

 

12 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Character Development, Dreams Come True, Families, Illustrating, Illustrators, Inspiration, Interviews, process, Uncategorized

Everyone Has a Story… and We Need Them All

MLK Day panel at WSHM

Last Monday, I was honored to participate in a panel on diversity and changemaking in children’s literature as part of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at the Washington State History Museum (you can read an excellent summary of the full panel here). In preparing for my part of the panel, I couldn’t help thinking back to my Emu’s Debuts from exactly two years ago (have a really been here that long? Meep!). That seemed like a good place for me to start.

In that old blog post, I referenced an MLK quote that resonated with me…

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

…and I talked about how our job as authors is to facilitate that kind of communication through story, whether true or fictional, and how stories can speak to universal human truths, even when the specific life experiences and situations are very different, such as mine and Emmanuel’s, as shown in Emmanuel’s Dream.

While drafting my recent speech, I also went through my transcripts from my interview with Emmanuel in 2010 and stumbled across this gem I hadn’t noticed before for some reason. He told me,

“When you hear about so many people—their story and their lives—you can say whoa, that guy’s story sounds like my story. It’s familiar. Because you know, the rich person has a story to tell, and the poor person has a story to tell, and the person who won the race has a story to tell, and the person who is in last place has a story to tell. So people have to come together to educate ourselves with stories, so that we can be able to move forward.”

As I concluded in my speech on Monday, I believe Emmanuel is right: stories will help us move forward. I have almost nothing in common with Emmanuel, yet his story touched me, and I hope it touches young readers, too. I hope it will help them understand and value other people despite their obvious differences. I also hope it will show them that each and every one of us—including themselves—has value and can make a positive difference in the world, just like Emmanuel did, and just like Dr. King did.

Their stories matter, and so do everyone else’s. That’s why so many of us in the children’s literature community are supporting the We Need Diverse Books campaign. The more diversity we have in our stories, and in our storytellers, the more we can all communicate with one another, the less we will all fear each other, and the better we can all get along. Diversity in literature builds understanding, and understanding builds empathy. With enough mirrors and windows, maybe we can finally stop the hate.

So, please, keep sharing stories–stories like Emmanuel’s, Dr. King’s, and, most importantly, your own. The world needs them all, now more than ever.


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 2015 from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…
Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

8 Comments

Filed under Diversity