It all started years ago when I sent a manuscript to a small start-up publisher in New York City. The publisher was Lee & Low Books, a publisher focused on producing high quality multicultural picture books. The manuscript I sent them was Bein' With You This Way, now one of my all-time best-selling stories. I continue to work with Lee & Low Books because of their high standards and continued commitment to bringing multicultural literature to young readers.
Bein' With You This Way
Bein' With You This Wayreceived a Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award, a "Best Book" Award from Child Magazine, and a Jane Addams Children's Book Honor Award. It was also an American Bookseller's Pick-of-the-List, a Scholastic Book Book Club selection, and was featured in PBS Families Magazine and on CBS This Morning.
America: My Land, Your Land, Our Land
Lee & Low released America: My Land, Your Land, Our Land in 1997. This poetic text addresses the polarities found in our country (i.e., wet land/dry land, rich land/poor land, etc.). The unique aspect of this book is the fact that each double-spread is illustrated by a different artist, fourteen of them in all.
In 2001, Lee & Low released a board book version of the America title, called America: A Book of Opposites/Un Libro de Contrarios. The book is dual language, featuring English and Spanish text. The format is smaller than the original, but a great book for families with young children who wish to expose their children to new languages.
Can You Top That?
My next Lee & Low title is called Can You Top That? Along with Bein’ With You This Way and Shake Dem Halloween Bones, Can You Top That? is one of my favorite books to read. A counting book in structure, things quickly get out of control when neighborhood kids start bragging about animals they supposedly own. A great book to use as a writing prompt for young writers.
Summer Sun Risin'
When people ask me which is my favorite book I wrote, I usually reply with Summer Sun Risin’. This book, more than any other book of mine, takes me back to my childhood growing up in a small ranch town in south Texas. And I surprise people when I “read” it, mainly because I don’t read it, I sing it as a lullaby.
My Teacher Can Teach...Anyone!
I got the idea for My Teacher Can Teach...Anyone! while sitting in the back of a second grade classroom waiting to talk to the students. As I watched the teacher interact with her students I could tell immediately these kids loved their teacher. That was all I needed, and out popped My Teacher, an ode to teachers and all the many wonderful things they teach their young charges.
How We Are Smart
How We Are Smart was inspired by Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. This best-selling book, a Christopher Award recipient and runner-up for a Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, has been a real hit with upper elementary and middle school students. It's a great introduction to poetry, biography, and to Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
Why Multicultural Books?
People ask me all the time, Why do you write multicultural books? There's a couple of answers to this question. First of all, I don't always. Take Can You Top That? If you look at my text there's really nothing "multicultural" about it. It doesn't address diversity in any way. It's just a fun book for kids. So, why does it have a multicultural "feel"? That's because the illustrator, Hector Viveros Lee, brought this dimension to the book. As a Lee & Low illustrator, he--and the editors--support diversity through text, illustration, and design.
But then, again, there are books of mine that address diversity head on. Here are some examples: Bein' With You This Way, America: My Land, Your Land, Our Land, and How We Are Smart. In these cases multiculturalism inspired each of these works. So, as people often wonder, why do I write multicultural books? It's simple. I write for a world I'd like to live in, not for the world I do live in. Although a simple answer, it's important to remember that multiculturalism--a respect for others, expecially those unlike us--is never a simple subject.
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