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2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Books Children

Why You Should Read Mitali Perkins’ Tiger Boy

One of the great joys of being a book reviewer is the opportunity to read great books and occasionally meet their authors. I was very fortunate to meet Mitali Perkins in October during a trip in Sacramento. In all the commotion of packing up, I somehow managed to forget my copy of Tiger Boy; the extremely gracious Mrs. Perkins sent me a copy right away.

I’m so glad I got a chance to read this book! Here’s a blurb:

When a tiger cub escapes from a nature reserve near Neel’s island village, the rangers and villagers hurry to find her before the cub’s anxious mother follows suit and endangers them all. Mr. Gupta, a rich newcomer to the island, is also searching—he wants to sell the cub’s body parts on the black market. Neel and his sister, Rupa, resolve to find the cub first and bring her back to the reserve where she belongs.

The hunt for the cub interrupts Neel’s preparations for an exam to win a prestigious scholarship at a boarding school far from home. Neel doesn’t mind—he dreads the exam and would rather stay on his beloved island in the Sunderbans of West Bengal with his family and friends.

But through his encounter with the cub, Neil learns that sometimes you have to take risks to preserve what you love. And sometimes you have to sacrifice the present for the chance to improve the future.

I cannot express enough how much I love this book! It’s a look at life in India that’s not your Hollywood depiction aka poor children living in squalor who need rescuing. Perkins people are not wealthy by any means, but they are not to be pitied. Perkins takes life in the Sunderbans and turns it into a beautiful world of mangroves, baby tigers, glorious food, and a simple, honest life.  Our young Neel is the best kind of hero; he loves his community and doesn’t imagine ever wanting to leave, why would he, he has everything he wants right there. The sunderbans is an ecological paradise. Check out these photos from the UNESCO’s website.

Tiger Boy is a good book for children of all ages, and would be an especially appropriate book to build a unit of study around to include food, culture, finances, politics, ecology, etc. Any age group can understand how important it is to preserve animal life or to feed your family. While everyone could learn from this book, I believe it is best suited for 9-12, even on the young end of middle grade.

Great book. I want a sequel!

Perkins is a prolific writer and provides plenty of opportunity to learn about Indian culture and people. Check out her website to see what might interest you. Also worth following is Jamie Hogan’s Pinboard called Tiger Boy. In it you’ll see the beautiful surroundings of the Sunderbans and understand why Neel doesn’t want to leave his homeland.

Look at these beautiful tigers. No wonder Neel and his friends are so concerned for their saftety!

whitetiger
courtesy Jamie Hogan

This also counts toward the Diversity Challenge!

 

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Books

Why You Should Know About KidLitCon: #WeNeedDiverseBooks

2014KidLitConLogo

 

KidLitCon is a gathering of book bloggers who specialize in kid lit; YA, middle grade, and picture books. Sounds right up my alley, right?

RIGHT!!

You can imagine how thrilled I was when they agreed to let me speak at their conference! To be sure, I’ve met book bloggers at BEA in New York, but this was a conference for people who also read MG and picture books!!

Thanks to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks discussion this summer on Twitter, Diversity was on everyone’s minds at KidLitCon.  Take a look at the program so you can see how focused they were.

Did you notice anything? Yep I spoke on day two. But not about diversity. They wanted me to speak about finding your readers! So I did. I talked about the main social media platforms I use when I’ve written a blog post.

The wonderful Mitali Perkins of Welcome to Mitali’s Fire Escape  taught us some tips to use when evaluating books for diversity, which, as a reviewer who tries to focus on diversity (and the lack thereof) was near to my heart. The most important idea I took away from Mitali’s talk is that “Stories are windows and mirrors. It’s up to the reader to decide which story is going to be the window or which is the mirror. ” Which simply means that some readers are going to see the book as a window into another life and others will see the character reflecting back at them, like a mirror.

Deep, isn’t it?  That’s why diversity in literature is so important!

Stay tuned for more reflections from my time at KidLitCon