Eight-Layered Bean Dip: Writing in Multiple POVs

Writing a novel with eight points of view is messy and complicated, but in the end each layer is distinct and enjoyable both on its own and as part of the whole. Kind of like making layered bean dip (I think.) Admittedly I’ve never made an eight-layer bean dip. Perhaps I’ll add it to my “for when I have free time” list, next to knitting and goat yoga (yes, it’s a thing).

In truth, writing from eight points of view was a long and layered process. First, I wrote the essence of the story, trying to lightly keep my voices distinct. At that time, I was mostly just pushing the plot forward. The true differentiation took place during revision. That was when each voice became its own, when I looked for consistency one voice at a time. Each character needed his/her own nuances of speech, reference points, stylistic differences, backstory, culture, and character arc.

In some ways, having so many points of view helped to push the plot forward. I had fun figuring out how different characters would react to the same events, and playing around with secrets and misunderstandings.

When I began revising with an editor, and making some significant changes, revision became a balancing act, as I had to consider the impact on eight distinct voices. I wanted to give each personality equal playing time. All changes needed to be wound through each POV, affecting each character in his or her own way. I had to be sure not to lose a thread. And when I did purposely need to eliminate a thread, it needed to be eliminated throughout all the POVs.

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My characters arrive on my literary stage with their own unique personalities and diverse cultural/religious backgrounds, as well as learning styles. It was important to me to create diverse characters who both represented a typical Californian classroom and who were their own individuals with strengths and weaknesses. I found it extremely helpful to have authenticity readers. I identified a variety of different areas for which I might need an authenticity reader, and then I attempted to find multiple readers for each category. I’m so grateful for their assistance—if I’ve gotten it nearly right, it’s due to the help of my authenticity readers. Any mistakes that remain are my own.

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Art by Gina Perry

Two of my characters are closest to my own personality, and perhaps for that reason, midway through the revision process, I felt they sounded similar to each other. I made special effort to work on those two voices over and over to strengthen their differences both in personality and presentation. One of my characters, Blake, illustrates his entire thread. I love the inclusion of illustrations for so many reasons. I think illustrations help reach an additional group of readers, and of course brings the story to light in a whole new way.

Much like a zesty bean dip, I couldn’t have achieved the same end result without the important contribution of each layer. Even though it was a ton of work and required some deep cleaning, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I’d happily write in multiple POVs again.



Sarah Scheerger is a school-based counselor in Southern California, helping students figure out who they are, and who they want to be. Her middle grade debut, Operation Frog Effect (Penguin Random House) releases in February but is available for pre-order now. Keep an eye out for her new picture book, “Mitzvah Pizza” (Kar-Ben) which launches in April. In addition to MG and PB’s, Sarah also writes YA. To learn more, visit www.sarahlynnbooks.com.

MG at Heart Book Club’s February Pick: THE NIGHT DIARY, by Veera Hiranandani

The Middle Grade at Heart Book Club Selection for February is…

Screen Shot 2019-02-04 at 1.49.58 PM.png The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani!

In the vein of Inside Out and Back Again and The War That Saved My Life comes a poignant, personal, and hopeful tale of India’s partition, and of one girl’s journey to find a new home in a divided country

It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity…and for a hopeful future.

A 2019 Newbery Honor Book!

“A gripping, nuanced story of the human cost of conflict appropriate for both children and adults.”—Kirkus, starred review

“This rich, compelling story, which speaks to the turbulence surrounding India’s independence and to the plight of refugees, should be in all libraries.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“The diary format gives her story striking intimacy and immediacy, serving as a window into a fraught historical moment as Nisha grapples with issues of identity and the search for a home that remain quite timely.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

The newsletter will go out 2/25. The #MGbookclub chat will happen 3/12 at 8 pm EST.

World Read Aloud Day Celebration!

Every year on World Read Aloud Day, educators, librarians, and authors from around the globe celebrate the special magic that happens when you read out loud to a child.  This year, as we celebrate the 10th annual World Read Aloud Day, we’ve invited four educators and authors to join us at the MGBookVillage to discuss reading aloud.

Jake Burt

bio2Jake is a 5th grade teacher and the author of Greetings From Witness Protection, The Right Hook of Devin Velma, and the upcoming The Tornado. You can connect with him on Twitter @JBurtBooks.

What’s one of your favorite read aloud memories?
It’s the most formative event of my life as a reader: my father reading The Hobbit aloud to us when I was a kid. I’d get into my top bunk, my brother in the bottom, and my dad would sit in the chair across the room. I’d hang my head over the guardrail on top of a pillow and watch him like a hawk as he turned the pages, gesturing with his off-hand and contorting his face to deliver each character’s unique voice.
Why is reading aloud so important?
From building fluency to engaging imagination to modeling a love of the written word, read-aloud is an essential tool in a teacher or parent’s box. I think my favorite thing about it, though, is the way it allows for immediate, shared insight and conversation about a story. Whether it’s about a connection a child makes with a character or deconstructing a beautiful bit of prose; unpacking an intense, emotional scene or predicting what might happen next, those follow-up discussions are often just as enjoyable and meaningful as the performance itself.
What is one of your favorite books to read aloud?
I have read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book aloud over a dozen times now, and I still adore it. The book itself is fantastic, but there’s something special Gaiman does that 220px-thegraveyardbook_hardcovermakes it that much better as a read-aloud. If you dare to do voices for the characters…and oh lordy, do I do voices…it adds some absolutely delightful moments to a story already chock-full of them. (SPOILERS AHEAD) For instance, I’ll never get tired of hearing my class gasp when they hear Mr. Frost speak for the first time, his voice a more avuncular version of the man Jack from the beginning of the book. And giving Silas just a hint of the old Bela Lugosi is a great little nod for sharp listeners as to his true nature. The best part, though, might be that The Graveyard Book is one of those rare works of fiction that allows its main character to grow up. As Bod matures (both physically and emotionally), the performer gets to change his voice, too, allowing a deeper sense of understanding to develop between the narrative and the audience. All that, and the book has one of the greatest “Oooooh, SNAP!” lines in all of MG literature…folks familiar with the book will know the one…

Karina Yan Glaser

screenshot2019-01-31at10.57.19pmKarina is a contributing editor at Book Riot and the author of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. You can connect with her on Twitter at @KarinaYanGlaser

What’s one of your favorite read aloud memories?
When I was in fourth grade, my teacher spent a lot of time reading aloud to us. She was new to teaching and reading aloud was one of the only ways to keep the classroom in order! I loved read aloud time. I have no memory of being read aloud to by my parents when I was growing, so the read alouds at school were magical. Now, as a parent, I love reading aloud to my kids. I actually started reading out loud to each of them when they were in the womb because I was so excited about reading children’s books to them! I especially enjoy reading aloud to them on the subway; it makes the commute feel short and I love spotting other subway riders listening in on the story.
Why is reading aloud so important?
Reading aloud is important for so many reasons, but for me I love that it invites opportunities for deeper connections between adults and kids. I adore the questions that my kids ask me when we read books together. Last night I read Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda and His Muse by Alexandria Giardino, illustrated by Felicita Sala, to my nine-year-old daughter, and she had so Unknown-1.jpegmany funny questions: “Why is Pablo so gloomy?” “Why do onions make us cry?” “Was Pablo a real person?” “Can we read his poem about the onion again?” “Now can we read the poem in Spanish?” “Can we do shadow puppets behind the onion skin paper?”
What is one of your favorite books to read aloud?
Only one?! I have to name more than that, I’m sorry! The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt; Dreamers by Yuyi Morales; Alfie by Thyra Heder, Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier; The Best Man by Richard Peck; Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris;Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead and Erin Stead; and All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee, are just some of the ones that I love to read aloud!

Christina Carter

Jg8RK8Mn_400x400.jpgChristina is a K-5 librarian, book reviewer, and ProjectLIT Buffalo site leader. You can connect with her on Twitter @CeCeLibrarian.

What’s one of your favorite read aloud memories?

My favorite read aloud memory is with my Dad because he had his very own unique way of fracturing any story that was familiar. I can’t point to any specific book really but every time we sat down to read together was a blast. When I became an adult and then watched my Dad interact with his grandchildren, reading them stories in that same special way, it made (and still makes) my heart happy. I think this honestly is a HUGE reason why I love sharing fractured fairy tales.

Why is reading aloud so important?

Every read aloud we do with our children is an opportunity for them to fall in love with reading. I approach each read aloud that way, thinking, “what if this is that book that will spark the magic and wonder of their own imaginations and creativity or pique their curiosity to the point of further inquiry? ” Knowing that this is a possibility, I bring everything I have in me to the story rug; taking on the voice and role of each character and inviting our students to engage in this reading journey together. The read aloud gifts the participants with memories that will live on in their hearts as they recall the experience(s) that evening with their families or even years beyond this moment in time. It goes without saying, that I believe read alouds to be incredibly powerful!

What is one of your favorite books to read aloud?61ksfpfx5gl._sx384_bo12c2042c2032c200_

My absolute favorite read aloud at the moment is It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk! It has been a big BIG hit with every grade level that I see in the library (K-5). The idea of Jack speaking directly to the narrator and giving him a hard time about how the story is going gets our students giggling every time! During our most recent read aloud, we turned it into a mini readers theater performance and I invited my library aide, our tech aide, and every and any adult who wanted to participate. We transformed our story rug into a “stage”, taking on the roles of each character and showed our students how to bring a story to life. Students then had a chance to come on up to the “stage” and read an advance copy of It’s Not Hansel and Gretel (also by Josh Funk). We had so much FUN! After every reading, students were like, “Again! Again!” This experience made my heart so happy and it is one that I will always remember.

Amanda Rawson Hill

author-photo-2018.jpgAmanda is cofounder of the MG @ Heart Book Club, a PitchWars mentor, and the author of The Three Rules of Everyday Magic. You can connect with her on Twitter at @amandarhill32


What’s one of your favorite read aloud memories?

My favorite read aloud memory is when my mom read the first Harry Potter to me and my siblings. Right around the troll scene, I picked up the book and finished it myself. Too impatient to keep taking it chapter by chapter!

Why is reading aloud so important?

Reading aloud is important because it changes books from a solitary experience to a shared one, which I think is a vital part of having them be well-loved and creating readers.

What is one of your favorite books to read aloud?

I love reading Neil Gaiman’s FORTUNATELY, THE MILK aloud. So many fun and silly voices plus lots of laughter.

Have a wonderful World Read Aloud Day and share your thoughts using the #WorldReadAloudDay hashtag!

Magical Realism in Middle Grade


Magical realism is a flourishing sub-genre of middle grade literature, but what does it mean, how is it different from standard fantasy and why is it so appealing to young readers and not-so-young authors alike? My first introduction to magical realism came in college when I became enamored with the works of Congolese author Sony Lab’ou Tansi; although, at the time, I wrote a paper outlining how his brand of magical storytelling differed from the classic magical realism tradition of Latin American authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges. Nowadays, my thoughts on the subject are not quite so lofty.

Middle grade authors have developed their own version of magical realism, which, of course, varies just as much as previous iterations. Today I’m going to share my specific understanding of the sub-genre and how I have used everyday magic as a tool to develop my characters’ emotional journeys.

First, a definition. I like to define magical realism in middle grade as a story that takes place in an everyday setting with just a hint of magic. However, we need to take the definition a few steps farther to really understand magical realism, especially if we want to differentiate it from contemporary fantasy or urban fantasy, which are also fantasy stories that take place in everyday settings. One of the key differences here is that with contemporary or urban fantasy, the fantasy element is generally a force that characters must strive to overcome. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the beasties are primarily there to drive the plot forward and give Buffy landmarks on her hero’s journey.

In magical realism, the fantasy element serves a different purpose. It is generally there in order to spark or highlight an emotional change in the main character. Think of the magic as a spiritual guide, leading the character on a journey of self-discovery. The magical element is often symbolic of a larger idea. For a concrete example, let’s take a look at my first book, Skeleton Tree.


In Skeleton Tree, the main character, Stanly, discovers a finger bone in his backyard. He hopes to dig up the bones and photograph them in order to win a contest, but the bones have other ideas. They start to grow, first into a bony hand reaching up into the sky, and then into a full-sized skeleton that only children and a few special adults can see. The only person who doesn’t find the skeleton creepy is Stanly’s little sister, Miren. She wants to be best friends with the skeleton, that she names Princy, but when she starts to get sick more often than usual, Stanly worries that maybe the skeleton isn’t as friendly as Miren thinks.

Spoiler alert:  as you probably guessed, Princy represents Death in the story. As Stanly’s relationship with Princy changes and grows throughout the course of the book, so does Stanly’s understanding of Death. By the end, he realizes that, “maybe death [isn’t] all worms and nothingness. Maybe, sometimes, there [is] mystery and whimsy and dancing shadow puppets, too. The kind that [need] both light and dark to be seen” (154-155 Skeleton Tree). The magic serves the purpose of guiding both the character and the reader on an emotional journey that might be more difficult to conceptualize without a physical manifestation of a complex topic, in this case Princy as the physical manifestation of Death.


This is one of the reasons why I think magical realism works so well in middle grade. Not only can it give young readers a concrete way to visualize and understand fuzzy existential topics, but, using light magic, often with a big dose of whimsy, is also a great way to ease readers into a conversation about dark or difficult topics, like death in Skeleton Tree or homelessness in Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw.

Another characteristic that differentiates magical realism from contemporary or urban fantasy is that authors of magical realism usually make no attempt to explain the magic. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, we learn an entire mythology surrounding slayers and demons that, while still fantastical, explains the world in a way that viewers and characters in the show are willing to accept. On the other hand, in magical realism, the author makes little or no attempt to explain, because it’s not about developing a larger fantasy world or a plausible system of magic, it’s about taking the character on a specific emotional journey. Once the journey is over, the magic often disappears or goes away until it is needed by a future character looking to undertake a similar emotional journey.

Hopefully this article has given you a greater understanding of magical realism in middle grade literature and has inspired you to go out and read, or even write, some magical middle grade in 2019.



Kim Ventrella is the author of the middle grade novels SKELETON TREE and BONE HOLLOW (coming 2/26/2019). Her short story, ‘Jingle Jangle,’ will appear in the NEW SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK anthology releasing in 2020. Her works tackle tough topics with big doses of whimsy, hope and, of course, magic.

Why Drawing Matters

When I was a kid, I loved drawing. I loved the way it felt to make marks on a page, the sound of the graphite scratching against the paper, the feel of the pencil against my fingers.


I liked the sensation of moving my hand and arm in swooping or looping gestures. And I liked the marks left by these gestures: lines against a surface, the visual contrast and tension. With a little imagination, I could see characters who’d never existed before come to life. But drawing was also an activity that got me in trouble. At school If I had a sheet of paper in front of me, I doodled on it. I would draw in my notebook instead of work on what I was supposed to be doing. Drawing was often seen as an off-task activity. At home, my artistic endeavors were appreciated, but not regarded as something to aspire to. As the child of immigrants, I was encouraged to focus on more serious, scholarly pursuits. I grew up believing that the thing I loved and cared about didn’t really matter. So eventually, I just stopped doing it.

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Like me, many children use drawing as a primary way of responding to and representing experiences, ideas, and imaginings. Before we can form words, we make marks on a page to tell stories about who we are and what we care about.

We draw what frightens us, perplexes us, and excites us. Our early drawings were opportunities to examine ourselves in the world, to challenge concepts and beliefs, and to imagine who we might be in the future. As an act, drawing is deeply entangled with literacy development, but doesn’t often receive the same attention or regard as language.


Drawing  helps us discover what we know. It gives shape to our often divergent and nonlinear thoughts. It helps us construct new knowledge, by offering a non-verbal approach to thinking through logic and causality. But drawing is also a deeply embodied act that activates the body by privileging sensation and desire over linearity and discursiveness. Drawing emphasizes our subjective rationality, highlights our material constraints, and creates the conditions for surprise and delight. Drawing allows us to sidestep the structures of language to speak without saying, to know without articulating, and to sense without containing. Drawing cares more about how we feel than what we think.

body tingling.jpgOkay, I never really stopped drawing. I just pushed it to the margins for a long time, and hid it in places other people couldn’t see. I could never really shake it. In fact, there were times when my body seemed to need it. In the darkest of times, I found that drawing in my sketchbook was the only thing that would help me feel better. It didn’t matter how well I drew, and it didn’t matter if anyone even saw it. Drawing helped me be present with my feelings, it helped me endure confounding thoughts, it helped me wait out the darkness for the light. And this is still how it works for me.
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Not everything we feel or everything we know can be articulated through language. As a cultural-historical system, language not only gives shape to our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs, it tells us what they’ll be as well. In order to share (or prove) what we know or how we feel, we necessarily have to render it in language, an act we all struggle with from time to time. Think about all those times we resort to metaphor to explain that what we mean is more than the words we’re using to say it. We’ve been moving from thoughts to words for so long, it’s easy to believe that the only way to know something, is to put it into language.  It’s even easy to mistake thought and language as the same thing.

Can we know something if we can’t say it?

Can we think through drawing?

What are feelings before we’ve named them?


I’m a sucker for cartoon characters. I love how improbable they are. Their impossibility. Their absurdity. As caricatured humans, they also help reveal and uncover the limits of our humanity.

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It makes sense to me that cartoon characters would emerge from drawing. It’s true, of course, that drawing can be used to document and look more closely at the world around us. It can be used to uncover the depth of our thoughts, to reveal the complexity of our world. It can be used inquire. But what excites me most is drawing’s ability—through the ambiguity of line—to render the unimaginable in a visible form, free from the constraints of logic or reason. Drawing offers us an opportunity to imagine new trajectories for ourselves and for the world around us. When I draw, I can act on what I sense—those vibrations and movements in my body—without having to figure out what they are or what they mean.

Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 1.09.45 PM.pngIn a few months, my own graphic novel, Red Panda & Moon Bear, comes out. It’s a wish fulfilled for my twelve-year-old self. A book full of monsters and creatures, impossible happenings. It’s also got characters who remind me a lot of myself. They’re silly and irreverent. They care deeply about the people around them. They’re powerful and strong. They know a lot of stuff, but they also make a ton of mistakes. They’re helpful and destructive. Beings of contradiction and ambiguity. Just like all of us. The narrative in this book is itself a kind of line drawing: meandering and diverging. It splits apart, goes in separate directions, rejoins itself later. It moves in odd shapes, full of surprise. It resists logic and reason. It’s motivated not by what should come next, but by what could come next.


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Now I’m all grown up—a college professor—and I teach comics and cartooning in a creative writing program. I’ve discovered that people who like to tell stories, often (used to) like drawing as well. I’ve had countless adult students come to my office to confess their desire to go back to drawing. I get to hear stories about drawing with parents as children, making their own comics and zines, and the too-often abandonment of these activities. The older I’ve gotten, the more my actions have been motivated by a desire to retrieve my own past. Like my students, I’m looking for the things I love, and so many of them began in my childhood. Maybe it’s because we’re getting farther and farther away from it. Maybe we’re worried it’ll disappear entirely. Maybe we’re scared to forget. But maybe you still feel that desire to draw, the tingle of excitement in your body. Maybe, when you pick up a comic or watch a cartoon, you get that rushing sensation, that urge to make something. Maybe you left drawing, but drawing never left you.

So, I’ll quote the cartoonist and educator, Lynda Barry: “To all the kids who quit drawing…come back!”drawnig.jpg

Some drawing and art-making resources:

  1. Marjorie & Brent Wilson’s book, Teaching Children to Draw, is not just a resource for working with children, but an exploration of what it means to draw.
  2. Andrea Kantrowitz’s article, Drawn to Discover, details a cognitive approach to drawing. http://www.andreakantrowitz.com/drawn-to-discover.html
  3. Nick Sousanis’s essay in comics form, The Shape of Our Thoughts, explores the way drawing comics approximates human thought. His book, Unflattening, furthers and continues this conversation. http://spinweaveandcut.com/the-shape-of-our-thoughts/
  4. Deanna Petherbridge’s, The Primacy of Drawing, is an theoretical and historical text on the ways drawing helps us construct knowledge and the ways we think through drawing.
  5. Elliot Eisner’s The Arts and the Creation of Mind, is an argument for  art-making in an educational context, and draws from a lifetime of research in art education.  
  6. Dave Eggers’ short short story, How the Water Feels to the Fishes, is a great example of the ways we use metaphor to articulate sensations of the body.
  7. Maxine Greene’s collection of essays, Releasing the Imagination, approaches art-making (including writing and literacy) from a curricular and pedagogical perspective, and situates it as an imaginative endeavor that can be used to construct a more equitable future.
  8. My article/comic, Drawing with Milo, documents the ways drawing is entangled in the life of a ten-year-old boy. https://educate.bankstreet.edu/occasional-paper-series/vol2013/iss30/12/

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Jarod Roselló is a Cuban-American cartoonist, writer, and teacher originally from Miami, Florida. He is the author/artist of the middle grade graphic novel, Red Panda & Moon Bear, and the forthcoming (adult) graphic novel, Those Bears. He teaches fiction and comics in the creative writing program at University of South Florida. You can find him at www.jarodrosello.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @jarodrosello.

MG at Heart Book List: Middle Grade and Picture Books for Grief, Loss, and Funeral Rites

THE LAND OF YESTERDAY is a beautiful, whimsical and fantastical journey through grief. Reynolds’ deftly weaves so many truths and emotions about the grieving and healing process into Cecilia’s journey. The book is truly a healing balm to  children and adults alike who have lost someone near and dear to them.

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If you loved THE LAND OF YESTERDAY and would like to read more children’s books about grief, or if you know a child who is grieving but perhaps is not ready for THE LAND OF YESTERDAY yet, we’ve put together this list of books around death, grieving, and funeral rites. Each one hits on a bit different part of the topic and is aimed at different audiences and age groups. So hopefully, you’ll find just what you’re looking for.


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The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price asks the question, “Would you be willing to give up memories of a lost loved one in exchange for the illusion of being with them again?” At once a bit dark and scary, like Coraline, but also incredibly heartfelt. It helps the reader to feel gratitude for what they have of the person they lost.

TIM’S GOODBYE by Steve Salerno

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When a young child has to say goodbye to a beloved pet, this may be the picture book for them. Gentle illustrations show a group of kids getting ready for something. It’s only at the end that you realize it is a send off for a dead pet turtle, which they release into the sky with balloons. Comforting without being preachy or instructive.

THE FUNERAL by Matt James

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This picture book shows a funeral for a semi-distant relative from a child’s point of view, which may not always be the most reverent. But it is a good way to open the conversation for any families who will be attending one soon with young kids.


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This was the book I needed as a child. My closes friend died when I was in 4th grade but my last interaction with her was me declining to go play at her house because I didn’t feel like it. That isn’t nearly so bad as the last interaction that haunts the main character of this book, but it spoke to my heart that still feels the prick of that. In the end, this is a book for anyone trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy, who has to come to the painful realization that sometimes bad things just happen and there’s no good explanation.


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This picture book was a turning point in my 4yo son’s therapy after the death of his favorite uncle (the father of his dearest cousin.) About six months after the death, my son started having intense anxiety breakdowns about death and dying. We took him to a therapist who gave us this book. After reading it a few times, and inserting the name of his uncle into the words marked in red (allowing any reader to properly personalize the book) we were able to have a conversation about what happened and how it made us feel, without a breakdown. Very gentle and perfect for the very young.

I am also going to highly recommend all the other books on death and grieving from Magination Press (the children’s publishing arm of the APA). There is a picture book for losing a parent, losing a pet, losing a sibling, losing a friend, and even one for a child who finds out they are going to die. They may not be standard story time fare but are important to have on hand when someone in your community needs it.


As luck would have it, Corrina Allen asked for grief and loss recs and gave two of her own earlier this week. So we are also listing a few of those here.Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 3.05.05 PM.png

Princess Wu Yinmei vs Chen Peasprout: Petition to Strip Chen Peasprout of Points

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Sagacious and Venerable Senseis of Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword,

I, Princess Wu Yinmei, as petitioner in this proceeding, demand that you strip respondent Chen Peasprout and her battleband, called by the tragically inauspicious name “Nobody and the Fire-Chickens,” of all points they earned during the First Annexation and that such points be transferred to me.

I restate here all the undisputed facts that the senseis need consider:

  1. I am the great-great-granddaughter of the Empress Dowager of Shin.
  2. I fled here to the city of Pearl seeking sanctuary from the Empress Dowager’s ruthlessness.
  3. The Empress Dowager is preparing to invade Pearl.
  4. Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword has thus been transformed into a military academy.
  5. The academy students are being taught to use their skills in martial skating not just for theatrical performance, but to protect against the invasion.
  6. Chen Peasprout falsely and hatefully accused me of coming to Pearl to spy for the Empress Dowager, which is a vile slur soaked in vicious lies.
  7. The Empress Dowager demands that Chen Peasprout be deported back to Shin to be executed as a traitor.
  8. Chen Peasprout is granted sanctuary to stay here in Pearl only if she takes first ranking at each of this year’s three Annexations.
  9. I foolishly accepted Chen Peasprout’s invitation to join her battleband. During the First Annexation, we performed shamefully and were rescued from defeat only by my seizing prized possessions belonging to our opponents, and threatening to hurl them into the sea if we were not awarded first ranking.
  10. Chen Peasprout then expelled me from her battleband, simply because she had not authorized my stratagem, in a pitiful public tantrum exhibiting an utter absence of shame or dignity that was an embarrassment to witness.

I will not say that Chen Peasprout has trash for leadership skills, for I am a kind person and have a complete lack of opinion about her character or the fact that she was only one of two students that Sensei Madame Liao sentenced to remedial leadership class.

I will say that I tenderly urged Chen Peasprout to learn from me for I was groomed for leadership from birth. I wrote an entreaty in the form of a harrowing opera scene entitled “The Bitter Tea of the Dynasty in the Dynasty.” It recounted how the Empress Dowager threatened to poison me, like she poisoned everyone else in our family, if I proved to be an unsuitable leader to inherit the throne. I include with this petition a letter orb recording the performance of this scene.


Why have you summoned me, great-great-grandmother?
The invitation called me to a feast.

But if this is a feast why aren’t there any others
To join us but the honorable deceased?

Empress Dowager:

I’ve summoned you to feast, great-great-granddaughter
On something that is precious beyond price.

So what I pour into your cup is more than water,
What I put in your bowl is more than rice.

Will you take the bitter tea
Of the dynasty in the dynasty?

For your sake, commit to me
And the dynasty in the dynasty.

Will you join us, will you Empress Yinmei be?

They talk of vicious things that I have done to
Each person who’s inheriting my throne.

It’s only that I’m searching for the special one to
Convince me with some merit of her own.

A girl who has the courage to put finding
A way to change the law into her plan.

When she is Empress, Shin will have no more foot-binding.
Our girls will walk as far as any man.

Will you take the bitter tea
Of the dynasty in the dynasty?

For your sake, commit to me
And the dynasty in the dynasty.

Will you join us, will you Empress Yinmei be?


Then she claps and orders me to eat and drink.
I don’t know what to do, don’t know what to think.

But she put our family into their graves,
And that’s where she’ll put me too unless I’m brave.

So for four days and four nights I stay composed,
With my spirit steady for my mouth is closed.

I refuse your poison, I will not comply!
I live unafraid until the day I die!

I won’t take (Why won’t you break) your bitter tea (Come drink my tea)!

Of the dynasty in the dynasty,

I won’t break (I tried to make), so set me free (you into me)

Of the dynasty in the dynasty!

I won’t join you, I won’t Empress Yinmei be!

What I have learned from my experiences is that a leader makes decisions that no one wants to make.

What you will learn, as the waves of war hurl toward our shores, is that Chen Peasprout is not the leader who will save Pearl.

I am.

– Petitioner, Princess Wu Yinmei

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 5.28.27 PMHenry Lien is a 2012 graduate of Clarion West. His short fiction has appeared in publications like Asimov’s, earning multiple Nebula Award nominations. He is the author of the Peasprout Chen series, on which he was mentored by George R.R. Martin, Chuck Palahniuk, and Kelly Link. Born in Taiwan, Henry currently lives in Hollywood. Henry has worked as an attorney, fine art dealer, and college instructor. Hobbies include pets, vegan cooking, writing and performing campy science fiction/fantasy anthems, and losing Nebula awards.







For more about artist Afu Chan, visit: www.afuchan.com