Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Mentor Text Talk with Meera Sriram

We are so excited to introduce you to Meera Sriram! She recently celebrated the release of her debut picture book in America, The Yellow Suitcase. All kids need to see themselves in books, and this text celebrates a bicultural child's journey from America to India as she reconnects with family. 

Don’t be fooled by this nearly early reader- sized book. The Yellow Suitcase is a diverse, emotional picture book, led by main character Asha’s journey to honor her grandmother’s life in India. The amazing team of Meera squared, Meera Sriram and Meera Sethi, partner to bring life to the words and illustrations despite the topic of loss. Although thousands of miles hold main character Asha apart from her grandmother in India, there are plenty of traditions and special memories to highlight the impact of their relationship. The main connection, a yellow suitcase, normally hosts a gift exchange between Asha and Grandma. Grief turns to anger when Asha thinks there is no way for the gift exchange to continue. To her surprise, Grandma has left something special for her. The flat art perspective provides a brush-graffiti feel to the art at times, amping up the multicultural appeal in a unique way. Tear drop memory windows, tear-stained art, and tears-turned-to-flame offer additional  glimpses into the stages of grief and cultural connections.

Like us, Meera reads picture books as mentor texts to learn more about great writing. It's always interesting to gather different perspectives on this process. Thank you, Meera, for joining us today, and also for writing this important story.

Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?

Yes! I often turn to picture books to mentor me through a story idea. It could be to analyze plot (or story arc) or to see how to address a particular theme. I go back and read my favorite authors or look up new books to see how they navigated possible roadblocks.

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

I read a lot of picture books. And very often, I’ll find myself gravitating towards certain types of stories. Then I make a list of more books in that category. When I read them, I usually discover what I particularly like about them. Sometimes I realize it’s the importance of the theme. Or maybe a particular author’s use of language or style of writing. Eventually I start identifying the story I truly want to tell. Reading Jacqueline Woodson taught me that quieter stories could be very powerful (and vice versa), even for a younger audience. Reading Allen Say stories, for instance, made me realize that I’m drawn to nostalgia, and many times I end up weaving that feeling or element into my narrative. Most importantly, when I read more, I’m inspired in so many different ways to tell my own stories.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of The Yellow Suitcase? 

I did not read mentor texts while drafting or revising “The Yellow Suitcase” or specifically for this project. However, by the time I’d decided I wanted to tell this story, I had read several books that were centered around the theme of loss and grief (which is also the theme in my book) – titles like Boats for Papa, The Scar, and Sweet, Sweet Memory. Reading these books helped me in two ways: (1) they gave me the confidence to write on a difficult theme for young children (2) they pushed me to come up with an alternate way to treat the subject.

Meera Sriram grew up in India and moved to the U.S at the turn of the millennium. An electrical engineer in her past life, she now enjoys writing for children, teaching early literacy, and advocating for diverse bookshelves. Meera has co-authored several children’s books published in India. THE YELLOW SUITCASE is her debut picture book in the U.S. She believes in the transformative power of stories and writes on cross-cultural experiences that often take her back to her roots. Meera currently lives with her husband and two children in Berkeley, California, where she fantasizes about a world with no borders. For more information visit www.meerasriram.com

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Monthly Challenge Under My Umbrella

By Janie Reinart
Embed from Getty Images

Bus stop, wet day

She's there, I say
Please share my umbrella

     No matter what you call it--brolly, bumbershoot, gamp, 

     parasol, parapluie, or sunshade--your challenge this month 

     is to write a story about an umbrella.

The author/illustrator Amy June Bates and her daughter, Juniper Bates collaborated on the story

The Big Umbrella.

"By the front door...

there is an umbrella. 

It is big. 

It is a big friendly umbrella. 

It likes to help.

It likes to spread it's arms wide. It loves to 

give shelter."

By Jackie Azua Kramer

What happens when several animals claim they've had exciting adventures with Elephant's 

umbrella? More exciting than walking in then rain?

"One rainy day an Elephant was taking a walk with his green umbrella.

Along came a Hedgehog.

"Excuse me," said the Hedgehog, "I believe you have my boat."

"Your what?" asked the Elephant.

By Jennifer Lloyd

Ella's umbrellas fill the house.What happens when she has to give them away?

"Ella had big umbrella and small umbrellas. She had umbrellas in pink, turquoise, and 

tangerine. She had them in every color, even jellybean green. 

Several were stripped and a few speckled with spots. A sprinkling had sparkles. A handful 

had hearts.  Some opened slowly and plenty went POP! 

By Shirin Yim Bridges

When Noot is finally allowed to paint umbrellas, she secretly hopes to be chosen as the 

umbrella queen. But what happens when her imagination takes over?

"High in the hills of Thailand, there is a village where everyone does the same thing, the 

same thing  the people in the village have been doing for hundreds of years; making 

umbrellas. Big umbrellas, small umbrellas. Paper umbrellas, silk umbrellas. Red, blue,

yellow, pink, green umbrellas--all of them painted with flowers and butterflies by the women 

and girls of the village."

Don't wait for a rainy day. Have some drizzly fun...

under my umbrella.