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My new novel, And Laughter Fell from the Sky

  • June 17, 2012 12:19 pm


My new novel, And Laughter Fell from the Sky, although not specifically for young adults, could be read and enjoyed by older teens. The novel is about two Indian-Americans in their twenties who are looking for happiness and fulfillment in the outside world, instead of realizing that they can create their own fulfillment. It’s also a love story with a theme of equality (although it’s not at all preachy about it).

Teachers might be interested in pairing this book with The House of Mirthby Edith Wharton, since my book was inspired by Wharton’s classic.

I’d love to hear from teens and teachers who’ve read the book. Feel free to leave a comment!

Riparia’s River, by Michael Caduto

  • August 12, 2011 8:51 am

Four children (two girls and two boys) discover that their favorite swimming hole is smelly and overgrown with slimy green stuff. They walk upriver to find the source of the problem, and they encounter a mysterious woman who calls herself “Riparia.”

Riparia shows them that the water has become polluted due to herbicides applied on a farm nearby. In addition, cow manure and fertilizer are causing too much algae to grow in the water. The children want to help solve the problem. They know the farmer’s daughter, Amy, and decide to talk to her.

Riparia cautions them that it might not work to tell other people what to do. The children decide to invite Amy to go swimming with them, so she can see the problem for herself. At that moment, Riparia disappears.

The children, with Amy’s help, talk to Amy’s father. However, her father says he does not have the time or the money to deal with the problem. He invites them to figure out a solution themselves. Riparia’s words give them an idea. The children, with Amy’s father’s help, move the farm fence farther away from the river, to create a buffer zone. They also enlisted the help of others to plant wildflowers, trees, and shrubs in the buffer zone.

Two years later, their buffer zone has  turned into a beautiful habitat for animals, and the swimming hole is clean again.

This picture book for elementary-age kids combines an environmental message with an example of youth leadership and initiative. The illustrations by Olga Pastuchiv are beautiful, and at the end is a list of animals that can be found in the pictures throughout the book. The author, Michael Caduto, is an ecologist and storyteller.

I highly recommend this charming and educational book. I have included it on both my girls list and my boys list, as well as on the blog post Earth Day Books.

The Wikkeling, by Steven Arntson

  • July 10, 2011 5:59 am

 This engaging, slightly spooky fantasy novel can be read on a couple of levels. Upper elementary kids (the target age is 9-12 years old) will likely read it as an adventure story. Henrietta and her friends, Gary and Rose, manage to vanquish the mysterious, menacing “Wikkeling” with the help of a gender-obscure cat named Mister Lady.

Kids will also enjoy the well-developed setting. Henrietta and her friends live in a dystopia in which technology, pavement, new construction, and advertising are taking over their world. Schools are driven by computerized, standardized tests, and everyone has instant access to the latest news about each other through their cell phones and other gadgets. (Sound familiar?) Henrietta and her friends also get a glimpse into what their neighborhood looked like a few generations ago. I was immediately drawn into the characters and setting, and I think kids will be, too.

Adults and older readers might get into the allegorical aspect of the story. The Wikkeling, we learn, was created by a couple of scientists for humanitarian purposes, to “harness the power of nature toward human industry.” The Wikkeling was brought to life by one word: “grow”. Unfortunately, this growth had no limits. The Wikkeling and its power destroyed its creators, and began taking over the world.

While the story ends with a satisfying resolution, there are enough loose ends that I assume this book is the beginning of a series.

Bullying and Me, by Shapiro and Vote

  • March 26, 2011 8:58 am

Click image to buy book

The subtitle of this 30-page book is “Schoolyard Stories,” and indeed this book features the voices of kids relating stories about bullying at school. 

The kids are from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and of varying ages, from elementary school through high school. Also included are two adults who talk about the bullying they experienced when they were children. Each two-page spread includes color photos of one child or adult, along with their story of bullying.

Most of the people featured in this book were targets of bullies, but a few talk about their experiences of being mean to someone else, or not helping someone else who is being bullied. The children who were bullied relate how they overcame the problem with the help of family and teachers. The children who believed they were bullies discuss why they acted the way they did, and what they wish they had done instead.

The book also includes tips and reflections from Dr.  Dorothy Espelage, a professor of educational psychology. As Dr. Dorothy points out, “bullies often pick on kids who are different in some way.” A boy who is not good at sports but likes art or music; a boy who refuses to fight; or  a girl who does not dress in the right clothes, or who talks to the wrong people, may be targets of bullying. Kids who try to break out of gender stereotypes may face bullying as other kids try to force them to conform.

A few of the young people in this book point out that sometimes parents and teachers are not helpful. As one boy said, “Kids are sneaky about bullying.” Teachers and parents may not see it happening, and even if they do, they may not know how to stop it. Therefore, it can be effective for kids to take matters into their own hands, with adult guidance. Two of the young people featured in this book were part of a team that started an anti-bullying committee at school to educate other kids about how to stop bullying. Another boy overcame his fear to confront a bully and tell him, “Y0u’ll have more friends if you’re friendlier to people.” This worked, and the bully became a good friend.

This book can be a great discussion starter about bullying. I like the fact that this book uses kids’ own words to talk about bullying. I have included it on my boys and girls lists.

Kids Changing the World

  • January 15, 2011 1:28 pm

I love books about kids taking action to help others and make the world a better place. Children’s talents and abilities are underused in this world, I believe. Young people are often seen as incapable of holding valid opinions or exercising leadership. We generally do not allow children or young people a voice or any responsibility in running their own schools or communities.

Here are a couple of recent books which profile children and teenagers who have taken on leadership roles and made a difference in the world.   I hope that books like these will encourage adults to train young people for leadership roles, and to share leadership and responsibility with young people in an appropriate way.

Click on the titles below to buy these books.

Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet, by Janet Wilson features full-color, two-page spreads about 10 young people from around the world, as well as shorter profiles of 20 more. At the back of the book are suggestions for how readers can get involved and make a difference. My son and I enjoyed reading about William Kamkwamba of Malawi, who put together windmills using salvaged parts; Kruti Parekh of India, who incorporates environmental messages in her magic shows; Fang Minghe of China, who takes photos of illegal wildlife being sold in order to help the police catch these criminals; and all the other young people in this book.

Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change by Garth Sundem profiles 30 young people from around the world. The profiles are grouped into five categories: Kids Saving the Environment; Kids Standing Up for Themselves; Kids Helping Others; Kids Overcoming Challenges; and Kids Using Talents and Creativity. Unfortunately, this book includes no actual pictures or photos of the kids that are profiled. Despite this drawback, it is an inspiring book. Some of the young people in this book are also featured in Our Earth, but many are different.

I have included these books on both my girls and boys lists.