The outstanding, cultural season continues in South Florida with the annual Miami Book Fair International, an eight-day literary party this November.
The Fair, in its 28th year, will open Sunday, November 13th with the popular Evenings With… series, featuring six nights of readings and discussions with noted authors from the U.S. and around the world. Literary buffs will also have the opportunity to partake in the Festival of Authors, with more than 350 authors reading and discussing their work.
Aspiring book worms and thousands of schoolchildren will participate in Children’s Alley activities, including theater, arts-and-crafts, storytelling and readings by children’s book authors. Comics and graphic novels are once again featured, with the school of comics on Friday and a new section just for kids and teens, as well as presentations over the weekend by renowned graphic novelists and illustrators.
One kiddie (and family) highlight is a visit from author Rose Lewis. She will share with fairgoers a tale of cultural exploration and discovery through her new book “Orange Peel’s Pocket” (Abrams, 2010). Illustrated by modernist Grace Zong, the book follows a young Chinese girl as she goes in search of answers about her native land.
One day in class, Orange Peel and her classmates learn about China. Everyone starts to ask Orange Peel questions about the country because they know that’s where she was born. But she doesn’t have all the answers. So she embarks with her mother on her neighborhood errands to find out.
Characters they encounter are Mr. Fan the tailor; Ma Sang, who owns an antiques store; Mrs. Liu at the flower shop; Mr. Yu, whose restaurant makes the best noodle soup; and Jasmine at the ice cream shop. What I find refreshing is that many of the characters are based on people Rose and her daughter actually know in their small town in Massachusetts.
Orange Peel can’t wait to talk to the kids at school, but first she discovers a number of gifts that have been slipped into her pocket by the store owners. These treasures help link her to the place where she was born.
I had the chance to chat with Rose Lewis just recently and she gave me the lowdown on her projects and how they ultimately relate to her life.
The author adopted her daughter at 7 months from China. A New York Times bestseller, her first book “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes” addresses how so many families can relate to “falling in love” with their child – be it biological or adopted. A lot of this theme is repeated in her second book “Every Year on Your Birthday.”
Lewis says it is important to respect yours and your child’s culture. For instance, her child is being raised Jewish. She goes on to explain, “This all comes more natural than you can ever imagine. It just requires altering traditions.”
The Chinese culture is something she and her daughter talk about frequently, but don’t make it a mandate. When her daughter was 11, they went to China. Now at 15, her daughter takes Mandarin every day in school. Plus, they go to Chinese festivals when they can.
In March 2012, Lewis will release a “good night” book titled “Sweet Dreams.” The text is in rhyme and encompasses an animal theme. Illustrator Jen Corace adds her magic to the book.
Rose is also working on a new project invoking an “anti-bullying” curriculum. Lewis is a strong believer in that ignorance creates anger; and that there is a need to address this emerging issue in kids’ lives.
Other Book Fair kids programming highlights include:
Let’s Play and Learn (Babies to Age 4)
Kai-Lan is on the way to have fun at Miami Book Fair International turning literature into play! Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are welcomed to join with the simple joys our English and Mandarin Chinese speaking friend has to offer. They will join the adventurous preschooler, grandfather Ye-Ye and all her forest pals to experience new pleasures, such as listening to authentic Chinese pipa music.
One World, Many Stories (Ages 4- 8)
There are many ways to describe the family of humankind-as countries, continents, colors, and cultures. In the One World, Many Stories venue books that note our commonalities and our differences take center notice. Mem Fox, in Whoever You Are (a Reading Rainbow Book) writes about what we have in common and what makes us different. Kids will learn how to say hello and be pleasant in ten languages!
Karen Katz, in The Colors of Us communicates the many shades and tones of our skin that defy simple terms like “White, Brown, Yellow, None of the Above.” Children will have their own opportunity to mix colors and spice to express their own lens.
And Todd Parr, in Reading Makes You Feel Good finds the universal goodness in our common connection to literacy and the world opened wide through reading. Kids will emulate Parr’s bright colors and uplifting words that describe us.
The Treehouse (Ages 5-10)
Judy Moody, the third grader with moxie, smarmy brother Stink and award winning author Megan McDonald’s entire cast of characters make their madly moody way! Fair-going kids will learn about the planets in the solar system with Stink as they build a solar system mobile. “Dr. Judy is in” as bone bingo teaches the terms that go with the human skeleton. Children will go around the world with Judy and learn about different countries as they construct flags and puppets from many nations.
The Green Planet (All Ages)
Kids will make usable paper from recycled goods; and use a scale to understand energy use and their impact on the planet. They will also learn about waste decomposition in the oceans, have a close encounter with Florida wildlife and enjoy interactive readings and story-telling, related to the important connection to nature.
The first Miami Book Fair International, founded by Miami Dade College and community partners, took place in 1984. Since then it has been recognized as the nation’s finest literary festival. In 2001, the Fair became part of the Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College, a cultural and academic initiative that promotes the advancement and appreciation of literature throughout the year.