Lies, Activism, and Books for Young People

1984

In the Age of Trump, when “alternative facts” are touted as real and the highest seat in the executive branch of the United States government is occupied by a liarsales of George Orwell’s 1984 are booming, and we’re suddenly reminded that the young have to be our last best hope.

My own chapter book, Book Uncle and Me, written back in 2010 or so and originally published in India in 2012, is a story of politics, corruption, and a kid who has to take her nose out of her book and do something. It now seems surprisingly relevant, and has made it onto a few lists  in the last couple of months.

From The Horn Book,  here is a nonfiction list of books about young people making a difference. And finally, look at this year’s ALA awards list! I’d like to think that books as always can offer us a tiny ray of hope. The children’s and YA book world must keep its focus on diversity, justice, and inclusion, especially in the face of racism and isolationism. That’s the truth.

Revising an Already Published Book

Book_Uncle_and_meMy chapter book, Book Uncle and Me, won the Scholastic Asian Book Award back in 2011. It was first published in India, then in Australia. Now it’s going to be published in Canada and the US by Groundwood Books.

Which is nice for lots of reasons, but one of them is that it gives me a chance to take a second look at the text for this new market–something that doesn’t happen that often.

Not that I didn’t like the Indian edition. I liked the sassiness of it, the bright yellow cover, the illustrations by Priya Kurian. And yes, it was in lineated prose and I will confess that I liked my line breaks.

book-uncle-and-me

The Australian edition was fun to see. They kept Priya’s art. They took out the line breaks. To my great surprise the story still worked.

However, reworking the whole thing yet again is, in some ways, a writer’s dream come true. I’ve sometimes read in public from published work and had the experience of longing to pull out my pen and start fixing the text as I read! I wrote Book Uncle and Me some years ago, so it’s great to have the chance to look at it again. I know the story so well that I don’t have to go through the usual plotting agonies. I can play with words, juggle scenes, add a couple of new ones if I wish. I can look forward to the editing and production as if it were an entirely new book. I can recreate it knowing what I’ve learned as a writer over these last four years.

It almost doesn’t feel like work.