Archive for July, 2009

It is official: Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) has gone digital.

There is now an ACK iphone app (offered on iremedi).

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…and I also found that Chacha Chaudhary (the sort of ‘Asterix’ of India) and his sidekick Sabu even have their own Facebook page.

New social media — making international YA more accessible to a wider audience?

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RamaThe GitaIn North America, there is Marvel and DC Comics, but in India there is Amar Chitra Katha (ACK).

These comics, dating back to the late 1960s, have over 400 volumes with stories ranging from the traditional, like Ramayana, to the biographical, with stories about Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal and one of the great Muslim kings of India) and Gandhi – and sell over 1.5 million copies yearly, making it one of (if not the) most popular children’s series in India (ACK Media, 2009).

A North American religious studies professor, Karline McLain, has recently released a book all about these comics called, India’s Immortal Comic Books — a title that was just profiled in an article, ‘The Legacy of Amar Chitra Katha‘, from Business World (one of India’s most popular business magazines).

McLain notes that these comics, especially the ‘superhero’ like tales of Hanuman and other Hindu gods, have also had great global appeal through the widespread communities of the South Asian diaspora. McLain attributes this appeal both to ACK’s focus on Indian culture and heritage and its highly engaged superhero-like format and style. ACK is even a integral part of many Hindu temple libraries throughout N. America, according to McLain, with parents stocking the libraries with ACK as a way to educate, inform and engage with young adults and teens about their Indian religious heritage (McLain, p. 204).

As a source of international YA, ACK is excellent for its popular format (comics), its enduring history and appeal – and its accessibility. Though ACK was in decline through the 1990s–partially due to the massively popular televised versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata– the brand has been reinvigorated through the work of ACK Media, which offers ACK titles in a variety of languages (including English, Hindi and Bengali), formats (including bound collected graphic novels) and ships titles worldwide for FREE on orders over $50.

Given that there is an identified lack of widespread YA literature produced in India versus the thriving North American YA market (Rangachari, 2009), these comics provide a great, accessible and easy way to begin a cornerstone collection of Indian YA books in the library. Perhaps surprisingly, I have seen ACK referred to in only a few subject guides for this area — Venture into Cultures (2001) being one of them. But, given ACK Media’s plans for ACK expansion – video games, an animated series and movies are but a few of their plans to bring ACK into the 21st century –  I think we will start to see more of these ‘immortal’ comics.

Amar Chitra Katha – a recommended purchase for any library.



shah jahan

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logoredThe Australian ‘Sisters in Crime’ Davitt Awards shortlist for 2009 have been announced and here is their shortlist (from Teenage Fiction for All Ages) for best teen mystery/crime fiction by an Australian female author:

As with many international YA, availability is an issue. Aside from the 2 titles that I have noted above (Genius Squad and Three Wishes), I had to link to the WolrdCat entries for the other titles.

But, Genius Squad is available on the Kindle — maybe this is the solution for making some international YA more accessible? International YA goes digital?

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wr2009Compared to the Batchelder Awards, which honor between 1 to 4 books yearly, the IBBY Honour List and The White Ravens cover a far greater range of books, countries, languages and literary diversity. The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) produces the IBBY Honor List every two years and honors authors, illustrators and translators from its seventy member countries. The 2008 honor list has sixty-nine recognized books, fifty-two illustrators, and forty-eight translators. The White Ravens, awarded annually by the International Youth Library, had two hundred fifty titles in thirty-two languages from forty-eight countries in their 2009 honor list (The White Ravens, 2009). Yet, broad as these award lists are, accessibility of the items can be a very real issue for North American libraries.

The International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich, Germany, selects the best and most noteworthy newly published books from around the world each year—designating their picks the ‘The White Ravens.’ They then compile these selections into a ‘White Ravens Catalogue’, which the IYL presents each year at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. Unlike IBBY, their selections are not on a strictly one to one basis (i.e. one book from each country) but rather reflect ‘the best’ of the range of books that IYL has received over the year and whether or not they find the selections innovative and worthy of ‘special mention’ or compatible with ‘international understanding’—two special designations that they attach to certain titles (International’s Children’s Digital Library, 2009).*

This year, for example, The White Ravens featured eight selections from Australia—4 young adult titles, 4 children’s selections—which covered a range of topics from self-mutilation to schizophrenia, the Outback to the Easter bunny, and traditional folklore to Arthurian fantasy. Yet, exciting as this range of titles is, the accessibility of titles honored by the White Ravens – even from Australia – is often a problem in North America.  Despite there being no translation barriers and widespread availability of many Australian books in Canada and the United States, I was unable to find an easy (and affordable) way to buy or borrow any of these particular titles in North America despite the fact that one of these selections, Finnikin of the Rock, was authored by Melina Marchetta—whose earlier YA novel, Jellicoe Road, won the Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.

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Similarly, I tried to find an easy way to obtain some of the sixty plus books currently honored by IBBY—but to little avail. IBBY does have several excellent resources for collection building available through their organization and website, such as their current virtual exhibit, “Books for Africa, Books from Africa,” (above) that features African books for children and young adults that IBBY has identified and reviewed—along with providing publisher information for the African publishing houses (IBBY, Books for Africa, 2009).

As in the catalogue of the Honor List,  IBBY produces a full listing of the contact information for each author, illustrator, translator and publishing house that has been nominated in the list (IBBY Honor List, 2008). Yet, short of placing small book orders from individual publishers, these titles remain wonderful reading suggestions but not necessarily practical solutions for incorporatinging international YA into North America on a large scale. The problem again, as with books in translation, seems to still echo what Gretchen Schwarz said that, “finding [international YA] titles is easier than obtaining books….” (1996).

However, IBBY and the White Ravens do offer a range of titles that surpass the Batchelders not only in number, but also in scope and diversity of topics. The White Ravens have an excellent breadth of titles with some surprising results such as an environmental non-fiction book for young adults, Planeta tierra planeta vida. Pasado, presente y futuro de la vida sobre la tierra (Planet Earth Planet Life. Past, present, and future of life on earth) from Colombia, and a novel about human trafficking and female subordination, Lālāī barāy-i duhtar-i murda (Cradle song for a dead girl), from Iran. The White Ravens are missing selections from countries with large publishing systems like India or South Africa, and there are few selections from Latin America or sub-Saharan Africa; but, overall, the White Ravens do represent a diversity of topics and cultural perspectives.

The IBBY Honor List also offers an expanded worldview of the global publishing industry—offering titles from Bolivia on videogames, virtual reality and dinosaurs [Trapizonda: Un video juego para leer (Trap Zone: a videogame to read)], a Slovenian version of Cinderella (Pepelka), and a South African action adventure in Afrikaans (Thomas @ Aqua.net). However, due to the small number of selections per country, IBBY is not able to offer the same diversity of audience (many IBBY member picks are for very young chidlren only) or topics that the White Ravens provide. But IBBY does provide an exceptionally wide range of selections from a diversity of member countries.

This broad country representation is central to IBBY’s belief, as an organization, of the importance of “provid[ing] insight into the diverse cultural, political and social settings in which children live and grow” (International Children’s Digital Library, 2009).  This commitment is underwritten by IBBY’s non-governmental status and official place with UNESCO and UNICEF as a policy-making advocate of children’s books and literary, including its dedication to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. This political commitment to steadfast representation from its member nations does differ from that of the Batchelder Awards, which are more about competition and regarding certain types of literature than equitable representation. In fact, in 1978 and 1993 no Batchelder Awards were given due to the committee’s operating belief that “in a year that the committee is of the opinion that no book of that year is worthy of the award, none is given” (Batchelder Award, About the Award, 2009).

Overall, selections from the White Ravens and IBBY Honour List may be difficult to obtain, may not be available in English, and, for the IBBY Honour List specifically, may tend to group children and young adult materials together indiscriminately; yet, the scope and breadth of topics in these awards are more reflective of the greater range of opinions and lifestyles of international children. There is war and mass violence impacting many developing nations, but there is also video games and dinosaurs and this diversity should be reflected in any award winning list.


*books NOT borders note: IBBY will only select one book and one illustrator per member country to honour biennually, though it will honour multiple translators in the case as Spain where it honours both Spanish, Catalan and Basque translators.



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Moribito cover Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Nahoko Uehashi

New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009

230 pgs, hardcover, $20.00 (CAD)

ISBN: 978-0670069651

A long time ago in the land of New Yogo, the Yakoo people believed that once every hundred years, the cloud spirit, Nyunga Ro Im, picked a guardian to protect its egg. If this egg survived, the weather would be good and crops would flourish; if the egg or the host dies, however, the Yakoo believed that drought and famine would strike the land. But, people do not believe this myth any longer – not since the ascension of the Torugaru royal family to rule New Yogo. The old Yakoo ways are considered outdated and superstitious, even radical. And then something most unexpected happens….

For 30-year-old Balsa, mystical and fantastical concerns are far removed from her day-to-day life. A bodyguard for hire, Balsa lives by her sword and trusts what she can see before her eyes. Then, by chance, Balsa saves the life of a boy falling from a bridge and begins a surprising and unexpected journey. Because this is no simple boy. He is crown prince Chagum, 12-year-old second son of the Royal Mikado—and guardian of the spirit, egg bearer for Nyunga Ro Im. To protect this boy, Balsa must learn to trust beyond the physical and accept that the intangible –the magical – is real. She must also fight the entire royal guard who has been directed to kill Chagum on the orders of his own father, the King. Because if the Nyunga Ro Im is shown to be real, if Chagum survives, then the whole ideology of the royal family, of the ruling power structure in New Yogo, could fall.  The magical beliefs of the Yakoo, dominated by the Yogo people for two centuries, would be revealed as true – not backwards or superstitious.

Winner of the 2009 ALA Batchelder Award for best children’s book published in translation, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is at once an adventure story with a unusual heroine, a wayward prince and vicious monsters, as well as a fictional re-imagining of medieval Japan full of magic, mystery and cultural transition. This is a recommended title for any YA library collection. It is exciting, engaging and – the best part – there is more Moribito to come. After the novel was originally published in Japan in 1996, it spawned several manga incarnations, a very successful anime series, and nine subsequent volumes in a Guardian series. The second volume in this series, Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness, was recently translated in English with more volumes on the way.

Highly Recommended.

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town boyfilm projectorI have updated the site with two new lists: a list of ‘Great Global Graphix‘ with graphic novels and picture books from a variety of locales and a list of ‘Fantastic Films from Afar,’ which has suggestions for animated films, docudramas, and even horror films from afar.

Though the central focus of my blog and research project is to collect and evaluate international young adult books, I have chosen to expand the scope of my collection to also include films and graphix both due to emerging multi-media trends within the library, as well as very real issues of accessibility in collecting for this topic. These two formats are very popular and circulate well within the library, yet they appear on few ‘international’ lists I have seen, in spite of the relative ease of access in obtaining these titles — i.e. international films are much easier to access with subtitles than books in translation might be, and manga and graphic novels are some of the most popular works of ‘international YA’ currently on our shelves.

These lists are organized by title, and each include summaries and country designations – both for publication and, if different than country of publication, for story setting. These lists are a work in progress though so if there are titles or films I have overlooked, please comment with any suggestions for additions.

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