Penguin has announced a new Imprint, Kokila which aims to bring together authors, illustrators, publishing professionals, and readers, from inclusive communities to share and celebrate stories that reflect the richness of the world. Kokila is the Sanskrit name for the koel bird, often found in the Indian subcontinent, China, and Southeast Asia. The koel bird is said to be the harbringer of new beginnings; just as Kokila is a new beginning for readers, creators, and publishers alike.
Namratha Tripathi, vice president and Publisher of Kokila, writes that, “[Kokila] was born out of the optimism and frustration I felt about the conversations around diversity and representation in children’s literature, My hope was to create an imprint where we could holistically address the three major ways in which we talk about diversity in our field 1) on the page, 2) in the creators, and 3) in the gatekeepers and staff”.
Kokila will publish works for children and young adults in a variety of formats an genres. Some of the books set to be released from Kokila includes Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison, My Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya, among many other books.
The Weight of Our Sky
By Hanna Alkaf
Simon & Schuster
February 5, 2019
Grades: 9 and up
Melati Ahmad is a sixteen-year-old Malaysian girl of Malay descent who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)—however, Melati believes that her OCD is actually the work of a djinn. Since the death of her father, Melati’s greatest fear has been the death of her mother. She counts by threes—her compulsive behavior—to appease the djinn and save her mother, along with everyone else she loves, from dying. On May 13, 1969, Melati is thrown into a world of chaos when the race riots between the Chinese and Malays begin. While at the movies with her best friend Saf, men with weapons break into the theater. Although Melati is saved by a Chinese-Malaysian stranger, she is forced to leave Saf behind if she wants to survive. Overcome with guilt, Mel teams up with Auntie Bee’s son Vince to try and find her mother who see she has not seen since the beginning of the riots. Melati is forced to confront her djinn and find her inner strength in order to stand up for what she believes in, find her mother, and protect the people she loves.
Alkaf is unafraid to make a book that is completely and utterly of her homeland. Alkaf’s note at the beginning of the book is spot on, letting readers know of the many possible triggers within the book and lets readers know that it is okay if they are not ready to read the book at this time. This is a powerful and brutally honest book that provides a very real look at what OCD looks like in a high-stress situation, which help builds the tension within the book. It is thoughtfully and beautifully written, vividly capturing a time of terror from the eyes of a teenaged girl who just wants her mother.
The Line Tender
By Kate Allen, Illustrated by Xingye Jin
Grades: 5 and up
Lucy and Fred are lifelong friends, and as they work on their animal field guide over the summer, it looks like they may become something more. When local fisherman and family friend Sookie catches a great white shark, Fred and Lucy set out to learn more about great white sharks by reading an old research proposal written by Lucy’s mother—an accomplished shark biologist before her untimely death when Lucy was 7 years old. Tragedy strikes when, after sharing her first kiss with Fred, he drowns in a quarry accident. Lucy is then left trying to find meaning in her friendship to Fred and wondering what could have been, while still struggling with the grief of her mother’s passing. By dedicating herself to her mother’s shark research and Fred’s field guide, and with the help of her Father, Sookie, and neighbor Mr. Patterson, Lucy is eventually able to come to terms with the deaths of her mother and Fred.
The Line Tender by Kate Allen is an emotional coming-of-age story that follows Lucy Everhart as she grapples with the loss of her mother and her best friend Fred. Allen thoughtfully ties Lucy’s attempts to find meaning in her friendship with Fred to her attempts to better understand the sharks her mother and Fred loved so much. The Line Tender is beautifully written and is both heartfelt and heartbreaking in the ways that it deals with community, friendship, and tragedy. Xingye Jin’s shark illustrations for each chapter title are stunning, adding yet another layer to the book as it shows Lucy slowly learning how to draw sharks as she learns more about them.
March 20, 2019 at 6 p.m.
Eloise Martin Recital Hall, Fine Arts Building
Reception and book signing to follow in the Slate Lobby
Carmen Agra Deedy is the author of eleven books for children including Martina the Beautiful Cockroach– winner of the Odyssey Honor Award (2009) and the Pura Belpré Honor Award (2008)–, 14 Cows for America, Library Dragon, and her newest picture book Rita and Ralph (Scholastic Press), illustrated by Pete Oswald, which will be published in 2020. Her personal stories first appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered; Deedy’s stories were inspired by her childhood as a Cuban refugee in Decatur, Georgia. She is also the host of the four-time Emmy-winning children’s program, Love That Book! In fall of 2016, Deedy opened the Art of the Book Lecture Series for the Smithsonian Libraries.
Along with being an award-winning author and storyteller, Deedy is also an accomplished lecturer, having been a guest speaker for both TED and TEDx Conferences, the Library of Congress, Coumbia University, The National Book Festival, Association of International Baccalaureate Schools of Costa Rica Conference, among several other distinguished venues.
If you are interested in learning more about Ms. Deedy and her work, follow the links provided below:
TED: Carmen Agra Deedy Spins Stories
NPR: Twisting the Winds of Semantics
Diverse Summer Reading Books for Kids
National Book Festival: Book Fest 2017
Smithsonian: Author Series: Carmen Agra Deedy
Yale: Carmen Agra Deedy, Children’s Book Author
By Charlotte Agell, illustrated by Ana Ramírez
Grades: Pre-K — 2
Elba the hippo spends her days dragging around a heavy, black box. One day Elba meets an alligator named Norris who is upbeat and surrounded by butterflies. The two become friends, and as they grow closer, Elba reveals to Norris that she is mourning the loss of her friend Little Bird. Norris tells Elba that although he did not know Little Bird, that he can help Elba mourn her. Elba and Norris then notice that her box has shrunk and become much lighter and easier for Elba to carry. Elba tells Norris that she will always have her box, to which Norris responds, “Yes, maybe you will… But I will help you carry it sometimes.”
Agell’s text is thoughtful and poignant, gently teaching children not only that it is okay to be sad, but also how to help those who are feeling sad. Agell makes a point of showing that there is no simple solution to sadness and that some people may always carry some sadness with them. The text encourages the reader, via Norris, to be empathetic and patient with those who are feeling sad. Agell shows that grieving is part of the healing process and cannot be rushed. Ramírez’s beautiful digitized watercolor drawings perfectly complement Agell’s text. The soft pastel colors convey a hopeful mood and bring gentle, understanding energy to accompany the text.