It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

A special shout-out to April’s Winner for the Award Winning Books Reading Challenge. Congratulations to Linda Baie of TeacherDance for her review of Dream, A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes. Our linky for the month of May can be found here.





[Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Challenge] R is for River View




Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 11.56.17 PM

Pre-AFCC Glitter: Meet Holly Thompson


[BHE 51] Launch of Bimonthly Theme: From Asia with Love – A Feast of Asian Literature, May-June 2013


We have just officially launched our new bimonthly theme yesterday. I am excited to begin our Feast of Asian Literature with one of my favorite book artists: Allen Say. We are also glad to be joining Nonfiction Monday today. Our lovely host this week is Anastasia Suen of Booktalking.


IMG_6867Tea with Milk

Author and Illustrator: Allen Say
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1999
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This is a moving tribute of Allen Say to both his parents, but more to his mother in particular. The story begins with Masako, who was called Ma-chan by her parents, and May by her American friends in the golden city of San Francisco where she grew up. Her family decided to return to Japan, however, when she finished high school – a move that devastated her as she was leaving “the only home she had ever known.”


In Japan, May felt like an alien, a gaijin who does not even speak the country’s language as well as she should. She felt displaced with no one to talk to and no one who understood her. Things got from bad to worse when her parents decided that she needed to attend high school all over again for her to have a mastery and fuller grasp of the Japanese language. On top of that, she needed to take lessons on how a proper lady should behave: she learned flower arranging, calligraphy, and the fine art of serving tea.


While May could accept all that, albeit with a fair amount of resistance – she needed to put her foot down when her mother decided that it was time to hire a matchmaker to find her a suitable husband.

“A young lady needs a husband from a good family.”

“A husband! I’d rather have a turtle than a husband!”

May’s feisty character is matched by her fortitude and resilience. Unable to sit still for a long time, uncomfortable in wearing kimonos, and tired of always speaking in a language that is unfamiliar to her – she wore her brightest dress and bought a one-way ticket to Osaka. There, she found bright lights, cars, tall buildings – everything that she missed when she left California.


With her heart in her throat, she resolutely applied for a job, and found one right away. While her parents were unhappy about her decision, May was unyielding, tired of living up to other people’s expectations of what she should be like. It was there that she met her future husband, Joseph. Their love for milk with tea was one of the things that bound them together. The thing that struck me though was how the couple managed to find and build a home for themselves – defining it the best way they know how. As Joseph stated:

“If you have certain things, I think one place is as good as any other.”

“What sort of things?”

“Oh, a home, work you enjoy, food you like, good conversation.”

I love how poignant the entire narrative was without being overly sentimental. It was not maudlin in the least, but so sparse and so dense that one is able to pour one’s own emotions into it – making it their own story. This is a moving tale of a strong woman who knew exactly what she wanted and got it. Such a beautiful tribute to Allen Say’s parents.


For teachers who wish to use this in their classroom, here is a lesson plan created specifically for 5th graders that you may want to check out. This link, on the other hand, contains a comprehensive cyber lesson created by Meaghan Carroll with detailed teacher notes in the end.

Home of the BraveIMG_6873

Author and Illustrator: Allen Say
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2002.
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I have read this story before and I have always thought of this as one of the most surreal and captivating stories that Allen Say has ever written.

Inspired by the exhibition of the World War II internment camps in the United States at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, Allen Say realizes that the facts and numbers (“120,000 Japanese Americans interned in ten camps in six western states”) is more than just a mere statistical figure, it is a multitude of stories built into the invisible wounded faces of small children in camps with name tags, desperate to go home.


Say managed to transform a harrowing experience to a personal journey, a quest towards one’s own dreams and nightmares – as he paddles and swims his way into the very layers of consciousness and their substreams and concealed truths.


The gray shadowy figures differ markedly from the classically-posed figures of Allen Say that we are accustomed to in his other artworks – its very essence a wisp of a dream, punctuated by shafts of light inside a tunnel and a ladder that leads to wooden boxes all lined up like sentinels in a wasteland. This book is poetry – a transformation of needless pain in a melding of unreality and that which is hauntingly familiar. This book is a must-read.

For teachers who wish to use this in their classroom, here is a fascinating interview with Allen Say conducted by Scholastic students that you may want to check out.

Currently Reading…

AFCC_book_AD copy 2

I confess that I have not had much progress in my reading lately. Last week was the deadline for keying in of marks in the university, I have also just moved houses (five years worth of accumulated treasures and junk) four days ago, and I am living and breathing this book that you see here, in time for our launching end of this month. Finalizing book edits, ironing out little details – the works! This is a bit of shameless self-promotion here, but I am truly proud of this book. This is the inaugural AFCC publication, inspired by the Festival’s very first country of focus in 2012: The Philippines.

The first part of the book has a more transnational theme with chapter contributors such as the brilliant Leonard Marcus (our keynote speaker from last year’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content), the amazing Suzy Lee (also the keynote speaker from last year’s festival), prolific and highly respected Australian author Ken Spillman (who is part of AFCC’s trusted Board of Advisers), and beloved Singaporean author Jessie Wee who will be the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The second part of the book highlights AFCC’s country of focus in 2012, the Philippines, with chapter contributors such as Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature and reputed to be the Father of Philippine Children’s Literature; multi-award-winning author Candy Gourlay; the amazingly-talented Isabel ‘Pepper’ Roxas (whose masterful artwork you see here in our book cover); and social scientists such as myself and Tuting Hernandez (as we studied the themes and trends of award-winning stories for children in the past 30 years).

All proceeds from the book would go towards helping fund delegates for AFCC’s country of focus next year: India in 2014! So do grab a copy if you can.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?


Read-a-Latte Challenge: 98, 99 of 150


Tea With Milk: Riverbank Review Book of Distinction, Bulletin Blue Ribbon, SLJ Best Book, ALA Notable Book

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 30 of 35

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

14 comments on “[Monday Reading] Allen Say and April Winner for the AWB Reading Challenge

  1. Hi Myra! You are amazing, all that you do, & still post about all these wonderful books. Allen Say is a treasure & I will see if our library at school has these, but know I’ll be able to find them at the public library too. Thanks for my “win”-special to hear about this Sunday eve. Have a wonderful week!


  2. I’m excited for the bimonthly theme and your upcoming book! As a Filipino, it’s always been difficult to find books about my culture. I know when I write my own children’s books, this will be remedied!


  3. Oh, how I love Eloise!!! And Allen Say is a marvel – and I love the sound of his mother: a strong and wise woman indeed! His illustrations are always so finely executed – what a treasure he is as a writer/illustrator/inspiror!! Thanks for sharing today, Myra!


  4. I love the bimonthly theme idea! Allen Say is a wonderful author. I always enjoy visiting your blog!


  5. One more comment/question. I think I’d like to join the 2013 Reading Challenge. Is it too late to do that? I usually review all the books I read throughout each week on one post – the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading Post.” If for that week I read an award winner, is the Monday review sufficient to link to the challenge (along with any other non-award-winning books), or would they need to to be separate?


    • Hi there Holly, it’s never too late to join the 2013 challenge! The Monday post is more than sufficient to link to the challenge – doesn’t have to be separate at all! Looking forward to seeing your recommendations!


  6. Eloise…in Moscow? New-to-me! Love Ug. I found it through 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up online bookgroup.

    Enjoy your week!


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  9. I love Milk Tea! But apart from that commonality with May, I think her story is an inspiring one. I’d love to read this book.

    Where can we get a copy of your book?


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