A Trip to Burma with “Bamboo People”

July 1st, 2010 by

Bamboo People by Mitali PerkinsIf you read Nancy’s post about her experience at Book Expo America, then you know that I snatched up her copy of Mitali Perkins’ Bamboo People before you can say, “Excuse me, where are you taking my book? Hey, I wanted to read that!”

Part of the reason I wanted to check out the book (which comes out today) is because I knew it had been getting lots of good reviews. But the bigger reason is because Bamboo People takes place in Burma (also known as Myanmar), and as you might recall from my posts about traveling to Burma last winter, that’s where my mom grew up.

My mom pointing to the address of the house in Rangoon (the former capital of Burma) where she was born and grew up.

There aren’t many books set in Burma — let alone kids’ books — so I was pumped to get my hands on a copy of Bamboo People. And as soon as I got ahold of the book, I was hooked.

The story is broken up into two parts:

Part 1 is told from the perspective of 15-year-old Chiko, the educated son of a doctor. But he’s not leading a comfortable life at all. The military government has imprisoned Chiko’s father, and he and his mother live in fear that Chiko will be forced into army service at any minute. Then their nightmare comes true, and Chiko’s off to the jungle for training — forced to serve a government that oppresses its people, and to fight a native group that Chiko doesn’t believe is the enemy.

Part 2 is narrated by Tu Reh, also 15 years old. He is a member of the native group defending themselves from the Burmese government. As a child, he watched Burmese soldiers burning his village — so unlike Chiko, he believes in his cause. But what will he do when everything he thinks he knows is challenged?

As you can see, the story is totally gripping. I couldn’t want to see what would happen next and read a few pages whenever I had a spare moment — to the point where I would pull out the book in the elevator, on a 5-minute bus ride, even while I waited by the photocopier. Yes, the story is THAT suspenseful.

My mom chatted with these girls from the Pa-Oh tribe in Burma. They're a different tribe than in the book, but the two groups have some cultural similarities.

But beyond that, I also enjoyed getting a view into the situation in Burma, which doesn’t get a lot of attention in the United States. And even though I visited Burma not too long ago, a lot of what I read in the book was new to me!

So I lent Bamboo People to my mom (sorry, Nancy, you’re never getting your book back!), and I asked her what she thought, as a former Burmese citizen.

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On Scene at Book Expo America

June 6th, 2010 by

Last week I went to Book Expo America, a conference where publishers, booksellers, authors, illustrators, and book nerds (like myself and Karen) meet each other and see what’s hitting the bookshelves soon.

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

Hurry and finish this book, Karen!

The first thing I did was go to a breakfast where the guest speakers were authors — one being Mitali Perkins, author of the upcoming novel Bamboo People. For attending the breakfast, I got an advance copy! Alas, I have not yet read a single word of it, because the next time I saw Karen, she demanded that I hand it over to her immediately. Now she’s been taunting me by saying it’s really good and she hasn’t been able to put it down!

(Btw, Karen, I would like to take a moment to point out that I am NOT a morning person, so I expect to see that book back in my hands soon. I did not wake up extra early to listen to Mitali Perkins — who, by the way, is awesome and hilarious — tell me all about this wonderful book, and then not be able to read it.)

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook GROSS Junior Edition

When I look at this cover, I think of a "gloooop" sound effect.

After the breakfast, I headed over to the showroom, where publishers had booths set up. I was itching to read The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: GROSS Junior Edition, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to peek inside the display copy and find out how to survive Nightmare Boogers and Barf Emergencies. I’ll just have to figure out how to survive those on my own until the book comes out in September.

Another book that caught my eye was Noonie’s Masterpiece, a hybrid book written by Lisa Railsback and illustrated by Sarajo Frieden. This actually came out earlier this spring, and I am retroactively adding it to our Graphic Novel & Hybrid Books Theme!

Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback

Such pretty colors!

Noonie’s Masterpiece was described to me as a “reverse Harry Potter”: Noonie lives with her Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Ralph, and cousin Junior. And while she’s not too happy with the living situation, they love and adore her. Whoa, Harry Potter alternate universe… I can’t even imagine Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and Dudley being loving and adoring.

While wandering the very crowded floors of Book Expo America, I also stopped at a booth with a shelf full of sports books. I was perusing the upcoming Throwing Heat by Fred Bowen, when Fred Bowen himself showed up RIGHT NEXT TO ME! Seriously, author = celebrity and me = paparazzo:

Fred Bowen and his book Throwing Heat

Fred Bowen and his book Throwing Heat

But I did collect my cool and ask for an autograph afterward! Oh, and did I mention that practically every sports book on that shelf was written by Fred Bowen? I think I’m still starstruck…

— Nancy
Nancy is such a non-morning person that she’ll stay up until 5am every night to avoid it. No, it doesn’t make any sense. Nancy rarely makes sense.

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