Wednesday, September 20, 2023

A World of Ways to Explore World Literature for Young Readers

For our third post celebrating World Kid Lit Month 2023, translator and translation activist Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp brings us up to date with the new books on the blog, and highlights some of the amazing ways readers have been celebrating #WorldKidLitMonth offline in the real world... Thank you, Ruth!

On the blog this week...

Ekram Abdelgawad explores emotional connections between YA from Palestine and Japan… “After reading Thunderbird 2 and Soul Lanterns, I realized that the protagonists, Noor and Nozomi, have things in common. They are almost the same age. They are girls who care about their communities. They suffered losses and aspired for love and affection from people around them. They are kind, smart and willing to do things to make a difference. There must be some characteristics of a girl that is destined to save the world. I think Noor and Nozomi have them.”

15 Sept: Publishing translated children’s books in Wales
Megan Farr introduces “three children’s books that have been recently translated into Welsh or English from other languages and published in Wales, importing children’s literature from French (Québec), German (Switzerland) and Latvian (Latvia). Each book was discovered in different ways, Y Lloches (L’abri/The Shelter) via a reader recommendation; Y Parsel Coch (Das rote Paket/The Red Parcel) via a translated children’s literature panel discussion and Dog Town (Maskačkas stāsts) via recommendation through Latvian Literature. All three books enrich the children’s literature in Wales, s, bringing stories of refugee bears, a parcel that spreads kindness and talking dogs that save a district from gentrification.”

Shimanto (Robin) Reza: “It is of course weird and probably illegal to judge a book by its translator. But like Tess in My Especially Weird Week with Tess, I kind of like weird, so what the heck. By the end of Anna Woltz’s middle-grade novel – brilliantly rendered into crisp and punchy English prose by Annie M.G. Schmidt translator David Colmer – you’ll know that you need to dare to do things your own way to reach others. The Starling’s Song by Octavie Wolters, Englished by the prizewinning Michele Hutchison, takes us on a winged tour of the mysteries of our world. Where the starling charms us with its lyrical wisdom, Garré and Huysmans in The Wonderful World of Water, translated by versatile non-fiction translator Anna Asbury, kindle our wonder with their scientific elegy to H2O, the humble molecule of life.”

The inaugural Translator Coordinator for SCBWI Canada East, Kelly Zhang writes: “In Chinese culture, communal living and multi-generational households have been popular and commonplace since ancient times. Even in today’s fast-paced, urbanized society with smaller core family units, parents who are busy with work regularly send their kids to the care of the grandparents. Grandmas naturally become the best friend/playmate and trusted guardian of their grandchildren, enriching their lives with love and joy as they grow up. Here is a selection of Chinese picture books that portray several such wonderful grandmas and showcase the amazing, unique ways they share their light with their families and communities.”
20 Sept: Monstrously Good Books
Elementary school teacher and globe-trotting picture book fan Lori of Kids Read the World (where they have hit 67+ countries already, with many more to come!) writes: “What comes to mind when you hear the word monster? I usually think of a scary, evil creature that is trying to do someone harm. As the picture books we’re going to look at today show us, monsters can come in many forms. However, they also show us that monsters can be defeated, even the imaginary ones, which are sometimes the scariest. These books would be great to read with fearful little ones who need a safe place to talk about what’s scaring them, as well as those who like a little suspense in their stories.”

What's happening in World Kid Lit Month 2023? Highlights from around the world!

From reading an international picture book with a small relative, to a bilingual reading in your local library, to a book thread on social media … There are a myriad of ways people are engaging with world literature for young people. You can join in any time!
Growing year on year, #WorldKidLitMonth is finding ever more fans on social media, with bookstagrammers and others exploring world literature for kids, such as in these reels from
@abc_africanbooksforchildren, and @attic.anne who shares the books she discovers while playing #WorldKidLitMonth bingo!
Libraries have been sharing pictures of their international displays and events for children, such as Orpington Library, London, where young people explored what it means for a book to be translated from another language during their #WorldKidLitMonth-themed Chatterbox book club session.

Over at Words Without Borders, translators and world kid lit aficionados Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, Kelly Zhang and Hongyu Jasmine Zhu take us on a tour of Asia with the best of translated Asian literature for young people, including picture books, middle-grade and YA fiction, and graphic novels from South Korea, China, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Turkey, Indonesia and Japan.
This September sees the launch of a new imprint for children’s books in translation! Transit Children’s Editions is a new imprint from San Francisco-based Transit Books, highlighting bold, imaginative, visually distinctive children’s books from around the world, coming September 2023. Check out their first translations from Danish, Korean and French over at their new website.
The National Nordic Museum in Seattle hosted a #WorldKidLitMonth themed panel discussion “Bringing Nordic Children's Literature to an English Readership”. “Pippi Longstocking and the Moomins continue to be favorites among English readers young and old.” In this panel discussion hosted by Kirkus Reviews’ Laura Simeon, three children’s literature experts - Mia Spangenberg, Lotta Gavel Adams and Dr Elizabeth DeNoma - discussed “aspects that make Nordic children's literature unique as well as the challenges and opportunities for bringing Nordic children's literature to English language audiences in the current publishing climate.”
Jill! Reading Series continues its annual #WorldKidLitMonth celebration with translators’ readings, including Kelly Zhang reading from the contemporary middle-grade novel Tilted Sky by Yao Emei, which she translated from Simplified Chinese and Melody Shaw, sharing her translation of the German picture book When Dad's Hair Took Off by Jörg Mühle, and Karen Marston, sharing ‘La Forêt de Yara’ (‘Yara’s Forest’) by French author Aurore Gomez. You can find these readings on the Jill! YouTube channel, as part of their #WorldKidLit2023 Playlist.

Over in the UK, children’s newspaper The Week Junior explored children’s literature translation in an interview with children’s author, translator and World Kid Lit blog co-editor Jackie Friedman Mighdoll. “It can take a few tries to match up a Japanese sentence with English,” she writes. “Japanese has more onomatopoeia than English does. There are also expressions that wouldn’t mean much to English ears. In Japanese, a fox says ‘kon kon’ - but what does a fox say in English? Rabbits go ‘pyon pyon’, which is really the sound of the hopping!”

These are just a few of the many ways that #WorldKidLitMonth has been taken up by various communities and organizations across the English-reading world.


This is the third of four posts by the World Kid Lit team this September! See you next week!

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp is a literary translator working from Arabic, German and Russian in English. A passionate advocate of world literature for young people and diversity in children's publishing and education, she is co-editor of ArabKidLitNow! and Russophone Kid Lit blogs, and writes about global reading for young people at World Kid Lit, Words Without Borders, and World Literature Today. She also promotes language learning and creative translation for young people through her workshops in schools.

Helen Wang is a UK-based translator of children's literature from Chinese to English. Her best known translation is the novel Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, 2016. She runs the blog Chinese Books for Young Readers.


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Chilling Effect of All These Book Bans - School Library Journal Releases Their 2023 Censorship Report

screen shot of the School Library Journal article, "Book Challenges Are Having a Chilling Effect on School Librarians Nationwide | SLJ Survey"

It's not just about the titles that get called out, or have their out-of-context salacious bits read aloud at public hearings. It's about the overall chilling effect of the challenges and bans that make librarians hesitant to bring in any other books that might be challenged -- and this directly impacts books that represent communities that traditionally have been under-represented, especially Black and LGBTQIA2+ communities.

As the lead paragraphs of the article by Marlaina Cockcroft that sums up the results of  SLJ’s 2023 Controversial Books Survey read:

“The surge in book challenges nationwide is having a chilling effect on school librarians, who are more likely to avoid buying books or to remove titles from collections because of their content than they were last year...

“Thirty-seven percent of librarians said book challenges influenced their purchasing decisions for the library, up from 27 percent in 2022, an effect that spans all grade levels. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they’d experienced harassment over books or displays in their library.”

The article -- and report -- are well-worth reading.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

We're Almost Halfway Through World Kid Lit Month 2023!

Time flies! We’re almost halfway through #WorldKidLitMonth 2023! More and more people and organisations are joining in, and it’s brilliant to see #WorldKidLitMonth on social media, in the news, in the press, on the radio. If you’re new to World Kid Lit Month, we recommend jumping into our website and having a good nosy around. When something catches your attention, keep going, follow the links and see where it takes you. Enjoy!

Here’s a quick run through of our blog posts so far this month!

WKL team: However old you are, this is the month to explore the world by the kid lit express. Children’s and YA books are for everyone, and we can think of no better way to explore the world beyond our borders and beyond our own language.
Paula Holmes: I always find it interesting what brings joy. For me, maps have that gift. Any type, atlases, historical maps, folded maps, huge maps on floors. I am extremely partial to ones in books. Maybe my love of maps comes from a childhood of seeing the world through library books.  A map in a book, whether based on fact or fiction, brings incredible excitement as it puts me into the story, I am the navigator! A map can tell a story of a journey between two kingdoms, demonstrate the topography of a small city that was devastated by a tsunami, or describe the story of one intersection in Seoul, South Korea through generations of tailors. 

Georgia Wall: I have a vivid memory of Mrs. Mills, my owl-like primary school teacher, telling me in Reception class that the first time you hold a book you should always take time to sniff it out and maybe, secretly, taste it. What a fun, wonderful way to encourage everyone to try picking up a book! In this post I wanted to share a few of my favourite stories that also appeal to a range of senses and I hope, readers: books that invite you to pronounce words in a different language, that encourage you to grab a crayon or come up with your own creative response; books that beg to be touched and smelled and devoured over and over. If you’re also a book-smeller I hope you’ll find something you love!

Jackie Friedman Mighdoll: My kids love math – numbers, patterns, logic, coding! Since they were little, I’ve looked for stories that naturally include math concepts. There are plenty of counting books out there, but we’ve found the best math books do more than just count. They provide a variety of ways to engage young listeners and make them think – about the numbers and more. Today I highlight one classic and two new math picture books from Japan, Norway, and India.

Ayo Oyeku: Africa is not a country. It's a continent comprised of over fifty countries blessed with different languages, landscapes, rivers, national treasures, cultures, traditions, and shades of brown and black. In the popular tale of the blind men and an elephant, we are treated to a funny yet riveting story of how each blind man described the elephant based on which part they touched. Africa, often times, is like the proverbial elephant. In this review, we will be taking a journey across East, West and South Africa. Leaning on beautifully told and generously crafted stories for children. With the eye of the protagonist, we will explore what childhood means to children across Africa.

Charlotte Graver: Discussing topics such as war, conflict and societal upheaval with children can be difficult, with many opting to tell their children as little as possible to preserve their innocence and others choosing to ignore the topic all together. Whilst each approach should be respected, the problem with allowing this topic to become a taboo is that it does not reflect contemporary society wherein the effects of war are ever present. // It is therefore a good idea to gently introduce the topic to children from a young age, and literature can be the perfect vehicle to help achieve this. From autobiographically reflecting upon the events of war to hypothetically outlining its causes, books can help guide us in raising such a complex topic.

12 Sept: Girl Power!
Catherine Leung: My daughter has always enjoyed reading stories with strong female characters, even from a very young age, and one of her early favourites was the story of Chinese legendary folk heroine Mulan, who she admired in a picture book long before ever watching the Disney film. Even before she could read, she looked at the pictures so much the pages are now all falling out! // Strong female protagonists – whether they challenge stereotypes, are powerful, dreamy, funny, clumsy, flawed, independent thinkers, or possess an unusual talent – all have the power to inspire the next generation of readers as soon as they are old enough to hold a book!

Pinned to the top of the blog throughout the year is:

The 2023 List: Children’s and YA Books in Translation

WKL team: Here at Project World Kid Lit, we keep track of published translations for young readers. Here’s the 2023 list. // We compile this list to help readers find translated children’s & young adult books from around the world, whether it’s for a school or family reading project, or to celebrate #WorldKidLitMonth in September. It's arranged by publisher. // This year, so far, we know of over 200 books translated into English from 26 languages: Arabic, Bengali, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. // If you know of any titles we’re missing, please send us the details. (We’re looking for children’s and YA titles publishing in 2023, that were translated into English from any language, anywhere).

This is the second of four posts by the World Kid Lit team this September! See you next week!

Helen Wang is a UK-based translator of children's literature from Chinese to English. Her best known translation is the novel Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, 2016. She runs the blog Chinese Books for Young Readers.







Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Authors Guild Shares "Practical Tips for Authors To Protect Their Works from AI Use"

Our friends at the Authors Guild are doing some important education and advocacy around Artificial Intelligence, in particular the unauthorized use of copyright-protected content to train generative AI -- though I do think we should be calling it "re-generative" because these systems are not creating anything new, they're regurgitating and remixing human-created creative work.

This piece, Practical Tips for Authors To Protect Their Works from AI Use, is very instructive.

screen shot of the Authors Guild article, "Practical Tips for Authors to Protect Their Works from AI Use"

In it, the Authors Guild suggests a "No AI Training" notice be used, something like:

NO AI TRAINING: Without in any way limiting the author’s [and publisher’s] exclusive rights under copyright, any use of this publication to “train” generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to generate text is expressly prohibited. The author reserves all rights to license uses of this work for generative AI training and development of machine learning language models.

It's well-worth checking out.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

It’s September! Welcome to World Kid Lit Month!

September is #WorldKidLitMonth, a wonderful time to discover world literature and translation for children and young adults. Perhaps you’ve never thought about children’s books created in another country and another language? Or would like to see what’s new in the international world of children’s books?

The World Kid Lit team is active all year round, collecting information, making lists, writing blogs and so much more. And in September, we try to encourage everyone to join in. This year it’s our 8th World Kid Lit Month, and our website is better than ever. Take a look, dip in, search for books by country, language, target reader age, author, illustrator, translator – browse any way you like! Most of all, enjoy!

If you relish a challenge, try reading your way around the world, or playing World Kid Lit Month Bingo! You can download maps and bingo charts on the World Kid Lit website. We have lots of ready-made resources that you can download for free. It can be fun to do these challenges with friends, as a family, or as a class.

We’re also keen to learn from you! Tell us what you're reading! We're on social media as @worldkidlit - remember to use the hashtag #WorldKidLitMonth. Or you can contact us via the World Kid Lit website.

A few words about the World Kid Lit team - we're a group of volunteers around the world who come together through our interest and love of children's and YA books. You can find out more about us here.

How did World Kid Lit Month start? - The hashtag #WorldKidLitMonth was first used on social media in 2016 by Marcia Lynx Qualey, Lawrence Schimel and Alexandra Büchler. This was followed by the blog, also in 2016. A campaign emerged for greater visibility of world literature within English-language children's and YA publishing. It's part of a broader campaign for inclusive and representative literature for children - books that represent our global population in all its diversity.

Improving visibility - It wasn't always easy to discover children's books from other countries, as publishers don't always highlight when a book is translated, what language it was translated from, or who the translator was (please, always #namethetranslator). Project World Kid Lit evolved to help English readers all over the world discover global authors, illustrators and translators.

Working collaboratively - The World Kid Lit website was founded with the aim of shining a spotlight on a vibrant and growing area of children's and YA publishing. It also aims to be a hub connecting readers with many other organizations championing world literature for young people. We're delighted to work with SCBWI!

Translation in SCBWI - SCBWI has translator members and there is a Translation section on the SCBWI website. 

SCBWI's Global Translator Coordinator is the award-winning translator Avery Fischer Udagawa, translator of Sachiko Kashiwaba’s novel Temple Alley Summer, illustrated by Miho Satake, (Restless Books, 2021), which won the 2022 Mildred L. Batchelder Award.

This is the first of four posts by the World Kid Lit team this September! See you next week!

Helen Wang is a UK-based translator of children's literature from Chinese to English. Her best known translation is the novel Bronze and Sunflower, by Cao Wenxuan, winner of the Hans Christian Anderson Award, 2016. She runs the blog Chinese Books for Young Readers.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Back to School and Time to... Play?

Chalkboard graphic with the words "Back To School" underlined in blue chalk with three stars sprinkled around the words

It's September, and most kiddos are back to school after the summer break.

Maybe because we ourselves were kiddos at one time, and our formative years were shaped by this pattern, September still has that 'time to get back to work' feel.

Only, now I'm an adult, and kind of work all the time. 

I can almost hear you say that. Then again, maybe that's just ME saying that.

Either way, I'd like to share a challenge that's partly inspired by the wonderful Debbie Ohi, who's been sharing on social media (like here on Instagram) how much fun she's having with a new artistic technique - collage.

As Debbie wrote in that post, 

"I have no idea if I'll ever use this for illustrating children's books, but I'm having so much fun just PLAYING right now." —Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Maybe ask yourself, what does play look like in your creative process? Can you play with poems? With composing in a different language? With music? With art yourself?

How can we add play to the mix of our lives as we all juggle our must-dos and want-to-dos?

Some play might be just what we (and our creative work) need.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Notes from Picture Book Heaven


Today I want to share with you one of the most delightful experiences I’ve had as an artist in the picture book world: Milkwood 

Artists sitting and talking around a big table in a light-filled barn
The big dining table, where we gathered for every meal
(Photo courtesy of Milkwood)

Happily snuggled in a golden meadow of wildflowers and dotted with quacking ducklings is Milkwood, a dreamy haven in the Catskills for the children’s book community. Sophie Blackall and Ed Schmidt have created quite the sacred place, where authors and illustrators can let their inner child come out and play.

A group of artists gathering around artwork on the floor
Looking at our artwork together was one of
my favorite activities!
(Photo courtesy of Milkwood)

The retreat I attended was ​​called “Playing Nice with Text and Image,” a workshop for author-illustrators led by the wonderful and talented artists Lisa Brown and Dasha Tolstikova. My cohort included ten brilliant authors and illustrators from across the country, and we got to adventure into an enchanted weekend filled with writing and drawing exercises, artist presentations, and hundreds of children’s books! 

A group of people watching as two people prepare launching their lantern into the evening sky
Preparing to launch our wish lanterns into the night
(Photo courtesy of Milkwood)

In between the workshops, art-making, and scrumptious meals made by Sophie, Ed, and their crew of fairy-like helpers, somehow, pure magic would find us all over again. It started from the very first hour, when I met fellow artist Margaux in the cool, ankle-deep water of the nearby stream. When fellow artist Brian came by to say hello, a local frog also bowed and made an appearance! Throughout the four days at Milkwood, we also befriended a shy rainbow, a moody brotherhood of fogs who’d roll in before breakfast, and quiet evenings that watched over as we scribbled under the stars. 

An artist's desk at night lit up by a desk lamp
The moody and lovely writer's desk in my room.

Seeing other artists work on their craft, whip up exquisite sketches, and share their personal stories made my heart swirl with inspiration. And truly, just being there, surrounded by artists and butterflies, holding a little glass of rosé, sitting by the fire, I learned to relax my grip, have fun, and trust the universe even more. 

A table covered with sketches of self-portraits
A timed self-portrait exercise

While the harsh and painful realities of today may at times feel endless, from the climate crisis to the countless wars that rage on across the world, let us remember that we as artists have a very important and special power: the ability to create beauty and possibility in the world. 

In order to do this and keep doing this, I believe more than ever the importance of play, as this encourages us to imagine utopias that are centered on love. These imagined worlds often do not stay trapped in our children's books; in fact, they can inspire real people and create change in the real world. And it is not a tight grip that will lead to collective joy, but an inviting hand, a warm embrace. The community I experienced at the Milkwood retreat was and is just that. 

I will conclude with something that one of my favorite poets, Ocean Vuong, recently shared in a speech he gave at the Apex for Youth Inspiration Awards: 

Nations will rise and fall as they have done in our species. The Romes and the empires will come and go. But the only nation that I truly believe in, the only nation that will be here long before any country that we understand is the imagination. It is the one that I have absolute allegiance to, and it’s the only one, it’s the only nation on this planet that will remain unstoppable. 
(You can listen to his full speech here.)  


An artist slicing a big cake they baked as another artist smiles and watches
A moment of unbridled joy,
seeing Sophie's cardamom rosewater cake!
(Photo courtesy of Milkwood)

Ah, readers. This post here marks the final one in my series. A big flower toss to Lee Wind and SCBWI for inviting me to take over their blog for the month, and thank you, dear readers, for listening to my story and coming along for the ride! 

Keep shining, friends, 


About the Author

Haruka Aoki (she/they) is a queer Japanese artist and poet-illustrator who is local to Lisbon, Portugal, New York City, and Kamakura, Japan. Their debut picture book Fitting In, which they co-wrote and illustrated with John Olson, was published by Sky Pony Press in 2022. 

Their narrative artwork, often featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, aims to inspire individuals with both wit and sincerity as their hand-drawn characters engage the world around them. Growing up often unsure of where “home” would be next, Haruka found and continues to find comfort in nature and community, a constant starting point in their work. 

Haruka received her BA from Brown University and her MS from Pratt Institute. They are a Fine Arts Work Center Scholar and a recipient of the SCBWI BIPOC Scholarship. She often feels deeply grateful to be an earthling. 


Instagram: @thecosmicharuka 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

On Being a Writer and a Publisher: Austin Ross Shares at Publishers Weekly

screen shot of the publishers weekly article, "Seeing Novels from Both the Writing and Publishing Sides"

Seeing Novels from Both the Writing and Publishing Sides by Austin Ross, published earlier this month, includes some hard-earned wisdom. Some insights that resonated for me:

I have to constantly remind myself that it’s the writing that matters most. What becomes dangerous is when I focus my creative energy on the publishing circle of that Venn diagram—thinking of what might sell or attract an agent’s interest rather than what I want to write. —Austin Ross


We have no control over whether our work will be remembered or not, so we may as well have a little fun along the way....  I find myself wanting to go back and tell the eight-year-old version of me this same thing: writing should be fun, damn it. I would tell him, “Worry less about being ‘a writer’ and just write. Write what you love, and let the chips fall where they may.” —Austin Ross

It's well-worth reading.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, August 24, 2023

More Than “Just” a Book Reading


When I first started booking events to promote my picture book, I expected the audience to be children, teachers, and librarians, and the events to be held in school classrooms or children’s reading rooms at libraries. After nearly a year of sharing my debut picture book Fitting In (co-authored and illustrated with my friend and fellow artist John Olson), I realize there is a much bigger and very diverse world of audiences that would be interested in listening to our story! 

Photo of four children and an author illustrator posing in front of a large hanging art piece in a gallery
Sharing my book with children at an art gallery in Manhattan
(Photo courtesy of Civil Art)

It all clicked for me when Civil Art invited me to participate in “Warmth of Tea,” an event during Asian Pacific Islander Month that brought together a matcha demonstration and tasting, a ceramic and teaware display, and a book reading, all to offer a moment of peace in the busy metropolitan life of New York City. It made perfect sense that adults would appreciate relaxing with a cup of tea at the end of their work day. And when was the last time they were the ones being read to? 

As inspiration often leads to more inspiration, I came up with an idea: 

What if I led the audience through a breathing exercise and meditation after my reading? This could allow for further relaxation and a deeper sense of peace…

Et voilà! Here we are meditating together. I led the audience through a meditation and closed the event by humming a lullaby. 

Photo of an audience with their eyes closed and meditating
Creating time for inner reflection after the reading
(Photo by Johnny Le)

A few months later, Civil Art invited me back for a reading timed to “And The Moon Be Still as Bright,” an art exhibition about loss, rebuilding, and hope from a contemporary Asian American perspective. The event included a walkthrough of the exhibition and a reading by yours truly at Harper’s, a gallery in New York City. This time, I got to interact with an audience from CIDA, an organization that serves individuals with disabilities and their families. 

When I was preparing for the event with the Civil Art team, works by one of the featured artists in the exhibition caught my eye. Alexa Hatanaka is a Japanese-Canadian artist based in Toronto, and her practice “brings together historical craft technologies of her heritage including ink, natural dye, printmaking and papermaking.” When I looked through her website, I was mesmerized by her wearable kamiko works, which are garments sewn out of washi, or Japanese paper. Ding ding! Time for another ah-ha moment: 

This exhibition, Alexa’s work, and my book explore the idea of embracing change and recognizing the various forms our spirits take as we pursue our dreams... What if I wore her artwork for the reading to highlight this beautiful overlap? 

And after a conversation with Alexa, Civil Art, and Harper’s, it was done! 

An author illustrator with long hair reading a children’s book to an audience
Wearing Alexa Hatanaka’s fisherman’s vest
artwork as I read Fitting In
(Photo courtesy of Civil Art)

If you told me even a few months ago that I would be leading a meditation at a tea room in Brooklyn or wearing an art piece at a gallery in Chelsea as part of my children’s book tour, I really would not have believed you! But now, thanks to my inspiring collaborators and their open-minded approach to storytelling, I feel that I can let my imagination run free when I brainstorm ways to share my book with an audience. If an idea you have could make an experience for readers, audiences, and yourself even more meaningful, why not give it a voice and bring it to the table? As I grow as an author and illustrator, I am excited to dream up more magical collaborations with fellow artists, audiences, and venues! 

P.S.: Have any burning questions or interesting stories from literary events you’ve participated in? Leave a comment on this post! 

May we connect with readers in imaginative ways,  


About the Author

Haruka Aoki (she/they) is a queer Japanese artist and poet-illustrator who is local to Lisbon, Portugal, New York City, and Kamakura, Japan. Their debut picture book Fitting In, which they co-wrote and illustrated with John Olson, was published by Sky Pony Press in 2022. 

Their narrative artwork, often featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, aims to inspire individuals with both wit and sincerity as their hand-drawn characters engage the world around them. Growing up often unsure of where “home” would be next, Haruka found and continues to find comfort in nature and community, a constant starting point in their work. 

Haruka received her BA from Brown University and her MS from Pratt Institute. They are a Fine Arts Work Center Scholar and a recipient of the SCBWI BIPOC Scholarship. She often feels deeply grateful to be an earthling. 


Instagram: @thecosmicharuka