Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Loved to Pieces...with Nancy Tupper Ling

Today we have a very special author and poet visiting us. She wrote MY SISTER, ALICIA MAY; DOUBLE HAPPINESS; and THE STORY I'LL TELL. Please welcome...
Nancy Tupper Ling! 

Photo credit: Stacy Murphy Photography
She's here to share her own favorite book from childhood. The one she's loved to pieces. Tell us about it, Nancy. . . .

"Growing up I lived on a lonely road in Farmington, CT. For many years a farm house and a field of cows were across the street from our family home. As an only child, my world revolved around books, so becoming a librarian and an author may have been written in the stars. 
Or wait. Maybe it was written inside the books I cherished as a child. I lived in a suburb that had little  cultural diversity and yet the books I gravitated toward were the few I could find that took me worlds away from my own. 
Not that I didn’t love my childhood. My father was a Dean at a local college, and my mother was a journalist and homemaker. I was surrounded by love, and a love of words. Still my favorite books where about people or animals who came from other countries or cultures than my own.
After my first school book fair, I brought home Ezra Jack Keats’ book The Snowy Day.  I was hooked by the cover—a boy in his red snow suit, looking down at his own tracks in the snow. 

This boy, Peter, didn’t look like me. He lived in the city while I was in the suburbs, but that didn’t matter. I jumped into his world feet first. His winter days were like my winter days, and I read and reread his story. 

Peter even taught me to try new things in the snow, like pointing my toes in and out to make cool tracks. And he used a stick to smack the snow-covered tree, getting a pile of snow of his head. That sure looked like fun. I would have never thought of these snowy adventures on my own, but I’d always made snow angels, just like Peter. Keats made me feel like Peter could be my friend, too, no matter our differences.
Not surprisingly my other well-worn book is Crow Boy by Taro Yashima. I’m curious if any Crooked Little Cottage readers discovered this book when they were kids? The cover of my worn copy is long gone, but this was my all-time favorite. 

Crow Boy is about a Japanese boy from the country who walks miles and miles for the chance of an education. His classmates find him strange. He doesn’t fit into their world and he’s afraid of their first teacher (rightly so). The other children call him stupid and slow poke. They make fun of him terribly and yet they know little about him except that he brings the same lunch every day—a rice ball wrapped in a radish leaf. 

I remember thinking that even in a faraway country like Japan, there could be a kid who doesn’t fit in for some reason.  And yet, a life can change because of one person. Chibi’s world shifts when a new teacher, Mr Isobe, arrives. This wise man recognizes Chibi’s gifts. When he takes the class outside into nature, he shows them how much Chibi knows about the grapes and the flowers. As Mr Isobe takes time with Chibi, the students begin to see him in a new light. At last when Chibi stands up to imitate the voices of crows in the talent show, there is not a dry eye in the audience. The community sees the heart of this dear boy. He can do things they never imagined, and from that day on they call him “Crow Boy” out of admiration.
Of course it’s easy to look back at one’s childhood with 20/20 hindsight. In a sea of similar faces, I craved diversity. My friends were often the Chibis in my school. Even in preschool, my best friend, Adam, was the one Asian boy in my classroom. Maybe this is why my mother swears I was destined to marry my Chinese-American husband. I often joke with my husband now, saying that I married him for his family stories and great cooking, but maybe my appreciation started long before we met. Books opened new worlds and cultures to me, and that has made all the difference in my own stories, and the stories I will tell."

Don't miss Nancy's new book!

by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Jessica Lanan
Lee & Low Books, 2015
ISBN 978-1620141601

★ "[A]n unabashed love letter, one that many families will treasure." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Nancy Tupper Ling is the winner of the prestigious Writer’s Digest Grand Prize and the Pat Parnell Poetry Award.  She draws her inspiration from the multicultural background of her family and the interwoven fabric of familial culture which is, on the surface, seemingly every day.  She is the author of My Sister, Alicia May (Pleasant Street Press), Double Happiness (Chronicle Books), The Story I’ll Tell (Lee & Low Books) and the founder of Fine Line Poets (, Currently she resides in Walpole, Massachusetts with her husband, Vincent, their two girls, two fish and a parakeet named Nimbus.

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