THE GOAL: Giving readers 14 and up the briefing they need to comprehend their moment in history.
And a riveting moment it is. We've grasped the dangers of civilization-as-usual and are laboring to alter our course, veering away from fossil fuels and switching our thinking from short-term to long.
Entrenched interests are resisting. It's a time of bold advances and shameful retreats, apathy and stunning innovation. Adolescence is dramatic and untidy; so are periods when societies change.
THE MEANS: Searching out the principles that decode a thousand headlines at a swoop--vested interests, the lifestyle ladder, defense mechanisms, big-country syndrome . . .
Because power and money are as important as molecules in this story, I've featured history, politics, and psychology as prominently as science. Because information sources vary in reliability, readers are shown how to look critically at the media and their own opinions and how to test for trustworthiness. Using my own town as an example, I've tried to show them how to see the global in the near-at-hand, looking behind and beyond their own local headlines. Read the first chapter.
"For high schools that assign one book for all students
to read and discuss: This is the one."
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Winner of the Green Earth Book Award
Winner of the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award
Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, SLJ, Kirkus
Available from Candlewick Press in hardcover, paper, audio, and e-book.
Schools can now perform Seedfolks as well as read it. My school-friendly adaptation is large-cast (11 males, 12 females minimum), single-set, and well-supplied with female and nonspeaking roles. It's one-act, technically simple, and at 40 minutes fits into a single class period. The play is a spoken musical of sorts--for a taste of one of the "songs" see the opening scene. There's lots of dialogue, action, and new material, including the answer to the question, "What happened with Curtis and Lateesha?"
The acting edition has just been published by Playscripts, which will handle licensing as well. Click here for a Playscripts interview about the story's inspiration. If you stage the play, let me know how it went at firstname.lastname@example.org. Break a stalk!
F o r   L i b r a r i e s
"Good Conversations" video
Tim Podell's Good Conversations series has just released a video portrait of me. Shot in my home and above the beach in Santa Cruz, CA, the twenty-minute film covers the influence of my father, Sid Fleischman, my writing habits, and the origins of Joyful Noise, Eyes Wide Open, and other books. As a bonus, you can see me collaborate with my wife Patty Brown on several poems from Joyful Noise.
The Matchbox Diary is an Italian immigrant's account, a hymn to literacy, an enticement to collectors, and a celebration of the box. It came from many points in my past, all of them converging at an unexpected meeting.
It was two decades ago that my friend and inspiration Kathy Chilton introduced me to her fellow artist Gary Hamel, who proceeded to lift the lid off one of his matchbox journals. My eyes expanded. The cigar box contained several dozen matchboxes brought on one of his trips, each dated and holding a few objects found on that day. Though we'd never met before, I was bold enough to ask if he might let me play with the idea. He agreed. My mind began whirring.
A writer's toughest task isn't finding an idea, but figuring out what to do with it. This germ overflowed with personal connections and possibilities. My mother had long ago given me a tiny sliding cardboard box she'd made and covered with paper she'd marbled, a work whose craftsmanship I aspire to whenever I write. I'm a lover of boxes and made a series of matchbox theaters some years back (see below). The smallness of matchboxes might be tied to the smallness of children and their knack for spotting little objects; I'd been the smallest kid in my class year after year. The urge to record where we've been was a possible focus. Or the way we live on through our objects--the reason my father kept his tailor-father's heavy shears close by his desk. Or a diary-in-objects might be kept by a character longing to communicate, a thread that's run through my work and my life, leading me to study instruments and languages and tutor new immigrants in English.
With so many choices, it should have been easy, but every use comes with problems. It took fifteen years of periodic attempts before I found one whose problems I could solve, weaving several of the above themes around a story of immigration in my grandfather's era, letting the similarities to my immigrant students' lives hover in the air. What a pleasure it was this summer to visit Gary Hamel in his home town of Orange, NH, to have him give his blessing on the book his idea spawned, then to have him bestow upon me one of his matchbox journals. My eyes jumped again. I love this job...
2014 Christopher Award
Finalist, Children's Choice Book Award
Starred review, Publishers Weekly
Starred review, Booklist
Starred review, Kirkus
Starred review, School Library Journal
IRA Teacher's Choices reading list
Keystone To Reading Elementary Book Award list
A Junior Library Guild selection
Best Childrens Books of 2013, Kirkus
Best Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
New York Public Library's "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"
Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
"If you can't read or write, how do you remember the important moments of your life?...A powerful introduction to the American immigrant story." --Publishers Weekly
"The illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline can create images so exquisitely realistic that they could be mistaken for photographs." --The Wall Street Journal
A Spanish edition with the same stunning artwork is available from Lectorum.
R e c e n t l y P u b l i s h e d
HE WALKED AMONG US
Paul Fleischman's comic campaign-trail novel for adults
A president walks into a country....but it's no joke for the rich and removed American leader fighting for reelection during the second coming of the Great Depression. Far behind in the polls, with the radio ringing with Bruce Springsteen's "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime," the president has no choice but to follow his handlers' advice: cross the country incognito, living and working among his people for two weeks in a desperate bid to seem attuned to their plight. Hadn't Peter the Great done something vaguely similar? What's the worst that could happen?
Find out, as the presidential entourage hits the road with hidden cameras and bickering speechwriters composing his diary--He Walked Among Us--to be served hot at the convention. From hobo jungles filled with middle management to the mysteries of Omaha and the political punch of New Mexico's green chiles, truth and truthiness collide as a president steps far off the red carpet and into the nation he nominally governs.
In 2012 we had Mitt Romney and his wife reminiscing about the ironing board they used as their dinner table in their early years. With another election upon us, best to take this literary Alka Seltzer first.
The U.S. Board on Books for Young People named Paul Fleischman the United States' author nominee for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award, an international award given every other year to an author and illustrator for a body of work judged to have made lasting contributions to children's literature. Twenty-seven countries submitted nominations, reduced to a short list of five that included Paul Fleischman. The winner was Marķa Teresa Andruetto of Argentina.
Sid Fleischman was the U.S. author nominee in 1994. Peter Sis, the illustrator of The Whipping Boy and many other Sid Fleischman titles, was the 2012 winning illustrator. You can see information about the nominees and the list of past winners at ibby.org.
C O M P O S E R S
L I V E !
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices may be the only Newbery book never to be translated into another language--but composers rushed in where translators feared to tread. Quite a few have set selections from the book to music over the years, captivating works I can now share with you. Did you think all composers are dead or that questions have only one right answer? Listen to these very different treatments of the same poem.
The first is the work of Shirley Hoffman Warren, one of five Joyful Noise poems she set to music, all performed at SUNY in New Paltz, NY, where she lives. "I often strive for a slightly off-balance feel," she says--wonderfully evident here. To hear more of her work, visit her website at www.washalee.com .