All posts by Linda Sue Park

More photos from Dubai

From the American School of Dubai, where I spent the last two weeks.


2015-03-22 05.45.27Members of student council staffing the first station on the elementary school’s Water Walk.


2015-03-22 05.44.00

Students in third through fifth grade, who read A LONG WALK TO WATER, buddied with younger students, walking them around the track to the three stations and explaining Salva’s and Nya’s story.


2015-03-22 05.47.10

Mr. Baltes helps a student balance a jerry can on her head, to get an idea of what it might feel like to be Nya, carrying water every day.



2015-03-16 11.30.35

The Korean/Korean-American teachers took me out for a delightful dinner one evening. From left, Jae Baik, Shirley Pyon, Jenny Sohn, and me. All-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, of course!


2015-03-22 05.42.53

An evening of great pizza and even better conversation: From left: high school psychology teacher Christina Advento, me, author John Coy, elementary school principal JohnEric Advento. Behind us: the lights of The Palm artificial island.




An order of muhammura (various spellings), walnut and red pepper paste, and fresh watermelon juice. Extras of bread, fresh vegetable plate and olives included. Serious yum.


At the Mall of the Emirates:


The famous indoor ski slope. Very popular. I stood there, my mind boggling . . . at whoever thought up the idea–and then made it work!



‘Coach’ in Arabic!



I liked this window at Harvey Nichols: Giantess and fancy backpack. Passerby at right for scale.


2015-03-22 05.48.32

The farewell party, on the rooftop of the Souk Madinat. From left: elementary librarian Natasha Pollock; high school librarian Jenny Baltes; middle-school librarian Jill Egan; John Coy; me; primary librarian Carly Brown; library paraprofessional Mara Ziemelis. What a team! How I hated to leave them!


A magical 24 hours

The work week in Dubai is Sunday-Thursday, so today (Friday) was the start of the weekend. Late yesterday afternoon, I took a taxi to Dubai’s Public Beach, right smack in the heart of the city. It was very windy, with sand whipping everywhere, but the beach and sea were beautiful, and there were lots of little shells. (I love picking up little shells.)

2015-03-12 22.58.45

Then, on the recommendation of librarian Natasha Pollock, I walked a short distance from the beach to a restaurant called Bu Qtair. The opposite of fancy–it’s literally a trailer. No menu. You can have fish, or prawns, or both. Stand in line (with locals and tourists alike); choose your fish when you get to the window; pay by weight. Go outside and wait for your fish to be cooked. When it’s done, a runner calls your name and brings your fish plus a plate of lettuce and lemon quarters. Another runner brings your table. You read that correctly: From somewhere behind the trailer, he hauls out one of those white plastic patio style tables and a stool; you sit, and your fish gets plonked in front of you. A big serving of rice, a pile of flatbread, and a bowl of curry sauce are extra. 25 cents extra. Plastic utensils are available, but I watched the locals and did as they did: ate the freshly grilled piping hot fish with my hands.

2015-03-13 19.37.06Bu Qtair, al fresco seafood at its best.



Pick your fish. I was told that the one I chose is called a ‘hamour.’ It’s coated with a dry rub and gets seared on a big round metal grill…

2015-03-13 19.35.41

…positively crackling crisp outside, tender inside.

After that feast, I walked a couple miles of the beach boardwalk to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, where the ASD teachers were having their annual Habitat for Humanity fundraiser: a trivia bowl! It was a really fun evening, and I proudly contributed the correct answer ‘Stone Temple Pilots’ to one of the questions.

Only a few hours later, I was up before the sun. Natasha met me at the hotel, and a car picked us up at 5:15am to take us to Al Maha Resort for a day-trip package, their ‘Activities Adventure.’ This stunning resort is located within the grounds of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve about an hour outside the city. We arrived at 6:30, just in time for the beginning of the falcony demonstration. Three falcons and an eagle strutted their stuff for us, including this beauty:


At the end of the demo, she patiently let each of the spectators get up close and personal:


I did say ‘magical’, didn’t I….

Breakfast was next. While we ate, one of the locals dropped by:


Gazelles (like this one) and oryxes are the two largest animals in the preserve.

Next we toured one of the stunning tent suites and then hit the pool area. Oryx, anyone?

2015-03-13 19.40.06


After lunch, we were taken on a wildlife drive, offroad through the dunes. We saw lots more gazelles and oryxes, including a herd with babies nursing!

2015-03-13 19.38.40

Our sharp-eyed guide also spotted a rare lizard, which we admired from afar. Back at the resort, we browsed the gift shop, and had tea and dessert in a deck area with stunning desert views. We drove out of the reserve at sunset, the end of a better-than-perfect day.

2015-03-13 19.28.43

Tomorrow: Taste of Dubai Food Festival!

In Dubai!

Just finished my first week at the American School of Dubai (ASD), and it couldn’t have been better. The librarians and teachers have worked all year to prepare for my visit, and the students are BEYOND AWESOME. The school is so supportive of author presentations that every year, not one but TWO authors visit, so I’m lucky to have John Coy here at the same time: We’re both having a blast!

With John, ready for our first day:

2015-03-12 15.08.26


Students who spoke at the opening welcome assembly getting last-minute tips, with librarians Carly Brown (far left) and Natasha Pollock (right).

2015-03-12 15.12.28



Natasha and John at the assembly.

2015-03-12 15.11.13


A HUGE honor: ASD chose A LONG WALK TO WATER for their first-ever One School One Book program. EVERY student from 3rd grade through high-school seniors read the book! Here’s a display in the elementary library, where students added drops of water with their comments on the book.




At dinner with the amazing librarians. From left: me, K-1 Librarian Carly Brown; elementary librarian Natasha Pollock, author John Coy; middle school librarian Jill Egan; high school librarian Jenny Baltes.

2015-03-12 15.09.47


IT teacher Renee Williams, a longtime Dubai resident, gave us a wonderful tour of the historic district called the Creek. Here’s Renee standing in a traditional Dubai house that’s been converted into the Majlis Art Gallery.



Cross the Creek in an abra, or water taxi. Fare: 1 dirham, about 27 cents!


I have much more to add about my time here in Dubai, and the best part is, it’s only half over! This week I got to spend time with middle-school students, and those in grades 3-5. Next week: kindergarten through grade 2, plus high school. More posts to come!


Below an excerpt from the graduation appreciation speech I gave for Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children program.

* * *

Your best work. It matters. I titled this speech ‘Mattering.’ In the broadest possible sense, books matter. One of the first thing any despotic regime does is to ban or burn books. I wrote about this in WHEN MY NAME WAS KEOKO, about how the Japanese colonists burned Korean books by the millions, and of course that action has been repeated countless times all over the world throughout human history since the dawn of the written word. Tyrants know that books matter, that books give people power of the most dangerous kind: the power to think independently.

And books for young readers matter even more, for many reasons. Books for babies and toddlers matter because they introduce the very idea of the book as a source of wonder. Holding a book, turning the page, looking at the pictures, making connections between the book and the world: Without these skills, pre-readers cannot become readers. And if pre-readers do not become readers, the world as we know it is doomed. I am not exaggerating.

Young readers need books that grow progressively more sophisticated as they do—they need them quite literally for the development of their brains. It turns out that the act of reading triggers brain stimulation in more areas and on more levels than any other sedentary activity. There is a dramatic and visible difference in brain scans between readers and nonreaders. Reading doesn’t just make kids smarter because they learn what’s on the pages. It actually makes their brains more powerful.

Reading nurtures extended thinking, deep and sustained thought. It gets below the surface of mere conscious communication into the deeper levels of imagery and connection. It is on those levels that we humans experience the sudden flashes of insight, and make the intuitive leaps of discovery that end up changing the world. If young people do not become readers, those parts of their brains will shrivel and die; the insights and discoveries will become fewer and less frequent, and that is why I was not exaggerating when I said that that without raising new generations of readers, the world as we know it is doomed.

These days people talk a lot about the inundation of images in our lives, particularly screen images. Perhaps not surprisingly, I’m more interested in how we’re all constantly bombarded by words. Texts, tweets, posts, sites, I don’t need to tell you. Words have become our cheapest currency. The great books of the world increase the value of words exponentially. Young readers need well-written books to show them the true value of words.

Books for young readers matter because they explore worlds and ideas that a kid might be encountering for the very first time. When we adults read a book that we love, we might indeed learn something new from it. But the reason we love it is that on either a conscious or subconscious level, it confirms our world view and by doing so, affirms our sense of self.

With young readers, that sense of self is still developing. If the story you write explores an animal-fantasy world in which squirrels are slaves, you may well be introducing your readers to the truth of slavery for the first time. They might have encountered the concept of slavery in textbooks or a television documentary; they might even know some of the facts. They need your story to explore the truth, which is far more than just the facts, ma’am.

Every great middle-grade novel explores the same question: How do we respond to an unfair world? That’s why I love middle-grade so much. Life isn’t fair. The great middle-grade novel shows us how to respond to unfairness with both grit and grace. It is a lesson that most of us have to keep re-learning our whole lives, but the great stories we read as children can give us a head start on practicing. That’s another thing I believe: that reading is practice for life. Life is unfair and can also be bewildering and difficult, and we all need all the practice we can get.

Whatever the age or genre, what young readers need is stories that do two things: engage, and stick. Stories that are so compelling we get lost in them while we’re reading, and then cannot get them out of our minds afterwards. Characters we care about. Plots that intrigue. Language that enchants. Those are the kinds of stories that foster deeper levels of thinking. They are the opposite of disposable culture, of surface amusement created without heart, easily forgettable and instantly forgotten. They are the stories and books that matter.

* * *

This week on NPR, I listened to part of an interview with the author Wes Moore. He was talking about work. He said that work becomes joy when you figure out where your passion meets the world’s needs. Those of you who are graduating today—you’ve proven your passion. You’ve invested time and money and sweat and probably some emotional agony in your degree. And I’ve already talked about why good books for young readers are needed in the world. Those of us privileged to live here in the U.S. have, I believe, a special responsibility to nurture both leaders and citizens with the capability for the kind of thoughtfulness I spoke of earlier.

Jackie Woodson says that she’s trying to change the world one reader at a time. I admit that there are times when I despair of this goal, when the accursed 24-hour news cycle seems to broadcast nothing but hatred and the terrible things we human beings can’t seem to stop doing to one another. But if the choice is to stop trying, to let the haters win, then there is no choice, is there? Never give up, never surrender. (Any Galaxy Quest fans?)

Where your passion meets the world’s needs. The world does not need more chatter, more empty words. The world needs stories that make us laugh and cry while we’re reading, and think and remember when we’re done. The world needs the stories you are passionate about, written as well as you can possibly write them. In this very room today are people who will produce stories like that, in what I hope is the very near future. 

–St. Paul MN, Jan. 18, 2015


At Hamline, with Dean Mary Rockcastle and grads looking on.

“In the Room”

Kirkus PrizeFirst blog post after a LONG hiatus! I’ve found that I enjoy tweeting, so please follow me on Twitter @LindaSuePark. But some thoughts just won’t fit into 140 characters, no matter how strenuously edited. Ergo…

I’m currently serving on the panel of the inaugural Kirkus Prize, Young Readers literature category. Along with John Peters and Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, we received more than 440 books, from which we had to choose six finalists.

The books we were sent had all been given a star by Kirkus Reviews, so there wasn’t a stinker in the whole pile. I’m proud of the six titles we settled on (after countless hours of individual contemplation and several marathon conference sessions). You can read about them here: And the winner will be announced on October 23: We have an exciting task ahead of us.

What I want to do in this post is to acknowledge how difficult it was to come up with that list of six titles. The books that were ‘in the room’ during our discussions deserve to be highlighted. These books were removed only after much kicking and screaming by one or more of the panelists. If you took the finalists along with the books below as your ‘to-read’ list, I think you’ll be set for a mighty fine stretch of reading.

Here they are, the laudable but cigar-less, alphabetical by author:

Picture books:

  VANILLA ICE CREAM, by Bob Graham

  EYE TO EYE, by Steve Jenkins

  THOMAS JEFFERSON, by Maira Kalman




Middle grade:

  THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS, by Christopher Paul Curtis


  NINE OPEN ARMS, by Benny Lindelauf

  RAIN REIGN, by Ann M. Martin


  THE BOUNDLESS, by Kenneth Oppel

  WEST OF THE MOON, by Margi Preus

 BROWN GIRL DREAMING, by Jacqueline Woodson



  SORROW’S KNOT, by Erin Bow

  HEAP HOUSE, by Edward Carey

  THE FAMILY ROMANOV, by Candace Fleming

  EGG & SPOON, by Gregory Maguire

   FRIDA & DIEGO, by Catherine Reef

  BELZHAR, by Meg Wolitzer


 Finally, a few more titles that I personally adored:

 Picture books:

  HERE COMES THE EASTER CAT! by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda


  THE ANIMAL BOOK, by Steve Jenkins

  EXTRAORDINARY JANE, by Hanna E. Harrison

  BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, by H. Chuku Lee, illustrated by Pat Cummings


Middle grade:

  OUTSIDE IN, by Sarah Ellis

  ANGEL ISLAND, by Russell Freedman

   FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! by Tim Federle

   SPARKERS, by Eleanor Glewwe



  THE LAST FOREVER, by Deb Caletti

  AS RED AS BLOOD, by Salla Simukka

  GIRL DEFECTIVE, by Simmone Howell


Applause all around!

What a privilege it has been to serve on this committee. John and Claudette have been a true pleasure to work with. And Kirkus editor Vicky Smith has kept things humming along beautifully, responding thoughtfully and helpfully to our every request.

Wish us luck choosing the winner, and watch for the announcement on October 23!

One more photo…

At the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, some of the many volunteers run the Busy Bookworm activity center, with book-centered arts and crafts for young readers. This year, there was a simple-but-GENIUS craft project to go with XANDER’S PANDA PARTY: an awesome paper-plate hand puppet!

Sarah Mead, with book and puppet.

Sarah Mead, with book and puppet. Sarah not only helps with the activities but also does the Festival’s website.

I am the proud owner of one such puppet. Every home should have one (along with the book, of course). 😉

Misc photos, aka ‘things you didn’t know about M.T. Anderson’

November: The Rochester Children’s Book Festival. Captained by Sibby Falk and Kathleen Blasi, with help from scores of volunteers, this event gets better every year. I get to meet hundreds of readers, and hang out with the authors & illustrators.

At the Festival, signing books with the help of a special visitor:

(photo credit: Stephanie Dobbin)


Susan Beckhorn Williams and Paul Zelinsky.


Bruce Coville & Jane Yolen starred (as agent & editor, respectively) in a skit written for the occasion by Sibby Falk and performed at the post-Festival dinner for authors & volunteers.

December: Rochester Area Children’s Writers & Illustrators Christmas party. Graciously hosted by Vicki Schulz in her family’s lovely home, this year’s entertainment was a talent show. The talents on offer were varied and delightful–from Deena Vivian’s recitation of all 44 presidents to Bill Thomas playing the mountain dulcimer to Marsha Hayles arm-wrestling, I learned things about the members that I hadn’t known before! M.T. Anderson was a special guest, and his talent was awe-inspiring: He can play Rossini’s William Tell Overture by hitting himself in the face.

(photo credit: Vivian VandeVelde)

Now if that don’t make you wanna read his books, I don’t know what will. 😉

For the next year or so, I’ll be doing almost no school visits and relatively little travel, for two reasons. One, I’ll be in The Cave, working on a project.

And two, this is my world now…


Wishing everyone a safe and joyous holiday season!


What a trip!

Thursday, Nov. 7

–Flew to LA (via IAD, airline geography again…). Did a little writing on the plane (good girl). Packed my own lunch (survival tactic for long flights): wild rice-lentil-quinoa salad with walnuts & dried cranberries; edamame; an apple. Excellent.

Decided to have the full LA experience and rented a car at the airport.

Drove to Sunset Strip for dinner at NIGHT+MARKET, Thai street food. (Thanks to cousin Randy for the recommendation!) Really interesting menu. The sour sausage and the hog collar were my favorites.

More importantly, I met my friend Margie there. We hadn’t seen each other in maybe thirty years! But with a rare few people, you fall right back into comfortable conversation as if the years were minutes, and it was just wonderful to catch up with her. I promise that ‘next time’ will happen much much sooner!

Margie and I were in the same freshman dorm at Stanford (Gavilan, FloMo). In my junior year, I left to go to France for my term abroad. In those days you could see air travelers off at the gate. Just as I was about to board the plane, Margie came running through the airport and surprised me with a bon voyage gift, a necklace whose pendant was a tiny exquisite ceramic clown. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

For thirty years, through many moves from city to city and even continent to continent, I cherished that little clown. At one point his chain broke, and I did a dreadfully amateurish restringing job. One of his shoes chipped off. But he stayed with me, and the way I am about my belongings, that’s saying something. (To this day I have no idea what happened to my albums, including Springsteen bootleg….)

So I wore the clown to dinner that night.


Isn’t he beautiful?


With Margie–a terrific reunion.

Drove from the restaurant to my hotel in Calabasas, a ways out of town, but convenient for the next day. Bed at 2:00am EST, zzzzz…

Friday, November 8

–School visit: Viewpoint School in Calabasas. Three presentations, to grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8. This visit was the result of persistence and long planning by ELA teacher Tracy Wymer, who made the original contact, and Michele Shumow, primary librarian. It was a real pleasure: the students well-prepared, enthusiastic, and attentive. The final bonus: meeting a 6th-grade student who had read A LONG WALK TO WATER over the summer and initiated a fundraising drive for Water for South Sudan! I hope to have some photos from Viewpoint soon.

Drove back into town. Getting my freeway chops now. Dinner at Osteria Mozza with Lin & Alan Oliver, Stephen Mooser, and Sally Crock of SCBWI. I had the burrata with bacon, then sweetbreads with spinach and artichokes. Oh, and a very good perfect Manhattan.


Mozza’s sweetbreads. (Those paying attention will spot the Manhattan, with homemade brandied cherries, yum.)

Lin and Steve are top of the pops to me. They founded SCBWI way back in the day, and have overseen its remarkable growth into THE BIGGEST WRITERS’ ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD—more than 20,000 members worldwide. Despite this, they remain among the warmest and most approachable folks I’ve ever met.


With Lin Oliver

Great conversation, plus a celebrity spotting: Diana Nyad, the endurance swimmer. Wow, is she in good shape—I guess she’s in her 60s, but she looks 40, tops!

Freeway again, return to hotel. In bed either early (PST) or late (EST).

Saturday, November 9

–Hello, freeway. A short trip this time: to the Skirball Cultural Center for the Southern California Children’s Literature Council’s Fall Gala. Many thanks to Marjorie Arnett, Betsy Kahn, Maxine Lucas, and the rest of the board for their hard work on this wonderful event.

I gave the keynote address, then got to hear the acceptance speeches of the award winners (given annually to authors/illustrators who reside in SoCal): for YA, OUT OF REACH, by Carrie Arcos; for historical fiction, KING OF THE MOUND, by Wes Tooke (baseball story about Satchel Paige!); for poetry, LOOKING FOR ME, by Betsy Rosenthal; and the winner of the Dorothy McKinzie award for contribution to children’s literature Allyn Johnston, publisher of Beach Lane Books. I enjoyed hearing the other authors (with thanks to Wes for the KEEPING SCORE shoutout), and Allyn’s speech was the perfect way to end the day.

Then a convivial lunch at the Marmalade Cafe in Sherman Oaks with the CLC Board and a guest, my dear friend Theresa Nelson.


Theresa at front left; Marjorie Arnett at rear left; Maxine Lucas, front right; CLC President Betsy Kahn, third from right, and other members of the CLC Board, with me in the middle there somewhere.

Driving into town for dinner, I had my only encounter with the dreaded Freeway Monster: A trip that had taken about forty minutes on two previous occasions took almost an hour and a half. It was, to be honest, awe-inspiring, and I arrived at the restaurant appropriately flustered. But I would brave the Monster ANYTIME when Angelini Osteria is the destination!

Last meal of the trip: at Angelini, which might be my favorite restaurant on the planet. It’s always so hard to decide what to order there; this time I had the beef marrow (dramatic presentation, a large bone split and grilled), which came with the most delicious little dumplings (gnocchetti), then the pasta alla norma, with eggplant. I also ordered the sea urchin pasta, which I shared with the table. Greedy, I know, but I only get to eat here once a year!

With me at dinner were Theresa and her husband, the actor Kevin Cooney. Dinner at Angelini has become almost an annual event for us, and it’s invariably one of my favorite evenings of the year.

Flight home without incident (no small thing these days…). Did a little writing again, and now this morning I had Gramma duty. Lucky me!

Thanks to all who helped make this trip such a pleasure. I love LA.

Road fun

Late September: SCBWI Rocky Mountain region annual conference. Keynote, breakout, and workshop intensive. A lot of work, but also a lot of fun! Many thanks to RAs Todd Tuell and Denise Vega and all attendees for a great weekend.

October: East Baton Rouge Parish Library Author-Illustrator Program. A terrific two days thanks to Children’s Services director Pabby Arnold and the rest of the staff. An enthusiastic and supportive audience. And as if that weren’t good enough, the folks in Baton Rouge sure know how to eat! 🙂


With librarians Tara Dearing and Pabby Arnold.

hallelujah crab

Hallelujah Crab–a soft-shell crab, stuffed and deep fried, at Juban’s restaurant in Baton Rouge. SERIOUS YUM.

–New York & Philadelphia. Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA. Thanks to both stores for hosting me and Matt Phelan, presenting XANDER’S PANDA PARTY, and to the folks who came to the events, especially Diana Sinche and her students in NY and Roberta Jacoby and students in PA.

Brooklyn bonuses: I got to spend time with Dot; great eats at Talde with Dot, cousin Randy, friend Nancy; a fun dinner with author Matt DeLaPena and his wife Caroline.

With teacher Diana Sinche (back row second from left) and her students from MS 217 in Queens, at Greenlight Bookstore.

At Children’s Book World, Matt and I were joined by David Weisner, who talked about his new picture book MR. WUFFLES!


Matt Phelan (left) and David Weisner signing at Children’s Book World, David peering at me suspiciously.


With David and Matt at dinner after the event. Resurrection Ale House in Philly, where we shared lots of good things to eat & drink, including octopus, brussel sprouts, beef tongue, and craft beers.

I’m blogging from the Philly airport, awaiting my flight home. For the rest of the week, I get to take care of The Grandbaby…

Cal Oct

…for whom I recently knitted this sweater:

blue sweater

I love traveling and meeting readers. I love taking care of The Grandbaby even more. 🙂

A party for a Party!


You’re all invited to XANDER’S PANDA PARTY! (Official publication date Sept. 3, 2013.) I can’t wait for folks to read it because of the WONDERFUL illustrations by Matt Phelan.

The fun begins with the book trailer, thanks to the folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

MORE FUN: Lovely reviews for the book!

*“Phelan takes Park’s jaunty story about a panda with a complicated social life and develops it still further. . . . There’s food for thought throughout.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

*“The upbeat, mostly rhyming text provides a surprising amount of information about animal families and species without tripping up the pace. . . . Perfect for young animal lovers and a great read-aloud for storytime.”
—School Library Journal, starred review

*“Liberal use of internal rhyme. . . makes Park’s text sing as it relates how Xander tackles each new challenge.” —The Horn Book Magazine, starred review


in Rochester, NY, Saturday, September 7
11:00am LAUNCH event!
Pittsford Barnes & Noble, 3349 Monroe Ave, Rochester NY

in Washington DC, Saturday, September 13
10:30am Reading and signing with Matt Phelan
Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave, Washington, DC

in Brooklyn, NY, Saturday, October 19
11:00am Reading and signing with Matt Phelan
Greenlight Bookstore, 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY

in Philadelphia, PA, Sunday, October 20
1:00pm with Matt Phelan and David Wiesner,
reading & signing XANDER and David’s new book MR. WUFFLES (I know, right?!!)
Children’s Book World, 17 Haverford Station Road, Haverford, PA



First Grandchild, three weeks old. Aka “One Cal burrito to go, please”.

(You didn’t think I could possibly do a post without a grandbaby picture, did you!??)

Thanks to all for joining in the celebration!