Category Archives: Blog Post


Upcoming: a trip to California for a terrific literature festival, followed by a tour for FOREST OF WONDERS, Book 1 of the Wing & Claw trilogy! Events in RED are open to the public. Hope to see you there!

Friday-Saturday, February 26-27, Redlands, CA
Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival
Check out this amazing schedule! I’ll be doing a keynote Friday morning, and two breakout sessions, including one where I’ll be fangirling–talking books and stories with awesome authors Kristine O’Connell George and Janet Wong.

Monday, Feb 29 NYC: TV satellite tour

Tuesday, March 1, Milwaukee WI
AM: Glen Hills Middle School, Glendale
PM: Longfellow Middle School Wauwatosa

Wednesday, March 2, Indianapolis IN
AM: Center for Inquiry School
PM: St. Thomas Aquinas

3:30pm booksigning
Kids Ink
5619 N. ILLINOIS STREET, Indianapolis 46208

Thursday, March 3, Winnetka IL
School events TBA

Friday, March 4, Chicago area
AM: Bernard Zelle Anshe Emet Day, Chicago
        Rogers Park Montessori, Chicago
PM: DaVinci Academy, Elgin

2:00pm Saturday, March 5, Naperville IL
Presentation and signing!
Anderson’s Bookshop
123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville

Monday, March 7, Dayton OH
AM: Cline Elementary School, Washington Township
PM: Southdale Elementary School, Kettering

Tuesday, March 8, Cincinnati OH
AM: Symmes Elementary School, Loveland
PM: Montgomery Elementary

Wednesday, March 9, Nashville TN
AM: Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood
PM: Julia Green Elementary, Nashville

6:30pm, Nashville
Presentation and signing!
Parnassus Books
3900 Hillsboro Pike Ste 14, Nashville 37215

Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12, Murfreesboro TN
Southeast YA Book Festival!

Thursday, March 10
SE YA school visit dayAM: Oakland Middle School, Murfreesboro

Friday, March 11
SE YA school events

Saturday, March 12
SE YA Community Day
12:30-1:15pm I get to be on a panel with the fabulousnesses of Sharon Cameron, and Tracy Barrett!
Booksigning: 9-11am, and 1:30-2:15pm

Sunday, March 13, Rochester NY
9:00am presentation, A LONG WALK TO WATER
St. Paul’s Episcopal forum


My TedX talk:


Reviews coming in…

FOREST OF WONDERS, Book One of the WING & CLAW trilogy, will be published by Harper Collins on March 1, and I can hardly wait!


Reviews have been coming in, and the book is available for pre-order–at the usual online sites and at Indiebound:

Here’s what reviewers are saying:

From School Library Journal: “…The real beauty in Park’s work lies in the relationship she creates between Raffa and Echo the bat. The story contains some high-intensity action scenes that will hook readers. The world-building is intensive; there is clearly a multilayered history and culture underlying the richly detailed setting. This story would be great as a way to create some interest and engagement with students studying chemistry or earth science. VERDICT A strong addition by a wonderfully talented author to diversify middle grade fantasy collections.”

From Kirkus: “…The measured pace builds to a cliffhanging climax as Raffa balances family loyalties, compelling ethical dilemmas, and his role as an apothecary, all at a level completely accessible to the audience. Echo the bat is a particular delight, and among Raffa’s new friends in Gilden are dark-skinned Kuma and working-class Trixin. Final art not seen. With its engaging hero, talking animals, arcane magic, moral issues, and unresolved plot, this first of a proposed trilogy promises more exciting forest wonders.”

From Publishers Weekly: “…There’s no shortage of action or ethical dilemmas in this endearing tale, first in Park’s (A Long Walk to Water) Wing & Claw trilogy. In the city, Raffa finds himself caring for a pair of raccoon babies and making new friends, including Kuma, a scrappy girl known for taming a mighty forest bear. A malicious plot to use experimental herbal infusions on innocent animals is part of an overarching theme in which Raffa wrestles with how to use his knowledge—for healing or for deception and even willful harm. As in life, the choices are never black and white as Park’s realistically flawed characters struggle between looking out for the greater good or for themselves.”

from Booklist: ” …the world building and rich characters, not to mention a bevy of comical talking animals, will lure in middle-grade fantasy fans, and the gentle message of conservation and kindness to all creatures will resonate with young animal lovers. A cliff-hanger ending leaves plenty to cover in the forthcoming follow-up.”

I hope readers will have as much fun reading the book as I did writing it!


My TEDx talk: Can a children’s book save the world?

Please view and share!




What a month!

Two amazing events: On November 7, the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. I couldn’t describe it any better than author Elizabeth Bluemle, on her blog for Publishers Weekly. (Note the first photo in the post, copied below: I’m the one who took it, standing up on my chair to get the shot!)


A week later, I gave a TedX talk for TedX Beacon Street! More on this later, when the edited video gets posted on their website ( For now, a couple of photos taken by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publisher Betsy Groban. My talk was entitled “Can a children’s book save the world?”

Ted 1


Ted 2

I’m giving a TED TALK!

I’m giving a TED talk! For TedX Beacon Street in Boston. Here’s the information on the live stream:


Saturday, Nov. 14 2:00pm EST

So excited! Hope lots of you will ‘join’ me online.


1969 was the first year I was a Cubs fan.

I hope that at least a few people reading this understand the sheer weight of that seemingly simple sentence. In August of 1969, the Cubs were in first place by NINE games. They finished the season in second–eight games behind. Obviously it wasn’t quite mathematically impossible, but they had to lose a LOT of games to achieve such dire numbers.

The team that overtook them was the New York Mets.

A few smatterings of memory from those childhood years:

–Jack Brickhouse: “Santo-Kessinger-Beckert-Banks, the infield third to first.”

–Ernie Banks: “The Cubs will shine in ’69.”

–Billy Williams, uniform number 26. Randy Hundley, 9. Ferguson Jenkins, 31.

–Glenn Beckert (18, second base), hardest man to strike out in the National League.

That’s all from memory; I didn’t look any of it up. I was an ardent Cubs fan into the ’80s, when I lived for several years in Europe, in the days before cable and internet. For game 5 of the NL playoffs in 1984, I assiduously avoided looking at the International Herald Tribune for the result. The next day, I went to an American bar in London, where they had arranged for a videotape of the game to be overnighted to them from the states.

I watched the game there. I remember being intensely annoyed by a Padres fan a few bar stools down, who kept saying, “17 years! 17 years we’ve been waiting….”

Just shut UP, would you? For the Cubs, it had been FORTY years since their last postseason appearance.

They lost.

In 1985, I had a baby boy. A few years later, my husband got a job in Manhattan, and we moved back to the U.S., to Brooklyn. I picked Brooklyn because of Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. We did all of our apartment-hunting there; I refused to consider living anywhere else.

My son got interested in baseball, and became a rabid fan.

A Mets fan.

What’s a mother to do? Well, this mother plonked herself down on the couch next to that little boy and began watching Mets games with him, explaining the infield-fly rule, the double-switch, the suicide squeeze. Mother-love trumps all: I never thought it would happen, and it didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I became a Mets fan too.

During the ’90s, the Braves were the Mets’ nemeses. When my son was about eight, I told him about the ’69 season, and how much I had HATED the Mets back then. With a look of utter horror, he said, “You mean, it’s like if I had a kid, and he was a BRAVES fan?” I said yes. After a moment of contemplation, he said, “Wow. You must really love me.”

Being a fan of a baseball team is about the dailiness of a long season. For more than twenty years now, I’ve followed the Mets every single day–the way I followed the Cubs as a child. On television mostly, but sometimes radio. Staying up late for the left-coast games. Watching sports news for recaps of the rare games I miss.

Several people who know my baseball history have said to me, “Cubs vs Mets in the playoffs! So you’ll be happy no matter who wins, right?”

If the Cubs win, I’ll salute and applaud Cubs’ fans everywhere–including my nine-year-old self.

I will also be heartbroken.

If the Mets win, I’ll be ecstatic . . . with a pang for Cubs’ fans everywhere, including my nine-year-old self.

That is not at all the same as being happy no matter who wins.

Dear Meg…

Imagine yourself as a child reader. In almost every single book you read, the main character is a BOY. Boy after boy after boy. You search and search and finally, you find one that stars a girl. She’s feeble and helpless and her story is about how she manages to get a BOY to help her.

Wouldn’t you say, “This is ridiculous! We need stories about girls! ALL KINDS of girls, girls in the fullness of their humanity!” (Okay, maybe if you were a child reader, you wouldn’t say that last phrase–but you’d feel it.)

And then someone you respect and admire says, “Don’t be silly. There are girls in the newspapers and on TV. Just go look at them there. Literature is to expand the mind. You have to have the imagination to put yourself into boy shoes.”

Well, yes. And girls and women have done this–have had to do this–for centuries, and it is indeed mind-expanding. But as a female reader, I am grateful for books like yours that feature strong, quirky girls. And other books about misfit girls, improbable girls, brave and crazy women.

No, I take that back: Grateful isn’t quite the correct word. I *am* grateful, but I also have the RIGHT to expect such books. Because one of literature’s most important functions is to reflect the world, and the world is full of people who are not boys.

When I say that we need diverse books, that is what I mean. We need books that show people in the fullness of their humanity. ALL KINDS of people. EVERY kind of person. Including queer black boys.

Not on tv or in the papers. In BOOKS. In literature. In art that lasts and matters.

Humbly but firmly,

Linda Sue

From the outside

I don’t know of a single good fiction writer who doesn’t write outside their own experience. Period.

But here’s the thing: Not all ‘outsides’ are created equal.

(For purposes of this piece, I’m going to use race/skin color. Swap out the terms and it applies to many other minority cultures.)

Minorities live in the dominant culture—by definition, right? I am a member of a minority culture (Asian-American) who lives in the dominant culture (white American). I exist in more than one culture. The dominant culture IS my culture; I’m part of it, I’ve lived in it my whole life. When I create middle-class American characters, I’m writing from inside the culture, not outside. I even know the largely white experience of not having to think about my skin color (rare, but it does happen), which means I can and do write white characters.

The reverse is seldom true.

If you are white, when you write a character who is a person of color, you are almost always writing from outside that culture—by definition.

Ergo: It is easier / more authentic / more natural (pick one) for me to create white middle-class characters than it is for you (theoretical white dominant-culture person) to create a character of color. Sorry, that’s the way it breaks. Because once again, I’m not writing from ‘outside my culture’. You are.

So the plain truth of it is that you have a lot more work to do. Hard work. And here’s the next thing: Research is necessary, but not enough.

It’s not enough to do the google/wiki thing. Or to watch lots of videos and documentaries and listen to lots of podcasts. It’s not enough to go to the library and read dozens of books and articles. Research is vital. It is no substitute for experience.

Here are a couple of examples of writers finding their way into another culture via experience. Debby Dahl Edwardson is a white American who writes Inupiat characters. She has lived in an Inupiat community for most of her adult life. She’s married to an Inupiat man. She has half-Inupiat children. Like me, she exists in more than one culture, and that’s where she’s coming from when she writes her amazing and memorable characters.

Okay, you say, but I can’t move to Alaska and marry an Inupiat. Fair enough. Look to James Rumford, then. White American, from Hawaii, author, illustrator, linguist, storyteller. He has written (or written and illustrated) picture books set in at least a dozen international cultures.

Before James writes a story set in another culture, he studies the language. As in, for years. He is now fluent in several languages (including Chinese and Arabic!), and conversant in several more. He wrote a book in Brazilian Portuguese that won awards in Brazil.

Both Edwardson and Rumsford have respect and passion for the cultures their characters come from, and they’ve put in the time to prove it. That’s the kind of dedication I’m talking about. It ain’t no wiki. And all of the above applies in essence if not in degree to secondary characters as well as protagonists: The token, flat secondary character is nothing but a superficial nod at inclusion.

Respect. Passion. And most of all, time. If you, theoretical white dominant-culture person, want to write believable and valuable characters of color, start by investing in those three things.

Response to a Twitter post


A couple days ago, I read a post on Twitter in which a writer mentioned that he deliberately did not specify his characters’ race/ethnicity because he wanted all readers to be able to identify with them.

I’ve heard this before from other writers, including prominent ones. It’s a problem.

If a story depicts someone who leaves their own home and interacts with others in public spaces (in other words, almost any novel ever written) but never or almost never has to consider their racial identity, THAT CHARACTER IS WHITE. This could even serve as a reasonable definition of ‘white privilege’: Only those of the dominant culture have that incredible luxury.

A POC can never go outside their own home or family circle without thinking about their racial identity in some way. The trigger is not always malicious or even negative, but it is inescapable. A POC’s racial identity IS NOT THEIR SOLE DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC–but in society, it is *always* a consideration.

So if story setting is proto ‘western world,’ and a character’s racial identity never comes up? They’re not ‘race neutral.’

They’re white.

Recent reading

It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: Why I haven’t blogged my reading in so long. Last year, from about May through October, I was a panelist for the Kirkus Prize. 350+ books inside six months, picture books, middle-grade, and YA. WAY too many to blog about.

After that I couldn’t pick up a book for young readers for MONTHS. Never thought it would be possible to burn out on reading kids’ books, but it happened. I read nothing but adult mystery series and adult nonfiction for weeks and weeks.

But in the last month or two, some amazing and wonderful books have come my way…and I’m BA-A-A-A-CK.



THE LEVELLER, by Julia Durango. YA fiction. Set in the (very near) future of virtual-reality games. A terrific read for lovers of action/adventure stories, gamers, and fans of good writing–OF ANY GENDER. Skillful inclusion of some Cuban history as well as a little romance. *I read it in one gulp.*



THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Middle-grade memoir, adaptation of a best-selling book for adults. If you liked getting to know Salva Dut in A LONG WALK TO WATER, you’ll find Kamkwamba’s story amazing and inspiring too. A young teen in Mali builds a windmill out of scrap to bring electricity, and hence water, to his family’s drought-stricken farm.










THE YEAR WE SAILED THE SUN, by Theresa Nelson. Middle-grade historical fiction. One of my all-time favorite writers! A gritty story set in 1912 St. Louis, with a setting so real you can feel it, and a character to cheer your heart out for. Can eleven-year-old Julia Delaney find a home and a family when her own falls apart? Don’t let the lyrical cover and title fool you; IMHO they belie the humor, action, and gutsiness of Julia and her story.



KISSING IN AMERICA, by Margo Rabb. YA contemporary. Road trip time! Two teen girls, one on her way to see the love of her life, the other to appear on a TV game show. Friendship, first love, and deep grief, laugh-out-loud humor and gorgeous writing. Plus a great cover!



BONE GAP, by Laura Ruby. YA fantasy. Teenage Finn tries to solve the mystery of a kidnapping, and falls in love along the way. Ambitious structure, with the story told (mostly) from three third person viewpoints. Wonderful setting, with surprising but well-earned plot and character twists (which carried me past the minor annoyance of the intrusion of two chapters from other POVs). Daring. Intriguing. Unusual. Read it.



 ECHO, by Pam Munoz Ryan. Middle-grade historical fiction/fairy tale. Three stories–no, four. Wait, maybe it’s five?–that follow a harmonica that might or might not be magical–on its journey through several decades and lives. A remarkable mashup!


THE SECOND GUARD, by J.D. Vaughn. Middle-grade fantasy. HURRAH for a fantasy that 1) uses Latin-American tropes instead of the weary European ones and 2) has a great kick-ass girl protagonist! Talimendra must train to become part of the Queen’s guard and help save the realm of Tequende. Can’t wait for the next installment.


THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL, by Lisa Yee. YA contemporary. The last seven days of Higgs Boson Biggs’ high-school career, during which everything he’s worked hard for starts to fall apart. FUNNY and moving by turns–or at the same time, and I still can’t think of the title premise without cracking up.



ARCADY’S GOAL, by Eugene Yelchin. Middle-grade historical fiction. What was it like to be a child in Stalinist Russia–a child whose parents have been ‘disappeared’? Arcady’s story might have been unrelentingly grim, but it’s leavened by moments of tenderness and his passion for soccer. The spare writing suits the subject matter perfectly, with the bonus of lovely and haunting illustrations by the author.

 I’m so lucky, to live in a world and a time with such books in it!


May 2015: The Balkans Tour and BEA

Bucharest, Sofia, and Belgrade. Three great cities and three terrific schools.

 A few of MANY highlights:

American International School of Bucharest: The ‘Balkans Tour’ was the brainchild of librarian John Kurtenbach, whom I got to visit in Peru in 2013. When he moved to Romania, he invited me to visit there as well! Librarian Stacey Socholotuk hosted me for two great days, with A LONG WALK TO WATER as their One Book One School read. I saw students from pre-K through Grade 8, and did an evening presentation for parents and families.



Here’s a link to AISB’s Facebook page about my visit:

And Stacey took me and my husband out for really good Italian food at Grano.

Anglo-American School of Sofia: Librarian Rebecca Battistoni took care of me in Bulgaria, where I did sessions for grades K-8, as well as one for a tenth-grade class (LOVE getting to visit with high-school students). While there I was able to announce that AAS was one of the second-prize winners of Salva Dut’s Iron Giraffe Challenge! The school will get a 15-minute Skype with Salva.

Our time in Sofia included two FUN dinners out. The first, with Rebecca, School Director Jim Urquhart, and counselor/athletic director Andie Urquhart; the second, with faculty and staff at a wonderful traditional Bulgarian restaurant.

2015-05-08 20.10.17

Librarian Rebecca Battistoni with friends including Joe Herr, 4th grade teacher (right), and LOTS of Bulgarian food.

AAS Facebook page link:

International School of Belgrade: My host for Serbia was Librarian Mallory Goetz. I met with students pre-K through grade 8; did a writing workshop for middle- and high-school students as well; and an evening presentation for parents. Mallory and the school brass–Director Rob Risch, Lower School principal Brian Lettinga, and Upper School principal Angelo Coskinas–took us out to Terassa, a restaurant within the medieval Kalemegdan Fortress, which wins hands-down for ‘Best Setting’ of all the restaurants we went to.

2015-05-12 19.33.08


After Belgrade, I got to spend three more days in Bucharest just for fun, including a day in the Transylvanian countryside, which looked like this:

2015-05-14 17.06.35

…with flowers growing everything, including wild orchids like this:

2015-05-14 16.52.41


And on our last night before flying home, we had my favorite meal of the trip, at The Artist in Bucharest, which offers a ‘spoon tasting’ menu: one spoonful of EVERY item on the menu! Swoon!

2015-05-15 19.55.34


After a week of jet-lag recovery, it was back on the road again, this time to NYC. I visited the Strand Bookstore, where Brianne Sperber hosted a great event with sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders from Castle Middle School in Manhattan.



I also got to catch a Mets game with my dear friend Nancy Quade. Here she is standing with her foot next to her brick at Citi Field, a gift from her son (who was best friends with my son in grades K-2): “Nancy Quade and Nathan Kaplan Remember Game 5.” (And true Mets fans will get the reference immediately. A grand-slam single? Look it up!)



The most important reason for my trip was to participate on the We Need Diverse Books panel at BookExpo America. I was honored to be asked to speak on this panel. We had a great time, but also discussed some serious issues. Thanks to everyone who attended, tweeted, and followed the live tweets–it was a terrific audience!


With the other panelists: Tim Federle, me, Ellen Oh, Lamar Giles, and Matt de la Pena. (photo credit: Claire Kirch)

C-Span recorded the event:

What a spring I’ve had! I enjoyed my travels immensely but am already back at the day job. I love my boss, and I’ve missed him: