"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Monday, December 15, 2008


Each day, I receive a word in my email box, thanks to A. Word. A. Day. and Anu Garg. Today, it was "Golconda", and of course, I was curious as to how (and why) the beautiful and ancient fort in Hyderabad had wound up there. As it turns out, the name for the fortress has also become a common noun meaning "a source of great wealth," after the "city once known for its diamond mines in the nearby hills."

This made me want to revisit old pictures of a sunrise adventure with my friend Rilla, two years ago, exactly. Rilla, this is for you. Glad you're having fun in Australia, but I wish you were here instead. You are one of the only persons in the world who could get me out of bed before 5 am :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nanowrimo and Plotting

As if the month of November wasn't busy enough with the blog tour, I'd also decided to try to meet the Nanowrimo challenge, and write a 50 000 words novel in thirty days. This may sound like a totally crazy endeavor, and it is, in many ways. 50 000 words divided by 30 days, means that I had to write 1663 words, each and every day. 

I didn't make it, needless to say. But I did manage to write 28570 words in the first 18 or 19 days. Before I hit a wall. I had not plotted my story at all. Have I mentioned that plotting is not my strong suit? I tend to start with characters, situations and settings. I may have a vague idea of where the story is supposed to be going... but not always.  The beauty of Nanowrimo is that it forces you to write, to add words, to push them out of you at whatever cost. Most of all, it means that with such a strong focus on getting a number of words written, you simply cannot spend time rereading yourself. Ah, now, we are onto something.

Who out there is like me, endlessly rereading their words, changing a coma, here, tweaking a sentence, there, and quickly getting stuck? Who, like me, finds it almost impossible to turn our inner editor into a salt statue or send them to a dark corner with the order to stay put and absolutely mute until they're actually needed?

Nanowrimo taught me a few things about my writing process. Funny, because these lessons I also need to apply in my every day life. Maybe everyone ought to try Nanowrimo at least once in their life ? 

So, the lessons learned? I need to let go (yeah, yeah), to trust the process, the characters, and the story more, to let them unravel themselves at their own pace and leisure, and it doesn't matter if they fumble a bit, if they wander in a direction that seems to go nowhere, because actually, what looks like a dead-end could reveal a small tunnel, or an hidden path that will take us... to a totally unexpected elsewhere full of promises.

So why didn't I continue, you ask? In order to extricate my characters from the dead-end into which they found themselves, mid-way, I would have needed to spend a lot of time doing research. My main character got tangled into a world that I know practically nothing about (and I don't write fantasy) and it seemed pointless to continue without a few clues at least as to what was possible, and what was just ludicrous. I should also mention that by the middle of the month, I was starting to feel so exhausted from the lack of sleep and the amount of hours spent in front of the computer, each day, that I feared I would not be able to continue with the blog tour. And that was not an option, obviously. So, something had to go.

BUT  Martha Alderson, of Blockbuster Plots' fame, is giving out tips on plotting in her blog, during the month of December. And I'm happy to report that I've gone back to my story and my characters, and am now in the process of organizing a rescue operation to see if I can keep this project going. Wish me luck...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And now what?

Hard to follow up, after such an intense and happening blog tour. I'm feeling a little disoriented. Enjoying the more leisurely pace of the last few days, for sure. I've slept between 9 and 11 hours each and every night since Sunday. My desk is no longer cluttered with drawings, schedules, and notes about the tour. And I know that I need to get back into a regular schedule, writing, submitting stories again, etc. But I've decided to give myself a week to "land."

In the meantime, I went to my first Indian wedding. Yesterday was declared a very auspicious day for marriages, and ten thousand couples tied the knot, here in Hyderabad. Yes, you read that right. TEN THOUSAND weddings were celebrated in this town, yesterday only. I missed the beginning of the ceremony (which started at 9 am) because my taxi driver (our car was at the workshop) wanted to drop me at another couple's wedding and couldn't find the right venue, but I finally made it, and what I saw was every bit as fascinating and colorful as I imagined it would be.

I don't know why, but I was particularly touched by a ritual where the close family sat around the newlyweds while the priests ran a thread that had been previously blessed all around the group, each member of the family holding on to it.

That thread was then divided and the bride tied it to the groom's wrist (with a piece of turmeric), who then tied the other thread to her wrist. 

I also found it amusing to notice that two of the priests retrieved their mobile phones stuck in the the belt of their dhotis a few times to check for SMSs.

As usual, I was moved and grateful to find everyone so happy and eager to not only welcome me, but also to fill me in with bits of informations about their immensely rich and diverse culture. In spite of that, I left feeling that I could well spend the rest of my life here, and still have everything to discover.

Which is just fine...

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Hello to all our friends around the world,

It is hard to believe that an entire month has gone by. What an incredible journey this has turned out to be ! And I have so many people to thank for helping me make it a reality.

Thank you, of course, to everyone at Tilbury House, Publishers, particularly the editor, Audrey Maynard, and the Publisher, Jennifer Bunting, for being the first to foresee the possibilities in the story of this young Igbo boy. And thank you to the illustrator, Dimitrea Tokunbo, for bringing Amadi's story to life in such a vibrant and colorful way. 

Thank you to all the bloggers who enthusiastically responded to our call to participate in our month-long tour. Thank you for your thoughtful reviews and always interesting interviews.

Thank you to the teachers, librarians, and the many friends of the book in the US, Nigeria, India, Haiti and Italy who worked hard, sometimes beating impossible logistical obstacles, to get their pupils and children involved in our global virtual tour. And thank you again to Ramesh Raparthy for the two beautiful videos that he shot and edited. The children's wonderful reactions to the book, their eagerness to ask questions and offer responses to other children from other countries, as well as their beautiful artwork, have been the greatest highlights of this entire adventure.

Thank you to all who participated in the quizzes and trivia. Amadi threw all the names into a small basket and we're happy to announce that the winners of the Quizzes/Trivia games are... Florin, Aisha and Shali, in Italy. Please, email me your address privately so we can send you your prizes. See our winners below as they check the tour. Thank you also to their mother, Valentina Mmaka, for sending this great picture.

Thank you to all those who participated in our feature "Where in the World is Amadi?" Again, we wrote all the names on pieces of paper and the lucky winner drawn by Amadi is... Jio, in Japan.

I'm pleased to announce that both prizes offered by Tilbury House, Publishers, are packages containing each THREE galleys of wonderful titles published by Tilbury House (Give A Goat, by Jan West Schrock, illustrated by Aileen Darragh; Just For Elephants, by Carol Buckley; Our Friendship Rules, by Peggy Moss and Dee Dee Tardif, illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis).

To all our participants who sent photos or played the quizzes and trivia quizzes but didn't win the grand prizes, we will send a surprise gift, so do email me your snail mail addresses at katianovetatgmaildotcom.

Finally, this would not have been possible without the work, support, dedication, enthusiasm and creativity (not to mention the willingness to participate in endless brainstorm sessions with me via email) of the wonderful publicist at Tilbury House, Sarah McGinnis. I only discovered her face on Facebook recently, and I have never heard the sound of her voice. And yet, I feel I made a new friend. I find it hard to believe that I will no longer sit at my computer, each evening after I've put the children to bed, and find six, seven or eight emails from Sarah as she starts her work day in the US. Thank you so much, Sarah, for believing in this from the very beginning, and for being with me every single step of the way - when you were not ahead :)

This is only a beginning, and I want to emphasize how it has been a discovery journey for me, as well. I would like to continue building bridges between children of different countries, and I will now work at creating a format to make that dream an accessible reality available at all times. This global virtual tour broke new grounds in many areas, and I hope to take the idea even further. I encourage teachers and librarians around the world to get in touch with me if they want me to not only talk to their children about Amadi's Snowman, but also to bring a little bit of Nigeria, India or whatever country I'll be living in at any given time into their classroom or library.

And now, Amadi and I will leave you all with this little collage and a last quote from Dr Seuss which fits perfectly with all that we've been doing and talking about during these last 30 days : 

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

Thank you !

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Welcome back as we open the second part of our feature on sustainable libraries. Today, we visit the Karatu Library Project, in Yola, Northeastern Nigeria. Karatu is the Hausa word for reading, and as soon as I contacted Martha about Amadi's Snowman and our blog tour, she wrote back saying she was very interested to discover the book, as it is so relevant to the children's experience in her area, but also to have Karatu involved in the tour.

I asked Martha a few questions.

1. What is the difference between a library and a sustainable library?

A library could be just a collection of books and other resources. A sustainable library is one that will last over time because strategies and resources have been set in place for its future survival. These can be physical resources such as sturdy housing and resources like books and furnishings, but it is also very important to have good training take place so that local human resources can sustain the goals.

2. Tell us about the Karatu Library Project and how you got involved.

It is made up of a group of libraries - both community and school libraries which benefit from the book donations and training that comes from the central office in Yola, Nigeria. When I arrived in Yola, in 2005 I met Efada Udoh and we worked together to work toward the goal of helping develop sustainable libraries in the area. It has developed and you can see the progress on the following picture site.

3. What are the major challenges?

We are challenged by the lack of infrastructure available here in Northeastern Nigeria. Electricity and water are not easily available and it is difficult to bring resources here. There is also a lack of a reading culture here and we find that the rate of illiteracy is quite high, both among children and adults.

4. Do you have one or two success stories that you'd like to share with us?

At the Shagari community library there was one young reader, Nelly, would would read everything in sight. Her family didn't have the money to send her to a school where she would get a good education but when some University students in Nigeria heard about this they raised enough for her to attend school for the next several years.

We had the fundraiser at my hut, and then were able to rent the office and now that is actually turning into another community library.

Thank you, Martha, for shedding some light on the wonderful work accomplished by the Karatu network of libraries.

And now, I'm excited to show you a second movie shot in Yola by Ramesh Raparthy, our Film Instructor at the New American University of Nigeria who comes from Hyderabad, in India (still haven't gotten over that one).

As mentioned before during this tour, Internet connexions in Nigeria are terribly slow and unreliable at the best of times. This means that getting the material to me required massive doses of dedication and patience on the part of all the persons involved in the process. Until yesterday afternoon, I didn't know whether I would receive this movie on time, and then, I didn't know whether I would be able to share it here, because the file was so big. But it's here. Thank you, Ramesh, Amulya, Martha, and all those whose name I don't know who helped make this possible. Thank you also to Sarah and Toni, in the U.S. who worked late into the night to email me the link. Again, this has been a collaborative effort, and I'm so grateful to all of you. Enough said, now. Enjoy...

Thank you to the children of the Learn N' Play School in Yola.  I will take their questions to the children of Vidyaranya when I visit them next week. Who knows, I may end up posting their answers here, even if the blog tour is over. This whole project seems to have taken on a life of its own, and I'm happy to just go along and see where it takes me...


"A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life." Henry Ward Beecher

Tomorrow, we will wrap our tour up, and announce the winners of our challenges. Tilbury House, is giving away some wonderful prizes. See you then...

Friday, November 28, 2008


Hello everyone,

Yesterday, I mentioned the difficulties that our friends in Nigeria were experiencing as they tried to email me the movie they've made for our tour. As it turns out, they've been without electricity for the past two days, as both generators at the New American University of Nigeria in Yola broke down. They finally managed to send me the file and I have seen it, but now, we have another technical problem : it is too big to be posted here, on Blogger, which doesn't allow files over 100 MB. It is a short movie of less than three minutes, and I still hope to be able to show it tomorrow, but as things are, I need to upset my schedule again. As luck would have it, our next guest blogger already has her post up, so, I'm happy to direct you to the blog of author Uma Krishnaswami who also happens to be my favorite teacher in the whole wide world, and a faculty at the MFA in  Writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has an interview with... AMADI himself. Find it at Writing with a Broken Tusk.

And now, I thought I'd show you some of the snowmen drawn by the children.

by Anushka

by Nida

by Prathith

by Ratna

by Kaushiki


In New York City, today, with William and Cameron, who seem quite intrigued by this merchant lady.

Thank you, William and Cameron !


"This will never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum." Elbert Hubbard.

In light of the recent horrifying events in Mumbai, I feel an urge to change a few words in that quote : This will never be a civilized world until we expend more money for books than we do for arms.

Tomorrow, I will be publishing my questions to Martha Speirs about the Karatu Library Project in Yola, no matter what. And I do hope I will be able to share with you the beautiful movie shot by Ramesh, in which we see the children of the Learn N' Play school comment on Amadi's Snowman, and ask questions to the children in India.  See you then... 

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today is Thanksgiving for all our American friends all over the world ! 

As promised over the last few days, we begin a two-day feature dedicated to sustainable libraries in Africa. This is a vast subject, and I can only hope to touch upon it. But one of the central themes of this book tour was to create avenues for children from different parts of the world to think and talk about reading, and books. And how can we talk about reading and books without talking about libraries?

When I started thinking about this blog tour, in June, I sent an email to Jane Kurtz, who wrote one of the blurbs for Amadi's Snowman. 

As one of the founding members of the non-profit organization Ethiopia Reads (the founder, Yohannes Gebregeorgis, was chosen as one of the 10 CNN heroes for 2008 ; the award ceremony will be aired tonight - US time - on CNN), I thought she might be interested in getting the children of Ethiopia involved somehow in the tour. Jane is an active advocate of literacy who's often asked to speak at conferences, and she not only said "YES, I love your idea," she also gave me the emails of people from Nigeria she'd recently met. 

One contact led to another, and this is how the Children of Nsukka ended up participating in our tour, on Day 3, and Day 17

Another contact was Martha Speirs, Library Director of the New American University of Nigeria, in Yola, who is also actively involved in the Karatu Library Project, as we'll see tomorrow. 

Unfortunately, Ethiopia Reads was unable to provide material on time for this tour. We still hope to make it happen later, maybe at the beginning of next year. In the meantime, Jane kindly carved some time out of her busy schedule for us, and wrote a piece explaining why and how she came to be involved in Ethiopia Reads. Here it is :

"My world travels began when I was two, paused when I was twenty-four, and resumed twenty years later.  In the early 2000s, I’d been in Nigeria all of two weeks when a group of Nigerian educators asked me how they could start a “reading culture” in their country.  “In America,” one said, “you have a reading culture.  If Nigeria is going to solve her problems, we need to have one too.”

I began to mull.  What elements do have to be in place before a reading culture has a chance?  

Books, I decided.  

What else?        

Not long after, I was interviewed on a Ugandan radio program, along with the president of the local International Reading Association branch and a local publisher.  I was asked again.  How does a country develop a reading culture? 

I’m no literacy expert.  I was in Nigeria and Uganda doing author visits, and, as the author of 27 children’s books, the only thing I’m an expert in (if that) is the writing of fiction.  But I started with thinking how my five siblings and I became readers.  

Our mom was key.  We saw her passion for books and words, which matched our father’s love of telling and acting out stories.  She taught us all to read—and gave us books every Christmas.  Every birthday.  

Since I grew up in Maji, Ethiopia, in a place with no bookstores…in fact, with no stores of any kind…I recently, I asked my mom where the books came from, each with its delicious promise of adventure to be licked up, savored, and swapped.  She told me that shortly before leaving for Ethiopia, she read an article by a librarian, published in a women’s magazine: “One Hundred Best Books for Children.” So!  A librarian was behind the literature that shaped my love of books. 

Many a reader can say the same.

After more thinking, I decided books aren’t the sole necessary ingredient for a reading culture.  Organizations have donated books to schools in places like Ethiopia, for instance, only to discover the books, a non-renewable resource, have been locked up.  And how does reading spread from something that’s done by a few educated elite people to the homes and schools of scruffy families—like those my parents grew up in?

One clear answer is libraries.  In the United States, libraries in homes and schools not only provide a chance for wide literacy, they are also buyers of children’s books and a big reason why the economics of book publishing sometimes work.  The more I thought about all of this, the more I realized that everyone who was asking me, “How can we plant a reading culture?” probably needed to be asking, “How can we plant libraries?”

Andrew Carnegie, 19th century industrialist and Patron Saint of Libraries, was once a Scottish immigrant kid, working full-time by the age of twelve, educating himself through borrowed books.  By the time he stopped working, his empire was worth about 400 million dollars.  He believed that for democracy to be successful, those who inevitably ended up wealthy under its systems must give away their money—and in ways that allowed other hard-working and determined young people to become successful.

Voila.  Fifty-five million dollars later, 2,509 places that didn’t used to have a library had one. Now, in the late 20th century, I was meeting citizens of various African countries who clearly shared some of Carnegie’s assumptions.  

I was intrigued by all of these ideas, but they were still only academic questions until I was approached by a visionary man who had a dream of starting libraries for children in the African country where I grew up.  Yohannes Gebregeorgis fled Ethiopia in the face of almost certain death, during the time of the Marxist government and landed as a political refugee in the United States.  By the time he contacted me, he had a MLS degree.  This man who had never held a book outside of school until he was nineteen years old was now a children’s librarian in San Francisco Public Library.

With Yohannes’s dreams and whatever money I could scrape together, we started Ethiopia Reads.

  Yohannes moved back to Ethiopia in 2002.  Since then, he has been working to open sustainable libraries, the first libraries for children in a capital city of about five million people and (for now) one rural area.  He began by turning the house he’d rented for himself and his sons into a community library.  When that library drew 40,000 visits in the first year, he experimented with tent libraries and then, using an idea he’d picked up in another African country, a donkey mobile library.  Last year, he planted sixteen school libraries and has Rotary funding for thirteen more.  In late 2008, his work was honored when he was selected by a committee (that included Jane Goodall and Desmond Tutu) as one of the CNN heroes of the year.

As Yohannes says, “Books change lives."

Many a book lover has discovered that it’s easier to start a library than to keep one going. So what will make these new libraries last?  The first piece, I think, is already in place: we are responding to what communities identify as important, not attempting to talk people into what they should want.  A second piece is in the design.  The schools where Yohannes plants libraries, for example, provide a clean, well-lighted room and a person to run the library.  Once we build furniture and ship and place books, the operating costs are carried by the school.  Yohannes himself provides basic training, and eventually we’ll expand our literacy training for the Ethiopians running the new libraries.

With the decade winding down, I’ve decided that the answer for a reading culture is a) books, b) places where lots of people can read those books, and c) people who know how to introduce the power of reading to other people.  Oh, and one more thing.


Carnegie wrote, “I decided there was no use to which money could be applied so productive of good to boys and girls who have good within them and ability and ambition to develop it, as the founding of a public library in a community.”  

Thank you so much, Jane, for this inspiring essay.

And now, I'm immensely pleased to show you a beautiful movie clip shot in Yola by Ramesh Raparthy and Amulya Rajan, two Film Instructors at the New American University of Nigeria. Can you guess where Ramesh and Amulya are from? Hyderabad, India ! When he's home, Ramesh actually lives practically around the corner for me. How marvelously serendipitous is that? When I first received this 30-second clip, I watched it six times in a row. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and continue to... 

If you do not see the whole image, you may want to click on the Amadi's Snowman Tour Video link above as it will take you directly to Yahoo! Video.

Thank you, Ramesh and Amulya for this little gem, and Martha, for getting them involved in our project.


"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." Jose Luis Borges

As I publish this post today, I still don't know whether I will receive some of the material I've been expecting from Nigeria. Ramesh and Amulya have been working hard at editing another movie where a group of children from the Lean N'PLay school share their thoughts about reading and Amadi's Snowman, as you can see in the picture below. We can only hope that the Internet connexion will be good enough for them to send it to me.

And I will have an interview with Martha Speirs about the Karatu Library Project. See you then...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Kedu everyone, this is Amadi.  Today, I'm very happy to share more of the beautiful children's drawings inspired by Amadi's Snowman during this happening month of November. This is different from what Mama Katia announced yesterday, but she received an email from Nigeria, where our friends are still working on a project for us. Internet has been really bad, over there, but they hope to be able to send material today. So, we will begin the two-day feature on sustainable libraries tomorrow, and the artwork gallery planned for Friday happens today. 
Look and enjoy...

Florin : "Mom... see the snow!"

Aisha : "I dream of reading."

Shali : "Amadi thinks about books."

"Hey, Amadi, come back!"
"I am not going to come back!!!"

"Amadi in the market"
by Karthika
(see the small boy sitting on a low stool and reading a book with a snowman on the cover?)

Amadi looks at the Snowman
by Samyukta

"Amadi in the market" 
by Manasa

"Aunt giving Amadi a mango"
by Sania

"Amadi went to the market place"
by Suha

Drawing by Manasi

"The Book shop." 
by Sai Priya
(Don't you love the decidedly bookish look of the book shop keeper?)

Amadi and Chima
by Sathvik

"The Book Chima reads"
by Arti

"The place where Amadi sees the other boys"
by Modhav

Drawing by Raunak

"This is Miss Chikodili looking at the book and Amadi in the background" by Reagan

"When Amadi was on the street"
by Rizwan

"Back home"
by S. Lalitaditya

Mama Katia and I thank all the children for their beautiful drawings. 


I continue my travels around the world, and around my country, too. Here I am with Patience and Naija during a visit at the library, in Yola, Northeastern Nigeria.

Thank you, Patience and Naija!


We chose a funny quote, today, because funny is always good, and also because it is so visual, and that goes well with the content of today's post.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark too read." 
Groucho Marx


Tomorrow, we will share an essay from author and literacy advocate Jane Kurtz about sustainable libraries, and if the Internet connections in Nigeria collaborate, we will then take you to Yola, in Northeastern Nigeria and show you a beautiful movie clip. Here is a picture, as a preview...

See you then...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Greetings everyone,

Amadi and I are so pleased and honored to have the visit of Nigerian author and photograph Ifeoma Onyefulu, today. Ifeoma has written several books illustrated with her beautiful photos, among which "Emeka's Gift," "My Grandfater is a magician," and "Saying Goodbye: A Special farewell to Mama Nkwelle."

She now lives in London, but she grew up in Igbo land, like Amadi, and she was kind enough to share a few pictures and an essay for our blog tour.

My First Books

by Ifeoma Onyefulu

    When I was growing up in Nigeria, I didn't have that many books. We lived in small towns where there were no libraries or bookshops, and the few shops there were, sold mostly rulers, pencils and notebooks, so it was very difficult to buy books.

 However, my parents sometimes bought my sibling and I books. Unfortunately, the books we had in those days were all about white children, who were either called John or Jill. There were always a boy and a girl in the book, with blond hair and blue eyes. They wore squeaky clean clothes, and shoes, as well. I was told lots of stories by my mother and other close relatives. They were such great stories; entertaining and full of good moral values for children. 

    The few books I had as a child were mostly about white children who were either called Jack or John, and in the case of a girl, Jane or Mary. They all had blond hairs and blue eyes, and were always squeaky clean. 

     For a while I thought all white children were like those two, until I came across Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, and David Copperfield.

   When I was a teenager, my reading list grew, thanks to my older brother who lent me his books. He read mainly crime novels. Since I had no choice, I read what he read. But he'd always make my wash my hands before I was allowed to touch any of his books. 

   I believe my experiences have made me appreciate books a lot more. Perhaps that is why I became an author. But the good news is, I tell those stories my mother told us to school children in England. 

Market scene showing a woman carrying her child on her back and buying afufa or anara in Igbo, garden egg, in English, which is the small, green fruit usually served with spiced peanut butter when entertaining guests, and as well as with the traditional kola nuts.

And here, we see two young boys on their way to school, wearing their smart uniforms. That second picture appears in Ifeoma's last book, Ikenna Goes to Nigeria, published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books. It describes the experience of Ifeoma's son, who was born and lives in England, as he visits his ancestors' land. 

Thank you so much, Ifeoma, for sharing your photos and your experience with us. It's been a joy and a privilege. I will have a special post about Ikenna Goes to Nigeria, with an interview of Ifeoma, sometime soon, so continue to watch this space.


"Read in order to live." Gustave Flaubert

Tomorrow, we begin a two-day feature dedicated to sustainable libraries in Africa. We'll have an essay from author and literacy advocate Jane Kurtz, and we'll check to see "Where in the World is Amadi?" See you then...

Monday, November 24, 2008


Salutations, everyone ! Today, we go to the blog of Nancy Sanders, who's written many books, the last one being D is for Drinking Gourd, illustrated by E. B. Lewis.

Yesterday, I posted the questions that the children asked other children around the world, and the illustrator of Amadi's Snowman, Dimitrea Tokunbo. Today, we have the questions they asked me.

But first, I want to share the pictures that I received from Enugu, Nigeria, with the children from the British School of Enugu and their teachers, during their visit at the UNICEF Office, where they were able to not only see themselves and their efforts featured on the blog, but also to see children in other parts of the world, read their answers to their questions, etc. Mrs. Offiah called me when they left UNICEF to thank me, saying that the children were very happy, engaged, and interested, and they had loved the whole experience. See the pictures, below :


Q. Why are you an author? 

A. I often wonder about that. I was always a writer. And the more involved and serious I became about my writing, the more I hoped to become a published author. I worked very hard for several years, and I continue to ; and I never gave up on my dream of being published. Maybe I'm lucky, too, because there are many, many writers out there who are trying to get published. Also, the work never ends. Because once a book is published, we must work to get another one accepted, etc, etc. But I think it's the greatest job in the world. I love it.

Q. What does it take to write such a good book?

A. Thank you for the kind words about the book ! As mentioned above, lots and lots and lots of work, and dedication and stubbornness, and faith in the possibility of it happening. It's a good idea to keep your eyes and ears wide open so you can catch all sorts of details and use them later in your stories. But, most important of all, you have to invite the characters into your own mind, let them settle there and get really comfortable, and listen to them, try to understand exactly how they feel. And then, sit down and write down what they're whispering to you. 

Q. Do your children want to become good authors as well?

A. It is a little early to tell, but my older daughter is a very good artist, and she loves drawing and painting and she has a very unique way with colors ; and she's turning into a voracious reader, just like her mother. Sometimes, I have to run after her so she will put the book she's reading down and  go take her bath or come down for dinner already ! And my little one has already started transforming the stories that I read to her. Sometimes, she says : "No, tonight, I tell YOU the story." And she takes the book, and she turns the pages and she pretends to read (she's four). She also started stapling pieces of paper that she takes in the recycling basket that I keep on my desk, and she writes letters and draws pictures. We'll see...

Q. How did you come up with the idea for the book? 

A. I lived in Ibgoland, in Nigeria, and my husband works for UNICEF, and many boys there feel the same way as Amadi does at the beginning of the book: they'd rather earn quick money doing street business than go to school.

Q. How long did it take you to write the book? 

A. Several years, on and off. But I didn't work on that only. Sometimes, I wouldn't even open the files for several months. Still, I wrote 9 different versions of the story, and there are about 25 different draft files in my computer.

Q. Upon hearing that I had written so many versions of the story, the children at Vidyaranya wanted to know whether I wasn't bored ?

A. No, I was never bored. On the contrary. As I felt the story improving, I got more excited. It was a wonderful learning experience. If I had become bored with it, it would probably have meant that the story itself was boring.

Q. How did you choose the title? Some of us thought the snowman would be a character in the book.

A. Ah, that's a long story. For a long time, the title was simply, "Ifeanyi won't read," but that sounded too negative, and then "Ifeanyi's gift." Then, I had to change the name to Amadi, and there were already a few books out there with the word gift in them. We brainstormed quite a bit with the editor, and I even asked other writer friends who knew the story to send me their suggestions. I think that we liked the idea of the contrast between Amadi's hot world and the snowman. Also, even though the snowman is not an actual character in the book, it is very important : it is the snowman that sparks Amadi's curiosity and the reason he finally changes his mind and decides to learn how to read.

Thank you to all the children for their interesting questions.


"Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man." Benjamin Franklin.

I'm thrilled to announce that tomorrow, our blog will receive the visit of Nigerian author and photographer Ifeoma Onyefulu. She will share a few pictures and talk about reading and growing up in Nigeria. And we'll have our Tuesday Quizz. See you then...

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Hello everyone,

Today, I have tried to compile the remaining questions we received from the children. I have included these Q&A sessions with each school visit report whenever possible (in other words, when I received the questions and the answers on time for me to be able to publish them along with the rest of the material).  The questions that come back the most have to do with climate, what is the weather like in your part of the world, do you have snow, what kinds of food do you eat, do you have pets, etc. Below are some questions that I could not include before, and the answers : 


- Have you ever tasted milk-shake? 

Yes, we have milk shakes, here in India, we even have McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino Pizza, etc.

- What does your flag look like?


- Do you have tornadoes? 

The children here have never experienced a tornado, but tornadoes happen pretty much the world over.

- Do you have sheep and buffaloes? Look at some of the many animals we find in India, everywhere, including in the middle of traffic. We also have monkeys, camels, goats, dogs, etc...

- How many languages do you speak? 

That one is difficult to answer because there is not a one answer. Most educated children like the children at Vidyaranya speak at least English and Hindi, but most of them also speak Telugu, and sometimes one or two other local languages. 


Q. Were the illustrations made manually or with a machine?

A. These illustrations were made by hand. I used acrylic paints on Bristol board. I like to use acrylic paints because it is so much fun to mix the colors and they dry so quickly.

Q. What made you decide to become an illustrator?

A. I loved to draw since I was old enough to point my finger and smush a design in some spices I spilled in my mother's kitchen when I wasn't even a year old yet. I think I was very young, maybe five or six,  when I knew I wanted to create books.

Q. How long did it take you to illustrate Amadi's Snowman?

A. Generally speaking, I'm usually  given nine months to illustrate a thirty two pages book. Amadi's Snowman didn't take quite that long to do.

Q. The children in Enugu were particularly intrigued by the color of the mango that Amadi is eating, and they ask : "Why did you make the mango that Amadi is eating red?"

A. I made the mango red because the mango the boy that was posing for the picture actually had a red mango in his hand.

Q. How did you get to know the author to make this book together?

A. The publishing company actually emailed me and asked me if I would like to illustrate this story. After I read it, I told the publisher that I would be happy to be a part of this project.

Q. How did you know what Amadi's town looks like?

A. I didn't exactly know how the town would look but I knew people who had grown up near there and they told me that my drawings looked believable.

Thank you to all the children for their questions, and thank you, Dimitrea, for answering them.


Each week, we ask three trivia questions about one of the countries participating in our blog tour. For the first two weeks, we focused on Amadi's country, Nigeria.  Last week, we had one question to help us make the transition between Nigeria, in Africa, and India, and the two remaining questions focused on India, where I've now lived more than four years.

1. Mention two differences between the African elephant and the Indian Elephant? The African elephant is much bigger, and so are its ears.

2. What very famous board game has its origin in India? Chess. Snakes and Ladders also originated in India. So both responses were correct.

3. Where is located the Taj Mahal, one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage? Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Bravo and thank you to those who sent us their answers.

And now, this week's trivia will focus on Haiti :

1. Haiti is located on the island of Hispaniola. What other country occupies the other part of the island?

2. On which day did Haiti declare its independence, thus becoming the first black republic in modern history?

3. What is the capital of Haiti?

Send us your answers at katianovet@gmail.com. At the end of the month, we'll draw a winner among the participants who gave the right responses, each week, and they'll win a prize. 


"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." W. Fusselman


Tomorrow, we visit the blog of Nancy Sanders, author of "D is for Drinking Gourd," illustrated by the fabulously talented E. B. Lewis. And I'll publish the children's questions to the author. See you then...

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Good Saturday, everyone !

We enter the last week of our blog tour, today. What a journey this is turning out to be. Thank you to everyone for their support, and for passing the word around. Thanks to the buzz, we got a write-up in Publisher's Weekly, yesterday. You can find it at this link.
And today, we visit Annette Gulati, at The Writing Wild Life, to talk about writing spaces and inspirations.

Where in the World is Amadi?

He sure is a busy cricket. After Nigeria, France, the US, Japan, and Italy, Amadi is now in The Hague, Holland, where Maja poses like Amadi on the cover.

Thank you, Maja.


"When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before ; you see more in you than there was before." Clifton Fadiman

Tomorrow, we share some of the questions from the children around the world. And we'll have our Sunday Trivia. See your then...

Friday, November 21, 2008


Greetings, everyone, and welcome back to our virtual book tour. We have been roaming the world and the kidlit blogosphere for the past three weeks, now, and what a journey this is turning out to be.

Today, Bri, at Bri Meets Books, shares my photo essay "Snapshots of My Life in India." You can also find Bri's earlier review of Amadi's Snowman, here

We then return to The Well Read Child where Jill interviews Dimitrea Tokunbo, the illustrator.

And to add even more colors to today's post, I thought I'd share the story written and illustrated by one of the children at the Vidyaranya High School, in Hyderabad. I love the way she took the existing premise of the story and made it entirely her own.

Amadi's Birthday Party

"Amadi, a Nigerian, was turning 10 next week. So he invited his friends to his birthday party. Six days had pasted Amadi and his mother made sweets, baked a cake, made juice, and blew balloons. Amadi did not know how to read. He thought that reading is not important for birthday parties. Next day, his friends came to his birthday party, they got presents and birthday cards. They played games, ate sweets and ate the cake. They had lots of fun! Amadi opened the cards. He didn't understand anything. There were pictures of people laughing, he thought they were making fun of him because he doesn't know how to read. Then he opened the presents. And saw the instructions of the toys. Then he realized that he could not read. therefore he started learning how to read."

Wonderful job, Raziqa ! Thank you.


"Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time." Edwin P. Whipple

Tomorrow, we visit Annette Gulati's blog, The Writing Wild Life, to talk about writing spaces and inspiration. And we have our regular feature "Where in the World is Amadi?"
See you then...