‘Rock star’ in children’s literature visits Murphy, meets Emerson students

April 10, 2014

Image of Mitali Perkins speaking to a group in front of a screen with the words "Good Stories."

Mitali Perkins, author of eight young adult novels, was the guest speaker at the 8th Multicultural Children’s Literature event in Murphy Library.

UW-L played host to a national “rock star” in the field of Young Adult literature on Tuesday, April 8. Mitali Perkins, author of eight young adult novels, translated into several languages and sold worldwide, was the guest speaker at the 8th Multicultural Children’s Literature event in Murphy Library.

Michele Strange, retired librarian at Murphy, started the multicultural series in 2007 as a collaborative project with the School of Education for teacher candidates to engage with multicultural literature for children. The series has hosted experts from various cultures including Hmong, Native American, Latino/a, African American, Muslim and most recently, India.

Perkins, whose family was caught in the war for independence in Bangladesh, was born in Calcutta and moved to the United States with her family when she was a young girl. She sees multicultural children’s literature as both a window to another culture, and a mirror, allowing readers to identify themselves in the characters.

Humankind, she demonstrated, has been naturally and universally drawn into stories since the dawn of time. Her presentation, “Books Between Cultures,” explored complex themes such as race, war, immigration, refugees, gender, economy, ecology and diversity that children and young adults can understand through the vehicle of stories.

In the morning, Perkins engaged with 110 4th and 5th graders from Emerson Elementary who had read two of her books this spring. Emerson teachers integrated the books into the curriculum, making the presentation stimulating and active. Perkins then delivered two afternoon presentations in the Collaborative Learning Studio in the Murphy Resource Center. Participants left with challenging questions that were raised, but were convinced that books still matter. Special thanks go to the La Crosse Public Education Foundation, Campus Climate, Murphy Library Endowment, and the School of Education.