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Exclusive Cover Reveal: Home is in Between by Mitali Perkins and Lavanya Naidu

Mitali Perkins (recent guest on The Yarn podcast) has a picture book coming in February 2021 illustrated by Lavanya Naidu called Home is in Between. Today we get a first look at the cover. But first, I had a few questions for Mitali.

Travis: Hi, Mitali! Home is in Between is about navigating different cultures. Is this a topic you always wanted to turn into a picture book, or was there a specific spark that got the story rolling?

Mitali: My parents were from the villages of Bengal. They brought me to the United States when I was seven and raised me in a town where we were one of a few families from other countries. I worked hard to understand “American” manners, slang, trends, and rituals—the “code” at school. At the same time, I was trying to stay fluent in traditional Bengali culture and language—the “code” of home. Going back and forth was tiring, and I often felt as if I didn’t belong in either world. But once I grew up, I realized that switching between two codes as a child had been a gift. It’s like learning a new language—kids are faster and better at it than grown-ups. And if we work at it as kids, we keep some ability to crack cultural codes for the rest of our lives. “It’s like a superpower,” I tell young immigrants. The space between cultures doesn’t have to be a barrier; for children who grow up there, it can become a threshold of gratitude to celebrate the best of many worlds. I hope readers make themselves at home in Shanti’s story. Her name in Bangla means “peace.”

Travis: Is there a scene that you’re especially happy with/proud of?

Mitali: Some parts of the book are designed so Shanti travels back and forth across the gutter of a two-page spread. To the left are scenes from her apartment, where things are still a lot like the Bengali village of her parents’ childhood, and to the right are scenes in the American town where Shanti is growing up. Illustrator Lavanya Naidu, who also has has roots in Bengal, created the village scenes in hues of orange, green, and white to hint at the colors of the Indian flag, and depicted the American scenes in blues, purples (blue + red), and pinks (red + white). My favorite scene comes at the end, when a larger-than-life Shanti, still in the gutter of the book but now clearly in charge of it, celebrates her ability to traverse both worlds fluently. 

Travis: What was the most challenging part of writing Home is in Between?

Mitali: Lavanya definitely had the more challenging part, but she came through — literally — with flying colors! Her cultural acuity, sense of humor, and capacity to communicate emotions are delightful. I can’t wait for kids to respond to Shanti’s adventures as depicted by Lavanya.

Travis: An important question: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode?

Mitali: Cinnamon Jolly Rancher hard candies. 

Thanks for taking my questions, Mitali!

Now, for the first time, the cover for Home is in Between by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Lavanya Naidu. It comes out February 23, 2021.

From the publisher:

In the timely yet timeless picture book Home Is in Between, critically acclaimed author Mitali Perkins and illustrator Lavanya Naidu describe the experience of navigating multiple cultures and embracing the complex but beautiful home in between.

Shanti misses the warm monsoon rains in India. Now in America, she watches fall leaves fly past her feet.

Still, her family’s apartment feels like a village: Mama cooking luchi, funny stories in Bangla, and Baba’s big laugh. But outside, everything is different – trick-or-treating, ballet class, and English books.

Back and forth, Shanti trudges between her two worlds. She remembers her village and learns her new town. She watches Bollywood movies at home and Hollywood movies with her friends. She is Indian. She is also American. How should she define home?

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.

Comments

  1. This looks amazing! Can’t wait to read it, and I’m happy for all the kids who will see themselves powerfully represented in this book.

  2. Dorothy Mark says:

    Dear Mitali, you continue to delight and inform us of what life between two very different cultures can be like..love your books and now your newer ones for the younger children..blessings and love, Dottie

  3. Thank you so much, Travis and friends, for your support of this book. It truly represents my life’s calling to create a space of hospitality between cultures.

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