Last night, I attended a book launch for Mitali Perkins' new YA novel, Bamboo People. The novel sheds light on the current situation in Burma, which has the most child soldiers in the world. (Not the most per capita. The most.) Obviously, it's a political novel, but it rarely feels like one. Instead, it simply reminded me that the people caught up in any war are humans with human concerns.
Told first from the point of view of Chiko, a Burmese teen, and then from that of Tu Reh, a Karenni teen, Bamboo People made me care that the conflict was turning these kids' lives upside-down. It was a wise choice to introduce us to Chiko first; like most likely readers, he's new to fighting, so we get to see the situation through eyes fairly similar to our own. Besides, the guy basically just wants to get home and read a book. I get that.
Mitali is great at writing the kind of book the children's lit world needs, and she's great at holding the kind of event that world needs as well (with the help of Porter Square Books, in this case). We wrote our connections to Mitali on our name tags; the room contained her critique group buddies, her publishers, fellow SCBWI members, and just plain friends and fans young and old. My favorite, though? The young girl across the aisle from me whose nametag read, Writer-to-Be.
Keep making connections, Mitali. Congratulations.