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hothotroticoverOh boy, do I love Indian food. Sometimes I think I oughta start a foodie blog. Samosas, tandoori, palak paneer—I can’t get enough of the spicy stuff. So when I heard about HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI, I knew I had to devour it. My nephew is half-Indian and the boy on the cover reminded me of him. But inside HOT HOT ROTI is a story about any grandfather and grandson, for the sentiments transcend culture and ethnicity. Inside is a story about memories, imagination, and the power of sharing family traditions.

I asked the author, Farhana Zia, to join us today. And stick around, because after the interview I have a copy of the book for you and Farhana’s personal recipe for HOT HOT ROTI!

What inspired you to write HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI?

farhanaziaThe motivation for writing HHRFDJ was a desire to do something enduring for my three grandchildren. They are pre-readers now but one day they’ll read the book to themselves and also, not far down the road, to others important in their lives and I hope that when this happens, they’ll sense the love that’s packed inside. I wrote the book to create some good memories for them. We all need warm, lasting memories. Good memories can be so comforting at unexpected times.

The inspiration for the story came from a host of such memories of childhood…memories of sights, smells, sounds, tastes and emotions that linger on and on and are comforting. Foremost among these is the memory of snuggling up to my own grandmother for her wonderful stories.

In the book, Dada-Ji gets his power from the hot, hot roti. What food is your own personal power source?

First of all, I’ll take the liberty to use the word “food” metaphorically and say that each new day, when things generally go right, is the ultimate power source for me as well as a reason to give thanks. In addition to that, as an elementary school teacher, I can truthfully say I derive plenty of power from the energy and vibrancy of my students. They keep me on my toes and competing with their exuberance every single day! A classroom is definitely an exhilarating place to be. As far as real food, I have lots of favorite power sources. At the risk of surprising you I’m going to put a steaming, tongue burning, pepperoni, mushroom, anchovy pizza at the top of the list. This is an occasional weekend treat when I’m absolutely not in the mood to cook. My husband runs down to the local pizza place and I keep the oven nice and hot! A medium rare filet that cuts like butter is a close second in my personal favorites and falls under the, “I don’t want to cook, let’s go out to eat” category. I could go on but….a fluffy, piping hot bature (deep fried leavened bread), puffed up to the size of a volley ball, with a spicy potato can hit the spot when one is very, very hungry. Trust me!

It’s refreshing to see the South Asian/Indian culture in a picture book–that’s rare in the market. How can children from different cultures relate to this story?

hothotroticookI wrote the book for all children, regardless of nationality and ethnicity. While the book definitely has cultural elements, the underlying themes and attributes are universal. I like to think that the story is a testimony to the unfailing creativity and initiative present in all children.

When kids read about Aneel making roti for his grandfather, they’ll recognize their own innate inventiveness. I witness it every day in my classroom. Kids also love to take charge. They can surprise you with their cleverness and their ability to offer creative solutions. They can also be so helpful and they especially love to feel responsible. I think all young readers will recognize and revel in these traits. Besides, Hot, Hot Roti for Dadaji is a fun story mixed with a bit of fantasy and tall tale and what child doesn’t like that? The book is also very strongly a story about inter generational relationships which happen to be universal. All children know about grandparents who love to spend time with them, play with them and spoil them. Whether it’s Dadaji or Grandpa, Gramps, or Pop-Pop the relationship is the same… special and immediately recognizable. Lastly, the book is about food and kids love food, in one form, or another.

My niece me once that when she read the book in her daughter’s kindergarten, she had all kids crying out, “Wah!” Now that’s music to my ears!

hothotrotiinterior

Do you have a recipe for hot, hot roti to share with us?

Certainly!

Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Flour (Chapati Flour, available in Indian grocery stores) – 2 cups. Reserve 2 Tablespoons for rolling and dusting.
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Warm Water – 3/4 cup

hothotrotipileMethod:
1. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour and salt.
2. Gradually add warm water to form a medium soft dough ball. The dough should not be too stiff, nor too sticky. Knead the dough about fifty times. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 15 minutes
3. Heat a skillet on medium heat until a water droplet sizzles and evaporates immediately.
4. Divide the dough into 8 golf ball size balls.
5. Coat one ball in the reserved four and roll it out into a thin disc (the thickness of a penny), approximately 6 inches in diameter. Sprinkle more flour on the rolling board to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling surface.
6. Shake or rub off excess flour from the roti and place it onto the hot skillet for about 10-15 seconds.
7. Flip to the other side and allow the roti to cook for 10-15 seconds until you see bubbles appear. Use a paper towel to move the roti around on the skillet for even heat distribution.
8. Flip the roti one last time. You should see scattered golden brown spots. Gently press down on various places using the paper towel. This will make the roti puff up with the built up steam. Be careful that escaping steam does not scald you!
9. Remove the roti from heat and keep it covered with a towel. Repeat the process for the remaining dough.

Hot, hot roti is ready!

Thanks, Farhana! It looks delicious!

And now HOT HOT ROTI is ready for you, too! Please leave a comment for a chance to win the book! I’ll randomly select a winner in one week. Good luck and happy eating (and reading)!

carolrascoEarlier this week The New York Times published an article discussing how young Latino students are not seeing themselves in books frequently enough, and the obstacle many educators feel that omission puts in the path for enjoyment as well as for learning from books for these young children. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison of Education, which compiles statistics about the race of authors and characters in children’s books published each year, notes that in 2011 only 3 percent of the 3400 books reviewed were written by or about Latinos; this proportion is unchanged over the last decade. And yet, Hispanic students are one quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment.

Several years ago Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) initiated our Multicultural Literacy Campaign, borne from our concern with the NAEP figures we were studying from years past and the distance with which African-American, HIspanic and American Indian children continued to perform behind their Asian and Caucasian peers. Our campaign is a multi-year effort designed in part to provide children the opportunity to explore and learn about their own culture and the culture of others, the “mirrors and windows with sliding glass doors” concept as articulated by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop. One component of our effort is a yearly compilation of multicultural book sets through the generous sponsorship of Macy’s; these sets are distributed to more than 500 sites annually with the book lists and activities posted online for all to use.

RIF held the launch for the 2012 collection at the Library of Congress Young Readers’ Center with a panel made up of authors and illustrators whose books are featured in that “CELEBRATIONS” collection; the panel was chaired by Dr. Violet Harris, a literacy expert and chair of RIF’s Literature Advisory Board.

In her presentation, Dr. Harris set the context for the audience regarding the need for multicultural literature for all children, literature representing as many cultures as possible by discussing the work of Dr. Nancy Larrick, the second president (56-57) of the International Reading Association. Larrick is said to have noted the impetus for her oft-quoted study in the early 1960′s was when a five year old black girl asked her why all the children were white in the books she read. Her question came more than 20 years after Charlemae Rollins and others had begun a campaign for more positive examples of blacks and black culture in books for children. The lack of progress as well as that little girl’s sincere question compelled Dr. Larrick to investigate and produce the article “The All White World of Children’s Books” published in The Saturday Review of Books in 1965.

rollins3Rollins had published her groundbreaking We Build Together in 1948; this is a publication which “highlighted criteria for choosing books that portrayed Blacks realistically and built democratic attitudes among all people.” Rollins noted in her publication:

For many years books about Negro children followed a stereotyped pattern. The characters portrayed were the barefoot menial, or the red-lipped clown. Rarely did the Negro character in a story where there were other children ever take part in the story as equals. Illustrators, it seemed, could not resist presenting the quaint ‘pickaninny type’.

With regret we note today the change in children’s literature has not kept pace as many of us would have hoped. Similar statements can be made and are indeed written about the lack of inclusion of other cultures in children’s literature.

As Dr. Harris further noted ”…I want to emphasize…, it is a fight that goes on constantly. Each generation or even every couple of years it is two steps forward, one step back.” And further food for thought from Dr. Harris was her question to us: How can we say to the rest of the world that you need to model yourselves after us, our educational systems, our political systems, our economic systems and so forth, when we disenfranchise a significant portion of our citizenry?

You have finished a month of hard work producing ideas for picture books. As you move further into and with each idea, I challenge you to give very serious attention to the issue of children seeing themselves as well as having a window on the world. The book does not always need to be “about” diversity…perhaps it will be like HOW MANY SEEDS IN A PUMPKIN? by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. The classroom shown through the illustrations is diverse, and I have actually heard children mention that diversity they can see in the book. The experience of seeing the diversity present in a book was new to them, but a common everyday experience in the school each attends.

We as a nation have much to do to prepare each child as fully as possible to read well. One element and one relevant to your work is to show we indeed as a nation value each child and celebrate each child; and part of that visible celebration must be that each child sees and reads about children “just like me.”

Book People Unite!

P. S. How can I post on this blog without giving a roaring round of applause to Tara for her sponsorship of PiBoIdMo as well as personally say ‘Thank You” to her and to all who have purchased from the PiBoIdMo store where the proceeds come to RIF. We are deeply appreciative!

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logo_rif2Carol H. Rasco is President and CEO of RIF. She joined RIF in 2001. Throughout her life, Carol has been a devoted advocate for children, youth, and families, as a professional and as a volunteer.

Prior to this position, Carol was the executive director for government relations at the College Board. From 1997 through 2000, Carol served as the senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and as director of the America Reads Challenge, a four-year national campaign to promote the importance of all children reading well and independently by the end of the 3rd grade. Previously, Carol worked for four years in the White House as domestic policy adviser to the president and directed the Domestic Policy Council.

Originally from Arkansas, Carol worked as the chief policy adviser in the Arkansas governor’s office for 10 years and also served as the liaison to the National Governors Association. Additionally, Carol has extensive experience as a volunteer for arts organizations and disability advocacy groups. Carol received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and earned a master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas. She has taught in the public school system and worked as a middle school counselor.

Carol serves on the Board of Trustees of Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. She is the mother of Hamp and Mary-Margaret, and the proud grandmother of William and Charlie Marks.

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COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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