Building bridges in 2020


What a marvelous year 2019 was! Being part of #GRABridge and #GRA19 was one of the highlights of my entire writing career, and it touches me deeply that so many of my readers loved THE BRIDGE HOME and that some were moved enough to build bridges of their own, by taking action to help fight against hunger and homelessness and poverty. Just as important and unimaginably humbling, the lives of a few were changed for the better because they found the strength to move to safer situations after reading #TheBridgeHome. That is a blessing beyond all imagining to me, and makes every sacrifice I made to become a writer more than worthwhile.

I’m also deeply honored that the book is on so many best of year and award lists, in addition to the wonderful early reception. Here’s a video my daughter (and a friend) made for me, reflecting my thankfulness. I am immensely grateful to each and every reader for allowing Rukku, Muthu, Arul and Viji into your hearts. Thank you all for your love of the book, and all you’ve given me.

I’ve been wondering what I could give you in return that would be useful and interesting to you all. Here are 2 things I plan to do:

First, I’ll be posting a “cooking up stories” writing prompt paired with a book and a recipe (provided by Chef Amanda) at the Highlights Foundation’s blog the first Friday of every month. Here’s the first #foodiefriday episode (from last November), and yes, there’s one for December and January, too.

Second, I’ll be reading some of my favorite poetry aloud, so you can listen – and maybe write some poetry  – or do some art – of your own, inspired by the poem. This month, I didn’t record a poem – but I’d like to share an idea for something I’m calling a Bridge Poem. Here’s how you make one: 1. Find a partner. 2. Choose (each of you) a word or phrase from THE BRIDGE HOME (or another book you love) and write it down (using different colored ink) on an index card. 3. Now place these two like you’re starting to build a bridge (in the shape of the beginning of a bridge). 4. Take it in turns to find another word or phrase or line that grows out of one of those words, and place them like bricks that you’re using to build a bridge. (Or, for more of a challenge you can start at either end and try to find a way to come together, so that you build a bridge between the first two words that you chose).  Here’s an example, below that I created with poet Laura Shovan. I began with the word Trembling and she began with I told you, and then we alternated (the words/plrases I chose are in black, her choices are in pink) and together we created a poem in the shape of a bridge. 


In the future, along with a poem I read aloud, I’ll be doing my best to provide prompts that are will be useful and interesting to readers of all ages – young and not-so-young. And I’ll be posting on this blog once a month, or so.

Thanks again, so much, for staying in touch. Here’s…


… and finally, for you to enjoy the rest of this year, here’s a recipe for a pot of hot, spicy, chai (tea) from cold New England, where I now live (I posted this on twitter last year, but thought it ought to have a permanent home here)! 

THE BRIDGE HOME – honors and awards

* Nerdy Book Award Winner

* Cybil Awards

* Kirkus Best MG Bks 2019

* NYPL Best 2019

* Chicago Public Library Best Bks 2019

* Booklist Editor’s Choice Best Bks 2019

* Washington Post Best Bks 2019

* Mighty Girl Best Bks 2019

* TX Bluebonnet award nominee

* SLJ Top 10 Audio Bks 2019

* Bklist Editor’s Choice Best Audio 2019

* Jr Library Guild audio selection

* CSMCL Best Bks 2019

* GoodReads Best MG Bks 2019

*Audiophile Magazine Earphone Award

* Washington Post KidPost Summer Reading Selection

* Global Read Aloud, 2019

* ProjectLIT, 2019-20

* Ebony Teach Best Books 2019

* Betsy Bird’s 31 MG titles in SLJ

* Mighty Girl pick

* Today Show

* “a blisteringly beautiful book” – Starred Review, Kirkus

* “absorbing” – Starred Review, Booklist

* “stellar” – Starred Review, SLJ

* “a story that must be shared.” – Starred Review, SLC

*  “exquisitely narrated” – Starred Review, PW

* “moving” – Sound Commentary, Starred Review

* Venkatraman brings love, support and humor to a story undergirded by tough issues” – SLJ audio, Starred Review

* “beautifully rendered” – SF Chronicle

* “gorgeous storytelling” – NYT Book Review

* “will break hearts and inspire activist longings” – BCCB

* “this bittersweet novel is about breaking the cycle of abuse, reaching for your dreams and finding home ” – Horn Book

* “an amazing book” – Newsday



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