Global Read Aloud & Padma Venkatraman

Introducing Global Read Aloud,

& a Q/A for Padma Venkatraman,



Here’s my fresh poem today inspired by the Global Read Aloud, which unfurls after summer recess.


“My street” by Jan Godown Annino


Quaked earth in Sicily shakes me –

family rides by vulcan shadow

drought hitting honey bees honey farmers in Bulgaria

exhorbitant price rises in Argentina

echoes of WW II children of Amsterdam

echoes of Trail of Tears children in America

child drowned in cruise waters on frantic float to freedom

child shot on panicked walk to freedom crossing lion safari lands


potent stories reach my small suburban foot-path

crossing distance

opening eyes heart embrace

to create One Street

© 2019JanGodownAnnino

. . . .

I appreciated so very recently learning about a big book event – Global Read Aloud.Padma Venkatraman, author of a lovely & potent new MG novel, THE BRIDGE HOME, set in coastal Chennai, India, enlightened me about this interactive book celebration.

Lyrical Picture Books, lively Early Readers, lovely MG &YA are selected for focused reading & reader interactionwith the creators & other young readersduring the GRA celebration of world stories.


All books selected invite participants to understand & welcome learning about lifestyles, regions, cultures, ideas & teachings that may be lesser-known. According to Kara Yorio in School Library Journal, students have reached out to each other via social media, traditional mail, Skype & other ways to discuss selected global books.

GRA 2019 has selected Padma’s THE BRIDGE HOME.

In her tale, inspired by incidents from real life, four children of coastal Chennai, India, find themselves cast out upon the streets. How will they survive? What will that look like, day and night? Can they become a family? Can a street child living with a disability be as resilient as those without that challenge? Who among the many adults encountered, can be truly trusted? How do children handle the sorrows that inevitably shadow street people living near, but also so far,from the beautiful beaches along the giant Bay of Bengal?

THE BRIDGE HOME is deservedly moving here there everywhere in reading groups, at teacher conferences & home study programs. I haven’t had a chance to look at all Mock Newbery 2020 blogs but I am happy to see this dream list.

Classrooms from South Africa  to North Carolina are talking about connecting across community streets to discuss THE BRIDGE HOME after summer recess. You can join the Facebook page:

But some won’t be waiting for September 30th – official start of Global Read Aloud – to meet Padma’s four young characters, thanks to the far reach of TV.  And  last month in The New York Times, Marjorie Ingall had this good word to say.  So much YAY! for a book I love.

Q/A with Padma Venkatraman, author of THE BRIDGE HOME


Your story is so excellent in offering an MG visit into extreme poverty, while authentically sharing the characters’ lightness & love. How many years has this beauty has been in the making? Please share a peek into the revision process on this one, after contract.

PADMA This book was about 5 years in the making, maybe even 6 or 7!  It was easier than the others to revise in some ways (except that I was used to writing  YA so it started off a lot larger and I had to trim a lot while retaining the essence and especially the emotional punch.)

Climbing the Stairs began as diary entries, but that seemed too narrow; so I widened it to rewrite the whole thing in third person but that felt too impersonal; then I rewrote it all in first person and I knew I had the voice right.

Island’s End originally had 2 voices but then I realized I didn’t need multiple points of view and it was just Uido’s story.

A Time To Dance started as verse and stayed verse in the end but in between I was frightened and tried prose which sounded horrible for that novel, so then I trusted my instincts and went back to verse.

With THE BRIDGE HOME, I just knew the voice was right, right from the start. 

It’s a really unusual voice – 2nd person – direct address, so it has the feel of one long letter that Viji the protagonist is writing to her sister, but I wanted the reader to feel both like Viji was speaking to her sister but also, in some way, like there was the intimacy of the protagonist speaking to the reader directly. 


I find poems from writers with India heritage in young peoples’ anthologies, notably those selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. Would you please share a a poetry collection for YA or MG by an Indian author, or authors, available in English?

PADMA I absolutely love Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. Much of his work has been translated into English – YA readers would be easily able to read those translations.  I believe W. B. Yates’s translation of his Gitanjali won the Nobel Prize.  

[ Bookseedstudio: RT created the India national anthem & is known for literary & educational innovations & for winning the Nobel Prize.]


Your back story reads like a novel, Padma. After child days in India with your accomplished single mother, who has a wonderful shout-out in your author’s note, which makes me fall for her, you worked as an oceanographer following university years in  the UK.

This ocean-going leadership position took you far out to sea, on fascinating waters of the world. Which is one reason why we are fortunate to have ISLAND’S END, set in the Andaman Islands.

Please share any moments when the ocean’s creatures or phenomena left you amazed, or perhaps when the ocean’s fury astounded you. This is a question, I guess, about theimpact of those years dwelling close to Nature for weeks, months, on end. And also please share your your view of how our fragile giant blue/green marble fares today.

PADMA Ever since I was a child, I have been attracted to nature.  I could always lose myself in a place of natural beauty and I think that feeling of losing one’s ego entirely is something that also happens when I write, which is  why I like both being in nature and writing.

As for moments that left me amazed, I remember dolphins following our small craft in the Andamans once, and how they threw rainbows into the air every time they leaped. 

It astounds me, though, that we refuse to look after Earth.  We only have this one planet and it is shocking to see how poorly we’ve treated it.  It’s so depressing to me to see that we Americans act as though Global Warming  is a question of belief. It’s not. It’s a scientific fact.

If I ask you do you believe in God, that’s a fair question. But to even ask if anyone believes in Global Warming is not okay because it is not a matter of choosing whether you want to believe in it or not – it’s a matter of opening our eyes to the fact that if we don’t change the way we live, we soon won’t have anywhere to live.  


THE BRIDGE HOME leaves me tremulous for the four children – one older sister & her younger sister, and also, two boys who are friends by circumstance. I began to worry about them incessantly.

At other moments the unlikely informal family- by- accident makes me laugh. I still think about them.How did you deal with your heights of joy for them  & also your sadness at their poignant, tragic moments?

PADMA I love them too, so thank you. I remember hearing Lois Lowry say once that the worlds she created were real and I feel like the characters I create are real, too.  I do get very involved in my writing and I must admit my sadness at the way we treat children even today does affect my family.

Plus it was incredibly tough to return to the place in my childhood and adolescence when I witnessed violence and I had to do that, to write. I wish I could say it was cathartic but it is wasn’t because we still have so many real Rukkus, Vijis, Muthus and Aruls today in this world who are suffering from hunger and homelessness.

 I am not sure I really know how I deal with it – it’s just a fact I live with and think about and try to do something about through my writing and outside of my writing; but some days of course, other aspects of my now-comfortable life take over and I don’t think or do as much as I should.


Your author’s notes are fascinating, especially about your mother. What are some of the things she tells you about your writing. And especially about, BRIDGE, as it must seem so personally potent to her, considering her volunteer work when you were young.

PADMA My mother ardently supports and admires my writing. She has, ever since I was a child. It was to her that I first dictated my poems – and she says I was really picky about line breaks, even when I was just 3 years old!

Apparently, I’d say – a poem came to me, I have a poem in my head, write it down for me – and that was because at that age I couldn’t write myself. She recorded in her journal that she was shocked I had the concept of a line or such an extensive vocabulary.  


This is a tiny prompt I will share with writers in my home June 19. It is modified from one given by poet Helen Frost at the poetry blog of editor/poet Michelle Barnes.

Please complete.

Select an object relating to your story idea or your character. But, an object that isn’t usually symbolic. Can’t be the surface of a small pond/mirror/window, nor a banner/flag or flower etc.. It could be a sock, a patio chair or chewing gum, to offer examples.

1/ What is the object    

Padma: Newspaper

2/ Ask this object a question   

Padma: How do you feel when people throw you away so easily

3/ What does the objects answer   

Padma:  I don’t like it. I wish they’d all recycle me. 


We met when you spoke at a Highlights Foundation Novel-in-Verse workshop.

PADMA Highlights is an incredible place – at least a place that is special to me. The beautiful setting and just being surrounded by nature would itself be enough but here one is not distracted by mundane everyday needs and you’re served amazing and wholesome food, everyone is welcoming and I think (hope) the faculty really and truly supports the students. I rejoice when I hear that so many writers who were once students when I was faculty – like Traci Sorrell, Charles Waters, and many many others – are doing so incredibly well. I have heard some people say Highlights is expensive but I really don’t think that is true at all. It is an all inclusive package so it is an incredible price I think. But I am biased in favor of this wonderful program!  


Highlights Foundation Workshop – Padma Venkatraman, Jan Godown Annino


Anything else you’d care to add about where we might connect with you.

PADMA I would love to have any and every school that wishes, to participate in the Global Read Aloud, for which THE BRIDGE HOME is the middle grade selection.

I am so honored and humbled this is the case and I cannot wait to connect to students and teachers and librarians and readers around the world.

I also am so honored that the book is a ProjectLIT selection as I think that is an effort I so greatly admire, too.

Can’t think of anything else at the moment, Jan! Off to catch my flight to Trinidad – so excited to be chief guest at their Beach Pen festival again! A great week ahead with many school visits library events and even an event at a women’s prison, which I am sure will be so incredibly important and meaningful to me.  

Bookseedstudio: Appreciations, Padma for this deep sharing.

. . . .

More connections

Padma Venkataraman’s website, including, when underway, Padma’s updates on  connecting with GRA students & other events:

Teach the Bridge Home (GRA#19 GRABridge #ProjectLIT)

Scholastic calls the Global Read Aloud originator a cool teacher:

Global Read Aloud website:

Padma Venkatraman is a special guest at this 2019 Highlights Foundation workshop.


Here at Bookseedstudio I also wrote about Padma’s novel, ISLAND’S END.

I love this wonderful piece on PV, at groovy Nerdy Book Club:

Thank you for reading this far!  The comment box is below. Many appreciations to today’s Poetry Friday host the multi-talented artist & poem-maker Michelle Kogan.

. . . .


19 thoughts on “Global Read Aloud & Padma Venkatraman

  1. Jan, I LOVE this interview with Padma ❤ I, too, had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to her at this year's Princeton Book Festival ( I mostly bought picture books and allowed myself only ONE novel (due to me already owning way too many books and no time to read them), so I chose carefully. As soon as I read the first pages of THE BRIDGE HOME, I knew that would be my choice 🙂 I'm in the process of reading it now, though haven't been able to read at length 😦 In fact, it's my "First Book of the Year" posted on Sheila's Book Journey blog 😀

    Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Padma. She was so warm, down-to-earth and interesting, I know if life allowed, we could easily be friends 🙂 I LOVE that this book was chosen for the Global Read Aloud! It's all exciting and so well-deserved. Great post, Jan!


    • O glory, thank you for finding this post far back here & I have many appreciations for knowing of your connection with such a wonderful author & mentor. Padma Venkatraman is one of thequestioning & kind workshop leaders of Highlights who move my writing forward.
      And her characters – they make me cry & I’m so glad for those feelings in her stories.
      And more thanks for the welcome links, which I look forward to following.

      Liked by 1 person

      • …and I recently finished it…and yes, I cried. I expected to! WONderful story. And though recently I’ve been wanting to re-follow blogs I like, I’m having to make the decision to try to pull back completely from most online activity and minimizing my inbox. It’s been an issue for a long time for me, but I can no longer neglect my health due to all the many “distractions.” :-/ I plan to be back at some point!!!


      • Hello hello dear heart!
        With the welcoming, wide, range of beautiful spots of nectar online, it is like visiting one of the great world libraries and not wanting to leave. It is difficult to not glide into the next collection, but at some point we must pull away and breathe and be out in our Worlds.I am grateful to you for your visit today.


  2. Thanks for sharing Padma’s timely book with us Jan and also this fascinating interview. So much can be gained by all from reading aloud.


  3. Thanks for this wonderful post. Appreciate the heads up about the Global Read Aloud, am thrilled that The Bridge Home was the MG selection, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing from Padma in the interview with your excellent questions, Jan. Cool that the two of you met at Highlights :).


    • Padma is always interesting, sincere & thorough in her approach to everything. I think the readers of The Bridge Home in the Global Read Aloud will appreciate the experience. I appreciate your generous comment, dear Jama.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great interview! I loved A TIME TO DANCE and was thrilled to meet Padma at Penguin’s Nerdy Cocktail party at NCTE last year. I’ve since read THE BRIDGE HOME, and…Wow. Just…wow. I’m so thrilled that it’s a Global Read Aloud pick!


    • How fabulous for your to have met Padma over the publisher’s cool event at #NTCE #PENGUIN. But I’m also sure it was a joy for her. I am glad you & I share yet another great connection, this time over a potent novel unlike any other out there. Appreciations,dear MaryLee.


  5. Jan, I am gob-smacked at the gift of this interview. It’s wonderful. Thank you to you and Padma both for making it. I hope I can use this with teachers and students at my school before Padma visits us in October? Please? There is so much goodness here from the idea of interviewing someone to non-fiction to hearing from someone who has lived elsewhere. I could go on and on. Maybe you just need to visit Virginia when Padma visits? I think we need to include you.
    And, I love the entire idea of “My Street” I may need to work out my own poem with your idea. I just love it. Thanks for such a delightful visit with you and Padma and your beautiful words. What a treasure.


    • Your school will be elevated with the students’ study of The Bridge Home AND that you’ve secured a visit from Padma 🙂 You are an amazing bridge to World understanding & to empowering your student readers to excel in creative thinking/connections & wide reading & brave writing. I would LOVE to collect us three again, especially to meet your student teams – if only… 🙂 Thanks for the dream dear Linda.


    • Hello dear April! You are a gem for reading to the end. I think I got carried awaaaaaay with this one. I shed a tear over the children’s path in this fine story. I hope it is a good listen for you, in a quiet place. Many appreciations for your visit.


  6. Wonderful interview, Jan! Thank you. And you know I loved this book too. It was delightful and informative to read Padma’s answers to your thought-provoking questions. She’s such a gem of a human being.


    • Your Read is keen because of your Bookstore Maven status that great career carried you through, dear Joanne. I agree about Padma’s personality, I feel she is a World Ambassado 0 hope the United Nations is listening…
      Many appreciations for your visit, especially this time in your recovery journey.


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