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Ramblings of an urban highschool librarian. Single. Old. Very old. On a good day, I even wear the traditional library bun.
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1. Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

title: Brown 9780399252518Girl Dreaming

author: Jacqueline Woodson

Date: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin; August 2014

Main Character: Jacqueline Woodson

MIddle Grade Fiction

There are rules to children’s books you know, and Jacqueline Woodson just broke one.

Brown Girl Dreaming is the author’s poetic telling of her childhood and retrospective visits to childhood are supposed to be adult books. Somewhere along when Jackie learned to embrace words and the power they contain, she became entitled to a Poetic License that let this book be produced as a children’s book. Thank goodness!

For me, a Black woman of the same generation who grew up in Ohio with a mother from Mississippi, I quite often found myself pausing and connecting to the story while I daydreamed about my own life. But, this book wasn’t written for me. Will teens relate? Will they find themselves in the spaces Woodson creates when she talks about teeth, not being as smart as, about grandpa’s love and forever friends? I think that they will not only find themselves in these nuances, but they’ll also see how they fit into the larger stories of their family, community and history itself.

In creating a fictional autobiography, Woodson leaves huge spaces that all readers can dive into and find their own meaning. Woodson looks back as adult, but tells the story through the eyes of a child. Her family is her haven whether they’re in New York or South Carolina and even when it looks like things might be going wrong, Jacqueline’s family is perfect in the young girl’s eyes. This girl has a dream to fulfill and we’re going to find out where she gets her strength!

Young Jacqueline is disenchanted with the inaccuracies of memory and the confusion between storytelling and lying.

Keep making up stories, my uncle says.

You’re lying my mother says.

 

Maybe the truth is somewhere between

all that I’m told

and memory.

So, Jacqueline decides to give us her own truths in this story of self empowerment.

I’m so glad Woodson broke the rule!

I reviewed an ARC and am looking forward to adding a final copy to my collection as it will also contain photos.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, two Coretta Scott King awards, two National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. source


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: african american, Jacqueline Woodson, review

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2. From the Hearltand: Elsa Martson

Considering authors who write about African American, Latino, Arab or Muslim Americans, Native Americans in my state of Indiana has uncovered a true wealth of authors. It’s a bit funny to see such richness in this state when Indiana in YA is usually seen as the last place on earth. But, to those teens who live here, Indiana is the center of the universe. 

Elsa Martson is an Indiana writer who expands the universe of all young readers. She’s very active in the world of YA lit, whether she’s hosting a listserv chat, speaking at a local conference or writing another book that focuses on the people and cultures of the Middle East.Elsa has written over 20 children’s and young adult books including Santa The-Compassionate-Warrior-330Claus in Bahgdad And Other Stories About Teens In the Arab World and Figs and Fate: Stories About Growing Up In the Arab World Today.  Her most recent book, The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria won the following awards. 

  • Co-winner of the 2013 Middle East Book Award for best “Youth Nonfiction”
  • Finalist for 2013 Midwest Books Award in the categories “History” and “Young Adult Non-Fiction”
  • Finalist for 2013 Foreword Review “Book of the Year” Award in the category “Young Adult Nonfiction”
  • 2014 Eric Hoffer Award, First runner-up in the “Culture” category
Later this year, she’ll release The Olive Tree. 
A story for all ages, about how an old olive tree in Lebanon caused conflict–and inspired reconciliation. Based on the author’s award-winning and much reprinted short story. With illustrations by Claire Ewart.
Let’s meet Elsa!

 

Where did you grow up?

I’m a New Englander from way, way back;  I grew up in Newton Centre, Massachusetts; and then my parents moved to a small town on the Massachusetts Dscf0689bw_web-330coast, Duxbury, just north of Plymouth.  It’s a beautiful place, with beaches, marshes, pine woods, and fascinating houses from the 17th-19th centuries.  I still feel steeped in the culture and history of  New England.  One of my current works-in- progress is set on the coast of Maine at the start of the American Revolution.

How did you end up in Indiana?

So I’m not a Hoosier at heart.  But Bloomington has been a great place to live!   I came here with my husband, Iliya Harik, who was Lebanese (I met him when we were students at the American University of Beirut).  He taught Middle East government at Indiana University for his entire career, with occasional leaves overseas. That made it possible for our family to live in such places as Cairo, Beirut, and Tunisia . . . wonderful inspiration for my writing.  But it was always nice to come home to Indiana.  (I have three sons: Ramsay, a secondary-school teacher of religious studies in Austin, Texas—and my first-line reader!  Amahl, proprietor of a fitness-training studio in Providence;  and Raif, a computer guy in Austin.  And grandchildren Savannah, starting health-care studies, and Kahlil, a 2-year-old ball of sunshine.)

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

I grew up in a book-filled home—my dad was a professor of English at Northeastern University in Boston—so becoming a reader was as natural for me as loving to climb trees. From my very young childhood I remember Barbar the Elephant, and in grade school I loved the E. Nesbit books and Mary Poppins—delightful blendings of fantasy and realism.

What three things would you like to add to a list of world treasures?

Oh my,  I’ll probably have some brilliant ideas tomorrow—but here’s what I’m thinking today.

The coast of Northern California, for the sheer beauty of its long, wide beaches, golden grass-covered slopes, redwood forests…..

Two or three piano concertos by Mozart—although I dare say he’s already on the list.

The translucent alabaster sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I, every inch covered with tiny hieroglyphs painted  a heavenly blue—for the beauty and sheer amazingness of the thing. (It’s in the Soanes Museum in London.)

What book(s) are you currently reading?

One I read recently that made a big impression on me was Big Fat Disaster by Beth Fehlbaum (Merit Press, 2014).  It’s about a girl in Texas, a compulsive eater, whose dad—a rising politician—has just been hit by scandal;  he abandons the family and they have to move, virtually penniless, to another small town.  So Colby has a lot to feel bad about, and she handles it by gobbling sugar.  What I especially liked  is that Colby is not particularly likable: she’s irritable, irrational.  But we always care about her and hope that eventually she’ll find the strength to become the confident, sympathetic person that’s hiding inside all that baggage. 

When did you realize that you are a writer?

My dad was a writer and a storyteller, who made up bedtime stories for my sister and me.  I think that gave me the idea that I could tell stories, too.   At the age of eight or nine, I started to write two “novels,”  one of them set in ancient Egypt.  Naturally neither got beyond the second page, but I enjoyed them while they lasted.  And discovered, many years later, that my novel The Ugly Goddess, set in a  fascinating period of ancient Egyptian history, was the realization of that very early dream! It may take 40 or 50 years to realize your dreams—but it can happen! 

 

What stories do you most enjoy telling?

I like to tell stories about young people who face challenges or troubles and somehow manage to end up in a better place.  When I started writing, wanting to use the unusual places I’d had a chance to spend time in (Cairo, Carthage, Greek Islands), I wrote rather complicated mystery/adventure stories about young Americans in those settings.  But at a conference the well-known author Avi once told me:  “I think you should write stories that move people.”  I now feel  that the stories in my collection Santa Claus in Baghdad and Other Stories About Teens in the Arab World best express what I want to do and perhaps can do best.  They still have an “exotic” element, being set in a variety of contemporary Arab societies, but my main concern is to depict young people trying to deal with the lives they were given, and make the best of it.

How did you decide to write about the Middle East and North Africa for young adults?

Since early childhood I’ve been intrigued by “other times, other places,” so I always had an international bent.   A Rotary Foundation fellowship took me to the American University of Beirut, and my marriage to the young man I met there—and the combination of his work and my own lifelong interests—led naturally to specializing in that part of the world.

But there’s another reason.  The Arab world is badly misunderstood, rejected, and disparaged in this country—even though Arab-Americans have always been exemplary as an immigrant community.  Since the founding of Israel in the Arab country of Palestine, in 1948, this prejudice has been drastically hardened by political complications, which are harmful not only to Arabs but to the interests of the U.S. and ultimately, I believe, to Israel.  I feel a mission as a writer to counter some of the ignorance and  politically motivated prejudice by presenting the people of the Arab world in ways that Americans can comprehend and relate to sympathetically.

You’ve described the whole Arab/Muslim world as invisible through use of the term “people of of color” and through their lack of representation in children’s literature.  Could you mention a few of the significant events, authors or books in children’s lit relating to books by and featuring Arab/Muslim Americans of which we should be aware?

Until the mid 1990’s there were very, very few books for young people with a positive Arab viewpoint—largely, I firmly believe, because of the prejudice mentioned above.  The door started to open with the publication of two very successful books by an already successful writer, Naomi Shihab Nye:  the novel Habibi and picture book Sitti’s Secrets, both about Palestine.  This showed publishers and writers that it was possible to produce books that give a favorable view of Arabs—without a storm of criticism.  Two other picture books published at about this time, by Florence Parry Heidi and Judith Heidi Gilliland, The Day of Ahmed’s Secret (Egypt) and Sami and the Time of the Troubles (Lebanon), were also important “door openers.” 

Since then, we’ve seen a slow but pretty steady increase in accurate, fair, and sympathetic books about Arabs, by British, American, and Israeli authors.  But very few Arab or Arab-American writers!  Although there are many Arab novelists, poets, and essayists, the idea that literature for children is an important and worthy use of literary talent has been slow to catch on.  Books for kids have been published in Arabic for years in such countries as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Kuwait; but they very rarely attract attention for translation and publication in the U.S.  I keep hoping!

I keep a list of recommended books, mostly fiction, mostly about the Arab world,  which I think is as comprehensive a list as you could find, going back to the 1970s.  I’d be happy to send it electronically to anyone who gets in touch with me  (elsa.marston@gmail.com)   Besides the ones mentioned above, here are some that I especially recommend:

Ibtisam Barakat, Tasting the Sky:  A Palestinian Childhood

Anne Laurel Carter,  The Shepherd’s Granddaughter (Palestine)

Elizabeth Laird, A Little Piece of Ground   (Palestine)

Zeina Abirached, A Game for Swallows  (Lebanon)

Alalou, Elizabeth and Ali, The Butter Man  (Morocco)

Carolyn Marsden,  The White Zone  (Iraq)

Mary Matthews,  Magid Fasts for Ramadan (Egypt)

Jeanette Winter,  The Librarian of Basra  (Iraq)

Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ten Things I Hate About Me;   Does My Head Look Big in This? (Arab-Australians)

Claire Sidhom Matze, The Stars in My Geddoh’s Sky  (Egypt, Egyptian-Americans)

Cathryn Clinton, A Stone in My Hand  (Palestine)

Maha Addasi, The White Nights of Ramadan  (Gulf States)

What does diversity mean to you?

Talking about books, I take diversity to mean inclusion of good books about the Arab/Muslim world!  But of course I would include all cultures and countries—and encouragement of good writing and storytelling, that will hold up well in translation and publication in diverse societies.  I also welcome positive attention to all sorts of human conditions.  It’s wonderful to have books that broaden our understanding and appreciation of different experience—whether social, gender, religious, occupational, or virtually any other walk of life.   

 

 

Previous Posts From the Heartland

DHARATHULA “DOLLY” HOOD MILLENDER

KEVIN WALTMAN-


Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: Arab, Elsa Martson, Heartland, Indiana, interview, Middle Eastern YA Literature, Muslim

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3. REFORMA National Conference

I received the following in an email from REFORMA, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking.

Are you doing research on the Latino community and its library needs? If so, please consider submitting a proposal to the Fifth REFORMA National Conference. The Call for Proposals is here:

http://www.reformanationalconference.org/#!proposals/c4dl

Program Track A: Collections & Resources would be a great place for studies of YA literature for Latinos.

Program Track F: Technology & Innovation would be great for discussing Latino teens and their use of ICTs and media.

If, on the other hand, you want to learn more about serving the Latino community (53 million strong and counting!), consider attending the conference. You can find general information on attending — including information about our FREE preconference — here:

http://www.reformanationalconference.org/


Filed under: librarianship Tagged: ALA, REFORMA

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4. August Releases

Although somewhat late, I am so glad to deliver this list of MG and YA releases by authors of color for the month of August. It’s been quite a long while since we’ve seen so many releases in one month. If you prefer a more visual presentation, visit the Pinterest Board. And, the 2014 cumulative list can be found here.

I tried cleaning up my cumulative list, I’m not sure what’s going on with WordPress. I copied the entire list to a Word doc to clean up the spacing and the font. The results were even worse! What I’m left with is a page that looks much better, but no hyperlinks. If you need the links, you can access them on a Word doc from the page with the list. All new postings should have hyperlinks but I’m not going back to add them. I just want to get out of WordPress for now. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Descriptions are from IndieBound except where noted.

Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier; Push     The long-awaited sequel to Hidier’s groundbreaking “Born Confused”Nan ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Dimple Lala needs a change. She and her boyfriend think they’re heading to Bombay for a family wedding, but really they are plunging into the unexpected, the unmapped, and the uncontrollable.

Knockout Games by Greg Neri; Carolrhoda Books. A disturbing rash of seemingly random attacks occur in St. Louis by a group of teens called the TKO club. Erica is one of a few girls who is down with TKO in part due to her natural skill with a video camera and her ability to make art out of the attacks.

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached; Graphic Universe     Zeina Abirached, author of the award-winning graphic novel A Game for Swallows, returns with a powerful collection of wartime memories.

Abirached was born in Lebanon in 1981. She grew up in Beirut as fighting between Christians and Muslims divided the city streets. Follow her past cars riddled with bullet holes, into taxi cabs that travel where buses refuse to go, and n outings to collect shrapnel from the sidewalk.

With striking black-and-white artwork, Abirached recalls the details of ordinary life inside a war zone. (Amazon)

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth; Scholastic MG     Jarrett is used to his mom taking in foster babies, but this time a baby girl has an older brother. Kevon is Jarrett’s age, and Jarrett doesn’t like sharing his room, his friends, and his life with a stranger. The more Jarrett tries to get rid of Kevon, the more he learns about Kevon’s life and his historyNwhich leads to an unexpected understanding.

The Turtles of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye MG     This accessible, exquisite novel shines with gentle humor and explores themes of moving, family, nature, and immigration. It tells the story of Aref Al-Amri, who must say good-bye to everything and everyone he loves in his hometown of Muscat, Oman, as his family prepares to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is acclaimed poet and National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab Nye’s first novel set in the Middle East since her acclaimed Habibi.

Aref Al-Amri does not want to leave Oman. He does not want to leave his elementary school, his friends, or his beloved grandfather, Siddi. He does not want to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his parents will go to graduate school. His mother is desperate for him to pack his suitcase, but he refuses. Finally, she calls Siddi for help. But rather than pack, Aref and Siddi go on a series of adventures. They visit the camp of a thousand stars deep in the desert, they sleep on Siddi’s roof, they fish in the Gulf of Oman and dream about going to India, and they travel to the nature reserve to watch the sea turtles. At each stop, Siddi finds a small stone that he later slips into Aref’s suitcase–mementos of home.

Naomi Shihab Nye’s warmth, attention to detail, and belief in the power of empathy and connection shines from every page. Features black-and-white spot art and decorations by Betsy Peterschmidt.

A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen     Shana has always had a blind spot for boys. Can she trust the one who’s right in front of her?
Sixteen-year-old Shana Wilde is officially on a Boy Moratorium. After a devastating breakup, she decides it’s time to end the plague of Mr. Wrong, Wrong, and More Wrong.
Enter Quattro, the undeniably cute lacrosse player who slams into Shana one morning in Seattle. Sparks don’t just fly; they ignite. And so does Shana’s interest. Right as she’s about to rethink her ban on boys, she receives crushing news: Her dad is going blind. Quattro is quickly forgotten, and Shana and her parents vow to make the most of the time her father has left to see. So they travel to Machu Picchu, and as they begin their trek, they run into none other than Quattro himself. But even as the trip unites them, Quattro pulls away mysteriously… Love and loss, humor and heartbreak collide in this new novel from acclaimed author Justina Chen.

A New Beginning: My Journey with Addy by Denise Lewis Patrick, American Girl MG     Readers can enter Addy Walker’s world during the Civil War in this interactive adventure where they can outrun a slave catcher, raise money for soldiers, and search for Addy’s family. Illustrations.

The Problem with being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami; Atheneum Books MG     Complications ensue when Bollywood star Dolly Singh premieres her new movie at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC and super fan Dinni and her best friend Maddie present a dance at the grand opening. (OCLC)

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass and Jerry Craft; Scholastic    Fourth-grader Bakari Katari Johnson is having a really bad day. Class bullies Tariq and Keisha are mad at him, his best friend Wardell has nominated him for hall monitor, and a pack of ice zombies from a frozen world are demanding he return the magic ring that Keisha has! Illustrations.

The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco; Sourcebook Fire     The Ring” meets “The Exorcist” in this haunting story set in Japan about an American boy whose last hope for protection lies with a vengeful ghost.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson; Nancy Paulsen Books     Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look; Schwartz and Wade   MG     Here’s the sixth book in the beloved and hilarious Alvin Ho chapter book series, which has been compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is perfect for both beginning and reluctant readers.

Alvin, an Asian American second grader who’s afraid of everything, is taking his fears to a whole new level—or should we say, continent. On a trip to introduce brand-new baby Ho to relatives in China, Alvin’s anxiety is at fever pitch. First there’s the harrowing 16-hour plane ride; then there’s a whole slew of cultural differences to contend with: eating lunch food for breakfast, kung fu lessons, and acupuncture treatment (yikes!). Not to mention the crowds that make it easy for a small boy to get lost.

 


Filed under: New Books Tagged: August, new releases

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5. From the Heartland: Dharathula “Dolly” Hood Millender

Local authors provide teens access to the landscape of local history and geography. They write about stories that include the language, hangouts and routines of local teens. They also visit schools and libraries and remind young adults that reading and writing are important and that anyone right here in this town, in this state, in Indiana of all places, can indeed become a successful writer.

I’ve recently been researching local young adult authors and I’m so amazed by the work they do that goes beyond authoring books. So many authors seem to have a tremendous level of dedication to their community of readers. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find all that they do. We read about the visit Matt de la Peña made to New Mexico to visit schools when students requested his visit after so many books there were banned. We see the letters that Nikki Grimes that shares from the relationships she’s developed with students that span (and inspire) the years. I’ve spoken with Angela Johnson and know of her service to prison communities, but you typically have to dig to find out this kind of information.

And, digging is just what I did to find out about Dharathula “Dolly” Millender. At age 94, Dolly has to be the oldest living children’s and young adult author in Indiana, if not the nation. Dolly is both woman and an African American very much ahead of her times.9780020418108

Nicholas Hood, Dolly’s grandfather, settled in Indian after he became free.

Her mother, Daisy Hood, received a teaching degree from Fisk University in the early 1900s. She was quite active in the NAACP and one of the founders of the Phyllis Wheatley Association in Terre Haute. This organization built the Phyllis Wheatley House that provided housing for African American female students at Indiana State Normal School. (The now Indiana State University.) At that time, the university did admit African American students but did not allow them to live in the dorms or eat in the dining halls.

Her father was every bit as active. Orestes Hood attended Purdue University where he completed a two-year teacher’s course of study in electricity. He taught for a while in the East Saint Louis schools before moving to Terre Haute, IN. Here, he opened the only radio shop in downtown Terre Haute at a time when radios were as important as computers are to us today. Orestes was contracted for work throughout the city for individual and corporate work. When he was hired by Purdue University to repair audio-visual equipment, Orestes became the first African American professional staff member on the campus.

Understand, please this was Indiana in the early 1900s. (Dolly wasn’t born until 1920.) Slavery ended in this country a scant 35 years prior. The Civil Rights movement had not yet begun. The Harlem Renaissance was about to start. Terre Haute was about to hustle and bustle as bootleggers were about to set up camp. Native Americans had been removed years and years before.

30% of the white male population in Indiana belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.

From 1900-1910, the population of African Americans in Indiana was about half of what it was for whites. In fact, in 1900, there were considerably fewer than 100,000 African Americans in the state and most of these settled in urban areas.

Horses were the mainstay of travel and telephones were new on the scene.

So, as I continue to recount details of Dolly’s life, we have to know there’s much that is missing. I don’t believe it came as easy to the Hoods as it seems by reading a list of their accomplishments. As we read on, try to keep in mind when and where this all happened.

Dolly was born 4 February 1920 and had seven siblings. Her parents were of that generation that wanted thimageseir children to have a better life than they themselves did and this certainly required an education. Dolly attend the then Indiana State Teacher’s College (now Indiana State University) in 1941 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English, minoring in music and library science. Dolly lived in the Phyllis Wheatley house because colored students could not live on campus. Her brother, Orestes attended college at the same time as Dolly. He held a one man sit-in to successfully de-segregate the university’s dining facilities in the late 1930s, about 30 years before the sit-ins across the southern United States.

Dolly graduated and worked as a librarian at a junior college in South Carolina, in the Library of Congress and in severa71PD7NPSY2L._AA160_l school libraries. She eventually began working as a school librarian in Gary, Indiana until she retired in 1978. She became the official historian of Gary, a city councilwoman, a school board member and the founder and CEO of the Gary Historical Society. She also received a Master of Science degree in Educational Media from Purdue University in 1968.

Her mother had always told stories about famous Negroes, and very few were present in books. Between the stories she heard and the influence of a former teacher publishing The Child’s Story of the Negro, Dolly was able to publish Crispus Attucks, Boy of Valor as part of Bobbs-Merrill’s Childhood of Famous Americans Series. The company also approached her to write books on Martin Luther King Jr. and Louis Armstrong for the series. The Louis Armstrong millendebook was revised and republished by Simon and Schuster.

Dolly’s motto is “The joy of living is the joy of giving service to others.”

Dolly is passionate about local history. She is local history! She is listed in Who’s Who Among African Americans.

I’m not a 15 year old searching for identity but I have to say that just knowing about Dolly Millender and Kevin Waltman, I feel that much prouder of who I am and where I am. Share these stories with your teens! Dolly and Kevin’s books are still available, so pick up a copy! And, stay tuned because there are more IN YA authors who write about people of color!

 

 

References

Duncan, Hilary. Dolly Millender, ’41, Naomi Millender, 67. State Magazine. Retrieved from http://statemagazine.com/hood-legacy/

Reynolds, Crystal. The Joy of Giving Service Dharathula “Dolly” Millender. Retrieved from http://www.indstate.edu/diversity/docs/The%20Joy%20of%20Giving%20Service%20Dolly%20Hood%20Millender%20Biography.pdf

Visclosky, Peter J. 2010. Dolly Millender. Retrieved from

http://capitolwords.org/date/2010/02/02/E125-4_dolly-millender/

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Authors Tagged: Dharathula "Dolly" Hood Millender, Indiana Authors

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6. From the Heartland: Kevin Waltman

My recent interview with Crystal Allen got me wondering who are the Indiana authors who write about teens of color? This is an important question when you consider how many YA books are set in NYC. Teens in Indiana , or any state, benefit from stories set where they live because setting can provide one more way for young readers to relate to their reading. Stories that mention the Pacers, Fort Wayne or Turkey Run State Park not only resonates with readers, but they also let readers  know that where they live matters and indeed they must, too.

Local authors are also important for teachers and librarians. Little can emphasize the importance of reading and writing more that a visit from these experts! Don’t we all get giddy around these rock stars of words and imagination?

You’ve met Crystal and I have several others for you to meet over the next couple of weeks. While some have lived in Indiana their entire life, others passed through for a few years. “Once a Hoosier, always a Hoosier!”

These are the authors those students I used to teach in Indianapolis would just love to meet!

Kevin Waltman lived in Indiana for his childhood, high school and college years. Indiana is where Kevin developed his love of basketball, partially because, well this is Indiana! But more important, his dad was legendary college coach Royce Waltman. Kevin currently lives in Alabama. Most recently, he’s been writing the D-Bow High School Hoops Series (Cinco Puntos Press). The first book in the series, Next came out in 2013 and Slump releases in October.

Where did you grow up?

            I was born in Bedford, Pennsylvania, where I lived until I was 11. After that, I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, for five years, then in Greencastle, Indiana, where I went to high school and college (DePauw University). After college I lived briefly in Washington, D.C., before moving to Indianapolis for five years before moving down to Alabama, where I’ve lived since 2001.

Do you have any pets?

          Our dog Henry. Technically, he’s my wife Jesssica’s dog, as she adopted him before we started dating—but we’ve been together for 9 years now, so Henry feels very much like my dog, too.

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

            As a little child, I read and read, but the series of books that stand out in my memory are the Black Stallion books. I just couldn’t get enough of those. Like a lot of boys, I hit a bit of dead period in my reading in my teens, but The Catcher in the Rye got me jump-started again.

Which famous person would you most like to write a review for your book?

           Roy Hibbert or Mike Conley, Jr. They’re both NBA players with Indiana connections, and they seem genuinely interested in helping young people—my potential readers.

What book(s) are you currently in the middle of reading?

            I just started The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, but I’m only a couple pages in, so it hasn’t taken over my imagination yet. Before that, I read On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee, which is honestly one of the best books I’ve read in some time, at least since The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. And I’m also reading a tale from The Complete Sherlock Holmes in between every other book I read.

Is there much difference between life in Indiana and life in Alabama?

            Alabama’s hotter. Okay, that’s a bit of a joke, but in some ways that underscores other differences. The more rural nature of Alabamians, their relationships to the land, their penchant for comfort food—all of it seems influenced at least in part by the Southern weather. There are, certainly, other differences. Alabama, like other Southern states is more conservative, more religious, and poorer than Midwestern counterparts. However, though those traits are broadly true, the differences on those fronts don’t seem particularly pronounced when compared to Indiana.

                  Then, of course, there’s sports. I sometimes get rather quizzical looks when I tell Alabamians that I’m writing novels that focus in part on basketball, where in Indiana that is rather central to most people’s activities. Down here, it’s football first. And second. And always.

I have noticed that you teach writing at the university level. I would think teaching writing would be so difficult because there are just some things about writing that one cannot teach. What is it about teaching this skill that you enjoy?

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Click to hear a podcast interview with Kevin.

            It depends on what type of writing you’re talking about. I teach a lot of English Composition, which is really about preparing first-year students to write academic essays: how to research information and cite it; how to analyze and develop arguments; how to explore a topic as even-handedly as possible. That seems quite teachable if a student is actually earnest in wanting to learn. Creative writing is trickier, and I think that’s probably what you’re referring to here. In some ways, teaching that is largely telling students to break all the rules that they’ve been taught in English Composition. Rather than one or two accepted styles, there are endless styles. Rather than painstakingly developing “argument,” they can let go of “having a point” altogether. They can fabricate things. They can make up words. They can re-invent themselves over and over again. English Composition is like teaching students how to make a good lasagna, with a few possible variations they might try once they master the recipe. Teaching creative writing is like taking students to a kitchen and pointing out all the possible ingredients, then saying, “Have at it.”

                  In both cases, though, there are times when, as an instructor, you can actually see moments of recognition in students. You’ve maybe told them something a dozen times, but for whatever reason that final explanation clicks for them, and you immediately see a breakthrough in their writing—which also means a breakthrough in how they conceive of themselves as scholars and writers. That’s rather rewarding.

What attracted you to writing about basketball?

            My dad was a basketball coach (in order: Bedford High School head coach; assistant coach at Indiana University; then head coach at DePauw University, the University of Indianapolis, and Indiana State University). Basketball was a part of me from the get-go. Though I played poorly and quit my high school team, I always loved to play—and I was an avid pick-up player until a few years ago when I hurt my knee. But more than playing, I watched endless hours of basketball. When I was a kid, I’d get dropped off after school at the Bedford gym where my dad was running practice. As a teenager, I watched every game on ESPN every single night. I went to hundreds of my dad’s games. I went to Pacers games, to random college games, to tournament games in Indianapolis and Milwaukee and Nashville. To Final Fours in Atlanta and Denver. Alabama games. Summer league games. I once tried to estimate how much time I’ve spent watching basketball—it came out roughly to a full year of my life.

                  So, to answer your question: writing about basketball feels almost as natural as breathing.

How did you decide you wanted to write for teens?

            This is a little trickier. I don’t know if it was ever a conscious decision, as much as it was a happy accident. Sometime in 2000, I met the now-somewhat-famous-y.a.-author David Levithan, and he was busy scouting authors for a new y.a. imprint at Scholastic, where he is an editor. I sent him some material. He liked it. And that’s how my first y.a. novel, Nowhere Fast, began. I followed that up with Learning the Game for Scholastic in 2005, and then after a hiatus where I was working on other projects, I returned to y.a. for Next. It’s good to be back.

Is it difficult to maintain Kevin’s character over 3 books? In what ways does he develop?

            Well, I’m in the middle of writing the third book now. And this is the first time that I’ve ever written a series. So the tricky part has been balancing “maintaining” characters while changing them enough so that there’s real development from book to book. At the same time, I can’t totally reinvent Derrick or any other character when I start a new manuscript—they need to have some consistency. In fact, Derrick—because his basketball goals keep him so focused—has been in some ways the slowest to change. He changes all right, but his end goal stays the same, and as I work on the third book I find that other characters—Wes, Jasmine, Uncle Kid—are undergoing more radical changes around Derrick.

It sounds like there are many generational messages in the D-Bow series. What influenced you to put those relationships into your stories?

            I think there are two forces. The first is that, with sports, it’s hard to separate the player from his parentage (in whatever form that may come). One of the most touching moments in sports over the last few years was Kevin Durant’s MVP speech, particularly his words for his mother. Any player, if he’s honest with himself, owes something. For Derrick, his parents keep him grounded and disciplined, and they keep him from taking an easier—and more questionable—path. Meanwhile, Uncle Kid has been vital to his development as a player. And even if it’s not about growth as a player and a person, the way people experience sports when they’re young is often a way to share an experience with a parent: watching or going to a game together.

                  The other forces are personal. I’ve recently become a parent, and as any parent will tell you that changes everything. There is not a single idea or object in my world that hasn’t been somehow altered and made more brilliant by our daughter’s presence. Her exhilaration at her world becomes mine. So while I’m not consciously putting anything in my books about her, I’m a fool to think that anything I do is left unaffected by her. And, finally, I recently lost my father. Again, that’s not something I’ve consciously worked into the books—in fact, I revised Slump so Derrick’s father’s health problems were less similar to my own father’s. But, again, my own relationship to sports is inextricably tied to my own relationship to my father. So my dad—and my history with him—hovers like a shadow beside every sentence I write in this series.

What does diversity mean to you?

            To me, it means a goal that Americans still need to meet. I don’t mean to deny the progress America has made, not just since the pre-Civil Rights era, but since I was a kid. Most students I encounter now almost reflexively champion the benefits of diversity, though there are still exceptions. That’s great, but I think sometimes it’s lip service. That’s true of individuals who praise diversity publicly because they’re “supposed to,” but who don’t embrace any policies that might actually bring such diversity about. And it’s true of America in general, too. I live just outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which was recently featured in The Atlantic in a story about how our public schools are being re-segregated. It makes sense to focus on Tuscaloosa, since it’s in the self-proclaimed “Heart of Dixie,” but the sad truth—and I don’t offer this in any way to acquit Tuscaloosa of the charges that article leveled—is that such re-segregation is happening all over the country. And that kind of segregation creates a persisting “underclass” that Americans—or at least too few of the officials we elect to office—don’t seem to care that much about, no matter how much we extol the virtues of diversity.

                  So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but I think there’s a self-satisfaction because we see “diversity” all over our televisions, or at college graduation ceremonies, or even in some board rooms. Those images, important as they are, blind us from the segregation that exists between the haves and the disproportionately minority have-nots. There’s work to be done.


Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: basketball, Cinco Puntos, Indiana, Kevin Waltman, series

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7. Saturday Trailer: Knockout Games

What better day for book trailers than a Saturday?

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Knockout Games by Greg Neri was released yesterday.


Filed under: Saturday Trailers Tagged: trailers; G. Neri; Knockout Games

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8. Guest Reviewer: The Laura Line

I recently posted an interview with Crystal Allen (who happens to blog at The BrownBooksShelf) and I felt bad that I hadn’t read The Laura Line and couldn’t review it. So, I reached out to Olugbemisola Amusashonubi-Perkovich (who also blogs at The BrownBookShelf) and she helped me find a most skilled young lady to write a review. Thanks Gbemi and Ms. ARP!  I’d say we all need to rush out and buy this book!

51O8GYjCtrL._AA160_Title: The Laura Line

author: Crystal Allen

Date: Balzer + Bray; 2013

main character: Laura Dyson

guest review: ARP

 

Laura Dyson is a fashionista, she plays baseball, and is good at it too, and she has a crush on the school’s baseball star! However,arpphoto she believes she also has a super embarrassing family history, which she is worried will drive him away. So, she keeps it a secret, and sticks with her best buddy Sage, her only friend at school (besides her teacher, of course.) Just like any other middle schooler, she has a big bully, who apparently thinks that she can’t go a day without a candy. NOT POSSIBLE! She always has a couple of Almond Joys in her pocket, even if they are a little squished, and she tries to keep her special “CHUNKY HUNKY” (a.k.a, her crush, Troy Bailey,) in sight at all times. Unfortunately for Laura, he won’t even give her a second glance.
But then, Laura and her class have to write an assignment, and Laura is pushed on all sides to learn about her long family line of strong, black women. And by doing this, she discovers they might not be so embarrassing after all….
After a few sticky situations like accidentally damaging something important to her family, and more Almond Joys, this funny story comes to an end, and we say goodbye to the wonderful, amazing, baseball player, fashionista Laura Dyson.
This book helped me understand how important it is to stay true to your culture and heritage, and most of all your family. I also liked the way that Ms. Allen showed that appearance isn’t everything.
I would recommend this book to anyone, but if you like realistic fiction, this book is especially for you!

Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: ARP, Crystal Allen, Geust Reviewer

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9. Sunday Morning Reads

Have you been following #WeNeedDiverseBooks on FB or Tumblr? They’ve been coming up with spot on books pairs this summer.

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The WNDB Team has most recently been joined by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. the Cake Literary Ladies!

You know everything is bigger in Texas, including the state’s annual library conference. TLA has got to be the most popular state library conference in the nation. Call for papers is currently open.

The Américas Award created a list of selected Américas Award titles that highlight issues surrounding children and the border.  This and other thematic guides can be found on the Américas website:www.claspprograms.org/americasaward.  Contribute your activities and titles on our Facebook page: Facebook.com/americasaward.

Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, authors, illustrators, poets in the UK are part of a movement demanding the government insure a presence of good libraries in all schools.

And in the US? Well, the schools in Chicago all have libraries, but half of them have librarians. The Mayor’s CEO says they can’t find librarians to fill the positions. That reminds me so much of publishers saying they can’t find authors of color. Numerous schools around Indiana have lost librarians, most often in elementary schools. I’ve heard of some schools in the state relying upon the public library to come in and provide library services. Not all librarians are created equal! While both a public and school librarian would be familiar with children’s and young adult literature, the public librarian would work more on programming and not be familiar with the curriculum as a school librarian would. Librarians provide technology training for students and staff, often teaching classes and providing professional development. I don’t know how we think schools can do without them.

Kate DiCamillo is our current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

BrownBookShelf continues the “Making Our Own Market” series with an interview of self published author DuEwa Frazier.

 Eventually, I taught myself how to self-publish. There was no one there to hold my hand through the entire process but I did receive support. I took writing workshops with the late, great poet, Louis Reyes Rivera and was mentored by Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets. I attended many of the Center for Black Literature’s National Black Writers Conference’s early panels and workshops. I later took children’s writing and non-fiction workshops at other centers in the city. I became a part of a community of writers who had academics and cultural consciousness in their backgrounds.

We’re already talking Back to School. Summer here has been slow to warm and it feels like it hasn’t really started yet. Slow to warm and high humidity here makes me wonder how in the world June 2014 could have been the hottest June on record. Ah! To get out of my little bubble! #WeNeedDiverseBooks

 

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Sunday Reads Tagged: #WeNeedDiverseBoosk, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, school libraries

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10. Meet Crystal Allen!

Crystal Allen writes middle grade/young YA fiction that break the mold of what we too often find in children’s literature.  I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing The Laura Line which was released in 2013.

51O8GYjCtrL._AA160_Thirteen-year-old Laura Dyson wants two things in life: to be accepted by her classmates and to be noticed by baseball star Troy Bailey. But everyone at school makes fun of her for being overweight, and Troy won’t give her a second glance. Until their seventh grade history teacher puts Laura front and center by announcing a field trip to the old run-down slave shack on her grandmother’s property. Heck to the power of no way! Her grandmother insists that it’s more than just a shack; it’s a monument to the strong women in their family — the Laura Line. Something to be proud of. But Laura knows better: if her classmates can’t accept her now, they never will once they see the shack. So she comes up with the perfect plan to get the field trip canceled. But when a careless mistake puts the shack — and the Laura Line — in jeopardy, Laura must decide what’s truly important to her. Can Laura figure out how to get what she wants at school while also honoring her family’s past?

Crystal recently agreed to the following interviewing and I have to say it’s been such a joy getting to know her! I’m sure you’ll understand why I say that as you read her interview.

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What is one of your most clear memories of being a teen?

I loved theater and drama.  I tried out for every play in middle school and high school.  My first role was the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz when I was in the fifth grade.  When the play was over, all of the first and second graders hated me, so I chased them all over the playground.  It was awesome.

I love the opening line on your blog: “Holy Crackers and Cream Cheese! Oh, Mylanta! You’re here!” What are your favorite snack foods?

I love to snack on almonds, fruit, Twizzlers, or Mexican food, not necessarily in that order.

Which famous person would you most like to have to write a review for your book?

Michelle Obama.

What three things would you like to add to a list of national treasures?

My definition of “national treasures” is different than what may actually qualify as a national treasure.  But, if I could add three things, it was be these three:

  1. All Senior Citizen Facilities or Nursing Homes. I believe senior citizens are our most beloved National Treasures.
  1. YMCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and inner city recreation centers .  The importance of these alternatives for youth around the country is invaluable, and has helped deter many from taking wrong paths.
  1. The Houston Astrodome. The Astrodome may already be on the National Treasures list, however, I know there are talks of demolishing it.  The Dome has so much history, and to tear it down would certainly destroy a strong piece of Houston history.

Why would you be up at 3am?  Reflux.

What book(s) are you currently in the middle of reading?

Panic – Sharon Draper

The Sweet Dead Life – Joy Preble

(Starting soon)  The Great Greene Heist – Varian Johnson

You write fun, middle class stories with a bit of a lesson that any child can enjoy. What authors have inspired your writing?

Christopher Paul Curtis

Sharon Draper

Donna Gephart

Neal Shusterman

The Laura Line is your newest book. That title is so intriguing! Can you explain it, or will that give too

much away?

The Laura Line is about Laura Dyson, a thirteen year old, overweight girl who has dreams of being a model…or a major league baseball pitcher.  Because of her weight issues, students make fun of her to the point that Laura begins to believe that she is all of the ugly things her classmates say she is.  It’s not until Laura ventures into an old shack on her grandmother’s farm and finds a ledger filled with documents from the female ancestors in her history, (all of them named Laura)  that she begins to stand up for herself.  Now, Laura Dyson not only knows who she is, but has evidence of all the wonderful things she can become.+-+191835251_140

Could Laura and Lamar be friends?  Yes!

I love that you’re a Hoosier! (Once Hoosier, always a Hoosier!) What is it about Indiana that made you decide to set Lamar there?

I grew up in a small town in Indiana and I needed Lamar and Xavier to be small town boys.  Once I began drafting the setting, and adding basketball as Xavier’s biggest talent, it was clear to me that Indiana had to be part of the story, especially since basketball is HUGE in Indiana.

Is setting difficult for you to choose when you begin writing or does setting come right along with the character?

Detailed setting comes with my characters, especially after I understand where they plan on spending the majority of their time.

Finally, what does diversity mean to you?

To me, diversity simply means everybody.

 


Filed under: Authors Tagged: african american, Crystal Allen, interview

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11. call for proposals: REFORMA

The Call for Proposals to present at the Fifth REFORMA National Conference (RNC5) taking place in San Diego, CA, April 1-4, 2015, is now open! REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking


Please visit the website below to get the information and send your proposals for leading presentations, facilitating breakout sessions, or exhibiting posters. The conference’s theme is “Libraries Without Borders: Creating Our Future”. The 2014 REFORMA National Conference Program Committee will evaluate proposals for relevance to the conference theme, as well as clarity, originality, and timeliness.

http://reforma.org/rncv_cfp

 

Deadline is September 1, 2014.


Filed under: librarianship, Opportunities, professional development Tagged: ALA, Librarianship, REFORMA

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12. review: Naughts and Crosses

+-+35697920_140Title: Naughts and Crosses

author: Malorie Blackman

date: 2001; Simon and Schuster

main character: Callum McGregor

 

 

Crosses and naughts. Blacks and whites.

Crosses and noughts is the British name for tic tac toe. Malorie Blackman uses the title to describe an alternative universe where Blacks are superior to Whites with Jim Crow type racism playing out in a contemporary setting. Callum is among a small group of naughts selected to attend a prestigious all Cross school. Sephy, a Cross, is Callum’s close friend and also attends this school.

At the same time, there’s espionage and tom foolery as the Cross dominated government works to maintain power. Things come to a head, people are killed and Callum becomes something we could not have predicted at the beginning of the book. He and Sephy begin as such naïve innocents so lacking in motivation that they do little to draw readers into the story. They somehow seem too old and too involved with the world to not understand how race is played out.

Blackman predicates her world on the racism that currently exists but in her world the privilege is reversed. Simple enough job of world building there! As mentioned, I didn’t care for the characters enough to invest in the story. The back and forth ‘lets be friends/lets not be friends’ was fickle and annoying. Labeled as a thriller, suspense was slow to boil. I was surprised that there were so many ‘Britishims’ in the book that left this American often wondering about the meaning. I wonder about the editing that changed the spelling in the title but left so much British in the books.

Naughts and Crosses is an award winning 5 books series that is extremely popular around the world. Malorie Blackman has written over 50 children’s and young adult books and currently serves as the United Kingdom’s Children’s Laureate 2013-15. Her most recent books is Noble Conflict (Doubleday).

Needless to say, I want to read more works by Ms. Blackman. While this book didn’t work well for me, there may be others that will.


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: British, Mallory Blackmon, speculative fiction

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13. Free Books! Apply for the Great Books Giveaway

Need some new books for your YA collection? Consider applying for the Great Books Giveaway administered by YALSA. Each year, the YALSA office receives approximately 2000 newly published books, videos, CDs and other materials targeted primarily towards young adults. These are awarded to libraries that submit winning applications to the Great Books Giveaway. For more information, visit this page and review the guidelines below.
Guidelines

  1. Applicants must be personal members of YALSA as well as ALA. Organizational members are not eligible.
  2. All applications must be received complete in the YALSA office no later than December 1.
  3. All entries must include the cover sheet provided by YALSA.
  4. The application must be signed by the director of the public library, the superintendent of schools, the building-level administrator or the director of the institution.
  5. Applicants must agree to accept all the materials, understanding this collection is material targeted primarily for young adults, ages 12-18.
  6. The cover sheet, supplementary materials and an electronic copy of the current, board-approved collection development policy must be submitted via email by December 1. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  7. Shipping and handling charges are the responsibility of the institution selected to receive the award.

This content originally appeared in an email from YALSA.


Filed under: Grants Tagged: free books, yalsa

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14. Quick Little Post of Possibilities

Hi!

Book reviews to write, classes to plan and, another article underway. So, I’m just going to quickly share to really good opportunities that I really hope one of my readers will jump at.

First, The International Reading Association’s 60th Annual Conference, “Transforming Lives Through Literacy”will be held 18-20 July in St. Louis. Proposals are being accept until 14 July. That’s this Monday, folks so turn on the thinking cap, email that librarian or illustrator or author who just might, who maybe could … explore the possibilities! This is our opportunity to shine a light on the fact that #WeNeedDiverseBooks!

Another impending deadline:

One of the principles of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association is to promote literacy in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.  In 2013 The Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association Board voted to create a program  to provide a $1000 grant  to be awarded annually to a non-profit literacy project, nominated by a GLIBA member store.
 
Jim Dana was the founder of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, and served as the Executive Director until his retirement in 2010, when he joined the Peace Corps.  Jim was always involved in efforts to increase literacy while at GLIBA, and continuing during his time serving in the Peace Corps.  It is in his honor that the award is named.
 
Nominations for the grant must be received in the GLIBA office by July 15, 2014. The award will be presented at the Heartland Fall Forum which will be in Minneapolis, MN September 29-October 2, 2014.
 

Go for it!! #ShineOn!!


Filed under: literacy, professional development Tagged: Call for Proposals, International Reading Association, literacy grant

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15. review: Feral Nights

title: Feral NightsFeral+Nights+Final

author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

date: Candlewick; 2013

main character: Yoshi Kitihara

Yoshi is a high school senior being raised by his grandmother in Oklahoma well, until grams catches him with this girl he brought home for the night. Gram has a strict “No Company Allowed” policy that she enforces with a shotgun. Yoshi is given the boot and he decides to head to Texas in search of his sister, Ruby. Oh, they’re a werecat family.

Feral Nights is told in multiple voices. While I’ve had enough of multi voiced books to last me a lifetime, Leitich Smith carries it off quite well. The voices are unique and easy to distinguish.

There’s Clyde, a werepossum with 4 younger siblings. He sees ghosts.

Travis, whom Ruby is suspected of killing. He’s a ghost.

And there’s Aimee, a human who genuinely likes werepeople.

The witty dialog and use of present tense writing keep the story moving at a brisk pace. Leitich Smith smoothly packs in a unique, descriptive backstory as she builds an incredible world of werepeople, vampires, deities and humans. Wereanimals (werecats, wereorcas, werebears, werelions…) are at the core of the story with a werecat accused of killing a werearmadillo. More than that, they’re Ruby and Travis. While everyone has animal characteristics, they each also have fully developed human personalities. That Leitich Smith manages to do this all in 290 pages is amazing. Just as the reader has gotten familiar with the characters and the relationships they’re building, everything flips on its head. Needless to say, this is not a predictable story.

This review is really doing the book little justice because Leitich Smith so flawlessly weaves her tale. It’s like watching anyone who does something well: you don’t want to pick it apart because you just want to enjoy the artistry.

Feral Nights is the first book in the Feral Series. Feral Curse was released this past January and Feral Pride is forthcoming. All books are published by Candlewick. Cynthia Leitich Blogs at Cynsations. She’s the best selling author of the Tantalize series, Jingle Dancer (HarperCollins) and Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins) and number other books.


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: Cynthia Leitich Smith, native american, series

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16. New Releases: July

The following books YA written by authors of color are released in July 2014. Know of others? Please, leave a comment!

Need covers? They’re on my Pinterest page.

JULY
Pig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez; Cinco Puntos
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne; Disney Hyperion
The Shadow Hero: Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew; First Second Press 
Falling Into Place; Amy Zhang; Greenwillow Press
Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid; Harlequin Teen
Put Your Diamonds Up (Hollywood High) by NiNi Simone and Amir Abrams; K Teen Press
The Vast and Brutal Sea (The Vicious Deea) by Zoraida Cordova; Sourbooks Fire

Filed under: Me Being Me

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17. Saturday Trailer: Summer of Yesterday

What better day for book trailers than a Saturday?

Gaby Triana’s Summer of Yesterday was released in June.

Back to the Future meets Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Haley’s summer vacation takes a turn for the retro in this totally rad romantic fantasy.

Summer officially sucks. Thanks to a stupid seizure she had a few months earlier, Haley’s stuck going on vacation with her dad and his new family to Disney’s Fort Wilderness instead of enjoying the last session of summer camp back home with her friends. Fort Wilderness holds lots of childhood memories for her father, but surely nothing for Haley. But then a new seizure triggers something she’s never before experienced—time travel—and she ends up in River Country, the campground’s long-abandoned water park, during its heyday.

The year? 1982.

And there—with its amusing fashion, “oldies” music, and primitive technology—she runs into familiar faces: teenage Dad and Mom before they’d even met. Somehow, Haley must find her way back to the twenty-first century before her present-day parents anguish over her disappearance, a difficult feat now that she’s met Jason, one of the park’s summer residents and employees, who takes the strangely dressed stowaway under his wing.

Seizures aside, Haley’s used to controlling her life, and she has no idea how to deal with this dilemma. How can she be falling for a boy whose future she can’t share? (Amazon)


Filed under: trailers Tagged: Gaby Triana, Latinao, trailer

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18. New Releases: June

 
The Truth Against the World by Sarah Jamila Stevenson; Flux
In her parents’ San Francisco flat, Olwen Nia Evans, Wyn for short, has been having unsettling dreams about her family’s past in Wales. But her dreams don’t match up with what she’s been told by her dying grandmother, Rhiannon. On the other side of the world, in London, a boy named Gareth Lewis is having disturbing dreams about a frightening encounter with a ghost. A ghost named Olwen Nia Evans.
When he looks for Olwen’s name online, Gareth connects with Wyn in San Francisco as she is preparing to move with her family to fulfill Rhiannon’s last wish to die in Wales. Once Wyn arrives in Wales, she and Gareth join forces to discover the truth of the lost soul that’s haunting them both.
Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana; Simon Pulse
Back to the Future meets Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Haley’s summer vacation takes a turn for the retro in this totally rad romantic fantasy.

Summer officially sucks. Thanks to a stupid seizure she had a few months earlier, Haley’s stuck going on vacation with her dad and his new family to Disney’s Fort Wilderness instead of enjoying the last session of summer camp back home with her friends. Fort Wilderness holds lots of childhood memories for her father, but surely nothing for Haley. But then a new seizure triggers something she’s never before experienced—time travel—and she ends up in River Country, the campground’s long-abandoned water park, during its heyday. The year? 1982.

And there—with its amusing fashion, “oldies” music, and primitive technology—she runs into familiar faces: teenage Dad and Mom before they’d even met. Somehow, Haley must find her way back to the twenty-first century before her present-day parents anguish over her disappearance, a difficult feat now that she’s met Jason, one of the park’s summer residents and employees, who takes the strangely dressed stowaway under his wing. Seizures aside, Haley’s used to controlling her life, and she has no idea how to deal with this dilemma. How can she be falling for a boy whose future she can’t share?

Rivals in the City: A Mary Quinn Mystery by Y. S. Lee; Walker Books
This is the fourth colourful and action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. Mary Quinn and James Easton have set up as private detectives and are also unofficially engaged to be married. But when the Agency asks Mary to take on a special final case, she can’t resist, and agrees. Convicted fraudster Henry Thorold (from book one, A Spy in the House) is dying in prison. His daughter, Angelica, is coming to see him one last time. Mary’s brief is to monitor these visits in case Mrs Thorold, last heard of as a fugitive in France, decides to pay him one last visit. But Mrs Thorold’s return would place James in grave personal danger. Thanks to the complications of love and family loyalties, the stakes for everyone involved are higher than ever. This is the final book in the Mary Quinn Mystery series. It is perfect for fans of Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series and Victorian culture. It is a vivid, well-researched and lively historical / detective fiction with a strong female protagonist and a smart romance.
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin’s Griffin
Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.
But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.
Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.
Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller.
Tales From A Not-So-Glam TV Star (Dork Diaries) by Rachel Renée Russell; Aladdin
Everyone’s been rooting for Nikki Maxwell and her crush, Brandon—and fans will finally learn if they had their first kiss in this seventh book of the New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

Nikki’s juggling a lot this month. A reality TV crew is following Nikki and her friends as they record their hit song together, plus there are voice lessons, dance practice, and little sister Brianna’s latest wacky hijinks. Nikki’s sure she can handle everything, but will all the excitement cause new problems for Nikki and Brandon, now that cameras are everywhere Nikki goes?

 
Discover more new, diverse releases at Rich in Color 

Filed under: New Books

1 Comments on New Releases: June, last added: 6/11/2014
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19. Rambling on a Rainy Tuesday

This morning, I suddenly realized that one reason I don’t do as many informational posts any more is because I post what I find on Facebook. Please, feel free to follow me there!

Have you had a chance to read “Against YA”? I’ve read pretty lively attacks directed at the thoughts expressed in the article and interesting to note they all came from authors of YA and kidlit, librarians and others with a unique relationship to the industry. Did bankers pay this any attention? How do plumbers and astronomers react to news of so many adults reading books written for those years or decades younger? The decades? That would be me. I honestly doubt I would fill my world with YA if I were not a librarian who works in the field. I know I wouldn’t. Perhaps I would pick up a YA books now and then, but I wouldn’t have the steady diet. I don’t like a steady diet of any gene, any ethnicity or any one thing when I read. I really like this from BookRiot on reading beyond your depths. I feel a constant back and forth in my reading, from stretching my imagination with a good YA spec fic to relaxing into an adult romance to expanding the bounds of my knowledge with professional nonfic. #INeedDiverseBooks

Yesterday, I finally made it back to the gym and as always, I used my time on the treadmill to get some reading done. I’m reading Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Feral Nights at home but prefer reading on my Nook when I’m on the treadmill. So, I began reading Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin. As works of speculative fiction, both of these books require world building. The writers had to create myth, place, names, and problems that do not exist in their day to day life. I looked at Cynthia’s blog to get an idea how authors tackle such a project and found Malinda Lo discussing Ash (Little Brown, 2009). Cynthia asked Malinda how she goes about building worlds in her writing.

I was an anthropology graduate student when I began working on Ash, so I approached the world-building from an anthropologist’s perspective. I thought a lot about the rituals that mark the turning points in life–birth, marriage, and especially death.

This was particularly important for Ash because the story begins when Ash loses both her mother and father. I studied funerary rituals in China when I was in grad school, and I relied heavily on that knowledge when I wrote about Ash’s parents’ funerals, and when thinking about how people in that world think about death and dying.

Another of the most significant aspects of the Cinderella story is the fact that the stepmother wants her daughters to make wealthy marriages. I read a lot of analysis of fairy tales, and discovered that many tales included stepmothers because mothers often died in childbirth, and fathers were forced to remarry because they needed a wife to help raise the children.

These family structures might set up a situation in which a stepmother is forced to raise both her own children and another woman’s, and in a world of scarcity, this naturally sets up a kind of competition.

For girls, marriage was basically their ticket to freedom–a girl had to marry in order to support herself later in life, and it was to her advantage to marry well.

If a stepmother is raising both her daughter and her husband’s daughter from his earlier marriage, and there are few eligible males around, it might not be surprising that she would favor her biological daughter.

Obviously not all stepmothers are like this! But doing this research helped me to understand why a stepmother might act this way.

So, I guess I thought about the worldbuilding in a fairly intellectual, anthropological way! But then when I wrote, I kind of just loosened my focus and allowed it to become the background–the motivator for characters’ actions. I didn’t bother describing all the rituals or reasonings behind decisions; I focused on how those rules and practices would influence a character’s behavior. source

As with any writing, authors bring what they know and how they’ve come to view the world into their creation process.

Eric Gansworth’s If I Ever Get Out of Here didn’t have to involve world building, but I think when Eric considered his audience, he realized he’d have to build his world for them to enrich the story. How skillfully he did that! He took us right inside his character’s world and made us feel as though we were accepted.

I wonder which is more difficult, writing about a newly created world or one we intimately know. How does one become aware of things they’ve come to take so much for granted and know they need to be described to an audience?

Some of the following have recently been posted on my FB page.

Saturday 16 August is the date of this year’s International Children’s and Young Adult Literature Celebration: Muslim Journeys. This one day workshop will feature authors Ali Alalou, Saideh Hamshidi, Rukhsana Khan and Naheed Senzai. “This year the celebration will focus on Muslim Journeys by exploring new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, and cultures of Muslims around the world, through presentations on literature, media, history and social organizations.”

Creative Child Magazine, published by Scooterbay Publishing (a company that doesn’t appear too focused on diversity), focuses on “helping parents nurture their child’s creativity”. Yesterday, they selected Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom (Tuttle Publishing) as the Book of the Year, kid’s books category.

Works of many outstanding authors appeared on this year’s Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year List, including the following authors. Congratulations! Lists were created for a variety of genre for under 5, 5-9, 9-13, 12-14 and 14 and up. I did not look at the 5-9 list.

Margarita Engle The Lightening Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Poet (HMH) (12-14 Historical Fiction and 12-14 Poetry)

Margarita Engle Mountain Dog (Henry Holt)

Rita Williams-Garcia: P.S. Be Eleven (Amistad Press/Harper Collins)

Lesa Cline-Ransome: Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secret (Jump At The Sun)

Jewell Parker Rhodes Sugar (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

Diana López Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel (Little Brown and Co.)

Andrea Cheng The Year of the Baby (Houghton Mifflin)

Andrea Cheng Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet (Lee and Low)

Cynthia Kadahata The Thing About Luck (Atheneum)

Angela Cervantes Gaby, Lost and Found (Scholastic Press)

Farhana Zia The Garden of My Imaan (Peachtree)

Eric Gansworth If I Ever Get Out of Here (Arthur A. Levine0

Crystal Allen The Laura Line (Balzer + Bray)

Nikki Grimes Words With Wings (Wordsong)

Shaun Tan The Bird King: An Artists Notebook (Arthur A. Levine)

Andrea Davis Pinkney Peace Warriors (Scholastic)

Tonya Bolden Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty (Abrams)

Matt de la Peña The Living (Delacorte Press)

Patrick Scott Flores Jumped In (Christy Ottaviano Books)

Carol Blythe Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty-Girl (Delacorte Press)

Gene Luen Yang Boxers (First Second)

Gene Luen Yang Saints (First Second)

Lynn Joseph Flowers in the Sky (Harper Teen)

Alaya Dawn Johnson The Summer Prince (Arthur A. Levine)

Sherri L. Smith Orleans (Putnam Juvenile)

Swati Avasthi Chasing Shadows (Alfred A. Knopf)

Walter Dean Myers Darius & Twig (Amistad)

I am really enjoying the BrownBookShelf’s Making Our Own Market series. Not only am I learning how African Americans are succeeding in various areas of the book industry, but I’m learning more and more about the industry itself. Most recently, Kirsten Cappy of Curious City discusses marketing African American titles. Here, she talks about how her work to promote Terry Farish’s The Good Braider (Amazon Children’s Publishing).

In “creating partners for the book by finding commonalities,” I reached out to a young Sudanese hip hop artist and shared a galley of the book with him.  A few months later OD Bonny told me the book reminded him of his flight out of South Sudan alongside his brothers.  I asked if we could pay to use one of his songs as the audio for a book trailer.  He responded, “Why wouldn’t you want a song of your own? I’ll write it. Tonight.”

When I heard his song, “Girl From Juba,” I realized that it was not just marketing, but a reader’s genuine tribute to a work of fiction. An author can have no greater gift.  I also realized that I did not need to be the one to produce this trailer. I transferred the book trailer funds to OD and the music video/book trailer was created with an all Sudanese American cast (save one Irish kid), crew, and director. The video had 1000 hits within a week, not of book professionals, but of Sudanese and African American young adults that follow OD’s music.

Ok, I have some writing of my own to do!

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Authors, awards, professional development Tagged: Bank Street Books, Brown Book Shelf, Cynthia Leitich Smith, diversity; World Read Aloud Day; World Book Night; Mike Mullin; Local Authors, Eric Gansworth, Malinda Lo

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20. review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

 Listen, if you are a sucker for sister books, you will LOVE THIS, just LOVE THIS." Good Books Good Wine

” Listen, if you are a sucker for sister books, you will LOVE THIS, just LOVE THIS.” Good Books Good Wine

title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

author: Jenny Han

date: Simon and Schuster; April, 2014

main character: Lara Jean Song Covey

 

I began this book expecting a nice, light summer story; one of those good romances that I haven’t read in a very long time

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has such a sweet start. Oldest sister, Margo, is about to leave for college in Scotland and her sisters are going to miss her dearly. The girls are tender in their relationships and delicate with each others’  feelings. Their mother is deceased but to the girls still refer to her as ‘mommy’ and their father as ‘daddy’. Margot has been the family’s caretaker and her leaving is a major shift in the structure of the home. We get small clues of the shift when Lara Jean’s coffee isn’t just right and then, she has a car accident.

Lara Jean is in love with the idea of love. She’s a high school senior with a sense of innocence. Lara writes love letters to boys she’s loved since childhood, letters that she never intends to share with anyone. Now as a teenager, she’s always manages to avoid any opportunity for real romance and the only reason she finally has a relationship with a boy is because she stumbles into it.

With her older sister gone, Lara no longer has a shadow in which to hide so, she has to figure out her relationship with Josh (the boy next door who is very much a part of the family), Peter (the dreamboat), Chris (her most unlikely boyfriend) and even with her sisters. We often don’t realize that as we grow and change, our relationships must do the same. We need and perceive people in different ways. This change isn’t always subtle or easy no matter how special the relationship, as Lara Jean finds out.

 There’s a specific kind of fight you can only have with your sister. It’s the kind where you say things you can’t take back. You say them because you can’t help but say them, because you’re so angry it’s coming up your throat and out your eyes; you’re so angry you can’t see straight.

As soon as Daddy leaves and I hear him go to his room to get ready for bed, I barge into Margo’s room without knocking. Margot is at her desk on her laptop. She looks up at me in surprise.

In defining these relationships, Han builds strong consistent characters, except for Josh, the boy next door. He was never more than the all around good guy. Other characters in the story are revealed in their actions, conversations and through other characters. Certainly, one of the strengths of this book is Han’s ability to develop her characters.I was given room to not like elements of many of those I read about while still becoming invested in them and wanting to know their outcome.

Lara Jean’s bi-cultural heritage was an integral part of the story. She was very much just one of the gang but things like the way she prepared for Halloween reminded us of her Korean background.

I thoroughly enjoyed To All The Boys. This story that seemed so smarmily sweet incorporated tough issues that many of us experience at one time or another in our relationships. I read an ARC that had a few spots that needed to be repaired, but I hope and pray the ending did not change!


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: bi-racial, Jenny Han, Korean, relationships

1 Comments on review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, last added: 6/15/2014
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21. Heaven Help Us All

weneeddiversebooks-logo

My plan: To write a quick little post about summer reading and summer at ALA. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans.

I wasn’t online last night and missed the Limbaugh shenanigans. Only a small part of me wants to understand the method to this man’s madness the rest of me wonders about those in this country that give power to not only to him but to a press that continues to sensationalize any event by addressing our emotions rather than our intellect when we think they’re providing us with information.

I could tell you that I know Deborah Menkart and Deborah Menkart is not racist. One cannot be authentic in their understanding of another culture if they do not embrace their own culture. If you’ve missed it, he accuses Menkart and Teaching for Change of being racist because they don’t sell his book. His book by the way, that is racist and inaccurate in its portrayal of US history. But, spending time in is web gives it power.

People of color can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racist, because they don’t have the institutional power.

Racism = prejudice + power

Whereas 50 years ago, my ancestors in the Delta finally had the power to leave the segregated South for the racism of Chicago. Did those schools in the Delta even have a library? I know some of my relatives were illiterate and I know how hard they worked to get their children into school. Institutional racism is a bitch.

40 years ago my parents had the power to live in a segregated neighborhood while they sent their children to a school that was 98% white. There were no books by any authors of color in that school library and the social studies teacher my 7th grade year refused to teach about Africa. How in the world I formed my racial identity is a mystery! I don’t even remember checking about books with black children from the public library in the black neighborhood.

30 years ago my husband and I had the power to move to Indianapolis and was immediately told which neighborhoods to avoid. We carefully selected an area with ‘good’ schools that had a diverse student population. The teaching staff however, did not reflect this diversity. My daughter often complained that she never could find books in the library about teens like herself. Nonetheless, my children were empowered by the education they received in these schools and are building successful careers.

20 years ago I had the power of a classroom teacher. My US History classes were no doubt afrocentric as was my classroom library. I had to work to find books for my students, but I had them reading. And questioning. I was in one of the worst performing schools in the state of Indiana. I felt like I was giving them tiny drops of water. Institutional racism wastes minds and that’s a terrible thing.

It may take a while to get power; it may take a long while. But, no one is going to give it to you. Sometimes, we only think we have power, but isn’t that all that matters? Isn’t life all about the perception? I think that’s what Limbaugh has figured out. I have the power to dismiss insanity from my life and to sit back and by a good book written by an author of color.

Currently Reading: Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Support Teaching for Change.

Follow the hashtags, join the conversation #DiversityatALA #WeNeedDiverseBooks

 


Filed under: Causes, Diversity Issues Tagged: #weneeddiversbooks, Teaching For Change

3 Comments on Heaven Help Us All, last added: 6/17/2014
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22. author interview: Estela Bernal

Estela Bernal made her debut as an author this past May with Can You See Me Now? (Pinata/Arte Publico). As you get to know her today and find out a little more about Can You See Me Now? you’ll be impressed but, be even more impressed to know that she’s donating 100% of her proceeds to education and animal rights.

Just a little about the book. Kirkus says:

Tragedy strikes on Mandy’s 13th birthday when her father is struck by a drunk driver and killed. Now grief—both her own and her mother’s—complicates the already confusing landscape of early adolescence.

can u see me nowWith her mother working more and more hours in the wake of her father’s death, Mandy begins spending most of her time living with her grandmother. Often the target of bullies, loner Mandy approaches Paloma to be her partner for a school project. Paloma is also a misfit, but she carries herself with a self-assured grace that Mandy finds compelling. As she becomes closer to Paloma, she learns about the practices of yoga and meditation, which are foundational in Paloma’s family. An overweight boy in class, Rogelio, is also touched by tragedy when his family’s home burns down, and Paloma invites him to join their yoga crew. As the three continue practicing together, they each begin to cultivate their own peace amid the chaos in their lives. Though each faces personal challenges, they find friendship and support in one another. Bernal has succeeded in crafting a story that acknowledges tragedy without wallowing in it, placing her emphasis on resilience and personal growth. The quick pace and distinctive characters make for a smooth, well-crafted read.

Middle-grade readers should respond to this tender story of learning to connect with others through open eyes and an open heart. (Fiction. 10-13)


And Estela’s interview!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in South Texas (the Rio Grande Valley).

Estela Bernal

Estela Bernal

Do you have any pets?

I love animals and have had many pets through the years.  I currently have two cats.

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

I grew up in a home where we had no books.  There were no public libraries in my hometown either.  Despite the lack of age-appropriate reading material, I fell in love with books as soon as I learned to read.  I remember reading the Weekly Reader and whatever else I could get my hands on at school.  Although I don’t remember where I got it, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth was one book I read and re-read.  I’ve always been a dreamer and this book opened up an exotic new and very fascinating world to me. 

Meat or vegetables?

Vegetables, absolutely!  As an animal lover, I volunteered with many animal welfare organizations until I was able to form my own.  Through it I do community education and help provide low-cost spay/neuter services to residents’ pets in underserved communities.  It would be hard to justify rescuing some animals while eating others.  Besides, I find that when I eat a healthy diet, I feel so much better.

Which famous person would you most like to have write a review for your book?

So many famous and not-so-famous people come to mind.  It always makes me happy to hear about celebrities and other public figures who are also great philanthropists and who help raise awareness about some very important issues facing society today.  But there are also many unsung heroes quietly working to help make their communities better places to live.  I sincerely believe we all have the potential to do good and that, after all, is what really matters.   Two of my own favorite causes are education and animal welfare so my choice would have to be someone with similar ideals.

What three things would you like to add to a list of national treasures?

Although man-made treasures are priceless, I believe that natural treasures are absolutely essential.  I’d love to see all public waterways, land (public, private, agricultural), and all living beings protected and preserved for our well-being and that of future.

 

Why would you be up at 3am?

Usually, I’m only up at that time if I’m traveling and have to catch an early flight.

What book(s) are you currently in the middle of reading?

I’m currently making my way through a 100 Greatest Books for Kids list and just started Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Becoming Naomi León.  I’m also reading my latest copy of Glimmer Train.

What made you decide to write about a teen who discovers yoga?

One of my nephews died accidentally a few years ago.  The accident happened in front of his wife and children and I began to wonder how such a tragic event would affect any family who witnessed such a tragedy. That also got me thinking about how a child, already weighed down by grief, would cope with the additional burden of parental abandonment and being bullied on top of everything else.   Adolescence is tough enough as it is, and adding all this other stress can lead to such despair that anyone could easily be overwhelmed.  I wanted to introduce the idea that there are alternatives to violence, that there is help even when we think there is no safe way out of certain situations, and most importantly, that there are ways to access inner peace. 

When I first discovered yoga, I was going through a stressful period in my life and still remember the feeling of calm and well-being that I experienced when I was able to slow down the thoughts racing through my mind long enough to catch my breath and try to put things in perspective.  The character Paloma seemed the perfect vehicle through which to introduce the topic and Mandy, of course, was the ideal student.

I’m sorry to hear your family experienced such a tragedy. I can definitely see how that experience could inspire your writing.

I haven’t had the opportunity to read Can You See Me Now, but I do know it’s about a thirteen-year-old girl whose father dies in a car accident and her mother blames her for it. At 13 (or there about) to which adult were you the closest?

I was a very shy child and at thirteen I was closest to my mother.  Because I was the youngest child in my family and my parents were old enough to be my grandparents, the fear of losing them seemed to always be in the back of my mind.  If my mother wasn’t there when I got home from school or from playing with my friends, I panicked.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Again, this is a hard question to answer because there are so many authors I admire, but I’d have to say Harper Lee ranks pretty high on my list along with Sandra Cisneros.  Although their work is very different, I find the characters so easy to relate to and the stories so hard to forget.

What’s the trick to writing humor?

I’m sure there is a trick to it and I suppose part of it is to be naturally funny.  I don’t set out to write humor, but because I do write about serious issues which can be hard to address when writing for a younger audience, I try to ease the tension by including bits of humor here and there as I weave the story.  The humor I use is based on things that tickle my own funny bone.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity to me is inclusivity.  I try to write about things that all readers can relate to regardless of their racial or social background because, no matter what other commonalities we may or may not share, there are certain things that we all have to experience at some point in life.

Speaking of diversity, I’m glad to see that the need for diversity in children’s literature is finally starting to get the attention it deserves.  Although the need has always been there, it’s great that diversity among the writing population is also changing, however gradually. 

Thanks, Estela! It’s a pleasure getting to know you!

Visit Estela’s website.


Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: Arte Publico, interview, latino, middle grade fiction, Pinata

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23. book review: Drift

maintitle: Drift

author: M. K. Hutchins

date: Tu Books, May 2014

main character: Tenjat

M.K. Hutchins gave herself one helluva challenge of world building with this one. I think she’s taught me that when reading speculative fiction, it’s advisable to look for the author’s notes in order to better understand this new world and the premise upon which it is built. The island world of turtle’s she created really was well crafted and readers quickly become invested in it. I just couldn’t get past how and why a civilization would live on the backs of turtles but after reading her notes and understanding the mythology she used, I had a better understanding.

Tenjat and his father are described as having brown faces. Little other reference to skin color is provided, although some characters are describe as being shaded like the wood. There are distinct differences in the roles of men and women and the worst thing anyone can be called is ‘hub’, short for husband. This is because being a husband and having children selfishly weighs down the turtle. Tenjat wants to become a Handler so that he can better provide for his sister and himself. Just before entering the tree for his training, thoughts are planed that have Tenjat questioning everything he’s come to know. How will he find answers?

Hutchins writes a unique fantasy based in multiple mythologies in which she explores gender based roles, family structures, the environment and what we essentially believe about the cycle of life and death. I did eventually like this story. While reading, I had a difficult time getting a grasp on Eflet’s age (Eflet is his younger sister). I couldn’t figure out how they breathed underwater, either. Character development was lax, as is often the case in action driven stories. But, there are stregnths in Huthin’s writings. Layers of explanations for personal and societal battles are slowly peeled away as Tenjat begins to have things revealed to him. She does a good job of maintaining suspense.

Drift is a very unique book both in its plot and in its issues. The complexities hit me big time at the end and they have left me considering and questioning many things. A book that leaves you with many considerations is a good book!

M.K. Hutchins has had short fiction appear in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show and Daily Science Fiction. Drift is her debut novel.


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: speculative fiction, Tu Books

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24. SundayMorningReads

Ah, the books of summer. My thoughts were pointed in this direction the other day when NPR aired their piece on road trips. They really had me when they closed with Christopher Paul Curtis’ Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963. I loved that they put this book in the middle of adult summer reading. I loved how that truly articulated diversity in a summer reading list.

 

SUMMER

Chameleon by Charles Smith; Candlewick

Shooting the breeze with his boys. Tightening his D on the court. Doing a color check — making sure nobody’s wearing blue or red, which some Crip or Piru carrying a cut-down golf club would see as disrespect. Then back to Auntie’s, hoping she isn’t passed out from whiskey at the end of the day. Now that Shawn is headed for high school, he wonders if he’d be better off at the school in Mama’s neighborhood, where he’d be free of Compton’s hassles. But then he wouldn’t be with his fellas — cracking jokes, covering each other’s backs — or the fine Marisol, who’s been making star appearances in his dreams. Dad says he needs to make his own decision, but what does Shawn want, freedom or friendship? With teasing, spot-on dialogue and an eye to the realities of inner-city life, CHAMELEON takes on the shifting moods of a teenager coming of age.

Marcelo in the Real World Francisco Stork; Scholastic

Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear–part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify–and he’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.”

Death, Dickinson and the Demented life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres-Sanchez; Running Press Kids

It is the summer after Frenchie Garcia’s senior year, and she can’t come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Her friends don’t know that she had a secret crush on her classmate, and they especially don’t know that she was with Andy right before he committed suicide. The only person who does know is Frenchie’s imaginary pal Em (a.k.a. Emily Dickinson), who she hangs out with at the cemetery down the street.

When Frenchie’s guilt and confusion come to a head, she decides there is only one way to truly figure out why Andy chose to be with her during his last hours. While exploring the emotional depth of loss and transition to adulthood, Sanchez’s sharp humor and clever observations bring forth a richly developed voice.

ROAD TRIP!!!

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin; Little Brown Books for Young Readers

When Pacy, her two sisters, and their parents go to Taiwan to celebrate Grandma’s sixtieth birthday, the girls learn a great deal about their heritage.

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle; Road Runner Press

Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, HOW I BECAME A GHOST is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book’s opening line, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before,” the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac s talking dog, Jumper. The first in a trilogy, HOW I BECAME A GHOST thinly disguises an important and oft-overlooked piece of history.

Mare’s War by Tanita Davis; Knopf Books for Young Readers

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. 

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.

The Living by Matt de la Pena; Delacorte Press

 Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.
   But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.
   The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah ; Scholastic

Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab’s life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they’re on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat’s best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair’s side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.

Sofi Mendoza’s guide to getting lost in Mexico Malin Alegria; Simon Pulse

Even though Sofi Mendoza was born in Mexico, she’s spent most of her life in California — the closest she gets to a south-of-the-border experience is eating at Taco Bell. But when Sofi and her friends sneak off for a weekend in Tijuana, she gets in real trouble. To Sofi’s shock, the border patrol says that her green card is counterfeit. Until her parents can sort out the paperwork and legal issues, Sofi is stuck in Mexico. 

In the meantime, Sofi’s parents arrange for her to stay with long-lost relatives in rural Baja. It’s bad enough that Sofi has to miss senior prom and even graduation, but her aunt, uncle, and cousins live on a ranch with no indoor plumbing! As the weeks pass, though, she finds herself adapting to her surroundings. Sofi starts helping out on the ranch, getting along with her bratty cousins, and she even meets a guy with more potential than anyone from school. Through the unexpected crash course in her heritage, Sofi comes to appreciate that she has a home on both sides of the border.

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake: Tor

Old Gods never die…Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health. Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. 

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath. The Goddess War is about to begin.

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon; Greenwillow Books

Ai Ling can see into other people’s minds and reach into their spirits. But she doesn’t know why this power has awakened inside her. She only knows that it is growing. It leads her on an epic journey—one that brings her to the edge of the deepest evil.

Chen Yong has a quest of his own, but then his path crosses Ai Ling’s. And there’s a connection so strong that neither can ignore it.Now they must face terrifying demons determined to kill them, and battle through treacherous lands. It is their destiny. But can destiny keep them together?

 

There are so many more! What else written by an author of color smacks of summer, road trips or summer road trips?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Me Being Me Tagged: summer; road trips

1 Comments on SundayMorningReads, last added: 6/22/2014
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25. Gone

Yesterday was not a good day for American literature.

First came an email from WBN U.S. chairman, and Hachette Book Group CEO, Michael Pietsch stating

After three years in which thousands and thousands of you distributed over a million and half specially-printed World Book Night paperbacks across America, we are sad to announce that we are suspending operations. The expenses of running World Book Night U.S., even given the significant financial and time commitment from publishers, writers, booksellers, librarians, printers, distributors, shippers–and you, our amazing givers!–are too high to sustain.

World Book Night UK also faces financial difficulties.

Then, the truly bad news. Walter Dean Myers passed away.

While I feel as though I met Myers every time I picked up one of his books, I only met him once in person and that was on my first visit to the McConnell Conference in Kentucky. Myers and Brian Collier were the author and illustrator joining the conference that year. Of course I got autographs! I remember spelling “Edi” for Myers (as I do often have to do so that I don’t get “Edie”) and he looked at me in a way that made me think maybe, maybe one of his characters will have that name.

Did you know Walter Dean Myers has the largest collection of African American photographs in the country?

He won the very first Michael J. Printz Award.

His first book was Where Does the Day Go? published by Parents Magazine Press in 1969.

I don’t have a lot of stories and references, just the experience of meeting him in books. Some I read before I knew what greatness he was but even then, it didn’t matter because I still had the same personal experience when I read Darius and Twig as I did reading Antarctica: Journey to the South Pole and Fast Sam, Cool Clyde and Stuff.

What are your memories of Myers and his work?

The tributes around the Internet help us realize how much we’ve lost and I think it through these words of others, Myers is still reaching us and still inspiring us. Someone close to him posted on his website.

Hope Is An Open Book

Walter Dean Myers Says ‘Reading not Optional for Kids’

Press Release Obituary-Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014)

To those of you who knew him better than I, I am regret you’ve lost someone so special. I pray that he rest in peace with perpetual light shining on him.

From here, the charge is clear. As Wade Hudson stated on Facebook “He fought tenaciously for change for more than 40 years. It is left to us to continue!!!”

Scheduled for release:

The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage written with Bill Miles (paperback release) 22 July

Hoops (paperback reprint) 23 September

On A Clear Day 23 September

Id B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told written with Bonnie Christian January 2015

 

 

 


Filed under: Authors Tagged: walter dean myers, World Book NIght

2 Comments on Gone, last added: 7/3/2014
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