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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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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!
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
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
, Crystal Allen
, Geust Reviewer
Have you been following #WeNeedDiverseBooks on FB or Tumblr? They’ve been coming up with spot on books pairs this summer.
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
, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
, school libraries
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.
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.
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?
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:
- All Senior Citizen Facilities or Nursing Homes. I believe senior citizens are our most beloved National Treasures.
- 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.
- 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
The Laura Line is your newest book. That title is so intriguing! Can you explain it, or will that give too
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.
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
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.
Deadline is September 1, 2014.
Filed under: librarianship
, professional development
Title: 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
, Mallory Blackmon
, speculative fiction
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.
- Applicants must be personal members of YALSA as well as ALA. Organizational members are not eligible.
- All applications must be received complete in the YALSA office no later than December 1.
- All entries must include the cover sheet provided by YALSA.
- 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.
- Applicants must agree to accept all the materials, understanding this collection is material targeted primarily for young adults, ages 12-18.
- 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.
- 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
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
title: Feral Nights
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
With 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).
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
Tagged: Arte Publico
, middle grade fiction
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
, Teaching For Change
” 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
, Jenny Han
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.
Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana; Simon Pulse
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.
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.
Tales From A Not-So-Glam TV Star (Dork Diaries) by Rachel Renée Russell; Aladdin
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.
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
title: Money Boy
author: Paul Yee
date: Groundwood Books; 2011
main character: Wei/Ray/Steel
While coming out stories are quite common place in queer teen literature, few if any are about a Chinese immigrant to Canada.
Wei’s father does a random check into to the history files of the family’s computer and discovers that his son has been cruising gay sites. The father kicks his son out of their home. Now homeless, Wei must decide if he is indeed gay, whether he should come out and how he’s going to make a living. Going home is not an option to him because in doing so, his father would win.
Wei is called ‘Ray’ by his American friends. He’s a recent immigrant who barely speaks English and he finds himself exploring China’s societal rules as he tries to decide how he will live his life. He’s well aware of China’s homophobia, but not sure if perhaps he could fit into Canadian society. He’s aware of the street lined with ‘money boys’, those boys who sell themselves for sex, and he doesn’t think he belongs there.
Wei’s never been a good student, yet he has street smarts. He comes from a place of privilege having grown up with the latest technology and all the brand name clothes that he prefers. On the streets he realizes how fast and how far he has fallen and at that same time, he must still behave in a manner that will not bring disgrace upon his family. He cannot give Westerners any reason to laugh at immigrants.
Paul Yee is a writer and historian living in Toronto, Canada. His recent books is The Secret Keepers.
Yee enunciates characters and situations through his use of setting and situations, often involving food and video games. While playing his favorite video game, Rebel Command, the narrator tells Wei;s alter ego Steel,
“No, Steel, you’re the coward. You fear failure. You would rather die quickly than work slowly to reduce the enemy’s power. Besides, what do you know about ordinary people? You were born into wealth.”
Some lines are so telling that they are just heart breaking. Others come after so much has been taken from Wei and begin to shed a glimmer of hope.
“I dig through all my pockets, fishing out every piece of loose change. My fingertips are stiff but they manage to count the coins. Behind me, office workers clear their throats and rustle their newspapers. At the last moment, I find just enough money.”
As more and more is taken from Wei, he finds himself on Bay Street at a Japanese restaurant. He walks us through the quality of the food, the origin of the music, the appearance of the men at the restaurant and the timbre of their voice. These men, these gay men, are Chinese. Here, Wei begins to find some of his answer. The other answers are with his family.
Filed under: Book Reviews
Tagged: Chinese Canadian
, Paul Yee
, queer lit
Another small press to put on your radar: Brown Girl Publishing.
From their site:
Our Company: Brown Girls Publishing is a boutique publishing company, focusing primarily on digital content, while still providing printed books through Amazon. Our goal is to provide a voice for literary fan favorites, while introducing the next generation of authors.
Our Founders: Between them, National Bestselling authors, ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray have more than two million books in print. The dynamic duo decided to combine their respective talents in a highly popular series, in addition to their successful solo careers. So naturally, their next endeavor would be something near and dear to their hearts – helping build the next generation of authors, while at the same time, spotlighting some fan favorites. Victoria, a former successful entrepreneur, also holds an MBA from New York University. ReShonda is a former TV journalist and marketing professional with over 20 years of experience.
Beautiful summer weather this Sunday afternoon! I began my day in the garden and had my first harvest. I had so little on my ‘to do’ list yesterday, no more than to go to the market and to read. The market here hasn’t even begun. And, the #weNeedDiverseBooks session at BEA was yesterday. I got myself to a diner to follow the tweets where I learned about plans for #WeNeedDiverseBooks to work with the National Education Association and First Book to plan a KitLit Diversity Expo in Washington DC in 2016. The jam-packed room resounded with support for the need for more diverse books and the momentum is just beginning.
No doubt it will take every day from now until then to plan the expo, but it will take everyone one of us being involved in kidlit to make it successful. Now more than ever is time to be present and any and every forum that relates to young adult literature, not just diversity. We have to continue showing up to stay part of the conversation. Join them on Twitter or Facebook if you can’t join in person.
As I reflect on the yesterday’s events, I considered two groups: librarians and young adults themselves.
I think it will be very hard for many young adults to express their desire for more books with characters like them. Those who do have a high level of awareness and will make extremely articulate cases for why we need more diverse books.
My own story is not unlike many of my generation, of not knowing I wanted books with black people until I’d found them. I grew up in Catholic all white schools and as an avid reader, I read whatever I could find. I remember going to the public library in the black neighborhood as a child. Black librarians (or were they clerks?) worked there but I do not remember books with black children then. I remember the good sisters giving me anthologies that contained stories and poems written by black authors and while I was initially embarrassed, I cherished those books and read them again and again. Probably in high school I found the Soul Brothers and Sister Lou. Definitely in high school I found Sammy Davis’ Junior’s Yes I Can and Margaret Walker’s Jubilee. I don’t remember any others, but I know the desire was there. Junior year I know I read Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Gwendolyn Brooks with some discomfort in my all white classes yet the topic I selected for my research project that year was LeRoi Jones.
Of course teachers need better training on cultural awareness, but the issue I’m looking at is the lack of books available to me in the library. What if I could have found them freely on my own? What if my classmates could have read books about black kids? Or Latina? Or Asian? How much more would we all have grown and developed? I can’t help but think that if I’d read more books with characters like me, I’d have found my voice sooner.
What experiences are young people of color today having with their reading selections? How many are able to find what they want? How many want more books with young people of differing color, nationality, sexual orientation or abilities? I remember how powerful Ari’s voice was and would like to hear from more young people.
I have to shake a finger of blame for the lack of diversity at my fellow librarians who continue to complain ‘the books are too hard to find’. I’m right here sharing book news as is Diversity in YA, Rich in Color, and American Indians in Children’s Literature as is your library’s booksellers as is Amazon!! (hint: search young adult African American) Library shelves should reflect the diversity of America!
In April, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) released “The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children”.
“The white paper explores the critical role libraries play in helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society. The paper calls for libraries to include diversity in programming and materials for children as an important piece in meeting the informational and recreational needs of their community.”
“The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action” was just released by the Young Adult Library Services Association. The report affirmed that teens find libraries to be a safe haven, but it also reported on how many libraries are at risk of losing teen spaces. Who are these teens you ask?
“According to an analysis of the 2010 census data completed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are currently 74.2 million children under the age of eighteen in the United States; 46% of them are children of color.14 All of the growth in the child population since 2000 has been among groups other than non-Hispanic whites.”
The report goes on to enumerate the many social issues confronting these teens and dynamic programs libraries across the country have developed not necessarily to address these issues but to address literacies this empowering teens through measures that are equitable and just.
And it starts with the books on the shelves that reflect the world in which we live.
Literacy. I haven’t talked tech in a while. Google scares me not because of their admitted lack of diversity but because Google continues to develop more and more Artificial Intelligence capabilities. Oh, it began with how they studied search patterns (knowledge seeking behaviors) it blossomed with Google Glass and thrives when we hear about Google devices in surgeries and now Google Nose?? Let’s keep our kids literate. Follow these stories and know how information and technology is being used in our world. Let’s keep them reading! Let’s get them Binging it!
That beautiful sunshine has morphed into a dark gray sky, thunder and pouring rain. Diversity is beautiful.
Filed under: Diversity Issues
, Sunday Reads
, Brown Girl Publishing
Many, many wonderful sessions and signings at BEA this past weekend but the diversity sessions are what mattered most to me. The diveristy sessions were not all listed in the official program and all schedule within an extremely tight time frame (some at the exact same time!) yet the #WeNeedDiversity session managed to fill the room. Other sessions included “Where are All the Kids of Color” and “Multicultural Publishers in Conversation”. My presence was in spirit and via Twitter. I leave it to Lyn Miller Lachmann who was there to give a recap.
Both panelists reminded the audience that in our quest to get the major publishers to take on more diverse books, we cannot lose sight of the diverse books that are available today. Nearly half of those books, according to John, are published by small presses. And those small presses need our love. If it turns out that the major corporations don’t respond to the campaign, or if they support it until the “next big thing” comes along, the small presses need to be there, because publishers like Just Us Books and Cinco Puntos Press truly believe in diversity and are in it for the long haul.
Audio of #WeNeedDiverseBooks is here. I’ve not had an opportunity to listen yet, but I will. The panel included Lamar Giles Mike Jung Matt de la PeñaGrace Lin Jacqueline Woodson Ellen C. Oh Aisha Saeed and Marieke Nijkamp.
Follow #WeNeedDiverseBooks on Twitter, Instagram or FB.
I feel like this Monday is a day for looking back and for looking forward: Sankofa.
Filed under: Me Being Me
Skipping Stones is a nonprofit magazine founded in 1988 for youth that encourages communication, cooperation, creativity and celebration of cultural and environmental richness. Published 4 times each year, it provides a playful forum for sharing ideas and experiences among youth from different countries and cultures. Each year,Skipping Stones recognizes outstanding books and teaching resources with the Skipping Stones Honor Awards. The honored books promote an understanding of cultures, cultivate cooperation and encourage a deeper understanding of the world’s diversity. They also encourage ecological richness, respect for multiple viewpoints and closer relationships within human societies.
Filed under: awards
Tagged: book awards
, Skipping Stone
The weekend, Mother Reader’s 9th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge will take place. I participated in this event a couple of times and truly enjoyed being able to set aside two glorious days for reading. This year, I honestly just cannot do the entire weekend, but given the nature of the Challenge this year, I plan to go for 24 hours. Going full force with #WeNeedMoreDiverseBooks, the creators of the event have decided to make this an all out diversity challenge. How will it work? This is from their site.
- The weekend is June 6-8, 2014. Read and blog for any 48-hour period within the Friday-to-Monday-morning window. Start no sooner than 7:00 a.m. on Friday the sixth and end no later than 7:00 a.m. Monday the ninth. So, go from 7:00 p.m. Friday to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday… or maybe 7:00 a.m. Saturday to 7:00 a.m. Monday works better for you. But once begun, the 48 hours do need to be in a row. That said, during that 48-hour period you may still have gaps of time in which you can’t read, and that’s fine.
- The books should be middle-grade, young adult, or adult books. If you are generally a picture book blogger, consider this a good time to get caught up on all those wonderful books you’ve been hearing about. Graphic novels can be included in the reading. One audiobook can also be included in your time and book total — helpful if you have somewhere to drive to or need to prepare dinner, etc.
- Three winners will be chosen at random from each of three levels of reading commitment – 12 to 23 hours, 24 to 35 hours, and 36 to 48 hours. Since each level will progressively have less participants, the more you read the better your chances. Top readers will still win individual prizes. International winners may be given gift cards instead of books due to mailing costs, unless a U.S. address is provided.
- It’s your call as to how much you want to put into it. If you want to skip sleep and showers to do this — and some people do — go for it. If you want to be a bit more laid back, fine. But you have to put something into it or it’s not a challenge. Twelve hours is the benchmark for winning prizes.
- The length of the reviews or notes written in your blog are not an issue. You can write a sentence, a paragraph, or a full-length review. Up to you. The time spent reviewing counts in your total time.
- You can include some amount of time reading other participant’s blogs, commenting on participating blogs and Facebook pages, and Tweeting about your progress (remember the #48hbc tag!). For every five hours, you can add one hour of networking. This time counts in your total time.
- On your blog, state when you are starting the challenge with a specific entry on that day and leave the link to that post at the Starting Line post at MotherReader on June 6th. And please link to the contest on your post.
- When you finish, write a final summary that clearly indicates hours — including partial hours — you spent reading/reviewing/networking, the number of books read, and any other comments you want to make on the experience. It needs to be posted no later than noon EST on Monday, June 9th. Also, check in at the Finish Line post on MotherReader that will be posted Sunday and please link to that post from your final summary post.
Easy Peasy!! AND!!! There are prizes!
What books do you suggest for participants?
Picture books and MG books are quick reads that help lighten up the reading, so be sure to include plenty of those. Any other tips for the readers?
Filed under: challenges
Tagged: Book Challenge
, Mother Reader
An assistantship with The Center for Children’s Books (CCB) during her time at GSLIS at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagin provided Ayanna Coleman with the knowledge and skills she needs to navigate the publishing world, and this past December she used that knowledge to launched her own literary agency, Quill Shift Literary Agency. Quill Shift Literary Agency handles all the traditional duties of a literary agency while embracing new technologies and spheres to empower readers to join in on the publishing process, providing further foundation for writers’ success. The agency’s hallmark services are editorial guidance, pre-publication and audience buzz creation and author care and advocacy.
Today, Ayanna describes what brought her to where she is today.
The Diversity in Kid Lit Dream
I am a dreamer. It’s actually quite strange how often my mind wanders blissfully into REM and produces fantastic scenarios for my unconscious self to battle. The thing is, dreams so often just live in your head. It’s what you do with the dreams, make them realities or dismiss them as frivolities, that matters.
I do not wish to keep my dreams of a world where there is full diversity in children’s literature inside my mind any longer. I want this dream to become a reality through a vision that creates evolutionary action in the book industry; an evolution that will consider diversity an essential dimension to broaden and shape young minds through the provision of equitable views and examples in their reading experiences. I believe the following would be appropriate starting points:
1) Greater diversity in the kid lit industry
2) Greater diversity of talent creation and being promotion by their publishers
3) More contemporary, “just happens to be stories” with diverse protagonists
4) Better collaboration and support between all parties involved in this journey to equity in children’s literature
Diversity in the Industry
Yes, everyone’s been talking about the lack of diversity in publishing and that does need to change, but I’d also love to see more diversity in youth and teen services librarians, more diversity in teachers promoting literature to our kids, and more diversity in booksellers hand-selling books to families. All of these people are just as important as the editors, marketing and publicity managers, sales force, designers, and agents who touch the books during production. Everyone has a part to play. Some books have become a phenomenon from the frenzy of librarians. If teachers put a book on the curriculum, that’s guaranteed sales for the next 5 years. By booksellers hand-selling, they are giving these books an extra push to become great.
If people in these positions don’t reflect the many cultures in our society, the likelihood of understanding the necessity to continually advocate for and promote different cultures decreases. People with shared and different life experiences from varied backgrounds must work in the industry of storytelling so that all stories have the opportunity to be understood and passed on.
Diversity of Creators
We’ve all seen the numbers, out of 3,200 children’s books surveyed by the CCBC in 2013, only 67 of them were written by African Americans. That’s abysmal. Look, I don’t care if you write outside your culture, but I want to see stories by and about people from all backgrounds.
Working in a library gives one a great perspective and, for the past 5 years while working in children’s libraries, I have had over 1,500 books per year travel across my desk. Out of those 1,500 books, perhaps 15 make me excited. That’s not to say that the other 1,485 aren’t phenomenal, but let’s be real. If you are a librarian, reviewer, bookseller, you’ll hear a lot of buzz about a lot of books that don’t necessarily deserve it. Why can’t some of that buzz be pushed towards books with authors who don’t all look like they’ve strolled out of on one of Junot Diaz’s MFA programs? I think Noah Berlatsky said it perfectly in his article, Diversity in Children’s Lit: Mediocrity Matters as Much as Masterpieces:
“Mediocre-to-decent books with white protagonists regularly get massive marketing pushes and dutifully race up the bestseller lists, where they become the thing to talk about just because everyone else is talking about them. And, of course, when those books with white protagonists flop, nobody says, well, no more books with white protagonists—they just find the next one and promote that. Why shouldn’t mediocre-to-decent books with diverse protagonists have the same opportunity?”
Just Happens To Be
I truly believe that children’s literature can change the world and imaginative, thought-provoking, boundary-pushing diverse represented picture books, middle grade, and young adult stories are the means in which we can help mold the minds of our future leaders. Kids need to see that they can be whoever they want, do anything they can dream up, and love anyone whom they meet. If there are more ducks in picture books than Asian boys, that’s a problem. It’s also a problem that certain ethnicities are pigeon-holed into the same old stories. Do editors and librarians actually think that African American teens are overjoyed when they see another slavery book hit the shelves? That’s not their reality, and it’s getting passed off as “fiction just for them”. What a shame when historical fiction for others looks like steampunk murder mysteries. All kids should have the opportunity to see themselves in fiction and one characteristic like ethnicity, or ability, or sexual orientation should not define the story a character stars in or the role in the story a character plays.
I launched Quill Shift Literary Agency in 2013 because, as a an avid reader who never saw herself in books—a middle class black girl living a “normal teenage life”—and still see few examples in today’s books, it was time to stop huffing and puffing at the books crossing my desk and step up to try and help make change. This is not the journey of one individual. I cannot make things change alone. I would be privileged to work with the many tireless individuals who have been speaking up about diversity in children’s literature for years. Collaboration only works, however, if people are willing to work with each other–old voices and new voices, loud voices and subtle voices, full inclusion for inclusion.
How do I make all these parts come together?
• I add to the industry by becoming one of the voices that seek, applaud, and promote like hell books created by and featuringpeople from different cultures—a young, hungry, Black agent who is, and will always be, a librarian.
• Once a project comes across my desk that I know will connect with kids (but I also know the industry will have a hard time swallowing) I will take it on, becoming a knowledgeable, motivated advocate for the author and their work.
• I will showcase manuscripts and expose them to those who matter–the end consumers–the parents, teachers, librarians, people in the industry, and teenagers to read sneak peek portions and give me their thoughts. If they want to see it published, they can make their voices heard through minimal donations, aka market muscle, to illustrate to the publishing industry that these stories do have marketable value. I call these people Shifters. All proceeds earned through this market-testing will be put back into the continued promotion and support of underrepresented diverse works.
Books that haven’t been published yet, that are going through the scrutiny and rejection now, are the ones that need the most support to change what’s on the bookshelves a year from now. Quill Shift Literary Agency is providing a platform to empower people to realize the dream of diversifying bookshelves in our libraries, schools, and homes.
To be honest, my vision doesn’t matter. It’s society’s collective vision that will make a difference.
Do I hope that my vision will become society’s vision? Of course! More importantly, I’m hoping that someday I’ll wake up, go to work, start cataloging books and see more of the diversity I pass on the streets during the New York rush hour represented on the covers and within the content of future Kid Lit. I’ll pinch myself and realize it’s not a dream. Then, just maybe, I’ll allow myself a second to think that I may have had a lil’ something to do with it.
Filed under: Me Being Me
, Ayanna Coleman
, Quill Shift
“Readers will appreciate that young people solve all of the questions at hand and ultimately bring the two families together.” Kirkus
title: Saving Kabul Corner
author: N. H. Senzai
date: Simon and Schuster; 2014
main character: Ariana Shinwari
From Afghanistan to America, family matters most in this companion to Shooting Kabul, which Kirkus Reviews called “an ambitious story with much to offer.”
A rough and tumble tomboy, twelve-year-old Ariana couldn’t be more different from her cousin Laila, who just arrived from Afghanistan with her family. Laila is a proper, ladylike Afghan girl, one who can cook, sew, sing, and who is well versed in Pukhtun culture and manners. Arianna hates her. Laila not only invades Ariana’s bedroom in their cramped Fremont townhouse, but she also becomes close with Mariam Nurzai, Ariana’s best friend.
Then a rival Afghan grocery store opens near Ariana’s family store, reigniting a decades-old feud tracing back to Afghanistan. The cousins, Mariam, and their newfound frenemie, Waleed Ghilzai, must ban together to help the families find a lasting peace before it destroys both businesses and everything their parents have worked for. –Source
Saving Kabul Corner seems to develop quite independent of its companion novel Shooting Kabul, a book I have not yet read. This book had a compete story line and makes little reference to prior events. Particularly for a continuing storyline, the main characters were well developed.
This story revolves around Arianna’s dislike for her cousin, Laila, from Afghanistan who is staying with her. Something odd is going on in the neighborhood that could mean the end of the family’s local business. Arianna and Laila along with schoolmates Mariam and Waleed, work together to solve this mystery. The story begins with Arianna looking forward to a new home her father is having built. She describes strong desire for privacy and looks forward to getting her own room. Unfortunately, the new house is never again mentioned.
The Shinwari family is very much connected to events in their homeland, as are many first generation Americans. While I think Senzai did a skillful job of balancing the portrayal of events in Afghanistan with Arianna’s life in Los Angeles, I think there were at times too many historical details crammed into the novel. Senzai gives us Arriana, in a story drenched in Afghan history, laced with the language and decorated with the foods and a storyline that is as American as apple pie. Is she telling us that at the core, we are all very much the same?
Saving Kabul Corner is written for readers at the younger end of the YA spectrum.
Filed under: Book Reviews
, H. Senzai
, middle grade fiction
Blog: Crazy Quilts
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, professional development
, 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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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
, 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