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Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.
Book Lists and Awards
Road Trip! 10 (Classic) Audio Book Suggestions for the Whole Family | Redeemed Reader http://ow.ly/rTuiJ
Gender and Diversity
Holiday Gift Guides
It's beginning to look a lot like BOOKSHELF - Great pairs of book to give kids 2013 from Paula at Pink Me http://ow.ly/rTyL0
On Reading and Writing
RT @BookPatrol: "the results are clear and consistent" - Readers are not nerds! Studies show adult readers "active and social" http://ow.ly/rQMlv
Programs and Research
Schools and Libraries
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. As we near the end of the year, there are lots and lots of lists! Also several posts with book and literacy-themed gift ideas. Of course any of the book lists could be a fertile source for gift ideas, too. (And don't miss MotherReader's 150 Ways to Give a Book, updated for 2013.)
Book Lists and Awards
Top Ten Hanukkah Picture Books for Elementary Classroom Read-Alouds | Raising Great Readers with Great Books http://ow.ly/rl0RH
On Reading and Writing
Programs, Events, and Research
Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day Returns December 7th http://ow.ly/rdq6z via @PublishersWkly
Guys Lit Wire: Spread Some Holiday Good Cheer With Ballou High School & Pledge To Read 5 Books With the Students http://ow.ly/rffHF
Schools and Libraries
Nominations for the 2013 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils), open tomorrow, October 1st, and run through October 15th. Now is your chance to show a bit of love for the children's and YA books that you've loved over the past year. The link to the nomination form will be live at Cybils.com at 12:00 a.m. PST on October 1 (late tonight, for any West Coast night owls).
You can find all of the details at the Cybils FAQ page. Here are a few highlights:
Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Middle Grade Fiction
Elementary & Middle-Grade Nonfiction
Young Adult Nonfiction
Young Adult Fiction
It's Cybils season, folks. Spend some time tonight thinking about your favorite recent, well-written, kid-friendly titles in the above categories. Then come back tomorrow and start nominating! This is your chance to show your appreciation to the authors and publishers who create wonderful books, and to help kids all over the English-speaking world find great titles.
I’ve never been before. Indeed, I’ve never done any events in Adelaide unless you count going to a friend’s wedding.2
Here are my events:
As the debate about what it means to be a feminist is ongoing, this session brings together three writers, all of whom identify as feminists. Justine Larbalestier is a YA and fantasy writer, playwright Bryony Lavery is the author of iconic works including Thursday, and Chika Unigwe is the author of the novel On Black Sister’s Street, about a group of African women in the sex trade.
This panel marks the first time I’ve ever been on a panel with writers for grown ups (i.e. whose audience is presumed to be primarily adults, as opposed to mine which is presumed to be mostly teens) at a literary festival. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a festival in the world that is actively breaking down boundaries between genres and writers and readers. Honestly, I was so surprised when I saw this I thought they’d made a mistake. Then I looked at the whole programme. And, lo, it’s full of such inter-genre cross over panels. Way to go, AWF, way to go!
My other event is:
The readership for YA fiction continues to grow and grow. Yet for young women today questions of identity, sexuality and friendship remain as problematic as ever. This session asks – how do women write for girls? Join Isobelle Carmody, author of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar, and Vikki Wakefield, author of Friday Brown for a spirited conversation about women and words.
Isobelle is one of Australia’s most popular YA fantasy writers. Her fans span generations and all clutch her books to their chests like they are precious babies. She’s wonderful and funny and genuinely does not think like anyone else I have ever met. I did a panel with her at last year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival and it truly was awesome. Mostly because of Isobelle. So if you’re in Adelaide you want to see this.
I’m looking forward to meeting Vikki Wakefield. I’ve heard good things about her debut novel All I Ever Wanted. Yes, it’s true, not all Australian YA authors know each other. But we’ll fix that after a few more festival appearances.
I like that they list all the panellists’ nationalities. I was excited when I saw there was a USian on both my panels. But a little bewildered when I looked the other panellists up and discovered none of them were from the USA. I’d been looking forward to asking where they were from, and if they knew NYC or any of the other cities I know, we could compare notes. Which is when I realised that I am the USian on those panels.
In my defense I’ve only been a US citizen for a year. It’s easy to forget.
TL;DR:3 I will be in Adelaide in early March. Come to my panels!
Her kindness toward me and Small Damages has been remarkable.
My books for young adults are frequently shaped by relationships between those who have so much wanting yet ahead and those looking back, with pain and wonder. Time works differently in books like these, and so does memory.Display Comments Add a Comment
More than 75,000 votes were cast to cull the list of 235 finalists to the top 100. Also notable: Of those 235 titles, 147 (or 63 percent) were written by women—a parity that would seem like a minor miracle in some other genres. Female authors took the top three slots, and an approximately equal share of the top 100. As a comparison, you'd have to scroll all the way to number 20 on last summer's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy list to find a woman's name (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley).
Here are the Philippines' best children's and young adult reads from 2010 and 2011. Congratulations to all the winners of the 2nd National Children's Book Awards!
Ang Sampung Bukitkit
By Eugene Y. Evasco and Ibarra C. Crisostomo
By Reni Roxas and Serj Bumatay III
By Eline Santos and Joy Mallari
The Great Duck and Crocodile Race
By Robert Magnuson
The Secret is in the Soil
By Flor Gozon Tarriela, Gidget Roceles Jimenez, and Liza Flores
Conquest for Christ Foundation
I predicted this would win a National Children's Book Award when I attended its launch. =D
0 Comments on The 2nd Philippine National Children's Book Awards as of 8/6/2012 5:30:00 AM
More than any other writers1 we YA writers get grief over our subject matter. We are frequently told that we should not be writing about subjects such as sex, drugs, cutting, suicide, anorexia nervosa, etc. because our audience is vulnerable and easily swayed and it is our duty of care not to lead them down such scary paths.
Now, there are a tonne of smart, cogent ripostes to this argument. But I just want to say that we YA authors do not have a duty of care. It is not the job of YA writers to teach or guide teenagers. That is their parents’ and guardians’ job. Their teachers’ and coaches’ job.
Our only duty is to write the best and most truthful stories we can.
Which is, frankly, hard enough without taking on responsibility for the world’s teenagers. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I salute all you parents! It’s way harder than writing YA books. So imagine how hard it would be if we YA writers really were responsible for all the teenagers who read our books? We would all die.
Too often those adults with the duty of care look to us to not write things they consider inappropriate for the teenagers they are looking out for. How on Earth can we YA writers be the judge of that? I don’t know your teenager. I don’t know what will freak them out. Frankly, the teenagers I do know are not freaked out by what I write. I’m freaked out by more stuff than they are.
Sometimes I don’t think parents know what will freak out their teenagers either. And I say this because parents I know have told me they have no idea what goes on in their teenagers’ minds. Somehow they think that because I write for teenagers I might have some helpful hints for gauging the mysteries of the teenage mind.
Sorry. Teenagers are as varied as adults. Half the time I barely know what’s in my mind, let alone anyone else’s.
To be totally honest I mostly write for the teenager I was and the adult I am. I write stories that interest and engage me. That those stories fall into the publishing niche that is YA is a happy accident. And that some teenagers find them entertaining/useful/inspiring/whatever is an even happier accident.
I am sorry that we YA writers are not portraying the kind of world you think is suitable for your teenagers. But I have a solution. Why not write your own books?
Why not write the world the way you want it without all the bits you find objectionable, without any scary conflict, or teenagers doing things you wish they wouldn’t? And then every time the teenagers in your life pick up what you consider to be the wrong kind of book you can give them yours instead. Who knows? Maybe it will be a bestseller and start a whole new genre.
I’m not going to link to where I saw this particular bizarre notion. Mostly because it’s not something that’s found in one place. I’ve come across the same sentiment in various locations offline and on- over the last ten or so years. So it’s kind of irrelevant who said it most recently.
But here’s gist of the argument:
YA writers only do it for the money. They don’t care about the effect their [insert negative adjective] work has on children only about making money.
I’m fascinated that this argument gets made at all ever. I don’t know a single writer who became a writer to make money. Everyone I know is a writer because they can’t not be a writer. It’s a compulsion. A vocation. Something they do whether they’re paid for it or not. This is true across genres.
The idea of becoming a YA writer to make bank? Crazy.
Most of the YA writers I know don’t make enough money from writing books to do it full-time. They have other jobs. Those writers I do know who earn enough to write full-time, like myself, are not exactly rolling in the big bucks. Gina Rinehart would not bend over to pick up what I make in a year. And, frankly, most of us full-time YA writers can’t believe our good fortune. We know way too many brilliant writers who aren’t making enough to do it full-time. We are very aware of how lucky we are.
I know only a handful of writers who are earning what I consider to be big money from writing YA novels. They are the tiny minority. And the odds of them continuing to make that kind of money in a decade’s or twenty year’s time is pretty low. Look at the bestselling books of 10, 15, 20 years ago. Very few of those books are still selling now. Making good money from writing books and continuing to do so for a lifetime? Very rare.
If someone really decided to become a YA novelist solely to make big money then they’re an idiot with incredibly poor research skills. Choosing to write novels—in any genre—as a path to riches is about as smart as buying lottery tickets to achieve the same.
But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that YA writers are all making vast bucketloads of cash.1 How does making lots of money for writing books automatically mean you will do it contemptously of your audience? Where does that idea come from?
I’m particularly bewildered because the vast majority of people who make this argument are from the USA. Isn’t making loads of money supposed to be a good thing in the USA? Something you should be proud of? Something that qualifies you to run for president?
It swiftly becomes apparent that it’s artists, not just writers, but any kind of artist, who shouldn’t earn money from their work. Apparently money taints art or something. I’ve never quite understood the logic of this argument. Personally, I’ve always thought that starvation puts the biggest crimp on creating art. You know, on account of how it leads to death. It is incredibly hard to create art while dead or while living in poverty. Art’s something that’s much easier to do when survival is not the biggest issue facing you every day.
The fact that there are people out there living in poverty who still manage to create art fills me with awe. People are amazing. But that does not make poverty a necessary conditionAdd a Comment
* This is my second guest blog post for PaperTigers. Please read it to find out about some new Philippine young adult literature. =D
* Click here to read about a possible international book bloggers meetup. If it happens, I'll definitely be there!
* Fantastic news! Tu Books has announced the first annual New Visions Award. The New Visions Award will be given for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. The winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and a standard publication contract with Tu Books. An honor winner will receive a cash grant of $500. Click here for more details. I look forward to reading the winning novels!
Every year, the Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) in Singapore sets up a wonderful bookstore for the festival attendees. This year, the bookstore was the best it's ever been because it was run by Bookaburra, a specialist children's bookseller in Singapore that believes in "good books and even finer children." There was a greater variety of the latest children's and young adult books from all over the world and the people from Bookaburra were doing a great job hand-selling. This, of course, was dangerous for the wallets of all the festival attendees!
While in Singapore for the AFCC, I made sure to visit Woods in the Books, an independent picture book shop for all ages. The shop had a well-curated collection of new and classic board books, picture books, comics, and graphic novels from around the world. The Sunday afternoon I was there, there were so many customers: artists, families with very small children, and young professionals (I could even hear them talking about the books they were reading). Very heartening!
When in Singapore, please make sure to visit Bookaburra and Woods in the Books. Or you can wait for the 4th Asian Festival of Children's Content (May 25-28, 2013). That's okay, too. ;o)
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ETA 5/22/12: I’m keeping this book list up to date on Pinterest nowadays, linking each book to its Goodreads entry. It’s much easier to just pin a book than to keep this list up to date. For the running lists (broken down by age group and genre) and more, go here:
ETA: I’ve finally gotten the ability to edit the post back, so I’ve put as many of the suggested books into the list now as I can. Suggestions always still welcome. This is a continuous project.
I’ve gotten a lot of great suggestions to add to the list, but my website seems to still be broken, and my own computer has a dead motherboard (well, it did when I started writing this last week—thankfully, it’s now fixed). I’m still figuring out why WordPress won’t let me edit any of my old content.
So, in the interest of having one place that people can use as a resource, I’m going to copy everything into this entry. Rather than divide the list by what I’ve read and what I haven’t, which was just more a personal exercise last year in wondering whether my own reading habits had reached past my own culture, I’ll divide the list by age group and genre (fantasy/SF). What that means is that I am not making a comment on how good I think a book is or recommending it/not recommending it—there are several books on this list I haven’t had a chance to read yet. It’s simply a list compiling what’s out there. I’ve also added books that I’ve discovered over the last year or that have been suggested to me in the comments. Go to the previous booklist post for comments on some of the books in this list.
Middle Grade Fantasy
Middle Grade Science Fiction
Cassandra Clare has written an important piece called Rape Myths, Rape Culture and the Damage Done. If you haven’t read it already you really should. Be warned: she discusses much which is deeply upsetting.
What I want to briefly comment on here is the notion that to write about rape or war or any other terrible thing is to automatically condone it. Cassie writes:
[T]he most important point to be made here is that to depict something is not to condone it. This is a mistake that is made all the time by people who you would think would know better. Megan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, for instance, excoriated YA books for being too dark, zoning in specifically on “Suzanne Collins’s hyper-violent, best-selling Hunger Games trilogy” and Lauren Myracle’s Shine, which depicts a hate crime against a gay teenager. Anyone paying any attention, of course, can tell that while violence is depicted in the Hunger Games, it is hardly endorsed. It is, in fact, a treatise against violence and war, just as Shine is a treatise against violence and hate crimes. Gurdon notes only the content of the books and ignores the context, which is a unfortunate mistake for a book reviewer. If the only people in the book who approve of something are the villains (nobody but the bad guys thinks the Hunger Games are anything but a moral evil) then it is a fair bet the book is about how that thing is bad.
What Cassie said. If you follow that argument through to its logical conclusion than we who write books marketed at teenagers must not write about conflict. We must only write upbeat, happy books in which no one is hurt or upset and nothing bad ever happens. But even that would not be enough because I have seen books like Maureen Johnson’s The Bermudez Triangle described as “dark.” A gentle, funny, wry book about two girls who fall in love is dark? I’ve seen other upbeat, happy books described as “dark” because the protags have (barely described at all) sex.
The complaint that YA books are too “dark” usually does not come from teenagers. Teenagers write and complain to me that there’s no sequel to my standalone books, that there should be four or five books in my trilogy, that I take too long to write books, that I’m mean about unicorns, that zombies DO NOT rule, that they hated that I don’t make it clear what really happened in Liar, that Liar made them throw the book across the room,1 that their name is Esmeralda/Jason/Andrew so why did I have to make the character with that name in my books so mean, that one of the Fibonacci numbers in Magic Lessons isn’t, in fact, a Fibonacci.2 I also get the occasional complaint that their teacher made them read my book when it SUCKED OUT LOUD. People, that is SO NOT MY FAULT! BLAME YOUR TEACHER! 0 Comments on Cassandra Clare on the Myth that Authors Automatically Condone What We Depict as of 1/1/1900
Lucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist.
Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose.
Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn’t the best way to show it.
Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other.
An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be.
Cath Crowley gets it. She understands perfectly the feelings of desire and recklessness that come with being young and in crush, and she puts these into words that resonate and characters that are real.
Every time he looked at me I felt like I’d touched my tongue to the tip of a battery. In Art class I’d watch him lean back and listen and I was nothing but zing and tingle. After a while the tingle turned to electricity, and when he asked me out my whole body amped to a level where technically I should have been dead. I had nothing in common with a sheddy like him, but a girl doesn’t think straight when she’s that close to electrocution.
- p 26-27
On the surface Graffiti Moon is about love. Guys and girls chasing each other, often literally, trying to find the perfect fit. At its heart though, Graffiti Moon is about wanting. Each of the characters is longing for something – something to prove their worth, fix their faults, make them complete. In their most reductive forms, Lucy wants perfection; Ed wants acceptance; Leo wants stability; Jazz wants adventure; Daisy wants appreciation; and Dylan wants to feel worthy. It is the angst of this wanting, the tension arising from each character’s shortcomings that builds drama and suspense throughout the book.
This tension is further facilitated through Crowley’s use of rotating character perspectives. The reader is allowed the privileged position of seeing Lucy and Ed in all of their truth – the beauty and the flaws. We see the misunderstandings and the missed connections between them even when they cannot. Crowley is skilled at creating complex characters and I applaud that all of them, regardless of gender, are dirty, mischievous, and sweet. It has to be said that Ed, Leo, and Dylan are the best bad-boys-with-good-hearts to appear in contemporary YA since Markus Zusak’s Wolfe brothers.*
Special mention must also be made of the non-traditional family situations in Graffiti Moon – Leo lives with his grandmother, Lucy’s father lives in their family shed. Crowley subtly reinforces the message that life and love are a matter of individuality; that the best way is not necessarily the typical way.
Graffiti Moon is a very visual novel. There are many beautiful descriptions of Shadow’s and Lucy’s respective artworks, as well as many references to well known artists and their works, from Picasso to Bill Henson. This gives Graffiti Moon a depth of reality that you don’t often see, and from a teaching perspective lends itself to more interesting classroom discussions and art exercises.
I don’t want to raise expectations too much as often the best reading experiences are those discovered quietly, but it’s hard not to when this book just. nails. it. I’m not the only one singing its praise either – among its honours Graffiti Moon has won the 0 Comments on Book Review: Graffiti Moon as of 1/1/1900
Verse can so often be a scary undertaking for readers but today we’ve listed some titles that make verse novels relevent and appealing to even the most reluctant.
Song of the Sparrow – Lisa Ann Sandell
The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur’s supporters, lives with her father on Arthur’s base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. Elaine’s only girl companion is the mysterious Morgan, Arthur’s older sister, but Elaine cannot tell Morgan her deepest secret: She is in love with Lancelot, Arthur’s second-in-command. However, when yet another girl — the lovely Gwynivere— joins their world, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry.
Words cannot accurately encapsulate how much I adore this book. It is my number gifted book and I am yet to meet a person who fails to realise its magnificence. Even the verse adverse appreciate the gentle turn of phrase, the emotional plight of the heroine and the lovely spin on Arthurian legend.
A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl – Tanya Lee Stone
Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva all get mixed up with a senior boy, a cool, slick, sexy boy who can talk them into doing almost anything he wants. In a blur of high school hormones and personal doubt, each girl struggles with how much to give up and what ultimately to keep for herself. How do girls handle themselves? How much can a boy get away with? And in the end, who comes out on top? A bad boy may always be a bad boy. But this bad boy is about to meet three girls who won’t back down.
A verse book that uses Judy Blume’s Forever as an important plot point? Check.
A book that depicts girls are proactive and strong without needing to excel in archery. Check.
A flowing style that weaves the tale of three independent girls who find themselves confused by their hormones and their choices? Check.
Star Jumps – Lorraine Marwood
A poignant verse novel depicting the joys and heartbreaks of a farming family as they struggle to cope with the devastating effects of long term drought. Told through the eyes of Ruby, day to day farm life involves playing in grassy paddocks with siblings, doing jobs and helping out, and witnessing birth, death and sacrifice. The family are devastated when they have to sell off some of their herd, but in the spirit of hope it is Ruby who tries in her own small way to help the family by making miniature bales of hay.
Skewing a little younger, this award winning title depicts the difficulties of living in Australian rural areas and the stresses that places upon the families that work the land. Marwood has a lovely way with words
There is also:
Today is the launch of Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction (Stone Bridge Press), an anthology of thirty-six Japan teen stories. Proceeds from the sales of Tomo will go directly to long-term relief efforts for the teens displaced by the March 11, 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami disasters. Buying this book will help pay the educational expenses of these affected teens!
Tomo is edited by Holly Thompson and the stories are by authors and illustrators from all around the world who share a connection to Japan, including Andrew Fukuda, Tak Toyoshima, Alan Gratz, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and Shogo Oketani.
Visit the Tomo blog for more information and please do everything you can to support the book. I'll be posting my reviews and interviews as soon as I can!
3/21/2012, ETA: Because this post has been linked a lot over the course of the last several months, I just wanted to point out that this was posted when I was in the process of starting the small press that became Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, where we publish middle grade and young adult science fiction, fantasy, and mystery starring main characters of color. We’ve published five books so far, and I think you’ll love them. If you believe, as I do, that more stories like these are important—awesome fantastic adventures in which people of color are the stars—please check them out and share them with your friends.
When I was in the fourth grade, I always wondered why I wasn’t born Japanese. You see, back then (mid-80s), the news was always saying that the Japanese had the best education system in the world, and that Americans were falling behind. Given that my life goal at the time was to be the smartest kid in the world, I really, really wished that I had been born Japanese.
Nothing I could do about that, but I could do my geography project on Japan. (I was in the accelerated group, and we did countries of the world instead of state history in the fourth grade. I also did Australia and India.) But the only resources I could find in our relatively small school library were a decade-old encyclopedia and several books from the 50s. I ended up making a small English-Japanese dictionary with about five words (which I still have around here somewhere) for my project to go along with the report.
I can’t recall having read one single book from the time I was able to read until the time I graduated high school about any character who was from an Asian country or about an American whose family background was Asian, however. There just wasn’t anything like that available to me in small-town farm country in Illinois. I’m sure this is as much to do with librarian/teacher selection as it had to do with publishing availability, but that’s just the way things were.
Looking at the CCBC’s report from last year of books published in 2008, however, I’m not sure we’ve come very far from that. We’ve come a long way, yet how far is there to go?
Ever since Race Fail 09 (which I didn’t follow much of, but even reading a part of which was very thought-provoking), I’ve become even more aware of this issue as it relates to fantasy than I have before (even though before that, as an editor, I always tried to acquire books that were as diverse as possible, whether that meant magic-wielding kender or girls from all over the world battling vampiric fairies). I’ve pondered on it for several months, and it’s been great to see so many authors pondering on it in their blogs, too. Just in the last few days, I’ve found a couple great posts on it by authors R.J. Anderson and Mitali Perkins (Mitali has a lot of great insights into this, as you can see from her blog).
The biggest thing I’ve been pondering is that it seems to me that in children’s and YA fantasy, we’re probably at a smaller percentage of multicultural themes and characters than realistic books (note that I’m conflating race and culture here on purpose—I’m using race and culture in an and/or way). Note how in the CCBC report, theyAdd a Comment
When: 26 May 2012, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: the Cultural Center of the Philippines
Hosts: Philippine chapter - Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)
YA author, journalist, cultural promoter, translator, and language and intercultural communication teacher Tanya Tynjälä (SCBWI Peru/Finland) will conduct a workshop on writing stories for children and young adults.
The lectures and exercises will be based on the work of Soviet formalist scholar Vladimir Propp who analyzed the basic plot components of Russian folk tales to identify their simplest irreducible narrative elements.
This workshop is open to anyone age 18 and above who is a published or aspiring writer, or who teaches or wants to teach creative writing for children and young adults.
Fee: Includes lunch, transferrable, nonrefundable
P800 if you register on or before April 20
P1000 if you register April 20 to May 15
P1200 if you register after May 15
P100 discount for SCBWI members
If interested, please contact SCBWI Philippines: Beaulah Taguiwalo, Regional Advisor (firstname.lastname@example.org) / Dominique (Nikki) Torres, Asst. Regional Advisor (email@example.com)
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 8 May 2012)
When soldiers arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock 'n' roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever. Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes. He sees prisoners marched to a nearby mango grove, never to return. And he learns to be invisible to the sadistic Khmer Rouge, who can give or take away life on a whim.
One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn's never played a note in his life, but he volunteers. In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand—and steal food to keep the other kids alive. This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated from the Khmer Rouge, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier. He lives by the simple credo: Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down.
Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, this is an achingly raw and powerful novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace, from National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick.
You know what I love about the book cover? It shows the boy's eyes. Usually when an Asian model is used for a book cover (or when it's *supposed* to be an Asian on the cover) his/her eyes are not shown. Sigh.
Click here to read Publishers Weekly's interview with Patricia McCormick about Never Fall Down, and watch the video below for Patricia McCormick's interview with Arn Chorn-Pond, the man who inspired the novel!
[Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.]