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1. Papa Gave Me a Stick reviewed by School Library Journal


Papa Gave Me a Stick has received a warm review from School Library Journal. Maria D. Salvadore, a former librarian of the District of Columbia Public Library and a current reviewer for the publication praised the book's illustrations, which "are soft, gently colored, creating a sense of place." She, additionally, mentioned the book's plot, pacing, and useful Spanish glossary as some of the book's other notable facets, all of which contributed to a story that had "the form and cadence of a folktale."

Star Bright Books would like to thank Ms. Salvadore for her kind and thoughtful review.

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2. Rural juror

The Morning News started its tournament of books yesterday with a match between Louise Erdrich’s The Round House and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I thought the critic, Edan Lepucki, did a great job of assessing each book’s strengths and shortcomings and coming up with a winner. Today, the match between Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son and Maria’ Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette is judged by a more milquetoasted Elliot Holt, but I found a useful link in the commentary. I seem to have missed Jacob Silverman’s “Against Enthusiasm” when it appeared in Slate last August, but I hope every member of the kidlitosphere reads it.

 

Our sis School Library Journal begins its Battle of the Books on Monday Tuesday and I’ll be over here critiquing the judges in brackets of two and allowing one to “move forward,” where, eventually (and if I’ve done the math right) one shall face the BoB’s Big Kahuna judge, Frank Cottrell Boyce. I’m not doing this to be mean–unless somebody drives me to it–but to test my frequent assertion that there’s too much diplomacy in children’s book discussion (again, see the Silverman essay linked above). I am also interested in exploring what kind of criticism these non-professionals will employ: will they argue from personal taste, moral significance, reader appeal, aesthetic value? Each or all of these can work; what matters most in this contest is that the judge is able to express a clear preference for one book over another and say why. The prize is two one-year subscriptions to the Horn Book Magazine, one to the winning judge and another to the library of his or her choice.I’ll be judge and jury (shades of SLJ’s Lillian Gerhardt: raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember her infamous Billy Budd Button and Huck Finn Pin!)

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3. Rural juror

The Morning News started its tournament of books yesterday with a match between Louise Erdrich’s The Round House and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I thought the critic, Edan Lepucki, did a great job of assessing each book’s strengths and shortcomings and coming up with a winner. Today, the match between Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son and Maria’ Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette is judged by a more milquetoasted Elliot Holt, but I found a useful link in the commentary. I seem to have missed Jacob Silverman’s “Against Enthusiasm” when it appeared in Slate last August, but I hope every member of the kidlitosphere reads it.

 

Our sis School Library Journal begins its Battle of the Books on Monday Tuesday and I’ll be over here critiquing the judges in brackets of two and allowing one to “move forward,” where, eventually (and if I’ve done the math right) one shall face the BoB’s Big Kahuna judge, Frank Cottrell Boyce. I’m not doing this to be mean–unless somebody drives me to it–but to test my frequent assertion that there’s too much diplomacy in children’s book discussion (again, see the Silverman essay linked above). I am also interested in exploring what kind of criticism these non-professionals will employ: will they argue from personal taste, moral significance, reader appeal, aesthetic value? Each or all of these can work; what matters most in this contest is that the judge is able to express a clear preference for one book over another and say why. The prize is two one-year subscriptions to the Horn Book Magazine, one to the winning judge and another to the library of his or her choice.I’ll be judge and jury (shades of SLJ’s Lillian Gerhardt: raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember her infamous Billy Budd Button and Huck Finn Pin!)

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4. Inclusive libraries? Odds and ends

*In an attempt to be inclusive in our public libraries, do we make an effort to speak to everyone??  Here's an article about serving our "conservative" young people, thanks to School Library Journal.
_http://www.slj.com/2015/03/collection-development/serving-conservative-teens/#_

*Want a free audio book?  Want a free audio book about one of the most charismatic and enigmatic Civil Rights leaders ever?  Read below for directions on a chance to download a FREE MP3 of the novel X: A Novel .

"The teen literacy program SYNC will feature X in its program from May 14 through May 21, in commemoration of Malcolm X’s ninetieth birthday. During that week, the audiobook version will be available as a free MP3 download through the SYNC website.

Starting now, you can text “xnovel” to the number 25827. The reply text will read:
“Meet Malcolm X before he was X. Free spoken word MP3 coming 2U 5/14. Get app for listening @ http://app.overdrive.com/”
 
On May 14, an additional text will arrive with a link to the download page and pointers on how to load the MP3 onto your player.
X: A Novel
Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
HC: 978-0-7636-6967-6
Also available as an e-book and in audio"



  

Thanks,


 

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5. Encouraging words and recommended reading

I’m pausing just a moment to catch my breath between last week’s whirlwind (my first school visit for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Reilly visit cropped

— the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, and the San Antonio Book Festival) and this week’s excitement of the Texas Library Association annual conference here in Austin.

While I’m pausing, I’m happy to share a few things published elsewhere recently either about my new book or written by me, starting with this generous review by Margie Myers-Culver at Librarian’s Quest:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Don Tate is a remarkable biography. This is a man with whom we should all be familiar. The blend of narrative and pictures is compelling from beginning to end. After the two pages of his speech a single page shows an older John Roy Lynch with a continuation of his beliefs about this country. There is a single page Historical Note about Reconstruction, a Timeline of important dates in John Roy Lynch’s life alongside historical dates, an Author’s Note, an Illustrator’s Note, sources For Further Reading and two maps. This is a back matter goldmine.

School Library Journal also has good things to say about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

Tate’s illustrations, rendered in mixed media, ink, and gouache on watercolor paper, are extraordinary and carry the lengthy story well. The excellent cartoon-style paintings soften potentially disturbing details, such as the Ku Klux Klan burning a church. The book concludes with a thorough historical note. Teachers will find this remarkable story of hope and perseverance a valuable supplement to social studies lessons on the Civil War and Black History Month.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy with a couple of guest posts. At The Little Crooked Cottage, I was asked to write about my favorite picture book biographies:

There are too many excellent picture book biographies — and too many excellent authors and illustrators working in this field — for me to narrow them down to my all-time favorite five. But there are a handful that have been especially meaningful to me at one time or another, so I’m going to limit my list to those.

And Austin Reading Mama asked for my reading recommendations for grown folks. I was happy to offer up a handful — all of them nonfiction, as it turned out. And the list doesn’t event include the book I’m in the midst of loving right now, Tomlinson Hill, Chris Tomlinson’s fascinating exploration of the histories of his white Texas family and of the African-American Tomlinsons whose ancestors had once been owned by the author’s forebears. It’s eye-opening and well worth your while.

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6. Inside and out

having-it-allNina Lindsay has a terrific article up at SLJ about this year’s ALA Award winners and What It All Might Mean.  And in my latest editorial, I write about the need to value art from outsiders as well as insiders. Can we have both? Can we HAVE IT ALL?

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7. One Thing Stolen: A Booklist Star and a Goodreads Giveaway

Maybe the pre-publication months are the hardest months on writers. Best to shrug them off, develop distractions, think on next stories, next things, new recipes.

Earlier this week, through the nervous silence (and a search for tea for two guests at Penn), came news of a Booklist star for One Thing Stolen, as well as some very generous words from School Library Journal. I also learned that Chronicle will be sponsoring a Goodreads giveaway, beginning on March 1st. More on that can be found in the sidebar on my blog.

For now, I share highlights from the book's three early trade reviews:

Fans of Jandy Nelson’s dense, unique narratives will lose themselves in Kephart’s enigmatic, atmospheric, and beautifully written tale.  — Booklist, Starrred Review

“Kephart’s artful novel attests to the power of love and beauty to thrive even in the most devastating of circumstances.”—School Library Journal

"Kephart has crafted a testament to artistry and the adaptability of the human mind.  Set in Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, Kephart transports readers across the ocean from Philadelphia, Pa., to the cobbled streets of Italy." Kirkus Reviews 

 In other publishing news: This kind review of Handling the Truth, in Assay Journal, by Renee D'Aoust.


And Love: A Philadelphia Affair (Temple University Press, August 2016) has an official cover and flap copy, which I will share here when the time is right.

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8. Comparing Reviews of MOSQUITOLAND at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

A lot of people use the reviews at Amazon to make decisions about books. I don't know how the specific content that is used at Amazon is selected, but it is worth noting that it is selectively used. No surprise there, really, because Amazon is a business, and so are the publishers.


Case in point: David Almond's Mosquitoland 

Amazon includes this from School Library Journal:


Three sentences. They say "Debut author Arnold's book is filled with some incredible moments of insight. The protagonist is a hard-edged narrator with a distinct voice. There is a lot for teens to admire and even savor." 

The full review was much longer, as seen at Barnes and Noble:



In the full review, Angie Manfredi pointed out that the protagonist uses lipstick to paint her face and calls it "war paint" or that the protagonist is "part" Cherokee. She described these as "deeply problematic elements" of "cultural appropriation." 

She's right. 

I haven't read the book yet but will as soon as I get a copy. 

For now, though, I think it important to note the difference in what gets excerpted at Amazon versus what gets used at Barnes and Noble. If you are a person who is mindful of problems related to depictions of Native peoples, Amazon would lead you astray. 






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9. Over at SLJ: The YALSA YA Lit Symposium 2014

Over at School Library Journal, I have an article up: Five Things to Love about the YALSA YA Lit Symposium.

Can you guess the five things?

One is the opportunity to present. This year, I was on a panel -- and here's a photo of me on the panel looking oh so serious. Thanks to @meghuntwilson for the photo.



Also pictured: E.M. Kokie (Personal Effects, Candlewick, 2012); Swati Avasthi (Chasing Shadows, Knopf, 2012), Steven Brezenoff (Guy in Real Life, Balzer & Bray, 2014) and E.M. Kokie (Personal Effects, Candlewick, 2012); along with Andrew Karre, editorial director at Lerner Publishing Group. Not pictured, the moderator Blythe Woolston (Black Helicopters, Candlewick, 2013).

Anyway, go over and read the whole thing and let me know what you think!


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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10. Crankypants Monday

badsanta1 620x330 Crankypants MondayInteresting discussion about holiday library programming over at SLJ. I have two questions.

First, as is so often true when we are talking “on behalf” of children, I want to know if Santa-in-the-library is genuinely offensive to non-Santa people, or is this a case of one party being offended in advance on behalf of another? Without even asking.

Second, where would you draw the line? Some conservative Christians, for example, have taken exception to Harry Potter. Does that mean no Harry Potter programming? Taking into account cultures and/or parents that frown on dating (let alone pre-marital sex), do we decide to forgo booklists or reading club discussion of YA romances? And you might as well jettison any and all folk material from story hour for fear of offending animal rights people, animals-don’t-talk people, anti-princess people, and purist people who want to make sure LRRH ends up in the wolf’s belly. Commenters over at SLJ have pointed out that the American holiday that does not piss somebody off simply doesn’t exist, and I would add that if you decide to decorate for nothing more than the seasonal changes you are still opening yourself up to accusations of paganism, Darwinism and/or climate change denial/hysteria. Because this is America and this is how Americans are these days.

None of this is to justify your Christmas decorations on the grounds of “majority.” Because this is a library, where we say fuck the majority and try to do the best we can for as many people as possible. So celebrate everything: better the risk of your bulletin boards and story hours going over the top than the deadly peace of guaranteed non-offence.

 

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11. Watch for it: HIT


 
Lorie Ann Grover swings by readergirlz to chat with Janet Lee Carey  about her new book HIT on its launch day! Welcome Lorie Ann.


JLC -- HIT is a riveting read! Tell us what inspired you to write it.

LG -- Thank you, Janet! HIT was inspired by a true story. Ten years ago, my daughter's best friend was hit in a crosswalk on the way to school. With her life threatened, her urgent brain surgery sent her family and friends spinning through a dark wait. Inspired by her experience, my novel tells the story of one girl struck down by the very grad student she is crushing on. Plans, goals, and dreams are shattered, as everything comes screeching to a halt. 

JLC – You chose to write the book in two viewpoints: Sarah, the girl who’s struck by a car, and Mr. Haddings, the young man who was behind the wheel. I was amazed by your choice which worked beautifully! Can you tell us when you decided to write the book this way and share some of the challenges faced?  

LG -- Well, it was originally six voices!

JLC -- Wow, six?

LG -- :~)

JLC -- Who were they?

LG -- Sarah, Haddings, Cydni, Luke, Janet, and Mark. Different editors along the publishing journey suggested reducing it to four, then finally two. Without introducing some sort of fantastic element, like Sarah wandering the hospital in spirit form, I needed at least two voices to tell the story as she is so long in surgery.

JLC – You write so deeply and truly about family and family relationships in HIT. Can you give us a peek into your process for this?

LG -- I think the real event was so charged and poignant, gestures, words, and phrases became haunting notes in my mind. It was simple to stream those straight into the novel. I also include the struggles I’m having or have had in the past: how to mother and let go, how to love the right person, how to separate your identity from another, etc. By digging deeply and bringing battles to light, there’s a chance the work will ring with a reader.

JLC—They say every story is about character change. Sarah’s accident forces not only the central characters but every character in the book to change. How did you determine the way each of these unique personalities would change through the events of the story?

LG -- Thank you for noticing, Janet! I started from a place where everyone was caught up in the everyday. They were selfishly focused. The accident arrests each of them, giving them a chance to stop and assess where they are and what is important. So often, this is one of the gifts within a hardship. I naturally landed on their starting points, riffing off my friends and my own traits. I amplified every facet to better the tale. Seriously, my friends are blessed with so much grace, I had to work hard to weaken them. :~)

JLC— What would you like readers to take away from this book?

LG --’d really like readers to consider the concept that within every hardship there are sweet red seeds. Like Dottie tells Sarah, under the leathery pomegranate skin, there is beauty. We just have to look for it. The truth lines up beautifully with Hit-and-Run: the Gratitude Tour. We're doing. Both Justina Chen and I tend to write about this.

JLC-- The tour will bring out HIT and Justina Chen's A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS.
 
 
JLC -- Tell us more bout the tour!
 
Hit-and-Run: The Gratitude Tour:
When trials hit, how do we run in triumph? When we have a blind spot for blessings, how do we embrace gratitude? Award-winning authors and readergirlz co-founders, Lorie Ann Grover and Justina Chen, share the trials and triumphs within their own lives and their books’ characters, inspiring teens and adults to #hitwithgratitude.

 
What we now realize is that our message is going to stretch beyond this tour across four states. We will continue to hit the road, encouraging readers to #hitwithgratitude now and in the years to come. For example, how about a 30 Day Challenge to #hitwithgratitude daily through the month of November? Why not tweet, fb, and Instagram shout-outs for those you are grateful for? Who are the people who have crossed your life that you’d like to #hitwithgratitude?

JLC -- I love this idea!

LG -- There are so many ways we can encourage each forward, right? Let’s do it.
I officially #hitwithgratitude: readergirlz and Janet Lee Carey!

 

JLC -- :~) 
Hit 
By Lorie Ann Grover
Blink, 10/07/2014

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12. Early Learning recap

Roger martha Early Learning recap

photo by Carolyn Sun

SLJ has posted a report of Martha and my presentation in Ohio last week of what makes  for a good preschool book. Look for Kevin Henkes’ excellent speech from that event on our site on Monday.

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13. Over at SLJ: The Story Behind Addison Stone

Adele Griffin's newest book is The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone (Soho Press, 2014).

I had the privilege of interviewing Griffin, and writing up a little something about the book and how it was created, for School Library Journal.

You can go read my article at The Story Behind Adele Griffin's Hybrid Novel, 'The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone'.

I promise to write up more of my thoughts on Addison Stone here -- the short version? Loved it. This is the type of creative, inventive story telling I love, and Addison herself is a fascinating young women. Love her or hate her, you'll remember her.





Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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14. Two Things on Tuesday


Thing One

Some days I fear writing dreadfully, but I do it anyway. I've discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.
--Ann Quindlen 


Thing Two

Came across this from School Library Journal during a recent office cleanup. I made a gazillion Yoohoo boats for this.

  


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15. We Need Diverse Books that aren't "Blindingly White"

If you're a white male, you'll have an abundance of opportunities to imagine yourself on the stage this year at BookCon. The list of authors is being called "blindingly white" by BookRiot. If you're a white male or a cat, you could imagine yourself on the Blockbuster Kid Lit panel.

If you're not a white male--or a cat--you're out of luck. Rachel Renee Russell, author of the Dork Diaries (which I haven't read), was offered a set of pre-written questions with which to use to interview what Rick Riordan (one of the panelists) called the "Four White Dudes of Kids' Lit" (see his tweet on April 11, 2014). Russell asked to be a panelist instead, and that apparently went nowhere.

If you've been following this situation, you've likely read some of the responses to it. Over the weekend, a new response emerged that involves ACTION. Here's the poster for the We Need Diverse Books event taking place this week:



Perusing the 15 books in that set, it is clear that the planners of the campaign envision diversity in a broad range. It isn't, in other words, just books by or about authors of color, or authors who are citizens or members of one of the 500+ federally recognized tribes. It is about body type. It is about sexual orientation. It is about all of us.

What can you do?

RIGHT NOW (or sometime before May 1), take a photograph that in some way states why you think we need books that represent all of us. The photo can capture whatever it is you want to highlight. The planners suggest holding a sign that says "We need diverse books because _____." Send your photo to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com or submit it via the Tumblr page. Starting at 1:00 PM EST on May 1, 2014 people will be using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks to share the photos.

On May 2, 2014 there will be a Twitter chat--again using that hashtag--at 2:00 PM EST. Share your thoughts on existing problems with the lack of diversity in children's and young adult literature, and share the positives, too.

On May 3, 2014 at 2:00 EST there will be book giveaways and a "put your money where your mouth is" component to the campaign.  

Regular readers of American Indians in Children's Literature know that I encourage people to buy books from independent booksellers. My recommendation? Birchbark Books.

The poster (above) includes Eric Gansworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here, which you can get from Birchbark Books.  I want you to get it, but I also want you to get every book on my lists of recommended books. You can start with the lists I put together for the 2008 and 2013 "Focus On" columns I wrote for School Library Journal. Here's the lists:

Native Voices (November 1, 2008)
Resources and Kid Lit about American Indians (November 5, 2013)

Please join the campaign!

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16. Best Books of the Year


I'm excited to report that On the Road to Mr. Mineo's has been named one of School Library Journal's Best Books of the Year!

 

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17. Distinguished Writing: Awarding the Struggle

So I've stayed away from School Library Journal's Heavy Medal blog all of a couple days. Not so hot on discipline, am I?

This quote is from a post there called The Art of Writing. It really struck me in its loveliness.
We have to muddle our way through a lot of really good work, hold each up against the other, try calling it distinguished, disagree, find something better…in order to identify the best out there.  I always hope, in the end, that the medals go to works that truly achieve “liftoff.” Our job (most of us) is one of connecting readers with great books, medal or not. Though the Newbery award is certainly for those readers,  in my mind, it’s more important that it’s for the writers/creators: awarding them for the struggle, so that they’ll continue, and so that others have a standard to shoot for.
Let's celebrate Newbery winners today, those whose struggles have set the bar high and have given us books we love. Who's on your list?


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18. The four-star constellation of the Duck!

A new star was discovered today. It's called School Library Journal, and joins Kirkus, PW, and The Horn Book in the ever brighter constellation of the Duck.
















A small green duck has lost his new blue socks. He looks for them in his toy box and consults his friends the fox and the ox. He does not find them among other socks on the rocks, but his peacock friends help him find them. The short, repetitive rhyming sentences are a good fit for beginning readers, and the large trim size allows plenty of space for the watercolor and [pen] illustrations to provide clues to solve the humorous mystery. This is a whimsical delight for children whose parents clamor for phonics-based books.Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI

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19. In Which Katherine Applegate Speaks For Me About Structure, Plot, and Writing


Why did you decide to write the story in a sort of prose poetry form? Was it just to give Ivan a believable voice, or was there another reason?

I am not entirely sure. I tend to look at structure before I look even at plot,* which is probably why plot is a struggle for me.** I think about what the book looks like and how it feels.*** Maybe that discipline is helpful for me in terms of finding the right words.

But when I look at big sprawly novels, sometimes… my husband just finished [writing] 500 pages. I marvel at it, because it’s so symphony and I’m so chamber music.**** I just don’t think that way, and it seemed really appropriate that since I was working with an animal voice that it would be small and poetic.

Read the rest of the interview at School Library Journal's Meet the Latest Newbery Winner: How Katherine Applegate Created a Modern-Day Classic



*yes
** oh, yes
*** yes siree
****exactly!

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20.

The Hispanic Division and the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress will honor Sonia Manzano for The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (Scholastic) with the America’s Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Program on Monday 23 September in Washington DC.

First Book made headlines this past summer when they targeted purchases from two publishers to increase the availability of diverse books for young readers. After distributing books from HarperCollins and Lee and Low around the country, First book has announced the second phase of their program.

So what’s next for First Book? In June, the group unveiled at the Clinton Global Initiative America the planned next phase of the project, a “Commitment to Action” that includes outreach to 30,000 new schools and programs, special collections of diverse and multicultural titles, matching grants for educators, and an influential council of authors to help inspire new books and stories.

In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a growing dynamic in the demand for diversity in characters and authors in YA lit. Sure, it may be just another phase that the industry is experiencing, but I feel a real commitment from the individuals who are speaking up. They’re making statements that express concerns and beliefs they live with all the time. School Library Journal recently held a virtual conference “Embracing Diversity” which resulting in an article full of diversity resources.

The mosaic on Elephant Rag blog is a great place to find new books that reflect the world around us.

From authors Kelbion Noel and Zetta Elliott

Everyone deserves to see themselves in the pages. That’s what Diversity Reads is all about. Allowing youth the opportunity to enjoy speculative fiction featuring characters who look and deal, just like them. The non-profit is introducing a quarterly series, featuring multicultural authors of speculative fiction works, featuring main characters of color. Stay tuned for an event near you!

Their first event, “Black Magic” is in Toronto on 21 Sept.

Author Carole Boston Weatherford visited the Brown Bookshelf to discuss her book, Birmingham 1963 which pays homage to the four girls who lost their lives in a church bombing 50 years ago.

Lisa Yee is publishing on Paper Li.  STET, Good Books and Bad Dogs and Outer Space Stuff is brought to you daily.She’s much better at that than I am! I have a weekly publication but all I news I manage to collect comes from YALSA. I’m working on it!

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith will be presenting a Graphic Novel Writing workshop in Austin on 5 Oct. To prepare for this event, her blog recently featured an interview with her conducted by Samantha Clark, Austin SCBWI’s regional advisor, Why did she take her Tantalize series to graphic format?

The Tantalize series struck me as a great fit for graphic format. The books are genre benders–Gothic fantasies with strong elements of romance, mystery/suspense and some humor. They’re high action, rich in setting – an alternative Austin; Dallas; Chicago; small-town Michigan; Montpelier, Vermont – and offer diverse protagonists and visually arresting creatures (angels, vampires, werearmadillos).

Me? I’m working at the reference desk today! I’m looking forward to my first visit to Rose Hulman’s library this week to hear a speaker that’s part of the Muslim Journey bookshelf on which we’ve partnered. And, I’m reading reading reading for BFYA! With regards to BFYA, I’m really excited to have identified several ways to distribute the books I’ve been receiving. Of course, some have been going to the Indiana State University library! Advanced copies have been going to area teachers for their classroom libraries. Others will soon ship to the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank and in March I hope to distribute the remaining hundreds to school libraries here in Indiana. Thanks to a wonderful suggestion from Suzanne Walker, the Children’s Librarian for the state of Indiana, I’m planning a mini-grant program to send the books to the neediest libraries in the state. Hopefully, I’ve found a way to get it funded as well!

You?!! I hope you have a fantastic week and that your favorite team wins, unless they’re playing the Colts!


Filed under: Me Being Me Tagged: Carole Boston Weatherford, Cynthia Leitich Smith, diversity, First Book, Kelbion Noel, Lisa Yee, School LIbrary Journal, Zetta Elliott

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21. Handling the Truth Wins Books for a Better Life/Motivational Category Award—and I meet Meredith Vieira and Lee Woodruff



The thing is: I had already won.

I had been invited to the 18th Annual Books for a Better Life Awards Program, sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society New York City—Southern New York Chapter. I was seeing friends—Darcy Jacobs, nominee Patty Chang Anker, Katie Freeman, Julia Johnson, my Gotham editor, Lauren Marino. My husband had joined me for the evening, our sensational son had left work to see us an hour before, Jenny Powers, VP of Special Events for the Society, had put on an amazing show of truly exceptional everythings at The TimesCenter. I had a new pink dress, those famous new shoes, and Maggie Scarf, the bestselling author, was telling my husband and me a story that held us both in captive disbelief. Soon I would go down that long flight of stairs and find the fabulous Lee Woodruff in the bathroom. We would speak of pink dresses, pink scarves, the sometimes good luck of fashion.

Earlier in the day, the phenomenal team at Chronicle Books had posted the stunning new trailer for Going Over, my soon-to-be-launched Berlin novel. School Library Journal had named Going Over the Pick of the Day. Laura Fraser of Shebooks had sent sweet news. The weather was kind. Only two-thirds of my hair was a mess.

And so I settled back into my chair at The TimesCenter simply to watch the show. To be grateful for it all. To be unencumbered, for that moment, by doubt. The first category of ten to be announced was the Motivational category. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, a book about the students I love and the things they have taught me, sat (remarkably) alongside The Novel Cure (Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin), Saturday Night Widows (Becky Aikman), Survival Lessons (Alice Hoffman), and On These Courts (Wayne B. Drash). Meredith Vieira—gorgeous Meredith Vieira—was looking stunning up there on the stage, post Sochi, post Oscars. She was reading off the nominees, then opening an envelope, and then—and then—she called my name.

I have never been so unprepared for anything in my life. I had not, for a single second, rehearsed the possibility of the moment; winning was out of the question. I had a wide stage to cross, and by the time I reached the microphone and Meredith's outstretched arms, I had been rendered incapable of speech. I have absolutely no idea what words I finally said. I know only that I told Meredith how beautiful she really is (inside and out). I know that I struggled to find words for the beauty of my students. I know I said "son" and "husband" and "Gotham" and "dreams."

(How grateful am I to Lauren Marino, Lisa Johnson, Beth Parker, and the entire Gotham team for saying yes to this book in a seaside nano-second. And a million thanks to my agent, Amy Rennert, who has supported this book from the second it arrived in her to-be-read bin.)

Afterward, when all the winners gathered on stage for a Publishers Weekly photograph, I had an opportunity to speak with Meredith, to learn more about her upcoming new program, The Meredith Vieira Show. It is going to be wonderful because she is through-and-through wonderful. A real show, real conversations, a set that recreates her own family room, her own interests, pursued. Look for it come Labor Day.

I end this as I must end this—with prayers for those who are living with and seeking to combat multiple sclerosis, a haunting condition about which important words were spoken last night. Without organizations like the New York City—Southern New York Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society—organizations that work throughout the year to raise awareness and research dollars, bring together authors and publishers, put leading lights like Meredith Vieira, Lee Woodruff, Arianna Huffington, Pamela Paul, Mark Bittman, and Richard Pine on one stage, and gather friends—hope would not loom so large.  

I have never been so proud to bring an honor home.

I head to South Carolina in a few hours to serve as the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Distinguished Writer. This is the week of a lifetime.


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22. BoB

Cakejpg BoBSLJ’s Battle of the Books is underway, and let me just say how glad I am that the judges are being (relatively) tough.

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23. Going Over: The Trailer, The News



Sometimes, a whole lifetime's worth of specialness happens in a few short days.

Those few short days were these past few days. That Handling the Truth/Meredith Vieira moment in New York City, that trip to see old friends and make new ones in South Carolina. And the gifts leading up to the release of Going Over.

First, today, I want to thank the extraordinary Chronicle team—for everything, really. But in particular, today, for the trailer, above. I had no idea a trailer was in the works. It just arrived one day. It is perfect, in my eyes, in everyway.

The news is here, below:

School Library Journal Pick of the Day

Junior Library Guild Selection
iBooks Spring’s Biggest Books 
An Amazon Big Spring Books

“A stark reminder of the power of hope, courage, and love.”—Booklist, starred review

“An excellent example of historical fiction focusing on an unusual time period.” —School Library Journal, starred review


"Going Over carefully balances love and heartbreak, propelling readers through the story."Shelf Awareness

"Readers will finish the book and continue to think about how effective one wall can be in separating a country and in fashioning attitudes toward life." —Reading Today

"At once compelling and challenging... this gripping effort captures the full flavor of a trying time in an onerous place." —Kirkus Reviews



 “A profound read meant for discussion.” —VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates

"Gritty, painful and lovely."--Emma, age 17, SLJ Teen, Young Adult Advisory Councils Reviewer

Some very generous bloggers have agreed to participate in a blog tour that will kick off when the book officially launches on April 1. I've written pieces about history, graffiti, titles, editing—and I'll be answering questions—throughout it all.

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24. 2013: Best Books, High School

If I was starting a library in a high school, these are the first books I'd buy, along with the ten listed in 2010: Best Books, High School.    

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, edited by Bill Bigelow

Killer of Enemies, by Joseph Bruchac

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich

House of Purple Cedar, by Tim Tingle

Code Talker Stories, by Laura Tohe

The Moon of Letting Go: And Other Stories, by Richard Van Camp

Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson 

Short annotations for these books are at School Library Journal in a column I wrote for them in November of 2013: Resources and Kit Lit about American Indians.

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25. 2013: Best Books, Middle School

If I was starting a library in an elementary school or if I was ordering books for a middle school library, these are ten books I'd buy right away, along with the ten listed in 2010: Top Ten Books Recommended for a Middle School Library.

With these books, students will read the works of Native and non-Native writers who know what they're talking about. 

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection. Edited by Matt Dembicki.

My Name Is Not Easy, by Debby Dahl Edwardson

If I Ever Get Out of Here, by Eric Gansworth

Triple Threat, by Jacqueline Guest

Under the Mesquite, by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School, edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin; illustrated by S. D. Nelson

Native Writers: Voices of Power, by Kim Sigafus and Lyle Ernst

Super Indian: Volume One, written and illustrated by Arigon Starr

How I Became a Ghost, by Tim Tingle 

Annotations for the books are at a column I wrote for School Library Journal in November of 2013:
"Resources and Kid Lit about American Indians"

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