review: Naughts and Crosses

+-+35697920_140Title: Naughts and Crosses

author: Malorie Blackman

date: 2001; Simon and Schuster

main character: Callum McGregor

 

 

Crosses and naughts. Blacks and whites.

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

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

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

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

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

Free Books! Apply for the Great Books Giveaway

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

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

This content originally appeared in an email from YALSA.

Quick Little Post of Possibilities

Hi!

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

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

Another impending deadline:

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

Go for it!! #ShineOn!!

review: Feral Nights

title: Feral NightsFeral+Nights+Final

author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

date: Candlewick; 2013

main character: Yoshi Kitihara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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