book review: A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson

web-AStrongRightArmtitle: A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson
author: Michelle Y. Green
date: Puffin, 2002

Writing a biography has to be difficult, particularly if the subject is still alive. This only increases the stress to get it right. And, this getting it right is not only about the facts! It means telling the story of this person’s life in a way that echoes the character by rebuilding scenes and scenery, schemes and themes that made the person who they were. Or are.

In writing the biography of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, Michelle Green opted to tell the story in first person, giving readers the illusion that they are in the presence of Johnson and hearing directly from her. This can only add to the pressure to get it right.

She captures us with the very first paragraph.

“Mama never mentioned it, but I’m sure I musta been born with a baseball in my hand, it’s smooth white skin curving into my tiny brown palm. Ever since I can remember, my thoughts flooding back over sixty years now, my life has been wrapped up in that three-inch universe of twine and leather. It’s always been that way with me, and I expect always will be.” 

The story is framed with a phone call to Johnson from a reporter wanting to know how she feels about the County Stadium in Milwaukee being torn down and replaced. Her name is on a wall there that honors the Negro League Wall of Fame. Johnson played in the Negro Leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns.

I’d love to tell you the wonderful history I learned in reading this book, but I don’t want to spoil that for you. I will tell you that in Green’s writing, you experience the work of a gifted storyteller relating an interesting hole in history. It’s these hole’s that Green enjoys writing about.

Johnson’s story is full of acts of discrimination yet she has chosen to live out the good memories. While her early career as a baseball player would have been fraught with issues of sexism, it was actually racism that most often denied her possibilities. Green presents these acts in a manner that is straightforward but not overpowering to the story, one of personal achievement. Johnson’s photos are placed throughout the book, however in the paperback version I read they were small and poorly copied. As with any image, they did add to the richness of the story itself.

March is the time when many thoughts turn to baseball. This month, Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name: My story from First Pitch to Game Changer by Mo’ne Davis (HarperCollins) is released. I can’t help but see parallels between these two. In looking for a biography of Johnson, I stumbled across an article about Johnson showing up to witness Davis as she planed in the Little League World series. “This girl is the best thing since food,” Mamie Johnson said.

Green’s book is pretty good, too! She writes a cohesive and engaging biography that gives readers insights into the scenes and scenery and the schemes and themes in the life of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson.

Free Audiobook: X A Novel

I’ve posted before about free summer audiobooks from SYNC. They’re getting an early start this year with a free download of the audiobook X: A Novel by Ilysasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. Here are the details:

On 5/14/15 a free MP3 audiobook download of the acclaimed YA novel X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz (Malcolm X’s daughter) and Kekla Magoon will be available for one week.
Students who grab that file between 5/14/15 (8 AM EST) and 5/20/15  will be able to keep the spoken word performance of Malcolm X’s teenage years indefinitely.
When you share this news with teens in your circles, you can have them sign-up on the spot to get a text alert when the download file becomes available.  When they text to 25827 and put xnovel in the message field, they will get a prompt to grab an app to handle the download on 5/14/15.
There is more information & tools to share here:

Male Monday: Calvin Slater

Calvin Slater hails from the Motor City, aka Detroit. A lifelong resident, Calvin couldn’t wait to write the Coleman High series and take readers on one of the coolest rides through one of the dopest cities.

Slater began writing as an adult author and switch to writing for YAs with the Coleman High Series. The first book in the series, Lovers and Haters, was released in August 2014. Hold Me Down, the second book was just released.


Xavier Hunter’s dreams of graduation and college are even more crazy-impossible this sophomore year. Flipping on his former BFF has put more than one target on his back. And thanks to vicious baby-daddy lies, his dream girl Samantha Fox has quit him for good. The only person who seems to understand what he’s going through is Nancy Simpson. She’s a gorgeous chance to make things right–but she’s more dangerous drama than Xavier has ever seen.

Samantha isn’t going to let heartbreak break her. Maybe Xavier wasn’t the down-deep-decent guy she thought. And maybe what they had wasn’t as true as she hoped. But there’s something about his new boo, Nancy, that’s screaming bad news. And exposing what’s real means she and Xavier must face some hard truths–and survive.

97816177313279781617731341  9781617731365

New and Upcomings

Two publishers focusing on diverse children’s literature have recently emerged. I’m copying blurbs directly from their websites so I get it right.

Non-profit Valley Artistic Outreach is proud to announce Juventud Press, a sister imprint to FlowerSong Books, both headquartered in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Knowing first-hand how important it is that children of diverse cultural backgrounds have access to books in which they see themselves reflected, Juventud Press will be putting out three to four middle-grade and young-adult titles a year. To be competitive even in the field of independent small presses, we need the initial capital to produce high quality, visually engaging books.

We are asking for pledges through Kickstarter. Each one comes with a fantastic reward, so please take a look:

HopeRoad Publishing is an exciting, independent publisher, vigorously supporting voices too often neglected by the mainstream. We are growing a reputation as promoters of multicultural literature with a special focus on Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. At the heart of our publishing is the love of outstanding writing from writers you, the reader, would have otherwise missed.  HopeRoad is located in the UK.

And there are conferences!!

It’s not too late to plan for the International Federation of Libraries’ World Library and Information Congress in Capetown, South Africa. The event will be held from 15-12 August and the theme is Dynamic Libraries: Access, Development and Transformation. The 2016 Congress will be held in Columbus, OH. I haven’t seen CFPs, yet but I’m on the lookout.

IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Regional Conference, October 16-18, 2015 in NYC:  The call for proposals to present a poster session at the IBBY Regional Conference in New York is now available on the USBBY (United States Board on Books for Young People) website.  The deadline for submission is May 1.  Details about the conference and registration material are also on the website.

The 2015 Southern Miss Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival will be in Hattiesburg, MS April 8-10 with Medallion Winner Paul O. Zelinsky!  Keynote speakers include Coleen Salley Storytelling Award Winner Rita Auerbach, Peter Brown, Ezra Jack Keats Lecturer Pat Cummings, Nikki Grimes, David LevithanSteve Sheinkin, de Grummond Lecturer Deborah Wiles and Gene Luen Yang.

The Association of Children’s Librarian’s of Nothern California’s 2015 Institute: ALL DUE RESPECT: A Dialogue about Diversity, Equity and Creating Safe Spaces for All Youth. Speakers include Jacqueline Woodson, Maya Gonzalez, Nina Lindsay, Malinda Lo, Aya de Leon, and the amazing Laura Atkins. Friday 10 April in San Francisco.

I’d love to go to any one of those! Could you pick just one?

grant opportunity: Reading is Grand

from the BCALA:
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) is pleased to announce applications for 2015 Reading Is Grand! Celebrating Grand-Families @ Your Library are now available. The grant amount is $500. The deadline for grant submissions isFRIDAY, MAY 15, 2015.
Reading Is Grand! Celebrating Grand-Families @ Your Libraryis an intergenerational literacy program designed to reach out toAfrica American children and families through shared stories.
Reading is Grand! is a celebration of the important role African American grandparents and older adults play in the lives of children. It is through their infinite wisdom and experiences that children learn the unique cultural and familial values that help them grow into valuable contributors to the community
Sharing stories, both oral, written, and visual, are the building blocks of literacy. It is through this exchange that children learn about their world and how people relate to each other in it. Shared stories and culture inspire growth, encourage exploration, and boost self-esteem. The program builds literacy through read aloud activities, storytelling, arts and crafts, music, dance, and drama.The strength of the program is to establish a method for grandparents and older adults to build literacy and cultural heritage connections between themselves, grandchildren, and children.
The Reading Is Grand! Celebrating Grand-Families @ Your Library literacy grant is designed to provide financial support to libraries and community organizations who want to introduce the Reading Is Grand! literacy program into the library setting focusing on African American culture.
The following application attachments includes: 1) 2015 Reading Is Grand! Grant Information and 2) 2015 Reading Is Grant! Grant Application. The African American Grandparents & Grand-Families themed booklist will be sent upon request.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Chair
2015 Reading Is Grand! A Family Literacy Project of the BCALA

YALSA 2016: Call For Proposals


The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is accepting proposals for continuing education sessions to be presented at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, June 23 – 28, 2016. Proposals may be submitted through June 1 via this form.

YALSA is accepting proposals for creative, innovative programs that address topics of focus in the Future of Library Services for & with Teens: a Call to Action report.

Proposals must fall within one of the following categories:

  • Teens/demographics
  • Collections
  • Spaces (physical and virtual)
  • Programming
  • Staffing
  • Youth Participation
  • Outreach
  • Administration/Policy

Individuals may submit multiple proposals; however, no individual will be chosen to present or co-present more than one program. Proposals that are largely sales pitches or that focus on only one particular product will not be accepted.  All presenters, moderators, speakers, etc. will be expected to cover their own travel and conference registration costs.  Most program time slots are 60 minutes in length.  However, there are a limited number of 90 minute time slots available.

The YALSA membership will vote on all of the programs that were submitted to determine which programs will move forward. Those who submitted proposals will be notified of their status the week of Sept. 1, 2015. You must be a member to submit a proposal. If you’re a librarian, join up! If you’re not team up with someone who is.

March Releases

I collected 11 titles by authors of color that were released in March 2014, including Crossover by Kwame Alexander. If I hadn’t spent over 7 hours gathering new titles, I would have written a post today. Come back later this week. I’ll write a post.

This March, my list contains 15  16 titles.

updated 23 Mar

Hold Me Down by Calvin Slater (Coleman High #2); Dafina/Kensington
Xavier Hunter’s dreams of graduation and college are even more crazy-impossible this sophomore year. Flipping on his former BFF has put more than one target on his back. And thanks to vicious baby-daddy lies, his dream girl Samantha Fox has quit him for good. The only person who seems to understand what he’s going through is Nancy Simpson. She’s a gorgeous chance to make things right–but she’s more dangerous drama than Xavier has ever seen.

Samantha isn’t going to let heartbreak break her. Maybe Xavier wasn’t the down-deep-decent guy she thought. And maybe what they had wasn’t as true as she hoped. But there’s something about his new boo, Nancy, that’s screaming bad news. And exposing what’s real means she and Xavier must face some hard truths–and survive.

The Smoking Mirror (Garza Twins vol 1) by David Bowles; IFWG Publishing
Carol and Johnny Garza are 12-year-old twins whose lives in a small Texas town are forever changed by their mother’s unexplained disappearance. Shipped off to relatives in Mexico by their grieving father, the twins soon learn that their mother is a nagual, a shapeshifter, and that they have inherited her powers. In order to rescue her, they will have to descend into the Aztec underworld and face the dangers that await them.

Billy Buckhorn Paranormal (Pathfinders series) by Gary Robinson; 7th Generation
Cherokee teenager Billy Buckhorn’s uncanny intuition became apparent at an early age. In the course of the Billy Buckhorn supernatural adventure books, Billy’s abilities grow and develop, and his reputation spreads throughout the Cherokee Nation. In book one, Abnormal, Billy began to experience an enhanced level of ESP after he survived being struck by lightning. His powers grow in Paranormal, the second book in the series, when Billy and his friend Chigger continue their adventures in a hidden cave they discover. After a horrifying accident at the cave, Billy’s supernatural abilities strengthen when he returns to life in the emergency room after being pronounced dead.
The story heats up when Chigger becomes possessed by an alien creature. Billy knows that all the trouble started in the cave and realizes he must return there in order to save his friend. What he doesn’t know is that the horned serpent known to the Cherokees as Uktena is lying in wait. (ages 12-16)

Walking Two Worlds by Joseph Bruchac and David Fadden (illus); 7th Generation
“Eee-leee! Master Parker,” Reverend Stone, headmaster at the Baptist school, called. “The answer, please.”
“Four,” Ely thought.
But he also thought something else. Why is English so strange? In Seneca every word always meant the same thing. But in English the same sound could mean different things. It could be four. Or for. Or fore. So begins this inspiring story of the early education of a famous Native American who gained greatness in the white man’s world while staying true to his Seneca people.Hasanoanda was his Indian name. But in mission school he became Ely. He encountered racism and deceit but, against all odds, did not give up on his quest to walk between two worlds. (ages 12-16)

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee; Putnam Juvenile
In 1845, Sammy, a Chinese American girl, and Annamae, an African American slave girl, disguise themselves as boys and travel on the Oregon Trail to California from Missouri. Agers 12-18.

Rivals in the City (The Agency series) by Y. S. Lee; Candlewick
Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?

Infinity Coil (the Ehrich Weisz Chronicles) by Marty Chan; Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Ehrich Weisz, Demon Hunter was introduced to steampunk fans in Demon Gate. Now, he is continuing his increasingly desperate quest to rescue his brother in an alternate universe in the sequel, Infinity Coil.
Now a fugitive from Demon Watch, young Ehrich Weisz hides in the underbelly of an alternate New York where immigrants from other dimensions mingle among Americans. Amid growing racial tensions, Ehrich searches for Kifo, the man who stole his brother’s mind and locked it inside an ancient medallion. He poses as a stage magician to draw out Kifo’s next target—the commissioner of Demon Watch. In the wings, an army awaits Kifo to accomplish his mission so interdimensional soldiers can invade New York. Ehrich is willing to risk the outbreak of war to save his brother, but he must decide whether or not he can betray his friends.

Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name: My story from First Pitch to Game Changer by Mo’ne Davis; HarperCollins
In August 2014, Mo’ne Davis became the first female pitcher to win a game in the Little League World Series and the first Little Leaguer to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and a month later she earned a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. She was thirteen years old. (ages 8-12)

The Precious Ones by Marisa de los Santos; William Morrow
In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary—professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father. Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter, Willow, only once.
Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister—a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?
Told in alternating voices—Taisy’s strong, unsparing observations and Willow’s naive, heartbreakingly earnest yearnings—The Precious One is an unforgettable novel of family secrets, lost love, and dangerous obsession, a captivating tale with the deep characterization, piercing emotional resonance, and heartfelt insight that are the hallmarks of Marisa de los Santos’s beloved works. (ages 12-18)

The Memory Key by Liana Liu; HarperTeen
Lora Mint is determined not to forget.Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most important, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return. But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever? Lora’s story of longing for her lost mother—and for the truth behind her broken memories—takes readers on a twisty ride. The authentic, emotional narrative sparks fascinating questions about memory and privacy in a world that increasingly relies on electronic recall. (ages 14 and up)

Catalyst by Lydia Kang; Penguin
In the past year Zel lost her father, the boy she loves, her safety, and any future she might have imagined for herself. Now she, her sister, and the band of genetic outcasts they’ve come to call their family are forced on the run when their safe house is attacked by men with neural guns. But on the way to a rumored haven in Chicago, Zel hears something–a whisper from Cy, the boy who traded himself for her sister’s safety. And when she veers off plan in order to search for him, what she finds is not what she expected. There’s more to their genetic mutations than they ever imagined…aspects that make them wonder if they might be accepted by the outside world after all. (ages 12 and up)

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed; Nancy Paulsen Books
This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny? Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late. (ages 14 and up)

Under a Painted Sky by Stacy Lee; Putnam
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician–not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life.
With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail. (ages 12 and up)

Spirit Animals Book 7: The Evertree by Marie Lu; Scholastic
Everything comes to a head in this seventh book in the New York Times bestselling series. The world of Erdas will be changed forever. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan were once ordinary kids. Then they discovered that they had spirit animals-wise and powerful partners who granted them with amazing gifts . . . and a legendary responsibility. Together, the team has journeyed across Erdas, racing to stop a merciless foe. They have laughed and fought together. They’ve won challenges and lost friends. Some have even lost themselves.Now that journey is about to end. They must reach a place forgotten by time and face off against an ancient enemy breaking free from his prison. They have just one chance to stop him . . . or the whole world will shatter. (ages 8-12)

The Boy Who Carried Bricks: A True Story by Alton Carter; Roadrunner
Abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, shuttled between foster homes and a boys ranch, a young African-American man refuses to succumb to the fate that the world says should be his. Told by the man who lived it. (ages 12-18)

Tether by Anna Jarzab; Delacorte
Everything repeats. Sasha expected things to go back to normal once she got back on Earth. But now that she knows parallel worlds are real, and that an alternate version of herself exists in a world called Aurora, her old life no longer seems to make sense . . . and her heart breaks daily for Thomas, the boy she left behind. Troubled by mysterious, often terrifying visions and the echoes of a self she was just beginning to discover, Sasha makes the difficult decision to journey once more through the tandem.
Thomas is waiting for her on the other side, and so is strange, otherworldly Selene, Sasha’s analog from a third universe. Sasha, Selene, and their other analog, Juliana, have a joint destiny, and a new remarkable power, one that could mean salvation for Selene’s dying planet. With Thomas’s help, Sasha and Selene search for the missing Juliana. But even if they can locate her, is Sasha willing to turn her back on love to pursue a fate she’s not sure she believes in? (ages 12 and up)

The Sweetest Heist in History (Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective) by Octavia Butler; Simon and Schuster
A hard-to-prove art heist makes a New York City mystery for ninja detective Randi Rhodes in this second book in a series full of humor, adventure, and heart from Academy Award–winning actress Octavia Spencer. Randi Rhodes and her fellow ninja detectives, DC and Pudge, were flying high after solving the Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit. But life in sleepy Deer Creek has begun to feel…a bit boring. There are no crimes to investigate! But a trip to New York City to visit Randi’s aunt changes that! While the ninja detective trio explores Randi’s old neighborhood in Brooklyn, they uncover an art heist. Except no one will believe them. So they’ll just have to catch the criminals in the act… (ages 8-12)