OH! My Book Con Post!

If you haven’t seen the reading list #Lemonade for Girls: In Formation over on Zetta Elliott’s blog, you might want to. She, Sarah Dahlen Park and myself collaborated to create this empowering resource.

Our selections reflect some of the themes in Beyoncé’s visual album: self-love, African roots, spirituality, Louisiana, the history and culture(s) of the South, Black women’s activism, police brutality, and “Daddy Lessons.”

Saturday, I joined a group of teachers and librarians to travel to BookCon in Chicago. High school librarian Kathy Hicks-Brooks usually arranges planes or busses to take a group of her teachers to BEA but this year, the event was pre-empted by ISTEP testing. Instead, she took a group to BookCon. I met a few authors in real life that I’ve connected with on social media and attended a few panel presentations. While this is a good event for the general public, for someone who is use to NCTE and ALA, the exhibit itself was lacking.

The panels were quite good, particularly the first panel I sat in on, “We Need Diverse Books Love and Loss in Children’s Literature”. The well-attended panel was moderated by the ever so charming Dhonielle Clayton who steered authors Jenny Han, Gene Luen Yang, Francisco X. Stork, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sherman Alexie and Leigh Bardugo to an intense discussion on both love and loss. I’m going to try to recap with a few quotes and outtakes.

Leigh spoke about writing Crooked Kingdom to provide visibility to disabled people. Regardless of her own disability, she sees herself as bad ass and created a bad ass character to made that part of her visible. She felt writers could scaffold their work to prepare students for a particular idea so that it would become possible to push readers and their visions as far as possible.

Anna-Marie reflecting on her first love at age 17. “Loving made it necessary to lay down identities sooner.” She holds that certains aspects of our communities, such as ethnic or gender identity, come into what we write. Growing up as a child, her Latina grandmother told her “If you’re a good girl, you can get a blue-eyed boy”, reinforcing the thought that if you can date someone from the dominant culture then you’ve made it. You’ve been accepted. “The world has told marginalized characters that they don’t deserve happy endings.”

Francisco: “A hopeful ending isn’t necessarily a happy ending. We want to leave endings with the feeling that there is meaning out there.”

Jenny Han added to these thoughts by explaining how good it felt to see women of color in Scandal that everyone desires. She then vicariously felt she, too could be wanted.

Gene commented that while Eleanor and Park was criticized for objectifying Park, he took great pleasure in seeing an Asian male being objectified. It was a very funny moment. Gene has quite a sense of humor.

Sherman Alexie’s first date was to see Purple Rain “in an era when you didn’t know things”. Neither he nor his date knew anything about the movie they were planning to see. In a larger context, he felt that “the pressure for us to be representative was adopted in a way that isn’t natural for us. Why can’t I just write a story and just let it be about Purple Rain?” His date was a white girl and the date was about more than just the two of them, what we do outside our communities affects us and our communities.

“As Native Americans when we write about sadness our own view represents everyone [who is Native.] Even other Natives view it that way. When my books are criticized, non-Natives will read my books for the pain. I’ve learned we’re all in the range of fucked-up-ness as individuals and in our tribes. I’m not interested in whether or not my people want me to write a happy ending.”

Francisco Stork: “It’s an amazing thing when you’re 16 to have someone say ‘yes’ to you.” (on getting that first date)

“There are moments in relationships, in love, in rejection that you see yourself through the eyes of another person”, like when your crush tells you they cannot go out with you because you’re Latino.

Francisco builds friendships as the basis true love in his writings.

Gene: His 7th grade friend told him that if he kept reading comics books, he’d never get a girlfriend.

Sherman: “It’s dangerous to be an individual with in a tribe. If you reach across boundaries, it becomes dangerous for everyone.”

Question to the panel: Do we hide the dirty laundry?

Gene: “You have to go where you’re uncomfortable.”

Francisco finds it difficult to write about snobby Latinxs who think they’ve made it, but it’s important for him to write that so that readers don’t think all Mexicans are poor.

Sherman: “Our literature gets condescended upon by our own people. They don’t expect us to write for greatness. I want to write War and Peace.” Thunder Boy Jr. (his latest picture book) was inspired at his father’s funeral when he realized there was a tombstone with his own name on it because he and his father had the same name. “If there’s only one book on Native Americans, then that book is asked to do many things. We need more books with characters of color so they can do everything.”

Jenny agreed, saying she cannot write everyone’s story. “I can only do what I’m good at.”

Leigh urged attendees to look for a book with a format or cover that’s “not like you. Buy it. Read it.”

There was a question from the audience asking the panel members what they’re doing to promote diversity. I felt a slight pause, perhaps coming from some of us wondering how this person has missed all the work that has been and is being done.

Francisco replied by reminding us we all have to find what works for us. He mentors young writers.

Sherman asked everyone to realize how much progress has been made and remember to respect the diversity within our own communities.

I liked that in this small community of authors, the sense of diversity came from the honest and complex perspectives they provided both in how they live their lives and how they write for young people. No doubt these perspectives have been tempered from the cultures in which they live, but these diversities created a rich dialog. Imagine how good their books are.

Jenny Han: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You

Gene Luen Yang (National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature): Secret Coders; American Born Chinese; Boxers and Saints

Francisco X. Stork: Memory of Light; Marcelo in the Real World

Anna-Marie McLemore The Weight of Feathers

Sherman Alexie : Thunder Boy Jr.; Diary of a Part-time Indian

Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows; Crooked Kingdom

I had photos to add to this post, but something is going on with WordPress and I can neither reduce the size of the photos or re-position them. I’ll just post a couple here for now. The first is the above mentioned panel and the second pic is friends and colleagues who are teachers and librarians in Indianapolis that went to BookCon.

 

 

 

review: My Name is Not Tuesday

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title: My Name is Not Friday
author: Jon Walter
date: Scholastic, 2016
main character: Samuel “Friday”
YA Historical Fiction

My Name is not Friday is British author Jon Walter’s sophomore novel. The beginning is slow moving and a bit disorienting. It feels odd in that we’re in one of the most racially charged eras in American history yet we never learn anyone’s racial identity until the protaganist is referred to as a ‘nigger’ at a slave auction thirty nine pages into the story. I have not seen the British version of this book, it is possible some things were changed as the book was translated into American English.

We soon find that young Samuel has been removed from the orphanage where he grew up and is being enslaved, leaving behind his younger brother, Joshua; his only remaining family member. Samuel feels responsible for his mischievous sibling (his brother’s keeper?) and wants to get back to protect him. Instead, he’s held in bondage on the Allen farm.

I still cannot figure out why Samuel (look up Samuel in the Old Testament), who is renamed Friday (nod to Robinson Crusoe) doesn’t make everyone know that he is free. He enters into bondage fearlessly. Why?

It seems that Samuel falls easily into the role of one who is enslaved, keeping his eyes downcast, not engaging with the whites around him. His life in the orphanage seemed good, not great but good. Perhaps life there as a free boy was not much better than being enslaved. Was there just no good place for a black boy to be in the American south in 1880? Perhaps he was subjugated all his life. Several scenes indicate that Friday does not know how to carry out routine duties of an enslaved person and has no idea how to be a slave. Rather than wonder why he doesn’t know, it’s assumed he’s lazy. However, many see Friday as someone quite special, almost chosen. This is part of the strong moral and Christian undertone in the book.

Friday’s actual owner is Gerald Allen, a young white boy not much older than Friday. Mrs. Allen, Gerald’s mother, manages the estate while her husband is off to fight for the Confederacy and  she seems unsure most of the time. Having been influence by a father who is compassionate toward those he has enslaved, Gerald wants to be Friday’s friend although his mother wants him to grow up and treat Friday as someone who is enslaved.

I’ve read several reviews of My Name is Not Friday that refer to the story as being brutal. Please rid yourself of the notion of smiling slaves. Please. My friends, this is a story of enslavement, a story where one group of humans forces domination over another based upon their skin color. Walter understands this and does not shy away from the inhumanity of this institution. He communicates the humanity of the enslaved as well as of the enslaver and the most honest way he can do this is by creating opportunities to show the inconsistencies of this system, the exact inhumanity of enslavement.

Remember, Gerald actually owns all the enslaved people on this property. At one point, he’s bullied into whipping an enslaved person, Hubbard. He doesn’t want to whip this man whom he’s known all his life and Friday calls him on it.

“Why’d you do It, Gerald? Why didn’t you stop it?”

Gerald stamps down, lifts another spade of earth up out of the grave, and throws it farther than he needs to. “Hubbard deserved what he got. He was caught fair and square and we didn’t have no choice but to whip him. My daddy would have done the same thing. I’m sure he would. Maybe he wouldn’t have done it himself, but he would have made sure someone did it.”

“You could have refused!”

“They’d have done it anyway!” He stops his digging and stares at me, exasperated. “There are folks who think that darkies ain’t good enough to be free. Now, I ain’t one of ‘em, but that’s who you got to convince-and you can’t do that when they’ve brought in a runaway and everyone’s howling for blood.”

The entitlement! Gerald throws the earth farther than he needs to; a wasteful action, a waste of the soil. Digging in the dirt.

Gerald rationalizes that because of his actions, Hubbard deserves to be whipped and it’s Hubbard’s own fault and besides you can’t convince some people otherwise, at least not when they’re angry. And, his daddy? He wouldn’t have whipped Hubbard, he wouldn’t soil his own hands like that. No. He’d get someone else to do it. These enslaved people are Gerald’s property but everything tells him he has no choice to make. It’s 1864ish and the war is almost over but the south has become a slave society. Not even whites have the freedom to act outside the guidelines. Yea, that’s brutal.

Walter does have a few problems with the story. With so much richness brought to the character of Friday/Samuel, he’s still poorly developed. At many points, Samuel seems to be a moral compass, a child with a mission. Yet, he never seems to develop in any cognitive, emotional or spiritual perspective. With all that Friday faces over a protracted period of time, he seems to remain the same child from start to finish. And, too often racial identity is omitted.

Then, there’s the ending. The third segment of the book is written in a completely different tone and even at a different pace than the previous portion and this makes the conclusion difficult to accept.

Walter admits that he didn’t set out to write a story about enslavement, but this is where the character’s voice let him. I like that he didn’t hold his character an arm’s length away as too many whites do when writing enslaved blacks. Rather, he embraces him and writes him with care. I like that his portrayal of enslavement is complex and multilayered and that Walter did his research. This isn’t a perfect book, but it is a good one.

Reading While Brown

The #LargeFears Twitter chats began in December, 2012. The name #LargeFears pays homage to Large Fears by Kendrick Daye and Myles Johnson while also calling out the large fears many of us have about diversity. The chats are moderated by myself and Libertad and Guinevere Thomas and each month we invite a guest or two to serve as host for the chat. Our most recent chat, led by librarian Angie Manfredi, was about diversity and children’s book awards. (I’ll Storify in the next couple of days.) Angie is highly respected in the children’s literature community because she speaks through honesty and compassion. The discussion she led attracted a vast array of participants ranging from those on selection committees to reviewers, bloggers, librarians, editors and authors. And most all were white.

While we’ve built a small, diverse group of regulars, what I and the other moderators are noticing is that the ethnic make up of most of the participants correlates to that of the host(s). Which means when we had Sonia Rodriguez leading the chat on poetry, most of our participants were Latinx with very few African Americans or Asian Americans chiming in. It seems that whites tend to be more likely to show up in our little space, interactinScreen Shot 2016-05-11 at 2.47.46 PMg as an ally or as an interested party. From these limited observations, it seems we marginalized people are not being allies for or taking interest in each other’s conversations and I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to our Twitter chats.

There are so many ways our stories of discrimination, decolonization and invisibility
intersect. It seems obvious that there is power in numbers, strength in a unified voice. Are we still proving who has suffered the most? Are we colonized to the point of only being concerned about me and mine? Do we carry as many discriminatory and hateful judgments about ‘others’ as does the dominant group?

Can we, should we be building bridges with each other or is it all about building bridges with the dominant group?

Isn’t there room for everybody at the table?

The hardest thing to realize in fighting for diversity in children’s books is realizing the fight isn’t just about the books, that it’s a fight to change society.

ThursdayEveningReads

#LargeFears Twitter chats are the first Tuesday of each month. TheScreen Shot 2016-05-03 at 9.28.21 AMy’re called #LargeFears both in homage to Large Fears by Myles Johnson and Kendrick Daye and because we have so many large fears with regards to diversity. While some of us fear it will it never become a reality in children’s literature, others fear it will disrupt their tiny little world.

Tuesday 10 May, Angie Manfredi will be hosting a conversation about diversity and children’s book awards. The twitter chat will begin at 5pm MST, 7pm EST and last an hour. It promises to be quite engaging. Look for us with the hashtag #LargeFears.

Another Twitter chat that I recently attended was #whitewashedOUT, a conversation that developed from the growing misrepresentation of Asian Americans in Hollywood. I was a quiet voice there, in my listening/ally/retweeting mode while Asian Americans tweeted about many personal situations involving representation of their culture by themselves and others. These conversations are in public spaces to build alliances, uncover truths, assert positions and collectively demand change. This from BookRiot:

This white-washing problem is pervasive. It’s not just ScarJo, it’sAloha, it’s Gods of Egypt, it’s Noah, it’s The Social Network, it’s Cloud Atlas, it’s Dragon Ball Z, it’s Avatar: The Last Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.35.15 PMAirbender, it’s everywhere. This month, to kick off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Nerds of Color has planned a concerted effort to come for Hollywood producers and casting agents and their white-washing called #whitewashedOUT. Every Tuesday in May, the campaign will run with a Twitter chat between Keith Chow (Founder/Editor of Nerds of Color) and Ellen Oh (President of We Need Diverse Books). I’ll be there and I hope you will be, too.

Kudos to #whitewashedOUT team members:

Keith Chow (@the_real_chow)

Sarah Park Dahlen (@readingspark)

Ellen Oh (@elloellenoh)

Amitha Knight (@amithaknight)

Sona Charaipotra (@sona_c)

Terry Hong (@SIBookDragon)

Preeti Chhibber (@runwithskizzers)

Ilene Wong Gregorio (@iwgregorio)

Aisha Saeed (@aishacs)

A real change has happened at Kirkus where reviewers now identify character’s race or ethnicity. Vicky Smith writes about the reaction to reading ‘white’ in review after review. I have to admit to not having read many Kirkus reviews in the past few months (this lady is busy!) but I think about how difficult it is for so many people (of all ethnicities) to say ‘white’ when describing white people, to asserting that white people also have racial identity and to not be uncomfortable in doing so. It’s not been an easy change, but it’s about time.

It hasn’t been universally popular. A commenter on the Reading While White blog expressed suspicion of the lens we were using when we asserted that the narrator of Louise Hawes’ The Language of Starsis “presumably white.” A number of publishers have contacted me privately in varying degrees of dismay and/or anger. One of my newest reviewers of color protested energetically, saying that unless race is a factor in the story, “there is no reason at all to mention race in a review.” And one of our readers expressed the concern that “a title may receive a sub-par review if it does not feature minority characters even if it is an exceptional book in all other aspects.” source 

Do watch for the June issue of VOYA which is devoted to diversity in YA literature and will contain linked online resources to support the print articles. As a sneak peak, here’s Debbie Reese’s list of favorite American Indian books. (Yes, I’ll have an article there.)

The ALA awards committees always take recommendations and the Arbuthnot Honor Lecture is no exception. The 2016 Lecture will be delivered by Pat Mora in Santa Barbara, California while the 2017 will be delivered by Jacqueline Woodson. Applications to host Woodson’s lecture will be accepted until 10 June 2016 while recommendations for the 2018 lecturer are accepted until 20 June 2016.

The May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture is an annual event featuring an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, of any country, who shall prepare a paper considered to be a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature.  This paper is delivered as a lecture each April, and is subsequently published in Children and Libraries, the journal of ALSC. source

Finals are going on here this week. Graduation will be this weekend and it will be very quiet in these parts next week. There will be no students here to celebrate Children’s Book Week, but hopefully you can find a spot, or make a spot, to celebrate in your state. Celebrate books for young people and the joy of reading!

 ALA election results are in and I wish heart-felt congratulations to all the winners, particularly Nina Lindsay VP/President elect of ALSC, Angie Manfredi, Sujei Lugo and Thaddeus Andracki elected to the Newbery Committee, Robin Fogle Kurz YALSA Board of Directors, Vanessa Irvin elected to the Margaret A. Edwards Committee and me!! elected to the Printz Committee.

Our voices can be heard when we vote, when we tweet, when we run for office and when we write. Speak up. Shout out. Question. Do it for yourself and better yet do it for our children. Become fearless.

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Book Deals Made April, 2016

Oni Press has acquired world rights to the YA graphic novel IWant You by Madeleine Flores. The story follows a girl working in her brother’s cat cafe who has a secret magical ability that allows her to get whatever she wishes for whenever she says “I want.” Publication is slated for 2018.

Candlewick Press will publish 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Laureate Cao Wenxuan‘s novel Bronze and Sunflower, which tells the story of the friendship between Bronze, a mute village boy, and Sunflower, a girl sent from the city with her father to a rural re-educational “cadre school,” during the Cultural Revolution. Emma Lidbury at Walker Books bought world English rights for the Walker Books Group from Peter Buckman at the Ampersand Agency. The book was published in the U.K. in April 2015, and has been released in France, Germany, Italy, and Korea. Hilary Van Dusen will edit the U.S. edition, which will be published in early 2017.

HarperCollins/Walden Pond Press has acquired Anna Meriano‘s middle grade debut, Love Sugar Magic on behalf of CAKE Literary. The novel follows a girl who discovers that she comes from a long and distinguished line of brujas – witches of Mexican ancestry. But when she bungles a spell, she must race to fix it before her mother and sisters find out she’s been practicing magic in secret. Publication is set for late 2017.

Flatiron Books has preempted Somaiya Daud‘s debut Mirage, a YA fantasy/SF trilogy inspired by the author’s Moroccan background, in which a poor girl from an isolated moon must become the body double to the cruel imperial princess, and learns that life in the royal palace is far more dangerous and complicated than she imagined. Publication of the first book is planned for fall 2017.

First Second Books has acquired world rights to a YA graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki (l.) and illustrated by Rosemary Valero O’Connell, called Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. In the book, teenaged Freddy is going through what might possibly be the most epically complicated breakup in lesbian history – or at least it feels that way to Freddy and her long-suffering friends. It’s planned for 2018.

Dial has pre-empted Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary, a middle grade novel about shy 12-year-old Nisha, who is forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India. She finds a way to heal her broken world by writing raw and honest letters to her deceased Muslim mother. Publication is slated for spring 2018.

Scholastic Press has bought world rights toMadelyn Rosenberg (l.) and Wendy Wan-Long Shang‘s middle-grade novel This Is Just a Test. David Da-Wei Horowitz should be preparing for his bar mitzvah, but instead, he’s busy trying to figure out how to survive the Cold War, which is hard when he can’t even make peace between friends and his dueling Chinese and Jewish grandmothers. Publication is planned for 2017.

May 2016 Releases

Perfert Liars by Kimberly Reid; Tu Books. Ages 12 and up.
Andrea Faraday is junior class valedictorian at the exclusive Woodruff School, where she was voted Most Likely to Do Everything Right. But looks can be deceiving. When her parents disappear, her life and her Perfect Girl charade begins to crumble, and her scheme to put things right just takes the situation from bad to so much worse. Pretty soon she’s struck up the world’s least likely friendship with the juvenile delinquents at Justice Academy, the last exit on the road to jail and the first stop on the way out.

If she were telling it straight, friendship might not be the right word to describe their alliance, since Drea and her new associates could not be more different. She’s rich and privileged; they re broke and, well, criminal. But Drea’s got a secret: she has more in common with the juvie kids than they d ever suspect. When it turns out they share a common enemy, Drea suggests they join forces to set things right. Sometimes, to save the day, a good girl’s gotta be bad.

OMG…issues OMG…I Did it Again?! by Talia Aikens-Nuñez; Central Avenue. ages 9-12
April Appleton wakes up to quite the sight: a herd of elephants marching down her street! She realizes that her powers of witchcraft have done it again. With her friends, Grace and Eve, April must figure out how the elephants got to her town in the first place and then how to get them back home. But with elephants playing in the neighbor’s pool, sitting on cars and eating everyone’s trees, how will they do it? Early readers will delight in the misadventures of this reluctant witch and her plucky friends as they try to figure out how to use April’s powers to do good in the world.

Even if the Stars Fall by Mia GarciaKatherine Tegen Books. ages 14 and up. Debut author.
One midsummer night. Two strangers. Three rules: No real names. No baggage. No phones. A whirlwind twenty-four-hour romance about discovering what it means to feel alive in the face of one of life’s greatest dangers: love. Who would you be if you had one night to be anyone you want?

Incriminated (Emancipated series) by M. G. Reyes. Katherine Tegen Books. ages 14 and up
There’s trouble in paradise. Six teens legally liberated from parental control the bad boy, the good girl, the diva, the hustler, the rocker, and the nerd all share a house in Venice Beach, and they all have one thing in common: murder.After a streak of hookups, heartbreaks, and bad decisions, the housemates once perfect life is falling apart. One is caught in a forbidden romance with a Hollywood heartthrob, while another puts her dreams on the line for one little kiss. One harbors a dark truth that could save a life, while another’s risky business puts all their lives in danger. And before they know it, the friends are fighting like family.But when an uninvited houseguest and a deadly accident entangle them in a conspiracy none of them saw coming, pulling together is the only way out. Alone, none of them can cover up the lies. Together, none of them can be trusted.Packed with conspiracies, intrigue, and scandalous romance, this gripping sequel told from multiple perspectives will have readers suspecting them all.

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe, Book Two) by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Ages 12 and up
In this fast-paced sequel to “The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, ” Ashala and her friends face a new danger from the least expected source one of their own.
After a daring raid on Detention Center 3 to rescue their trapped peers, Ashala Wolf and her Tribe of fellow Illegals children with powerful and inexplicable abilities are once again entrenched in their safe haven, the Firstwood. Existing in alliance with the ancient trees and the giant intelligent lizards known as saurs, the young people of the Tribe do their best to survive and hide. But the new peace is fractured when Ashala’s friend Ember Crow goes missing, leaving only a cryptic message behind. Ember claims to be harboring terrible secrets about her past that could be a threat to the Tribe and all Illegals. Ashala and her boyfriend, Connor, spring into action, but with Ashala’s Sleepwalking ability functioning erratically and unknown enemies lying in wait, leaving the Firstwood is a dangerous proposition. Can Ashala and Connor protect the Tribe and bring Ember home, or must they abandon one to save the other?

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. HMH Clarion. Ages 10-12
Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut.

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks. Lee and Low. Ages 7-12.
Vivien Thomas’s greatest dream was to attend college to study medicine. But after the stock market crashed in 1929, Vivien lost all his savings. Then he heard about a job opening at the Vanderbilt University medical school under the supervision of Dr. Alfred Blalock. Vivien knew that the all-white school would never admit him as a student, but he hoped working there meant he was getting closer to his dream.

As Dr. Blalock s research assistant, Vivien learned surgical techniques. In 1943, Vivien was asked to help Dr. Helen Taussig find a cure for children with a specific heart defect. After months of experimenting, Vivien developed a procedure that was used for the first successful open-heart surgery on a child. Afterward, Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig announced their innovative new surgical technique, the Blalock-Taussig shunt. Vivien s name did not appear in the report. Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine children s heart surgery. Tiny Stitches is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine.”

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee; Penguin. Ages 12 and up
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare sSchool for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance througha mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch ofspoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong until disaster strikes.
On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the ‘bossy’ cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
Breakout author Stacey Lee masterfully crafts another remarkable novel set against a unique historical backdrop. Strong-willed Mercy Wong leads a cast of diverse characters in this extraordinary tale of survival.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; G.P.Putnam. ages 12 and up
Renee Ahdieh is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renee enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. She is the author ofThe Wrath and the Dawn.

The Case of the Three Kings: The Flaca files/El Cso de lost reyes Magos: Los expedientes de Flaca by Alidis Vicente; Piñata Books. ages 8-12
Flaca, or Detective Flaca as she prefers to be called, is pleased with her Christmas gifts. Finally, she has the tools needed to do her job: a fingerprint-taking kit, a police-quality mini flashlight, and most exciting of all, police tape to block off crime scenes! However, she is not at all pleased with the airline tickets to Puerto Rico she and her sister La Bruja are given. She has case deadlines to meet! La Bruja isn’t very happy either since their grandmother’s house doesn’t have air conditioning, cable TV or Wi-Fi.

Their parents are sure the girls will enjoy celebrating Three Kings Day, a huge holiday in Latin America that takes place on January 6 and involves putting grass in a box under the bed for the wise men’s camels. Three men on flying camels sounds very suspicious to Detective Flaca, who once again is faced with a case begging to be solved. Where do the Three Kings get the gifts to put in the boxes? Do they steal presents from Santa Claus? Or do they take them from under Christmas trees around the world?

A Mystery Bigger Than Big/Un misterio mas grande que grandisimo by Rene Saldana Jr; Pinata Press. ages 8-12
In this fourth installment of the bilingual Mickey Rangel Mystery series, acclaimed author and educator Rene Saldana, Jr. writes a thought-provoking novel for intermediate readers that explores the contemporary issue of immigration from the perspective of young people. And in this case, Mickey learns some hard truths about being a detective and a good person, ultimately realizing that some mysteries are best left unsolved.

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan; Scholastic. ages 9-12
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL.
Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own.
Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.
Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common — but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford; Atheneum. ages 9-12
“I WANT YOU ” says the poster of Uncle Sam. But if you re a young black man in 1940, he doesn t want you in the cockpit of a war plane. Yet you are determined not to let that stop your dream of flying.
So when you hear of a civilian pilot training program at Tuskegee Institute, you leap at the chance. Soon you are learning engineering and mechanics, how to communicate in code, how to read a map. At last the day you ve longed for is here: you are flying
From training days in Alabama to combat on the front lines in Europe, this is the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the groundbreaking African-American pilots of World War II. In vibrant second-person poems, Carole Boston Weatherford teams up for the first time with her son, artist Jeffery Weatherford, in a powerful and inspiring book that allows readers to fly, too.

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. Balzer+Bray. ages 13 and up Debut author 
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters the only two in Russia and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death. Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with beautiful, whip smart, imaginative and he can t stop thinking about her. And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself. As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Summer of Sloan by Erin L. Schneider. Disney-Hyperion. ages 12 and up. Debut author
Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.
These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.
Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.
But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to come by as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

book review: Dorothy Must Die

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title: Dorothy Must Die
author: Danielle Paige
date: Harper, 2014
main character: Amy Gumm
young adult fiction

 

We all cheered for Dorothy to find the Wizard and make her way back home to Kansas. We loved Glinda’s sparkle and the shine of the yellow brick road, but sometimes too much ‘good’ just isn’t all that good. Sometimes, it’s quite wicked.

Another tornado in Kansas, another girl misplaced in Oz and we revisit the place only to wonder what in the world has happened. The munchkins, flying monkey and people of Oz were all once very happy with their lives but now, they’ve lost they joy and their freedoms. Can Amy figure this mess out? Which side does she choose when the only good advice she gets is to trust no one?

Dorothy Must Die is the first book in the series by Danielle Paige, an African American young adult author as well as a writer for television.

I like the steady pace Paige establishes in Dorothy Must Die. I like the time spent developing characters and their backstory, giving them important roles to play as the story unfolds. This first person narrative makes world building an integral part of the story with readers discovering how this new Oz works right along with main character, Amy Gumm. Her own backstory gives evidence to her poverty. Amy lacks most of the resources that would provide her access to success. She has no friends, her clothing is tattered and her single mother has a chemical dependency problem. Amy is empowered through her tenacity, intelligence, reliability and her magic. We’re going to be cheering for this underdog who is out to conquer Oz along with her mom’s pet rat, Star.

While Paige challenges many sources of power in this fantasy world, she leaves women as the source of magic and magic is the one true power in Oz. Many deep and penetrating questions arise in the book and I’m sure most young readers will want to follow Amy to find answers for her as well as for themselves. This girl is on a hero’s journey.

This is essentially a good vs. wicked story except that we really don’t know which side or which characters are good and which are evil. Amy struggles with decisions she has to make, important consequential decisions that tear at her sense of moral justice. She’s a strong girl this Amy who doesn’t act solely on her own self interest. The title makes it clear that Dorothy must die, but Amy really struggles with her part in this murderous act because she honors and values life. But, yeah. Dorothy must die.