Spirit of Christmas Books

I put away Christmas today and thought for a moment about keeping a pine cone or an ornament out just to remind me of the season. Have you ever consider doing this, keeping out a part of Christmas so that you can remember the joy, the sweetness and the gentleness we manage to find during Christmas? Well, one way to hang on to the kindness is by contributing to the Book Wish Foundation’s post holiday Books for Darfur Refugees Campaign. It’s simple:  for every book you received for Christmas, you’re asked to donate $1 so that books can be purchased for the refugees.

I’ve received this information from the organizers (btw, this organization is run on 100% volunteer efforts with 100% of donations used to purchase books):

The good news story here is the inspiration of Darfuris who self-organized their own English classes in refugee camps.  For example, they view learning English as their “road to freedom.”  Since sending two shipments of specifically requested ESL books to the camps in May 2008, the numbers of refugees learning English has jumped from 400 to 800 (as of July 2008) and now numbers more than 1,100!  We are partnering with the British NGO, CORD, that runs education programs for UNHCR and UNICEF in the Bredjing, Treguine, and Gaga camps (60,000 refugees, about 20,000 students, about 1/2 are girls).  Our website (www.bookwish.org) shows inspiring photos of the refugees smiling and holding up the ESL books we sent them.

So, I’m leaving this bit of Christmas out there so that we can give and in doing so, hang on to the joy of the season.

book review: Perfect Chemistry


Perfect Chemistry

by Simone Elkeles

Walker Books for Young Readers, 2008

main characters: Alejandro Fuentes; Brittany Ellis

He’s everything that she isn’t, so everyone thinks. We read the cover and assume we’ll be reading another good girl/bad boy opposites attracting-type of books. But what we get is a story of what can happen when people get to know one another. When Alex (Latino, gang member), on the pretense of a guy bet, gets to know Brittany (White, cheerleader) he realizes there is more to her perfect façade. Brittany realizes Alex may wear the colors of the Bloods and he may talk tough, but he has brothers, a warm home and a real brain.

Alex and Brittany are forced to work together in Chemistry class where this wise young teacher knows there is more to learn in school than content matter so she decides who will pair with whom. These two young people don’t want to work together, but ah… they does’t protest too much! The story evolves to bring them together in a manner that seems real, never too contrived. Situations such as racism, Alex’s desire to leave the gang and Brittany’s strong relationship with her special needs sister add layers of meaning to the reading without weighing the story down.

Walter Dean Myers goes 2.0

from AdLit.org:

In Dope Sick, Walter Dean Myers breaks new ground and stretches the boundaries of realism in a tale of second chances, redemption, and the promise of hope. Beginning January 14, the first quarter of Myers’ new title will be exclusively available for download at AdLit.org. You’ll also get to hear directly from Myers about his work, have opportunities for students to interact and ask him questions, as well as find writing activities and suggestions for related activities and links of interest. Coinciding with Dope Sick‘s February 10 publication date, the entire book will be available online for free reading.

Teen Choice Awards

Teenreads.com is collaborating with the Children’s Book Council offering teens an opportunity to share their five favorite books of 2008. The five titles that receive the most “votes” will serve as the finalists for the CBC’s 2009 Teen Choice Book Award.

A list of nominees can be found at http://www.teenreads.com/features/ccba_nominees_2009.asp, where readers also may find information on how to nominate other titles published in 2008. The deadline for nominating books is January 31, 2009.

In February 2009 look for information about where to go to vote for the five finalists. The winner will be announced in May 2009.

Book Review: Fast talk on a slow road

Fast talk on a slow track

Fast talk on a slow road

By:  Rita Garcia Williams

Puffin, 1998

Main Character:  Dinizulu “Denzel” Watkins

While a casual reference to the World Trade Center and the lack of cell phones and email somewhat dates this story, the pressures upon young men to succeed at school, with girls, for their families and to each other does not. As the story begins, it is difficult to like Denzel Watson. While he is an intelligent young man, he’s stupid and immature, thinking the entire world revolves around him. He spends time in a summer program at Princeton so that he can be prepared for the rigors he will face when school begins in the fall. Denzel doesn’t think he needs this program, thinks he can float through classes like he did in high school. He was valedictorian at a poorly performing school. When he realizes he’s not quite intellectually as impressive as he thought, he becomes gripped with fear and doesn’t think he will succeed at all. He decides to give up and must decide how to tell his father this; his father who thrived during the era of the Black Power movement and who has so much faith in his son. Some compassion builds for Denzel when we see the roles he is pressured into playing for his father and mother. I don’t know that I ever grew to really like Denzel, but I did hope that he would achieve success. Denzel matures enough to realize how little he really knows, and how much he needs to know.

Garcia-Williams writes a compelling coming of age story that reminds us how difficult life can be for young men of color, even in an age where barriers are beginning to blur. While we are present in Denzel’s thoughts, Garcia touches on many issues such as inequity in education, male/female relationships and family expectations in a manner that leaders to thought and discussion.  One of the strengths of the story is the way issues are presented for consideration rather than in a heavy handed, preaching manner. Following Denzel through this summer of growth can give the reader much to consider!

Donation Round UP

large_20071116_salvationarmy_01The other day, I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a few items and as I stopped, I heard that familiar sounding holiday bell.  A rather young person was stationed outside the door with the Salvation Army’s red bucket hoping to collect money from shoppers.  I decided that everyday this season, I would drop my shopping change into the bucket.  I proceeded to shop, paid for my goods and as I was leaving realized my hands were empty of change.  I had paid for my purchase with a debit card!  I began to wonder how the use of debit cards has impacted donations to the red buckets during holiday time.  Surely many others, like myself, would drop shopping change into the bucket.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone could design a program that could (with permission) round up your purchase to the nearest dollar and donate that amount to the Salvation Army, or other charity of your choice?  What do you think?