Pass the book, please!

OK, as much as I thought I knew about YA lit, I’m going to have to say here and now that I don’t know a blessed thing. I mean, John Green lives right here in Indianapolis and I had no idea! Not that I’d go rushing to his front door and ask him to autography Paper Towns or Living in Alaska for me, but still, you’d think I”d know!

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Ms. McSpadden, our local librarian, tells us about the program

I’m talking about John Green here on this blog because his three books are featured in a program sponsored by the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library.  The program is called Pass the Book and is similar to Where’s George? . This Friday, 500 John Green books will be distributed through public libraries in Indianapolis and in five public high schools. My high school is one of the five chose to participate!!  So, we’ll receive 7 books, go to the website, and for each book the first reader will log in their name, zip code and if they like a photo and review as well. When they finish reading, they will PASS THE BOOK and follow its trail on the ‘net. One book is already on the way to Greece! I’ll post the numbers for the books that make it to my school, maybe we can follow their progress together.  The program runs through March, but I assume it will continue for quite a while! I think we’re the first library system to try this. My students were so excited about participating that they gave me their numbers so that i can text them when the books come in! Looks like a great way to improve literacy!


Alex Inspires

I’m still thinking about inspiration. When I was a teen, as much as I read I don’t think I found inspiration in books. I know I wanted to be as successful as… as thin as… as smart as… Who?? Maybe it was Ali McGraw who wore that hat, married her true love and told us “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Or maybe it was Angela Davis with her perfect afro, intellegence and outspokeness. Maybe people who were different just didn’t get the publicity then that they do now, perhaps minorities, in terms of ethnicity, sexual preference or any outside the WASP norm would have a difficult time getting an audience whom they could affect. My own world was as white as it was black and it took a while for me to blossom into the comfort of my own identity.
I’m wondering who the role models are for teens of color today? I could list quite a few for African American teens maybe a couple for Latino/as but that’s about it. Who inspires Asian teens? Latino? Native American? In the world I live in, I would imagine that it’s Sherman Alexie, Neesha Meminger and Lisa Yee. Aren’t authors rock stars??!

A_face_pic_smOne author who can inspire YAs is Alex Sanchez. Alex is an extremely successful author who writes wonderful fiction with gay and Latino characters. Read his interview below to see where he found his inspiration!

How/when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always liked to read stories, learn about stuff, and write for classes. But I didn’t seriously think I could make a career out of being a writer. I doubted anything I wrote would be good enough to be published. And yet it was something I wanted to do, so I kept at it. To this day, after 7 published books, I’m still amazed anyone reads them.

How do you incorporate culture into your writing?
By thinking and writing about what makes gay people different from straight people. By exploring the interface of sexuality and culture. By including Latino characters in my books.
What are some of the books you remember reading as a child?
My first grade teacher often read to us aloud.  One afternoon she read a book that continues to inspire me today, many years later, as a human being and as a gay man. The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, describes a Spanish bull who prefers smelling flowers to fighting in a ring.  That gentle but strong bull challenging the status quo by being true to himself made a fierce impression on my six-year old imagination and self-image.  In the years that followed, when I’d doubt myself and who I was, I often remembered Ferdinand. I find myself repeating simple timeless message over and over in my writing:  that it’s okay to be who you are, to be different, to be an individual.
Twitter or Facebook?

I can’t imagine using Twitter to let people know my every move. I’m too private a person. Even with Facebook, it’s hard for me to imagine other people would care what I’m doing.

Meat or vegetables?

I love stir-fried veggies and I haven’t eaten red meat for 35 years.

Rain or snow?

I love to watch rainstorms.   Although I think snow is beautiful, I hate being in cold weather.

What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?
Dreaming up ideas is the only easy part. Everything else is hard. Forcing myself to sit still. Not getting distracted. Actually writing. Revising. Getting comments from my editor. Reading reviews. Hearing criticism. All of that is hard.
Where is the furthest away from home you’ve ever traveled?

I currently spend part of the year living in Thailand. I love Thai culture, food, and learning about Buddhism.

Alex continues to inspire at

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DSCN3105“Test, experiment, enact what you’re learning. Learning without execution is a big engine with no wheels.”

Yes, we’re having a reversal today: you’re posting the readings.

I do have one reading, though and this one reading is what caused me to change paths today.

I ran across Chris Brogan on Twitter and from there ventrued to his blog. Brogan advises business and people on how to use 2.0 to build relationships. Most of his postings relate directly to business, but it is simple to extrapolate the essence of his message and apply it to education or even to everyday life.  In a recent post, Brogan mentions people who inspire him and how they do so.  People like JayZ and Stephen Covey.  As he promted, I began to consider who inspires me? Who are my role models and guiding stars?

I can think of who my dressing gurus are, the ladies I try to imagine wearing the particular outfit I’m considering. Twelve years of Catholic schools and uniforms killed my sense of fashion and reinforced how little apparel really matters. But when I want to look good, I think of Joset and Martha and ask myself what would they do? Most often, I think of Whoopi Goldberg who fearlessly does her own thing on her own terms. She’s described as being one of the most gentle and caring people one would ever meet and she is intensely private.  I would make her my dressing guru only in the sense that she dresses to the beat of her own drummer. I’m reading a lot of Wayne Dyer and his message rattles and shakes me to move to a different place in my life (literally and figuratively). He’s at the core of new age wisdom without all the rhetoric or focus on materialism.

The thing is, for someone to be my inspiration, I want to know more than what they say, I want to know what they reall do. While today’s press makes every move anyone makes accessible to us, we also have to read with a grain of salt. Really, I have few who truly inspire me. So, who inspires you? Who are the role models that help you form your code whether it pertains to blogging, dressing, maneuvering your career path or to life itself? If possible, please give a link so we can read more about your inspirational source.


I’ve finally gotten resolution to my computer issues: my Acer died and I’m now the proud owner of an Asus. I miss my little Acer! I rushed to by this new laptop and didn’t get a chance to do my research. I was lucky to have a female sales clerk who really walked me through all the models available rather than acting like anything she may say would be incomprehensible to me as most male tech salesclerks tend to do. I hope it continues to run as good as it looks.

I stopped at the international grocery store this past week, walked well into the fresh produce section and was beyond amazed to see durien fruit. I hadn’t seen or smelled this stuff since Taiwan. There in lies the problem:  I hadn’t smelled it. The smell from this small box full of fruit should have met at the door, but it didn’t. Not a since scent. Back in the freezer section, not only did I see frozen moon cakes with Durien ice cream (it’s moon festival time!) but I also saw frozen durien. Wow. I’m wondering if the durien lost its scent in transit or to better suit the US market. Books do that: they change covers or edit language as the cross borders. Some books ever rewrite scenes to fit a particular audience. Here in America, we tend to get the happily ever after edits. Does this allow us to preserve culture or to create our own sense of reality? Because sometimes, life really does stink.

Now, I need to find someone who has some Ben and Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake IceCream to enjoy while I watch Purdue do its thing to Notre Dame!

Terrific Tuesday Newsday

Doret has a wonderful interview on Justine Larbalestier’s blog (Liar) about her passion for YA sports books.

W.A.R. continues, today with Brent Hartinger. Of course the author of Geography Club contributes to this important project! Geography Club probably makes the most profound statement about inclusion of any book I’ve ever read.

nonameI never talk about what’s in my mailbox (because there’s never much in my mailbox) BUT!!!I won a box from Carleen Brice!!  Yup, I got an I love Black Authors mug and a t-shirt from Stephen Carter’s Jericho’s Fall book tour. I get the shirt and mug, Carleen gets Jill Scott to star as Nona in the Lifetime movie version of Orange Mint and Honey! Life is good

My poor little contest isn’t doing too well. Remember, we’re looking for YA lit from or about countries in Latin America. So, how about a little jump star?

Daughters of the Stone (Puerto Rico) by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa What 12-year-old Ana Rosa Hèrnandez wants more than anything is a notepad of her very own. Writing is her passion, and words flow out of her pencil onto the paper bags that Papi brings his rum home in, onto napkins, onto gray shop paper. In the República Dominicana, however, only the President can write books. But as Mami sighs and says, “Ana Rosa, there always has to be a first person to do something.” These supportive words are difficult for her mother to muster, as everyone on the island knows too well that writers do not have freedom of expression–and in their political climate “silence was self-defense.”

The color of my words (Dominican Republic) Lynn Joseph

The Disappeared (Argentina) Gloria Whelan: A story set in Buenos Aires in the late 1970s. Despite its peaceful facade.  Told in alternating chapters by two teenage siblings, the novel relates how one young person decides to stand up for his political beliefs and ideals and ignores his parent’s cautions.”

Casa Azul: An encounter with Freida Kahlo (Mexico) by Laban Hill Using the story of a country girl and her brother hunting for their mother in the maze of Mexico City in 1940 as a framework, Hill introduces the tempestuous life and art of Frida Kahlo, who befriends the children.

Now, I’m going to start reading Pacific Crossing.

An Award!!


Thanks so much JoAnn!!

Of course, as with every Bloggy Award, there are A Few Rules. They are, forthwith:

• Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving
• Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
• Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
• Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
• Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

and to continue this longstanding tradition, I’d like to recognized these fine scribbles:

The Bottom of Heaven: ecclectic and insightful

Tockla’s World: a gem!

A Wrung Sponge: a quiet, but mighty presence

Into the Wardrobe: important contributions to YA literature from another corner of the globe

Reach for More/Aspira a mas: she’s back in school, busy as ever! I hope this award reminds her that she’s missed!

Fledgling: I wanna blog like Zetta when I grow up: fierce!

book review: The Whole Sky Full of Stars

The whole sky full of stars

author: René  Saldaña Jr

Wendy Lamb Books, 2007

main character: Barry Esquivel


“I’m good on my own two feet’”

When you say something out of place about your friend’s mom, you get hit so hard, that you see a sky full of stars. And when you keep behaving out of place with your friend, sometimes the sky just goes dark.

Barry and Alby have been friends since elementary school. You would think that they know each other so well, that they would know when they are going beyond what their friend will accept. Alby has lost some money to a loan shark at school. Barry lost his dad a few years ago and daily, he watches his mom work way past being exhausted to provide for their home. Alby’s dad had indirectly taught his son to be a hustler, just like him. Barry’s dad was the kind of dad anyone would want. He taught his son how to box; repaired cars with him; talked with him and without knowing it, taught him how to be a man of integrity.

Barry and Alby both need money. Alby finds a boxing match in which he can enter Barry and they can both win money. Barry knows about these kinds of matches and how dangerous they can be, and he knows how his mom feels about him boxing. He tries to follow his dad’s voice. Alby? Our boy Alby just digs a deeper and deeper hole for himself!

Obviously, this is a guy book. It doesn’t feel quite right to say it’s a ‘nice’ book! But, that’s just what it is: A smooth, comfortable slice of two boys coming of age as they test the limits of their relationship with each other and with their parents. I especially liked how the dads came through for their sons. While they are both completely different in their parenting skills, they show that however you parent, you need to support and raise your boys.

This is the kind of book that needs to have a soundrack.  Ari!! I need your music skills!!!!

Dr. Rene Saldana Visits Middle Schools

Dr. Rene Saldana Visits Middle Schools

about the author: Originally from Nuevo Peñitas in South Texas (a suburb of Peñitas Viejo), Saldaña now live in Lubbock, TX, with his wife Tina; sons, Lukas and Mikah; and  cats ISBN (pronounced Isben) and Cotten (a recently taken-in kitten), where he teache at Texas Tech University (in their College of Education). Saldana’s current book is The Case of the Pen Gone Missing: A Mickey Rangel Mystery (Piñata Books, 2009). He currently blogs on his self named blog.