book review: Putting MakeUp on the Fat Boy

"Whether owning a drawer full of makeup or none at all, readers will root for this teen as he deals with the trials and tribulations that come with growing up." Lambda Literary

book review: Putting MakeUp on the Fat Boy

author: Bil Wright

date: Simon and Schuster, July 2011

main character: Carlos Duarte

Carlos Duarte is a high school student with a dream of becoming a famous make-up artist. When his friend, Angie suggests that he apply for an opening in the cosmetic department at Macy’s, he sees his dream one step closer to a reality. In the midst of trying to get and keep his job, Carlos is trying to figure out what it means to be a man. He struggles with maintaining integrity in his relationships, with knowing how to protect his mother and his sister and knowing when it’s safe to let himself feel attracted to another. It’s tough for him to find these answers when there are neither straight nor gay male role models in his world.

Carlos faces some hurtful situations but the confidence, the strength that Wright gives Carlos is enough to let us know that Carlos is going to be OK.



Versatile Blogger Award

Thanks so much, Helen of Helen’s Book Blog! I saw this when you gave it to me weeks again and kind of forgot to ‘accept’. Sorry it took so long!

Here are  the rules:
  • Thank and link to the blogger who bestowed the award
  • Share seven random facts about yourself (see below)
  • Spread the love by passing the award to five other bloggers–and be sure to let them know
Random facts about moi??
1. I love snow. Doesn’t matter that I cannot drive it it.
2. I need to get my hair cut.
3. I enjoy watching Hart of Dixie, Castle, Food Network and cSpan
4. One of my favorite fruits is this delicious fruit that’s like a soft apple but I don’t know the name of it. It grows in southern Taiwan. I also like mangoes, lychee and peaches.
5. Carnations are my favorite flowers. Yes, I have very simple tastes!
6. I have never seen the Lion King movie.
7. I wish I had a scooter.
I’m passing this on to:
Vasilly at 1330v


I’ve found a few great shares on the Internet!

  •  LobsterBoy blog is introducing librarians to the new book  Into the Trap by Craig Moodie by offering them the chance to win four live lobsters delivered fresh to your home on New Year’s Eve! Of course I’m ruining my chance of winning this great meal by sharing, but anything for my readers!
  • This morning, Debbie Reese shared information about Inhabit Media, an Inuit owned publishing company which publishes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. They also publish a couple of magazines!
  • Google Reader is changing. At first, I was afraid it was going to disappear, but if I’m reading correctly it will simply lose networking features which are duplicated on Google+. This is fine with me because I don’t tend to use the networking features on Reader. I simply use it as an aggregator. Read more about the changes here.

Each year, my school district requires everyone to state and develop two professional goals. This helps me focus what I’m doing and not get quite so overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. One of my goals this year is to find ways to use the media center/library to improve reading. This is a bit of a leap from the traditional role of libraries where we simply seek to build a lifelong love of learning. I think that being in a schools where so many students are reading 2 or more years below grade average, it would be irresponsible not to step up to do more to teach reading.

Of course I provide some professional literature for teachers and encourage them to bring classes to get books. I teach library skills, introduce new books and even buy hi/low materials, but there has to be more. I’ve read about elementary librarians who read aloud books that demonstrated various consonant/vowel patterns, but that’s elementary. I’d like to find what else I can do.

One thing I am doing is putting reading levels on books. In my book talks I plan to review how to select books and talk about reading levels.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4 Battle of the Labyrinth   3.3  (grade level)

The First Part Last  4.6

Ghetto cowboy 4.0

Bronxwood 4.0

Guantanamo Boy 7.0

I am j  4.9

Calebs war 4.0

Dreams of significant girls 4.0

Iron knight 5.0

Saint Louis Armstrong beach  4.1

Monster   5.1

This thing called the future 4.1

Camo girl 3.7

Locomotion 4.7

Marcelo 4.7

He forgot to say goodbye 3.3

American born Chinese 3.3

Crank 4.3

Shine coconut moon 5.0

Stringz 4.9

What I’m finding is that very few YA books are written above the 5th grade reading level.

To me, this is a bigger concern than the violence many are addressing in YA books. How are we preparing students for college materials or work place readings above this level? If books are written at these low levels of vocabulary you have wonder about the complexity of the themes and situations, particularly with growing movements to incorporate more YA into the curriculum rather than ‘classics’.

I did find TeacherLibrarian online to provide material on this topic. I took particular note of the article “Supporting Literacy Needs of African American Transitional Readers” because my school is 95% African American. A transitional reader is one who is advancing from early readers to reading independently, typically occurring somewhere between second and fifth grade. This assumes the students have developed decoding skills necessary to derive meaning on their own. It assumes phonics skills have been taught, vision deficiencies have been addressed and there has been adequate and supportive practice for the readers.

Research shows, however, that as transitional readers make this daunting move from picture books and early readers to more difficult texts, many of them often begin to read less frequently and to develop decreasing attitudes toward reading as a pastime and as a school-related activity (Lempke, 2008; McKenna, Kear, & Ellsworth, 1995; Scholastic 2008). This is particularly true for African American children whose reading scores are consistently lower than those of white children.  In 2007, on the National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) reading skills test, white children scored an average of 231 points, while African American children scored only 203 points. Additionally, 54 percent of African American fourth grade students scored below basic in reading as compared to 22 percent of white students (NAEP, 2007).

Research suggests that reading motivation and achievement are increased when children are exposed to literature that offers them “personal stories, a view of their cultural surroundings, and insight on themselves” (Heflin & Barksdale-Ladd, 2001, p. 810). For African American children who are attempting to make the transition to independent, self-regulating texts, finding this type of literature can be challenging. Gangi (2008) found that “there is an ‘unbearable whiteness’ in literacy instruction in the United States” (p. 12). That is, in general, teachers tend to use resources in their literacy instruction that feature white children, rather than children of color. Hughes-Hassell, Barkley, & Koehler (2009) noted that only 16.9% of the transitional books (levels J-M) included in the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Book List database (, which is used by many schools across the country as the basis for literacy instruction, included African American children. Thus, while white children can easily find books that feature characters that look like them, assuring that as they transition from easy readers to chapter books they see themselves over and over in the books they read, the same is not true for African American children.

I would argue that this same case could be made for any low income student who does not find herself, her family or her surroundings in books, as well as any student of color who doesn’t find himself in the stories he reads.

Sometimes I wonder how we could have educated students for hundreds of years in this country and we’re still figuring out these things. These issues should be so obvious and the solutions should be so simple, yet we struggle to get appropriate books and services to students. I’ll keep struggling while I’m there, and keep trying to learn better ways.

book review: Guantanamo Boy

book review: Guantanamo Boy

author: Ana Perera

date: Albert Whitman and Co., Sept 2011

main character: Khalid Ahmed

I’ve seem to be stuck on the theme of war. While Guantanamo Boy isn’t exactly about war, it is about a situation that couldn’t legally exist if we were at war and if those detained were called prisoners of war. Instead, they’re labeled ‘unlawful enemy combatants’.

Khalid Ahmed is a young man of Turkish/Pakistani origin who is living in London with his family. His mom and dad are quite traditional in the way they dress, eat and raise their family and Khalid is struggling to balance his background with the London school culture in which he lives. And, he’s doing this in a post 9-11 world.

When his father’s sister in Pakistan suddenly dies, the family plans to return to their homeland. Khalid is warned to be careful, that even in the Muslim world, he may not be safe from the war against terrorism. But, being a typical teenager he has no fear. Even if he had, he may not have been spared from the brutalities that lay ahead.

Perera skillfully blends the realities of young Moslem men into this fictional account of Khalid in Guantanamo. Most westerners probably don’t want to know how many innocent men ended up in this American run prison, how they have lost their guaranteed human rights or read the trauma they experience. But, this is a story that needs to be read as we live our lives on Facebook and Twitter and complain about characters on the latest reality TV show. Sorry to sound preachy! This book is not preachy! It’s a very well told story.

Readers spend much time having deep psychological insights as Khalid spends years locked in solitary confinement. We keep reading, believing he has to get out of prison, after all western YA stories always have a happy ending, don’t they? Everything feels so real though, we don’t know how Perera is going to get him out without ruining the integrity of the story. She manages to control the outcome quite as capably as she takes us to the depths of human suffering and slowly bring us out. Slowly, because we don’t trust what Khalid may be seeing any more than he does. Slowly, because it takes a long time for a young man in solitary confinement to experience the simplest of human kindness that he needs to feel human again.

I got caught up on a few of the British terms and I really couldn’t understand why Perera left Khalid’s cousin, Tariq, just hanging (figuratively) but adults and teens need to read this book and start to question what is going on in the world around is in the name of fighting terrorism. Through all the Khalid suffers, the message is that if there is to be peace in the world, it must begin in our daily lives.

review copy provided by NetGalley

Book pairing: Beyond Bullets and The Midnight Zoo

War is a topic about which children should not have to read. Yet, presenting this topic in a learning environment may

by Rafal Gerszak with Dawn Hunter; Annick Press

by Sonya Hartnett; Candlewick Press

increase the readers’ ability to have a more caring response to violent situations. Beyond Bullets and The Midnight Zoo are two recent books that examine the consequences of war and deepen our responses to it. While Beyond Bullets is a non-fiction book that presents war from the perspective of those who fight and those who live where the fighting takes place, Midnight Zoo is a fiction book that is about the consequences put upon innocent bystanders.

 Beyond Bullets supplies imagines and reflective text of a third party journalist. We read of the psychological impact felt by soldiers fighting the war and the coping mechanisms that the people of Afghanistan build into their daily lives: the vestiges of a previous war they no longer see and the increased emphasis on dog fighting and other emotional outlets. Women and children are victims whose roles hold a tenuous position in the changing culture. Government and legal structures no longer exist to protect their rights. Outsiders (Americans) are often confused by the ethnic groups in Afghanistan, what they believe in and what their histories are. We see the suffering of marginalized groups.

In Midnight Zoo, the Roma believe themselves to be innocent bystanders. Clearly, this is not their war, yet the Roma become victims. Tomas, Andrej and baby Wilma are Roma children who have lost their family and their home. They used to be able to find protection in their ability to blend in and not be seen but now as three children alone, they find that nothing or no one will protect them, until they find the animals in the zoo. Poor baby Wilma, the infant girl the boys lug around! The boys care for their baby sister but their cruel comments reveal a willingness to get rid of the unnecessary burden that she is. Marginalized.

War is resolving issues with our basic instincts and those who live where the war is fought are forced to live at this basic, survival, level. Unfortunately, those who live where the war is fought are too often victims, members of the 99%, who cannot get out of the way of someone else’s dispute. Pairing these books in a Social Studies, Reading or English class will bring to middle grade readers the real cruelties of war.

Bits and Pieces

I received several bits in pieces in my email account today that are very much worth sharing. 

From ALA Editions, I was reminded of Vanessa Irwin Morris’ new book The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Street Literature

Street lit, also known as urban fiction, addresses with unflinching grit the concerns and problems of city living. Controversial in some quarters, it is also wildly popular, and this readers’ advisory by street lit expert Morris

  • Sketches out the rich history of the genre, showing why it appeals so strongly to readers and providing a quick way for street lit novices to get up to speed
  • Covers a variety of subgenres in terms of scope, popularity, style, major authors and works, and suggestions for readers’ advisory
  • Helps improve library customer service by strengthening the relationship between staff and any street lit fans who are new to the library

Emphasizing an appreciation for street lit as a way to promote reading and library use, Morris’s book helps library staff provide knowledgeable guidance.

A free ebook is available for School Librarians/Media Specialists entitled  School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come.   Fifty authors have submitted articles that reflect on what school libraries are doing in the present and new directions they’ll be taking in the future. While there is much to read in this publication, I’m most interested in the section on reading as one of my goals for this year is to research ways to use the library to improve students’ reading literacy.

The ebook is available for free download in three formats:

– PDF for those who want to read it on a desktop/laptop – .mobi for those who want to read it on Kindle software or a Kindle device – .epub for those who would like to read it on Adobe Digital Editions software, iBooks, Sony Reader, the Bluefire Reader app, Nook, and most other eReaders.

While you can find the eBook on Smashwords now; in about 2-6 weeks, Smashwords will send it out to the major eBookstores (including Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony Bookstore, and others, although Amazon is in negotiations) for free distribution.    (Thanks IBLN for this information!)

If your looking for a new and different fund raiser for your library (or any group for that matter) you might consider contacting your local Barnes and Nobles for gift wrapping opportunities. Each year, Barnes & Noble offers not-for-profit organizations the opportunity to provide gift-wrapping services to our customers for donations.  Barnes & Noble provides the customer, location and wrapping supplies.  All your organization needs are volunteers and a donation jar.

If you’re in Indiana, you need to know about Super Learning in a Super State, pre-packed SuperBowl learning materials include lesson plans for grades K-12 promoting literacy, health and fitness, environmental awareness, community service and character education.

Looking for grants?

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. Seventy-five organizations will receive grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 to participate in The Big Read from September 2012 through June 2013.

The U.S. Soccer Association provides grants supporting youth soccer leagues in low-income urban communities.  Funding can be used for playing equipment, field surfacing, lighting and irrigation.
Grant range:  $50,000 – $200,000.     Deadline:  November 18, 2011.


Thanks to a new year round calendar in my district, my fall break this year was two weeks long and the timing couldn’t have been better as it matched up perfectly with great travel deals from Travelocity. I went to Atlanta this week!

Doret found a couple of good nonfiction books

There were several people I should have called while there, but I had visions chillin’ at a coffee shop and getting lots of reading done. Even better than that plan, my daughter was off for two days and we explored Atlanta. On the one day that she did work, I met up with Doret. We had an Asian Fusion Taco lunch and hung out at the Atlanta public library. In transit, we passed Occupy Atlanta. I’ve never been searched to enter a library so, that was a bit different. I have seen homeless in libraries and am glad the service is there for them. I’d have to say the whole time I was in Atlanta, in all the various neighborhoods, I say many, many homeless people. I don’t see them in Indy and wonder why. Where are they, besides downtown?

I always expected there to be more history in Atlanta but between Sherman’s March and fires in the early 20th century, there just isn’t much left. There are some pieces still standing on Auburn Avenue and that’s where my daughter and I found ourselves. We visited the Auburn Avenue Research Library to see a local quilt exhibit and we also found an exhibit on the architecture of slave cabins. If you’re going to be in Atlanta 27-30 October, you may be interested to know the Auburn Avenue Research Library is planning a weekend with Speculative and Imaginative Fiction Writers of Color.

27 October: Worlds Out of Words: A Celebration of the Fantastical; In memory of L. A. Banks

28 October: Africans in Fantastic Fiction: From Dark Continent to Bright Country; featuring a book signing and discussion of the publication Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology with editors Milton J. Davis and Charles R. Saunders

30 October: Beyond Twilight and Harry Potter: Speculative Fiction for Young Adults of Color with L. M. Davis, Wendy Raven McNair and Ronald Agyekum

We also visited the Apex Museum, Atlanta’s only Black History Museum. One of the exhibits in the museum recreates the

Scene in the Gate City Drug Store

Gate City Drug Store, owned by Amos Moses. In the exhibit, Dr. Moses is reading a comic book on the life of Benjamin Banneker!

I did finish a couple of books which means I do have reviews to write, including one book pairing.

Getaways are nice, time with daughters even more so.

Next trip has to be my son in Portales, NM. I think Portales is Spanish for “armpit”.