review: Weep Not, Child

title: Weep not, child

author: Ngugi wa Thiong’o

date: Heinemann, 1987 edition

Njoroge is so excited that it will be possible for him to go to school that he cannot wait to tell with his brother, Kamau. One would expect some sort of conflict from this brother who chooses for himself to learn a trade but, there is none. The boys truly believe each of them will be contributing to Kenya’s future. They embody the hope for this new country as it tussles to free itself from the deep-seated vestiges of colonial rule; roots that go too deep for such naïve thinking.

In this slight book of just over 100 pages, Ngugi manages to build our hopes and expectations in somewhat the same way the Kenyan people’s were. Njoroge is smart and has so much support, there is no reason to believe he will not be successful in life. Kenya had a new leader, a strong middle class it had to succeed, didn’t it?

The complexities of history and of people are well layered in this classic story of the downfall of a government as seen from within. The book should be in all school libraries and would be excellent in any world lit curriculum.

This is my second review for the Africa Reading Challenge.

 

SundayMorningReads

I was in Mexico this time last year!

I sure was going to stop after posting my review of Perfect Shot, but then I started reading the blogs, tweets and newspapers and I just had to reflect on my SundayMorningReads!

I have to say goodbye to Amy at Bowllan’s Blog on the SLJ website. I met Amy through her Writers Against Racism series where I posted my own story. I actually met Amy and presented with her at the National Diversity in Libraries conference back in 2010. She’s one of my few online friends that I’ve actually met in person and that makes her quite special to me! Her energy, intelligence and charm will be missed!

When you reflect on what you’re doing and start to feel like you’re preaching the same message to the same choir and getting no results, one has to wonder who has to make some changes? My blog feeds been given quite a transformation lately, along with a resolution to post comments more often. Who knows what the results will be!

We lovers of books talk about inspiring young people to want to read, but I know firsthand that all it takes is the right reading material matched to the right reader. We honest to goodness have it so easy! Imagine if we were math teachers and had to inspire students to like math! I’ve been thinking about this since responding to a comment lately, how easy it is to get students to read if they’re given the right stuff to read. All they need is the freedom to choose and that comes from availability not only in terms of representing the vast diversity of people who read but in realizing the vast diversity of what teens want to read: magazines, newspapers, manga, non-fiction, graphic novels, almanacs, books of records… They’re not all into novels!

Hey, if you’re a librarian reading this and looking for diversity in what you do, why not try writing about librarians in a non-librarian publication? Let the world know what we do! Enter your piece in the Great Librarian Write Out and win some cash!

Summer for you means hot fun but it’s back to work for me! This week, I’ll begin working at Indiana State University as an Asst. Reference Librarian.   Summer for bookies means ALA , BEA, Comic-Con,  ChLA, SBCWI  or the Mazza Conference in Findlay, OH??? Perhaps you’re a bit more international and headed for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content ? What conferences will you be attending? How do you anticipate them upping your game?  JCLC isn’t far away, either!

One new blog I’m really enjoying reading has presented not only a very interesting article by Francisco X. Stork about depression (a topic in his next book) but it also introduced be to Catherine Valdez, a promising new writer.

 The heat made it hard for Esther to breathe. It was humid and it felt as if she were breathing in more water than air. Water and stray mosquito wings. She smacked another one off her arm. She cursed the small wings that hummed against her sunburned skin. Esther dug her heels into the ground and pushed back against the tree trunk as she sprung onto her feet. Her toes cringed with pain but she started to walk. She was less likely to get bitten when moving. She wiped off the sweat that edged down the bridge of her nose. Peeling skin stuck to her fingers, leaving behind flesh as pink as peony flowers.

” Catherine Valdez is a ninth grader currently studying creative writing at Miami Arts Charter School . She is of Hispanic decent. Key factors in her writing are nature and her heritage. Her work has received awards from the Jack London Foundation and The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of 2012. She has been published twice in creative communication” source

 To grow even more new talent is the 7th Annual Brooklyn Lit Match Writing Contest.

 The contest is open to high school students who reside in Brooklyn or those who attend a high school located in Brooklyn. Eligible candidates should feel free to turn in their stories, poems, essays, spoken word pieces and raps before the deadline on June 29th. Follow this link for more information.

My dad’s picture file from WWII

I have to send a shout out to my youngest in the AirForce today! While I remember the reasons why he serves, I hope he remembers how proud I am of him! For him and all the members of the armed services there are these ways to share books with them today and everyday. I have to say it really gives me pause when people thank our military for protecting our freedoms. I would so love to live in a world where it’s our teachers, librarians, spiritual leaders and others who protect our freedom by empowering us with knowledge and compassion.

 

 

review: Perfect Shot

“I liked Perfect Shot, it’s a funny, cute and thoroughly entertaining read.” ~ Ari @ Reading in Color

book review: Perfect Shot (Romantic Comedy series)

author: Debbie Rigaud

date: Simon Pulse; 2009

main character: London Abrams

RL: 5.8

My students never want to read this book because of the cover. They’ve told me they don’t want to read about cartoon characters which I suppose translates as “it’s not real enough”.  Are romances supposed to be ‘real’?

London is a star volleyball player. In simply giving her this attribute, Rigaud tells us that she is competitive, athletic and a believer in fair play. She’s a good kid, right? But when she gets caught up in somethings outside her element (modeling and romance) she behaves in atypical ways.

London works at a local art supply store with her bestie, Pam, where she meets and crushes on Brent. That crush sets the stage for London becoming involved in a local modeling contest to be a store’s spokesperson and for her ex, Unslick Rick, to really begin to play games with her. Brent seems like a nice enough guy but we don’t know him well enough to know how things will play out with him and London. And, we have no idea what treachery Rick is up to! Add to that ancient animosities from childhood friend Kelly and a not too pleasant mom and you’ve got a story with a lot going on! Too much? Not at all! Rigaud develops things quite well.

There was some unevenness in this debut novel, but not enough to diminish the intrigue that Rigaud builds through the fast past happenings in the storyline. London is easy to like and readers will to want to see her get her man!

A happy ending may not be real but it sure is romantic!

modeling; volleyball; romance

Race Uncovered

Interesting day today. The first thing I read was about covers and so was the last.

Steph Sue, in her review of The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa pointed out the whitewashing on the cover. Really? Still? The book is clearly about an Asian character, the cover is not. While the comments mentioned a dislike of the cover, none reacted to the whitewashing.

So much tip-toeing around racial issues, isn’t there? We carry our chips well.

As my day was winding down, I received an email that led me to Kate Hart’s recent post which enumerated the color of covers in YA.

I wonder how many white people who commented on these blogs will themselves include a book featuring a main character of color among their next book purchase or library check out? How many actually get that books written with Asian and Latino characters aren’t just written for Asian and Latino readers? That Ang Lee and Spike Lee don’t make movies just for Asians and Blacks and that it really is OK if white people watch BET?

I applaud Kate Hart’s presentation of just the facts, allowing readers to interpret on their own. Most simply chose to see Hart’s skill at crunching the numbers. Most, but not all. There are some very insightful comments to the post and a lot of really good information is shared. And it’s possible people just didn’t know what else to say. I get like that myself sometimes.

It’s disheartening to see the lack of ethnic representation on covers for two very distinct reasons. First someone thinks that putting people of color on a cover of a book will have a negative impact on sales. While book publishers continue the same marketing practices that they’ve had forever, America continues to brown! And, brown people do have babies. And, those babies do read! Not putting people of color on covers for this reason is simply racist by implying Black, Indian, Asian and Native faces aren’t good enough to sell books.

Second, the number of books with people of color on the covers derives from the fact that there simply aren’t enough books published that featuring teens of color! There are not enough books for libraries that service large numbers of teens of color to be able to fill their shelves with books for these teens who simply to want to read. And, there aren’t enough for white children, either!

White children need to have a wide selection of books available to them with teens of color so they can get a clue what the world really looks and feels like. The lives of teens of color need to be in print for validation to ALL teen readers. I really believe that all teens need to be able to get an idea of how to maneuver the world around them from what they read.

Like it or not, the world is changing. There are many YAs out there who are so sick and tired of this conversation. They truly have created a multicolored world for themselves yet, we give them books that don’t reflect this reality.

Unlike generations past, people of color today actually have the freedom to vote with their feet and their dollars so that they can work, buy and live where they and their money is accepted. These entrepreneurial folk are part of the new economy: they are self publishers who are controlling their stories while making a profit. When they cannot find dystopian stories, sci-fi, humor or spy novels that are trending with all white characters, they can write their own with characters that look like them!

We can continue to have conversations about who can tell the story, what should be on the cover or we can make ways to get authors of color published and get books with characters of color part of mainstream culture. We can quite hearing Native American, Latino, Asian American and Black children wonder when they’ll get to read more books with people like them.

I look for a global variety in the books that I read. I need a rich texture of reading that stretches my mind more than it validates my world. I want to grow readers who are confident enough in who they are to be able to accept others as they are. Books are a good starting point, a safe place for us to find ourselves and meet one another.

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading Matters

Ahh! Summer!

OOOoo!! Summer Reading!

Each season seems to temper our reading selection and summer seems to be the time to stop meeting expectations and read to truly enjoy whether it be a pile of classics, a newly purchased paperback romance or the ESPN magazines that have been stacking up all year. It’s easier to get some teens to read during the summer than others because even the most avid may want to take a break from all the books. Yet, we know that summer reading is critical for teens to retain and hopefully improve reading skills. Give them the newspaper, magazines, comic books, novels or biographies. Giving them what they want to read will keep them reading! Us too!

Why not try a summer themed book?

How Tia Lola saved the summer by Julia Alvarez Miquel’s loveable Aunt saves what promised to be a dull and boring summer.

 Chameleon by Charles R. Smith Shawn’s mother may think it’s time for Shawn to grow up, but he’s planning nothing but fun for this summer before high school!

The summer I turned pretty; It’s not summer without you and We’ll always have summer by Jenny Han  No one does summer romance like Jenny Han!

When the stars go blue Candid Ferrer Soledad by plans to spend her summer teaching dance and saving some money until stars cross and she meets Jonathan and gets talked into joined the drum and bugle corps.

The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis A classic book about a family’s summer road trip.

 Mare’s war by Tanita Davis Octavia and Tali spend their summer on a road trip with Mare, their red sports car driving grandmother who is too young to be called ‘grandma’.

Surf mules by Greg Neri Logan and Z-boy have finished high school and are given a summer job that could make them quite rich, if it doesn’t kill them first! Yeah, and they surf, too!

 Marcello in the real world by Francisco S. Stork  Marcelo Sandoval is given the summer after his junior year to experience the real world

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: Aristotle and Dante meet at a pool when summer begins.

 L.A. summer: friends til the bloody end by Sheryl Mallory Johnson  Mikki, Carlette and Stacy have different talents and different backgrounds. Will this be the summer they become friends, or not?

Be sure to visit your local public library to sign up for summer reading programs and checkout a few of these great summer books!

A few online summer reading programs:

TD Banks Summer Reading Program

Scholastic’s Summer Challenge (International)

Target’s Roundup of Summer Reading Programs

Book Adventure