Quiet Wednesday

ALA is this weekend and I think my blog is going to be a bit quiet until I return. I don’t want to neglect things completely, so I thought I’d take the time to post a bit today.

Yesterday, I drove to Indy and had the opportunity to actually listen to NPR all day in my car. This included twice hearing their piece about the whiteness of children’s literature. I thought it was very well done. While there is always more that could have been said, I did like that NPR brought attention to this important issue and that they didn’t trivialize it. The link is here, you can listen to or read the article. Additional points are made in the comments.

The piece was create by Code Switch, a new department at NPR that is “a team of journalists fascinated by the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.” They discuss the racial issues most of us thought would never make the light of day, and they’re doing it in mixed company.

I also got to upgrade my iPhone yesterday! I was made aware of the impending deadline to upgrade my 4 to a 5 “for free” and given the age of my phone, I really needed to do that! I’ve lost some phone numbers and songs in the process as well as faith in the iCloud, but am glad to have a new phone. New can be nice! While it’s still an iPhone, there are enough differences to challenge my brain a bit.

Going to ALA? Although most of my time will be with BFYA, there are several sessions I want to attend. Unfortunately, I’ll miss B.A. Binns session “Attracting Reluctant Male Readers”. This is such a relevant topic! What do you plan to do at ALA?

Guest Review: The Language Inside

languageTitle: The Language Inside

Author: Holly Thompson

Date: May 14, 2013, Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Character: Emma Karas


Reviewer: Crystal Brunelle

Review: Novels in verse are a favorite of mine, so I want you to know that up front. That said, The Language Inside had way more going on that just the verse. There are many layers to this story.

Emma Karas’s world has been turned upside down. First, a tsunami devastated the coast of Japan affecting the family of her best friend. Then, though Emma has lived in Japan most of her life, her own family must return to the United States so her mother can get treatment for her cancer. Emma really feels she should be helping with the flood cleanup. On top of concern about her mother, she also worries that while she’s away she will lose her abilities with Japanese. To make matters worse, as a result of the stress, she begins to get migraines that basically incapacitate her.

In the midst of these many changes in her life, Emma begins to work at a long-term care center with Zena, a patient unable to speak or move. Her grandmother volunteered her. This is a way to reach beyond her own troubles, but as she reaches out, she also grows.

Samnang is an additional part of Emma’s story. He’s another high school student working at the center. His mother fled Cambodia as a young girl and came to the United States. He has struggles of his own, but is Emma’s first friend in the states.

At the center, Emma reads poetry to Zena as they practice writing their own poems. I loved this aspect of the book. I was disappointed that the shared poems didn’t appear in the back of the book, but the titles and authors were there and all were easily available online. I experimented with reading or not reading the poems and found that the book made sense without the content of the poem, but it was certainly enriched when I read them. I especially loved “Homage to My Hips” by Louise Clifton and the one about the children of Cambodia, “Litany for a Hidden Apsara.”

There is so much going on in The Language Inside: migraines, cancer, refugees, languages, culture, friendship, homesickness, and poetry. Surprisingly though, it works. Holly Thompson created well developed and believable characters. Emma and Samnang are teens who are trying to figure out their lives and are making mistakes along the way, but still keeping it together. One of the ways Emma holds it together is through her poetry:

lonely is the when the language outside

isn’t the language inside

and words are made of just 26 letters

I highly recommend this look into the lives of people who are walking the line between two cultures and learning about themselves in the process.


meCrystal Brunelle is a library media specialist. She is also a co-blogger at Rich in Color which reviews diverse YA and has her own blog Reading Through Life which is a mix of children’s and YA along with reflections on teaching in her elementary school library.

Author Interview: Sonia Manzano

I am so excited to have been able to interview Sonia Manzano! She’s the person we all feel like we know personally, but who has many larger than life accomplishments. In her role as Maria on Sesame Street, she has been named one of the 25 Greatest Latino TV Role Models Ever. Her first young adult novel, The revolution of Evelyn Serrano was a 2013 Pura Belpre Author Honor book and was selected for the CCBC Choices 2013 list. She is elegant, gracious and quite a role model for us all. I hope you’ll enjoy this interview as Sonia shares a little about what has inspired her to do all that she does.

Congratulations on being named a Pura Belpre Author Honor book!

Thank you so much for agreeing to an sonia_manzano3interview! I hope it helps a few more readers find your book.

Let’s start with a few short questions to get things started.

Hello and thank you so much.  Here goes!  

Where did you grow up?

The South Bronx

Do you have any pets?

Never as a kid but as an adult I had a black lab.  But it really belonged to my husband.

What do you enjoy watching on television?

I mostly watch movies and a show called Girls on cable.  I love British dramas on PBS, and admit that I am slightly addicted to old films on Turner Classic Movies.  I guess I prefer cable and PBS because I hate commercials!

Meat or vegetables?

I love both and mostly stick to chicken.

Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?

Fifteen by Beverly Cleary, Charlottes Web, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?

41UwzB4wrCL._SY300_I read a lot. Just finished Pinned by Sharon G. Flake.  A book called The Street by Ann Petry.   Rita Moreno: A Memoir, My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor.  I’m re-reading Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.

1969. Spanish Harlem. To what music would Evelyn be listening?

Joe Cuba, Ray Barretto and the timeless Stevie Wonder

How did you develop an interest in Puerto Rican history? Was it taught in schools? At home?

No, no, no! Puerto Rican history was never taught in school and though my parents had some rudimentary education in Puerto Rico in the 30’s and 40’s, I don’t think Puerto Rican history was taught there either.  I must say it was The Young Lords and all the progressive groups of the Civil Rights era that bought Puerto Rican history to my attention.

How do you think things have changed from the 60s to today for young girls growing up in Spanish Harlem?13436375

Can’t really say because I don’t live there. But what I noticed as I strolled the streets doing research for The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, was that there were many South and Central Americans living in El Barrio as well as Puerto Ricans.

I heard you speak at the Joint Conference of Librarians Conference in Kansas City this past summer and remember you speaking about the inequity in the schools in New York and how much catching up you had to do to reach your full potential. I cannot imagine the emotions you felt when The revolution of Evelyn Serrano was named a Pura Belpre Honor book. Can you describe any of the emotions you felt?

perszPura Belpre was such an icon even I knew of her in my un-literary household. Her stories with their Caribbean /Spanish sensibility intrigued me.  I felt the tales had something to do with me but I wasn’t sure what.  Surely, the Perez y Martina stories planted seeds of curiosity in me.

Needless to say I am thrilled to have been honored and feel I’ve somehow come full circle.

Will you write another teen book?

There is another teen book rumbling around in my head.  I am working on a memoir for Scholastic now! 

What does diversity mean to you?

To me diversity means many kinds of people (including young and old) solving problems together.


De Nada!

Male Monday: Matt de la Pena

Matt-de-la-PenaMatt de la Peña has released a new book. Infinity Ring Book 4: Curse of the Ancients is part of an MG series where each book is written by a different author. (A librarian’s nightmare to shelf!!)

Sera has a secret. She’s seen the future, and it is terrifying. Unfortunately, she can’t do anything to prevent the Cataclysm while stranded with Dak and Riq thousands of years in the past. Their only hope 511EObkUGHL._AA160_lies with the ancient Maya, a mysterious people who claim to know a great deal about the future. Is there more to these ancients than meets the eye?

I was surprised when he announced the release on Facebook because I hadn’t seen it coming. Looking at the age, it was recommending for ages 8-12. MG???

Sure, Matt wrote A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis and it appealing to younger readers, but having heard Matt speak twice, having read his books, I’d say his passion is YA.

He speaks about his own personal coming of age experience with his dad, how he connects with his high school readers and 51F91dNLIbL._AA160_what it has been like growing up as a Latino, finding his own voice. He’s so personable that you realize storytelling comes natural to him.

And perhaps that’s how he found himself writing this book that publishers recommend for 8-12 year olds.Honestly, I’m glad to see anything Matt writes, I just can’t get over this 8-12 thing. Here’s why.

Publishers consider middle grade (MG) books written for ages 8-12. Upper middle grade books are 10-14 and young adult books are 12-18.

Educators identify elementary grades as 1-5, middle grades as 6-8 and high school as 9-12.

Depending on local laws and when birthdays fall, children can enter the first  grade at ages 5, 6 or 7.  Using, the median age, a child would be 6 in the first grade and 8 in the third grade. When a child enters middle grades (6th grade) she would be 12 and 14 in the 9th grade, a freshman in high school.

51isy-OCVHL._AA160_Essentially, they’re recommending Matt’s book for third graders. Up to my shoulders in YA books, I don’t quite have time to read Curse of the Ancients to see where I think it will fit best, but I may be able to work in The Living which releases in November. It’s a YA book, Matt’s fifth novel.

Matt de la Peña is the author of four critically-acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and I Will Save You. He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson). Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship.

 de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY.Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. source


ACE SCHOLARS: Degree Opportunity

I received the following information in an email. If you or someone you know is a member of an under-represented community and are interested in an Master in Library and Information Science, please read on!

Deadline: August 1, 2013.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was recently awarded a 3rd ACE (Academic and Cultural Enrichment) Scholars grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.

As part of this grant, UNC-G needs to recruit 10 students from under-represented communities into their ALA-accredited two-year Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) degree program and prepare them for professional positions in community college libraries, with emphasis on serving diverse populations, including refugees and immigrants.

The program can be completed online or face-to-face on the campus in Greensboro, NC. The program requires a full semester practicum in a community college and service learning projects, as well as specialized course work in community college librarianship. As fellow NCLA members, we are hoping that you might be able to identify staff members, former students, or interested others to join the program.

The ACE Scholars will receive:

·       full tuition and fees, and a monthly stipend to attend the UNCG LIS program

·       memberships to ALA and NCLA or other state organization

·       community college practicum opportunities

·       networking and mentoring opportunities from community college librarians

The time for application is short. We must have a completed application to the graduate school by August 1, 2013. The program will start in mid-August. The program is fast-tracked. It must be completed in 2 years.

To apply: 

1) To apply for admission to the graduate school. For this they will need:

·        Recent (within 5 years) GRE scores

·       Transcripts from either a US institution or have transcripts from a non-US institution evaluated by a NACES accredited organization.

ainternational transcripts.

2) To apply for the ACE Scholars Program for Community College Librarianship scholarship. Please submit:

  • The application
  • A personal statement that explains your interest in community college libraries
    • The statement can be a written document or a video presentation
    • Discuss in up to 500 words why you are interested in participating in the current ACE Scholars Program and
    • Discuss in up to 500 words what value your diversity background/experiences will add to community college libraries serving diverse communities, such as New Americans

3) Participate in an interview with the grant’s principal investigators in person or through some other medium.

Click here to complete the ACE Scholar application and upload your documents.

Learn about admission and application requirements here:



Interview: Alaya Dawn Johnson

I actually met Alaya (‘rhymes with papaya’) Dawn Johnson at ALAN in Las Vegas last winter. She radiated an energy that was fresh and new to YA and I knew I wanted to interview her. Since then, she’s released The Summer Prince and, from the reviews I’ve been seeing, she’s been quite busy! Thankfully, I was recently able to connect with her for the following interview.

From GoodReads on The Summer Prince

The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s 221best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.

First, congratulations on the wonderful reviews you’ve been receiving!

Let’s start with a few short questions.

Where did you grow up?

Just outside of Washington, DC in Maryland.

Do you have any pets?

Not now, though I do have a lot of plants!

What do you enjoy watching on television?

I don’t watch much these days, but some of my favorite newer shows are Downton Abbey, Dance Academyalaya-johnson-c-alden-ford_custom-7df1507ada0d013149fb630635d806e238016ae9-s6-c30 (this Australian TV show about teens going to a dance academy…I have no idea why it’s so great, but it is), and a whole bunch of Korean dramas (in particular Sungkyunkwan Scandal and Scent Of A Woman).

 Meat or vegetables?

Vegetables! I was raised vegetarian, in fact, so I’ve never (deliberately) eaten meat.

Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?

Tons, but in particular I adored Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Kindred by Octavia Butler, Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay and The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?

Too many! I’m reading The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock, which seems to be a proto-Downton Abbey, The Discovery And Conquest of Mexico by Bernal Diaz del Castillo (a memoir by one of the conquistadors) and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (the writing is so good).

There is so much complexity to Summer Prince I have to wonder how long it took you to write.

Thank you! The first draft took me about a year. The funny thing is that when I started the book, I’d somehow convinced myself that I could bang out a very rough draft in a month and then return to the project I was supposed to be working on. I took three weeks off from my life, basically, and wrote as much as I could. And I did write a significant chunk of the novel, but I realized how big and complicated the project was. I realized that I had to take a deep breath and focus on it for a much longer time than I’d thought at first. But I’m always over-ambitious when it comes to my writing speed. After the first draft, I spent about another year doing revisions. The writing could get intense–I would work for hours and only get out a couple of hundred words. But even a slow writer can finish a book if she does it consistently, and thank goodness!

What was the biggest challenge in writing The Summer Prince?

 Probably the hardest aspect of writing The Summer Prince was figuring out how to create a world that was complex and nuanced and very different from our own, integrate that with strong characters, all without breaking the story up with infodumps. Figuring out how to juggle all of those elements with some sort of economy and grace took years and many rewrites. I’m pleased with how it turned out in the end, but the complexity itself sometimes daunted me.

When I look at the title, I see you as referring to Enki as ‘The Summer Prince’ and not ‘The Summer King’. Why do you see him that way?

 A few characters in the book will reference Enki as a “moon prince” or a “summer prince.” I wanted to use that as the title, instead of the more obvious “Summer King”, because I wanted something that evoked the struggles between youth and old age that are so important in the novel. Because Enki is a character who dies young, and who chooses to do so. Calling him a “prince” gives him his power in a way that calling him a “king” doesn’t.

Which character is you in this book?

No character is exactly like me, though June and I definitely share some prominent characteristics. We are both obsessed with our respective arts, and very ambitious (though June’s attitudes at the beginning of the book are more extreme than my own). But I think I share with Bebel a more holistic appreciation of competition, and I very much admire Enki for his dedication to what he believes in, though I could never do what he does.

I tuned into some of my favorite Brasilian tunes while reading Summer Prince, but I’m wonder what songs you would put into a playlist for readers?

 So many songs! But among my favorites (many of which are mentioned in the book): “Roda Viva” by Chico Buarque, “Eu Vim Da Bahia” by João Gilberto (and everything else he wrote ever), “Sonho Meu” by Maria Bethânia, “Quilombo, O El Dorado Negro” by Gilberto Gil, “Velha Infancia” by Tribalistas (that whole album is great), “The Carimbaeo” by Nação Zumbi, “Life Gods” by Marisa Monte and Gilberto Gil, “Oba, Lá Vem Ela” by Jorge Ben, “Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser” by Simone and “O Leãozinho” by Caetano Veloso.

I have that Tribalista album. Love it!

You’ve literally turned the world upside down with people no longer living on the ground, women ruling the world and the sexual identity no longer existing as a boundary. The story questions the use of technology, and treatment of the poor. And, June’s main weapon is art. Why art?

 Possibly this is because I’m an artist, but I think that art is potentially the most powerful force in human culture, and certainly one of the most important ways that cultures express and change themselves. Think about iconic posters that have recruited for wars, or convinced people to support different causes or politicians. Art can reflect the zeitgeist, but I also think that it can create it. I’ve always wanted to write a novel about art and politics, and with June’s story I finally had that chance.

I hear you’re working on another YA project! What is it about?

 It’s very different, in some ways, from The Summer Prince–it’s set in the modern US, for one. And I’m drawing a little more on my personal experiences, since it takes place in Washington, DC at a private school in the midst of a flu pandemic. But like The Summer Prince it deals with race and class and politics and family troubles and first loves.

Obrigada!  I wish you much success and, I hope to see you at ALAN again!