SundayMorningReads

Ah, the books of summer. My thoughts were pointed in this direction the other day when NPR aired their piece on road trips. They really had me when they closed with Christopher Paul Curtis’ Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963. I loved that they put this book in the middle of adult summer reading. I loved how that truly articulated diversity in a summer reading list.

 

SUMMER

Chameleon by Charles Smith; Candlewick

Shooting the breeze with his boys. Tightening his D on the court. Doing a color check — making sure nobody’s wearing blue or red, which some Crip or Piru carrying a cut-down golf club would see as disrespect. Then back to Auntie’s, hoping she isn’t passed out from whiskey at the end of the day. Now that Shawn is headed for high school, he wonders if he’d be better off at the school in Mama’s neighborhood, where he’d be free of Compton’s hassles. But then he wouldn’t be with his fellas — cracking jokes, covering each other’s backs — or the fine Marisol, who’s been making star appearances in his dreams. Dad says he needs to make his own decision, but what does Shawn want, freedom or friendship? With teasing, spot-on dialogue and an eye to the realities of inner-city life, CHAMELEON takes on the shifting moods of a teenager coming of age.

Marcelo in the Real World Francisco Stork; Scholastic

Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear–part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify–and he’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.”

Death, Dickinson and the Demented life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres-Sanchez; Running Press Kids

It is the summer after Frenchie Garcia’s senior year, and she can’t come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Her friends don’t know that she had a secret crush on her classmate, and they especially don’t know that she was with Andy right before he committed suicide. The only person who does know is Frenchie’s imaginary pal Em (a.k.a. Emily Dickinson), who she hangs out with at the cemetery down the street.

When Frenchie’s guilt and confusion come to a head, she decides there is only one way to truly figure out why Andy chose to be with her during his last hours. While exploring the emotional depth of loss and transition to adulthood, Sanchez’s sharp humor and clever observations bring forth a richly developed voice.

ROAD TRIP!!!

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin; Little Brown Books for Young Readers

When Pacy, her two sisters, and their parents go to Taiwan to celebrate Grandma’s sixtieth birthday, the girls learn a great deal about their heritage.

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle; Road Runner Press

Told in the words of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, HOW I BECAME A GHOST is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. From the book’s opening line, “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before,” the reader is put on notice that this is no normal book. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac s talking dog, Jumper. The first in a trilogy, HOW I BECAME A GHOST thinly disguises an important and oft-overlooked piece of history.

Mare’s War by Tanita Davis; Knopf Books for Young Readers

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. 

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.

The Living by Matt de la Pena; Delacorte Press

 Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.
   But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.
   The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah ; Scholastic

Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab’s life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they’re on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat’s best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair’s side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.

Sofi Mendoza’s guide to getting lost in Mexico Malin Alegria; Simon Pulse

Even though Sofi Mendoza was born in Mexico, she’s spent most of her life in California — the closest she gets to a south-of-the-border experience is eating at Taco Bell. But when Sofi and her friends sneak off for a weekend in Tijuana, she gets in real trouble. To Sofi’s shock, the border patrol says that her green card is counterfeit. Until her parents can sort out the paperwork and legal issues, Sofi is stuck in Mexico. 

In the meantime, Sofi’s parents arrange for her to stay with long-lost relatives in rural Baja. It’s bad enough that Sofi has to miss senior prom and even graduation, but her aunt, uncle, and cousins live on a ranch with no indoor plumbing! As the weeks pass, though, she finds herself adapting to her surroundings. Sofi starts helping out on the ranch, getting along with her bratty cousins, and she even meets a guy with more potential than anyone from school. Through the unexpected crash course in her heritage, Sofi comes to appreciate that she has a home on both sides of the border.

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake: Tor

Old Gods never die…Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health. Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. 

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath. The Goddess War is about to begin.

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon; Greenwillow Books

Ai Ling can see into other people’s minds and reach into their spirits. But she doesn’t know why this power has awakened inside her. She only knows that it is growing. It leads her on an epic journey—one that brings her to the edge of the deepest evil.

Chen Yong has a quest of his own, but then his path crosses Ai Ling’s. And there’s a connection so strong that neither can ignore it.Now they must face terrifying demons determined to kill them, and battle through treacherous lands. It is their destiny. But can destiny keep them together?

 

There are so many more! What else written by an author of color smacks of summer, road trips or summer road trips?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

book review: Drift

maintitle: Drift

author: M. K. Hutchins

date: Tu Books, May 2014

main character: Tenjat

M.K. Hutchins gave herself one helluva challenge of world building with this one. I think she’s taught me that when reading speculative fiction, it’s advisable to look for the author’s notes in order to better understand this new world and the premise upon which it is built. The island world of turtle’s she created really was well crafted and readers quickly become invested in it. I just couldn’t get past how and why a civilization would live on the backs of turtles but after reading her notes and understanding the mythology she used, I had a better understanding.

Tenjat and his father are described as having brown faces. Little other reference to skin color is provided, although some characters are describe as being shaded like the wood. There are distinct differences in the roles of men and women and the worst thing anyone can be called is ‘hub’, short for husband. This is because being a husband and having children selfishly weighs down the turtle. Tenjat wants to become a Handler so that he can better provide for his sister and himself. Just before entering the tree for his training, thoughts are planed that have Tenjat questioning everything he’s come to know. How will he find answers?

Hutchins writes a unique fantasy based in multiple mythologies in which she explores gender based roles, family structures, the environment and what we essentially believe about the cycle of life and death. I did eventually like this story. While reading, I had a difficult time getting a grasp on Eflet’s age (Eflet is his younger sister). I couldn’t figure out how they breathed underwater, either. Character development was lax, as is often the case in action driven stories. But, there are stregnths in Huthin’s writings. Layers of explanations for personal and societal battles are slowly peeled away as Tenjat begins to have things revealed to him. She does a good job of maintaining suspense.

Drift is a very unique book both in its plot and in its issues. The complexities hit me big time at the end and they have left me considering and questioning many things. A book that leaves you with many considerations is a good book!

M.K. Hutchins has had short fiction appear in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show and Daily Science Fiction. Drift is her debut novel.

author interview: Estela Bernal

Estela Bernal made her debut as an author this past May with Can You See Me Now? (Pinata/Arte Publico). As you get to know her today and find out a little more about Can You See Me Now? you’ll be impressed but, be even more impressed to know that she’s donating 100% of her proceeds to education and animal rights.

Just a little about the book. Kirkus says:

Tragedy strikes on Mandy’s 13th birthday when her father is struck by a drunk driver and killed. Now grief—both her own and her mother’s—complicates the already confusing landscape of early adolescence.

can u see me nowWith her mother working more and more hours in the wake of her father’s death, Mandy begins spending most of her time living with her grandmother. Often the target of bullies, loner Mandy approaches Paloma to be her partner for a school project. Paloma is also a misfit, but she carries herself with a self-assured grace that Mandy finds compelling. As she becomes closer to Paloma, she learns about the practices of yoga and meditation, which are foundational in Paloma’s family. An overweight boy in class, Rogelio, is also touched by tragedy when his family’s home burns down, and Paloma invites him to join their yoga crew. As the three continue practicing together, they each begin to cultivate their own peace amid the chaos in their lives. Though each faces personal challenges, they find friendship and support in one another. Bernal has succeeded in crafting a story that acknowledges tragedy without wallowing in it, placing her emphasis on resilience and personal growth. The quick pace and distinctive characters make for a smooth, well-crafted read.

Middle-grade readers should respond to this tender story of learning to connect with others through open eyes and an open heart. (Fiction. 10-13)


And Estela’s interview!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in South Texas (the Rio Grande Valley).

Estela Bernal

Estela Bernal

Do you have any pets?

I love animals and have had many pets through the years.  I currently have two cats.

What were some of the first books you found as a child that turned you into a reader?

I grew up in a home where we had no books.  There were no public libraries in my hometown either.  Despite the lack of age-appropriate reading material, I fell in love with books as soon as I learned to read.  I remember reading the Weekly Reader and whatever else I could get my hands on at school.  Although I don’t remember where I got it, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth was one book I read and re-read.  I’ve always been a dreamer and this book opened up an exotic new and very fascinating world to me. 

Meat or vegetables?

Vegetables, absolutely!  As an animal lover, I volunteered with many animal welfare organizations until I was able to form my own.  Through it I do community education and help provide low-cost spay/neuter services to residents’ pets in underserved communities.  It would be hard to justify rescuing some animals while eating others.  Besides, I find that when I eat a healthy diet, I feel so much better.

Which famous person would you most like to have write a review for your book?

So many famous and not-so-famous people come to mind.  It always makes me happy to hear about celebrities and other public figures who are also great philanthropists and who help raise awareness about some very important issues facing society today.  But there are also many unsung heroes quietly working to help make their communities better places to live.  I sincerely believe we all have the potential to do good and that, after all, is what really matters.   Two of my own favorite causes are education and animal welfare so my choice would have to be someone with similar ideals.

What three things would you like to add to a list of national treasures?

Although man-made treasures are priceless, I believe that natural treasures are absolutely essential.  I’d love to see all public waterways, land (public, private, agricultural), and all living beings protected and preserved for our well-being and that of future.

 

Why would you be up at 3am?

Usually, I’m only up at that time if I’m traveling and have to catch an early flight.

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

I’m currently making my way through a 100 Greatest Books for Kids list and just started Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Becoming Naomi León.  I’m also reading my latest copy of Glimmer Train.

What made you decide to write about a teen who discovers yoga?

One of my nephews died accidentally a few years ago.  The accident happened in front of his wife and children and I began to wonder how such a tragic event would affect any family who witnessed such a tragedy. That also got me thinking about how a child, already weighed down by grief, would cope with the additional burden of parental abandonment and being bullied on top of everything else.   Adolescence is tough enough as it is, and adding all this other stress can lead to such despair that anyone could easily be overwhelmed.  I wanted to introduce the idea that there are alternatives to violence, that there is help even when we think there is no safe way out of certain situations, and most importantly, that there are ways to access inner peace. 

When I first discovered yoga, I was going through a stressful period in my life and still remember the feeling of calm and well-being that I experienced when I was able to slow down the thoughts racing through my mind long enough to catch my breath and try to put things in perspective.  The character Paloma seemed the perfect vehicle through which to introduce the topic and Mandy, of course, was the ideal student.

I’m sorry to hear your family experienced such a tragedy. I can definitely see how that experience could inspire your writing.

I haven’t had the opportunity to read Can You See Me Now, but I do know it’s about a thirteen-year-old girl whose father dies in a car accident and her mother blames her for it. At 13 (or there about) to which adult were you the closest?

I was a very shy child and at thirteen I was closest to my mother.  Because I was the youngest child in my family and my parents were old enough to be my grandparents, the fear of losing them seemed to always be in the back of my mind.  If my mother wasn’t there when I got home from school or from playing with my friends, I panicked.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Again, this is a hard question to answer because there are so many authors I admire, but I’d have to say Harper Lee ranks pretty high on my list along with Sandra Cisneros.  Although their work is very different, I find the characters so easy to relate to and the stories so hard to forget.

What’s the trick to writing humor?

I’m sure there is a trick to it and I suppose part of it is to be naturally funny.  I don’t set out to write humor, but because I do write about serious issues which can be hard to address when writing for a younger audience, I try to ease the tension by including bits of humor here and there as I weave the story.  The humor I use is based on things that tickle my own funny bone.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity to me is inclusivity.  I try to write about things that all readers can relate to regardless of their racial or social background because, no matter what other commonalities we may or may not share, there are certain things that we all have to experience at some point in life.

Speaking of diversity, I’m glad to see that the need for diversity in children’s literature is finally starting to get the attention it deserves.  Although the need has always been there, it’s great that diversity among the writing population is also changing, however gradually. 

Thanks, Estela! It’s a pleasure getting to know you!

Visit Estela’s website.

Heaven Help Us All

weneeddiversebooks-logo

My plan: To write a quick little post about summer reading and summer at ALA. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans.

I wasn’t online last night and missed the Limbaugh shenanigans. Only a small part of me wants to understand the method to this man’s madness the rest of me wonders about those in this country that give power to not only to him but to a press that continues to sensationalize any event by addressing our emotions rather than our intellect when we think they’re providing us with information.

I could tell you that I know Deborah Menkart and Deborah Menkart is not racist. One cannot be authentic in their understanding of another culture if they do not embrace their own culture. If you’ve missed it, he accuses Menkart and Teaching for Change of being racist because they don’t sell his book. His book by the way, that is racist and inaccurate in its portrayal of US history. But, spending time in is web gives it power.

People of color can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racist, because they don’t have the institutional power.

Racism = prejudice + power

Whereas 50 years ago, my ancestors in the Delta finally had the power to leave the segregated South for the racism of Chicago. Did those schools in the Delta even have a library? I know some of my relatives were illiterate and I know how hard they worked to get their children into school. Institutional racism is a bitch.

40 years ago my parents had the power to live in a segregated neighborhood while they sent their children to a school that was 98% white. There were no books by any authors of color in that school library and the social studies teacher my 7th grade year refused to teach about Africa. How in the world I formed my racial identity is a mystery! I don’t even remember checking about books with black children from the public library in the black neighborhood.

30 years ago my husband and I had the power to move to Indianapolis and was immediately told which neighborhoods to avoid. We carefully selected an area with ‘good’ schools that had a diverse student population. The teaching staff however, did not reflect this diversity. My daughter often complained that she never could find books in the library about teens like herself. Nonetheless, my children were empowered by the education they received in these schools and are building successful careers.

20 years ago I had the power of a classroom teacher. My US History classes were no doubt afrocentric as was my classroom library. I had to work to find books for my students, but I had them reading. And questioning. I was in one of the worst performing schools in the state of Indiana. I felt like I was giving them tiny drops of water. Institutional racism wastes minds and that’s a terrible thing.

It may take a while to get power; it may take a long while. But, no one is going to give it to you. Sometimes, we only think we have power, but isn’t that all that matters? Isn’t life all about the perception? I think that’s what Limbaugh has figured out. I have the power to dismiss insanity from my life and to sit back and by a good book written by an author of color.

Currently Reading: Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Support Teaching for Change.

Follow the hashtags, join the conversation #DiversityatALA #WeNeedDiverseBooks

 

review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

" Listen, if you are a sucker for sister books, you will LOVE THIS, just LOVE THIS." Good Books Good Wine

” Listen, if you are a sucker for sister books, you will LOVE THIS, just LOVE THIS.” Good Books Good Wine

title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

author: Jenny Han

date: Simon and Schuster; April, 2014

main character: Lara Jean Song Covey

 

I began this book expecting a nice, light summer story; one of those good romances that I haven’t read in a very long time

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has such a sweet start. Oldest sister, Margo, is about to leave for college in Scotland and her sisters are going to miss her dearly. The girls are tender in their relationships and delicate with each others’  feelings. Their mother is deceased but to the girls still refer to her as ‘mommy’ and their father as ‘daddy’. Margot has been the family’s caretaker and her leaving is a major shift in the structure of the home. We get small clues of the shift when Lara Jean’s coffee isn’t just right and then, she has a car accident.

Lara Jean is in love with the idea of love. She’s a high school senior with a sense of innocence. Lara writes love letters to boys she’s loved since childhood, letters that she never intends to share with anyone. Now as a teenager, she’s always manages to avoid any opportunity for real romance and the only reason she finally has a relationship with a boy is because she stumbles into it.

With her older sister gone, Lara no longer has a shadow in which to hide so, she has to figure out her relationship with Josh (the boy next door who is very much a part of the family), Peter (the dreamboat), Chris (her most unlikely boyfriend) and even with her sisters. We often don’t realize that as we grow and change, our relationships must do the same. We need and perceive people in different ways. This change isn’t always subtle or easy no matter how special the relationship, as Lara Jean finds out.

 There’s a specific kind of fight you can only have with your sister. It’s the kind where you say things you can’t take back. You say them because you can’t help but say them, because you’re so angry it’s coming up your throat and out your eyes; you’re so angry you can’t see straight.

As soon as Daddy leaves and I hear him go to his room to get ready for bed, I barge into Margo’s room without knocking. Margot is at her desk on her laptop. She looks up at me in surprise.

In defining these relationships, Han builds strong consistent characters, except for Josh, the boy next door. He was never more than the all around good guy. Other characters in the story are revealed in their actions, conversations and through other characters. Certainly, one of the strengths of this book is Han’s ability to develop her characters.I was given room to not like elements of many of those I read about while still becoming invested in them and wanting to know their outcome.

Lara Jean’s bi-cultural heritage was an integral part of the story. She was very much just one of the gang but things like the way she prepared for Halloween reminded us of her Korean background.

I thoroughly enjoyed To All The Boys. This story that seemed so smarmily sweet incorporated tough issues that many of us experience at one time or another in our relationships. I read an ARC that had a few spots that needed to be repaired, but I hope and pray the ending did not change!

New Releases: June

 
The Truth Against the World by Sarah Jamila Stevenson; Flux
In her parents’ San Francisco flat, Olwen Nia Evans, Wyn for short, has been having unsettling dreams about her family’s past in Wales. But her dreams don’t match up with what she’s been told by her dying grandmother, Rhiannon. On the other side of the world, in London, a boy named Gareth Lewis is having disturbing dreams about a frightening encounter with a ghost. A ghost named Olwen Nia Evans.
When he looks for Olwen’s name online, Gareth connects with Wyn in San Francisco as she is preparing to move with her family to fulfill Rhiannon’s last wish to die in Wales. Once Wyn arrives in Wales, she and Gareth join forces to discover the truth of the lost soul that’s haunting them both.
Summer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana; Simon Pulse
Back to the Future meets Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Haley’s summer vacation takes a turn for the retro in this totally rad romantic fantasy.

Summer officially sucks. Thanks to a stupid seizure she had a few months earlier, Haley’s stuck going on vacation with her dad and his new family to Disney’s Fort Wilderness instead of enjoying the last session of summer camp back home with her friends. Fort Wilderness holds lots of childhood memories for her father, but surely nothing for Haley. But then a new seizure triggers something she’s never before experienced—time travel—and she ends up in River Country, the campground’s long-abandoned water park, during its heyday. The year? 1982.

And there—with its amusing fashion, “oldies” music, and primitive technology—she runs into familiar faces: teenage Dad and Mom before they’d even met. Somehow, Haley must find her way back to the twenty-first century before her present-day parents anguish over her disappearance, a difficult feat now that she’s met Jason, one of the park’s summer residents and employees, who takes the strangely dressed stowaway under his wing. Seizures aside, Haley’s used to controlling her life, and she has no idea how to deal with this dilemma. How can she be falling for a boy whose future she can’t share?

Rivals in the City: A Mary Quinn Mystery by Y. S. Lee; Walker Books
This is the fourth colourful and action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. Mary Quinn and James Easton have set up as private detectives and are also unofficially engaged to be married. But when the Agency asks Mary to take on a special final case, she can’t resist, and agrees. Convicted fraudster Henry Thorold (from book one, A Spy in the House) is dying in prison. His daughter, Angelica, is coming to see him one last time. Mary’s brief is to monitor these visits in case Mrs Thorold, last heard of as a fugitive in France, decides to pay him one last visit. But Mrs Thorold’s return would place James in grave personal danger. Thanks to the complications of love and family loyalties, the stakes for everyone involved are higher than ever. This is the final book in the Mary Quinn Mystery series. It is perfect for fans of Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series and Victorian culture. It is a vivid, well-researched and lively historical / detective fiction with a strong female protagonist and a smart romance.
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn; St. Martin’s Griffin
Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.
But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.
Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.
Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of the gripping psychological thriller.
Tales From A Not-So-Glam TV Star (Dork Diaries) by Rachel Renée Russell; Aladdin
Everyone’s been rooting for Nikki Maxwell and her crush, Brandon—and fans will finally learn if they had their first kiss in this seventh book of the New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

Nikki’s juggling a lot this month. A reality TV crew is following Nikki and her friends as they record their hit song together, plus there are voice lessons, dance practice, and little sister Brianna’s latest wacky hijinks. Nikki’s sure she can handle everything, but will all the excitement cause new problems for Nikki and Brandon, now that cameras are everywhere Nikki goes?

 
Discover more new, diverse releases at Rich in Color 

Rambling on a Rainy Tuesday

This morning, I suddenly realized that one reason I don’t do as many informational posts any more is because I post what I find on Facebook. Please, feel free to follow me there!

Have you had a chance to read “Against YA”? I’ve read pretty lively attacks directed at the thoughts expressed in the article and interesting to note they all came from authors of YA and kidlit, librarians and others with a unique relationship to the industry. Did bankers pay this any attention? How do plumbers and astronomers react to news of so many adults reading books written for those years or decades younger? The decades? That would be me. I honestly doubt I would fill my world with YA if I were not a librarian who works in the field. I know I wouldn’t. Perhaps I would pick up a YA books now and then, but I wouldn’t have the steady diet. I don’t like a steady diet of any gene, any ethnicity or any one thing when I read. I really like this from BookRiot on reading beyond your depths. I feel a constant back and forth in my reading, from stretching my imagination with a good YA spec fic to relaxing into an adult romance to expanding the bounds of my knowledge with professional nonfic. #INeedDiverseBooks

Yesterday, I finally made it back to the gym and as always, I used my time on the treadmill to get some reading done. I’m reading Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Feral Nights at home but prefer reading on my Nook when I’m on the treadmill. So, I began reading Shieldwolf Dawning by Selena Nemorin. As works of speculative fiction, both of these books require world building. The writers had to create myth, place, names, and problems that do not exist in their day to day life. I looked at Cynthia’s blog to get an idea how authors tackle such a project and found Malinda Lo discussing Ash (Little Brown, 2009). Cynthia asked Malinda how she goes about building worlds in her writing.

I was an anthropology graduate student when I began working on Ash, so I approached the world-building from an anthropologist’s perspective. I thought a lot about the rituals that mark the turning points in life–birth, marriage, and especially death.

This was particularly important for Ash because the story begins when Ash loses both her mother and father. I studied funerary rituals in China when I was in grad school, and I relied heavily on that knowledge when I wrote about Ash’s parents’ funerals, and when thinking about how people in that world think about death and dying.

Another of the most significant aspects of the Cinderella story is the fact that the stepmother wants her daughters to make wealthy marriages. I read a lot of analysis of fairy tales, and discovered that many tales included stepmothers because mothers often died in childbirth, and fathers were forced to remarry because they needed a wife to help raise the children.

These family structures might set up a situation in which a stepmother is forced to raise both her own children and another woman’s, and in a world of scarcity, this naturally sets up a kind of competition.

For girls, marriage was basically their ticket to freedom–a girl had to marry in order to support herself later in life, and it was to her advantage to marry well.

If a stepmother is raising both her daughter and her husband’s daughter from his earlier marriage, and there are few eligible males around, it might not be surprising that she would favor her biological daughter.

Obviously not all stepmothers are like this! But doing this research helped me to understand why a stepmother might act this way.

So, I guess I thought about the worldbuilding in a fairly intellectual, anthropological way! But then when I wrote, I kind of just loosened my focus and allowed it to become the background–the motivator for characters’ actions. I didn’t bother describing all the rituals or reasonings behind decisions; I focused on how those rules and practices would influence a character’s behavior. source

As with any writing, authors bring what they know and how they’ve come to view the world into their creation process.

Eric Gansworth’s If I Ever Get Out of Here didn’t have to involve world building, but I think when Eric considered his audience, he realized he’d have to build his world for them to enrich the story. How skillfully he did that! He took us right inside his character’s world and made us feel as though we were accepted.

I wonder which is more difficult, writing about a newly created world or one we intimately know. How does one become aware of things they’ve come to take so much for granted and know they need to be described to an audience?

Some of the following have recently been posted on my FB page.

Saturday 16 August is the date of this year’s International Children’s and Young Adult Literature Celebration: Muslim Journeys. This one day workshop will feature authors Ali Alalou, Saideh Hamshidi, Rukhsana Khan and Naheed Senzai. “This year the celebration will focus on Muslim Journeys by exploring new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, and cultures of Muslims around the world, through presentations on literature, media, history and social organizations.”

Creative Child Magazine, published by Scooterbay Publishing (a company that doesn’t appear too focused on diversity), focuses on “helping parents nurture their child’s creativity”. Yesterday, they selected Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom (Tuttle Publishing) as the Book of the Year, kid’s books category.

Works of many outstanding authors appeared on this year’s Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year List, including the following authors. Congratulations! Lists were created for a variety of genre for under 5, 5-9, 9-13, 12-14 and 14 and up. I did not look at the 5-9 list.

Margarita Engle The Lightening Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Poet (HMH) (12-14 Historical Fiction and 12-14 Poetry)

Margarita Engle Mountain Dog (Henry Holt)

Rita Williams-Garcia: P.S. Be Eleven (Amistad Press/Harper Collins)

Lesa Cline-Ransome: Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secret (Jump At The Sun)

Jewell Parker Rhodes Sugar (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

Diana López Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel (Little Brown and Co.)

Andrea Cheng The Year of the Baby (Houghton Mifflin)

Andrea Cheng Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet (Lee and Low)

Cynthia Kadahata The Thing About Luck (Atheneum)

Angela Cervantes Gaby, Lost and Found (Scholastic Press)

Farhana Zia The Garden of My Imaan (Peachtree)

Eric Gansworth If I Ever Get Out of Here (Arthur A. Levine0

Crystal Allen The Laura Line (Balzer + Bray)

Nikki Grimes Words With Wings (Wordsong)

Shaun Tan The Bird King: An Artists Notebook (Arthur A. Levine)

Andrea Davis Pinkney Peace Warriors (Scholastic)

Tonya Bolden Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty (Abrams)

Matt de la Peña The Living (Delacorte Press)

Patrick Scott Flores Jumped In (Christy Ottaviano Books)

Carol Blythe Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty-Girl (Delacorte Press)

Gene Luen Yang Boxers (First Second)

Gene Luen Yang Saints (First Second)

Lynn Joseph Flowers in the Sky (Harper Teen)

Alaya Dawn Johnson The Summer Prince (Arthur A. Levine)

Sherri L. Smith Orleans (Putnam Juvenile)

Swati Avasthi Chasing Shadows (Alfred A. Knopf)

Walter Dean Myers Darius & Twig (Amistad)

I am really enjoying the BrownBookShelf’s Making Our Own Market series. Not only am I learning how African Americans are succeeding in various areas of the book industry, but I’m learning more and more about the industry itself. Most recently, Kirsten Cappy of Curious City discusses marketing African American titles. Here, she talks about how her work to promote Terry Farish’s The Good Braider (Amazon Children’s Publishing).

In “creating partners for the book by finding commonalities,” I reached out to a young Sudanese hip hop artist and shared a galley of the book with him.  A few months later OD Bonny told me the book reminded him of his flight out of South Sudan alongside his brothers.  I asked if we could pay to use one of his songs as the audio for a book trailer.  He responded, “Why wouldn’t you want a song of your own? I’ll write it. Tonight.”

When I heard his song, “Girl From Juba,” I realized that it was not just marketing, but a reader’s genuine tribute to a work of fiction. An author can have no greater gift.  I also realized that I did not need to be the one to produce this trailer. I transferred the book trailer funds to OD and the music video/book trailer was created with an all Sudanese American cast (save one Irish kid), crew, and director. The video had 1000 hits within a week, not of book professionals, but of Sudanese and African American young adults that follow OD’s music.

Ok, I have some writing of my own to do!