Author Interview: Coe Booth

On the heels of her successful young adult novels, Coe Booth recently released Just Like a Brother, a middle grade novel about two foster brothers, Jerrod and Kevon.

Jarrett doesn’t trust Kevon.

But he’s got to share a room with him anyway.

kindalikebrothersIt was one thing when Jarrett’s mom took care of foster babies who needed help. But this time it’s different. This time the baby who needs help has an older brother — a kid Jarrett’s age named Kevon.

Everyone thinks Jarrett and Kevon should be friends — but that’s not gonna happen. Not when Kevon’s acting like he’s better than Jarrett — and not when Jarrett finds out Kevon’s keeping some major secrets.

Jarrett doesn’t think it’s fair that he has to share his room, his friends, and his life with some stranger. He’s gotta do something about it — but what?

KINDA LIKE BROTHERS is the story of two boys who really don’t get along — but have to find a way to figure it out.

I was recently able to connect with Coe to find out a little more about her and her new book!

 

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

I’m always reading a bunch of books at the same time. Right now, I’m reading Pointe by Brandy Colbert, Outside In by Sarah Ellis, I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin, and Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher.

How do you hope your writing engages young people?

More than anything, I hope kids see themselves in the pages of my books. I don’t want them to think of bronxwood hi-resbooks as only being about other people. It’s about them, too. When I was growing up, I rarely saw books about people like myself, especially contemporary books, which is what I wanted to read. So I hope my books can be mirrors for kids.

You just got back from a cruise! I think the last time we chatted on Twitter, you were in Paris. Do you have a favorite destination?

Coe.1A B+WI love traveling, and I do it every chance I can. I’ve been on a bunch of cruises because it’s my family’s tradition to go on one every other year — sort of like a mini family reunion. As for Paris, I try to spend a few months there every year because… well, because it’s Paris! And because it’s a city that just inspires me. However, my favorite place in the world (so far!) is the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It’s the most gorgeous place I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful it doesn’t look real! There are so many places I’d like to visit; I have a bucket list that’s out of control!

Your fiction would be labeled ‘realistic fiction’. Has it ever gotten too real, too painful for you while writing?

I don’t really think anything can be too real. I’m always pushing myself to go to those places that are painful Tyrell cover hi resfor me to write because I know there are kids experiencing the things I’m writing about in their real lives. There’s never a reason to hold back. Even though it’s hard to write some of those scenes, I think it’s important to try.

You’re building quite a body of work! Do you think you have an overarching theme or message in the books you’ve published to date?

I don’t think I have a theme, and I hope I don’t have a message! I do think most of my books center around kids who are trying to do the right thing despite the difficult surroundings they’re living in. Their neighborhoods are often tough, and their home lives are complicated, too. They’re basically good kids — not perfect! — just trying to hold it together and make it through.

I think many of us have the perception that writers sit in a spot all day with cold cups of coffee and write, write, write. It seems though, that being a successful writer involves a lot of mixing and mingling both with follow writers as well as with the general public. Can you talk a little about that? How many of these opportunities are created by writers and how many by their publishers? I think I’m asking ‘just how much work is involved in becoming a successful writer?’

Being a writer in New York City is probably a lot different than being a writer in other places. There are so many writers here! So, yes, there are lots of opportunities here to meet up with other writers and spend the Kendra cover hi resday writing in a coffee shop. We do this a lot. We also see each other at book parties and readings, where we get to hang out with readers. And the YA authors in NYC meet up socially every month or so. It’s all very informal, organized by the writers themselves, not the publishers. Writing can be a very lonely career, so it’s nice meeting writer friends for lunch and writing whenever we get the chance. Having said that, there are definitely times when I need to pull away from the “book scene” for a few months. There’s always so much going on here in NYC, it’s easy to get caught up in everything and not spend enough time actually writing!

What led you to Jarrett’s story?

Years ago, before I was writing full-time, I worked as a child protective caseworker in the Bronx. I investigated child abuse and tried to help keep families together after they had gone through traumatic situations. When I had to remove kids from their homes temporarily, I would place them in foster homes where, quite often, the foster parent already had biological children. I was always curious what it was like for those kids. How did they handle these foster kids coming and going? Was it hard for them to avoid attaching to these kids, knowing they were only going to be there for a certain length of time and then they’d be leaving forever?

These are the kinds of questions that sparked the idea for Kinda Like Brothers. My story is told from the point of view of the foster mother’s biological son, Jarrett, a kid who is very used to the fact that babies come and go from his life all the time. But when Kevon, a boy who is around his own age shows up, everything is turned upside down. It’s not so easy for Jarrett to remain detached, especially after he starts learning the difficult circumstances of Kevon’s life.

Kinda Like Brothers is middle grade. How was it different to write for that age group?

Before I began writing it, I thought I would need a different approach or I would have to change the way I write to make this middle grade. But really, I didn’t change very much at all. Obviously, an eleven-year-old boy has different interests and concerns than a sixteen year old, but I didn’t feel the need to change my writing style. And I really didn’t want to water down the story just because the readers would be younger. I wanted my characters (and the story) to be complex, just like the lives of a lot of kids growing up in the inner city.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity means accurately reflecting the world — the entire world.

Thanks so much for the interview! I wish you much success and happy travels!

Authors Extending Their Reach

Several YA authors of color are adding depth to their repertoire this year by writing in outside the young adult world.

Charles R. Smith teams up with Marc Aronson to edit One Death, Nine Stories (Candlewick). Nine related stories from nine YA authors.

Kev’s the first kid their age to die. And now, even though he’s dead, he’s not really gone. Even now his choices are touching the people he left behind. Ellen Hopkins reveals what two altar boys (and one altar girl) might get up to at the cemetery. Rita Williams-Garcia follows one aimless teen as he finds a new life in his new job — at the mortuary. Will Weaver turns a lens on Kevin’s sister as she collects his surprising effects — and makes good use of them. Here, in nine stories, we meet people who didn’t know Kevin, friends from his childhood, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, all dealing with the fallout of his death. Being a teenager is a time for all kinds of firsts — first jobs, first loves, first good-byes, firsts that break your heart and awaken your soul. It’s an initiation of sorts, and it can be brutal. But on the other side of it is the rest of your life.

review: Kirkus Complex and emotionally demanding, this collection aims for and will resonate with serious readers of realistic fiction. (Short stories. 14-20)

Juan Felipe Herrera is actually best know as the Poet Laureate of California. A truly talented write, his young adult works include Cinnamon Girl and Downtown Boy. He’s most recently collaborated with Raul Colon on the non-fiction Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes (Penguin/Dial)

This visually stunning book showcases twenty Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism, and athletics.  Gorgeous portraits complement sparkling biographies of Cesar Chavez, Sonia Sotomayor, Ellen Ochoa, Roberto Clemente, and many more. Complete with timelines and famous quotes, this tome is a magnificent homage to those who have shaped our nation.

In this volume: Adelina Otero-Warren, Bernardo de Galvez, Cesar Chavez, David Farragut, Dennis Chavez, Desi Arnaz, Dolores Huerta, Ellen Ochoa, Helen Rodríguez Trías, Hero Street USA, Ignacio Lozano, Jaime Escalante, Joan Baez, Judy Baca, Julia de Burgos, Luis Alvarez, Rita Moreno, Roberte Clemente, Sonia Sotomayor, and Tomas Rivera.

review Publishers Weekly  “The vignettes don’t overwhelm with dates and places, instead providing interesting snippets about the scientists, entertainers, civil rights workers, doctors, artists, politicians, educators, and judges. Readers learn, for example, that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor “read every Nancy Drew novel she could get her hands on” when growing up, and that Civil War naval commander David Farragut’s (“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”) father hailed from Spain.”

Coe Booth (Tyrell; Kendra; Bronxwood) goes middle grades with Kinda Like Brothers (Scholastic/Push)

It was one thing when Jarrett’s mom took care of foster babies who needed help. But this time it’s different. This time the baby who needs help has an older brother — a kid Jarrett’s age named Kevon.

Everyone thinks Jarrett and Kevon should be friends — but that’s not gonna happen. Not when Kevon’s acting like he’s better than Jarrett — and not when Jarrett finds out Kevon’s keeping some major secrets.Jarrett doesn’t think it’s fair that he has to share his room, his friends, and his life with some stranger. He’s gotta do something about it — but what?

review: Publishers Weekly  Booth offers candid insight into racism, poverty, and the foster care system without becoming heavy-handed; she also sensitively depicts a character’s coming-out moment. Jarrett’s evolution from a position of resistance to an acceptance of circumstances beyond his control is believably subtle. Ages 8–12.

Varian Johnson (Saving Maddie; My Life as a Rhombus) also goes middle grades with The Great Greene Heist (Scholastic).

Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then  school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team:  Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.

review: Publishers Weekly “Johnson (Saving Maddie) delivers an exciting Ocean’s Eleven–style caper for the middle-school crowd, with third-person narration jumping between the various plotters, who concoct an impressive seven schemes in less than three weeks. While in the big picture, the stakes are low, it’s easy to get swept up in the exploits of Johnson’s entertaining and diverse crew.”

 Greg Neri (Yummy; Knockout Games; Surf Mules) and A. G. Ford published Hello I’m Johnny Cash (Candlewick), a picture book of the singer’s life.

There’s never been anyone like music legend Johnny Cash. His deep voice is instantly recognizable, and his heartfelt songs resonate with listeners of all ages and backgrounds. G. Neri captures Johnny’s story in beautiful free verse, portraying an ordinary boy with an extraordinary talent who grew up in extreme poverty, faced incredible challenges, and ultimately found his calling by always being true to the gift of his voice. A. G. Ford’s luscious paintings of the dramatic southern landscape of Johnny Cash’s childhood illuminate this portrait of a legend, taking us from his humble beginnings to his enormous success on the world stage.

Review: Kirkus “An exceptional portrait of one of the most recognizable musicians of all time. (author’s note, timeline, discography, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)” STARRED

A Little Hump Day Shine

My word this year is ‘shine’. It can be so easy catching myself not shining my brightest. Typically, those are times I don’t allow others to shine. I’m too bright too dull the glow of others! (Repeating 3x daily)

Technology helps me, helps us, shine. I recently updated my iPhone to the new IOS and found that I went back to the same ol’ settings I’ve had. While I appreciate Apple making me aware of some of the new functions, I’ve found my comfort zone. But to shine like a new copper penny, when I go for the trade in, I think I’ll go ahead and make some  real changes. I’ve never really used the Passport app so, I plan to explore that and a few other options. Changing the phone around keeps the brain young!

AND!! I decided to upgrade the Nook! I love playing with new tech toys and finding new ways to locate and share information but I can be frugal, too. If it ain’t broke, why get rid of it? I hate to admit this out loud but I do still have two of the old-fashioned heavy televisions and I drive a 2000 Honda. I was so surprised to hear that cars now tell you when the air is low in your tires! Not only am I saving money by keeping what still works, but it seems like I’m still thinking for myself as well.

René Saldaña Jr. shines brilliantly over at LatinosinKidlit when he firmly states “the books are not hard to find.” I agree, Reñe! It’s old and lame to say you can’t find any Latino books. True, there are not enough, but the ones that are there can be found.

Bringing that real shine to diversity, Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad discuss their forthcoming anthology Accessing the Future which explores disability and the intersectionality of race, nationality, gender, sexuality and class. They’re raising funds through Indiegogo to get this amazing book published so, check out the interview and shine on them with a little donation to support the cause.

Cyntwe_need_diverse_books_logohia Leitich Smith Shines no matter what! Her recent blog post details the WeNeedDiverseBooks announcement to incorporate as a non-profit and its inaugural advisory board members Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Cindy Pon.
“Incorporating will give us the legitimacy and standing we need to move forward with our mission,” says Lamar Giles, VP of Communications. “We have many exciting projects in the works.”

On the BrownBookShelf, Sharon Flake asks about how well you shine. She asks “Are you unstoppable?”unstoppable

On September 30, 2014, my new novel, Unstoppable Octobia May, will hit bookstores nationwide.  On that day I would love you and/or the young people you influence to join me in shouting out to the world that they too are unstoppable by holding up the following sign, words, image:

I AM UNSTOPPABLE

#UNSTOPPABLEOCTOBIAMAY

Shining winners of the 2014 South Asian Book Awards

Elizabeth Suneby

Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education
(Kids Can Press, 2013)

Jennifer Bradbury

A Moment Comes
(Atheneum Book, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2013)

2014 Honor Winner
Farhana Zia
The Garden of My Imaan
(Peachtree, 2013)

Kudos to Walter Mays, president elect of the Assembly of Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE for his efforts to bring more diversity to the ALAN workshop which will be held this November in Washington DC. Among the many outstanding authors on the roster we’ll find

Jason Reynolds

Jenny Han

Kwame Alexander

Pam Muñoz Ryan

C.J. Farley

Coe Booth

Christopher Paul Curtis

Ying Compestine

Vinson Compestine

Atia Abawi

Tanuja Desai Hidier

Patrick Flores-Scott

Kekla Magoon

G. Neri

WOW!!! W0 W!!!! I will be there! You?

 

 

Blog Tour: Scar of the Bamboo Leaf

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Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M.

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Genre: Young Adult fiction, Contemporary Romance

“Her heart wept when she realized that the hardest part about loving him was the idea that his love was never meant for her.”

Walking with a pronounced limp all her life has never stopped fifteen-year-old Kiva Mau from doing what she loves. While most girls her age are playing sports and perfecting their traditional Samoan dance, Kiva finds serenity in her sketchbook and volunteering at the run-down art center her extended family owns.

When seventeen-year-old Ryler Cade steps into the art center for the first time, Kiva is drawn to the angry and misguided student sent from abroad to reform his violent ways. Scarred and tattooed, an unlikely friendship is formed when the gentle Kiva shows him kindness and beauty through art.
After a tragic accident leaves Kiva severely disfigured, she struggles to see the beauty she has been brought up to believe. Just when she thinks she’s found her place, Ryler begins to pull away, leaving her heartbroken and confused. The patriarch of the family then takes a turn for the worse and Kiva is forced to give up her dreams to help with familial obligations, until an old family secret surfaces that makes her question everything.

Immersed in the world of traditional art and culture, this is the story of self-sacrifice and discovery, of acceptance and forbearance, of overcoming adversity and finding one’s purpose. Spanning years, it is a story about an intuitive girl and a misunderstood boy and love that becomes real when tested.

Available on Amazon

About the Author:

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Sieni A.M. is a coffee addict, Instagram enthusiast, world traveler, and avid reader turned writer. She graduated as an English and History high school teacher from the University of Canterbury and is currently living in Israel with her husband and two daughters. “Scar of the Bamboo Leaf” is her second novel.

Website: http://sieniam.blogspot.co.il/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/illumineher

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/illumineher/

Enter to win one of five copies of Scar of the Bamboo Leaf via Amazon.

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book review: Shieldwolf Dawning

title: Shieldwolf Dawning516+sRTYYpL._AA160_

author: Selena Nemorin

date: Astraea Press; 2014

main character: Samarra

Shieldwolf Dawning is the first in a new speculative fiction series by Selena Nemorin. Samarra and her brother, Cassian, have been moved to Gaia, a planet with a deteriorating natural environment and are being raised by the Sairfangs after the death of the children’s parents. Their step-parent’s wealth protects them from the pollution and scarcities and provides Cassian with the best education money can buy. Samarra is stuck at home cleaning and doing chores. As sexist as this situation seems, it has more to do with Cassian’s future position in life rather than the fact that he’s a male. Samarra despises her situation. She’s impetuous and curious. Given the opportunity to leave her situation, she talks her brother into escaping with her. And so begins their adventure.

The book rattled my attention the mention of ‘all-terrain aircraft’!  Written in third person, the author still confines herself to the limited perception of the main character. That annoys me! Use that voice to fully develop a story with multiple character’s perspectives and with rich settings or stick to first person. Cassian is poorly developed which is tragic given how important he becomes at the end of the book. Time sequences were unequal in length and there were too many detailed situations that were never developed.

Shieldwolf Dawning is unique in two ways. First, it gives us an adventurous female of color  with blue dreads who often saves herself in situations. Second, it’s steeped in philosophy. Where knowledge of the field could provide a stronger appreciation for the book, I had none. I suspect that most teens without this knowledge will be as frustrated as I was with Samarra and never really invest in the story. She repeatedly wanders into situations that end up with negative consequences. Maybetwo-thirds of the way into the book when I was really tired of her doing this over and over again and I began to think that these wanderings might have something to do with stages of intellectual or moral development and that these curiosities were purposeful in her growth. This seemed to make sense to me when Samarra reasoned about moral judgment, truth and honestly.

Sheildwolf Dawning is an ambitious book that doesn’t quite reach it’s potential.

Fitness and Reading

I’m so excited about presenting at this year’s KidLitCon!

1:30-3   Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story

Edith Campbell Crazy Quilt Edi
Hannah Gómez  sarah HANNAH gómez
Jewell Parker Rhodes

While gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or ability add to who we are, they do not define who we are. And these differences do not define our stories. How do we teach, discuss, or describe diverse books without making diversity the issue? Should we? How do we respond to the perception that ʺdiverse booksʺ are only for ʺdiverse peopleʺ and deliver book reviews and essays that highlight what makes books universal for those disinclined to think diversity is for them while acknowledging readers who need and deserve to find themselves in literature? Presenters Edith Campbell, Hannah Gómez, and author Jewell Parker Rhodes will deliver an interactive session with talking points, booktalks, strategies and much honest discussion.

IMG_2966

I garden! Isn’t kale gorgeous?

It’s an important opportunity to share my diversity message along with Hannah Gomez and Jewell Parker Rhodes. I am too outdone by these ladies!

It’s also an opportunity to meet folk in real life that I have known for years online, but never met in person, like Mitali Perkins, Natalie Mvondo, Charlotte Taylor and Laura Atkins. Will you be there? If so, please let me know!

I have several book reviews to write, some good, some not so much. I’m getting a lot of my reading done on the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike these days. The better the book, the faster the time goes. Today’s read was Love Is The Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. I went for an extra 10 minutes because of that book. It helps if the book is good, but some books, like some music are better for walking than others. The language in Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier is so creative and expressive and the action so passive that it’s not a good read for the treadmill.

Fitness gurus generally say that treadmills and stationary bikes don’t provide the best exercise out there, but

Today!

Today!

I’m pretty sure they’re better than sitting on the sofa and reading.

It’s tough having reading and quilting as hobbies. They’re both time intensive and both require sitting and that’s not good for someone with a weight problem! Ebooks make reading easier to accomplish while working out, as I don’t have to find ways to hold pages down and books open. I suppose audiobooks would free me up

Two varieties of sweet potatoes; hundreds of those critters to harvest.

Two varieties of sweet potatoes; hundreds of those critters to harvest.

even more, but listening to a book is a completely different experience than reading.

My ereader of choice these days is my Nook reader. If at home, I’ll use my Surface. It has a very nice page display that will include images. However, turning pages can be tricky on it and, the Nook app doesn’t work requiring me to read through Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). I took the device to the gym once, accidentally left it and decided not to take it again.

I have read on my phone (the BlueFire App syncs to ADE) and would have no problem doing that again if I didn’t have another device available. It’s just too small for sustained reading. My Nook is a 1st generation that was giving to by my son and daughter in law. No color, horrible formatting, no images… but there is just something about that old thing that makes me love reading on it. I’ll upgrade it one day, but I’m certain I’ll probably have a dedicated ereader for occasional reading such as when traveling, exercising or if no other format is available.

I do have so many posts that come to mind, but now they seem more appealing as journal articles rather than blog posts. I know that some people do post on their blogs about their article ideas and they generate in-depth conversations that probably enhance the article when it is written. There’s also the possibility, though of someone snagging your great idea! I have mentioned some things here that I consider writing about, but it rarely (never!) turns into a conversation. Perhaps I’ll try again in the future. For now, I think I’ll get back to Love Is The Drug!

 

 

Book Reviews: Non-fiction

I’ve recently read two nonfiction books that are completely unrelated in topic, location and even the time period in which they’re set yet, they’re very similar in that they’re well written books that address the intellect of young adults.

 

The Compassionate Warrior: abd El Kader of Algeria by Elsa Marston (Wisdom Tales, 2013)

FC9781937786106summary: A brilliant military strategist, superb horseman, statesman, philosopher, Muslim hero . . . Emir Abdel Kader (1808-1883) was an international celebrity in his own time, known for his generosity and kindness even towards enemies. Today he is recognized as one of the noblest leaders of the 19th century and a pioneer in interfaith dialogue. This fascinating biography of the heroic Arab who led the resistance to the French conquest of Algeria, endured betrayal and imprisonment, and in 1860, in Syria, saved thousands of innocent people from mob violence brings a vital message for our times.

Marston combines her love of scholarship and of young adult literature as she writes about Emir Abdel Kader. At times, she speaks directly to her audience in a tone that guides them as they learn more, not only about this brilliant and compassionate leader but, also about Algeria. France’s relationship with the country was just beginning as Algeria struggled to eventually become a unified nation. Their relationship was complex and interpreted differently through the lens of each of the cultures. Marston provides only what she could document, resulting in a book that is a rare historical document. I think young adults would be more engaged in a story that included more about the Emir’s personal and family life, however this books focuses more on his political accomplishments along with the country’s development. Readers gain insights not only into a country we here tend to ignore, but also into the complex arena of international relations. Nothing is as simple as it seems!

 

Up for Sale: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery by Alison Marie Behnke (21st Century Books; August 2014)

+-+805560493_140summary: Up for Sale takes a hard look at human trafficking, identifying perpetrators and telling the stories of victims through their own words. You’ll discover why some people become vulnerable to trafficking and you’ll read about what their lives are like on a daily basis. You’ll also meet some of the courageous individuals and organizations working to free people from lives in bondage so that, in the words of US president Barack Obama, each person can “forge a life equal to [their] talents and worthy of [their] dreams.

I enjoyed this book. I appreciated its effective use of color, images and layout in telling a multidimensional story. Yes, multidimensional. Human trafficking has no single definition, no single place or location. At its core, it is an horrendous abuse of those with no power: children, women, the poor, the uneducated, homeless… Up for Sale brings to light many of the ways this crime against our humanity is perpetrated today. I liked that the book made sure readers understood this global crime isn’t just committed ‘over there’, but that it happens here in America everyday. The author treats the young adult readers as if they’re aware enough to need to know about human trafficking and without being exceptionally graphic, she provides a dose of reality. Teen readers will appreciate the numerous examples of how this crime is committed over and over again. As the faces and situations change, readers develop a heightened sense of compassion, a greater sense of social justice.