Monday EveningReads

It feels like it’s been forever since I blogged about anything and I don’t really feel like I have a post in me  right now. I just know that I don’t want anyone to feel as though I’m giving up on CrazyQuiltsEdi; I’ve just been busy.

October started with me in LA to visit family and celebrate my birthday. The next weekend, I was in Cincinnati for Books by the Banks where I met Will Hillenbrand, Cinda Chima Williams, Adi Alsaid and Skila Brown. I also picked up a copy of The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border by Christopher Phillips, a history professor at the University of Cincinnati. I don’t get much of a chance to read adult books and am looking forward to this history about the region where I’ve lived most of my life, this region once viewed as the West with a strong influence on slavery, race and racism in the development of this country. The highlight of the even for me was the panel Children’s Diverse Book Matter with bookseller Alia Jones and authors Greg Leitich Smith and Zetta Elliott, hosted by librarian extraordinaire, Sam Bloom . Did you know there are more children’s books set in Australia than Texas printed in the U.S.? Given the tremendous influence that TX has on children’s books, the rest of us don’t hold much hope of being represented in children’s literature. Diversity can feel so much like the same conversation over and over again, but it’s a conversation that really has been limited to those of us connected to children’s literature. Books by the Banks was an opportunity to reach a new audience and kudos to Sam and the organizers for working to make this happen. And of course, there was tea.

The next weekend was New York where I presented at Book Fest @ Bank Street with Cheryl Hudson. I want to say that our presentation was a really small part of the day, but there’s nothing small in having the honor of presenting with Cheryl. Although we all know her as the co-founder of Just Us Books, she actually spent an early part of her career as a graphic designer. With visual literacy as the theme of the day and presenters including but not limited to Francoise Mouly, Rudy Gutierrez, Raúl Colón, Laurent Linn, Hervé Tullet, Angela Dominguez, Jason Chin, Brian Pinkney, and Christopher Myer well, I’m still processing information! I wish Pam Munoz Ryan’s keynote could be made available. It was insightful, eloquent and inspiring. I keep reeling in a charge that she gave: If you are comfortable where you are, you’re not doing enough. Me? I’m comfortable. I’m always comfortable.

I was home this past weekend but am going to Chicago tomorrow. Hamilton. A presentation on campus next weekend a bit similar to the one I did with Cheryl on reading images in picture books for thematic development, social justice and visual geography but with more of an emphasis on classroom use. I’ve got a presentation coming up with grad students on accessing, locating and organizing information sources and then it’s ALAN where I’m moderating a panel with debut authors Randi Pink and Rahul Kanakia. Immediately following that is the Literacy Research Association Conference where I’m on a panel with real experts: KT Horning, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Ashley Hope Perez, Pat Enciso and Denise Davila on changes brought to children’s literature through social media.

I think that’s it for 2016.

My Printz Committee duties will be kicking in soon and that will have an impact on my blogging as my reading requirements will shift and I’ll not be able to blog or discuss 2017 books. I have actually spoken with a few authors about interviews, I’ve got to make time to get those done. Seriously, do follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I do post there with greater regularity.

Even with this going on, I make time to pay attention #NoDAPL and the situation at Standing Rock. With so little coverage in the national media, I have to look for the news and I’m OK with that because as I follow the hashtag on Twitter, I can get factual evidence of the event. The visceral hated directed at Native Americans during this time is disgusting. We’ve stolen land from the Sioux once and here we are doing it again. Most recently, the United Nations has shown up to attempt to media the situation.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Star Spangled Banner (verse 3)







review: Into White

575634564_140title: Into White
author: Randi Pink
date: Feiwal and Friends; 2016
main character: Toya Williams

I could go with the premise here. I can believe that young people are often willing to exchange their racial identity for one that seems more appealing. Isn’t that what Rachel Dolezal tried as an adult? So often when teens are trying to figure themselves out, they think they don’t want to be who they are: that fat boy or that Black girl or that Native American braniac. Yet, they are who they are.

Toya Williams doesn’t want to be Black. She attends a predominantly white high school in an affluent suburb of Montgomery, Alabama and has accepted every negative stereotype about being Black. She never speaks up for herself and is an object of ridicule. She’s convinced that life is better for white girls, so she asks Jesus to make her White. And, he does. While the ending is predictable, not everything in the story is.

Pulling off the transformation from black Toya to the transformed white Katerina was as clunky. Toya’s not missing at home because her family sees her as they always have. But at school, Toya’s gone and there’s a new student. How would you explain that? Not easily. As Katerina, Toya experiences life as a stereotypical spoiled, rich white girl.

The stereotypes that fill Toya’s head are never repudiated and this is a weakness in the story. These stereotypes, unfortunately are written into the narrative, giving a poor representation of the African American experience, communicating that it’s woeful to be a black teen. Toya’s family is much less affluent than the families of her white peers. While her classmates can afford to give new cars as presents, Toya’s family cannot afford to furnish their home. Toya’s mother and aunt are vocal, “strong” black women. Toya’s father derails her mother’s dreams and embarrasses the family with his broke down cars. While his heart is in the right place, he does a poor job of providing for his family. White characters are seen as narrow-minded, privileged teens whose parents can buy them out of any situation. Without giving away too much, it’s the guys who save Toya, who get her to draw some conclusions. It’s too often the guys who save the girls!

I really wanted to like this book. I expected something that would truly explore racial identity as today’s teens experience it. This book unfortunately relied upon the same trite stereotypes that permeate our culture with regards to African Americans. The problem isn’t that the stereotypes are in the book, it’s that they’re never called to question. Casually relating that black girls are heavier that white girls would give readers reason to believe it must be so, when it truth young black girls are as aware of and likely to practice healthy lifestyles as are whites in the same income group. Relying upon such predictable characters doesn’t allow the story’s theme to shine through.

And Jesus. When you call on Jesus to be a significant part of the story, you really need to go a bit deeper into matters of faith, belief and justice and a few church scenes do not do that.

Into White is Randi Pink’s first young adult novel.

October Releases

Rebellion of Thieves by Kekla Magoon; Bloomsbury. ages 8-12.
Robyn Loxley can’t rest now that she’s the #1 Most Wanted Fugitive, Robyn Hoodlum. The harsh Nott City governor, Ignomus Crown, may have increased the reward for her capture, but this won’t stop Robyn from masterminding her biggest mission yet: infiltrating the governor’s mansion to rescue her parents.

The perfect opportunity arises when the Iron Teen contest comes to Sherwood. If Robyn scores high enough, she’ll be invited to a dinner at the mansion. But performing well in the contest could put her directly in Crown’s sights. Can she and her crew of misfit friends pull off such a grand scheme, or are they walking into bigger trouble than they can handle?

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes; Boyds Mills/WordSong. ages 8-12.
Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey’s life changes. The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself, and a way to finally reach his distant father—by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports. This emotionally resonant novel in verse by award-winning author Nikki Grimes celebrates choosing to be true to yourself.

Mice of the Round Table: A Tail of Camelot by Julie Leung, illus. by Lindsey Carr; Harper Collins. ages 8-12.
Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of becoming a Knight of the Round Table. For generations, his family has led the mice who live just out of sight of the humans, defending Camelot from enemies both big and small. But when Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a new threat is gathering—one that could catch even the Two-Leggers unaware—it is up to them to unmask the real enemy, unite their forces, and save the castle they all call home.

The School the Aztec Eagles Built by Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson; Lee & Low Books. ages 8-11.
In May 1942, German U-boats torpedoed two unarmed Mexican oil tankers off the Gulf Coast, forcing Mexico to enter World War II. With the help of United States President Roosevelt, Mexican President Camacho arranged to send one Air Force squadron to fight in the war. Thirty-eight of Mexico s top pilots, and about two hundred sixty additional military crew were carefully selected to form the 201st Air Force Squadron, also known as the Aztec Eagles. The squadron was the first unit in history to leave Mexico on a fighting mission. To mark this historic event, President Camacho asked the men if they had any last minute requests before they went to war. Sergeant Angel Bocanegra, a former teacher and now squadron ground crewmember, stepped forward and made a request. He asked that a school be built in his small village of Tepoztlan. The School the Aztec Eagles Built tells the exciting story of how a Mexican Air Force squadron and an unknown schoolteacher made their mark in history.”

The Treasure of Barracuda by Llanos Martinez Campos; ages 9-12. Little Pickle Stories. Sparks is an 11-year-old cabin boy on the Southern Cross, a pirate ship led by Captain Barracuda. When he and the crew discover a book left by the infamous pirate Phineas Johnson Krane, they must learn to read in order to decipher its contents and go in search of Krane’s hidden treasure. A satisfying tale packed with pirates, outlaws, danger and, in the words of its narrator, “no second chances.”

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ages 9-12.
Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.

The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia; Macmillan. ages 12-18
Seventeen year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad―an undercover cop. She transfers to public school in the Downs, where fistfights in the halls don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him…and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart.

 And The Midnight Star by Marie Lu; G. P. Putnam’s Son. ages 12-18. Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.

When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz; Simon and Schuster. ages 8-12.
Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel. Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead. Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.

Riding Chance by Christine Kendall, Scholastic.
Troy is a kid with a passion. And dreams. And wanting to do the right thing. But after taking a wrong turn, he’s forced to endure something that’s worse than any juvenile detention he can imagine-he’s “sentenced” to the local city stables where he’s made to take care of horses. The greatest punishment has been trying to make sense of things since his mom died but, through his work with the horses, he discovers a sport totally unknown to him-polo. Troy has to figure out which friends have his back, which kids to cut loose, and whether he and Alisha have a true connection. Laced with humor and beating with heartache, this novel will grip readers, pull them in quickly, and take them on an unforgettable ride. Set in present day Christine Kendall’s stunning debut lets us come face-to-face with the challenges of a loving family that turn hardships into triumphs.

Bessie Stringfield: Tales of the Talented Tenth by Joel Christian Gill; Fucrum Publishing. ages 12 and up.
Imagine a five-foot-two-inch-tall woman riding a Harley eight times across the continental United States. Now imagine she is black and is journeying across the country in the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1930s and ’40s. That is the amazing true story of Bessie Stringfield, the woman known today as The Motorcycle Queen of Miami and the first black woman to be inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame and the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame. Stringfield was a pioneer in motorcycling during her lifetime; she rode as a civilian courier for the US military and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club in Miami, all while confronting and overcoming Jim Crow in every ride.

Phoenix by SF Said, illus. by Dave McKean; Candlewick.  Ages 10–up.
Lucky lives a relatively normal life on a remote moon of the planet Aries One, safe from the turmoil and devastation of the interstellar war between Humans and Aliens. Lucky has seen images of the horned, cloven-hooved Aliens before, but he’s never seen one up close. Then one night, he dreams that the stars are singing to him—and wakes to evidence suggesting that he is not so normal after all. When Lucky’s mother sacrifices herself to help him escape an elite Human military force called the Shadow Guards, he must rely on the Alien crew of a ramshackle starship, where he finds that humanity’s deadly enemies seem surprisingly Human up close. In fact, they may be more Human than Lucky himself, who has a dangerous power that could change the course of the war and the fate of the galaxy—if he can learn how to use it. Star Wars fans seeking another saga to love need look no further than this epic middle-grade adventure

Twas National Coming Out Day

11 October is National Coming Out Day. I’m not spending as much time on Twitter these days, so I didn’t get to read the precious coming out Tweets, but I did see a Tweet from someone on how difficult coming out can be, how difficult life can be when you have to worry about your family and friends accepting you, when you have to live with to possibility of imgres-1.jpgbeing denied for who you are and in fear of verbal or physical attack. And, I also read a post from someone expressing the joy of having the freedom just to be who they are.

Did you not pause at ‘people’ and wonder what people I’m talking about? Don’t you assume straight, white people when there is no description? Most of us do.

Most of us expect straight/heterosexual to be the norm. We expect those in the queer community to have to define themselves. I haven’t run this thought by anyone, so someone is going to have to tell me if I’m taking liberties here and diverting the intention of Coming Out Day too much. I just don’t think the onus of identification should be on those in the LGBT+ community.

Listen to this: I am a cis gendered, she/her pronoun, heterosexual female.

It can be kind of hard to say that out loud if you’ve never taken the time to consider your sexual orientation or your gender identity. It can be too easy to take this for granted, to not realize the privilege that comes with being heterosexual.

It’s also freeing and prideful to say that out loud, to own who I am. Honestly, it is!

And, everyone should be able to have that same pride-filled.feeling In a way, I’m a day late, but in many ways this may be right on time. It’s your turn to come out. Say it out loud.