review: Playing for the Devil’s Fire

Today’s review is part of a blog tour to promote Playing for the Devil’s Fire. Here are the other spots on the tour.

    1. August 31: Rich in Color review
    2. Sept 1: The Pirate Tree review & interview
    3. Sept 4: Guest Post for Clear Eyes, Full Shelves
    4. Sept 6:Rich in Color author interview
    5. September 8: Anasasia Suen, #KidLitBookoftheday.
    6. September 9: Reading Through Life author highlight
    7. Sept 9: The Brain Lair guest post
    8. Sept. 12: Linda Washington 
    9. Sept. 13:  Mom Read It exerpt and guest post


book review: Playing for The Devil’s Fire
author: Phillippe Diederich
date: Cinco Puntos; September 2016
main character: Liberio “Boli” Flores
young adult fiction


Phillippe Diedrich describes himself as “the son of exiles”. This description seems to permeate The Devil’s Fire, his most recent book and his first venture into young adult fiction. Diedrich was born in Haiti and has lived in Mexico and the United States. In Devil’s Fire, he examines how the exiled person is perceived.

Boli and his family live in Izayoc described by the main character as “a small pueblo in a tiny valley in the Sierra Nanchititla. Even though we were only a few hours west of Mexico City, where the State of Mexico meets the states of Michoácan and Guerrero, we were hidden from the world by a pair of huge cliffs, El Cerro de la Soledad at the south and El Cerro Santacruz in the north. Nothing ever happened here.” (p. 9)

When the young people in the story have noses like potatoes, nicknames from bakery items and earn extra income by shining shoes you know you’re reading a story about working class families. These are the families that work hard for what they get. Boli’s family owns a bakery and as an established businessman, his father is quite aware of all the changes taking place in the city where nothing happens. He sees the young men from other towns driving around his city in big American cars and blasting American music. And then, he sees the decapitated head of Enrique Quintanilla, the teacher, displayed in the town square. He and his wife decide to complain to the regional authorities and they disappear from the story.

Diederich writes about the changes in this small Mexican town that are brought about by external forces, by people who rarely show their faces and consequently build no ties to the community. There is little examination of which characters are the good guys and who are the bad guys, rather the book explores the dynamic forces that lead people to be who they are and where they are.

Devil’s Fire is rich in symbolism, leaving readers many opportunities to find meaning in the text. Grandma sitting with a Superman blanket in her lap. A luchador named Chicano. The church that was falling apart. A hummingbird. The lines that blur in the marble game.

The devil’s fire is a marble that is a “little red sphere el diablito rojo. It was bright red and iridescent with a soft swirl of ygellow at the center. It was beautiful. It didn’t even look like a real marble. It glowed like a jewel, like fire.” (p. 40) And in the game of marbles, just like in the game of life sometimes you have to know when enough is enough.

As the town is being assaulted, Diederich paints a vague picture of who is doing what and why, allowing readers to build their own narrative while he keeps Boli’s narrative front and center. Deierich trusts his readers. This story of a young Mexican boy’s coming of age is written for young people who are also growing up and coming of age in a globalized society. It’s a different take on the push and pull factors of migration. With all its notes of sadness, it manages to provide hope through the act of choosing to exile one’s self.

September Releases

The Reader by Traci Chee; Putnam. ages 12 and up Debut Author
Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland;  AgeAmulet Books.(ages 13–up)
Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige; Bloomsbury.(ages 14–up)
Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn’t what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid–her true home–with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she’s sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything . . . including Snow’s return to the world she once knew. This breathtaking first volume begins the story of how Snow becomes a villain, a queen, and ultimately a hero.

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel; CInco Puntos. (ages 12–18)
Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-ass Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer in full effect. But in truth, she’s a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i, isolated from her high school peers by the unsettling norms of Indian culture where “husband is God.” Her parents’ traditionally arranged marriage is a sham. Her dad turns to her for all his needs even the intimate ones. When Rani catches him two-timing with a woman barely older than herself, she feels like a widow and, like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. Her sexy bald head and hard-driving rhyming skills attract the attention of Mark, the hot older customer who frequents her parents’ store and is closer in age to her dad than to her. Mark makes the moves on her and Rani goes with it. He leads Rani into 4eva Flowin’, an underground hip hop crew and into other things she’s never done. Rani ignores the red flags. Her naive choices look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she’d lost, including her mother.

Aluta by Adwoa Badoe; Groundwood Books. (ages 14–up)
For eighteen-year-old Charlotte, university life is better than she d ever dreamed a sophisticated and generous roommate, the camaraderie of dorm living, parties, clubs and boyfriends. Most of all, Charlotte is exposed to new ideas, and in 1981 Ghana, this may be the most exciting and most dangerous adventure of all.
At first Charlotte basks in her wonderful new freedom, especially being out of the watchful eye of her controlling and opinionated father. She suddenly finds herself with no shortage of male attention, including her charismatic political science professor, fellow student activist Banahene, and Asare, a wealthy oil broker who invites Charlotte to travel with him and showers her with expensive gifts, including a coveted passport.
But Ghana is fraught with a history of conflict. And in the middle of her freshman year, the government is overthrown, and three judges are abducted and murdered. As political forces try to mobilize students to advance their own agendas, Charlotte is drawn into the world of student politics. She’s good at it, she’s impassioned, and she’s in love with Banahene. The struggle continues Aluta Aluta continua she shouts, rallying the crowd with the slogan of the oppressed. But her love of the spotlight puts her in the public eye. And when Asare entrusts her with a mysterious package of documents, she suddenly realizes she may be in real danger.
But it’s too late. As she is on her way to a meeting, Charlotte is picked up by national security, and her worst nightmares come true. And in the end, she must make a difficult and complicated decision about whether to leave her education, and her beloved Ghana, behind.

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz;  Harlequin Teen.  (ages 14–up)
Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship. And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where or if she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki VivatHarper Collins. (ages 8–12) DEBUT AUTHOR
Meet Abbie Wu. Abbie is in crisis and not just because she’s starting middle school or because she’s stuck in a family that doesn t quite get her or because everyone seems to have a Thing except her. Abbie Wu is always in crisis.

From debut author and professional doodler Booki Vivat, Frazzled dives right into the mind of this hilariously neurotic middle school girl as she tries to figure out who she is and where she belongs. Akin to Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Frazzled is heavily illustrated, embarrassingly honest, and sure to appeal to anyone in the middle of figuring out how to survive the everyday disasters of growing up.

One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi; HarperCollins.  (ages 8–12)
Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia, Thanhha Lai, and Rebecca Stead, internationally bestselling author Nadia Hashimi’s first novel for young readers is a coming-of-age journey set in modern-day Afghanistan that explores life as a bacha posh a preteen girl dressed as a boy. Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune, and her aunt has an idea to bring the family luck dress Obayda, the youngest of four sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh. Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. Their transformation won t last forever, though unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake; Harper Teen. (ages 14–up)
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. But becoming the Queen Crowned isn t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara, illus. by Sara Kahn;  Lee & Low. (ages 7–12)
Luli likes to sit in the shade of an olive tree with his beloved cats: Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny, and Lucy Lucy. But when Luli and his parents go to the city to see his aunt and uncle one weekend, the cats must stay behind at home. After a fun visit with family, Luli is looking forward to going home and seeing the Lucys. But then Luli’s hometown comes under attack and the family must seek refuge at his aunt and uncle’s house. Luli doesn t understand what is happening and worries about his pets. Who will keep the three Lucys safe? And when will he and his family be able to return home?

Recipient of Lee & Low’s New Voices Honor award, The Three Lucys is inspired by real events of the July War in Lebanon. This tender story of loss, rebuilding, and healing is a tribute to the sustaining love of family, and to the power of the human spirit to hope for a peaceful future.

Metaltown by Kristen Simmons; Tor Teens. (ages 13–18)
The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can t take away from her. Until it does. Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she ll risk everything to do what’s right.

In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

Pasadena by Sherri L. Smith;  PG Putnam’s Sons. (ages 14–up)
Bad things happen everywhere. Even in the land of sun and roses.
When Jude’s best friend is found dead in a swimming pool, her family calls it an accident. Her friends call it suicide. But Jude calls it what it is: murder. And someone has to pay.
Now everyone is a suspect–family and friends alike. And Jude is digging up the past like bones from a shallow grave. Anything to get closer to the truth. But that’s the thing about secrets. Once they start turning up, nothing is sacred. And Jude’s got a few skeletons of her own.
In a homage to the great noir stories of Los Angeles, award-winning author Sherri L. Smith’s”Pasadena”is a tale of love, damage and salvation set against the backdrop of California’s City of Roses.

Into White by Randi Pink; Feiwel & Friends; ages 12 and up. Debut Author
LaToya Williams lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. It seems as if her only friend is her older brother, Alex. Toya doesn t know where she fits in, but after a run-in with another student, she wonders if life would be different if she were . . . different. And then a higher power answers her prayer: to be anything but black. Toya is suddenly white, blond, and popular. Now what?

Randi Pink’s audacious fiction debut dares to explore a subject that will spark conversations about race, class, and gender.

Going Geek by Charlotte Huang;  Delacorte. (ages 12–up)
It wasn t supposed to be this way. Skylar Hoffman’s senior year at her preppy East Coast boarding school should have been perfect:
amazing boyfriend
the coolest friends
the most desirable dorm
But it’s far from it. To her dismay, Skylar’s not going to rule senior year because she’s stuck in Abbot House, a tiny dorm known for, well, nothing. Living with a group of strangers everyone thinks is lame is bad enough. Worse is that Skylar wasn t exactly truthful about how she spent summer break in Los Angeles and her little white lie is causing her once rock-solid romance to crumble fast. And when it turns out that Skylar’s best friend is the one responsible for having her booted from Lincoln? It’s an all-out war.
Stepping out of her comfort zone never felt so scary or necessary. But everything is different now. Including, maybe, Skylar herself.

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung;  Alfred A. Knopf. (ages 12–up)
Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.
Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.
As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh and to her old life threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.

Watched by Marina Budhos;  Wendy Lamb Books. (ages 12–up)
Naeem is far from the model teen. Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they re not the only ones watching.Cameras on poles.Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.
Naeem thinks he can charm his way through anything, until his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer a dark deal. Naeem sees a way to be a hero a protector like the guys in his brother’s comic books. Yet what is a hero? What is a traitor? And where does Naeem belong?

Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan.;  Atheneum. (ages 6–10)
Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.
Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as a lantern.
You, an object. An object to sell.
In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN T be bought or sold dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his workers, Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything seen.

Rights Reports: August 2016

New books deals for Native/Authors of color as reported in Publishers Weekly.

Knopf has bought Vanessa Brantley-Newton‘s picture book Grandma’s Purse, featuring a girl who is enthralled with her grandmother and all the wonders she might be hiding in her bag. Publication is scheduled for spring 2018.

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books has acquired Mia Garcia‘s second novel, The Year of Everything. The book follows four friends who assign each other New Year’s resolutions to try to change the course of their disastrous lives. It will publish in winter 2018.

Penguin’s Nancy Paulsen Books has acquired Vanessa Brantley Newton‘s Jewel, a picture book about a girl who worries that she’ll never be as talented as her sisters, until she discovers her remarkable talent for spelling. Publication is slated for fall 2018.

Greenwillow has bought world English rights to Legendry, a YA anthology of re-imaginings of East and South Asian mythology, folklore and fairy tales, to be edited byEllen Oh (l.) and Elsie Chapman. The anthology will feature stories by Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Roshani Chokshi, Alexander Chee, Renee Ahdieh, Alyssa Wong, Aliette de Bodard, and more. Publication is set for summer 2018.

Scholastic/Graphix has acquired world rights to two books in a YA graphic novel series by Amy Kim Kibuishi. They recount the story of Tabby Charon, who, after her father dies, travels to a distant world of magic and beauty where she meets a handsome boy and learns of her destiny. Publication of the first book is scheduled for 2019.

Putnam has bought world English rights for a YA duology from Renée Ahdieh. The first book, Flame in the Mist, is set against the backdrop of feudal Japan, where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness. Publication is slated for May 2017.

Running Press Kids has acquired Jannie Ho‘s Bear and Chicken, a picture book about a defrosted chicken who is convinced that Bear is going to eat him for lunch. Publication is scheduled for fall 2017.

S&S/Paula Wiseman Books has bought world rights to a picture book biography of a little-known journalist byLesa Cline-Ransome, with 2016 Golden Kite winner John Parra illustrating. Publication is slated for fall 2019.

Feiwel and Friends has acquired the Arena trilogy by Taran Matharu, author of the bestselling Summoner series. In the new series, a race of aliens has ruled our universe for billions of years and have evolved to become immortal, with god-like levels of technology. They abduct “lesser” life forms and leave them on other planets, forcing them to battle with other races for their twisted entertainment. Publication will begin in spring 2019.

Simon Pulse has acquired Gloria Chao’s debut novel, tentatively titled American Panda. Inspired by the author’s experiences as a second-generation Taiwanese-American, the novel follows 17-year-old Mei, whose parents want her to become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her germophobia and crush on a Japanese classmate. Publication is planned for spring 2018.

Scholastic has acquired world rights to Jaime Reed’s YA contemporary novel Perfect Match. When 18-year-old Janell’s childhood-BFF-turned-rival, Alyssa, is hospitalized due to complications from diabetes, Janell sets their differences aside, defies the risks of racially mixed transplants, and volunteers as a donor. But the test results reveal that Janell is the only kidney donor match in the entire state – a fact that could save (or take) Alyssa’s life. Publication is planned for 2018.

Book Review: Justin (BlackTop series)

+-+555013674_70title: Justine (BlackTop)
author: LJ Alonge
date: Grosset and Dunlap/Penguin; June 2106
main character: Justin Shaw
ages 12-18

Justin is the first book in a trilogy written by newcomer L J Alonge. Justin is a tall, awkward 15 year-old who has more summer than money in his near future. He lives in a working class family in a beat down urban area. Justin wants to be somebody. He wants be make a name for himself and not just be seen as, well a nobody. His image is ruined because he cannot play basketball, because he does nothing spectacular and because his father is a homeless alcoholic who he happens to run into from time to time. Not good for the image, right? The story meanders through Justin’s summer giving us a character and events with which I believe many young people will relate.

The adult in me wants to figure out how Frank is Justin’s brother, wants to know why there are no consequences for the stupid stuff Justin does and particularly for the way he treats his father. I want to complain about yet another book with a black male who plays –or tries to play—basketball. Have we not had enough rough urban settings and derelict dads? I mean, there are black males who do like to read and who do read adventure, fantasy, science fiction and science and who don’t play basketball.

HOWEVER the fact that Justin is one more book about basketball, derelict dads and a run down urban community doesn’t mean that young readers will not engage with this character. That he reads like a real kid who just is not going to come of age in 144 pages will not deter young readers. They will hope that if nothing else, Justin figures out the game of basketball and gets a win.

Janae’s story is next. She’s already figured out the game. I wonder what her book will be about.

In Memory: Joyce Carol Thomas


Joyce Carol Thomas

Joyce Carol Thomas was an internationally known African American author. While I did not have the pleasure of ever meeting her, I did know her work. Thankfully for those of us now remembering or realizing Ms. Thomas, her work is available in bookstores and libraries for us to read.

The NewYork Times reported that Ms. Thomas passed away in California on 13 August. It was her first young adult novel, Marked by Fire, that brought her fame. The book won the National Book Award in 1983 and eventually had 2 sequels.

“In 1998, Ms. Thomas told The African American Review that much of her work was dedicated to showing young readers a version of black life that they had seldom seen in books.”

Her children’s books included the following.

The Blacker the Berry (poetry collection)
Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea (poetry collection)
Bright Shadow
Water GirlLinda Brown, You Are Not Alone (editor; contributor)
Gingerbread Days
I have heard of a land
The gospel Cinderella
A Gathering of flowers : stories about being young in America
Hush songs : African American lullabies
The bowlegged rooster and other tales that signify
In the land of milk and honey

The Washington Post writes of her rural upbringing. “Ms. Thomas grew up working in the Oklahoma cotton fields, and as a child was burned on her leg and bore the scar for the rest of her life, her sister said. Abyssinia [main character in Marked by Fire] shares a similar background.” She took these elements of her life into her stories, finding beauty and purpose in the ordinary.

“I know of black boys and girls who squirm uncomfortably in their desks at the two-dimensional, unrelenting portrayal of young people as either victims of slavery or perennial do-ragwearers hanging out on a stoop next to a garbage can,” she told the African American Review in 1998. “There are black American stories somewhere between slavery and ghetto that also deserve telling.” source

Ms Thomas taught for more than two decades at the University of California Santa Cruz, University of Tennessee and at Purdue University. She is survived by children and grandchildren. And, her books.

Getting Down. Getting Over.

I’m beginning to feel like a one trick pony once again writing about When We Was Fierce. There’s just a little more to say on this front. And, this morning my head was filling with thoughts for several new posts, a possible new series and the idea that I really need to get back to interviewing authors. Know that I do have an entire repertoire in me; I am not obsessing.

Every now and then I do a little searching on Bing to see if perhaps Candlewick has said anything, come to any decision about the book. Will they just let it fade into the sunset? Will there be no other statement from them or the author? In my searching, I’ve run across stories about the postponement of the book in both French and Swedish newspapers with both papers containing information from different sources. Just prior to that, London’s Guardian ran an article about the postponement as well. In Australia, author Ambelin Kwaymullina recapped the events leading to the postponement relating them to the Australian literary industry.

This conversation should not be ignored by any Australian writer with aspirations to being published in the US, especially since we do not – yet – have the dedicated cyber-spaces in Australia that will critically examine representation issues.  This means books that are not challenged (at least not in publicly available discussions) in an Australian context may well be challenged in the States. Second, I believe that many Australian authors who write to experiences of exclusion not their own are doing so out of a genuine desire to support marginalised peoples. But I also believe that most authors lack the necessary knowledge to manifest that intent into reality – and in the absence of such knowledge, authors are all too likely to produce narratives that do the exact opposite of what they intended to achieve. Thus, an understanding of the twenty first century diversity conversation is essential knowledge for any author seeking to write of others with integrity and respect.

I know that the struggle to improve representation of marginalized children in books in the US goes back to 1933 when Sterling Brown first critiqued images portraying African American children in literature. I know that there are people alive who have spent most of their adult life trying to improve this representation. I know that racism, bigotry and misrepresentation are global issues but, I did not realize that the United States was being watched by so many regarding its diversity in children’s literature, that we’re on the precipice of global change. It’s been so bad here for so long that I’d like to believe that some other country is getting it right.

You may remember that Dr. Sonia Rodriquez called out the Latinx community, asking what WWWF meant for Latinx kids. Well, last week, Latinas Chat Media discussed The Getdown and When We Was Fierce. They definitely took the discussion to the next level, assessing how we sometimes give members of our own community a pass when they really ought to be called to task. Or should they? Should their artistry speak for itself, or should the offensive nature of their work be called to question? Should we do that to our own? Their discussion illustrates the complexity of the topic of critically reviewing books.

Their chat actually began with a critique of the Getdown, a new Netflix series set in the Bronx in 1977. The mini-series is a coming of age story of Mylene, Zeke and hip hop in terms of its art, music and language. This Afro-Latinx story was created by Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis, neither of whom is Afro-Latinx. I’d seen the series on Netflix but not until I heard it discussed during this chat did I consider watching it. And, I’m glad I did. Luhhrmann and Guirgis manage to deliver a story that does what When We Were Fierce could not. Their Bronx is a community with violence, not a violent community. While Zeke, Mylene and Shaolin all have choices to make the film fully explores their options within their own community. It is literally burning throughout the series but the characters repeatedly find reason to embrace it and call it home. And the language? The language in the songs, the graffiti and the poetry is hiphop. While WWWF attempted to be lyrical with made up words, The Getdown achieves it through lighting, syncopated music and a certain Kung Fu quality. While many of these elements are not available in printed text (OK, none of them are!) both formats begin with words. Words are transformative.

Rights Reports: July

A snapshot of what’s on the horizon from authors of color or Native Americans, originally appearing in Publishers Weekly.

Little, Brown has bought at auction Emily X.R. Pan‘s debut YA novel The Astonishing Color of After, plus an a second untitled standalone YA novel. In the first, a girl is convinced that her mother has transformed into a bird after committing suicide, and attempts to find her in Taiwan. Spring 2018.

Atheneum has bought Carole Boston Weatherford‘s In Your Hands, to be illustrated by Brian Pinkney, a picture book prayer that speaks of a black mother’s hopes for her son. Fall 2017.

Julia Maguire at Knopf has bought world rights to Potato Kingby Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Don Tate, a picture book about the life of Junius George Groves, a former slave who started a potato empire. Spring 2018.

S&S’s Salaam Reads has preempted world rights to Saints, Misfits, Monster and Mayhem, the debut YA novel by teacher and artist Sajidah Kutty. The novel follows 15-year-old Janna Yusuf, daughter of the only divorced mother at the mosque, as she examines her faith and relationships in the wake of an assault. The book will be Salaam’s first YA novel. Summer 2017.

FSG has acquired The Big Bed, written by Bunmi Laditan, a blogger, author, and humorist also known as The Honest Toddler. The book features a clever little girl who tries to interest her father in his own big bed so she can sleep in her parents’ bed with her mother. Tom Knight is on board to illustrate. Winter 2018.

Michelle Meadows and illustrated by Ebony Glenn. It’s a picture book biography of Janet Collins, regarded as the true first black ballerina to dance for a classical ballet company and an inspiration to others that followed. Winter 2018.

Atheneum has bought Carole Boston Weatherford‘s How Sweet the Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace, to be illustrated by Frank Morrison, a picture book about the history and legacy of the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Summer 2018.

Amazon/Two Lions has acquired the latest collaboration by Anna Kang and Chris Weyant, the Geisel-winning team behind You Are (Not) Small. Their new book is the untitled story of an eraser who finds herself at the center of a desktop drama. Fall 2018.

Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books has bought Front Desk, a middle-grade novel from debut author Kelly Yang. Based on the author’s life, the story follows Mia, the daughter of recent Chinese immigrants; as she helps her parents manage the Caliheim Motel, Mia must keep many secrets from her classmates and the motel’s mean owner – including the truth about the fellow immigrants her father’s hiding. 2018.

Scholastic has bought, in an exclusive submission, Flora AhnPugling Rivalry, an illustrated chapter book depiction of the fictional life of the author-illustrator’s pugs Sunny and Rosy, based on her popular pug blog Bah Humpug. Spring 2018, with the second book to follow in fall.

Henry Holt has acquired world rights toRuby’s Chinese New Year, a debut picture book written by Vickie Lee and illustrated by Joey Chou. The story follows a girl who delivers a gift to her grandmother with help from the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Winter 2018.