February Releases

New release for February include debut authors Heidi Heilig and co-authors Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas. What?! I missed a book? List it in the comments!

Firelight (Amulet #7) by Kazu Kibuishi; Scholastic
Emily, Trellis, and Vigo visit Algos Island, where they can access and enter lost memories. They’re hoping to uncover the events of Trellis’s mysterious childhood — knowledge they can use against the Elf King. What they discover is a dark secret that changes everything. Meanwhile, the Voice of Emily’s Amulet is getting stronger, and threatens to overtake her completely. (ages 8-12)

Little White Lies by Brianna Baker and F. Bowman Hastie III; Soho
Seventeen-year-old honors student Coretta White’s Tumblr, Little White Lies—her witty thoughts on pretty much . . . everything—has gone viral. She’s got hundreds of thousands of followers; she’s even been offered a TV deal. But Coretta has a secret. She hasn’t been writing all her own posts. Stressed from the demands of the sudden attention, she hired an expert ghostwriter, forty-one-year-old Karl Ristoff, to keep the Tumblr going. Now consumed with guilt, she confesses. Almost instantly, she suffers a public humiliation. The TV deal disappears. Her boyfriend breaks up with her. Then Karl is thrust into the limelight, only to suffer a dramatic fall himself. Together, they vow to find out who is responsible for ruining both of their lives, and why. But in order to exact justice and a wicked revenge, they must first come clean with each other. (12 and up)

Peas and Carrots by Tanita S. Davis; Knopf Books for Young Readers. ages 12 and up
Dess knows that nothing good lasts. Disappointment is never far away, and that’s a truth that Dess has learned to live with. Dess’s mother’s most recent arrest is just the latest in a long line of disappointments, but this one lands her with her baby brother’s foster family. Dess doesn’t exactly fit in with the Carters. They’re so happy, so comfortable, so normal, and Hope, their teenage daughter, is so hopelessly naïve. Dess and Hope couldn’t be more unlike each other, but Austin loves them both like sisters. Over time their differences, insurmountable at first, fall away to reveal two girls who want the same thing: to belong.

Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 2: Heart of Tin, The Straw King, Ruler of Beasts by Danielle Paige; HarperCollins. ages 12 and up.
Follow Dorothy’s iconic companions from the beloved classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as each of their gifts becomes key to the downfall of Oz. After Dorothy Gale wished her way home and long before Amy Gumm found herself in Oz, Dorothy’s friends left the Road of Yellow Brick to go their separate ways. But in a place like Oz, where magic and temptation lurk, the gifts from the Wizard begin to take on a life of their own. The Tin Woodman becomes twisted with longing. The Scarecrow develops a taste for plotting. And doubt consumes the Cowardly Lion. Kiss the land where troubles melt like lemon drops good-bye. Here there’s danger around every corner, and magical shoes won’t be able to save you.

Same but Different: Life on the Teen Autism Express by Holly Robison Peete; Scholastic. ages 12-17
Being a teen is hard enough. But when you have autism–or when your brother or sister is struggling with the condition–life can be challenging. It’s one thing when you’re a kid in grade school, and a play date goes south due to autism in a family. Or when you’re a little kid, and a vacation or holiday turns less-than-happy because of an autistic family member. But being a teen with autism can get pretty hairy–especially when you’re up against dating, parties, sports, body changes, school, and other kids who just don’t “get” you. In this powerful book, teenagers Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, Rodney, who has autism, share their experiences of what it means to be a teen living with autism. Same But Different explores the funny, painful, and unexpected aspects of teen autism, while daring to address issues nobody talks about.Same But Different underscores tolerance, love, and the understanding that everybody’s unique drumbeat is worth dancing to.

Dove Exiled by Karen Bao. Penguin. Ages 12 and up
Hiding in plain sight with her friend Wes’s family on the drowned planet Earth, Phaet discovers the rugged beauty of the world her ancestors once called home. All her life, she’s been taught to fear the “Earthbound,” and their generosity and kindness surprise and touch Phaet. But when the Lunar Bases attack Wes’s isolated village, Phaet’s past catches up with her, and she’s forced to choose: stay on Earth and fight beside the boy she’s falling for, or stow away on a Moon-bound ship so she can save her brother and sister from the government that killed their mother.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. Greenwillow. ages 12 and up
Heidi Heilig’s debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City, to nineteenth-century Hawaii, to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, blends fantasy, history, and a modern sensibility. Its witty, fast-paced dialogue, breathless adventure, multicultural cast, and enchanting romance will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.
Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas. Swoon Reads. ages 12 and up
In 1882 England when her beloved sister Rose vanishes, Evelyn, bored with society and its expectations, embarks on a search for Rose, encountering the reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock, who is also looking for Rose and claiming that both sisters have special healing powers.

This Kid Can Fly: It’s about Ability (NOT Disability) by Aaron Philip and Tonya Bolden. Balzer and Bray. ages 8-12
“At once beautiful and heartbreaking, Aaron Philip found a way to make me laugh even as I choked up, found a way to bring on my empathy without ever allowing me to feel sorry for him. An eye-opening debut.” —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winner and Newbery Honor author of Brown Girl Dreaming In this heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting memoir, Aaron Philip, a fourteen-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, shows how he isn’t defined so much by his disability as he is by his abilities.

Written with award-winning author Tonya Bolden, This Kid Can Fly chronicles Aaron’s extraordinary journey from happy baby in Antigua to confident teen artist in New York City. His honest, often funny stories of triumph—despite physical difficulties, poverty, and other challenges—are as inspiring as they are eye-opening. Includes photos and original illustrations from Aaron’s personal collection.

January Rights Reports

The following book deals were announced in January, 2016.

Dimple & Rishi by Sandhya Menon, a contemporary YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.
Publication is set for summer 2017

Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat’s debut illustrated middle-grade novel a humorous, diary-style story of anxious 11-year-old Abbie Wu’s middle-school struggles and triumphs.
Publication is set for fall 2016

Cara Cara by Margarita Engle a picture book about a family in Havana, Cuba, and how they care for their beloved old Chevy. Mike Curato is set to illustrate.
Publication is slated for fall 2018

Frida and Her Animalito by Monica Brown’s Frida and Her Animalitos, about the artist and the animals that inspired her art and life, to be illustrated by John Parra.
Publication is planned for fall 2017 in both an English-language and simultaneous German edition.

Vincent Comes Home by Aaron Bagley and Jessixa Bagley, which they are co-authoring and co-illustrating. The book is about a cat who has lived his entire life at sea and wonders what it would be like to go “home.”
Publication is set for winter 2018

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing, and Shout; Dance, Spin, and Turn It Out! byPatricia C. McKissack’s illustrated by Brian Pinkney, a collection of games, songs, and stories from the author’s childhood.
Publication is slated for spring 2017

Searchers written and illustrated by Jonathan Hill. Years after a mega¬-earthquake has devastated the Pacific Northwest, three Asian-American siblings set off to find their estranged mother. Publication is set for 2017; the author was unagented.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore, the middle grade story of a boy growing up in the projects of Harlem who discovers that creativity and an unlikely friendship – rather than revenge – are the best way to grieve his brother’s untimely death.
Publication is set for fall 2017

Writers on Writing: Poetic Narrative/Nikki Grimes

Poetry. Poetry collections. Novels in verse. Poems in picture books. These are many of the ways that poetic works engage the minds of young readers. Yesterday’s writer, Margarita Engle is as prolific a poet as today’s writer, Nikki Grimes.
Nikki is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, and a Coretta Scott King Award winner. I relied upon her expertise to enlighten us about poetic works in children’s fiction.

1. In what ways are narrative poetry different from narrative prose?
Poetry is, by virtue of the genre, more concise than prose. Whether the poetry is lyrical press72or narrative, it is a form of distillation, which is different from prose. In addition, through its delicate yet powerful use of metaphor and symbol, narrative poetry is often able to explore dark or problematic subject matter that might otherwise be inappropriate for the youngest readers. Marilyn Nelson’s A Wreath for Emmett Till comes to mind.

2. To me, it seems quite challenging to carry out an entire novel in poem form. Yet, you do it quite well. How do you make it work?
The trick to making a novel-in-verse work is to put Story first, to remember that you are creating a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end, a tale with a story arc, peopled by three-dimensional characters who grow or change during the course of the novel. If, as a poet, you remember that, and you craft poetry that serves that end, you can write a novel-in-verse. If, however, you try taking an assortment of unrelated poems and attempt to jam them together in hopes of manufacturing some sort of narrative, it doesn’t work. You have to begin with Story, and then craft the poetry to serve that story. At least, that’s my approach.

3. Why do you think narrative poetry has such an appeal to young readers?
Poetry, narrative or otherwise, appeals to readers on several levels. One, for young readers especially, has to do with all that white space on the page. A young reader can pick up a 200-page novel and find the length, alone, intimidating—all those words strung across all those pages. Such books are especially daunting for the reluctant reader. But that same reader can pick up a novel-in-verse of equal length and not be intimated at all, because he sees all that white space and assumes—rightly or wrongly—that book will be an easy read. Of course, as we know, the content of the novel-in-verse and the traditional novel may be equally complex. However, the content of the novel-in-verse can be digested in smaller quantities. That, itself, is appealing to the young reader. Add to that the lyrical quality and the emotional power of poetry, and you have an attractive combination.

4. What are some of the books you would recommend to introduce readers to narrative poetry?
I assume, here, you mean narrative poetry in the narrow sense of a novel-in-verse, yes? Because there are any number of picture-book poetry collections of a narrative nature. Carole Boston Weatherford is a goldmine in this category, and so is Marilyn Singer. However, regarding novels-in-verse specifically, I would recommend a few according to grade-level. By now, everyone knows about The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, but here are a few others.


Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes
What is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes

Middle Grade:

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
World’s Afire by Paul B. Janezcko
Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson
Eddie’s War by Carol Fisher Saller
Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engles
Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

Young Adult:

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonja Sones
Hidden by Helen Frost
Keesha’s House by Helen Frost
The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Dark Sons by Nikki Grimes
A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

A bestselling author and a prolific artist, Nikki has written many award-winning poetry and prose books for children and young adults including the NCTE Award for Poetry, the Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade; the Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings; Horn Book Fanfare for Talkin’ About Bessie; ALA Notable books What is Goodbye? and Words with Wings; the popular Dyamonde Daniel chapter book series, and numerous picture books and novels including The New York Times bestseller Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope and, most recently Chasing freedom : the life journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, inspired by historical facts and Poems in the Attic.Watch for her upcoming release of One Last Word.

Writers on Writing: Memoirs/Margarita Engle

Today’s post begins a short series from amazing and talent writings that will move us deeper into the realm of fiction and nonfiction books.

We begin with the Margarita Engle and memoirs. Memoirs differ from biographies in that Margaritathey focus on a particular event or episode in one’s life, such as Margarita’s Enchanted Air. Two Cultures. Two Wings, a memoir about growing up in Cuba and American during the cold war. As Margarita points out, memoirs are important tools in helping us understand one another.

Memoirs are relatively new to children’s literature. What makes them an important addition to what’s written for young adults?

Two of my favorite older books for young people are Alma Flor Ada’s Under the Royal Palms, and Where the Flame Trees Bloom, so I don’t think of memoirs as new. Verse memoirs aren’t really new either, but there haven’t been many in recent years. When I wrote Enchanted Air, I didn’t know that Jacqueline Woodson and Marilyn Nelson were doing the same thing at the same time! I assumed Enchanted Air would languish alone on library shelves, but it turns out to be in fantastic company. In fact, if Sonia Manzano’s Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx hadn’t come out at the same time as Enchanted Air, I would have missed my chance for a glowing New York Times Review of both books! The timing is amazing. Perhaps there is a whole generation of multicultural authors reaching an age when we feel that if we don’t tell our own life stories, someone younger might romanticize eras that weren’t simple.

I think memoirs can help young readers see that their families aren’t the only weird ones. Life is surrealistic, or in my case magic realistic, a term that sounds much better in its Spanish original: lo real maravilloso, marvelous reality. Life is a blend of wonderful and terrible experiences, some personal, others historical. The historical ones affect the personal ones. Won’t it be amazing if teachers use all these recent memoirs to show students that they can write about their lives too? By reading each other’s stories, we can begin to understand each other, and that leads to empathy, the first step toward peacemaking.

What do you think makes a particular biography or memoir a story worth telling?

All life stories are meaningful and important, but honesty is the one thing that makes a memoir worth telling. Without honest emotions, a memoir is not factual. Memoirists can’t keep secrets or hide weaknesses.

Enchanted Air is such a personal story. What made you decide it was time to tell it?

I had started to believe that U.S.-Cuba relations would never be renewed in my lifetime, so I wanted to leave my story to the next generation of decision-makers, as a plea for peace and reconciliation. Incredibly, during the same week when advanced review copies arrived on my doorstep, President Obama made his December 17, 2014 announcement! I rushed to revise the author’s note at the end, changing it from a plea to a song of gratitude.

For whom do you write?

Any child, any teen. I think there is a misconception that Latino authors write only for Latino readers, but that’s simply not true. I hope all young people are encouraged to read books written by people from a wide variety of backgrounds, about a vast range of subjects.

What can we expect from you in 2016?

Thank you for asking! I have two verse novels:

Lion Island, Cuba’s Warrior of Words (Atheneum, August). This is a young adult biographical novel about Antonio Chuffat, a Chinese-African-Cuban messenger boy who became a translator, and documented the freedom struggle of indentured Chinese laborers in Cuba. Chuffat’s story is interwoven with the arrival of five thousand Chinese-Californians who fled to Cuba, escaping anti-Asian violence in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the late 1860s-early 1870s. Lion Island is the final volume in my loosely linked series of verse novels about forced labor in 19th century Cuba, beginning with The Poet Slave of Cuba, The Surrender Tree, The Firefly Letters, and The Lightning Dreamer.

Morning Star Horse (HBE Publishers, autumn) is an illustrated middle grade historical fantasy inspired by a true situation so strange that I chose to write it in the real maravilloso style that I mentioned earlier. In other words, it’s a magical horse story. Anyone who has read Enchanted Air knows that I was a horse crazy child, so for me, this book is my 9-year-old self’s dream come true. The setting is the Raja Yoga Academy in San Diego, where Spanish-American War orphans from Cuba were imported and taught art, music, theater, gardening, weaving, and yoga. HBE is an innovative new small press that is willing to experiment, so Morning Star Horse/El Caballo Lucero will be available in the all-English or bilingual format, another dream come true!

Margarita, thank you for this interview! In writing Enchanted Wings you gave me new insights on an important event that I lived through and you’ve had me examining my own childhood during that era. Yes, indeed memoirs begin conversations!

African American Children’s Book Fair

The following information was received in an email press release.

The 24th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair will be held on Saturday, February 6, 2016, from 1-3 p.m., at Community College of Philadelphia, 17th and Spring Garden streets, Philadelphia, Pa. The event is free and open to the public.

The African American Children’s Book Fair is one of the oldest and largest single-day events for African-American children’s books in the country, with an average yearly attendance of more than 3,500. It features nationally known bestselling authors/illustrators, many of whom have won the prestigious American Library Association Coretta Scott King Award. These authors/illustrators have produced some of the best books of our generation.

With a reported double-digit illiteracy rate in the region, the success of the African American Children’s Book Fair is due to the fact that we offer the best and the brightest from the multicultural literary community and feature books that enlighten, enrich and empower the children in our community.

Parents, caregivers and educators from the tristate area are very supportive of the African American Children’s Book Fair because they understand that children who read outside of their normal school course work make more responsible decisions about their lifestyles.

The fun-filled afternoon will be packed with activities that promote the power and JOY OF READING. Authors and illustrators will make presentations and sign their books. The Literary Row will distribute book-related promotional materials free of charge. Our Educator’s Book Giveaway will also distribute brand new books to teachers for use in their classrooms and to librarians. In addition there will be a wide selection of affordable literature available to purchase.

The African American Children’s Book Fair is a part of the African American Children’s Book Project’s initiative to promote and preserve multicultural children’s literature. The organization is leading a campaign titled PRESERVE A LEGACY, BUY A BOOK. Its goal is to put books back into homes. You can’t tell a child to read at home if there are no books in the home.



Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati  vlloydsgam@aol.com

Website: theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org

Gearing Up for February

2016 started with a leap and a bound! I’ve gotten several projects underway and I’m sure I’ll continue to be less of a presence on social networking. I’ve just completed my 4th pre-tenure year which means my work needs to be a little more intentional. I never thought I’d stay put quite this long, but my position is growing into something I truly enjoy so, here I am. And, I’m not that far from the airport.

In being more intentional, I hope to pay more attention to my blog. I’m not on a book selection committee, so I can write reviews and interview authors again. I’ve got “a few” books I’ve not reviewed here before and can post about those until I get 2016 books to read. I’m also doing occasional picture books since I do select them for my university library.

In the immediate future, I’ll be running a short series on genres in young adult literature. I’ve connected with experts to give a brief background on short stories, essays, series fiction and more. I hope you enjoy it.

For the month of February, African American Heritage Month, I’ll be covering ‘enslavement’ with peaks at books, websites, DVDs and more that are intended for children.

Next Saturday, I’ll be part of a panel at the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books’ Critical Engagement Through Social Media Conference. My panel, “Managing Internet Culture” will be moderated by Dr. Robert Muller and includes Laura Beltchenko, Darcy Proctor and William Teale. I’m praying for no snow in the Chicago area next weekend!

This month’s #LargeFears conversation will be about AfroLatinos in history, where are they? Special guests will be Sofia Quintero (@sofiaQuintero), Robert Trujillo (@RobertTres)  and  Torrey Maldonado (@TorreyMaldonado). Guinevere and Libertad Thomas (@DosTwinjas) and I will be hosting the third #LargeFears conversation.

I’m also continuing to work with the Digital Public Library Of America on The Open eBooks Initiative that was announced by President Obama at a ConnectED event in mid 2015. The team of librarian’s I’m working with are selecting ebooks that will be made freely available to low income youth across the country. As we continue to select books for the project it is becoming more aware to others just how few books there are feature marginalized children. I’m proud to be part of a program that is actually doing the work to find books that relate to the intended audience.

Coming up toward the end of the month, I’m organizing an African American Read-In Chain for my library. I’ve coordinated with a few colleagues across campus to select readers and readings for the event. I hope we’re able to advertise it well and have way more students in attendance than we anticipate. It’s our first Read In, so no matter how big or small the number, I just hope everyone who shows up has a good time.

There will be another We Are the People Summer Reading list this summer and I’m working with Sujei Lugo, Lyn Miller Lachmann, Natalie Mvondo, Debbie Reese, Tad Tandracki, Sarah Park Dahlen and Ed Spicer on that project. This is such an amazing group of people to work with! We’re still a few months away from launching the list and will gladly accept suggestions. I can tell you that we’re moving away from the FaceBook page to a website that should be easier to locate and use.

Well, those are the highlights of my month and the reasons why I won’t be Tweeting and FaceBooking quite so much.


book review: See No Color

+-+132197954_140title: See No Color
author: Shannon Gibney
date: 2015 CarolRhoda Lab
main character: Alex Kirtridge

See No Color is a coming of age story about a young biracial girl (White/African American), a transracial adoptee, who is trying to figure out her identity. Alex is a gifted athlete with hopes of building a career in baseball. When the story begins, Alex is narrating her father’s life. This is off-putting in YA, where we typically hear little from or about parents. In this instance, Gibney is using Alex’s voice to indicate how little self-confidence the character has. Alex’s hair also brings this point across. Her hair is wild and untamed. I would imagine it to be long, curly and very dry; tough to comb and impossible to style. Alex has been adopted by a white family who denies Alex’s racial identity and their blindness leads Alex to wonder just who she really is, and how to manage her hair. When she begins to date a young man who is African American, she begins to realize that she doesn’t relate to her own blackness. Where does she fit in?

When I finished reading the book, it didn’t sit well with me and I believe this is simply because I didn’t take the time to relate to the character. There are many things that Alex does as she stumbles through her search for identity that come across as signs of weakness. Well, of course this young girl was weak in some sense, but in another sense she was had the strength to undertake this journey by herself. I’ve come to admire her strength.

I enjoyed the language in this book.

I touched the base and then took a reasonable lead as my teammate stepped up to the plate. The black kid on the mound looked back at me once, over his glove, but I was confident that he wouldn’t try to pick me off. He knew exactly how fast I was now. Today, anyway, I was stronger that he was. (p. 10)

No doubt Alex that wasn’t only talking about baseball. Here, she was foreshadowing the doubt and confusion that would soon overtake her.

The key to Alex discovering who she is lies in how she manages her relationships with the young African American man she’s dating and with her African American father. While this book wants to empower this young women, it fails to do so in two instances. First, it lets her development rest upon relationships with males. Second, the story has her physical ability decline as her body to develops. I wasn’t an athlete, so I don’t know that my rounding hips would prevent me from running at high speeds and I tend to thing that Venus and Serena Williams tend to disprove this logic.

I’d be remiss in my duties as a librarian if I didn’t remark on how well written the scene is when the librarian relates an abundance of information about transracial adoptions. Rather than hearing the voice of the author as often happens in thee moments, I felt the librarian’s passion and emotion. This debut author did a very skillful job of creating a complex and believable story.

See No Color is a rare gem in that little else is written for teens about transracial adoptions, biracial teens or female athletes. Here, in this book it all intersects quite nicely.