Keeping It Relevant

I’ve been busy lately, but there have been some pretty major events in the news that were difficult to miss. A couple of them relate directly to middle grade/young adult literature.

Raul Castro, Barack Obama

President Obama became the first US president on 90 years to visit Cuba. US-Cuba Relations have been intense since 1898 but in 1961, they ceased completely. Things began to thaw around 2012 to the point that just this week, President Obama and several American business leaders are visiting the island nation.

As a young person, I loved learning history and still do. Yet, there is something about fictionalized history that really speaks to me. Perhaps it does so by giving me someone, a character who lived through the event with whom I can relate. Or, perhaps it’s simply that fiction can better play upon my emotions and intellect thus creating a strong response. Knowing how I feel about historical fiction that is well written and well researched leads me to recommend children and young adult fiction about Cuba, particularly works by Cuban American authors.

I have to recommend Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music; Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir; Summer Birds: The Wild Book; Silver MargaritaPeople: Voices from the Panama Canal; The Surrender Tree/El Arbol de La Rendicion: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom/Poemas de La Luche de Cuba Pr Su Libertad and Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish all by Margarita Engle. Engle is a Cuban American writer who detailed the Cuban Missile Crisis from her own childhood perspective in Enchanted Air. She recently spoke of her hopes for improved US/Cuban relations on NPR.

Not too long ago, Latin@s in Kidlit hosted Cuba Week where they highlighted the work of eight Cuban American children’s writers. They wrote about immigration experiences, cubanism, identity and biculturalism. Read more from Guinevere Thomas, Meg Medina, Laura Lacámara, Christina Diaz González, Alma Flor Ada, Enrique Flores Galbis, Nancy Osa and Margarita Engle. The post also curates a list of children’s and young adult books by these and many more Cuban American authors.

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But then, sometimes even though the books parallel real life the author didn’t do the research and didn’t get it right and the mainstream media gets it no better.  What can we do with this?

There’s a story in the news these days about a foster family trying to keep the child they’ve been fostering for several years. The family is white and the child is Choctaw. Do what I just did. Do a search for “foster children Native American” and you’ll see articles about the incident to which I’m referring float straight to the top. Whether you have any background on this story or not, simply read the headlines and note the bias. She’s ‘part Native’. She was ‘seized from the family’ ‘for being 1/64 Native’ .

I thought foster care was a temporary situation until arrangements could be made to place the child with their family. Sorry, I have a bias, too.

Have you ever seen a story about a child being removed from a foster home making national headlines? Pay attention to the bias.

I think the best place to start building a background is here with NPR. I like this three part series because it immediately mentions the removal of Native American children from their home and shipping them off to boarding schools to make them lose every ounce of their culture, their tribal identity and their heritage. That’s what I thought of when I heard about this young Choctaw girl that this white family wanted to keep in their home. If I’m making this sound racial, that’s because I believe it is. Perhaps I should state ‘That’s what I thought about when I heard about Lexi, a 6 year old Choctaw girl that the Page family wanted to keep in their home.”

And then, NPR gets to the heart of this case: The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act.

How does this relate to YA? In a very odd way, indeed it does. Emily Henry’s recent YA novel, The Love That Split the World is described as follows on Amazon.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

 That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Natalie is actually Native American and adopted by a white family (Did you read about the Indian Child Welfare Act above?) and she’s taken from them. I really appreciate how Debbie Reese walked point by point through this book on Twitter.

So, what do we do with this? I think YA literature can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom. Using the sources I’ve cited above, an ELA or Social Studies teacher can construct a lesson around the 1978 law and build case studies from both the real life event and the book using Debbie’s Storify or the news articles to look at bias, power structures, the use of privilege, identity and Native American history. You’ll probably end up with several students who want to read the book. In any other situation, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this one but buy creating this lesson that is rich in both critical literacy and metaliteracy, I’d say add this one to the collection and let students use the tools you just taught them. Teach your students how to be smart, engaged and informed citizens.

Connecting fiction to real life is one of the best ways to teach students how to read the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SundayMorningReads

I put down roots in the Haute this weekend. We’ve finally had a sustained break from all the rain and hopefully there will be no morefarm morning frost so I got vegetables and herbs planted in my garden.

There are a couple of pieces of land close to campus that have been divided into plots for community members to grow crops each summer. Sounds nice, huh? Well, it gets even better! There are tool sheds on the grounds with gardening implements and wheel barrows. Leaf mulch and horse manure mulch is available and area farmers provide inexpensive straw to help the soil retain moisture. This wonderful deal isn’t free. There are dates by which certain progress must be made and a portion of the harvest must be donated to the local food agency. Nope, nothing is free, but this comes awfully close!

My sister drives over from Indy and we’re farming together. We’ve planted cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes (too many!), sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, turnip greens, okra, sage, dill, fennel, basil and catnip. While the herbs will be a welcome part of the harvest, they’re also strategically placed in the garden to ward off pests.

I’ll be balancing my time at the garden with the time needed to finish the few dozen books I have to finish for BFYA which will be at ALA in a few short weeks. I won’t do much there other than committee meetings and catching up with people I’ve probably never met before. If you’re going to be there, please let me know!

I do plan to see Kathy aka The Brain Lair and I’ll congratulate her in person for being named her local Teacher of the Year. This is an awesome accomplishment for any educator but, especially for media specialists/school librarians who most people don’t recognize as such. From the article, from knowing all the great things Kathy does, I know she’s more than deserved this award!

I never give a second thought about what I share here. I find information I enjoy and I look forward to sharing it. When it comes to the give-a-way on Anali’s First Amendment, I have had second thoughts. I so want to win one of those prizes that I hate to limit my chances! But I will, not only for the sake of my readers but also to help draw more support to The Arc.

Anali’s First Amendment is hosting the All Aboard the Arc annual fund raiser to benefit The Arc of Massachusetts, which serves men, women and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The blog has much more information about the Arc and ways you can donate to support this worthy cause. To help bring attention, there’s a giveaway and it ends Monday 20 May.

  • Firehouse Subs gift cards
  • Greyston Baker brownies
  • The Greyston Bakery Cookbook

Author Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) also recently blogged about one of her passions, Partners in Print, an organization which supports literacy development mostly for ENL students. In the post, Medina provides unique insights into what it’s like being bilingual.

I have a co-worker from Congo who often tells me what a disadvantage she has because she’s not a native English speaker. (I’m smiling because she often reads these posts.) She’s lived here some 40 odd years, but still translates in her mind. One wouldn’t know this because she never misses a beat, no matter it be a technical cataloging question or a casual conversation filled with U.S. idioms.

Most native born Americans only speak one language like me and will have a difficult time understanding the difficulties these adults and these students, face. I am so amazed by their linguistic abilities, that I don’t see the problems. Thanks to Medina’s post, I understand more.

Don’t miss artist Jimmy Liao  (The sound of color )in the Gallery on the PaperTigers website.

Have you looked at Google+Hangouts yet? Again I say: Google concerns me. I was listening to a piece about Google on NPR this past week about their new voice search. The story also mentioned Google Travel which will read information from peoples’ photos to help plan vacations. They’ll look at both faces and places to determine your ultimate spot. One more way for them to collect data. No, I’ll not be using an Android, Google Chrome or Google Glass. I want to think I’m making you work for my information.

I don’t watch Scandal; I’m an Elementary girl. I think it’s interesting that while Kerry Washington, an African American woman, can be promoted for her sexuality, Lucy Lui, an Asian American woman, cannot. Neither can Sandra Oh who preceeds Scandal in Grey’s Anatomy. Read Lucy Lui on this topic :” I kind of got pushed out of both categories. It’s a very strange place to be. You’re not Asian enough and then you’re not American enough, so it gets really frustrating.” MORE

If you have time to up your professional reading this summer, don’t miss Voya’s 5 Foot Bookshelf: Essential Books for Professionals Who Serve Teens.

I’m so glad to be getting my hands in the soil! So thankful to be growing my own food and for the people I’m meeting in the process. I’ve found one more thing to help fill my summers days, but there’s always time for the things we want to do!

 

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

March Releases, 2013

In March 2011 I found 16 MG & YA releases, in 2012 I found 4 and this year, 6. Nonetheless, this looks like a pretty impressive list of books! All are very establish authors.

(clicking the image will take you to a description of the book.)

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The Keysha Diaries, Volume One: Keysha’s Drama\If I Were Your Boyfriend (Kimani Tru) (9780373091249): Earl Sewell: Books

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Flowers in the Sky by Lyn Joseph

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Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

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Panic by Sharon Draper

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Hollywood High: Get Ready for War by NiNi Simone and Amir Abrams

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Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

 

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Twelve Days of New York by Tonya Bolden and Gilbert Ford

Saturday Trailer: The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

What better day for book trailers than a Saturday?

Meg Medina’s The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind was published in the US earlier this year and came out in June in the UK.  Medina created the Hope Tree Project to launch her book. She distributing art weight foil to Virginia high school students and asked them to create ex votives or milagros.  In describing the project she states “the hard part of the project won’t be making the milagros. Over the years I’ve spent working in schools, I know that high schoolers have the technical skill to produce some drop-dead gorgeous work. What will tax them, I think, is the question I’ve asked. It’s hard to be 17 and at the beginning of everything. Exciting, sure, but there are so many unknowns. But what I told students at the Steward School yesterday is that putting your wishes out in the world is the first step in making them become a reality. If you don’t make a dream for yourself, others are only too happy to rush in and fill in the vacuum. It’s what my main character, Sonia Ocampo found out.  And really, we should all be asking ourselves this question as we chart a path in life” source

Again this summer, she’s paired with author Gigi Amateau on the Girls of Summer Project.

book review: The girl who could silence the wind

“Meg Medina writes with a delightfully descriptive flair, painting beautifully colorful pictures” ~TeenReads

book review: The girl who could silence the wind

author: Meg Medina

date: Candelwick Press; 2012

main character: Sonia Ocampo

From the time of her birth, the people of Tres Montes have believed that Sonia was a special gift, that she could work miracles for them. They pin milagros to her baby blanket and they continue pinning them throughout her childhood. The weight of the milagros begin to weigh her down so much that she, like others her age, wants to leave this town that seems to offer little future for them. Many of the elders don’t want the young people to leave not only because there would be little hope for the town surviving without them, but also because their leaving would be dangerous.

While there is a magical presence of wind throughout the book, Sonia realizes that she herself has no healing powers and she wants to get out from under the pressure of others hopes and expectations for something she cannot do. It turns out the milagros have no power to save anyone, neither through their spiritual nor monetary value.

 The girl who could silence the wind is filled with numerous secondary characters, some of whom are better developed than others. The people readers meet are tied close to one another and are often unable to act independently. When they do, the consequences are not good.

The book’s cover has quite rich colors and design which would really have been enhanced if a real face had been on the cover rather than the dark silhoette.