Monday, August 31, 2009

What Do I Read Next

What Do I Read Next is a new feature I am doing with Susan @ Color Online. The idea is to get more people to read teen books with people of color by focusing on a theme and giving suggestions. WDRIN will post every Monday at Color Online This week we focus on bullying. I've come to realize finding books will not always be easy. We can't just Amazon or google search "bullying young adult fiction - people of color." I tired, several times and came up empty each time. So its simply a matter of Susan and I being familiar with the book already. That being said, we won't know everything. So if you know of a book that fits the criteria that week but wasn't mentioned, leave it in the comment box. If you've read one of the mentioned books, tell us what you thought of it in the comment box. If you have any ideas for future WDIRN features (you guessed it) tell us in the comment box. Basically tell us something. Now go check out WDIRN

Harlem Stomp Laban Carrick Hill

The cover don't lie, this is a gorgeous book inside and out. Harlem Stomp is classified as childrens nonfiction, however its great for adults as well. Hill doesn't simply give us the Harlem Renasissance, she gives everything that lead up to it, beginning in 1905. Hill introduces Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois and his talented tenth. She tells of the beginnings of the NAACP in 1910. As with any book that deals with the history of race relations in this country, Harlem Stomp will make your heart swell sadness, anger, hope, and joy. It's filled with facts, photographs, paintings and the words and work of the Harlem Renaissance artists. The author highlights several artists, including Jean Toomer and Paul Robeson, Meta Warrick Fuller and Aaron Douglas. Harlem Stomp is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about the Harlem Renaissance. It was a 2004 National Book Award finalist.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Akimbo and the Baboons Alexander McCall Smith

Akimbo and the Baboons by Alexander McCall Smith illus. by LeUyen Pham I really enjoy McCall Smith #1 Detective Agency series so I don't know why it took me so long to read books in the Akimbo series, also read Akimbo and the Crocodile Man. There are five books in the Akimbo series. Set in Africa, Akimbo's father is a head ranger, studying animals in their natural habitat. In each book people who study animals come by to visit Akimbo's father. Akimbo always finds himself involved in another animal adventure.

In Akimbo and the Baboons, a scientist hires Akimbo and his cousin Kosi to be her assistants. I really enjoyed both books. Pham's illustrations are a perfect fit. The stories are adventurous with a close call thrown in to raise the readers heartbeat just a bit. In Akimbo and the Crocodile Man, A crocodile takes a bite out of the crocodile man's leg. Akimbo must cross the crocodile infested waters to get help. The stories include facts about the animals featured. A Did You Know, follows Akimbo and the Baboons. I would highly recommend this series, to readers who prefer non-fiction stories about animals. Ages 7up

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

C.O.R.A Diversity Roll Call And A Must Read

This weeks C.O.R.A. Diversity Roll Call is being hosted by Ali @ Worducopia This time we are asked to find titles that would appeal to teens, that featuring male protagonist of color and are set outside of the U.S.

La Linea by Ann Jaramillo- 16 yr old Miguel is trying to cross the border with is younger sister.

The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez- An autobiography that begins in Mexico

City Boy by Jan Michael - Set in Malawi, Africa

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo Calcines - The story of a boy living under Castro's regime. I really enjoyed this one. my review

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller Lachmann - Much of this novel is set in the U.S. but there are flashbacks to Chile, also the main character Daniel makes his way back to his birth country of Chile. my review

I searched for more titles but I am coming up empty. The next few titles came to my attention thanks to other bloggers.

Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti by Frances Temple I have Mary Ann to thank for this one.

The Buddha's Diamonds by Carolyn Marsden
A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird
Funny boy :a novel by Shyam Selvadurai

Amy Bowllan has a wonderful series going on at her School Library Journal Blog - Writers Against Racism Its a must read.

Sky High Marissa Moss Carl Angel

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss illustrated by Carl Angel This is the story of Maggie Gee one of only two Chinese American women to serve in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program during WWII.

The book is broken up into two parts. First we get to know a young Maggie, who loved to go to the airport with her family on Sunday and watch the airplanes take off. Maggie's mother and grandmother would share stories about growing up in China. Maggie enjoyed these stories but she wanted a few stories of her own. Then the war came.

Maggie Gee decided to do her part and make her dream come true at the same time.

"I had read about a group of women pilots called the WASP, or Women Airforce Service Pilots. They flew planes on training missions and ferried bombers to military airbases. I knew right away that I wanted to join them. I wold be doing something important for the war, and I would be able to fly. If I could only earn my wings."

Moss has done an excellent job with the text. This book is perfect for a young readers first or fifth picture book about WWII. There is a little something for everyone. Carl Angel's illustrations arebeautiful and a perfect fit. There is much action and color to keep young readers interested.

One of my favorite pages is the transition from a young Maggie to the Maggie who will fly.

"Many Sundays Passed, and now we were too old for lollipops. I didn't tell stories anymore but I still dreamed of flying."

Its takes up two pages- Maggie is standing alone on the grass, her arms are out like a plane, eyes closed, her larger then life shadow spreading across the empty field. There is something very beautiful about this picture to me. Angel and Moss make you feel Maggie's dream.

Moss includes more information about Maggie Gee and WASP in the author's note. Also there are some wonderful photographs in the back, including one of Maggie in her uniform and Maggie's mother building Liberty ships, hardhat and all. Sky High is a wonderful look at Maggie Gee, a woman who didn't allow her gender or race to curtail her dreams. ages 5 up

Also check out Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo. The story of the first Chinese actress in Hollywood. my review

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Twenty Miles Cara Hedley

Twenty Miles by Cara Hedley Isabel (Iz) Norris has always played hockey. She's been told she has her father's hands. Kristjan was a hockey legend in their Canadian town, and he died before she was born. Everyone tells Iz stories about father, whether she wants to hear them or not. It almost as if Iz about Iz has always played hockey with the boys, until she is scouted by a college. Iz leaves her grandmother to go to college and play hockey for the Scarlets. Its only the second year of the teams existence. Iz is trying to figure everything out and learn how to fit in with her teammates. I loved the Scarlets. We get to know many of the core players like Hal, Boz, Pelly and Toad. They are funny, sometimes over the top and commited to each other.

"And then we all fell. That second Hal hung her eyes on the scoreboard must have balanced us there, all of us strung together like a giant, moving mobile, before it crashed down, that second the clock couldn't shuck away, and didn't we all fall when she did, as teams do as families do. And there should have been a crash, we should have heard it, the hollow gunshots of our shin pads hitting the ice all at once, the thunderous crack of helmets colliding, of equipment cracking open and scattering across our ice. But, instead, a sound none of us heard with each other before, a hovering emptiness that was more quiet than quiet: as Hal fell, she inhsled all of our voices, all the swearing and insults and calls for the puck, all the laughter sucked in with her breathe as she fell, as we all fell. And we didn't know when she'd breathe it out again. When she'd let us play on"

I really enjoyed Twenty Miles. Though it took me a second to find the books rhythm. It moves quickly almost like improv. poetry. The beauty of the book was worth a few moments of confusion.

An interview with the author Its great and not so straight edge

The interviewer, Nathaniel G. Moore begins with this

"I attended the Coach House fall book launch dressed in a 2000 NHL all-star hockey jersey. And I was the only one in such an ensemble. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Cara Hedley then, but heard her read. The experience partially, though not entirely, reminded me of when I waited in line with my brother for three hours at Warden Woods mall in the early 1990s to get Patrick Roy’s autograph. We were huge Habs fans and the next in line when his handler said to the line, “No more that’s it,” and my mom started yelling at Mr. Roy. Thankfully however, the amazing Evan Munday put me in touch with Cara and I didn’t have to relive this rejection and celebrity trauma in my professional life."

For Twenty Miles to remind the interviewer of Patrick Roy is any way is a very very good thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Check Out A New Feature

I am writing a new feature with Susan at Color Online - called What Do I Read Next. The idea is to encourage readers to read Brown by tailoring the suggestions based on books the reader enjoys. Susan will post What Do I Read Next every Monday at Color Online. This week (the second post) the topic is friends. I put the list together but Susan did all the hard work making it look pretty and adding all the links and reviews. So check it out and please leave a comment if you see or book of interest or if have or need a suggestion. Friends Matters

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Few Artists to Thank

Review of Lion & Mouse @ Fuse#8
Last week, I listed fall books I was looking forward to reading. Two of the must read picture books are illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. The Lion & the Mouse (Sept) and Sweethearts of Rhythm by Marilyn Nelson (Oct) Both of these books look absolutely gorgeous. Pinkney has been illustrating children's books since 1964. There has been much talk recently about getting people to read and support children's author of color, like here and here. When I saw the two Jerry Pinkney titles, I couldn't help but think as hard is it is now for author's of color now, I can't even imagine what it was like 45 years ago. So I thought I would take a moment list a few artist as a thank you. These artist refused to be discouraged and allowed their talent to speak for them.
Jerry Pinkney A wonderful 2009 Q&A @ Publishers Weekly

Tom Feelings The first time I saw Soul Looks Back in Wonder, I was captivated by his beautiful illustrations.
Virginia Hamilton Hamilton is the first African American to win the Newbery Medal in 1975 for M.C. Higgins, The Great She received the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 1992 "Ms. Hamilton, the first United States Hans Christian Andersen Award winner since 1978, said of the award,

"I'm thrilled. I feel very grateful that the international community finds my work worthy of this award. I am pleased because, by selecting me, they have affirmed their interest in multicultural concerns and their support for cultural diversity. I hope to continue writing good books for some time to come. This is a culmination of twenty-five years of my career."

Eloise Greenfield - Honey I Love, and Other Love Poems is amazing and beyond beautiful.
Julius Lester Lester interviews James Baldwin in 1984 for NYT This little treasure I found by chance and it's worth reading.
Ashley Bryan Video interview @Readingrockets
John Steptoe John Steptoe Award New Talent Award

Like I said at the beginning I was toying with the idea of putting this together when I saw Pinkney's new fall releases. I knew today was the day, when I stopped by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to find Our Children Can Soar , spotlighted
Our Children Can Soar, celebrates and recognizes various African Americans during the civil rights movements its a perfect fit for this post. All the artist I've mentioned have help make it easier for the next artist of color and they've contributed so much to the world of children's literature. To them I say thank you . To those artist I forgot or never knew please forgive my ignorance and accept my thanks.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Open Court Carol Clippinger

Open Court by Carol Clippinger 13yr old Halloway (Hall) is very good tennis player. She is ranked number four in the USTA, Junior Division, Girl's 14. With all of Hall's success comes more pressure to succeed. After Hall witnesses her doubles partner, Janie have a break down, she begins to doubt if she has what it takes. Her killer instinct is gone. We get to see all sides of Hall, on the practice court with her coach being pushed to the brink or hanging out with her friends. The author commited to the story on and off the court. On the court, Hall wants to be the best, worries about not meeting expections, and wonders where her coaches voice has gone and if it will ever return.

"I quieted my breathing. And waited. Still, my guts weren't bubbling I closed my eyes, bowed my head slightly, listening, I felt a light rumble, mumble, in my belly. It was Coach's voice, finally but the volume was so low I couldn't decipher his commands. I bounced up and down, waking my feet. Quickly I tossed the ball and slammed my racquet into it. Out. Anyone can mishit. No big deal. Again. Toss. Slam the ball. Out. Come on, Hall I told myself. It's a serve to no one. Get it right! Again. Toss. Racquet back. Extend racquet. Hit it lightly. Nice and easy. Can't miss this one. But I did. Trent's voice is a part of my game. Makes me win. My guts churned, twisted. I felt light headed.

Off the court, Hall's new friend Polly reminds her of Janie, she gets the boy all her friends want and her relationship with best friend is changing. Clippinger's created a very likable and believable character in Hall. I really enjoyed Open Court. Ages 10up

Sunday, August 16, 2009

NERDS Michael Buckley

Nerds: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley. I loved two things about this book before page one. First, the multicultural cast. Second, the title acronym. National, Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society, couldn't be any better.

Jackson Jones was Mr. popular at Nathan Hale Elementary until he got his braces. Before the braces everyone loved Jackson and wanted to be his friend. Jackson spent a lot of time tormenting the not so popular kids. ackson Jones was a bully. After the braces Jackson is friendless and lonely. Jackson eventually stumbles upon the NERDS secret chambers underneath Nathan Hale Elementary. NERDS is a secret organization created by the government in the 70's the agent's are always children. Jackson, accidentally acesses the physical enchancement protocol. The machine searches agents for weakness and enchances them. Those weaknesses then become the person strength. Jackson's braces are his weakness, he gets a serious up grade, and a new code name - BraceFace.

Current Agents- Duncan Dewey, code name Gluestick, Matilda Choi code name Wheezer, Heathcliff Hodges, code name Choppers, Ruby Peet, code name Pufferfish and Julio Escala, code name Flinch. After his accidental upgrade, Jackson is asked to join the time by Alexander an agent sent by governments to oversee the NERDS operation. Agent Alexander shares a little of the history of spying with Jackson.

"Suddenly, Jackson's room disappeared into a three dimensional desert landscape so real he started to sweat. A beautiful pyramid rose up right before him, as well as thousands of dark skinned men and womenin tunics. They were gathered about listening to a single figure dressed in robes and a crown. Jackson guessed he was a king. The secret agent has been around since the earliest days of recorded history. Akhenaten, the controversial Pharaoh of Egypt, enlisted his own son, Tutankhamun, to keep a careful eye on his enemies." (from the ARC)

All the agents hate Jackson because he was a bully. In front of the book, the author says he was a former nerd and it shows in his writing. Jackson isn't offered easy forgiveness . The other agents pretty much hate and don't trust him throughout the entire book. At one point Jackson, even quits the team. This was something very honest about there not being easy redemption for Jackson. The way he treated everyone pre-braces he didn't deserve it. I think I've managed the impossible, talking about NERDS for this long, and not mentioning how funny it is. NERDS is laugh out loud funny, thanks in large part to the Hyena, a hired assassin. I loved Hyena, she's my favorite character. She recently accepted a new position with Dr. Jigsaw, a man who wants to takeover the world.

"The Hyena reached into her pocket and took out a folded not. She double clicked the coordinates written inside and frowned. There was no mistake. She was in the right place and there wasn't a living soul in sight. Her mysterious new employer had started off on the wrong foot . It was rude to leave a person waiting in subzero weather at the North Pole! She wondered why criminal masterminds were so obsessed with desolate locations. Couldn't this Dr. Jigsaw meet her in Hawaii or the Bahamas? Half of the money she made as a criminal was spent on mittens and long underwear" (from the ARC)

The NERDS are the only ones who can stop Dr. Jigsaw. I loved everything about this book. The gadgets are cool and slick. The writing is fast, fun, entertaining and well thoughtout. The fight and action scene are great. There are illustrations sprinkled through tout the book, adding just a little extra to an already great story. Young readers will love NERDS and its definitely reluctant reader friendly. Ages 8up Read a chapter NERDS will be on sale in September. If this sounds good check out The Big Splash by Jack Ferraiolo I loved this middle grade mystery. my review.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

After Amy Efaw

After by Amy Efaw Devon's the star goalie on her high school soccer team and a straight A student but that was before. Now Devon might be charged as an adult for throwing her new born baby in the trash. Efaw spent much time with Devon creating a character who feels very close to real. The reader will follow Devon through the After, when she is taken to the hospital, where they must remove the umbilical cord that is still inside or when Devon is taken to the juvenile detention center as well as the hearing to determine if Devon will be charged as an adult. Devon's court appointed lawyer, Dom cares so she has a chance. The court room drama is excellent.

"Devon consciously keeps her head down to avoid eye contact with the man as he steps to the front of the courtroom, swearing with his right hand raised that his testimony will be the truth, and seats himself on the witness stand- a square wooden enclosure with a chair inside, situated below and to the left of the judge. She wonders what he's here to say about her, who he is. She risks a peek up at him and sees that the man is directly in front of her and sitting surprisinlgy close to her. In fact other than Dom, he is sitting closer to her than any other person in the courtroom. Their eyes meet briefly. His narrow slightly, his lips turn down with distaste. Devon feels a cold prick inside her chest and quickly drops her face back down to her yellow pad, her cheeks burning"

When news stories about a mother putting her new born baby in the trash come on, everyone always ask how could they do that? With this novel, Efaw does a beautiful job of answering how. We get to know both Devon's before and after, some may not be able to forgive what she did but there should at least be understanding. After is an intense read but well worth it. Ages 14up

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Ring Bobbie Pyron Interview & Giveaway

Last Week, I reviewed Bobbi Pyron's debut YA novel The Ring my review. Now I have the pleasure of interviewing the author.

Hi Bobbi, first congratulations on your first young adult novel. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, in your - living room, den, kitchen or wherever your computer is.
Thanks so much, Doret, for this opportunity!

Bobbie, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I was born and raised in northwest Florida. I've lived in Utah for about 20 years, but I still consider myself a southerner. I try to get back to the south at least once a year. I live in Park City, Utah, with my husband, three dogs and two cats. I work part time as a librarian for the Salt Lake County Library System.

You were a library director, school librarian and bookstore manager. Which one of these positions gave you the most freedom?
Hmmm...that's an interesting question. I think working in public libraries has given me the most freedom. Although not necessarily when I was a library director, because I had to be so enmeshed in system politics. But working as I do now as “just” a librarian, I have lots of freedom to do what I love: connecting readers with books.

How long did it take you to write the Ring?
It took me about ten months to write the first draft. At the time I was working almost full time as a librarian. The book went through numerous revisions. I'd say from first draft to when it was acquired by WestSide, it took about three and a half years.

Who were your eyes? Who read the early drafts of your novel?
I'm very fortunate to be part of a wonderful critique group. They read early versions of the book and gave me insightfull, honest feedback. I also have a couple of amazing young women—Emma and Julie—who I depend on to read my work and give me feedback. They are invaluable since they're the age of the reader I hope to hook. Early chapters of the book also received critiques at several writers workshops and conferences I attended.

Tell us about your path to publication? How many thanks but no thanks did you receive?
Oh gosh—you have to have thick skin in this business! I probably had at least ten rejections on this book before I found WestSide. Some were the dispiriting “Dear Author” rejections where they don't even bother putting your name. Then I had two or three “good” rejections where the editor actually took the time to say specifically what worked and what didn't. It's amazing how excited writers get about these “good” rejections!
Tells us a little about WestSide Books?
Westside Books is a new publisher dedicated to publishing strictly books for teens that are contemporary and realistic. No blood-sucking zombie fairies for them! My amazing editor, Evelyn Fazio, is really dedicated to bringing books to teen that reflect the world they live in.

And, no pink princesses, thank you WestSide. Tell us a little about Mardie?
I think Mardie is a pretty typical 15-year-old girl from a pretty typical family. She's funny, smart, insecure, stubborn, passionate, and frustrated and confused by all the changes in her life. She doesn't want to be like anybody else, yet she finds herself doing things she wouldn't normally do to fit in, to “have a place at the table.”

Tell us a little about Mardie's relationship with her older brother, Michael?
Mardie and Michael, like a lot of brothers and sisters, were close when they were younger. They had their secret things they did just the two of them (like pretending they were mute) and adventures. But when they got older, they grew apart. Their roles in the family dynamic also changed: Michael became the perfect son and Mardie became the official family screwup. Mardie's dad defined Michael as being “just like” him and Mardie as being “just like” her mother. I think, unfortunately, this is pretty typical of parents. They have to see their children as either just like them or not like them, rather than seeing the kid for who they are.

Mardie dad's defintion of Michael changes when its revealed, he's gay. Did you always know Micheal was gay?
I think probably somewhere in the back of my mind, I suspected he was gay. So when I wrote that scene where Megan tells Mardie everyone knows he's gay, I was a bit surprised, but not entirely. What I was more surprised by was that he didn't deny it at first.

When Mardie is asked whats wrong by her parents, she doesn't have an answer. Will Smith was right- Parents Just Don't Understand. At 15 there are so many new emotions. They are hard enough to decipher let alone explain. When confronted by her parents Mardie is stuck for answer.

"Part of me really wanted to talk to her about everything, just like I used to. But I didn't know how to put into words everything that was all tied up inside me. "

It was moments like that I found myself drawn to Mardie. She came across as very real. When Mardie got into trouble she wasn't trying to prove anything or be a so called bad girl. To get Mardie to stay on the right path, she needed an outlet of some kind. Why Boxing?
Listen, people who know me are soooo amazed the story is about boxing! I mean, I'm a Bhuddist, for goodnes sakes! But when my now 20-year-old stepdaughter was 15, she was having a very tough time, like Mardie. One day, she and I were reading the paper and she saw an article about a local boxing club that had classes just for teenage girls. She showed me the article and said, “I want to do that.” Her dad and I signed her up for lessons right away! We were happy to try most anything that might help her deal with all her anger. We took turns taking her to her lessons. I became fascinated, watching the girls train and (quite frankly) eavesdropping on their conversations. I listened to their stories and I saw how boxing helped my stepdaughter.

Does your stepdaughter still box? Has she read the Ring?
No, my stepdaughter doesn't box. She stuck with the lessons for just a few months, and then returned to her number one passion: snowboarding. She will be the first to say, though, at the ripe old age of 20, that those boxing lessons helped give her the focus and confidence to do what she's doing now, which is being a professional snowboarder! I just gave my stepdaughter a copy of the book. She's excited to read it, and I'm nervous for her to read it!

What if any research did you do for boxing aspect of the story? Did you take lessons?
Of course, being a librarian, I did lots of research. I read some great books on boxing—Without Apology: Girls, Women and the Desire to Fight, by Leah Cohen, and Reach, by Laila Ali. She’s the daughter of boxing great Muhammed Ali and she’s a professional boxer. I also read a ton of stuff on line about amateur boxing. And of course, I watched Girl Fight and Million Dollar Baby several times. And yes, I did take a couple of lessons just so I could get those physical details down—the damp feel of the inside of the boxing gloves, how it felt when a punch connected with the heavy bag.

Tell us a little about Mardie's coach, Kitty?
I really like Kitty. She's tough but gentle, she's sassy. She cares deeply about her girls but she's no-nonsense with them too. I think I was as surprised as Mardie was to discover that Kitty had been in the Air Force! She knows what it's like to be an outsider, but she's at that point in her life where she's very comfortable in her own skin.

I thought it was very cool that Kitty mentions she once fought Laila Ail. That said to me, though this novel is fiction, women boxing is not. What would people say when you told them, you were writing a YA novel about a girl who boxes?
Well of course, they'd all say, “Why boxing” and I'd say, “Why not?” It became interesting to me to see people's—even my more liberal, female friends—discomfort with a female participating in a less-than-genteel sport.

Why do you think there aren't more YA novel featuring girls playing sports?
As a librarian, I see quite a few books featuring girls playing sports. But they're always the same: soccer, swimming, horseback riding. I think slowly we're starting to see more female characters playing non-traditional sports, like football in Catherine Murdock’s Dairy Queen. I think as a society, we still have a long ways to go in terms of letting young women step outside our comfort zone!
Don't forget softball. The Diary Queen books are great. Sometimes I don't know if its a comfort zone or if boys and girls are placed in a box. Helped a customer who was looking for a board game for two kids. I showed her this a Ninja board game. Her reflex response, one of them is a girl. Can't a girl like princesses and ninjas. There are too many limitations based on gender.

I think you make a great point. I think we put people in little boxes precisely because we don't want things outside our comfort zone, our world view to make us have to step back and reexamine our beliefs.

One of the things I love about books like the Ring is they challenge the so called norm. What do you want teens to take away from the Ring?
I passionately hope that teens of both sexes will see that it's okay to be exactly who you are, warts and all. I also hope they'll think about how we stereotype people—whether it's in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation—and how limiting and unnecessary that is.
What YA novel would you compare the Ring to?
A book I read several times as I wrote The Ring was Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher. Yes, the main character in his book was a male swimmer, but he had Mardie's passion and strength. And one thing that Crutcher does wonderfully in all his teen novels is show the complexity of relationship.
Note to Self- Read Whale Talk .When I think about boxing Rocky (the original of course) comes to mind with the classic theme song. What would Mardie's theme song be?
When I was working on the first and second draft of The Ring, I listened over and over to the soundtrack to the movie Garden State. So when I think of The Ring, I inevitably hear that soundtrack in my head. I think the song on there that I associate most with Mardie is called “Such Great Heights” by Iron and Wine. I have no doubt Mardie would think it's much too mellow a song though!

Getting to know the author

As a professional dog trainer, who do you prefer Victoria Stilwell or Cesar Millan?
Victoria Stilwell, paws down! Most of us heavily involved in animal rescue work don't have much good to say about Cesar Millan.

Why, no love for Cesar?
Many of us in dog training feel he relies too heavily on dominance and this whole “alpha dog” thing. In the first place, dogs never confuse us with other dogs. So this whole idea of being the “pack leader” is silly. The relationship should be based on respect and a partnership rather than a dominance-subservience model. Training a dog with respect means shaping the behavior you want through positive reinforcement and extinguishing unwanted behavior by either not reinforcing it or giving the dog a competing behavior that's rewarded. As you can guess, I could go on and on...

What are you reading right now?
I always have several books going at once. Since I have a fairly long commute to and from work (35 minutes each way) I always have a book I'm listening to. Right now I'm listening to the Newbery winner for 2008, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which I am absolutely loving. I also just started a lovely middle-grade novel called The Year the Swallows Came Early, by Katheryn Fitzmaurice, and am half way through the very clever The Reformed Vampire Support Group, by Catherine Jinks.

What are some of your favorite books this year?
I just discovered Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty series and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I think she's an immensely talented writer. I loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart. I also read Life as We Knew It, by Beth Pfeffer. While I don't like post-apocalyptic books, I found that one fascinating.

Great Books. Bray's trilogy is wonderful. When and where to you like to write?
Ideally, I like to write at least a little every day. But life often has other plans. But I do try to get in at least 8-10 hours of writing a week, even if that's just working on revisions. I write almost exclusively in my home office. I know when I go in there, fire up my laptop, and turn on the music, it's time to create. Unfortunately, my dogs don't always agree with me on that!

I am most proud of this scene.
Boy, that's an interesting question. I think maybe the scene at the dinner table when Pops finds out Michael is gay. I think the responses of Mardie's family are pretty realistic.

Bobbi, you've used interesting twice, so I'll assume you mean wonderful, thoughtful and oh so smart. This was a great scene, I could almost feel the dinner table get quiet when pops finds out his grandson is gay.

I struggled the most with this scene
Actually, I struggled most with the question in the ending of should Mardie win the championship or not win it. I wrote the book both ways in the second draft. Finally, I decided that it would be more authentic if Mardie didn't win. Perhaps more relatable to the reader too.

Bobbi, thanks for the time and congrats on a great book. I finished the Ring over a week ago, and Mardie still lingers on my mind. I hope many readers discover and enjoy Mardie as much as I did.

Let the discovering begin. The author will send an autographed copy of ARC to the first two people to comment on this post on why they want to read the Ring and link to this interview.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki

Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki - Today over at Chasing Ray, Colleen is hosing a One Shot reading tour, focusing on works set in SouthEast Asia. Everyone was given enough notice to find a book. I waited until the last minute. I am more then half way done with Bitter Sweets and I absolutely love it. Rashid Karim and his parents think they found the perfect bride in Henna. On their wedding night Rashid who goes Ricky when at the University, discovers that his new wife is not 17 and well educated but 13 and illiterate. Henna agreed to help her baba deceive the Karim's in hopes of avoiding school and moving to Calcutta to become a movie star. This is a family saga that begins with a lie. Sometimes family sagas can be a little tedious and slow moving. This however moves at a nice pace and the language is beautiful, smart and funny. I highly recommend Bitter Sweets, you won't be disappointed. Published in 2007 this is Farooki debut novel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spellbinder Helen Stringer

Spellbinder by Helen Stringer This was such a fun read, I loved it. 12 yr old Belladonna Johnson can see ghost, its a family trait from her mother's side. Belladonna continues to live with her parents after they die in a car accident. At school Belladonna does her best not to be seen talking to ghost, everyone already thinks she's strange. Stringer's captures much with her writing. Many readers will be able to sympathize with Belladonna's math crisis.

"Unfortunately the walk to school wasn't a long one and, as if to bring her back down to earth, Math was the first class of the day, forcing Belladonna to make up some less than convincing reason why she hadn't done her homework. Mr. Fredericks hardly seemed to listen, moving right on to the next exercise. So far as he was concerned, if students couldn't be bothered to do their homework, then he couldn't be bothered to teach them. Belladonna sighed. She had only managed to keep up with math by slogging away and making sure she did every single piece of homework. Now she'd missed one exercise and suddenly everything was a mystery. She had a feeling that she would never again know what was going on in class"

Life continues like it did before the accident until all the ghost disappear. With the ghost gone everything in Belladonna's world is at risk. People aren't sleeping since there are no ghost to supply them with dreams. Belladonna must figure out what is happening, if she wants to see her parents again. She has two people to help, Steve a classmate and Elsie a teen ghost who died in 1912. Stringer takes the time to develop Steve and Elsie. I loved the interaction between these characters.

"How are we supposed to reach that?" said Elsie. There's a chair in the front room!" Belladonna ran off and returned with an old chair. Steve took it off her, placed it squarely underneath the trapdoor and jiggled it. One of the legs promptly fell off. Why don't you just climb the banister?" asked Elsie. "Because I might fall off and plummet to my death," "I'll do it, then! I'm already dead." "So you keep saying," muttered Steve. Elsie heaved herself up on the banister, teetered there for a moment, turned a funny color, and quickly got down. "What;s the matter?" asked Belladonna. "Apparently you can still have vertigo even when your dead," said Elsie unhappily" (ARC)

Once I started reading Spellbinder I didn't want to stop. Its a great book and reluctant reader friendly. Ages 10up Goes on sale Sept. 29

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Books Worth the Wait

Here are a list of some fall titles I am looking forward to.

Picture Books

The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney- This looks gorgeous
Peeny Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illus by Joe Cepeda - Sept.
SweetHearts of Rhythm by Marilyn Nelson illus by Jerry Pinkney - A 1940's all female interracial jazz band. This is a must read for me
Michelle by Deborah Hopkinson illus by A.G. Ford. Looking forward to this Michelle Obama biography because Ford is an illustrator to watch. Oct.
Olu's Dream by Shane Evans This looks and sounds beautiful. A must read.
An Eye for Color by Natasha Wing illus. by Julia Breckenreid There is something about this cover that makes me want to see more. Sept.
Sky High The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss illus. Carl Angel . In Sherri Smith's YA novel Flygirl. Ide Mae Jones passes for White so she can join the Women's Airforce Serive Pilots (WASP) during WWII. In Flygirl, Smith mentions that two Chinese women were members of WASP. Maggie Gee is one of these women. A must read Aug.
Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins Oct.
Voices of Christmas by Nikki Grimes illus. Eric Velasquez
Our Enduring Spirit President Obama's first words to America illus by Greg Ruth. The illus. for this book look amazing.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction

NERDS by Michael Buckley - Read and loved the ARC. Kudos to the author for diverse cast of characters and storyline. Sept.
Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle - This ARC is in my pile, looking forward to reading. Look like a lot of fun and I get to use my favorite D word again. diversity.
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani Sept.
Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick Sept
CatWalk Strike a Pose by Deborah Gregory, I've been waiting and waiting on this. The first one was great my review Sept.
Andrew North Blows Up the World by Adam Selzer. A 3rd grade spy. Fun must read for me. I loved Selzer last novel, I Put a Spell on You. my review.
Bobby Vs Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee - I've never read a Lisa Yee novel, this looks like a fun introduction. Sept.
City of Fire by Laurence Yep This looks great Sept.
The Dream Stealer by Sid Fleischman illus. by Peter Sis. Looks beautiful. A must read. Sept
I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Christina Garcia I loved this so much. my review. Paperback comes out in Sept.
The Last Newspaper Boy America by Sue Corbett- This sound really good. Love the cover Sept
After by Amy Efaw Reading now very good. Aug
Bad Apple by Laura Ruby Oct.
Ash by Malinda Lo All the great reviews of this book make it a must read Sept
Exposure by Mal Peet Inspired by Othello. Shakespeare and soccer, a must read Oct
Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines This sounds like it could be really good. Nice cover. Oct.
Front and Center by Catherine Murdock. I loved D.J. looking forward to final book Oct.
Liar Justine Larbalestier - This sounds really good. please ignore the old cover Oct.
Rage by Julie Anne Peters Sept.
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr Oct.
Spellbinder by Helen Stringer Read the ARC. Loved it. my review Oct
Bystander by James Preller - Sounds great, love the cover Oct
In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith - Oct
Marwe by Marie P. Croall illus. by Ray Lago and Craig Hamilton - A graphic novel based off of an East African legend. On sale now A must read
Bad News for Outlaws by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus by R. Gregory Christie- The story of Bass Reeves, an African American lawman in the old West. This book looks great. Out now.
On My Journey Now by Nikki Giovanni rerelease Sept.
What are you looking forward to? What am I missing?

Friday, August 7, 2009

How Do You Wokka Wokka Elizabeth Bluemle Randy Cecil

How Do You Wokka Wokka by Elizabeth Bluemle illus. by Randy Cecil I don't talk about picture books too much, only the ones that grab me at first glance. How do you Wokka Wokka is one of those, I love it. To Wokka is to dance. Set in a city. A boy wakes up looks out his window and decides its a good day to wokka wokka

"Some days you wake up and you just gotta wokka Say hey to your neighbors, up and down blocka Wamma-lammy-wotcha-ho - do your funky wokka get your dance on"

The boy goes to the street and proceeds to ask the other kids how they wokka wokka. There is no one way to wokka. The first girl Wokka's like a flamingo. One kid goes old school with a very sweet break dance move. Another girl breaks out the snake. She calls it the fish flop but I know the snake when I see it.

Soon all the kids are following the boy who had to wokka to a block party. Everyone in the neighborhood wokka's in their own special way. Everyone looks so happy. Bluemle and Cecil easliy give us a wonderfully diverse group of people. The text and illustrations are a perfect fit.

Cecil's illustrations are beautiful. Oil is the medium of choice. I loved the solid rich colors and the color contrast of the apartments. See for yourself

The text is sparse and rhythmic. Its going to be close to impossible to read or listen to this story without moving some part of your body. Making this a perfect read aloud. Ages 3up

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Keena Ford Melissa Thomspon

Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson illus. by Frank Morrison
Keena and her best friend, Eric are getting reading for second grade. Before school starts they get the bad news that they won't be in the same class. Keena likes her new teacher Ms. Campbell a lot. Keena's class is asked to write their birthdays on a paper birthday cake. Instead of writing out the month and the date, Keena uses numbers and accidentally inverts the day and the month. Keena's birthday is in Feb 9 but Ms. Campbell thinks it's tomorrow, Sept 2. Keena is ready to correct her mistake but then Ms. Campbell, mentions birthday cake.
I really like Keena. She writes in her journal, using caps when necessary but not too much. Trouble seems to friends her but she always owns up to her mistakes and feels bad about it. One of the smaller characters that caught my attention was Mr. Lemon. According to Keena he teaches time out and she spends a lot of time with him. After being caught where she doesn't belong Keena is sent to Mr. Lemon. He listens to Keena. The two talk about what happened. Every kid needs a Mr. Lemon

"I showed my note to Mr. Lemon. Then I started to talk. Sometimes when I have to go to Mr. Lemon's class, all my thoughts come out."
Keena lives with her older brother Brian and mom in Washington D.C. Her dad lives in Maryland. The two visit their dad on the weekends. Keena loves to go to the coffee shop with her dad.

"Dad and I like to have grown-up talks at the coffe shop. Sometimes we talk about how it can be a little bit hard for me to live in two different places. Sometimes we talk about how I will try to stay out of trouble so my teacher stops calling my dad's cell phone and using up his daytime minutes"

This is a fun new series. Keena Ford is great. Ages 6up

Similar series
Gloria Rising by Ann Cameron

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Ring Bobbie Pyron

The Ring by Bobbie Pyron I found out about The Ring a few months back while browsing Authors Now , a site for debut children's and young adult authors. I sent the author an email, asking if she would send me a copy. I don't do that on a regular basis (only 2nd time) but I couldn't resist. A female boxer, that's too much temptation for me. If I had know Pyron was still working on The Ring, I would have waited. She was kind enough to send me a copy of her WIP. I liked it well enough but the final book oh my, I really really enjoyed. Some of the changes I noticed right off, others I could simply feel as I read but I couldn't point them out. That's probably for the best, part of the magic of reading a book is not knowing the work behind the words.

15yr old Mardie Wolfe is struggling to find her footing. The book opens with her being driven home by the police after being charged with drunk and disorderly conduct. While on punishment, Mardie is forced to go to the gym with her step mother, Amy. At the gym Mardie discovers boxing. On that first night she simply watched.

"On the drive home, I smiled in the dark, tapping my foot like a maniac. I loved the smell of sweat and leather in the training room. I loved the sound of the small hanging bag going bip-bip-bip, bip-bip-bip, and the dry slap aganist the floor." (From ARC)

Amy helps Mardie convince her dad its okay for girls to box. Mardie takes to the lessons but boxing isn't a sport that comes easy. Even though Mardie's discovered the ring, the chaos that is life doesn't stop. She still misses her mom who died in a car accident. Trying to do what she can to please her dad. Living in the shadow of her lacrosse star, older brother, Michael. A boyfriend who wants more then Mardie is willing to give. A bestfriend who won't return her phone calls. Those are only a few of the issues Mardie must deal with, and yes its a lot but somehow the author makes it work.

The transtions are smooth, the storylines uncluttered. There is something about Mardie I really liked. I could feel her frustrations and self doubt. Mardie is far from perfect, she outs her brother to their parents out of jealousy. Now the Wolfe family must adjust to this new truth. Mardie spent more time training, getting the technique down then in the ring. There was something very honest and fitting about that. I really enjoyed the time Mardie spent with Kitty the trainer and the other girls. All the training is leading up to a tournament in Denver. Mardie lost her first fight, there are somethings even training can't help.

"But Dad didn't think I was good enough to come watch. I felt like I was right back in the gym, that night when Ben and Sam saw me in the ring. Huge, stupid looking gloves hung at the end of long skinny arms. I looked like a freak" (from ARC)

I think a lot of girls will be able to relate to that feeling of not measuring up. It's not a new theme but the ring is, this book tells girls its okay to put on a pair of gloves. The action in the ring is v
very good. I loved the sparring Mardie did with the other girls in her gym. The author writing is good and she avoids stereotypical pitfalls. One of the other boxers, a latina, Shireen lives with her mother and younger siblings. When Shireen is asked about her dad, my first thought was uh-oh. Will he be in A) jail, B)dead or C)never in the picture. I was very happy to see it was D) none of the above. Shireen's dad in the reserves and was deployed for the second time.
Pyron truly committed to Mardie. By the end Mardie finds her rhythm inside and outside of the ring. She can stand up to the other girls in the ring and to the classmates who mocked her, without her knees buckling. This looks like the first book in a series and I hoping that is the case. There is much growth protential for Mardie Wolfe and all of Kitty's girls. I look forward to reading more. The Ring is published by WestSide Books and is slated to be released Sept.
Read an excerpt

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rapacia Dale E. Basye

Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck by Dale E. Basye - This is the sequel to Heck : Where the Bad Kids Go, which I loved my review . I love Bob Dob's cover art. It made me stop and take notice. Its a prefect fit for Basye's text. Milton wrongly sentenced to Heck makes his escape back to the living. Milton is adjusting well enough considering he was dead and in Heck. Now he is even more of an outcast. Milton is not worried about his status. He spends his time trying to contact his sister and finding a loop hole out of the contract he signed in Heck. Marlo a kleptomaniac is sent to Rapacia where the greedy kids go. The greedy kids are forced to live underneath one of the best malls ever, Mallvana. They much watch as all the good people shop their eternity away. Rapacia is run by Grabbit, a huge Frankenstein like rabbit who only speaks in rhyme. All the kids are drawn to the Grabbit and want to please it. Marlo is a star student, the Grabbit ask her to steal the hopeless diamonds. Marlo can't say no.
I love these 12 yr old twins, there is growth with these characters. I thought it couldn't get any better than Heck, I was wrong. It's official I am loving this series hard. Basye has found a great balance of laughter and thought.
One minute I am laughing

Milton search for answers leads him to a different kind of mall

"The Paranon mall was less a mall than a crazy old man's garage sale. Except that there was no garage. And, to the best of Milton's knowledge , nothing in the countless overflowing boxes and unruly stacks of yellowing paper was actually for sale. The crazy old man element, was spot on however."

Next minute I am reading this

"But the human body, after death, weighs exactly twenty one grams less than it did when it was alive. Many philosophers theorize that this must be the approximate weight of the human soul, which as it is invisible wehn leaving the body must be a form of vaporous energy. Milton was swaying with full body nausea. He wiped his beaded- sweat mustache. I'm just not the same, I may have lost some energy coming back"

There are many themes being discussed in Rapacia and Heck, making them both great book club selections. Ages 10up

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Silver Phoenix Cindy Pon

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon - It's been a month since Ai Lang, first letting its time for her to get married. When Ai Lang is rejected by the groom she is embarrassed but not sorry. At this get together Ai Ling gets the first inkling of her powers. Her spirit can enter others, allowing her to see their thoughts and dreams. As the story continues her powers get stronger as well as Ai Lang's ability to control them. Unlike most girls her age, Ai Lang can read and write. She was taught by her father, a former high official at the Emperor's court. Ai Lang father's is called back to the Palace, it was suppose to take two months but after several months he still hasn't returned. Ai Lang and her mother are doing there best to make take everything while he is away. All is well until, Master Hung ( nearly 50, with 3 wives) a merchant tries to take advantage of the situation, claiming there is a debt to be paid. Master Hung will forget the debt if Ai Lang will agree to marry him. Ai Lang decides to run away to find her father, so her mother isn't at the mercy of Master Hung. Ai Lang, meets up with Chen Yong. Chen Yong is in search of his birth parents. In Xia he is treated has an outcast because he is not full Xian. Eventually the two run into Chen Yong's younger brother, Li Rong. Ai Lang must confront a man who has been stealing spirits in order to live. Chen Yong and Li Rong, agree to help. I loved these three to together, they had great chemistry. Though, Ai Lang, travelled with two guys it was never about which one she would love, and I appreciated that. Its not written in stone that a female and male lead must fall in love on a mission.
This was a pleasure to read. Its filled with great action. Since the story is set in China, I couldn't easily anticipate what would happen next. Pon's writing is great, once I started I didn't want to stop.

The cover doesn't do the book enough justice. I read Silver Phoenix because I kept reading great reviews about the book. If not for those reviews, I would have missed a great read. The cover simply doesn't entice me. There are two strong male progatonist in the novel, but neither are featured on the cover. Not putting at least one of the male leads on the cover limits the audience.

Two cover's I would have liked better

The three travel most of the way by foot. There is one horse which Ai Lang rides.
Cover option 1- Ai Lang on the horse (dagger visible) with Chen Yong and Li Rong on either side of her (swords visible)

At one point the three must ride a dragon together.
Cover option 2- The three riding a dragon Ai Lang is holding onto the dragon, Chen Yong holds onto Ai Lang, and Li Rong holds onto Chen Yong. When I read that scene I thought it worked very well visually and would make a great cover. Weapons showing of course. There's something about weapons that always makes me pause, unless I am on the street, then I run.

More reviews

White Bread Competition Jo Ann Yolanda Hernandez

White Bread Competition by Jo Ann Yolanda Hernandez. This book came to my attention thanks to a recent giveaway Susan had at Color Online , the winners. White Bread Competition was great. Its the 90's in San Antonio, Texas, Luz will be the first Latina to represent her state in the national spelling bee. White Bread Competition is made up of 10 interlinked stories that lead up to the big event. One of my favorite stories was Mixing the Ingredients. Luz's grandmother Aura, tells her something bad will happen if she enters the spelling bee. Rosaura confronts her mother for telling Luz such hurtful things. This story reads like a song, the movement is beautiful. Hernandez brings the reader closer to mother and daughter. The author does an excellent job of drawing all the characters, making the reader care. Being the first is never easy, someone says Luz cheated.
There is so much to love about White Bread Competition.

Now I will share (this is why I read outside of myself) passages

Rosaura is an artist and is showing at a local gallery. A White woman who's daughter lost to Luz puts down Rosaura's art and ask when her family immigrated to America?

"My family became Americans when Texas was annexed just after my great great grandmother's birthday. We had already been living on this land for several decades before the white people, your people stole this country from us." "I'm fifth generation American. What generation are you?"

Aura would spend hours on her feet making authentic tortillas while people watched and pointed
I saw a movie the other day. One of those westerns. You know what I mean, where all the good cowboys are gringos and are going to save the poor Mexican farmers. When they ride into town, there's always some fat mexicana sitting alongside the road with a dozen little children running around her, making tortillas on a hot rock. Don't matter what town or how many times they ride in, she's sitting there cooking those damn tortillas with that brood of kids." Carmen steps into her high heels and says, "Let's hope the boss doesn't see that movie. He'll have us cooking on a hot rock to make the place more authentic."

White Bread Competition reminded me of another book I loved The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales