Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
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
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
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.
"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."
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
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
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
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
Thanks so much, Doret, for this opportunity!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
Victoria Stilwell, paws down! Most of us heavily involved in animal rescue work don't have much good to say about Cesar Millan.
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...
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"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" (ARC)
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
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
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
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