Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nurse, Soldier, Spy - Marissa Moss, John Hendrix

Nurse, Soldier, Spy by Marissa Moss illus by John Hendrix
This is the story of Sarah Edmonds, she first disguised herself as a man to avoid marriage. Canadian by birth Edmonds goes to the U.S. for freedom. As Frank Thompson, she enlisted in the army when Lincoln called for soldiers to fight in the civil war. Sarah was a great soldier, asked to do two of the toughest jobs, nurse and spy. These are just a few of the facts I learned from Nourse Soldier, Spy.

Sarah Edmonds story is exciting and different, Moss takes full advantage. Readers unfamilar with Edmonds story will be quickly engaged by the women who was a civil war hero. Hendrix's beautiful illustrations adds another dimension. The story plus the after note, make this a great introduction to Sarah Edmonds. Ages 6up

I've linked this post to nonfiction Monday, roundup can be found at Rasco from RIF

My Nerds Heart YA Nomiantions

This is the third year of the Nerds Heart YA Tournament

Through a bracket style competition, judges who are passionate about getting more visibility for fantastic, under represented books will whittle down a shortlist of thirty two young adult novels until one ultimate winner is given the Nerds Heart YA sash and sceptre.
It’s not just about the winner though, Nerds Heart YA seeks to draw attention to all the books on the shortlist. The contest focuses specifically on books that in some way represent groups of people who are typically under represented in YA fiction. We hope that everyone who participates in this contest will find lots of new books to enjoy that will expand the diversity of their reading experience.

For the last week I've been thinking about what books I want to nominate. This year I've had the pleasure of being unable to nominate two titles because they've received/are receiving a lot of online attention.

I love not being able to nominate When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer and Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins.

For When the Stars Go Blue to have been released in November and be ineligible for NerdsHeartYA is a step in the right direction. Every time I saw another review or interview with the author, I thought to myself its nice see an author of color get extra blogger sphere exposure. And its happening more lately. Y.S. Lee, Cindy Pon, Dia Reeves, Zetta Elliott, Malinda Lo Neesha Meminger and Sarwat Chadda are all authors that have been reviewed, interviewed or discussed various places online.

All of these authors have two things in common. Talent and an online presence. Mitali Perkins is one of the first authors of color to blog.

She did a full hardcore PR press for Bamboo People and it worked. It's just one of two YA novels published by a smaller imprint to be selected as an ALA 2011 top ten best fiction for Young Adults . The other one is Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz, which won Nerds Heart YA last year.

Books I will be Nominating
Teenie by Christopher Grant. This was a great debut that was unfortunately released on Dec 28th. That's an awful release date for a debut author, even more so if its an author of color.

Pull by B.A. Binns - This was another wonderful debut

Stringz by Michael Wenberg - Before I picked this on up, I was a little wary thanks to the blurbs. In the end I am glad I took a chance on this great story.

Book nominations are open until March 7th

Friday, February 25, 2011

Glitz - Philana Marie Boles

Glitz by Philana Marie Boles
17 yr old Ann Michelle lives in Ohio with her grandmother. Her life is quiet, predictable and safe. They live in a nice house, Ann Michelle goes to private school and her three friends always follow the rules.

After Ann Michelle befriends new girl, Raquel Marissa Diaz (Raq) she becomes someone else for awhile . Raq has grown up in foster care and has been in and out of juvie. She has a great voice and dreams of becoming a star.

Ann Michelle and Raq bond over their love of rap music. Especially, their love of Piper (in his early 20's) an underground up and coming MC.

From the beginning I knew I was going to like Ann Michelle's voice.

Earlier that day, because my regular lab partner for anatomy, was out with bronchitis, the new girl was assigned to the empty seat beside me. Raquel Diaz - Sister Whitney announced her name - caused an immediate hush as we all looked up at her. She was very pretty, but it was obvious from the way she rolled her eyes that she was also very tough. By the end of that day, every one of us do good girls rocking Catholic school uniforms was aware of the tattooed rebel (a microphone on her left wrist) new on the scene.

Ann Michelle is an excellent student and loves her grandmother but longs for a little more freedom. When Raq invites her to a concert on Halloween, she can't resist.

Raq gets them into an 18up concert featuring Piper MC. She also gets the two invited to his studio session in Detroit and a showcase at the Apollo, in NYC. Ann Michelle's new persona Glitz gives her the freedom to enjoy the adventure. Though Glitz knows it will all end eventually, and soon it becomes a little too dangerous for it not to.

The music descriptions could not have been better. I could see Piper MC's performance.

Oh, the sound was so electric! Such a contrast from the hard bass thuds of Millionaire Mal. Piper's beats were always unique, but this song, with an electric guitar as the main instrument, was the most unusual. It sounded more like heavy rock, without even a hint of stereotypical hip hop bass. No one in hip hop would dare spit over such a sound. Only Piper. The hungriest underdog in the junkyard. Mainstream success had nothing on underground love. His hype men right behind him, Piper stood waiting like the pro that he was. Calm, despite the crowd losing their minds. Patient. Too impossibly cool. He glanced back at one of his hype men, nodded and flashed that smile.

After Ann Michelle misses her curfew (first time) she decides to stay out and be Glitz for a little while longer. With Raq's encouragement one night quickly turns into a week. The two are riding with Piper MC and his hype man Sir Gee. I liked the time the author spent developing Piper and Sir Gee. It was nice to see the person not just the artist.

As you can already tell, I really enjoyed Glitz but I could've loved it more. When Raq comes along everyone warns Ann Michelle to stay away from her because it will lead to trouble. I liked that Ann Michelle doesn't listen, choosing instead to trust herself. For awhile I thought and hoped maybe everyone else was wrong. That Raq had changed and really was a great person.

It wasn't the fact that Raq turn out to be trouble that I didn't like, it was her lack of depth and the feeling that readers should be paying attention and learning from Ann Michelle's mistakes.
Glitz could've easily been one of my favorite reads of the year, if not for the feeling of a lesson to be learned.

Though I liked Glitz too much to end on that note. Boles writing was smooth and the dialogue natural. The author's love and knowledge of hip hop music shines through. Any novel that is set around music runs the risk of being dated by the artist named. Boles easily avoids this by only naming artists or groups that will always hold an important place in Hip Hop history, like Biggie, Tupac and Run DMC. Hip Hop fans will love Glitz. Actually this is a great choice for all music fans. ages 13 up

This great trailer will grab a few readers.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Popularity Papers:Book Two - Amy Ignatow

The Popularity Papers : Book Two by Amy Ignatow
I loved the first book, it was one of my favorites from last year. In book one, best friends Lydia and Julie uncovered the secrets to popularity. Now the two plan to use what they learned in first year of junior high. After Lydia's mom gets job opportunity in London, the friends are separated. Lydia and Julie continue to journal in their own distinct style to keep in touch.

The two have very different school experiences. One thing they have in common is their struggle to fit in. LydAlign Leftia befriends the outcast, and becomes their sort of leader. (at least she thinks so) Julie joins the clique of 8th grader Della Dawns. Once in, Julie wants to get out. Her take on junior high cliques is very on point.

Pros- Everyone knows that if they mess with you, they're messing with the whole group, and it's sort of nice to be protected.

Cons- Sometimes you feel like you can't talk with anyone else who isn't in the group.

Ignatow has written a well layered story. There's a lot going on and it all blends in perfectly. I love that the author takes the time to include their families Julie's mom and older sister, Melody who is into goth and loves to knit. Lydia's dads, daddy and poppa dad are there loving and supporting her.

Julie is the artist and usually does the drawing for their journal. Now Lydia must do her own drawings, which are so bad they're funny. Apart from each, Lydia and Julie's voices become even more their own. Their observation and navigation of junior high are believable, realistic and funny. Fans of the first book will love this one as well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tall Story - Candy Gourlay

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
16 yr old Bernardo lives in the Philippines with is aunt and uncle. His mother lives in London with her husband and Andi, his step sister. For years Bernardo's family has been trying and waiting to get his Visa. Finally Bernardo is allowed to be with this family.

12 yr old Andi is looking forward to welcoming her step brother to London. Though when Andi discovers that Bernardo is 8ft tall, she doesn't know what to make of him and keeps her distance.
Andi's short like their mom. She loves playing basketball and really wants to make her schools basketball team, no matter that its boys only. Bernardo lives in a small village, named San Andres. Everyone believes Bernardo's height has kept the earthquakes away. Bernando believes we was cursed by Gabriela, the meanest girl in his school. The entire village is afraid of Gabriela's mother and thinks she's a witch.

The story alternates between Andi and Bernardo as the two get to know each other. Tall Story was very good and looking back on it I like it that much more. Gourlay fully develops Andi and Bernardo, surrounds them with great secondary characters, gives the reader a glimpse of London and the Philippines, a great basketball game, all without missing a beat. And its also laugh out loud funny. I absolutely loved the beginning.

Rush hour. So many armpits, so little deodorant. The whole world is heading out to Heathrow to meet long lost relatives. I am wedged between the tummies of the two fattest men in the world. Rank.

Bernardo's best friend Jabby (in honor of Karem Abdul Jabbar) might be one of my favorite secondary characters of the year. I have much respect for authors who put as much care and effort into their supporting character as they do their main ones.

Reviews via the author's site (inculding a starred Kirkus review)

An excerpt via the author's site (I wish all authors made it this easy)

Finally check out the great trailer

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Orchards - Holly Thompson

Orchards by Holly Thompson
Kana Goldberg will be spending the summer in Japan with her mother's side of the family. A classmate in Kana's eighth grade class committed suicide. Kana's clique is broken up after discovery their bullying may have lead another girl to take her life.

The clique is mean to Ruth because she's always seen talking to a boy the main IT girl likes. Come to find out Ruth thinks she might be bi polar. The boy is only trying to be supportive because his younger sister is bi polar
The story alternates between, Kana getting to her family in Japan with memories of how she and her friends treated Ruth. I loved when Kana would remember and reflect on how her clique treated the other girl. Thompson doesn't over play the bad actions of the girls to grab the reader, she simply creates believable bullying situations.

The story in verse, a style that's very hard to pull off. Some of the author's phrasing wasn't as sharp as I would've liked but she does a decent job of it. I would've preferred Orchards in a standard style because verse didn't enhance my emotional connection to the character.

In the beginning I thought I would hate Kana but I quickly realized, though her actions were bad she wasn't. Thompson manages to address two issues without making this feel like an issues book. Orchards was a good, well layered story. It would make an excellent book club selection. Ages 11 up

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Dog's Way Home - Bobbie Pyron (Giveaway)

A Dog's Way Home by Bobbie Pyron
11yr old Abby and her dog Tam are Dog Agility champions. After another win in Virginia, there's car accident on the way home to Harmony Gap, NC. Tam's cage which was in the back of the truck was thrown over during the accident. Now Abby is trying to find Tam and he's trying to find his way home. The chapters alternate between the two.

Once Tam was lost it was his story I was most interested in. One thing I loved about Tam, he wasn't an extraordinary or overly smart dog. He was simply a regular Sheltie, following his instincts to get home. Sometimes I read dog stories and wonder, how does this dog know so much.* I never got that feeling with Tam. His journey was very long and I was caught up in it and my heart when out to him many times.

I was so caught up in Tam's story, but its to the author's credit that I never once considered skipping Abby's story. As much as I wanted to know what was happening to Tam, Abby part still held me. Pyron gave equal amount of time to both stories. Somewhere along way I was more invested in Abby's. The story spanned months, Abby's life wasn't put on hold. She still had to navigate middle school and make friends. The author also took the time to develop the characters around Abby. I really enjoyed the dad's love of music . I loved getting an unexpected taste of country music scene in Nashville.

Though it always came back to Tam and Abby. When I started reading, I didn't think it was going to have an Old Yeller ending (it wasn't) and I still got choked up. There's one at the line at the end that will stay with me for a very long time. A Dog's Way Home was a pleasure to read and I loved losing myself in it. A must read for anyone who loves dog stories.

Read an excerpt

Giving away one copy of A Dog's Way Home, courtesy of the author. First person to comment wins.

Disclaimer - received a copy for review from from the author. Congratruations to Pyron on her new release,that's already getting great feedback.

* Art of Racing in the Rain by Stein.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

African American Read In - Today

Today, Ari, Edi and I are hosting our African American Read In . We will be discussing Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves Stop by Ari's anytime today to participate. Questions are already up.

Feel free to reply to the questions, ask your own, link to your reviews, etc. I want to read a few reviews and maybe discuss points brought up in them. Around noon or so central time, I'll probably post some more questions and at 6 PM CT, it will be completely open forum. Anything mentioned in the book is fair game to be discussed. Be as silly, serious or bizarre as you would like. Make Hanna proud.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview with Jacqueline Woodson

When asked if I wanted to participate in a tour for Jacqueline Woodson and her awarding winning YA novel, After Tupac & D Foster, all I could say was yes. When I first started reading YA fiction Woodson is one of the first authors I discovered.

Hi Jacqueline and welcome. After Tupac & D Foster, your most recent YA novel was published in 2008 and was a Newbery Honor.

Did you have to reread it to get reacquainted with your characters in preparation for the upcoming questions?

I didn’t re-read it but I read it so many times during the writing and reading of it that I feel I know it by heart.

The novel spans just 2 years of three girls lives beginning when they are 11 yrs old. Best friends Neeka and a nameless narrator welcome, new girl D Foster into their group. They were known as Three the Hard Way

Why did you decide to go with a nameless narrator?

I worked hard to figure out what her name was and I even tried out a few names. None of them worked. I realized, after about the fourth rewrite, that there was a reason she remainednameless, that it was about what I was hoping to get to in the narrative – that sense that you could know someone deeply (D. Foster) and not really know them at all – Or not know someone personally (Tupac) and feel that you know them deeply. In the case of the narrator, she’s telling her story and as you’re reading, you feel like you really know her, like she’s a close friend speaking to you. Then you close the book and realize you didn’t even know her name.

The three friends are moved by and connect over Tupac's lyrics. After Tupac & D Foster, reminded me of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. The people in that novel are brought together thanks to their love of opera. I thought you both did a great job of making the readers understand your characters passions even if they were indifferent or had no prior knowledge of Tupac or opera.

You could've choosen anyone or anything for the girls to bond over, why Tupac?

I love Tupac. He was/is an important piece of history. He was amazingly talented and a voice for a generation.

Nothing out of the ordinary happens After Tupac and D Foster and that's part of its beauty. It's an uncomplicated look at three girls growing up. There's a big difference between 11 and 13.

"I wanted to tell Jayjones that sisters were hunted too - boys be screaming behind you and whatnot. Trying to touch you when you walked past them like they had some kind of right to your body. It crazy. - narrator

What has the feedback been like from teen girls?

People are at first bummed that it’s not Tupac telling the story and then they keep reading and realize that it’s a deeper story – and they’ve said some really nice things to me about it. I’m always so surprised at how strongly young people respond to the story.

Last year, you released a picture book called Pecan Pie Baby illus. by Sophie Blackall. Its a great story about a young girl that isn't too happy about becoming a big sister.

I bring this up so I have an excuse to show the beautiful cover and ask if Fuse#8 was right about her Tit for Tat ?

I may be wrong, but I believe that Mo Willem’s daughter Trixie is in Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, just as Jacqueline’s daughter was in Knuffle Bunny 2

She’s completely right – That’s Trixie in Pecan Pie and Toshi does appear in KB2 as one of the people Trixie plans to show Knuffle Bunny to. Toshi and Trixie are great friends so it’s only right that they get to play together on the page!

Jacqueline, thanks so much for your time.

Thanks for having me

I recently did a guest post at Diversity YA, one of the 10 books I recommended was Hush by Woodson. As much as I love Woodson's work, I must confess I haven't read If You Come Softly or Behind You yet,

Now I think I was just waiting for this new repackaged edition to come out. (only $8.99)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Join Us - Read In, Cybils Winners Announced, Nerds Heart YA Nominations

There's still time to read Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves and join, Ari, Edi and myself for the online Read In on Sunday Feb. 20. Bleeding Violet was one of my favorite books last year. I finally started rereading it today. The second time around I always notice new things. I still love Hanna but now I find myself paying more attention to Petra.

I don't know how this Read In is going to turn out but I am really looking forward to it. Bleeding Violet was selected out of six titles. Yummy by G. Neri was also one of the six. Earlier in the year it was named a Coretta Scott King Honor.

On Monday The Cybils Winners were announced. Yummy won in the young adult graphic novel category . I thought thia transition was going to be a little smoother but I am still going to run with it.

I had the pleasure of being on the first round non fiction picture book Cybils panel. I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot.

Congraulations to Barbara Kerley author of The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) Its a wonderfully different and engaging biography about Twain. I absolutely loved that Kerley had clearly defined fiction and non fiction lines. Edwin Fotheringham's illustrations are great and fit the text perfectly.
I am all for anything that helps promote diverse YA titles that others may never hear of otherwise. Nerds Heart YA -a tournment for under repesented YA literature does just that.

Now in its third year Nerds Heart YA will continue to bring attention to books that have received less attention in the book blogging world.

Through a bracket style competition, judges who are passionate about getting more visibility for fantastic, under represented books will whittle down a shortlist of thirty two young adult novels until one ultimate winner is given the Nerds Heart YA sash and sceptre.

It’s not just about the winner though, Nerds Heart YA seeks to draw attention to all the books on the shortlist. The contest focuses specifically on books that in some way represent groups of people who are typically under represented in YA fiction. We hope that everyone who participates in this contest will find lots of new books to enjoy that will expand the diversity of their reading experience.

Last years winner was Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz. If you've never read this author, your seriously missing out. Saenz has some serious literary skills.

Book Nominations for 2011 are now open. You have until March 7th to head on over to Nerds Heart YA to nominate

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Search For Wondla - Tony Diterizzi

The Search For Wondla by Tony Diterizzi
I am lucky enough to work at a bookstore, where I am not the only one that enjoys middle grade and young adult fiction. One of my co-workers The Search for Wondla as soon as it came out and loved it. She said it was Flora Segunda good. Even with that great compliment I still put off reading this one. When I found out Wondla was Al Roker's next book club pick, I decided it was time. I've only heard great things about Wondla and I wasn't dissappointed.

12 yr old Eva Nine lives in an underground Sanctuary, where she was born and raised. Eva doesn't know who her parents are and she's never meet another human. The only parent Eva has ever known is a female robot, she calls Muthr. Eva is ready to explore the world above and find more people like her. Muthr doesn't think Eva is ready.

Besteel, a hunter discovers and destroys their underground home. Muthr is barely able to help Eva escape. Eva, quickly realizes all of her training has not prepared her for life above ground. Luckily Eva meets Rovender a friendly creature. Eva has entered the world where she is the strange one and the lone human. Eva soon befriends Otto, a giant and gental water bear, after freeing him from Besteel. Eva and Otto are able to communicate without words, they can hear each others thoughts.

Throughout the book Besteel is hunting Eva. It's his job to capture specimens to be studied and then mounted in the museum. With the help of Muthr, Rovender (Rovee) and Otto, Eva seeks out her Wondla and other like her. Eva's Wondla is an old torn picture of a girl smiling next to her robot.

This story was very good and a lot of fun. I loved losing myself in it. One of the best things about it, I could never guess what was going to happen. I didn't think I could care for Muthr, she was only a robot after all and in the beginning she was a little cold. But above ground as Muthr had to quickly adapt to changes, I found myself liking her as much as the other characters. One of the stories many strengths are Eva's relationships with Muthr, Rovee and Otto.

Visually this is a wonderful book and I am not talking about the illustrations (though they are nice) Diterizzi writes a fanstasy world readers can easliy see.

On Sale Now : New Releases

My first On Sale Now feature this year was nice and full. Since then its been very small. Charlotte's listing of New Releases of science fiction and fantasy is always full. I would like to continue to simply mention the new releases which feature kids of color weekly but there simply aren't enough. So I am turning this into a once a month feature.

Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott (paperback) I loved this book. An middle grade baseball book with a Curt Flood reference, how could I not. Baggot was one of nine authors was kind enough to participate in a baseball feature I did last year.

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Budda Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen - Its nice to see another middle grade contemporary novel that features a male protagonist of color. my review.

Owl Ninja by Sandy Fussell

Young Samurai: The Way of the Dragon by Chris Bradford

Kick by Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman

Pink by Lili Wikinson

Orchards by Holly Thompson

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Glitz by Philana Marie Boles

Silver Phoneix by Cindy Pon -(paperback) I loved this fantasy novel because its not more of the same.

Skate Fate by Juan Felipe Herrera

Under Pressure by Rashawn Hughes

Pick Up Game edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr

Cyborg by Patricia C. Mckissack

Mystify by Artist Arthur

Anya's War by Andrea Alban Gosline

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork - (paperback) This is some serious goodness. Loved it

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay - check out the great trailer

As always if I've missed anything please feel free to tell me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Odetta:The Queen of Folk by Stephen Alcorn

Odetta:The Queen of Folk by Stephen Alcorn
This is about Odetta Holmes, a folk music legend and a politcal activist. Alcorn begins when Odetta is born. As young girl, Odetta finds the piano and her voice. Alcorn shows the Jim Crow world Odetta grew up in. When Odetta gets older she uses her to bring a little peace. Alcorn uses a lyrical style, which is very fitting for a musical biography. His illustrations are vivid and beautiful.

I liked the Odetta: The Queen of Folk the first time. I only wished there was more back information. There is an There's only a page and a half Ode to Odetta. Which isn't extensive enough especially since the story itself leans more towards fictional. More back information could've round up Odetta: The Queen of Fok nicely.

I like to read picture books at least twice. Usually the second time in, I can take the time to appreicate the text and illustrations more. Or in this case spot something I missed.

Someone in Birmingham
Alabama, a long
long-time ago must've
accidentally burned
the Christmas ham
That's how the city
of Birmingham
got its nickname
Burning Ham

That's the second passage. I am surprised I didn't see that the first time. After I saw it, I couldn't unseen it. It ruined the whole book for me. I wouldn't expect Birmingham's 1960's nickname Bombingham to make it into a children's picture book.

However to spin a tale like this and say Birmingham is called Burning Ham because of a burned christmas ham seems very very wrong to me and lessens the truth of what really happened.

When I pointed this out to a friend, they suggested maybe it was something Odetta said, meant to be witty folk wisdom. That's very possible and if it was Alcorn should've referenced it in the back.

For half a second I considered not posting this, in case Odetta really did say that or something similar. Though I decided I would risk looking foolish.

I've linked this post to Non fiction Monday. The round up can be found at Wrapped in Foil this week

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stone Soup Saturday

Over at the School Library Journal blog, they've started "Battle of the Kids Books" I've read 10 of the 16 books in contention. The brackets
I'll go ahead and give my first round picks. (in bold)
As Easy as falling off the Face of the Earth Vs. Cardturner
A Conspiracy of Kings by Turner Vs. Countdown
The Dreamer Vs. The Good the Bad and the Barbie
Hereville Vs. Keeper
The Odyessy Vs. One Crazy Summer
The Ring of Solomon Vs. How Sugar Changed the World
A Tale Dark and Grimm Vs. They Called Themselves the kkk
Trash Vs. Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Author Neesha Meminger did a guest post at YA YA YA's s that shouldn't be missed.

When I was a teen, all the books I read for fun featured white protagonists. When I think of some of my favourite books in the YA romance genre now, books like those of Sarah Dessen, Megan McCafferty, and Meg Cabot–I doubt that any of the authors were expected to create artful, powerful narratives about social issues. These books are allowed to be pure entertainment because there is a vast plethora of novels showing the full gamut of the white, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle/upper-middle class teen experience. In terms of racial representation, there are white characters in horror, fantasy, romance, historical, and whatever other genres exist on bookshelves, while teens of colour are offered a limited array of options.

Ari just announced COLOR - Coalition of Librarians and Online Readers. A project to support High School librarians

Many of us love libraries and I want to help by sending books to libraries that have been hit hard by the budget cuts. A bonus is that I would like to only send books by/about people of color for children and teenagers, both fiction and non fiction. For now I am focusing on middle schools (6th-8th) and high schools in the U.S. The ideal scenario is to send books about Asians/Black people/Latinos and Native Americans to the library, but to have the majority of the books match the ethnicity of the students.

There is still time to read Bleeding Violet by Reeves, and participate in the online

African American Read In on Feb. 2oth.

Diversity YA is a new blog started by YA author's Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo. I did a guest post for Black History Month. My favorite part - the 10 recommendations.

Currently reading The Search for Wondla by Tony Diterlizzi. Its so good. Loving It.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen
13yr old Lamar Washington is one of the best bowlers in Coffin, IN. Unfortunately not many people appreciate the sport of bowling, Lamar wants to change that. He also no longer wants to be known as the prankster, so girls take him seriously. Lamar's ready for his first girlfriend.

Last year Lamar and Sergio, his best friend played tricks on Makeda, giving her the nickname fivehead. When Lamar spots Makeda at Strikers he doesn't recognize her. Now Lamar is doing everything can to prove he's a different person and can be trusted.

Lamar's older brother Xavier is a basketball star. Lamar's dad is too busy working and praising Xavier's game to notice Lamar. At home its all about Xavier the basketball hero. Lamar spends most of his time at Strikers Bowling Paradise. Tired of always being broke and borrowing money from his best friend Sergio, Lamar decides to team up with Billy Jenks. Billy is all about himself, making money and is bad news. Lamar's friendship with Sergio suffer after he starts hustling with Billy.

But Lamar likes finally having money in his pockets. He wants to use the money to impress Makeda Phillips buy his dream pro bowling ball, the pro thunder by Bubba Sanders. Sanders is Lamar's favorite bowler and he's coming to town. Before Bubba arrives, Lamar does one last big prank that could get him in a lot of trouble.

I thought Lamar had a very over the top personality. It was a little too much for me. Though there is something to be said for a 13 yr old Black boy with a lot of confidence. I just didn't connect with Lamar the way I would've liked. At times I felt his language was dated.

I do like that the author gives the reader many sides of Lamar. At home Lamar is the silent victim of his brother's violent outburst. With Makeda, he's nervous, doing his best not to say the wrong thing. Its very nice to read a middle grade novel that deals with a first relationship from the boys point of view. One of the books strengths was Lamar's friendship with Sergio. I really enjoyed the back and forth between them.

The story has a lot of funny moments. One in particular that had me laughing so hard it hurt. This was a well rounded story. I think a lot of middle grade readers will enjoy it.

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba Sized Trophy recieved a starred PW review

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Q&A With Michael Oher

I have Oher's publicist, Lindsay Gordon to thank for this quick Q&A with Oher. I did this so people would know from onset that I Beat the Odds which was released today, is a great choice for teen readers . 1. Many people read Michael Lewis's book The Blind Side, in which your story was depicted. Even more saw the movie. When I first heard about I Beat the Odds, was very excited you were telling your story. Since Hollywood tends to distort everything

When did you decide to write I Beat the Odds?

As the movie took off, I started to get a huge flood of mail from people wanting to know what I thought of it and if my life was really the way it looked on screen. I also started getting letters from kids in foster care or from families who had taken in troubled kids, and they all thanked me for being a voice for them. That really made me start to realize the need for someone to step up and speak out about the reality of life for too many kids in America. It seemed to me that maybe God was giving me the opportunity to help people by sharing not just my perspective on the story, but also to try to become the kind of role model I wish I’d had when I was growing up.

2 This is a very personal look at your early years in Memphis and growing up in foster care system. What gave you the strength to remember?

I had gotten as far as I did by trying not to remember – by putting everything behind me and not dwelling on the past. Sometimes, it’s scary to think about looking back because you’re afraid that you might get pulled back into the world you’ve fought so hard to try to escape. But if I was going to write a book about my story, it needed to be as honest as possible. I wasn’t doing this for me; I was doing it for all the other kids out there who were like me, and I wanted to give them something real.

3 What was it like working with Don Yaeger?

He was a lot of fun to work with because he knows how to ask good questions – he got me to talk about some things I’ve never really talked about – and really get to the heart of an issue, but he’s also just a funny guy. We ended up laughing a lot as we were working on things.

4. Chapter 17, On Raven's Wings begins with a great Cinderella* reference. How much grief will your teammates give you for that?

If anyone wants to give me grief about it, we can settle it by arm wrestling.

5. It was clear you were dedicated to your academics. In your sophomore year at Ole Miss, you made the Dean's list Did you like reading in college? Any favorites?

I really enjoy poetry. I would encourage young people to branch out and read poetry, short stories, novels, essays, non-fiction. You might be surprised by what appeals to you.

6. For those who may doubt the purpose and need of I Beat the Odds. You quickly set them straight in the prologue. At one point you said "In many ways, book is a guide to life, a look at how I made it to where I am today." Who did you write this guide for?

The guide is for anyone who is looking for advice about how to beat the odds. That might be a young person coming from a bad home life, or it might be a teacher or coach who wants to help that kid, or it might be a family who is looking around their community and trying to figure out who they can help. The numbers are stacked against kids growing up like I did, and I really wanted to provide a tool for any person who is committed to trying to change the future of even just one kid.

If it can give some perspective to an adult as to how better reach a troubled child, that’s great. If it can give the child some hope that he or she has the strength to overcome the odds even without a family coming to the rescue, that’s even better. It’s really for anyone who sees the problem and wants to do something about it.

Oher has several tour dates coming up. Including stops in NYC, Baltimore, Mississippi, Memphis and Atlanta.

* People like to talk about "Cinderella stories," but Cinderella didn't get her happy ending without lifting a finger. She had to show up at the ball, be charming and smooth, and win over the prince. Of course she had help along the way, but ultimately it was up to her to make the fairytale ending happen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Beat the Odds - Michael Oher

I Beat the Odds by Michael Oher
Oher just completed his second full NFL season with the Baltimore Ravens. Even if you don't watch football you've probably heard of Oher. He's the football player featured in Michael Lewis bestselling book the The Blind Side. It was also turned into a movie. Hollywood endings are nice but unedited and unscripted ones are even better.

In I Beat the Odds: from homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond, Oher gives his story. The early years growing up poor and in the foster care system in Memphis, to being one of the first in this family to go to college, then playing in NFL. The prologue begins with Oher going to Department of Children's and Service office in Memphis to visit his former caseworker. A lot people can take something away from Oher's story. It has a lot of cross over, teen appeal. I really appreciated Oher's honest and straight forward approach.

Tomorrow I will be posting a Q& A with Oher. I've linked this post to nonfiction Monday. This week's roundup can be found at Wild About Nature.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A New Release, Virtual Mentors for Writers of Color

Usually on Tuesday, I list children's and young adult new releases with kids of color or featuring a diverse cast. I had to skip last week because I had already listed what came out on Jan. 18th, the week before. This week I only found one new release.

I know there are new middle grade and young adult new releases that feature diverse casts, but unless someone tells me or I've read the book, I won't know. Since it's just one book, I was tempted to skip this week as well. Though I decided not to for two reasons. 1) the book has a great trailer, 2) This feature ties in will with a small new project author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich has started.

The Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos. illus. by Rafeal Lopez
The author and illustrator talk about the story behind the book. Its so good.

Author Rhuday -Perkovich had a great middle grade debut last year (a favorite of mine) called 8th Grade SuperZero. The author is launching a small project called Patchwork Collective Virtual Mentors.

The Patchwork Collective for Writers of Color is accepting
applications for its Virtual Mentoring Program! If you are a writer of
children’s literature looking to improve your craft and get a better
understanding of the children’s publishing industry,
read on.

A great list of children's and young adult authors will be participating.

Mentors include authors Kelly Starlings-Lyons, Y.S. Lee, N.H. Senzai,
Ebony Joy Wilkins, Jerry Craft, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Neesha
Meminger, Christine Taylor-Butler, Jennifer Cervantes, Crystal Allen,
and Rachel Renee Russell.

When asked if I could help spread the word about this, of course I said yes. Though I wanted to do a little more, so I quickly sent off a few questions.

Hi, Gbemi - This is a great idea. When did you decide to start Patchwork Collective Virtual Mentors? And Why

I thought of it last autumn, just as part of thinking of ways that people of colour in the industry can support each other, take responsibility for one another, and move ourselves forward in the

How long did it take you to put it together?

It took a couple of months to figure out. These wonderful authors have been so gracious and generous with their time, and I wanted to do my best to structure it in a way that was manageable and effective. It helped to start this way, as a very small pilot.

A lot of great author's have signed on to be mentors. Were you surprised by your peers willingness participate in something so new?

Not at all -- I had a good idea of how fabulous they are! :D I'm so grateful for their kindness, talent, patience, and serious generosity. And I know some other amazing authors and professionals who I will be asking to participate in scheduled group chats/discussion.

How will you gauge the outcome of the program?

I'll start with feedback from the participants, on both sides

(I thought I'd ask a few questions apsiring authors might have. )

Can I submit my work if I write children's nonfiction?

Yes, but remember that there are a limited number of mentors, and I will do my best to make the most appropriate matches.

Can I sumbit my work if I have a great idea for a story, and an outline?

Sure, just send that along. I won't be evaluating or critiquing your work initially. We just want an idea of the genre/age group you've been working in, in order to make the best matches, and a good sense of where you are in your pursuit of a career in children's lit -- listservs, groups, organizations, conferences, courses, etc.

Will not having a Web Site, count against me?

No, but an online presence also helps me to verify your identity. If you use a social network, etc. you can include that information.

I am familiar with the works of many of the mentor authors. Can I list one or two authors, I would like to be matched with for the program?

You can, but I will be matching according to genre first.

How often will I discuss my WIP with my mentor or the group?

Mentors have agreed to a time commitment of up to one hour a week. You
can submit work for critique ONCE during the session (10 pages or 1 picture book), and I expect that participants will be respectful of others' time and space (i.e. ten emails in one day will not be a good look).

How do I know no one will steal my idea?

As with the submission process in general, you don't. I don't think
anyone will. But if that's a big concern for you, you may not want to

What is the start and end date of this program?
Feb 7th - April 1 Submissions are from Feb 1-4th. Send ASAP!

Why is this only for children's Writers of Color?

It's just a small way of doing something to help increase our presence and the multitude of stories that we have, in the children's publishing industry. I so appreciate the encouragement and sound advice that I've gotten from so many in the kidlit community; this is
not easy work, and can be isolating. I think it's vital that we work collectively, and take the lead in addressing the challenges that we face.