Saturday, March 28, 2009

Splash Award

Susan, was kind enough to send me some blog love with the Splash Award. Thank you Susan. The Rules:
1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been splashed by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom your received your Splash award.
My nod list is short and dear I say it, sweet
1. Toni's for Sew Transformed, She's the reason why I started my blog and it always makes me happy when she has a new post.
2. Mary Ann for Great Kid Books - A California Librarian, its always a treat when I visit her site and find a new review.
3. Apryl for Women like Sports - Apryl kind enough to let me sport vent and not delete the post.
4. Author James Preller I love fan mail Wednesday
5 Nexgrl for Ghetto Library Tales She makes me laugh
I am making this a pressure free pass. So you can nominate others if like or not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mighty Casey James Preller Matthew Cordell

Mighty Casey by James Preller, illustrator Matthew Cordell I've been a very bad bad blogger. I like to check my site stats to see if and why people visit. For the past few weeks people have found their way to my blog searching baseball poems for the post a did a while back on Gene Fehler new book Change-Up Baseball Poems. I saw the hits for baseball poems, I was like cool I'll post my Might Casey review, give the people what they want. Somehow the weeks past no post. Luckily people still want baseball poems, so though this is late its not to late.
Now on to Might Casey
There is something very loveable about this team from page one. The Delmar Dogs are taking a team photo, no ones playing attention to the camera. One kid is watching a butterfly, one is sniffing his shoe that appears to have an odor, and another is reading a comic book. The Delmar Dogs are a pretty awful baseball team they do try. Still winless and down 5 runs, the teams worse player Casey Jenkins will not give in

On a team that was truly
awful, one player stood out
little Casey Jenkins was
the worst by far no doubt
It's unkind to speak ill
of a batter who can't hit
So, um, gee that Casey
he sure coud chew and spit

Inspired by Casey the team gives it their all. Turns out to be a good game with a play at the plate. Preller's words are fun and silly. The various mishaps The Delmar Dogs get into are sure to keep young listeners entertained. I know they'll laugh out loud when they see the left fielder peeing in the out field. (it really does look like pee) or another player climbing a tree. Cordell's illustrations are great, he gives life to the Delmar Dogs. From the beginning Cordell establishes who each player is in the team photo. I am in love with the illustrators detail. When a player taps his cleats clean. "tap tap" appears above the bat and you can also see the dirt falling from the shoes. I know its a little thing but it adds so much. Everytime a player swings, words appear above the bat like "Pop, Ding, Whop, or Ting" Reminding me of the old Batman cartoons on televison. Prellers text and Cordell's illustrators are a perfect fit. For kids who say they hate poetry they may change their minds after reading/hearing Mighty Casey. It makes a perfect read aloud. Ages 4up

Say The Word Jeannine Garsee

Say The Word by Jeannine Garsee When Shawna was seven her mother left her father for Fran. 10 yrs later Shawna gets a call from Fran, her mother's had a stroke. Though she hasn't seen her mother in years Shawna takes the earliest flight from Cleveland to New York. Shawna mother dies in the hospital and she replays their rocky relationship. Shawna's mother being a lesbian wasn't the reason for the distance it was caused by Shawna's mother caring more about her art then Shawna's health. Though Shawna's parents hated each other, her father takes over because he can. Shawna's father is very domineering, constantly putting her down in front of others and calling her stupid. He refuses to respect the burial wishes of a woman he once loved. Shawna's mother never changed her will, again her father takes advantages. Forcing Fran to sell her New York apartment. Fran and her sons, Arye and Schmule have no other choice but to move to Cleveland to live with a family member. This part of the story is very sad. Garsee shows what can happen when a partner in a Same Sex couple dies and the other partner has no rights. Shawna's relationship with her best friend Lee Lee is one of my favorites. When Lee Lee comes out, Shawna must confront her feelings about gay people. Does she hate gay people because her mother left her behind or did her father's family poison her with all their negative talk. Shawna and Lee Lee's relationship wasn't a quick fix, making the novel that much more believable. One thing I loved about Say The Word is Garsee never forgets the story. Sometimes authors will include issues or causes in their books but they'll overlook little things like a story line or a plot and the book becomes hard to read. Say The Word is so far from that, Garsee has written a great novel and given Shawna a wonderful voice.

The author was kind enough to share from Say The Word on her site. Its a great scene and once you read it you'll want the book even more. An excerpt

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Babe Ruth And The Baseball Curse David A Kelly

Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse by David A. Kelly Tim Jessell This is an excellent early chapter book for baseball fans. It opens with the 2003 playoffs and the Red Sox 5 outs away from the World Series. They lose to the Yankees again, the author takes this has an opportunity to go back in baseball time. He talks about Babe Ruth as a child, how he got his nick name, and what type of person he was on and off the field. As well as Ruth's success with the Red Sox, and all the heartbreaking loses after they sold him to the Yankees. There are only a few illustrations sprinkled throughout the book but they're wonderful. A nice clean classic look enhancing the story. Two of my favorites are the Cardinals player slide into home from the 1918 World Series and from the 1986 World Series when the ball rolls past Buckner. (though I may be a little biased) The author does an excellent job with this book, all the facts are there. The book includes the 2004 Playoffs, between the Yankees and the Red Sox. There's enough suspense in that series for its own book. There was almost a riot in one game, its the first time ever a team has come back from 3 games down to win a 7 games series, and Curt Schilling pitching with a bloody sock. Budding baseball fans will love Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse. For parents who are baseball fans it would make a great bedtime read for older kids. Ages 5up

Jolted Arthur Slade

Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival by Arthur Slade Slade is an awarding winning YA Canadian author. Jolted was originally published in 2008. It is now available in the United States, thank you Random House. Jolted was so much fun I couldn't stop reading.
14 yr old Newton Starker, is the last male Starker alive. The Starker's family is cursed, to be struck by lighting. Newton's father isn't in danger, its from his mother side of the family. When lighting kills Newton's mom, he gives up the safety of the family dome to attend Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival . Newton's determined to find a way to beat the lighting. The academy teaches the students to survive very dangerous situations like a plane crash or being left in the desert. Its a very interesting school, the students are required to wear Kilts because Jerry Potts, was half Scottish. Interspersed thoughout the book are emails from the headmaster to the students and excerpts from the Academy's Survival Handbook.

Take it as your mantra. But what does it mean? The eyes of any large animal contain a certain amount of water. It may be necessary to drink it, especially if you are trapped in the desert and your camel has just died. Pluck out the eyes and suck out the liquid. Squeamishness is weakness. The eye is always half full" (arc)

This book is filled with a lot of interesting characters. There's Newton evil great grand mother, who once killed lighting all seniors in the home celebrate. Newton first friend Jacob, is always writing a not so good novel. There's Violet the girl he challenges to a duel for disrespecting the Starker name. Though Newton gives Violet choice of racquetball, fencing or chess, she chooses boxing and knocks him out. Than there's Josephine Newton's very smart pig who can find anything. Like Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series chapter names are perfectly fun. Jolted is a joy from the very beginning. I loved Newton desire to find a way to defeat what has killed his family for generations. After Newton's great grand mother is struck, his father ask if he'd like to return to the dome. Newton refuses to give up and allow the lighting to win. Slade's humor is both silly and smart.

"After a lunch of ham sandwiches and coleslaw, Newton and Jacob rushed to their class, Mercantile Fitness and Survival 9. The academy buildings were in no way connected, so they were forced to go outside. It was part of the Potts plan to invigorate the students bodies and minds. In the classroom Newton sat and carefully blew his nose into a handkerchief." (arc)

I highly recommend Jolted and its reclutant reader friendly. Finally kudos to the author for adding a little diversity.

Jacob Edward Clarke was fourteen and from Halifax, Novia Scotia. His mother was from the Mi'kmag First Tribe; his father was black. In 1857, his father's ancestors had escaped slavery and come to Canada on the Underground Railroad. His grandmother had been Scottish. He wasn't certain with which bloodline he should identify, so he chose to honor all of them. (arc)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chameleon Charles R. Smith Jr.

Chameleon by Charles R. Smith Jr. - Sometimes when I start a book, I go in with reading expectations, based on a few things. Authors previous works, book synopsis, book blurbs and the book cover. When I saw Chameleon I thought it was going to be an okay read, I haven't underestimated a book this bad in a long time. I am partly to blame for this, since I didn't factor in the author previous books like Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali , awarding winning nonfiction doesn't always mean great fiction. The Chameleon cover is a nice enough cover but it doesn't do the book any justice. With a different cover I would've had higher reading expectations.
Set in the 80's, its the summer before four friends freshman year of High School. 14yr old Shawn lives with his mom in Carson. Since Shawn's mom works closer to Compton its, easier for her to drop and pick him up from his aunts, so Shawn hangs out and goes to school in Compton. Shawn spends the summer with his friends Andre, Lorenzo, and Trent. They do what teenagers do, enjoy the summer roaming their neighborhood with no responsibility. Though they do have to be careful, not to wear red or black because of the gangs. After an incident in a park the friends came up with the color check. I believe Chameleon is so good because the author is writing what he knows and does an excellent job. Shawn and his friends come across as the soon to be freshman they're suppose to be. Everything from the yo, mama jokes, to worries about high school, playing basketball, to listening at the door as an older brother is having sex, to jumping a fence to steal pomegranates and of course the small lies Shawn must tell to keep his summer freedom. A dog bites Shawn's sneaker, turning a hi -top into a low top when he was freeing pomegranates from a tree.

"What am I gonna tell Mama? I'll be at Auntie's soon. I got to think of a story. Fast. Let's see I hopped a fence to get our ball and my shoe got caught. Nah. Which fence was I hopping? And why was I hopping it? That won't work. Think Shawn Think. Wait instead of it being an accident maybe I did it on purpose. Mama's always getting on my case because I want the latest fashion and stuff, so what if this is a new style for sneakers? What if I cut them down on my own to be in style? Yeah thats good that could work. "

Though Shawn's parents are divorced he still spends a lot of time with his dad. When Shawn comes home with a black eye from a fight he only tells his mom part of the story but he tells his dad everything. There aren't many young adult novel where Black male teen have male figures to look up to, throughout the book many pass on positive knowledge to Shawn. Not only does Shawn have his dad to tell him about girls,sex, how to give an earn respect and answer his questions about life, he also has the men at the barbershop and his friends older brothers.
Smith writes a great back drop.

"A handful of people were sprinkled throughout the park, including two older men in fedoras playing dominoes on a bench. A little girl with a rainbow of barrettes in her hair squealed in a swing pushed by her father. A honey colored toddler wearing only a sagging diaper around chased by his young mother. A tall, slender man in an all black outfit practiced karate kicks on the green grass beneath one of the larger trees. He reminded me of a black Bruce Lee."

Before the black eye Shawn was suppose to go to High School in Compton, now his parents are going to let him decide Compton or Carson. It's a difficult decision his friends are in Compton and there's Marisol the girl he likes and he's starting to realize she feels the same. However Shawn is tired of the gangs and picking up after his alcoholic aunt. Smith has created a smart and strong character in Shawn, who is more then capable of deciding what high school he will attend.
As I read, Chameleon kept getting better. Smith doesn't try to do anything special and I think that's what makes this so great. It's a very smooth and easy read, that young readers will love. There are many things to love about this novel. Shawn likes to read, his mom works at college so she gets book recommendations from a professor. Shawn talks of enjoying Ellison's Invisible Man. At his Dad's house he spots a recommended title, Malcolm X on the book shelve and picks it up. Shawn shares some of what he learns in the book. I love Shawn's imagination, when he replays the incident in the park that created the color check Shawn becomes the hero. I love that Shawn and his friends have distinct personalities. Even on the basketball court Smith distinguishes between their game. Smith has written a great and well needed coming of age story. I highly recommend Chameleon. Ages 12up

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Magic Thief Lost Sarah Prineas

Magic Thief #02: The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas, This is one of the sequels I was really looking forward to this year and it did not dissappoint. I loved Magic Thief. Prineas has created a excellent character in Connwaer (Conn) , he's street and book smart, far from perfect, honest, an expert thief/ lock picker and connected to the magic of city. This book begins where the first one left off. The city of Wellmet is being attacked by Shadowmen who are turning people into stone. Conn must figure out who is sending them. To give you more then that I'd have to go over book one and thats just too much work. Though I will say I love this series and the characters. Its reluctant reader friendly. The author includes some very nice sword fights in book two . I am not a big fantasy fan so if you know a young reader who is anti fantasy put The Magic Thief in their hands. Its a fun action fulled fantasy with a mystery wrapped inside.
Ages 9up

Check out Magic Thief Site and read the first chapter in book one.
Magic Thief Lost -scheduled release date is 5/12

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Reading Coincidences

Many times the same/similar character names will appear in back to back books. I've asked a few of my co-workers if this happens to them but they all said, no. I was also told I needed to add a little nonfiction to my reading diet so this wouldn't happen. Though I find this similar/same name coincidence very strange, and no I am not talking about the name Hannah since that's a very popular YA name. Lets take the last book I just finished Chameleon by Charles Smith and one I've just started Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee. Chameleon came out in 2008, it wasn't even on my reading radar, (because I didn't know about it )but I was returning a book to the library,it was there so I check it out. Its set in the 80's in L.A about four teenagers who hang out in Compton. The main characters name is Shawn. Now cut to today, I start Say the Word, which was definitely on reading radar. About a 17yr old must deal with the death of her estranged lesbian mother. The main characters name is Shawna. I mean come on, what are the chances I would read these back to back. They are both books I'd read, but doesn't everything have to be aligned correctly for this to happen. Then you factor in the whole library check out thing, and the odds get smaller. I've been to that library branch before and I've never seen Chameleon until that day. If your thinking this only happens because I read so much YA, well you'd be mistaken, cause I can continue the connection. I recently finished Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead. Its set in the 80's. Whitehead tells how teenage boys would scream out Dang for any injustice. Throwing in a few good Dangs to prove his point. Now let me rewind back to Chameleon which thanks to being set in the 80's ,Shawn and his friends said Dang, a lot. So I again I ask you what are the chances I would read Chameleon and Sag Harbor within the same week. Mind you Sag Harbor isn't due to come out in April. Do these reading coincidences happen to anyone else?

Friday, March 20, 2009

FlyGirl Sherri Smith

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith Last month I won contest over at diversity rocks. The prize a book of my choice and it was very easy decision. I've been wanting to read Flygirl for awhile now, its getting great reviews from other bloggers. I made the right choice, Flygirl is an excellent read. Ida Mae Jones dreams of flying but its the 1940's, she's Black and she's not a man. When her Ida Mae's dad was alive he taught her to fly. Ida Mae sprays the family crops with the small family plane but its not enough. America enters WWII, everyone must sacrifice for the war effort, meaning no gas for the plane. Ida Mae's older brother Thomas enlist in the war. Ida Mae wants to do more than collect stockings to help end the war and bring her brother home. Ida Mae wants to fly planes for the army and she won't let her race or gender stop her from living her dream. She makes the difficult decision to pass for White and joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). There are many things to love about Flygirl, like the historical fiction aspect. Smith shares the history of the WASP program and its pioneers like Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love. Smith smoothly fits in this information hearing about Bessie Coleman doesn't slow the pace of the novel. Early on the author gives the reader a great idea of who Ida Mae is, her close connection to her family and best friend, Jolene. Making it easier to understand how much harder it is for Ida Mae to pass, because to pass means denying the people she loves. Though Ida Mae got her families blessing she still questions if she made the right choice. In the WASP program Ida Mae makes some very close friends with two other flygirls Lily and Patsy. I loved the care Smith took in building these friendships. It reminds me of another book I loved Freefall by Levine. Smith allows the reader to hear Ida Mae's fears and doubt, has she juggles two identities. Ages 10up

More Reviews
Finding Wonderland
Presenting Lenore

If Flygirl sounds good two upcoming releases you may enjoy
Soldier's Secret: The Story of Deborah Sampson by Sheila Solomon Klass - In 1700 Sampson disguises herself as a man to fight in the war. Release date March 31
Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis - A grandmother tells her story of being apart of African American battalion of Women's Army Corp during WWII. Released scheduled for June

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Such Thing as the Real World

No Such Thing as the Real World -This is a collection of short stories by six bestselling YA authors An Na , M. T. Anderson ,K. L. Going , Beth Kephart , Chris Lynch and Jacqueline Woodson . These are stories about what separates childhood from the real world. Like poetry there's precision in short story writing. Though I've always loved poetry its only been the last few years that I've come around to short stories. No Such Thing as the Real World is a wonderful collection, and if read will ensure readers are short story fans for life. The stories are short but not incomplete, I never felt cheated out of a paragraph. I enjoyed all the stories, though I do have my favorites.
Survival by K.L. Going Rachel is class president, and set to give the graduation speech. She just witnessed her sister, Sarahing Kenneth, the best friend/crush. This short story chronicles Rachel's difficult relationship with her sister and Kenneth. What I loved about Survival was the author ability to get across how evil and spiteful Sarah was, it was very easy to get behind Rachel. I am hardly doing the author any justice, there is so much more to story. Once you start reading you won't want to stop. Its very well crafted, Going gives us a glimpse of Rachel and Sarah as children, you can almost see the teens they will become and the inevitable state of the relationship.
The Longest Distance by Beth Kephart is my favorite story in this collection. I loved this story. Hannah best friend Joelle has committed suicide. Hannah is left wondering, all she has is the senior thesis on time to keep her occupied. She doesn't want it to end, making it twice has long as the required length. I won't even try to tell you how simply beautiful The Longest Distance is, because I will fail, you'll simply have to trust me. Kephart fits every emotion from truth, fear, saddness, sorrow, hope, freedom and a fewI forgot. I truly wish I could share but I have a no sharing on short story rule. Since every word means so much more I don't want to spoil anything.
Arrangements by Chris Lynch- this was the perfect story to read after The Longest Distance - Charlie Waters Jr is burying his dad. My first thought when I read this was no, I can't take another death but there is no saddness in Arrangements. Charlie Waters Jr is taking over the family pawnbrokers business, where a lot of interesting characters come in and hardly any money is made. Its funny, light and thoughtful. While reading Arrangments many times I was reminded of I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak.
No Such Thing as the Real World is great collection of stories. These best selling authors may even inspire teen readers to write a story of their own. HarperCollins has a short story contest for teens between the ages of 14 -19, the winning story maybe published in the paperback edition of No Such Thing as the Real World. The contest is mentioned on the back cover. I went to te website for more information, though I only found a little. Writing Contest
No Such Thing as the Real World will be released on 4/21, Ages 13 up
While you wait you may check out or recommend another wonderful collection of short stories UP All Night, inculdes stories by Libba Bray and David Levithan

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Leaving GloryTown Eduardo F Calcines

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines Eduardo's family lived in the city of Cienfuegos, settled in a barrio know as Glorytown. He was only three when Castro came into power in 1959. He lived with his parents and younger sister and surrounded by extended family. Eduardo is very close to his family especially his grandparents. Besides the family relationships, I loved Eduardo's friendship with his cousin Luis and brothers Rolando and Tito. The fact that the brother's father was a communist matter not. The four were very close all dreaming of there own kind of freedom. Eduardo talks of the changes that came to Cuba when Castro came into power. The long lines and food rations. People being unjustly arrested. The loudspeakers installed around the city, so The Voice could speak for hours. How families throughout Cuba were torn apart.

Mama would tell us story of the time Peruchito (cousin) came to visit Abuela Ana and Abuelo Julian in full military dress. As he walked through the front door, he noticed that the framed photograph of Fidel he'd sent was no where to be found. "Abuela!"he said, "Where is the photo of El Commandante? You should take down this picture of Jesus and replace it with Fidel. He is the only one who can save us, not some long haired Jew!" "Look young man," she said "The photo of your so called leader is in the back room facedown with a glass of water over it." Placing a photograph facedown meant "rest in peace" in this case expressing a with that fidel would die. It was about as antirevolutionary a statement as one could make. And the glass of water with no flowers in it meant no one would miss Fidel if he died. Peruchito turned and walked out of the house, never to return. We wondered if he would report his grandmother, but nothing ever came of the incident.

Eduardo's father applied for an exit visa from the government in 1966. The Calcines family endured many taunts and abuse for this act.Eduardo's father was forced to work in the cane fields. Leaving Glorytown is very good by the time the Calcines family boards the plane for America you feel their loss, hope and excitement. Leaving GloryTown fills an important void, there aren' t many books about Castro and Cuba for young readers. Ages 10up
Leaving GloryTown will be released on March 31

Book Contest

LaTonya from Color Online with post an interview with author Zetta Elliott on March 20. Three people can win a signed copy of A Wish Before Midnight. The deadline to enter is March 25. There is only one comment so far so the odds are in your favor, so go on over and enter Win a book

I Don't Mess W/ Pigeons

I won't cross the street when I see a bunch of pigeons but they do freak me out. Remember when there was a time when you could run into a large group of pigeons and they'd all fly away scared. Not anymore, now the pigeons don't even blink and a few of the bolder ones will walk towards you with a MF what attitude. So when I see pigeons chillin out together I leave them alone. It freaks me out when pigeons prefer to walk over flying .Why walk when you can fly, its almost as if a few are trying to evolve into walking birds. I don't think walking is an improvement over flying, though the pigeons walking across the street would probably disagree.

Sag Harbor Colson Whitehead

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead - When this advanced reader copy (arc) came in I had to wait my turn, Toni had dibs since she introduced me to Whitehead. Besides if I tried to take it home first she probably would've cut me for it, if you've ever read Whitehead you'd know I am only half joking. Sag Harbor is an autobiographical coming of age novel. Set in the summer of 1985 brothers 15 yr old Benji and 14 yr old Reggie Cooper are left relatively unsupervised at the summer family home in Sag Harbor. The brothers hang out with their friends, nothing major happens that part of the beauty of it. Whitehead's writing of the everyday and ordinary is amazing, thoughful, entertaining and funny as hell. Reading Whitehead is like listening to improv jazz. One minute your fully lost in the beautiful sound, then the artist takes you somewhere else you have no idea where they're going but it still sounds so good, if you're lucky enough you'll grasp every note and nuances, finally they pull it back to the beginning and all you can think is damn that was freakin amazing.
Sag Harbor would be a great suggestions for older teens. They'll easily be able to relate to Benji's first job experience, new found parental freedom and the logic by which Benji and his friends survive the summer. Teen readers may not get everything but they'll get more then enough to enjoy it. So please if you're a high school English teacher who has a summer reading list add Sag Harbor to it. Speaking of summer reading list (subtle transitions, I know ) I am tired of seeing the same Black authors every year. I know these list are updated because I since new books like Kite Runner, The Namesake and Secret Life of Bees. The only Black author I've seen added with any consistency is Zadie Smith. Its a literary slap in the face

Its time to add new Black authors to a reading list
If majority on the list wrote in time of prohibition or suffrage movement
If majority on the list wrote when Zoot Suits were all the rave or Swing was king
And if the answers yes, please check out White Readers Meet Black Authors

Sag Harbor's release date 4/28
PW Starred Review
Kirkus Review

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Contest

YA author Jeannine Garsee has a book contest going on to promote her upcoming release Say the Word. I absolutely loved Garsee first novel Before, After, and Somebody in Between ,which is now available in paperback. Last month when I heard the author had a new book coming out I gave a happy squeal. Now the Garsee is giving readers a chance to win a signed copy of her new book, Say The Word

Here's some info on Say The Word from Powells ( makes me want it even

Dredging up the past can knock the present right off balance.
The world expects perfection from seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher, and for the most part, that’s what they get. She dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father’s every rule. But when her estranged lesbian mother dies, it’s more than perfect Shawna can take. Suddenly, anger from being abandoned ten years ago is resurfacing along with Shawna’s embarrassment over her mother’s other family. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there’s a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.
Shawna’s honest and relatable voice will draw readers in and hold them until the last page in this coming-of-age story. Jeannine Garsee has delivered a compulsively readable second novel, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson.

After her estranged lesbian mother dies, 17-year-old Shawna Gallagher's anger from being abandoned 10 years before resurfaces. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there's a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grammy Winning Artist Launches Online Book Club For Young Readers

Toni was kind enough to send me the link to the Felicia Pride article about Common launching an online book club, the Corner Book Club. One book is chosen each month, they are currently on the seventh book. I went ahead and joined the mailing list. I was already a Common fan but this makes me like him even more. Common using his popularity to encourage reading and book discussions is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Fold An Na

The Fold by An Na What is beauty? In every country the measure of beauty varies. The Fold opens with the main character, Joyce stressing over a pimple before school. I loved this beginning, no matter who you are or where your parents are from everyone can relate to pimples. Its the last day, Joyce wants to look perfect when she ask her crush John Ford Kong, one of the few popular Koreans in school to sign her yearbook. John mistakes Joyce for the least put together Korean girl in school. Joyce is devastated by this and begins to question her beauty. Not soon after Joyce Aunt Gomo wins the lottery. She gotten so much work done, Joyce and her younger brother, Andy call her Michael behind her back. Gomo shares are winnings with the family, buying them all self improvement gifts. Andy is given shark liver extract pills, so he can grow taller and play in the NBA. Joyce's dad is given lifts in his shoes. There is one day when half the family is injured thanks to the gifts. Gomo offers Joyce Blepharoplasty or plastic surgery to give the appearance of an extra crease in her eye fold. It would make Joyce's eyes look bigger giving her a more American look. I really enjoyed The Fold, Joyce goes back and forth about having the surgery but the author never forgets she's telling a story. The Fold will have a reader laughing, while considering what beauty is and what they're willing to change for it. Joyce is a very likeable and real character. An Na surrounds her with a wonderful caring family and a great best friend in Gina. Ages 12up

Monday, March 9, 2009

Too Funny

So I will do my best to write this so it doesn't lose anything in translation.

A customer comes in, right a way I know he's a tourist. 1st clue the small carry on with wheels, 2nd clue the accent. Mr. Tourist comes back about twenty minutes later. While ringing him up, Mr Tourist ask me about a co worker upstairs. At first I am confused why he's asking. In my confusion I missed the first half of the description. When he describes the person as having a big belly I know not talking about a coworker. So now I really confused and slighty worried since bookstores attract some very strange characters. Anyway Mr. Tourist said this non employee (NE) was following him why he shopped. Mr. Tourist in under the impession that this NE is undercover loss prevention employee (LP). When Mr. Tourist said this I wanted to say sir, they can barely afford to pay the staff as is, there is no LP. All I said was "we don't have anyone working undercover LP." I don't think Mr. Tourist believed me. And it didn't help ny case when Mr. Tourist said, he's right behind me now to my left. I look behind Mr. Tourist turns out NE is a former employee (FE). About 6 or 7 yrs ago FE was a shelver. My first thought when I saw who Mr. Tourist was talking about was why didn't you say he was Black to begin with. Anyway I thought it too long and unneccsary of an explantion to say FE worked at the bookstore years ago. So I simply told Mr. Tourist. that, the man wasn't undercover LP. Though I still don't think he believed me. And it didn't help my case any when Mr. Tourist went to leave , FE decided it was a good time to browse a table closer to the exit. Then Mr. Tourist walks back over, and says you "see, watch I'll go to the door and he'll follow." At this point I really had no idea what was going on, maybe the manager did rehire FE to work LP.
I was trying really hard not to laugh because it really did look like FE was following Mr. Tourist. And its not everyday a White customer swears they're being followed by a Black LP employee.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mudville Kurtis Scaletta

Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta A rain out of rival game between Moundville and Sinister Bend turned into 22 straight years of rain for Moundville. Roy's dad was the last hitter before the rain began to fall. 12 yr old Roy is a catcher though thanks to rain there's no baseball in Moundville. The book opens with Adam returning from baseball camp. When he gets home his dad surprises him with a Sturgis, a foster brother. Strugis face is scared, and he's very secretive about his past.

"So Sturgis," my dad says, "do you want to tell Roy more about yourself?" Sturgis gives me a long, careful look. "I'm a foster kid. Yov'e probably seen TV movies about us" "I don't know maybe one or two." "Well there you go"

Roy's mom couldn't stand the rain, she travels the world has a flight attendant checking in with the occasional post card or phone call. Soon after Roy's return and Sturgis arrival the rain suddenly stops. The kids of Moundville form a baseball team with Roy as captain. Most have never played before, Roy must teach them the basics. Sturgis is the teams ace, striking out anyone with his fastball. The goodness of Mudville snuck up on me, its about more then baseball. In between the games Roy's dad teaches him to respect the hardwork of others. Roy learns what really goes into getting a baseball field ready.

"I knew you were in over your head when you talked about fixing up the old ball field, but I want you to thank the groundskeepers and sign autographs for their children. Those guys could be your own grandfather. Heck, they could be me. When fans turn out, think about how hard you weekend this week and remember they worked that hard all week to take their family to a ball game."

I loved Roy, he came across has the 12 yr old he was supposed to be. It was a joy watching him juggle captain and catcher duties. The Moundville team were an interesting bunch of characters including an ambidextrous infielder, who doesn't know left from right and a Cuban 3rd baseman nicknamed google -search me is his answer to everything. Though Roy likes the relief pitcher Rita who can't throw straight but has a wicked backward curveball thanks to a tennis injury, he doesn't let it affect his captain duties. Slowly the team gets better and the inevitable happens they are challenged by Sinister Bend. Moundville has lost over 100 straight games to Sinister Bend, the town rallies beyond the new team hoping for a different outcome. I really enjoyed Mudville, Scaletta's writing is very good and seamlessly layered. If the reader is willing there are lessons to be learned but the author doesn't force it. Roy's friend Adam from baseball camp sends him a signed baseball from Kansas City. There was a mix up the ball meant for Adam is signed by baseball great Buck Oneil. (I gotta love a baseball book that fits in a Negro League reference) Adam's coach is in aww of the signature, and Roy gets a different ball.

"I told Coach to keep that baseball, and I got another ball signed for you. My ball is signed by Montgomery Daniels, full time barber and part time baseball coach. "

I was a little choked up at this part, what can I say, I am no Tom Hanks. I highly recommand Mudville. Ages 10up

My Favorite Author Mudville Review

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Skunkgirl Sheba Karim

Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim 15yr old Nina Khan is Pakistani Muslim girl who wants to obey her parents and have a little fun. The Khan's live in Deer Hook, a small town in upstate New York. Nina is not looking forward to junior year thanks to strict parents and older sister Sonia, the genius. She thinks this year to be a lot of SAT prep work and no parties on the weekend. Some YA second generation Americans books fall into a cliche trap. Where the main character must excel in academics, with strict parents they hate and a one dimensional story line In this debut novel Karim finds a beautiful balance avoiding the predictable. Nina is a very good student but her grades are never mentioned. She doesn't like all her parents rules but doesn't hate them for it. Karim doesn't portray the parents has strict and unfeeling, she remembers to show their softer side. Nina embraces who she is and is not ashamed of being a Pakistani Muslim. I also love that the author took the time to fully develop Nina's best friends Bridget and Helena with distinguishable personalities. Through their friendship we learn more about Nina, who is fun, smart and hairy. When puberty hits Nina hair follicles go into over drive.

"One, morning freshman year I woke up and was covered in hair. The hair was in vary degrees of thickness and density. I fell asleep a human and woke a gorilla."

Nina dubs herself skunk girl, after Asher, the boy she likes notices a strip of hair running down the center of her back. Skunk girl was a very fun read filled with a lot of laugh out loud moments. March 31 is the scheduled release date.
More on Skunk Girl

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott I've started to wait a few days after finishing a book before doing a post. So I can marinate on what I've read and allow the words fully sink in. When I finished A Wish After Midnight I was very satisfied and felt it was a very good novel. Four days later with the novel still fresh in my head and flipping through the book , I realize I may not of given the book enough credit.
15 yr old Genna lives in a one bedroom apartment with her mother and three siblings. Her mother struggles to make enough money so the family can move to a better neighborhood. Genna does her part by staying out of trouble, getting good grades, looking after younger brother, Tyjuan. She finds solace in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Genna befriends another Garden regular Mr. Christiansen an older white man. Mr Christiansen seemed like a nice man at first I couldn't understand why his appearance was so short. Then I remembered this isn't a book about a troubled black girl who needs a nice old white man to teach her importance of dreaming. I believe Elliott includes this character, hoping the reader will learn from Genna to judge individuals on their merits not their race, gender or other things they can't control.
Genna is not poisoned by her mother's hatred of white people.

"I don't want to think like Mama. I try not to lump Hannah and all white people together cause that's exactly what I don't want people doing to me. I want people to accept me for who I am with my own ways, and my own ideas and my own future that's separate from everything else going on. Separate from Rico dealing drugs and Toshi acting fast and Papi walking out on us. Separate from where I live or how I dress or the color of my skin. I'm not ashamed of none of those things. I just want people to see all of who I am, and not just the messed up parts."

With her wishes Genna dreams of a better future and forgets what waits for her when she leaves the garden. This book is essentially in two parts Genna in present day, Genna in 1863. When I finished the book, I enjoyed the second half so much I wished Genna time travelled sooner. Though now as I look back on it I appreciate Genna in the present day. Elliott fully developments Genna , allowing the reader to feel more connected to the character. This is a very smart move on the authors part, whether or not the reader is a fan of historical fiction is irrelevant because they'll be fulling invested in the character. Genna's tall, shy and thanks to a lack of slang her peers thinks she's not black enough. She doesn't hang out will anyone from school, until Judah comes along. Judah is different, and he appreciates Genna. Their relationship is steadily growing, then Genna makes the wish. It comes about in anger and confusion. When Genna's mom slaps her for a wrong not committed Genna goes to the Garden. Apparently Genna isn't the only one who uses the Garden as a sanctuary at the midnight hour Genna sees ghosts. I love the idea of lost souls finding peace in a Garden, there aren't too many quiet places in NY. Soon after Genna comes to grips with what surrounds her, she transported back to Brooklyn 1863. Before Genna can be sold into slavery someone claims she's a Reverends niece. Genna is taken to an orphanage, she needs days to recover from serious back wounds. I kept waiting for the author to say what happened to Genna's back, an explanation never came and feel like I missed a piece of the puzzle. Genna ends up working and living with the orphanage doctor, Dr Brant. Runaway slaves make their way to Brooklyn and Dr Brant does what he can to help. While helping one day Genna finds Judah. I love what Elliott did with the second half of the book. Genna stays true to who she is, even in 1863 she speaks her mind and fights back. Elliott gives Judah a little competition with Paul, a blued eyed black boy. Genna had the power to wish Judah into another century that's some serious love but I still found myself rooting for Paul. At times in 1863 Brooklyn Judah seemed a little stubborn, and he wasn't considering Genna's feelings. When I think of the civil war I usually think about the south. Elliott touches upon the unrest in New York. When the New York Drafts riots hits Manhattan many people flee to Brooklyn. Genna and Judah get caught up in the riot that threatens to find its way to Brooklyn. The author reminds us that there's much history to be found in Brooklyn beyond the Polo Grounds and the Brooklyn Bridge. A Wish Before Midnight is a wonderful novel, giving the reader much to enjoy, think about and learn.
A Wish Before Midnight is self published, (stop rolling your eyes) There are no typos or grammatical errors so don't be deterred that this book hasn't found a home yet. Just think of yourself has being ahead of the curve. So later when someone tells you they've read great new book A Wish After Midnight, you can say you've already read it. Zetta Elliott is also the author of the awarding winning children's book Bird, an ALA notable children's book of 2009
Buy A Wish After Midnight Now available at amazon

An Update (Oct 2009) I originally wrote this review in March. Several months later there are more reviews of A Wish After Midnight online. It's nice to see this wonderful story is finding an audience. I called it in March, when I said just think of yourself as being ahead of the curve giving A Wish After Midnight a chance. Now its catching on.

More Reviews
All of these reviews for a self published book that's pretty darn good. And it doesn't end there -

Authors Thoughts on A Wish After Midnight