Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yummy G. Neri. Randy DuBurke

Yummy by G. Neri. illus. by Randy DuBurke
This is the true story of 11 yr old Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, last days. In 1994, while shooting at a rival Chicago gang, Yummy killed a girl in the neighborhood. Yummy went on the run. This story was national news. The Time Magazine article via the author's site.

"The mayor of Chicago admitted that Yummy had slipped through the cracks. Just what cracks were those? The sharp crevices that trap children and break them into cruel little pieces. Chicago's authorities had known about Yummy for years. He was born to a teenage addict mother and a father now in jail. As a baby he was burned and beaten. As a student he often missed more days of school than he attended. As a ripening thug he shuttled between homes and detention centers and the safe houses maintained by his gang. The police arrested him again and again and again; but the most they could do under Illinois law was put him on probation. Thirteen local juvenile homes wouldn't take him because he was too young. "

Neri uses, Roger a ficitional narrator to guide us through Yummy's last days. 11 yr old Roger wants to understand how a classmate's life could've gone so wrong. In his search for answers we see many sides of Yummy. There is the young boy who loved sweets. (hence the nickname) The boy who stole cars and ran the streets. The boy who had a teddy bear in Juvenile detention. And finally the boy who after three days of hiding from the police, all he wanted to do was go home.

Guns drugs and violence are talked about throughout. Neri doesn't glamorize or down play the gang activity, he simply tells it as is. Neri's fictional narrator isn't impressed by gangs. Roger, actually worries about his older brother who was in the gang Yummy joined.

This graphic novel is very well crafted. DuBurke's illustrations add another dimension to this biography. Neri and DuBurke capture the powerful and sad truth of Yummy's life and death in Southside Chicago. I found myself lingering on many of the passages and panels. I loved it. Ages 11up

Yummy has received a star review from Kirkus Reviews and ALA Booklist. Read a preview and the professionals reviews via publisher's site.

On Sunday, I will be posting the second part of a three part blogger interview with G. Neri on Yummy. I joined with Edi from Crazy Quilts and Ari from Reading in Color.

Part one can be found at Crazy Quilts

Check out this rap by Solution about Yummy

Friday, July 30, 2010

Coming Soon

I don't normally do coming soon post, though I figured I would do one now since I have posted in a bit.

I will be posting an review and 3 blogger interview of G. Neri upcoming release Yummy lThe other two bloggers participating in the interview are Edi from Crazy Quilts and Ari from Reading in Color.

The group interview was Edi's idea. When she suggested it I was like duh, thats a great idea. Though I was worried how it would turn out. If you have ever read any of my interviews you know I like to ask a lot of questions. This time we all limited ourselves to three questions. And I think it came out really well. Edi had questions 1-3, 4-6 were mine and Ari had 4-6. We saw each others questions before they were sent off to the authors. So there is a cohesiveness to them. Even more so because I wrote my questions after seeing Edi's and Ari's wrote hers after seeing mines.

A picture book biography I loved recently is Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson. My review. Johnson was kind enough to agree to an interview will be posting that in the near future.

With school starting soon, I was planning to do a diverse list of picture books in school settings. Like Two of a Kind by Jacqui Robbins and The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi.

Of course there will be more reviews. I haven't forgotten my new release feature yet. Since I missed a week, there are alot of new kids books featuring kids of color to mention. Will post on Tuesday, since that is the day new books come out.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crossing Xia Fukuda

Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda
Freshman Xing Xu is one of two Chinese students at his upstate N.Y. high school. Xing goes by the name Kris since no one can pronounce his Chinese name. Xing is a quiet loner. His family immigrated to America when he was a child and Xing has yet to feel connected to his new home. Even, Xing's only friend Naomi Lee, who he once called an FOB. (fresh off the boat) as adjusted easily to life in America.

"But it was not only her name I secretly envied. She now spoke English with a pitch perfect accent. I'd been in America two years longer than she, in fact, but you wouldn't know it from the heavily accented Chinglish I used. Her English was Julie Chen perfect, mine was Jackie Chan cumbersome"

Xing doesn't talk in school, many people think he can't speak English. Xing is bullied for being different. When students begin to go missing and are murdered, including a few who used to tease Xing, he becomes a suspect.

A new student, Jan Blair joins the class on the first day of school. Blair is bullied and called names. Even Xing does what he can to avoid any association with her, for fear of being taunted even more. Jan Blair is called Blair Witch (after the movie)
I had a problem with this cruel intentions only nickname. Blair Witch (a very bad horror movie) was in the late 90's. As far as I know its not considered a classic movie that's still being referenced. So the nickname felt dated.

I loved the premise of Crossing. However I didn't enjoy this book as much as I would've liked. I found the chapter transitions a little abrupt. I thought Xing Xu was a great character. His struggles living in America one of my favorite parts of the novel. Originally and understudy, Xing gets the lead in the choir when another classmate goes missing.

There were points in the novel where Xing's voice was very clear. The author allowed me to truly understand Xing. However, many times I thought the author was onto something with Xing but rather than explore it more the moments were stopped. I would've like to see Xing's relationship with his father development a little more. Since Xing's father was the one who wanted to come to America. Did America live up to the father's dreams or was he disappointed like his son.

"Your father thought puberty robbed you of your voice. But it wasn't puberty, was it? It was America." I sat stunned. My father had never told me this. There were times when I had sensed his encouragement for me to sing and in latter years, his disappointment when I refused to. "

Though the missing and murdered classmates of Xing weren't the focus of the novel. As a lover of mysteries, I still expected the author to develop this storyline as well as he could have. The author did a good job of keeping my interest when describing all the missing students and when the bodies were found. However, I was little dissappointed when I discovered who the murderer was.

This is Fukuda's first novel. Xing made this novel for me. As I said before there were some great moments that really showed the author writing ability. I look forward to reading more by Fukuda.

3 review by bloggers who really enjoyed Crossing

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On Sale Now :New Releases

I don't have any on going features. Since the people haven't spoken, I simply post on whims Though this is the second week I've highlighted releases featuring kids of color. I figure two more week I can call it a feature.

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin - I loved Lin's Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I am looking forward to reading her first early reader. There aren't enough early readers that feature kids of color.

Recently many people were upset with the cover change of Cindy Pon's YA debut Silver Phoneix. Because of poor sales the Asian girl on the cover was removed. The paperback cover was Whitewashed. Its not enough to scream after the fact that you will support covers with kids of cover on them. So please go ahead and look for, buy and support Ling &Ting. Speaking with our wallets is the only way diversity will continue. And I want to see more early readers with kids of color.

Around Our Way on Neighbor's Day by Tameka Fryer Brown illus. by Charlotte Riley-Webb

This is Brown's picture book debut. In the description on Amazon oxtail stew is being cooked up. That makes me happy, hungry and very interested. ( I wonder if they had plantains to go with the Oxtails)
The picture book market is not very good right now. So if you want Around Our Way on Neighbor's Day, chances are you will have to order it at your local bookstore. If you want the book, don't let that stop you from buying it.

Mali Under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Home by Youme Landowne

New Girl in Town (Liberty Porter First Daughter) by Julia DeVillers - This is the second book in the Liberty Porter series. I've gotten around to reading the first book yet. Though I will give this series a go now, after reading the excerpt

Sellout by Ebony Joy Wilkins - Ari's review

What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson Ari's review

New in Paperback

A Perfect Season for Dreaming by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee

Here are my rules that can change at any moment for this possible weekly feature. Chances are I will miss new releases, when I do I will showcase them the following week. I will also only show the paperbacks of books I loved or author I love. If can't find enough new releases, I will skip a week.

Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria - Kyra E. Hicks - Lee Edward Fodi

Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria by Kyra E. Hicks - illus. by Lee Edward Fodi
This is the story of Martha Ann Ricks. Martha Ann was born around 1817 on a Tennessee plantation. When Marth Ann's father learns about a group called the American Colonization Society which will help enslaved Blacks start a new life in the African country of Libera, the family begins to save every penny. The family finally makes their way to freedom and Libera in 1830.

Martha Ann's parents die of the African fever. Martha Ann decides to make them proud by making a quilt for Queen Victoria. The Queen sent in a navy to try and stop slavery, the quilt was Martha Ann's way of saying thank you. Martha Ann saved her coins and worked on that quilt for years. When Martha Ann was 76 she finally made the trip to see the Queen and present the quilt

This is the first picture book I've read where American Colonization society and slaves escaping to Libera is mentioned. I really enjoyed Martha Ann's quilt. Fodi's illustrations were just okay for me. Though Hicks text was strong enough to overcome this, she writes a great story. The story is filled with a lot of information about Mary Ann Hicks and her life in Liberia.

Marth Ann's father saving every coin for the families trip to Libera, and than Martha Ann saving every coin to visit the Queen - I was reminded of A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. William. I think the two books might make a good pairing.

Hicks has a newer book out illus. by Bill Gaskins called This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers' Bible Quilt and Other Pieces I am not familiar with Harriet Powers. Though after looking at a few of her pieces I want to know more. Plus the cover of This I Accomplish is gorgeous.

Though I haven't seen it yet, I think This I Accomplish would go well with Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt by Patricia McKissack. Since both are picture book stories about famous quilters.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Seth Baumartner's Love Manifesto Eric Luper

Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto by Eric Luper
Seth is by dumped his girlfriend at Applebees. While there Seth sees his father having lunch with a strange woman. With nothing going right with his love life Seth decides to start an anonymous late night podcast call The Love Manifesto.

Seth doesn't even tell, his best friend Dimitri the name of his show. Though Dimitri figures it out, as do other people. When that happens Seth has some explaining to do. Until then Seth talks freely about what's going on in his life. Including the many reasons why he loved his ex, and what he thinks of his father's mysterious friend.

I really enjoyed this book. Its great balance of funny and serious. Seth is a great realistic and believable character. He cares about his show and really wants to know why his relationship didn't work out. Seth is on his fifth summer job. This time he's working at the golf pro shop at the country club.

The author does an excellent job with the various relationship. Seth's relationship with his father is a little rocky. Seth's father is constantly telling him what he needs to do to be successful. The two with be participating in a golf competition at the country club. I really liked Seth's friendship with Dimitri and Dimitri's younger sister Audrey.

This is one of those books I appreciated that much more a few days after I finished it. Looking back on Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto, I realized I am not familiar with many YA books where the father and son's relationship is apart of the storyline. Also the dialogue was spot on good. Eric Luper has simply written a really great story. I highly recommand for reluctant reader guys. Ages 13 up.
Read an excerpt

Sunday, July 11, 2010

NerdsHeartYA - 2nd Round

This is the second year of the NerdsHeartYA tournament. It started with 32 YA books published in 2009. All the books got little fanfare. Hopefully this will bring some much needed attention to some very good books.

First Round Results. For this second round bracket, I must decide between

Almost Perfect by Brain Katcher

Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee

I will start with Say the Word, since I read it first. I had already read Say The Word and I really enjoyed it. I was looking forward to reading it again. Though this time I read it with a more critical eye.

Shawna is being raised by her father in Ohio. Shawna was seven, when are mother leaves her father for another woman. Now 10 yrs later, Shawna gets a call from, Fran her estranged mother's partner. Shawna's mother had a stroke and is in the hospital. Shawna makes it to NY to see her mother before she dies. Though there is no last conversation. Say The Word is about what happens after. Shawna is caught between her father's demands, his need to always be in control, and Fran's family. There was no updated will. The right thing for Shawna's father to do would be to give everything to Fran and her sons Arye and Schmule. Instead in takes everything out of spite.

Shawna trying to live up to her father's expectations, straight A's, follow in his foot steps and become a doctor. Shawna's father is emotionally abusive always calling her stupid putting her down in front of others. Shawna's best friend Lee Lee is always there for her. Though when Shawna finds out LeeLee, is a lesbian, she wonders what that means about herself and what people will think. When truth comes out that Scumule is Shawna's brother everything gets more complicated. Shawna's father wants full custody and refuses to give Fran visitation privileges. If it sounds like there is a lot going on in this book that's because there is.

Garsee does a wonderful job of balancing the many storylines. I found Shawna likable from the beginning. Shawna is a well drawn out character. Though I found her father to be a little one dimensional, a bad guy with no redeemable qualities. Its true some people are like that, the first time I read Say the Word I was okay with Shawna's father. This time I wished the author would've given us something to like about him, so it wasn't so easy to hate him.

Reading Say the Word with a purpose, took some of the fun out of it. I wasn't able to simply enjoy, I had to question. Besides Shawa's father there were a few other things that didn't stand up too well to a closer look. This time I wondered why Shawna doesn't have a another story about her mother after she moves in with Fran. The one time Shawna visit her mother, things go very badly. So focused on an opening art exhibit, Shawna's mother doesn't realize how sick Shawna is. After that, mother and daughter don't see each other again until Shawna's mother is in the hospital. Without another interaction, I am left wondering what type of mother Shawna had. Was she insensitive and self centered artist or was she a loving mother who for a moment lost her head to her art.

This story really made me think about the rights ( or lack of ) same sex partners have. When Shawna's mother is in the hospital, Fran must pretend they are sisters in order to see her. Even though they've been together for 10 yrs. Shawna's father being able to take over everything including funeral arrangements is just wrong. Though Fran has been raising Scumule since he was born, she has no legal rights to him. I knew this could and does happen, though I've never really thought about it. However, I know there are people who have never considered problems gay and lesbian couples face because they can't marry. While telling a good story Garsee also educates.

Almost Perfect by Katcher - My first time reading, I saw two very positive reviews last year. So I was excited for an excuse to read it. Logan is a senior. He lives with his mother in a small Missouri town. Logan can't stop thinking about his ex girl friend, Brenda. Then, a new girl moves to town, Sage. Logan, is instantly attracted. Sage wants the two of them to just be friends. Logan wants more but accepts being friends. After Logan kisses Sage, Sage confesses to being a boy. Logan questions is sexuality for liking a transgender person.

It took me much longer to get into Almost Perfect than I would've liked. I simply wasn't connecting with Logan. Early on their many references to his ex- Brenda and what they didn't do. They were together for three years, they never did more then kissing. Brenda wasn't ready for more. When Brenda's ready, she has sex with someone else.

When Logan looks back on his years with Brenda he remembers how patient he was. Its nice to see a guy, is willing to wait and not be too pushing. Though I found it difficult to believe Logan wasn't frustrated that his physical relationship with his longtime girlfriend was stagnant. If Logan was, he never expressed it. Logan was simply a little too nice for my liking.

I found myself enjoying this story a little more midway in. When Logan and Sage meet at a cemetery to talk about the kiss. Its the first time, we get to hear Sage's voice. Its a voice I wish would've come earlier in the story. This story is about a teenage boy coming to terms with understanding and falling for a transgender person, so its Logan's story to tell. Still I wanted more of the complex character that was Sage.

One of the Almost Perfect's strengths were the conversations between Logan and Sage, after Logan knew Sage's secret. Logan always does his best to understand. The little we see of Sage is honest and open. Logan has two close friends since grade school, but these friendships aren't drawn out. Katcher is focused on Logan and Sage's relationship.

I found Almost Perfect to be a good read. I think its really hard for a narrator to carry many scenes by themselves. Logan must do exactly that. My not connecting with the main character kept me from enjoying this book as much as I would've liked. Logan's feeling of confusion over Sage were very believable. I think the author wrote this with the intention of getting people be more understanding and accepting of transgendered individuals. I believe he succeeded.

Not More of the Same

Say the Word and Almost Perfect are worthwhile reads. Both deal with subjects that don't get much attention within YA literature.

I've never reread a novel to judge for a competition. Before I started I thought Say the Word, would have an advantage. However, I quickly realized that wasn't true. This time I would be looking to poke holes in everything I liked about Say The Word the first time.

Though, I was reading Almost Perfect for the first time, my expectations were high thanks to reviews and the premise. So in the end neither book had an advantage. Both had something to live up to .

It came down to one thing for me. Say the Word's multiple story lines vs Almost Perfect's single storyline. Logan is considering life after high school and possibly going to college but this still revolves around Sage.

Single storylines are very hard to pull off, especially if it features one main character. There is nothing else to focus on , every little perceived missed opportunity by the author is noticed. Whereas with a multiple storylines I may not notice or care if something is just little off because so much is going on.

This time questioned a few things Garsee did or didn't do, I still really liked it and thought it was the stronger of the two.

My decision

Say the Word moves on

When this tournament is over, one book will be declared the winner. Though I hope everyone will take a moment to look at the 32 wonderfully diverse shortlisted books.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend - Emily Horne

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horne
16 yr old Cass's best friend Julia died in a car accident. In secret, Julia was writing a musical, A Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad. When Julia's drama friends find the first and only draft, they decide to put on the musical in her honor. Cass is not a drama member, with Julia gone, she feels out of place with the drama kids.

It doesn't help that there's tension between Cass and Oliver. Oliver, (a drama person) was Julia's boyfriend. Cass is unsure of her sexuality but everyone at school has already labeled her a lesbian. The only thing Cass knows for sure, she had feelings for Julia. She never acted on them but Oliver was not okay with that.

While Julia's drama friends and Cass were working on the musical, Oliver said something that shouldn't have been said to Cass. She decided right then to get away for awhile. Cass and Julia were suppose to drive to California during the summer break. Cass decides to continue on the trip alone riding her bike.

The novel alternates between now and then. In the now, Cass is back home, working on Julia's musical again. She is forced to spend time with Heather, the mean girl from middle school. Heather got the lead in the musical. In the 6th grade she whispered and laughed behind Cass's back and called Cass a dyke to her face. Very slowly and carefully Cass and Heather begin to understand and open up to each other.

In the then, Cass recalls her cross country bicycle trip. The then reminded me a lot of Shift
by Bradbury, which I loved. Horne is able to get across Cass's inner struggles.

I read this story in one sitting. There's much to love about it, including the alternating story lines. Cass is a well drawn and believable character. When Cass and Heather are alone for the first time in years there is much tension. The author doesn't waste the readers time with an I am sorry from Heather. Since both the bullied and the bully know that's not enough. Instead Heather shares her secrets, and proves she's a different person with her actions.
Horne doesn't shy away from religion. Cass and her parents are Quakers. Cass's parents have strong beliefs and always give their support. Cass never worried about being disowned by them if she happened to like girls.

Horner's debut is a beautiful, orignal and a must read. I am usually unimpressed by author blurbs. Though every once in awhile I will see one that will make me stop and take notice. I came across A Love Story when I was working in the YA section. I took it home that day because of the blurb by author Steve Kluger. 1 - I loved his novel My Most Excellent Year:
2- Kluger doesn't blurb like its going out of style.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence + Controversy

Today is July 4 Independence Day in the United States. I always have a hard time getting excited about this holiday, since Blacks were still slaves in 1776. For some reason I decided to make myself feel even better and read a little of Susan Campbell Bartoletti's upcoming release - They Called Themselves the kkk When I requested an arc I couldn't bring myself to capitolize the k's and I still can't. The book is fact filled and very readable. I love the extensive bibliography and source notes. The book will be released in August.

Sometimes when I see an issue being discussed at other blogs, I assume others have already heard about it, and I fail to mention it. I am going to try to stop doing that.

On July 1, Jodie talked about another case of Whitewashing a young adult cover. This time it's the paperback of Cindy Pon's The Silver Phoenix . A few other post to check out on this issue Jeannie Lin's , Ari's @ Reading in Color and Tarie's @ Asia in the Heart, World on my Mind

I really liked The Silver Phoenix. However I don't think the cover did it justice. And I said so in my review.

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

Two cover's I would have liked better

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

At one point the three must ride a dragon together.

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

What if Ai Lang was holding a dagger on the cover. What if people passed on Silver Phoenix not because there was an Asian girl featured on cover but because it fails to convey the strength of the female protagonist, or the action within the story. Now we will never know.

I have my fingers crossed that publishers will not start to think Whitewashing middle grade and young adult covers is the way to go if they want a little attention.

The Last Airbender movie was released on Thursday. The movie was adapted from a very popular Nickelodeon cartoon series. On the show the main characters are Asian, however White actors were cast to play all the main parts except the villains. For a better understanding of this controversy check out this wonderful article by Q. Le. on the history of facepainting in Hollywood.

The reviewers have not been kind to The Last Airbender - Roger Ebert gave it a half a star Every time I think about how this movie was poorly casted, reading one of the many bad reviews or thinking about how much money this expensive movie won't be makes me feel much much better.

Q. Le, article got me thinking about when of my favorite biographies from last year Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo and Lin Wang.

Anna May Wong was the first Asian movie star in Hollywood. Wong along with many other Asian actors were denied rolls in the 1937 film The Good Earth, about Chinese farmers.

If you were thinking about seeing The Last Airbender, I say don't waste your money on what sounds like a very bad movie. Consider buying a great biography instead.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Sale Now : New Releases

So I've been able to read many of the books that were on my Mark Your Calenders post back in January. I just wanted to take a moment to mention some recently released books on that list. I don't know when I will get a chance to read any of these. (hopefully sooner than later) but I figured the least I could do was highlight them. When I was able to I was able to I've linked to reviews and excerpts.

Black Jack : The Ballard of Jack Johnson by Charles R. Smith, illus. by Shane W. Evans

From the excerpt alone, this biography look like a serious TKO. I thought Smith and Evans would create an amazing book, but I am still blown away by the little I've seen. Looking forward to getting my hands on this one. The book received starred review from publishers weekly and school library.

Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush by Luis Alberto Urrea paintings by Christopher Cardinale.

The cover looks gorgeous and the story sounds great

"Be careful growing up in the green, wet, mango-sweet Mexican village of Rosario, where dead corpses rise up out of the cathedral walls during July when it always floods; where vast silver mines beneath the town occasionally collapse causing a whole section of the village to drop out of sight; where a man with a paintbrush, to wit Mr. Mendoza, is the town’s self-appointed conscience."

Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush recieved a five star Kirkus Review

Saltypie by Tim Tingle.

I thought it would be nice to read a non fiction book on an American Indian journey by an actual American Indian. I read Tingle's Crossing Bok Chitto this year and love it. It made me want to read Saltypie even more, as did

Deebie Reese's glowing review of Tingle's Saltypie. Read an excerpt

The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier.

I really like the excerpt, the writing looks like something I could really lose myself in. This is Frazier's second middle grade novel. Her debut novel Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in it, was awarded the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe award for new talent in 2008

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

I've been hearing very good things about this one. After reading and loving Secret Keeper by Perkins last year, I am not surprised. Check out a few reviews and read an excerpt

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Cardturner Louis Sachar

The Cardturner Louis Sachar
When I think of Sachar, I think of middle grade fiction not young adult. So when The Cardturner, Sachar's first YA novel came in a few months back, I made a mental note of it but that was pretty much it. I've haven't been having much luck finding MG or YA books will male protagonist recently. So I thought why not give The Cardturner a go, especially since I'd read a good review and a co -worker enjoyed it. After finishing yet another book where the ending turned on me, The Cardturner was just what I needed.

17 yr old Alton Richards as a very rich great uncle Lester (Trapp) Ever since Alton was young, his parent's told him Lester was his favorite uncle. Now, Uncle Lester is blind and his health is failing. Uncle Lester doesn't have any children of his own to pass his money on it. So, all immediate are doing their best to get close and be nice. Alton's parents are no different. Somehow Alton gets roped into driving Trapp to bridge and being his cardturner.

Trapp doesn't play a fun game of bridge with three friends. This is some serious, masterpoints are at stake bridge. The game of bridge is an important part of this story. Before I read this book I knew nothing about this card game. Now, I am pretty sure I can watch a bridge game and follow maybe 25% of it.

Somehow Sachar, made me care about a card game that's usually associated with a people of a certain age. Cardturner worked so well for me because of Alton. I liked his voice from the beginning.

Ever since I was a little kid, I've had it drilled into me that my uncle Lester was my favorite uncle. My mother would trust the phone at me and say, "Uncle Lester wants to talk to you," her voice infused with the same forced enthusiasm she used to describe the deliciousness of canned peas. "Tell him you love him." "I love you, Uncle Lester," I'd say. "Tell him he's your favorite uncle." It got worse as i got older. I never knew what to say to him, and he never seemed all that interested in talking to me. He was actually my great uncle, having been my mother's favorite uncle long before he was mine. "

By the time the game of bridge was introduced, Sachar already had me with Alton. His parents were very interesting, at times inappropriate and always funny. Alton's, 11 yr old sister, Leslie was smart, sweet and a natural at bridge. I really liked the brother sister dynamic in this story.

Trapp is very good at bridge. He once made it to the national championships. Now Trapp won't talk about it, whatever happened kept Trapp from playing bridge for years. Alton is determined to find out what went wrong. Alton's best friend Cliff is dating Alton's ex girlfriend. Alton, likes someone new, Toni, Trapp's former cardturner. Once again Cliff as eyes for a girl Alton likes.

Alton learns a few things about bridge, as his uncle cardturner and he shares that knowledge. When ever is going to go into depth about a bridge maneuver, there is an image of a whale. Sachar did this for those who don't want to read about bridge can skip these parts. Though I don't see why anyone would want to.

I really enjoyed The Cardturner. It was a very fun and entertaining read. I always appreciate a novel that simply is what it is, that in itself makes it very good. The only I wish, I have for this story - I wish Leslie got a chance to meet are great uncle. She's easily took to the game of bridge and I think the two would've have connected.

Alton was a great character. Cardturner its okay for middle grade students. Its nice having a YA nolve with an older teen male protagonist that I can recommand to readers 12 up.

Read an excerpt
A review @ Guys Lit Wire

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Mariposa Club Rigoberto Gonzalez

The Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Its the senior year of high school for four openly gay friends. Mauricio (Maui) Trini, Isaac, and Liberace. That's his real name, but he goes by Lib. The four call themselves The Firece Foursome.

Maui is the narrator, he is our guide into the Fierce Foursome. When the school year begins the four friends want to start a GLBT club in their high school. Though this story is mainly about "the girls" (what they call each other), their friendships, family relationships and their Mexican communities lack of acceptance for their sexual orientation.

The Mariposa Club works very well on so many levels. I loved the dialogue and characters. Gonzalez created four characters with distinct personalities. Maui, Trini, Isaac and Lib all have their own coming out story. Some of the parents are more accepting.

Some novels teach more then others. A story about four gay male teens in a small Mexican community is one of those stories. I now know that in Mexico sometimes gay men are refered to as fluttering butterflies. Mariposa is butterfly in Spanish.

It could've been really easy for the author to cross the line into too much this is what the reader should know territory and not enough story. However Gonzalez finds a wonderful balance. He makes the reader care about the four friends and their friendships.

Jodie's review @ Book Gazing
A review @ Queer YA