Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Weekly Feature, Hanukkah, Interviews

In September I finally started a weekly feature. Listing new releases with kids of color on Tuesday. Normally, I would be doing this now but since its getting close to the end of the year, there just aren't as many. I am too tired to look for more titles. It is the holiday season after all. Speaking of holidays.

Hanukkah begins December 1st* (Wednesday) this year.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch would make a great Hanukkah gift. I loved this graphic novel. I still think. " Just another troll fighting 11 yr old Orthodox Jewish Girl" is one of the best book tag lines of the year. An excerpt via the author's site

If you visit here on a regular or semi regular basis you might notice that I like interviews. Since its the holiday season, I've decided to mention some of my favorites of the year.

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey - my interview . I loved Guardian of the Dead. Its one of my favorite YA reads of 2010. I loved how the interview turned out. I remembered to ask everything I wanted to ask. Kirkus selected Guardian of the Dead as a best of YA sci/fi fantasy book of 2010

I loved One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia. Its one of my favorite middle grade reads of 2010. Back in June, author Zetta Elliott did a three part interview with Williams-Garcia and it was simply WOW. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, One Crazy Summer is a 2010 National Book Award Finalist

The final one is a little more recent. Charlotte interviewed author Robin Mckinley in November about her lastest YA release Pegasus. I love this interview because Mckinley is a well established author who could've easily phoned in, blah answer but didn't. Kirkus selected Pegasus as a best of YA sci/fi fantasy book of 2010

From Zetta and Charlotte's I learned that sometimes its okay to shut up and simply let an author answer. No extra comments necessary.

If you have any favorite 2010 interviews leave the link in the comment box. I'll probably be doing this again next Tuesday.

*December 1st is also the last day to enter author Cindy Pon's Fury of the Phoenix arc contest

Friday, November 26, 2010

Best of List - Personal Opinion (Social Responsibilty)

Best of List are starting to come out now. I like some more then others, in the end it comes down to personal opinion. Yesterday, I said its "Thanksgiving, no computer". I did last half the day before I logged on. At NPR, YA author Gayle Forman lists her favorite YA reads of the year. At first glance I didn't like this list. After sleeping on it, I liked it even less.

I am just going to go ahead and say it, its too White. If this list was on Forman's personal blog, I still wouldn't like it, however everyone would know its her personal opinion. Under the title of Oh, To Be Young: The Year's Best Teen Reads. It has much more influence on buyers. Some customers treat NPR suggestions like gospel, especially best of list.

I've read two of these titles and thought both were over hyped. Overall, I was not impressed by this list. If I was going to do a YA best of list with only White female authors it would be
Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe
Heist Society by Ally Carter
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

I would never make such a list. If I did I would call it what it was Favorite Teen Reads by White Female Authors. Chances are great 6 of the lets say 30 people who read this ( it's a holiday weekend) aren't going to like one or more of my five. A few more will love Forman's five picks. That's the great thing about personal opinions-,we are all allowed to have them.

Though, when someone's opinion will influence many there's a social responsibility that comes with that. I don't want a rainbow coalition or a United Nations best of list. However a broader selection of gender and race would be nice, and should be expected when the list is featured on a site like NPR.

I've referenced the title of this best of list, at least twice. So, I don't want to put this out in the world without saying I know NPR probably selected it, not Forman. To that end, NPR should take more care in choosing the title for this feature in the future. "My Favorite Teen Reads" would be more appropriate.

NPR should consider having more then one person submit their favorite YA reads of the year. I think this will allow for more inclusiveness. It would put less pressure on the submitters, knowing their five aren't the only five. It will also let readers know "best of" is relative.

I am going to end with two question.

Do you notice when Best of Lists feature authors/ protagonists of one race, one gender or all are straight?

If you do, does it matter?

I hope no thinks this NPR list is just one of many and this doesn't matter. One homogenous list can quickly turn into more. In April I did a post at Color Online called Would We Forget? I linked to four best of list. There were only nine female authors of color featured.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cindy Pon's Arc Contest- Fury of the Phoenix

Author Cindy Pon's YA debut Silver Phoenix was released in 2009. I really enjoyed it. It was nice reading a good story that wasn't more of the same. Looking back on it now, I took Silver Phoenix for granted. YA fantasy is so popular right now and there's a lot coming out . I assumed quality original YA would be published. Now that I know that I was wrong, I have a greater appreciation for Silver Phoenix. My review

The sequel, Fury of the Phoenix is scheduled to be released at the end of March. I am really looking forward to reading it. Pon's having an arc contest at her blog. Usually I don't mention author contest because the chances of winning are very slim. Though I am making an exception here

Silver Phoenix was very good. It would make a great gifts. If you go to a bookstore, you'll probably have to order it. But its worth it trust me. Or don't take my word for it, go read the excerpt

A Fury of the Phoenix contest, is one thing I wouldn't mind seeing everywhere.

A wonderful series that's not more of the same and is diverse should be hyped up.

The contest is open until Dec. 1. - So if you are a Silver Phoneix fan, go enter and talk it up.

Also, Check out Diversity in YA Fiction - Pon is one of the co-founders.

Diversity in YA Fiction is a website and book tour founded by two young adult authors, Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, to celebrate diverse stories in YA.

DIYA is a positive, friendly gathering of readers and writers who want to see diversity in their fiction. We come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and we hope that you do, too. We encourage an attitude of openness and curiosity, and we welcome questions and discussion. Most of all, we can’t wait to have fun sharing some great books with you.

It's nice to see two authors with the same goal working together. Especially when the book market is set up in such a way that authors releasing Asian inspired YA fantasy around the same time could easily be pitted aganist each other. So much kudos to Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo. Lo's next YA novel Huntress is scheduled to come out in April

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On Sale Now : New Releases (Latino Edition)

I didn't set out to make this the Latino Edition but one thing lead to another.

La aventura del Dia Mundial de al Escuela by Shakira, illus. by Kellee Riley and Kuni Tomita. And yes tt's the grammy award winning artist. This Dora Explorer book is making the list because I know Shakira does a lot of charity work.*

Manolito Four Eyes by Elvira Lindo, illus by Emilio Urberuga, translated by Joanne Moriarty. This is a popular children's series in Spain. An excerpt

When the Stars go Blue by Caridad Ferrer. I love this cover. This sounds like a beautiful story, I can't wait to read it. Even more so after the author was kind enough to answer a few questions about Latino authors and Young Adult literature for my blog back in October. Ferrer's answers were just WOW. I (I already have my copy) read an excerpt or Ari's rave review

I've done many features and interviews this year, More Latino Authors/Necesitamos mas autores Latinos was one of my favorites. It was only as good as it was because of the authors

Three of my favorite Latino Picture Books of 2010

Chavela and the Magic Bubble by Monica Brown illus. by Magaly Morales. my review

Floating on Mama's Song by Laura Lacamara, illus by Yuyi Morales. my review

The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez by Rene Colato Lainez, illus by Tom Lintern. my review

*Maybe one of Shakira's people will accidentally find this and tell her about "When the Stars Go Blue" a story about a Latina girl who loves to dance. Shakira reads it and loves it,next thing you know, Ferrer's novel is muy caliente.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Edgar Allan's Official Crime Investigation Notebook - Mary Amato

Edgar Allan's Offical Crime Investigation Notebook by Mary Amato
Edgar Allan is in the 5th grade at Wordswoth Elementary School. After someone steals Slurpy, Ms. Hershel's classroom fish, Edgar Allan starts an investigation notebook to catch the thief. Soon other things start disappearing from Ms. Hershel's classroom. The thief always leaves a poem. Edgar Allan has a few suspect and all of them are in his class. He really wants to solve the case before his rival, Patrick Chen.

I really enjoyed this one. It was a whole lot of fun and very well layered. Edgar Allan is a regular boy who doesn't stand out but still wants to be recognized for being good at something. His parents are talented clowns who make children in the hospital laugh. His older brother, Herni has found what he's good at (the clarinet). Before case of the missing classroom fish Edgar Allan had no special thing to call his own.

"For the rest of dinner, Edgar's parents and Henri talked about the Cabaret. It was supposed to be fun, but Edgar found it stressful because he didn't have a talent. Last year his dad had tried to teach him how to play the accordion, but his fingers kept tripping over the buttons and he quit. "Are you doing anything for it this year, Edgar?" Henri asked. Edgar pushed his plate away. "No." "Why don't you play the cowbell on the song your dad and I are doing?" Twig said. Henri laughed. "Yeah. Play the cowbell." Tubby gave Henri a look. " The cowbell is a great idea right, Henri?" "Right," Henri said, trying unsuccessfully to hide his smile.

Amato does an excellent job with Edgar Allan's voice.

"I am in the bathroom right now because I am too mad to be in the same room with anybody, and they are taking up all the good rooms. I am sitting in the bathtub with all my clothes on because I don't feel like sitting on the toilet, and there are no chairs in here."

Much of the story is set at school. While Edgar Allan is trying to find the thief, Mr. Crews the language arts teacher is on the poetry segment. Like many people at first Edgar Allan doesn't really get poetry, then one day it simply clicks for him. Edgar Allan accidentally finds what he was looking for.

He's still trying to find the classroom thief but with poetry it's a whole new Edgar Allan. Amato surrounds her main protagonist with some great characters, including two of his suspects, Taz and Destiny. I loved the two friendships that came out of Edgar Allan's early suspicions. They were natural and believable making for a more well rounded story. ages 8up

While I read this, I found myself thinking about another middle grade book I enjoyed this year. Preller's Justin Fisher's Declares War. Also set in the fifth grade, taking place mainly at school. Both novels have a fish on the cover and are less then a 150 pages.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mehrshad " Doret Begardam"

The other day I heard and watched "Doret Begardam" for the first time. The song is lovely and the video is beautiful.

Mehrshad is an Iranian band. I think Doret Begardam roughly translates to "I turn round you" but please someone correct me if I am wrong. There is a good chance that I am.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused - Kari Lee Townsend

The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused by Kari Lee Townsend
Samantha Granger is always on her phone. One night she gets lost on her way home, coming arcoss some sort of crystal in a hole. After touching the it Sam has the full capabilities of her high tech phone.

Sam is a regular girl who accidentally becomes a superhero. I like that Sam doesn't instantly understand what happened. It takes her a little time to figure it out. Somehow 911 calls are being redirected to Sam's phone, located in her palm. She has no choice but to answer. To protect her identity Sam starts wearing a disguise. The only person who knows about Sam's new abilities is her best friend Melody. If anyone else finds out the scientist studying the crystal might want to study Sam.

I really enjoyed this, it was fun and well thought out. A great balance of funny, suspense and, action. This is the first book in a new series and a great launching point. I am looking forward to seeing what Townsend will do with Samantha Granger. ages 10up

Read an excerpt

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blank Confession Pete Hautman

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman
Shayne Blank walks into the police station, confessing to a murder. Detective Rawls listens to Shayne confession and doesn't know what to make of him. The story alternates between Shayne's confession in a precinct interview room to Mikey Martin, his one friend in town. Everyone assumes Mikey is Mexican even though his mother is Haitian and his father is Italian. Three true things about Mikey - he has a smart mouth, is short and loves to wear suits. All of that plays a roll into the new kid confessing to murder. Shayne is as mysterious as his last name. Two true things about Shayne - rides a motorcycle and is not afraid of bullies.

"Who did you kill?" The kid didn't say anything, same as the first time Rawls had asked him that question instead, he reached for the metal ring attached to a hinge bolted to the tabletop and ran his fingers over it. The ring was there so that a potentially violent suspect could be handcuffed to the steel table, which was bolted to the floor. Rawls sat back and looked at his was 5:09. It didn't matter. This time he was going to wait for the kid to speak, no matter how long it took. It took two minutes and thirteen seconds."

This is the first novel, I've read by Hautman, though I've always heard great things, now I know why. Blank Confession is an intense realistic novel with drugs, violence and bullying that's very hard to put down. I loved it. Its very refreshing to read a well crafted YA novel that's only 170 pages at a time when longer is supposedly better. Very reluctant reader friendly. ages 14up

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
This is second book in the Leviathan series. I thought Leviathan was good with potential. Whether or not I continued with this series would depend on the second novel. I will be reading third book. I couldn't put Behemoth down. Loved it.

In this series Westerfeld looks at an alternate reality for WWI. There are two different ways of life. There are the Darwinsts who use animals and their evolution for everything from air travel to weapons. Then there are the Clankers, who use man made machines from air travel to weapons. The two sides have such opposing views on how things should be done, causing conflict.

Alek, though only a teenage is still next in line to be the ruler of Austria Hungary -(Clankers). Dylan, a girl is pertending to be a boy named Deryn. Dylan/Deryn is a midshapman on English (Darwinsts) airship the Leviathan. Alek and his men were allowed to board the Leviathan, after helping it get back in the air. Though with the impending war they are soon considered prisoners.

Behemoth picks up where Leviathan left off . This time everything takes place in the city of Istanbul, the capital of Ottoman Empire. Alek must figure out away to get allies to fight the Germans and escape the Leviathan. Deryn must serve the honor of the Leviathan while at the same time helping Alek, a new friend.

Alek is really starting to grow on me. In Leviathan, he was simply a rich prince. Now Alek understands what's at stake and is better able to help since he is no longer sheltered. I liked Dylan from the beginning. Though when Dylan and Alek first meet, I was very worried she would spend too much time crushing on Alek. In Behemoth, Dylan still likes Alek, but the author doesn't go overboard with it. Dylan's storyline is well developed, independent of Alek's.

I love how author embraces diversity in the world he's placed his characters in, and with his secondary characters.

"We split off from those cretins years ago. They think that only Turks are true Ottomans. But as you can see, the Committee takes in all kinds." He gestured at the other two men. "My friends are Vlachs, I am Armenian, and we have Kurds, Arabs and Jews among us. And plenty of Turks of course."

There were many strategies elements of war, including strange allies, mistrust, deception and honor. Behemoth was so well done, I loved it. Its one of my favorites of 2010.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Sale Now: New Releases (Mark Your Calenders)

Grandma's Chocolate/ElChocolate De Abuelita by Mara Price illus by Lisa Fields. This looks like a fun picture book. I will be checking out some of the stops on the blog tour, which begins on the 16th @ On Beyond Words & Pictures

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by President Barack Obama illus. Loren Long

Sugar Changed the World : A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery and Freedom by Aronson & Budhos - I've only had a change to flip through this but it looks amazing. This is definitely one of those not just for teens non fiction reads.

Edgar Allan's Official Crime Investigation Notebook by Mary Amato - Edgar Allan is trying to find the person who kidnapped the classroom fish before his rival Patrick Chen. I am only a few pages in but so far a very fun middle grade novel.

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman - The story alternates between to characters, one is Mikey who is biracial. His mother is Haitian and his father is Italian. This book was so good. Review to come.

The Boy from IIysies by Pearl North - I missed this one last week. Its the next book in the Libyrinth which I really enjoyed.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld - The main characters are White, the book is making the list because the author doesn't embraces diversity in the world he's placed his characters and with his secondary characters. I loved Behemoth, so I am very happy I was able to add it to the list.

"We split off from those cretins years ago. They think that only Turks are true Ottomans. But as you can see, the Committe takes in all kinds." He gestured at the other two men. "My friends are Vlachs, I am Armenian, and we have Kurds, Arabs and Jews among us. And plenty of Turks of course."

The Painted Boy by Charles de Lint

With the year coming to an end, the On Sale Now feature will get shorter and shorter. I decided to add on Mark Your Calenders, highlighting one or two new releases. So I don't list too many, the upcoming releases must tie in to one of the featured on sale now titles some how. Last week was the first time included Mark Your Calenders, just naming 2 upcoming 2011 releases.

Mark Your Calenders

Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng illus by Yuyi Morales

Maya Soetore-Ng is President Obama's half sister. This book is not scheduled to be released until April, but its illustrated by Morales, and looks gorgeous, so I am putting it on your radar early.

Ari has a list going of 2011 MG/YA authors of color. So far there are only 10 authors. If you know of any debut authors of color, please leave their name in Ari' comment box.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Truth With A Capital T - Bethany Hegedus

Truth with a Capital T by Bethany Hegedus
Mabelle is looking forward to spending the summer with her grandparents in Tweedle, GA. Mabelle's parents are popular therapist, they are on summer book tour. Mabelle is looking forward to some alone time with her grandparents but is very surprised that her new cousin Issac is spending the summer as well. Aunt Alice, adopted Issac after his mother died. The women were neighbors and friends.

Before summer started Mabelle learned that she would be in regular classes next year, not gifted and talented. Mabelle plans on studying the book of little known facts over the summer, hoping to retake the G&T test and pass. Each chapter begins with a little known fact Mabelle has learned.

Mabelle's grandparents are a retired musical group. The house was recently inherited from Edith, a long lost aunt on the grandfather's side of the family. There was some kind of family falling out, no ones why. The grandparents own the large antebellum house with one condition, the west wing must stay locked. Mabelle really wants to know what behind the lock door.

I really enjoyed Truth with a Capital T. I liked Mabelle from the start. I think she could easily carry the story on her own but the author doesn't put it all on Mabelle's shoulders. Hegedus writes a great story, using all the characters she created.

Mabelle is a little jealous of Issac. She is no longer the only grandchild plus Issac has a talent (trumpet). I really liked that Issac being Black, isn't an issue but at the same time is not ignored. To prove she's still talented Mabelle is determined to win a blue ribbon at the Anniversary Spectacular. Mabelle finally decides clogging is her best chance at winning. She enters with a group. Issac, Grace, a girl she meet on the bus, Jimmy and Taylor, the brothers from next door.

The friendship between the five was one of my favorite parts of the story. Even more so after Mabelle got into the locked wing and discovers her families secret. There have always been rumors about there being a stop on the Underground Railround in Tweedle. Good or bad Mabelle wants to know what roll her ancestors played. The town librarian, Mr Phelps makes the five friends research assistants. They spend many hours (when not clogging) looking into what they found in the locked wing.

It was very nice to see a librarian play such an active part in the story and kids interested in history. The author does a very good job of explaining the importance of quilts and their symbols to slaves who were escaping to the North. Truth with a Capital T, is a wonderful contemporary novel that embraces history at the same time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A YA Slump (Don't Believe the Hype)

Of the last 15 books I've read only 4 have been YA novels. I've been in a serious YA slump. As far as the YA that's coming into the store (mainly fantasy) its much more of the same* and the quaility is not good. One YA novel that shall not be named, gave me a serious case of readers potty mouth. I will be kind and simply say I didn't like it at all.

I went to amazon to see what other people thought of it. All five and four star reviews. Mostly fives. I was shocked and little pissed. I am done with, over hyped and over rated YA novels. As far as book ratings are concerned I am tired of 4 being the new 3.

I place all of my reviews on amazon. Since I have to rate them I do. There's anything wrong with rating a book a three. If its rating without a review, I could see why some would be hesitant go lower then four. Though most places where reviews are appected, online - amazon, goodreads, shelfari, etc, people are allowed to write review to go along with the rating. If many people are avoiding three, doesn't that decrease the value of four?

Though I don't review the YA novels that I feel fall very short of the abundance of "five star praise" I am quick to warn customers when I see them with the books in their hand. Sometimes I have the urge to snatch the really bad ones out of their hands. But, I restrain myself. I do tell the customers they may want to read the first chapter before they buy the book.

The other day, while I was checking a customer out, she told me I talked her out of a YA novel. Since then she heard it wasn't that great and borrowed the book from a friend and still hasn't read it. I warned many people against this YA novel (that shall not be named), when it was in hardcover. People should not spend money on poorly written hardcovers.

Don't Belive the Hypne on over buzzed and over rated novels.

* It wolud be wrong not to point out a few recent releases that are very far from more of the same.

The Foundling's Tale by D.M. Cornish. This this the third book in the Lamplighter series. These books are very good and original.
Behemoth by Scott Westerfield - The second book in the Leviathan series. I thought the first one was good with potential and loved Behemoth. (review to come)
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston -
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
The Boy from IIyseis by Pearl North - The second book in the Libyrinth series. I really enjoyed the first book. Looking forward to seeing what the author does next
Blank Confession by Peter Hautman - the only YA fiction novel. (very good, review to come)

I wish I could add more YA fiction titles but my luck with this genre has been so bad lately afraid to pick anything up. Though thanks to Weston, Westerfield and Hautman that may be changing. Also I will be reading Illyria by Elizabeth Hand soon. I've heard great things from reviewers I trust so I hoping my streak of good YA books will continue.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
This novel is based on the true story of Salva Dut . At 11 yrs old Salva was one of many Sudanese to lose his family, and home because of the religious conflict between North and South Sudan. Salva is in school when the villages are attacked. All the boys are told to run into the bush and far from home. Salva finds himself walking with strangers. He doesn't know where his family is or if they are alive.

Before Salva was one of 3,000 Sudanese young men chosen to come to America, he lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. The author succeeds in the telling of Salva's journey.

The novel alternates between Salva's journey beginning in 1985 and Nya, a fictional Sudanese character in 2008. Nya's job is to collect water for her family. I believe approaching the story in this matter was a trade off.

With Nya's story readers can see what Salva's foundation Water for Sudan, means for the people of that country. The author could have simply mentioned Water for Sudan in the Afterword but incorporating it in the story will have a great impact on the reader.

I know in some countries getting clean water is not easy but I still have a hard time believing this sad truth. Before a new well is unearthed in Nya's village. she spends hours getting water, that's not always clean. Though Nya is a fictional character hearing her story will make what many go through that much more real.

Now, the trade off, going back and forth between the two stories, kept me from truly connecting with Salve or Nya. I still enjoyed A Long Water to Water. I like that Park doesn't assume readers will have prior knowledge of the religious conflict that lead to the Lost Boys of Sudan. Park also explains were the name Lost Boys of Sudan came from.

I have much respect for Park's straightforward telling. Sometimes with refugee stories authors are inclined to go with the more violence the better approach. I really liked that Park simply focused on Salva's journey.

In the back of A Long Walk to Water there's a message from Salva Dut. There are a lot of books on the Lost Boys of Sudan, though as far as I know this is the first one for middle graders.

This might go nicely with the picture book Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams illus. by R. Greogry Christie

Linda Sue Park's Publishers Weekly Q&A

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pull - B.A. Binns

Pull by B.A. Binns
David is starting over, after his father murdered his mother. New surname, school and state. Entering his senior year of high school, and the oldest of three. David has two sisters, Barney and Linda, he is now responsible for keeping them together. The three move from California to Chicago, to live with their Aunt Edie in a small one bedroom apartment.

After school David works at a construction site, earning money for rent. Still haunted by the murder of his mother. David just want to lay low his senior year, graduate and look out for his sisters.

At school David is attracted to Yolanda Dare (The Dare) , who is dating Malik. Malik is on the basketball team and thinks much of himself. David is doing his best to avoid the couple and keep Malik away from his sister, Barney.

Binns manages to touch upon many issues. David reflecting on his parents abusive relationship. Knowing he doesn't want to be like his father and wondering why his mom stayed. Don't see much of David's youngest sister Linda, the same is not true for Barney.

I liked the storyline, of Malik going after Barney. In YA you already ever see the unsuspecting girl being worked on by an older guy. So many girls at that Barney's age end up in bad sexual relationships because they' re vulnerable. That could've easily happened to Barney, she was exposed to her parents abusive relationships and uprooted to a new home. Part of me thinks maybe the author wanted the reader to see Barney could've easily been the next Yolanda without her brother.

Many rumors fly around school about who Yolanda has or hasn't been with. Malik treats Yolanda like he owns her. This is the first YA book I've read were the supposedly easy girl was the love interest. I liked this aspect of the story as well, since labels are given out like candy in high school.

There is a lot going on in Pull but at no point does it feel like an issues book. It reads smoothly from beginning to end. The author gets the first kiss out of the way very early but David isn't involved. Its Neill and Carl who are kissing, the two are a couple. David and Barney sit at their lunch time with their group of friends. Binns doesn't make a big deal about the kiss or Neil and Carl's relationship. They are simply allowed to be another couple in the background.

David's a well drawn character and I loved his voice. The ending of Pull was unexpected, hopeful and very fitting. I thought Pull was very well done and really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say

The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say
Jiro and his father, go visit Mr. Ozu to wish a Happy New Year. While the adults talk, Jiro walks through the garden. Jiro soon finds a bronze crane.

When Jiro spots it, he thinks of the story his mother reads to him, The Grateful Crane.

Say opens the novel with "The story that mama read to Jiro - The Grateful Crane."
The reader can easily understand Jiro's playfulness with the crane. Jiro soon finds himself as the main character in his favorite story. Say's beautiful (as always) illustrations will captivate everyone.

The Boy in the Garden is a wonderful story about imagination. Say is one of my favorite author/illustrators. Once again, he has created a gorgeous story, textually and visually.

On Sale Now : New Releases (Mark Your Calenders)

Christmas in the Time of Billy Lee by Jerdine Nolen illus by Barry Moser

La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre illus by Angela Dominquez.

All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine by Monica Kulling illus. by Bill Slavin

Sonia Sotomayor:Supreme Court Justice by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand illus. Thomas Gonzalez

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park - check out a Publishers Weekly interview with the author

Starfleet Academy by Rick Barba

Losing Romeo by A.J. Byrd

The Good Long Way by Rene Saldana Jr. - check out an interview with the author @ Pluma Fronteriza

Ash by Malinda Lo the paperback edition

Mark Your Calenders

Jeridine Nolen will be releasing her first middle grade novel in Jan. 2011

Eliza's Freedom Road : An Underground Railround I am very excited about this release. I am a big fan of Nolen ever since Raising Dragons and I can't leave out Thunder Rose . I love this cover by illustrator Shadra Strickland. This small image doesn't do it justice. Check out Strickland's evolution of a cover , for a much better look

Malinda Lo's second Young Adult novel Huntress comes out in April 2011. This cover is so ridiculously gorgeous and good on so many levels. Love It. Check out Lo's cover reveal

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Cybils Inspired Poem

I am reading a lot of nonfiction picture books (NFPB) recently for Cybils. So enjoy a Cybils inspired poem.

The End is not the End

Nonfiction picture books
Strewn about my place
All in the name of
Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards
Known to most as
The Cybils
I am a
NFPB First Round Panelist

An honor, I take seriously
Reading and scrutinizing 2010 NFPB
With a new found eye
Beginning with the positive
Jotting down "What I liked"
Before anything else

After a story concludes
And the 5 W's ,
Who, What, When, Where, Why,
And the lone H
Are answered
I am still at it

Even though my writing is
more illegible with each new pen stroke
(too much keyboard time )
I continue scribbling away
My thoughts
On this and that
The end is not the end

Authors must
Follow -Through
Stick It
Afterword included
Like an Olympic judge
I will deduct points

When a timeline
even an author's note
Is not to be found
I am shaking my head
No, No, No,
Why, Why, Why,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Seaside Dream - Janet Costa Bates - Lamert Davis

Seaside Dream by Janet Costa Bates illus. by Lamert Davis
Cora is very close to her grandmother. The family is getting together to celebrate grandma's 70th birthday. There is a lot of catching up, eating and laughter. Cora wants to find the perfect birthday present. Though the house is filled with family, Grandma still finds time for Cora.

"Cora liked being surrounded by family, but she missed having Grandma all to herself. She missed the walk on the beach she and Grandma took almost every day in the summer. After dinner Cora left the noisy kitchen for the quiet porch where she could watch the moonlight sparkle on the ocean. She tried to think of a birthday gift for Grandma. Cora was lost in thought when Grandma found her. "I am thinking of taking a beach walk," said Grandma. "But it's nighttime," said Cora. "It might be scary out there by yourself." "Then maybe someone could come with me to hold my hand." "Maybe someone could." Cora was happy to have Grandma all to herself again."

On their walk Grandma tells Cora about her sister Aura who she hasn't seen since leaving Cape Verde. Grandma gets lost in memories of Cape Verde, telling Cora why she had to leave. Bates captures the beauty of Cora and Grandma's relationship with little effort. There's a wonderful magical moment that helps Cora find the perfect gift.

The author smoothly includes facts about the country of Cape Verde into the story.
From a national dish to way special way to keep in touch.

"Grandma stood silently looking out at the ocean in the Old Country. The night before I left Cape Verde, there was a warm breeze just like tonight. We stood on the beach and made a promise that we would send each other as many mantenbas as there are stars." "As many what?" Cora asked. "Mantenhas. Messages. Sending a mantenha is like saying hello, but more. It means, though you are far away, I want to keep you in my life."

I really enjoyed this story. It was so well done all around. Davis illustrations are beautiful. I love the many blues the seaside. When Grandma gets lost in her memories, Davis an excellent job of capturing the longing on her face.

This is Bates, picture book debut. Grandma was inspired by the author's own grandmother and it shows. The beauty of Cora and Grandma's relationship is captured with little effort. I really really enjoyed this story. It's so well done all around.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Interview with Lisa Yee

One of my favorite male protagonist from 2009 was Bobby Ellis-Chan from Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee. This year Bobby is back in Bobby The Brave (Sometimes). A wonderful continuation of Bobby's adventures in growing up. It was also my Middle Grade fiction Cybils nomination.

Author Lisa Yee was kind enough to answer a few questions.

1. Hello Lisa. - If Bobby had a Dr. Seuss's "My Book About Me" journal, what would Bobby say about Bobby?

Bobby would say, "I am a boy. I'm not the tallest or shortest in my class. My hair is a mess, but it's not worth combing since it'll just get messy again. I live in a house in Rancho Rosetta, California, America, Earth. And my name is Robert, but I like it best when people call me "Bobby."

2. Bobby The Brave (sometimes) is the second book in the Bobby Ellis Chan series. Like the first one, I loved it because Bobby comes across as very real.

Does Bobby ever surprise you? Did you know he would a skateboarder?

The kindness Bobby shows to his little sister surprised me. I knew he was a nice boy, but as I was creating his character, I realized that unlike a lot of siblings who fight, he is patient with Casey. I wanted this to balance out his relationship with his moody teenage sister, Annie.

As for skateboarding, that I did know about! The book is very loosely based on my son when he was in fourth grade, and he's a skater. (For the record, I skateboarded when I was a kid. But it was basically, go up the street. Get off the the board. Turn around. Go down the street. Repeat.)

3. Bobby is such a great big brother. Bobby's family and friends are as important to these stories as Bobby. How much time did you take developing them?

It took me weeks to develop Bobby's world. However, the one thing I knew from the start was that Bobby was going to have parents who loved each other, and a family that (mostly) got along. I also wanted him to have good friends, including one who was a girl. With this backdrop, I knew that I could create situations for Bobby where even though he has a strong support system, he still felt alone at times.

I've heard from so many kids who say they can relate to Bobby, especially when he gets sad or embarrassed.

4. Its obivous a lot of care went into all the of the characters. Santat's illustrations are great. The facial expressions are always spot on perfect (even the gnome and the fish on the cover)

Its not easy finding middle grade novels (fantasy not included) with male protagonist for ages 8 up. With the artwork, short chapters and stories less then 180 pages, this series is geared toward children beginning to read longer novels.

Did you know this middle grade void existed? Did you consciously set out to help fill it?

I had no idea there was a void in this category until after I had written the first book! I just wanted to write something that my son would have loved to read when he was in the fourth grade--and actually the series was his idea.

He said to me, "Why don't you write a book with not a lot of commotion, like that Cleary woman." Of course he meant the great Beverly Cleary. So I set about to write something about the ups and downs of elementary school, with no vampires, epic battles, or weapons.

5.Will we ever get to see the 27 toes of the cat that terrorizes Bobby's neighborhood?

LOL! That remains to be seen

6. How many books do you have planned in this series ?

There is no set number planned, but the first book took place in September, and the second one was in October. So perhaps there's a pattern there. However, right now my focus is on a new middle grade novel that's completely different from anything I've done before. It's very exciting, but I can't talk about it yet because I don't want to jinx it!

7.Can you tell us a little about your next middle grade novel Warp Speed?

Warp Speed is about a kid named Marley Sandelski, a Star Trek geek who is beat up everyday at school. This book picks up where the Millicent Min trilogy left off. In Marley's story, he's a nobody until something unforeseen and tragic occurs - then suddenly everyone knows who he is. Only, Marley doesn't do well in the spotlight and wishes that he could be invisible again.

Lisa, thanks so much for your time. I am looking forward to reading many more of your books. I will end by confessing I enjoy visiting your blog to see what Peepy is up to and all the famous people she's meeting.

If any one if marking their 2011 calenders, Warp Speed is scheduled to be released in March.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Sale Now : New Releases

This is the only regular feature I run. On Tuesday I list all new or newish children's releases that are about or feature kids of color. I say newish because I won't know when a middle grade or young adult novel feature a diverse cast until I read it or someone tells me. So such a book won't make my list until I am aware of its diversity.

Also every week I miss at least 1 or 2 new releases. Every Tuesday or Wednesday when I go to work and see a few I've missed. Many of these books have soft release dates. Meaning catalogs and amazon may have the release date as Nov. 16 but the book hits the stores on Nov 2. There is just no knowing.

The only thing I can promise all the titles are 2010 releases.

Seaside Dream by Janet Costa Bates illus by Lamert Davis - This is Bates picture book debut. Its a lovely story featuring a grandmother and granddaughter with beautiful illustrations. Its the first picture book I've seen gives young readers a little insight into Cape Verde

Look See, look at me! by Leonie Norrington This was a great find, its a celebration of life in an Aboriginal community. The author grew up in a Barunga Aboriginal community

The Secret Message by Mina Javarherbin illus by Bruce Whatley - I love this cover. This is a story based on an anicent Perisan poem

Wings and Dreams/Alas y Suenos The Legend of Angel Falls by Irania Macias Patterson illus. by Catherine Courtland McElvane - Another great find*, a newly imagined folktale from Venezuela by a Venezuelan author

The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say - This is a beautiful story, as always Say's artwork is amazing. I am pretty sure Say writes picture books in his spare time. The rest of Say'swork can be found hanging in museums.

Almost Zero: A Dyamonde Daniel Book by Nikki Grimes illus by R. Gregory Christie - This is the third book in this early chapter series. Grimes and Christie together to me that screams must read. And yes I do love this series.

More Spooky Texas Tales by Tim Tingle and Doc Moore - Of course I would find this one after Halloween, oh well. Spooky stories are great anytime.

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah - This is Abdel-Fattah's third novel and first middle grade novel. I loved her YA debut Does My Head Look Big in This? Really looking forward to reading this one.

Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald - This is a cute middle grade novel about three best friends who may be growing apart. One of the girls is Chinese.

Awake by Wendy Raven McNair. This is the second book in a trilogy. Ari is hosting a giveaway. You have until Nov. 6 to enter

Dragon Chica by May-Lee Chai - This is classified as fiction. Though I haven't read it, I am putting it on the list. Its a coming of age story and the protagonist is 11 yrs old at the onset.

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans - This is a collection of coming of age short stories. Again fiction but works very well as a crossover. These stories are ridiculously good. The first story Virgin's was featured in 2007 Paris Review. read an excerpt

*I am on my game tonight.