Monday, May 30, 2011
Weekends Are Fun Again
So once again weekend are fun again. It also helped that I had a good week. On Thursday I went to a mandatory class for my unemployment benefits, and it was actually more informative then I thought it would be. Since I was having a good day and I was in my big girl shoes I decided to press my luck and head to campus. Still working a few things out but if all goes well, I will be taking the two classes I need to graduate from Clark Atlanta University this fall. I almost let this second chance (which I was very lucky to get) pass by again.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Interview with Ken Min
In case you missed it my interview with Farhana Zia Now please welcome Ken Min
Hi Ken, Congratulations on a wonderful debut. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and studied illustration at Art Center, College of Design. I have a background in storyboarding- having worked on some animated projects and for various commercial houses- but my true love is definitely illustrating. Working on a picture book has been a goal of mine for a very long time now and I'm grateful to Lee & Low for the opportunity to work on my first one.
It's very rare for author's and illustrators to have contact while working on a project. Though its not often they debut at the same time. Did you two exchange emails?
Well, the general rule of thumb is that the author and illustrator don't usually communicate with one another, but now that the book is out, I guess we can mention that we did indeed break that rule. Granted, Ms. Zia was aware about the 'no communication' policy that most publishers have, but she just wanted to drop a note to say hello. I, in return, understood where she was coming from and I also wanted to let her know that I was going to treat her story with all the respect, attention and dedication I could muster.
Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji is the blending of two cultures. Making the story backdrop as essential as the two main characters, Aneel and his grandfather. Was there a particular character or scene you worked around first?
For my part, I did a lot of character design work initially. It helps to 'see' who they are and what they are about visually. Since Aneel and Dada-ji are the main characters, they were my primary focus. From there, the rest of the family came together nicely. Being a family, I wanted visual traits to carry from one to another.
As for starting with a scene, I really just went through from the beginning of the story and jotted down ideas for images. Sometimes I had a picture in mind, other times I skipped over parts to follow up later. It's a bit like a puzzle. Sometimes you'll work on the corner over here and then work on the face over there; going back and forth. Then, as you complete more and more sections, the entire image comes into focus, or, in this case, a picture book.
Have you had the opportunity to read Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji to a group of kids yet? If so what has the response been?
No, not yet. It's something I'm curious about doing and also mildly afraid of trying. I like kids, but not so good speaking and standing up in front of crowds. Oh, the conundrum!
The art work is beautiful. I love your use of color. Can you tell us a little about the style?
I work mainly in acrylics and color pencils. Textures always fascinated me so I rarely ever just put down a straight, flat color. Most times, I'll layer in colors till I get something I like. (This is where working in acrylics is so helpful, since one can paint right on top of the existing paint.) If one wants to talk about influences, it would have to start with Ezra Jack Keats.
I was in a bookstore when I came across his book, The Snowy Day. I remember how much I liked that title as a child for its colorful, clean edge shapes. And just flipping through it then, triggered an idea of how I might approach painting. Of course one can't talk about textures and colors without also referencing Eric Carle, Alice & Martin Provensen and Charley Harper. So, really, a lot of people had a part in this style.
How much different is the finished illustrations from the first drafts?
Well, certainly with any project, one goes through a series of sketches trying to find a layout or composition that best reflects the text. It's probably the most important aspect of the process and the most time consuming just in terms of wanting to get it right. Certainly a lot of discussion went on going back and forth with my art director and editor, but we're all after the same goal- getting the most narrative and fun images we can come up with for each piece of text.
Some images I came upon really quickly, some needed to be worked on and revised. The nice thing about book illustrations is that one has the time to let things marinate for a spell to try and bring out one's best work. Once the composition is working, the actual painting part can move about relatively smoothly. It's like building a house, once you have the foundation set, the rest is very straightforward.
Did you try roti and mango pickle? If so what did you think?
I think the phrase, "It's like a party in one's mouth" comes to mind.
Ken, thanks so much for your time. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Grandma's Chocolate - Mara Price, Lisa Fields
Sabrina's grandmother is visiting from Mexico. With the gifts inside her suitcase, Sabrina becomes a princess. Grandmother teaches Sabrina a few things about Mayan and Aztec princesses.
"Were there really Mayan princesses?" I asked. "Yes, Sabrina, there were both Mayan and Aztec princesses with black hair and dark eyes, like yours," she said. "Many years ago our ancestors had palaces and gold, and great plantations of cacao." "What is cacao?" I asked. "The cacao is a tree and its seeds give us the chocolate we enjoy today. The Olmacs and Mayas were the first to make chocolate."
This is a wonderful story. The longer I look at it, the more I see to love. Fields gorgeous illustrations add another level of beauty.
A few professional reviews via the author's site.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
With or Without You - Brian Farrey
18yr old Evan has just graduated high school. Everyone knows Evan is gay, but no one knows about his boyfriend. Not even Davis, his best friend. The two have been friends since the third grade and came out when they were thirteen. Evan and Davis have been bullied all throughout high school. They planned to move to Chicago for college but that was before Erik and the Chasers.
Evan has been dating Erik for a year. The two have a great relationship. Erik has welcomed Evan fully into his life. Evan feels like a better person when he's with Erik. One of the reasons he's kept Erik a secret is doesn't want Erik to see the weaker Evan. He also worries that relationship will make Davis feel left out.
Davis has always been trying to fit in. When Davis sees a new flier about a new club called the Chasers, that promises to teach what it means to be gay and how to stop being a doormat, he's eager to join. Evan being the best friend that he is goes with him .
Something doesn't feel right about the Chasers or its leader Sable to Evan. But Davis believes he's finally found something to belong to. When Evan learns the truth about the Chasers intentions he tries to warn Davis.
After a year of juggling, Evans two worlds are finally going to collide. Forcing Evan to decide on a future with his bestfriend or boyfriend.
I really liked With or Without You. One of my favorite parts of the story was Evan and Erik's relationship. Farrey goes well beyond the this is not a coming out story, creating a couple that it would be difficult for anyone not to see how much they love each other.
The author took the time to develop Erik's character which only added to my like of Evan and Erik. I loved Evan, he felt very real and was well drawn. Farrey's writing was smooth and well paced. There's a lot going on but it never feels like too much. A great debut.
Read an excerpt
I don't usually add video clips to reviews (unless its a book trailer) but I couldn't resist. I found out but this at Lee Wind's blog, so head over there to learn more about the Tennessee bill
Monday, May 23, 2011
Women Heroes of World War II - Kathryn J. Atwood
One of the best things about Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month was finding new titles. Atwood's latest is about 26 women from 8 different countries who stood up against Hitler's Nazi invasions during WWII.
This is a great introduction to 26 heroes. A few were well known like Corrie Ten Boom and Josephine Baker. Many hid Jews. Some women were captured and killed. All did their part to stop Hitler's reign. The text is fact filled and engaging. I was easily drawn the stories of these brave women. Well sited with extensive notes and a bibliography in the back. After each women story, a learn more box is included.
I highly recommend Atwood's website for Women Heroes of WWII , a great glimpse at what's inside this amazing collection.
I've linked this post to non fiction Monday, which is being host by Mary Ann over at Great Kids Books
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Sunday - A Little of Everything (Including Borders)
Finished WildCat Fireflies by Amber Kizer the other day. It was very good. I love this series. I especially enjoy that Kizer's story is its own thing and not more of the same. I will review in the release month of July. The first book is Meridian (which is out in paperback) my review.
Before the Borders I worked at closed, I purchased a Kobo reader at a good price. (personal severance). Now I don't have to read egalleys on my laptop anymore. Downloading the books was very easy. I just have to figure out how to increase the font for a pdf file.
Working at a store that is closing is actually a lot of fun. Its the one time when the seller has the power. All the customer threats made me laugh.
" I am never shopping here again" - Me too
"I am going to shop at amazon from now on" - Again, me too
" I demand you take back my year old return."
No more laughing at bad customer jokes. No more watching people come in 7 days a week to use the free Wi Fi and not buy anything. No more pretending to care. There are a lot of great customers but some people should not be allowed to shop in stores. Will be talking more about my time at Borders later.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Fantasy Baseball - Alan Gratz
I've been sitting on this book for at least two months. I got it when Gratz was in town for a book signing* at Little Shop of Stories I was worried I wasn't going to like it. So I put off reading it.
Alex Metcalf wakes up one day in Ever After where all storybook and fairytale characters live. This alternate world is just beginning a baseball tournament. Alex finds himself on the Oz Cyclones team bus. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz is the pitcher and captain. Toad from Wind in the Williows is the shortstop. Br'er Rabbit plays third. The rest of the team is made up of less famous Oz characters.
Each member on the winning team gets one wish granted by the Wizard. Dorothy is determined to win a showing with the Wizard. Alex was born to play baseball and will be the Cyclones new first baseman. They go on to play such teams as the Little Women, (Jo, protects her pitcher behind the plate) a Manga team, and Mother Goose.
I knew I was going to enjoy the baseball aspect of this story. It was the fantasy and the classical characters I was concerned about. I was only familiar with a few of the characters. (I've never read many of the these classics, like Wind in the Willows)
I worried for nothing. Fantasy Baseball was easy to fall into. My lack of classical book knowledge didn't lessen my enjoyment. Toad, the player and the politician was one of my favorite characters. Gratz also includes a few contemporary characters. Lester from Ingrid's Savvy drives the Cyclone team bus and a pig that sounds very much like Olivia is the pitcher for the pigs team.
In the first game thanks to Alex everyone laughs at the Big Bad Wolf. The Wolf is not happy, throughout the story he pops in and out in various disguises trying to catch and eat Alex. I really enjoyed this Wolf as the bad guy. It gave the story just the right amount of danger. I absolutely loved Alex's security detail, Nanny Mae and her cat Mrs. P. All Nannies are a part of the Wizard's secret service. There was a great action filled Nanny face off. Very intense and exciting.
All the characters worry their stories will go unread and they will being forgotten. When that happens they vanish from Ever After. This aspect of the story could've easily become too much lesson about remembering classics but the author doesn't let it. Gratz also does a very good job of balancing baseball and fantasy. There isn't too much baseball for non baseball fans but enough for baseball fans to enjoy. There isn't too much fantasy for non fantasy fans, fantasy fans will appreciate the author's world building. I am glad I finally picked this one up, its great story.
* It was pretty cool to learn that author's Brian Jacques and Ingrid Law were okay with their characters being used. Actually Redwall was one of the stadiums.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Nickel Plated - Aric Davis
Finding a good YA mystery is not always easy. Usually I like the premise but not the story. That was not the case here. 12 yr old Nickel is a runaway from abusive foster homes. He vows to never to return and is living on his own.
Nickel tracks down pedophiles online and works as a private investigator. Adults must pay for his services but Nickel helps other kids for free. Arrow goes to Nickel, she believes her younger sister Shelby was kidnapped. Nickel takes the case and discovers an ugly crime ring.
The author does a good job of establishing his main character (Nickel isn't his given name) and revealing a little of his background story. A 12 yr old PI sounds a little far fetched but the author makes it work. A few things do need to be tweaked but overall a solid debut.
The strength of this story lies in the believability of the main character. Some of the best PI's have a dark troubled past, Davis successfully establishes Nickel's demons.
Though I wish Nickel was at least 14 yrs old, 15 would've been ideal. With the selling of marijuana and the blackmailing of pedophiles, I'd place Nickel Plated at the older YA spectrum. I believe there' s an audience for Nickel Plated but I also think the young age of the protagonist will keep some older teens who would like it from picking it up.
I just can't see a lot of older teens wanting to read a novel featuring a 12 yr old. Also Nickel's age limits the chances of possible relationships. Nickel's client Arrow is a few years older and they work well together but you know nothing is going to happen between the two because Nickel too young.
Age aside, this is a good mystery and Nickel is a wonderful new protagonist. I am looking forward to seeing where Davis takes this series.
Read an excerpt
Monday, May 16, 2011
Interview with Farhana. Zia
I will be posting the interview with Ken Min soon, first Farhana Zia
Hi, Farhana, congratulations on a wonderful debut. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I immigrated to the US from Hyderabad, India in 1967. My husband and I live in Framingham, Mass. We have two children and three grandchildren. Ages 5, 3 and 2. I am an elementary school teacher. I've taught the fourth grade for the past 26 years. You could say that teaching is my first passion and writing, my second. Hot -Hot Roti is my first picture book.
It's very rare for authors and illustrators to have contact while working on a project. Though its not often they debut at the same time.
Did you two exchange emails?
I was able to submit illustration notes to my editor but that was the extent of it; the publisher didn't encourage communication with the illustrator. I did send Ken an email, just to say ‘hello’. It seemed to be the proper thing to do. I am grateful to him for doing such a marvelous job of interpreting the text. I had heard that he’d do serious research before embarking on this project and knowing that really eased my mind.
Have you had the opportunity to read Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji to a group of kids yet? If so what has the response been?
So far, I have read the book in my classroom, at the India Society of Worcester in Shrewsbury and to a children’s group at my local town library. I combined the reading with a roti demonstration and a craft. The reaction was very positive. Children love the story and are particularly interested in the lad’s fantastical powers.
Some wonder if drinking milk will make them just as strong! They love to roll the roti dough, north, south, east and west with me. We also have nice discussions about grandparents and grandchildren in general and practice saying, “Arre Wah!”
When I was writing the review, I almost wrote "Aneel's grandparents were coming for a visit." but they were coming to stay.
Did you always known the grandparents would be staying?
Yes. That is the basic premise of the story….multi generations living together, somewhat like a mini joint family system. A lot of inspiration for the story comes from just such settings in the US, where aging parents have come to live with their children and grandchildren, forming three, or even four generation households.
I believe there is a great value in such a set up where everyone learns something valuable from everyone else---the old get to impart their wisdom and the young get to impart their vivacity. Each generation operates as a safety net for the other and there is a lot of sharing and giving. In actuality, Hot ,Hot Roti for Dada-ji really means to highlight and honor inter-generational family bonds.
Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji is the blending of two cultures. Making the story backdrop as essential as the two main characters.
Was there a particular character or scene you worked around ?
Roti was foremost in my mind and I used it as the common cultural element to bridge the past and present in the story. Actually, the idea of Roti was the first thing that came to mind when I was mulling over what to write about, in the first place.
I did give weight to the roti making scenes and particularly wanted to show off Aneel’s initiative, his regard for his grandfather, and his sense of accomplishment at the end.
I love how well this story comes together. Its very seamless from the dada-ji tales wonderful tales, to the inclusion of the whole family and Hindi words sprinkled throughout.
Was it difficult to edit down?
I needed to bring two stories together, the ‘then’and the ‘now’, so to speak. I also wanted to insert cultural elements to bridge these two times. Dada ji’s storytelling and the roti making, were both appropriate common threads linking the past and the present.
The biggest challenge was to pare down the word count and get everything said in a concise manner without compromising the essence of the story.
Mango Pickle is another food dada-ji loves. What is mango pickle? Do you have a regional preference?
Pickles are popular condiments in the cuisine of the Indian sub continent and serve to enhance the taste of a meal. They are made from certain vegetables and fruits that are chopped up into small pieces and cooked in oils, brine and a variety of spices. A high concentration of oil, spices and salt acts as a preservative.
Mango pickle is made from unripe, green mangoes and is pretty popular. Other pickles include lime, carrot, radish, cauliflower, ginger, etc. The Hindi or Urdu term for pickle is achar.
Indian cuisine is regional, extensive and varied. There is something from each region that I love… deep fried puri (deep fried roti) and saag (curried greens) from the North;
a well made lamb or goat biryani (rice stewed with meat) from Hyderabad, accompanied by a dahi ki chutney(yogurt sauce with onion, coriander leaf and green chilli); crispy dosa (crepes made with fermented lentil/rice flour) from the South;
syrupy rasgolla from the East and dhokla from the West. And I absolutely love pani puri, a very popular snack.
I shouldn't have asked that last question because now I am hungry. Farhana Zia, thanks so much for your time and congratulations again on a wonderful debut.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Four is the new Three, That is not a Five
But four has become the new three. I don't get the point of rating books if everything is going to be a four or five, with an occasional three. Some people give fives away. Everything can't be a five, if that's the case the expectation bar must be raised.
I read a lot of the popular or buzzed about YA fiction which more times than not features an all Whitecast. If really like or love such a title will I mention or review it. If I didn't, I won't talk about it. There's a good chance the book gave me a bad case of readers potty mouth and I skimmed my way through it. So an evenhanded critique would be impossible.
Plus I simpy don't feel I need to give space to books with all whitecast that I thought were blah. There are enough blogs that focus on these titles. After I finish a blah read, I like to see what other people thought. When I see a lot of five ratings, all I can think is that is not a five. I do rate the blah reads on my goodreads page. A one or two rating says it all. No review required.
Diversity in YA Book Tour - Last Stop
Matt de la Peña my review
Kekla Magoon my review
Neesha Meminger my review
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich my review
Rita Williams-Garcia - an excerpt
Jacqueline Woodson my review
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Nerds Heart YA 2011 Shortlist
The 2011 shortlist.
NerdsHeartYA has a great track record of past winners.
2009 My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger - I loved this one so much. It ridicoulsy good, laugh out loud funny and filled me with so much joy.
2010 Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz - Again nothing but love. This author is pretty sick with a pen. Once again Alire Saenz simply put is all into it.
Looking forward to seeing which of the 32 will win this year. But the best thing about this tournament is it's not just about the winner. There are some great books on the list that are worth adding to your tbr list. I've read 18 so far and I know for a fact there is some serious WoW.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Bhangra Babes - Narinder Dhami
This is the final book in the Babes trilogy. Now that sister's Amber, Jazz and Geena have gotten used to their aunt, she's getting married. The family prepares for the wedding and the sisters make a bet, to catch the eye of Rocky, a new student. This time a few of Amber's ideas workout. Though she may have gone too far by agreeing to let Rocky play at the reception without telling auntie or hearing him play.
This one was just as fun as the first two. It's not easy finding fun well written tween chick lit. And its pretty much impossible to find such books with characters of color. There's really nothing left for me to say, except I wish more were coming out. I highly recommend reading in order. Bindi Babes is first.
All the talk about music and weddings in Bhangra Babes I decided to find link to something. I looked at a lot of clips and I finally found five dancers that owned the stage.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
The Lemonade Crime - Jacqueline Davies
The story alternates between Evan and Jessie. Each chapter is headed by a defined legal term. Scott's served in the 5th chapter called Accused. Once again Davies writes a great story. Evan and Jessie's voices ring very true, and the same goes for their classmates. I enjoyed watching the trail play out. Davies gives young readers a good look at the legal system.
I loved The Lemonade War and was very excited to hear a sequel was coming out. Once again Davies writes a great story. The Lemonade Crime can be read as a standalone but I highly recommend reading The Lemonade War first. Davies novels are a great suggestion for fans of Andrew Clements.
With authors Malinda Lo an excerpt
Claudia Guadalupe Martinez my review
Nnedi Okorafor my review
Cindy Pon Ari's review
Monday, May 9, 2011
Are You Going to Kiss Me Now? - Sloane Tanen
Francesca wins a Seventeen magazine essay contest. Her prize is a partial scholarship and a celebrity tour of Madagascar and other regions of East Africa through GLEA - Girls Literacy East Africa. Francesca will be traveling with five well known celebrities who need the good PR.
Chaz (a la Perez Hilton) who runs a very popular celebrity blog is going as well. When the plane crashes the seven people are stranded on an island somewhere near Madagascar.
Before the island Francesca's guilty pleasure is keeping up with celebrity gossip.
"When I was finished with the mags, I'd roll them up and stuff them in the bottom of the trash outside so nobody would find them. I was addicted and ashamed. I hated all those celebrities, and yet I envied how special they got to be. It wasn't fair. I mean, nobody cared that I let Andy Blank touch my boob last Saturday, so why did I care if Miley Cyrus got drunk at the CMAs or if Zac Efron wore eyeliner? But I did care. A lot?"
There are a few references to real celebrities but the story holds it's own with it's fake celebrities. Amongst the five stars there's drama and little help.
"Did I say you could go through my stuff?" Milan screeched as she snatched the bottle out of Eve's hand and pushed a mat of wet hair off her face. Milan looked seriously pissed. She reached for one of the sticks and attacked Eve, holding the twig under her chin like a knife. I kid you not."
Are You Going to Kiss Me Now? sounded like it would be a lot of fun and it was. I really enjoyed it and laughed out loud a lot. Ages 12up
Monday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m.BookPeople with authors
Bethany Hegedus my review
Malinda Lo my review
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Cindy Pon my review
Dia Revees my review
and moderated by Varian Johnson
I will take a moment to mention all the stops on this tour because its a good excuse to highlight a few great titles.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Sunday - A Little of Everything
On May 1st, Guys Lit Wire announced their third annual Book Fair. This year all donated books will be going to Ballou Senior H.S. in Washington D.C.
"There are probably more books in my house then Ballou has in this video and that is wrong in so many ways that I don’t even know where to begin.
At the time the video was made early this year there were just over 1,150 books on the shelves at Ballou; there are over 1,200 students in the school. So there was barely one book for each student (the ALA standard is 11:1)"
Carol Rasco had two guest bloggers last week over at Rasco From RIF for El Dia de los libros
Illustrator John Parra - His latest project is Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
"Creating and illustrating Waiting for the Biblioburro, was a tremendous pleasure. As I painted the book’s many scenes, I would get lost in the characters and landscapes that made this story special to me."
And author/illustrator Eric Velasquez - 2011 Pura Belpre winner for Grandma's Gift
Part of the fun of illustrating books is that sometimes the images mean more to the illustrator than to the people who read the books and other times if you are lucky the images mean more to the reader than to illustrator or the author, because they add their own back-story to the characters based on their own life experiences.
Librarian and Blogger Edi Campbell recommends a few titles for Asian-Pacific Heritage Month
"I love blogging! It gives me such an opportunity to learn! I was going to do, am doing, a quick and easy post on Asian- Pacific American Heritage month, but in gathering photos to spruce up my verbage, I found out that"
Congratuations to author Zetta Elliott and illustrator Shadra Strickland, their book Bird was this year's winner for West Virginia Children's Choice Book Award
Literacyhead is an organzation that believes in teaching literacy through art.
"A Literacyhead is someone who is intensely serious about exercising creative literacy, making connections across multiple literacies, pursuing thoughtful literacy as an individual and as a teacher, and constantly searching for ideas. Literacyheads may have expertise in different areas of literacy, but all are committed to children's literacy, passionate about the arts, incessant thinkers, and display a propensity for having fun. "
The Guardian linked to one of my post last week it was very exciting. Though the irony is they selected one of my few bookseller post and very soon on the 15th I will no longer be a bookseller, store is closing. I considered changing my blogger name but I decided againist it, I've earned my moniker.
One of my favorite novels this year ( and its not a YA crossover) is Please Look After Mom by Kyung- Sook Shin.
Usually with translated titles I feel as if I've missed something, this was not the case. I loved this book so much.
Vasilly wonderful review of Please Look After Mom.
Friday, May 6, 2011
And So It Begins
Saturday, May 7 at 3 p.m.
San Francisco Public Library (Main Library)
100 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Highlighting Asian American YA books with authors
Guen Luen Yang
Since it Asian American Heritage month this is a perfect way to kick off the tour.