Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Sale Now : New Releases

Below are all the children's and young adult books published in Januray that I am aware of which feature characters of color or a diverse cast. Usually I post this list at the beginning of the month, since I showcased 2012 titles I will looking forward to on the Dec. 31, decided to push this post back until the end of the month. The Feburary installment will go up around the 15th, than this feature will be back on schedule.

Words Set Me Free by Lesa Cline-Ransome illus. by James E. Ransome

Stars in the Shadows by Charles R. Smith jr. illus. by Frank Morrison
Freedom's a Callin Me by Ntozake Shange illus. by Rod Brown
When Grandmama Sings by Margaree King Mitchell illus. by James Ransome
Just as Good: How Larry Doby Changed America's Game by Chris Cowe illus. by Mike Benny
Ellen's Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons illus. by Daniel Minter
We March by Shane W. Evans
Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter illus. by Marjorie Priceman

What Color is My World by Kareem Abdul -Jabbar illus. by A.G. Ford
Touch the Sky:Alice Coachman Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina illus. by Eric Velasquez
Freedom Song:The Story of Henry "Box" Brown by Sally M. Walker illus. by Sean Qualls
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer illus. Elizabeth Zunon . Read this book for free and support the We Gives Book Campaign

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Dumpling Days by Grace Lin

Oopsy Daisy by Lauren Myracle
Crow by Barbara Wright
The Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani my review

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards my review
Irises by Francisco X. Stork
In Darkness by Nick Lake my review

Teenie by Christopher Grant (paperback)
Sellout by Ebony Joy Wikins (paperback)
Zora and Me by Victoria Bond T.R. Simon
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia (paperback)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The People Have Spoken (The Read In)

In February I will be co hosting an African American Read In with two other bloggers, Edi and Vasilly. We had a poll of six titles to choose from -

Good Fortune by Noni Carter
Fences by August Wilson
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
Topdog/Underdog by Suzi Lori Parks
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Pull by B.A. Binns

It was very close but Ninth Ward* was the selected title.

Ninth Ward is Rhodes first middle grade novel. I had the pleasure of interviewing the author when the book was released in 2010. Since Jewell Parker Rhodes is known for adult fiction, I hope readers who normally don't read MG or YA fiction will consider participating in the Read In which will start on Monday Feb.2oth,

That gives you more than enough time to get a hold of Ninth Ward from your book source of choice be it your local library or indie, or amazon which currently has the hardcover edition on sale for $6.40

The Black History Blog Hop hosted by Reflections of a Bookaholic and Mocha Girls Read starts on Wednesday.

*I don't do it often but because of the past interview and very close results I feel a little full disclosure is in order. I contributed two books to the Read In poll including Ninth Ward. I did vote but not for either one of my picks.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Read In, Black History Month Blog Hop, Blog Tours

Next month is the 23rd National African American Read In. This year I will be hosting an online read in with Edi from Crazy Quilts and Vasilly from 1330V. Today is the last day to head over to Vasilly's blog to vote.

In honor of Black History Month, there's going to be a Black History Month Hop hosted by Reflections of a Bookaholic and Mocha Girls Read.

Purpose: To give black authors, books and those who support them a month in the spotlight.
Before the hop the hosts site will open the link for entry. Your site can post anything related to the weeks topic. Your site must link to the host site and add the button to the post as well.

The Weekly Topics for the Black History Month Hop can be found here I am really looking forward to participating. Besides the Read In I can't wait to include my interview with Vaunda Micheaux Nelson about her newest release No Crystal Stair. I loved this starred Kirkus Review novel so much, which was illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Nelson sent me her answers today (very early) and she does a much better job of summarizing No Crystal Stair then I ever could.

"No Crystal Stair is a 15-year labor of love. It’s about two things near and dear to my heart -- books and family. It’s is the story of a remarkable man who was a pioneer in the struggle toward literary diversity, a pioneer in the efforts to make more African and African American literature available in America. The man was the Harlem Professor, Lewis Michaux, my great uncle. His National Memorial AfricanBookstore became a Harlem landmark -- a gathering place for scholars, politicians, activists,writers, artists, actors, and athletes -- until its closing in 1975."

Yesterday I finished Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph. Joesph joined the Black Panthers when he was 15. At 16 he was the youngest Black Panther arrested in the Panther 21 case in 1969.

There's a beautiful sensibility to the authors writing. This excellent adult memoir screams YA crossover. For much of the book Joseph is talking about his teen years as a Black Panther. Can't wait to review this one and link it to the hop. Read an excerpt, via publisher.

I have a change of heart regrading Blog Tours. In the past I was against them because I thought caused online overload for books on tour. Now I realize that authors have to do what they must to promote their novels. It's not easy for authors and its getting harder every day. Plus there are so many blogs it would be easy for an author to do a tour with little readership overlap.

My first interview of 2012 was with Jasmine Richards, was part of the author's blog tour for her wonderful debut The Book of Wonders. As is my second interview with Ashley Hope Perez. Perez's blog tour for The Knife and the Butterfly begins at Forever Young Adult on the 30th. I am glad I do not have to follow them. Their review is awesome and serious bonus points for slipping in a Golden Girl.

Another thing that helped change my opinion, are authors who show that not all blog tours are the same. Perez's blog tour schedule , she's visiting a lot of diverse blogs and thanks to the great teaser lines I know each day will offer up something new.

I managed to squeeze in four titles in this post, hopefully one has caught your eye. If not how about one of the six books in the African American Read In Poll

Friday, January 27, 2012

In Darkness - Nick Lake

In Darkness by Nick Lake
Set in Haiti the story alternates between the present and the past. In the present Shorty is buried alive after the 2010 earthquake. Surrounded by darkness Shorty decides to share his story to pass what little time he has left. Shorty tells all including, his love for his Manman and twin sister, and what lead him to join a gang in his Site Soley neighborhood. In the past Toussaint L'Ouverture is about to become the oldest general to lead a revolution. There's an overlap between the two stories that Lake handles with a smooth hand.

In Darkness pulled me in hard from the beginning. Just two pages in I was reminded of Zusak's The Book Thief, partly because Lake was able to make the darkness feel like a real presence. And partly because Shorty was calmly telling his story and willing to accept what would come. I loved Shorty voice it felt real and honest. I truly appreciated the author's seamless inclusion of L'Ouverture and the revolution for freedom. I thought the author did an excellent job bringing Haiti and Shorty's Site Soley neighborhood to life. A 2012 favorite.

An excerpt of Now - Shorty's chapters

An excerpt of Then Toussaint L'Ouverture's chapters

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Few Tips for Authors Sending ARC Queries to Bloggers

ARC's is short for advanced reader copy. Publishers or publicists send out these review copies or galleys pre publication to reviewers. Sometimes authors wanting to help get the word out on their books will offer up arc's to bloggers. For those authors I've decided to list a few, hopefully helpful tips.

When sending an arc query to a blogger

1.Always use the blogger's name, spelled correctly. When there's no name its obvious its a general query sent to a blast list. Some bloggers will say yes to a review copy. However, yes doesn't mean the novel will be read anytime soon once it arrives.

2. Try to avoid using a general query. It doesn't entice or give a blogger a reason to not simply let it sit unread. Bloggers read a lot and usually have a ton reading material to choose from, library, purchased books, gifts other arc's, gifts

3. Include an excerpt. If a general query is unavoidable, there should be an excerpt. Though I think a sample of the novel is always a must.

4. It's better for an author and their novel if they seek out bloggers who read that genre and age level. For author's of children's or YA fiction - a list of bloggers via Kidlitopshere Central

5. After finding a few blogs that you believe will be a nice fit for your novel, go back and read a few of the reviews. Do pay attention to how active the blog is, if its weeks between new post the blogger probably doesn't have time for anything new.

6. If a blog has over 500 followers, chances are good that blogger has a very large pile of books to be read. If they say yes to arc query know that it will probably be a while before they get to it.

7. Bloggers read blogs. Finding bloggers via the comments of a blog with heavy traffic is a good way of catching the eye of a blogger with a ton of followers.

8. Do not have friends and family write bogus five star reviews on Amazon. Before saying yes to an arc query, I'll visit amazon and goodreads. If I see five star reviews claiming the books, the next Harry Potter, I'll quickly say no.

9 Try to give a blogger a reason to read your novel sooner rather than later.

10. If sending the arc on your own dime, use media mail. It will only take a day or two longer and is a lot cheaper.

11. Sometimes you can save your dime, by giving bloggers the choice of getting a electronic galley if its exists.

12. It's great to sell your book to a bloggers, so they will be more inclined to say yes to the query but do not forget to ask if the blogger would like a review copy. Never assume that the copy for review offer is implied. Thanks so much to Reads4Pleasure for 11&12

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 African American Read In

Next month is the 23rd National African American Read In. This year I will be hosting an online read in with Edi from Crazy Quilts and Vasilly from 1330V.

There are six books to choose from -

Good Fortune by Noni Carter
Fences by August Wilson
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
Topdog/Underdog by Suzi Lori Parks
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Pull by B.A. Binns

In an effort to keep the votes together, there's just one poll which can be found here at Vasilly's blog. The selected book will be announced this Monday, Jan 30th. and the read in well start on Monday Jan. 2oth.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Eliza's Freedom Road - Jerdine Nolen

Eliza's Freedom Road by Jerdine Nolen
Nolen has written several picture books which I've loved. Raising Dragons and Thunder Rose are two of my favorites. Eliza Freedom Road is her middle grade debut and it's a very good one.

Set in 1854 11 yr old Eliza is a slave on a Virginia plantation. The plantation owner sold Eliza's mother without giving the two a chance to say good. Eliza is looked after by Abbey, who is responsible for the kitchen. Eliza knows how to read and write and Abbey encourages her to keep a diary. The mistress of the house isn't well and it's Eliza's job to look after her. When the mistress goes to stay with her sister in Baltimore Eliza's goes too. Eliza is scared about her future if she returns to the plantation in Virginia. Rather then worry about being sold again Eliza decides to make her way alone to freedom.

Eliza's mother was a gifted story teller, that gift has been passed down. Weaved within the journal entries, are the stories Eliza's tells to people on her quest for freedom. The quilt Eliza is holding on the cover was given to Eliza by her mother, each patch represents a different story. There are two empty spaces for Eliza to add her own stories.

I really enjoyed the straightforward telling of Eliza's Freedom Road. I also appreciated that mistress wasn't portrayed as a kind hearted soul who Eliza would become attached to. It's no secret that there are a lot of middle grade novels set during the civil war era. Yet it can still be difficult to find one that would be appropriate for a young reader you is just being introduced to the history slavery in the U.S. With each new diary entry, the reader gets to know Eliza and her situation a little better. Therefore allowing a reader to better understand slavery.

I loved the stories intertwined within the diary entries. They fit all the scenes seamlessly. The stories were also great reprieve for Eliza and the others seeking freedom. In the author notes, Nolen talks briefly about all the stories, including the Flying People and How the Stars Came Into the Sky.

read chapter one

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jasmine Richards Interview

When I started reading Jasmine Richards, middle grade fantasy novel, The Books of Wonders I couldn't put it down. My review and you can read the first seven chapters, here but first please enjoy this interview with the author which I jumped at the chance to do.

Hi Jasmine, can you tell us a little about yourself and The Book of Wonders?

I am 30 years old and currently live in Oxfordshire although I grew up in London. I work at Oxford University Press as a senior commissioning editor which means, besides other things, I get to read books all the time. When I was little I always had my nose in a book . So I still can’t believe that I’ve found a job where I get paid to work with stories all day long.

My story addiction doesn’t end there, in the evening I am busy writing novels and The Book of Wonders is my first one.

Since the Books of Wonders is influenced by Middle Eastern folk tales, do you have a favorite Arabian Nights translation or tale?

It’s too hard to choose one, here are my top six!
The Fisherman and the Djinni
Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp
The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor
The Adventures of Bulukiya
The City of Brass
The Ebony Horse
Usually when I finish a 400 page middle grade novel I can't help but think it could've been shorter. Though that wasn't the case here thestory moves at a great pace and every scene serves a purpose.

When you started writing did you have guesses as to the length of the story?

Doret, I have to agree with you and say that I feel on average middle grade novels could do with being a bit shorter.

I know Harry Potter was a game changing when it came to length forthis age group but it is still worth thinking about the reading stamina of the younger readers in the middle grade bracket.

However, the writing mind says one thing and the writing heart another. As hard as I tried this is the length that this story came out and I barely give Zardi and Rhidan a break the whole way through.

For book 2, which is provisionally called The Spell Scrolls and will be out in 2013, I am hoping to make the story a bit shorter but the characters do still seem to find themselves in a pickle!

I really like the cover. It’s a great reflection of the story within and I think it will appeal to boys and girls.

Who is the cover artist?

I adore the cover as well. Jeff Nentrup is the artist. His work is gorgeous and I count myself very lucky to have had him as the artist for my book.

One of my favorite things about Book of Wonders is its visual appeal,especially when Zardi is armed with her weapon of choice a bow and arrow. Did you have an opportunity to take any archery lessons?

I didn’t take any archery lessons but I did read archery books. I do think though it is important to try and experience some of the physical challenges you put your characters through. So I tried practising jumping from rampart to rampart in Morocco above a ragingse but I got scared so I had to come down again immediately! My boyfriend did it for me instead and I then got him to describe how it felt. I did better when I was on holiday in Thailand and handled a pretty big snake. That experience was invaluable as I came to understand a bit more about the texture and movement of snakes.

That's so cool that you got to visit Morocco and Thailand for "research". That's a pretty big snake, though compared to the many snakes Zardi and Rhidan faced it would probably be considered small.

Do you plan to publish The Books of Wonders in the UK?

I live in the UK and so I’m super keen to have this book available over here. At the moment publishers are considering it and so we’llsee what happens!

Can you tell us a little about your upcoming Skype tour?

It’s still in the very early stages of being organized but I am keen to try and visit as many schools in the US as possible. Because I live in the UK the only way I can really do this is via Skype. If you area school or library or bookshop that would like to host a visit I am available for free Skype Chats. I can talk more about what it is like to be an author and offer some writing tips and exercises. I think it could be a lot of fun, although undoubtedly there will be some hiccups! But if anyone out there is up for giving it a go, then so am I. Visit my website more details.

This next two questions are shamefully off topic.

What three American actors/actresses do you believe have the best and worst British accents?

I think Gwyneth Paltrow, Renee Zellweger and Johnny Depp all have great British accents

The worst would be Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, Don Cheadle’s accent in Oceans 11 was pretty awful, and Anne Hathaway’s Sheffield accent in One Day was dire.

I must say though that their British accents are far better than my American one which one American friend has described as a strangled valley girl – charming!

What did you think of Meryl Steep's accent as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady?

I thought Meryl Streep’s performance was incredible, simply incredible. I thought the film was good but Streep’s performance was almost bigger than the film – it is certainly the only thing people are talking about.

Jasmine thanks for humoring on those last two questions.Congratulations on a wonderful debut. I look forwarding to reading more of Zardi and Rhidan's adventures in The Spell Scrolls or by any other name.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog Doret, I had a blast.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Book of Wonders - Jasmine Richards

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards
13 yr old Zardi lives and her best friend Rhidan do everything together. The two live in Arribitha where magic is forbidden by the sultan. Anyone got using magic of any kind risk imprisonment or death. The sultan is cruel and vicious to his people, Zardi's father is the sultan's vizier, a kind of aid. This is position Zardi father hoped to keep some of the sultan's hideous acts to a minimum. However the sultan feels betrayed, and he takes Zubeyda, Zardi's older sister prisoner as his new praisemaker. All unwed girls risked being placed in a tower for a season. Once there time is up the sultan will hunt and kill them for sport. Zardi has 90 days to find a way to save her sister. Rhidan was left in Arribitha as a baby, he sets off with Zardi, in hopes of finding out where he's from. The one thing I would've changed was less references to Rhidan's hair and eye color. Though they were the reasons why he stood out, I felt they got refered too much. Zardi and Rhidan have a great friendship and work very well together. The two soon find themselves very far from Arribitha, unsure of who to trust, being hunted by the sultan with more questions than answers.
Once I started reading I couldn't stop. What I loved best about The Book of Wonders is the author never tries to do too much,simply lets the story unfold. The author has written a wonderful story that is inspired by Middle Eastern folk tales. The dialogue throughout is sharp, and all the action scenes are visually fun. Richard's is a senior editor at Oxford University Press Children's Books, I believe this helped her debut . It's as if The Book of Wonders was scrutinized by two pairs of editorial eyes. I am usually apprehensive about middle grade novels that are 400 pages long but this was not one of those times. There was no excess here, every scene served a purpose. This is an excellent debut, Richard's knows how to tell a good story.

Kirkus review and Publisher's Weekly review via author's site.

Read the first 7 chapters via HarpersCollins.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012 Pura Belpre Award (Amor, Un Mas Tiempo)

Ayer, I looked at the illustrator half of the Pura Belpre Award. Today it's all about the Narrative. As with the CSK award, its not age specific, as long as a book fits the criteria its eligible.
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

There were 17 Latino authors published in 2011. I've included the nine titles I believe are eligible along with the the four picture books. Unfortunately I had to leave off the picture books I haven't read. (with one exception) Since online spreads allowed me to see illustrations but not enough text to make an educated guess on narrative.

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown illus. by John Parra
Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh
The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos illus. by Rafeal Lopez
Pablo Neruda by Monica Brown illus. by Julie Paschkis
Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina illus. by Claudio Munoz
SkateFate by Juan Felipe Herrera
Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle
If I Could Fly by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Tomas and the Magic Race Cars by Ramon Mesa Ledesma
Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia Mccall
How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over by Julia Alvarez
Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel by Xavier Garza

There were a lot of verse novels published in 2011 and that's confirmed by this small sample of novels. Four out the nine on this list are in verse form. (Herrera, Engle, Cofer and Mccall)

Skatefate - unfortunately the verse style of this one didn't capture me.
How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over - This is a fun series and I always look forward to the next one. Alvarez won the narrative award in 2010 for Return to Sender (loved it) and she will win it again in the future her writing is too good not to.
Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel - I haven't read this one but from the summary it sounds like a fun story.
Tomas and the Magic Race Cars - For this one I read the excerpt and it was more than enough to get a feel for the writing. It was good but there are simply too many strong contenders this year.
Dancing Home - I really enjoyed this one. Maybe the fact that the committee will have to read four verse novels will work in favor of Dancing Home. The authors have a new book coming out in July called Love, Amalia, I love the cover.

If I Could Fly - This recieved a starred kirkus review and was named a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus

Hurricane Dancers is classic Engle, and past committee's have responded well to her style.

Under the Mesquite - This was my favorite novel in verse last year . It received a starred kirkus review and was named a Best Teen Book of 2011. It's also a 2012 Morris Award finalist.

Waiting for the Biblioburro - I really enjoyed the text of this one. The story had a wonderful arc and it was just fun.

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours - There are a lot of strong contenders this year but I am pulling for this to get a honor. There are a lot of children's bios on Diego Rivera but I really liked how was still able to make this one stand out textually. And loved all the extra info in the back.

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred - Vamos non tradional approach to a bilingual story was so smart and very good.

Pablo Neruda - The text has a great rhythm it was very poetry -esque, a wonderful way to remember a poet.

Tia Isa Wants a Car - This is my one expection. From the little I've read so far the text is beautiful and musical. I could easily see this one getting an honor, and I'd be more than okay with that.

Who I think will win - Guadalupe Garcia Mccall for Under the Mesquite
Who I want to win - Guadalupe Garcia Mccall for Under the Mesquite

Who I think will honor - Samantha R. Vamos for The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, Alma Flor Ada for Dancing Home, Monica Brown for Waiting for the Biblioburro

Who I want to honor - Alma Flor Ada for Dancing Home, Duncan Tonatiuh for Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, Monica Brown for Waiting for the Biblioburro

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 The Pura Belpre Award (Un Poco de Amor)

On Jan. 23 the Youth Media Awards will be given out. I've already looked at the CSK award and to do that and not the Pura Belpre Award es no bueno.

The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

1.A Bailer ! Lets Dance by Judith Ortiz Colfer illus. by Christina Ann Rodriquez
2.Adelita and the Veggie Cousins by Diane Gonzales illus. by Christina Rodriquez
3.Clara and the Curandera by Monica Brown illus. by Thelma Muraida
4.Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown illus. by John Parra
5.Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match by Monica Brown illus. by Sara Palacios
6 Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh
7. Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro Ng illus. by Yuyi Morales
8. The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos illus. by Rafeal Lopez
9. Talking Eagle and the Lady Roses by Eugene Gollogly illus. by Amy Cordova
10. Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina illus. by Claudio Munoz

I think I've found all the eligible picture books for illustrator award but then I thought the same thing for the CSK award and missed three books. Lo siento if I do the same thing here. I've read four out of the nine. For the rest I had to make do with online excerpts and spreads.

A Bailer ! Lets Dance is one of the ones I didn't read. Since it didn't get a good kirkus review I will place this in the non contender pile.

Adelita and the Veggie Cousins - didn't read this either however the cover art isn't working for me.

Clara and the Curandera for this one I was able to look at a few spreads via Thelma Muraida, the illustrators site and really enjoyed what I saw. Especially when Clara smells the flowers.

Talking Eagle and the Lady Roses - Again I had to make do with spreads and I liked what I saw and Cordova was an honor recipient in 2009 for What Can You Do With A Rebozo?

Tia Isa Wants a Car - (I knew I'd forgot one) Only saw a little of this one as well but liked what I saw. The illus. have a clean straight forward look and Munoz color palette is very nice. I would not be surprised to see this one get an honor.

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match this is the last one I haven't read promise. Though I love the spreads I saw via Sara Palacios, the illustrators site. Marisol is adorable with her little eye patch.

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours - Tonatiuh style is such that either you like it or you don't. I happen to like it a lot. Last years committee did as well, his debut Dear Primo was an illustrator honor recipient. The illus. of Diego Rivera are very much the same as his debut. Overall I like this one more.

Waiting for Biblioburro - Parra's illustrations are beautiful and each time I look at them I like them even more. They fit Brown's text perfectly

Ladder to the Moon - Morales illustrations are gorgeous, I could easily enjoy this story without reading a word. Though according to the rules of the award books must portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience and Ladder to the Moon doesn't do that. It does however encourage cultural unity and that should count for something. Since it's illlustrated by an artist who is a past winner, I believe the committee will at least look at it. If its eliagble or not, yo no se

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred - Lopez loves color and knows how to use it. The bright and beautiful illustrations pop off the page.

In the end I believe who will win is between Parra, Morales and Lopez. Since Ladder to the Moon may or may not fit the criteria, it comes down to a two way push between Parra and Lopez (in my head I am picturing the two artist in a ring with a canvas and their medium of choice)

Who I think will win - Parra for Waiting on Bibliburro/Lopez for The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred

Who I want to win - Lopez The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred / John Parra for Waiting on Bibliburro

That was muy dificil and I totally chickened out, but it really is a coin toss.

Who I think will honor - Palacios for Marisol Mcdonald Doesn't Match, Muraida for Clara and the Curandera, Lopez or Parra,

Who I want to honor - Lopez or Parra, Tonatiuh for Diego Rivera, Palacios, Morales for Ladder to the Moon

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The 2012 Coretta Scott King Award (Part 2)

On Thursday I looked at the illustrator portion of the CSK award, today I will be focusing on the author award.

Past winners One difference between the CSK award , Printz, Newbery and the Caldecott is it's not age specific. As long as a book fits the criteria be it a picture book, poetry, middle grade fiction or young adult fiction its eligible.

Section 1: The main purpose of the Task Force is to annually grant the Coretta Scott King Award to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding contributions to literature for children and young adults. The Coretta Scott King Award is given to encourage the artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts including: biographical, social, historical, and social history treatments. The books are selected because they promote an understanding and appreciation of the black culture and experience. The Award is further designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue his work for peace and world brotherhood.

You can read the rest of the purpose of the CSK task force here

Below I've included the three picture books plus the 12 middle grade and YA novels that might be CSK eligible

1 We Are America by Walter Dean Myers
2 Never Forgotten by Patricia C. McKissack
3 Heart and Soul by Walter Dean Myers
4 Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon
5 Joseph’s Grace by Shelia Moses
6 Eliza’s Freedom Road by Jerdine Nolen
7Kick by Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman
8 How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen
9 Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
10 Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney
11 Silhouetted By the Blue by Traci L. Jones
12 Checkmate (Cruisers 2) by Walter Dean Myers
13 Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri
14 Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes
15 Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods

To shorten this I will begin by marking off the ineligible and ones I don't think are true contenders.

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba- Sized Trophy, this was Allen's middle grade fiction debut so that would put her in the running for the John Steptoe Award.

Akata Witch by Okorafor, I would love to see a fantasy novel win the CSK award one day. Since I've embraced fantasy I've learned that it much it is filled with a lot history and a look at what's possible. In 2011 Jewell Parker Rhodes won a CSK honor for Ninth Ward. (loved it) While main character can see ghosts overall think the novel straddles the fantasy fiction line, leaning more towards fiction

Kick by Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman - At first I was wondering if this one would be eligible with a co worker that wasn't African American but then I remember Leo and Diane Dillon and knew it would be. Then I wondered if the storyline fit the criteria, I read some it early on in 2011 but can't remember but I am leaning heavily towards no. Though if it does fit the criteria there are stronger contenders this year so I would still be placing this one in the non contention pile.

Checkmate is the only one listed here that I didn't read. I could only make it part way through book one. I think Myers best chance to get a CSK honor this year is with We Are America

I thought Planet Middle School by Grimes was okay. I need the flow of verse novels to be tight and smooth. I didn't get that from this one.

Joseph Grace's this was a sequel to Joseph, In the first book I felt the protagonist voice sounded too young for his intended age. The problem continued into the second book, Joseph's 16 but sounds a few years younger. I loved the Legend of Buddy Bush by Moses which was a National Book Award Finalist and CSK honor in 2005. Much of its appeal for me was how well Buddy Bush was developing, unfortunately Joseph is not as well defined.

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach - This was a solid read and very enjoyable if it was published in another year I think it would get a longer look, however there are simply too many stronger contenders this year

So excluding the above 6 titles, that leaves 8 contenders for the CSK

We Are America - textually this book works very well. However as I write this I am wondering if it fits the CSK criteria, since its not just about the Black experience. Since it does promote cultural acceptance I think it will be considered. If it is there will probably be a lot of back and forth.

Never Forgotten has received 5 starred reviews - I believe it will get a CSK illustrator honor and its stands a very good chance of winning the author award. I know I am suppose to love this one but I simply don't connect with it. I looked at it several times and even tried reading it aloud, still nothing. One thing I have a difficult time believing is that all four elements, earth, wind, fire and water are no where to be found when Musafa is taken aboard the slave ship. How in the heck did neither Mother Water or Mother Wind know the ship was in the area. How did both miss the presence of a big ol slave ship. I know am probably thinking too hard and should stop so I can enjoy the story but I can't

Heart and Soul, In 2009 Nelson's first solo project We are the Ship - Was the author award winner and an illustrator honor. Its not often that a book gets recognized in both categories for the CSK award. Heart and Soul is visually amazing, and textually its very good. However I felt We are the Ship was better story wise. One thing that could keep Heart and Soul from getting an author award is a lack of sufficient back matter. I've always assumed id its one committee for the author and illustrator award, that if a book is going recognized in both categories then everything must be extra tight. Truthfully I am winging this whole thing, I only hope some of these educated guesses at least sound good.

Camo Girl is actually one of my favorite books on this list. In 2010 Magoon won the John Steptoe Award for new author for the Rock and the River. I've always assumed that all committee will consider the work of past winners or honors until they feel the authors work no longer deserves consideration. So going on that along I figure Camo Girl was discussed but I think the committee probably had a difficult time with this one. The writing is excellent, and the question could come down to does it fit the criteria enough. There are only two African American students at the school and the main character is teased for being different. However there are many layers to this story and that simply a small part. This is going to be a close call.

Eliza's Freedom Road - The first time I picked this one up, it didn't click but second time in loved it. This is an excellent middle grade debut by Nolen ( she's written several picture books) The story is weaved together very well, I especially enjoyed how Nolen allows Eliza to seamlessly share the stories her mother told her. I will be pulling for this one as well.

Bird in a Box - I loved the premise of this story, set around great the great depression and Joe Louis. I've loved a lot of Andrea Pinkney's work in the past unfortunately this one didn't work for me. I am very conflicted with how the committee with respond to this one. If it was written by another author I think it would be considered briefly, and a few flaws noticed before moving on. However since its by Pinkney I believe it will get more attention.

Silhouetted By the Blue - Traci L. Jones won the John Steptoe award for new talent in 2007 for Standing Against the Wind, an excellent debut. Her sophomore novel was good but this one reminded me of why I feel for Jones writing in the first place. This is one of the best middle grade or young adult novels that deals with depression of a parent. Like Camo Girl this is a well layered story and another one I am pulling for. I am hoping one or two of the committee members have a soft spot for the Wiz. The main character, Serena has the lead in the school musical and they're putting on the Wiz.

Ghetto Cowboy - Neri Knows how to tell a good story and has yet to write anything I haven't liked. While I enjoyed this one I don't think its Neri's best work. There are not a lot of contemporary middle grade novels featuring African American boys - will the committee take that into consideration when judging this one? If they do I'd be okay that because Neri did an excellent job with Cole, the main character's voice.

The only thing I know for sure about the CSK award is that there's one winner. The number of honors varies yearly, usually its two or three. One thing I believe about the CSK award is that its easier for an author to win if they've won in past years

Who I think will win - Patricia C. McKissack for Never Forgotten

Who I want to win - Traci L. Jones for Silhouetted By the Blue

Who I think will honor - Andrea Pinkney for Bird in a Box, Jerdine Nolen for Eliza's Freedom Road, Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

Who I want to honor - Kekla Magoon for Camo Girl, Jerdine Nolen for Eliza's Freedom Road

Finally, very quickly the John Steptoe Award

The award is established to affirm new talent and to offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration which otherwise might be formally unacknowledged within a given year within the structure of the two awards given annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force

Who I think will win - Elizabeth Zunon for My Hands Sing the Blues

Who I want to win - Elizabeth Zunon for My Hands Sing the Blues

Friday, January 13, 2012

An Intermisson and Introduction to Birthday Party Pledge

Yesterday I posted my first look at the 2012 Corretta Scott King award, looking at all the eligible illustrators. I had initially planned to go over the eligible authors today, though I've decided instead to do a quick intermission and talk about the Birthday Party Pledge. This is a new project that I am very excited about. The purpose of BPP is encourage people to take a pledge to buy multlicutural books for gifts for children in their for one year. Download the Pledge Certificate.

I promise to give multicultural books as gifts to the children in my life for ONE year.
I promise to encourage them to read about and appreciate diversity in all its forms.
I commit myself to building a new generation of readers!

BPP is there to help if your not sure what to buy. There is a help hotline available, allowing for personalized recommendations. BPP wasn't my idea but I am very happy to be a part of it.

So please take some time today to check out The Birthday Party Pledge site and let us know what your think.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The 2012 Coretta Scott King Award (Part 1)

On Jan 23. all the Youth Media Awards will be announced including the Coretta Scott King Award

Other blogs analyze the rules and regulations of the Newbery, to truly understand the full process and what the judges may infer from a particular passage and so on. If your in search for the same thing for the Corretta Scott King award you came to the wrong place, that's too deep for me. All you'll get here is a quick cut and paste.

Author and Illustrator Awards
Given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society.

The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.

In 2011, as far as I know there were 13 picture books written and or illustrated by African American artist. Since I am looking at the illustrator award first. (author award tomorrow) I've placed all the potentially eligible authors names in bold.

1.One Love by Cedella Marley, illus. by Vanessa Newton Bradley
2.Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby by Patricia Maclachan illus. by Elizabeth Zunon
3. Lottie Paris Lives Here by Anglea Johnson illus. by Scott M Fischer
4. Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs illus. by Shane Evans
5. Never Forgotten by Patricia C. Mckissack illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon
6. My Hands Sing The Blues:Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey by Jeanne Walker Harvey illus by Elizabeth Zunon
7. Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson
8. White Water by Michael Bandy and Eric Stein illus by Shadra Strickland
9. Summer Jackson: Grown Up by Teresa E. Harris illus by AG Ford
10. A Nation's Hope by Matt de la Pena, illus. by Kadir Nelson
11. Roots and Blues by Arnold Adoff illus. by R. Gregory Christie
12. The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon
13. Before There Was Mozart by Lesa Cline Ransome illus. by James E. Ransome
14. We Are America by Walter Dean Myers, illus. by Christopher Myers
15. Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey & Bettye Stroud, illus. by John Holyfield
16. These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, illus. by Floyd Cooper
17. Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand, illus. by Colin Bootman

That gives us 13 illustrators. Out of that two are ineligible since they don't fit the guidelines of being educational - Summer Jackson : Grown Up illustrated by AG Ford. Eligible or not I loved Summer Jackson and I am a fan of Ford's work. I absolutely loved what he did with Oz.

And the Secret River illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. This was a 1956 Newbery Honor, that was trimmed down and illustrated this year. While shorter this is still a very long story and I should confess I only skimmed it, but don't believe it fits the award guidelines, though who knows come the 24th I could have egg on my face and this will be an honor.

I almost placed Chocolate Me by Shane Evans in the ineligible category for not being educational but it is a story (very cute) about a boy learning to love himself. However I still don't believe its a contender. The same goes for One Love illus. by Vanessa Newton Bradley.

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend is eligible since its a story about one of the mules that helped pull Dr. Kings funeral wagon. However the illustrations simply didn't work for me. I thought the illustrations were rendered in oil, since that's a hit or miss medium for me but on the copyright page it says acrylic. It several of the spreads the colors appear to be bleeding together and there wasn't enough color contrast.

If Elizabeth Zunon name doesn't sound familiar its because she is a new illustrator, My Hands Sing the Blues and Lala Salama are her first books. If you haven't seen Zunon work yet your seriously missing out. Since Zunon is new she' s probably up for the John Steptoe Award for new talent.

Zunon has a new book coming out on the Jan. 19, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition

That cuts the number down to only 8 eligible illustrators that I believe are contenders

Leo and Diane Dillon for Never Forgotten
Shadra Strickland for White Water
Floyd Cooper for These Hands
Kadir Nelson for A Nations Hope and Heart and Soul
R. Gregory Christie For Roots and Blues
James E. Ransome for Before There Was Mozart
Christopher Myers for We Are America

It possible that Nelson could win and honor in the same year. However Nelson still must contend with the Dillon's. I've always loved their work. Still have a copy of Honey I love Never Forgotten has received 5 starred reviews - PW, SJL, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. So its a pretty good chance it will garner a CSK award on Jan. 23, the only question is which one, author or illustrator?

Ransome's illustrations for Before There Was Mozart had a elegant and sophisticated feel. This one of those books the longer I looked at the artwork the more I appreciated it. Lesa Cline and James E. Ransome released a new biography this month on a young Fredrick Douglass called Words Set Me Free

The best thing about Myers illustrations for We Are America are his landscapes. His oceans are beautiful.

Roots and Blues was released in Jan. but Christie should not be forgotten. What I love most about R. Gregory Christie, while its easy to recognize his signature style, the medium in which he works always fits the story. His illustrations in Roots and Blues tell a story all by themselves. It's worth seeking out just to get a look at his Robert Johnson.

I enjoyed White Water a lot more then I thought I would. There isn't really much that can done textually with a Jim Crow story. But the author made this able to make this story fun and in return that allowed Strickland more freedom to play visually and that she did. I love the overall playfulness and imagination displayed throughout.

Floyd Cooper is a four time CSK honor recipient and stands a very good chance of getting number five with These Hands. Unfortunately I haven't read this one yet and I am limited to the few spreads on the amazon preview. But I love the little I can see, the illustrations like detailed paintings that were fitted into a picture book and the shadow work is excellent.

Love Twelve Miles Long is another one I haven't read so again I am limited to preview spreads this time via Lee & Low, the publishers site. From what I can see the illustrations look goo. The second one is my favorite, I really like the intensity of the woman's face.

Returning to Nelson - A Nation's Hope, the story of Joe Louis. The first spread that truly caught my eye is the one of Lewis gloves taking up the whole page, has he helps his opponent off the floor. I love the definition and detail in his hands and the contrast against the black page. Much of Nelson's beauty comes from his concentration to detail and the facial expressions of subjects.

However if one of Nelson's books is going to win its going to be Heart and Soul. The story is all Nelson and its easy to see how much time he devoted it. Since Nelson does have two excellent eligible works, the judges should look closely at both. For Nation's Hope the one thing I could've done without are the indistinguishable muted fans in the background, it only appears in two spreads but I wonder if its enough to keep the book from earning an honor.

Who I think will win - Kadir Nelson for Heart and Soul

Who I want to win - Kadir Nelson for Heart and Soul

Who I think will honor - Leo and Diane Dillon for Never Forgotten, Floyd Cooper for These Hands

Who I want to honor- R. Gregory Christie for Roots and Blues, Floyd Cooper for These Hands.