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Cornered: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 17:32:00 +0000

Cornered: 14 Stories of Bulling and Defiance edited by Rhoda Belleza
I assumed most of the stories in this collection would feature the bullied.  While there are stories with thebullied as the main character, there is much more.  In The Shift Sticks by Josh Berk,the main character Bryan, was a bystander in elementary school while, Tiffany, another student was being bullied.  Bryan runs into Tiffany,when visiting family in another town.  There was something very real about Bryan and Tiffany voices.  In  How Auto- Tune Saved My Life by Brendan Halpin, students in an elite private school have to contend with a teacher using his position to mock and bully students.  One great lesson learned from this very fun story is that auto tune remixes don't just make songs fun, they can also jazz up a story quite nicely.  In Sweet Sixteen by Zetta Elliott, two very different worlds collide when a teenage prostitute and girl who has grown up on a secluded compound meet.  They have very different experiences,however, both are being used and  each girl has the courage and the desire to survive.

 Along with being well developed, none of the stories are bogged down by lessons to be learned.  Much kudos to Belleza the editor for putting this collection together. The first story is Nemesis by Kirsten Miller. the main character is a former victim turned vigilante.  Followed by On Your Own Level by Sheba Karim. Shabnam the main character, is kissed by a boy at a party, and then is bullied by the girl who likes the boy.  The third story is Berk's. All three were very good and set the tone for this collection.  

Cornered was released in paperback and is only $9.95.
An excerpt

The 1st Post Back is Always The Hardest/August New Releases

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 18:00:00 +0000

I took an unexpected but much needed hiatus. I have enjoyed the extra time but I am trying to get my blogging grove back. Though I have still been reading.  I am almost done with Team Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan. I was bit worried before I started reading it, because I lent it to a friend first and she didn't care for it. But, it is so Good.  I love some of the chapter titles - "Hard Out There For A Vamp" or "Interrogation with the Vampire".  Also there is a bit of a mystery, a serious unexpected bonus.  I loved Geoff Herbach's debut last year Stupid Fast, and I was excited to read the follow up "Nothing Special" but also a little worried because the author set the bar so high with the first one, but Nothing Special is an very good and a must read for all Stupid Fast fans.  It Jes Happened by Don Tate illus. by R. Gregory Christie is also very good.  It is the story about folk artist Bill Traylor.  A few months back a few months back the High Museum in Atlanta was showing some of Traylor's work, and I was able to go with a friend. I really enjoyed it especially the people Traylor drew and the sharp clothes he put them in.   Tate and Christie had a book signing at the High, but unfortunately I had to work that day so I couldn't go.   Instead of doing an on sale now post for August, I've decided to simply list the two titles I am aware of now.  I know there are more August releases that fit my criteria of featuring characters of color or having a diverse cast. But truth be told I don't feel like looking for them. Is that wrong? Maybe a little.  But it takes a lot of time, and I should only do it if I want to. I love the search when I am in the mode for it, otherwise it feels like work. So only two this week, though of course I will mention other new releases when they are brought to my attention.  August New Releases Fire in the Streets by Kekla MagoonA Certain October by Angela Johnson As an added bonus a fiction title I can't wait to read that I've heard as some YA crossover appeal Devil's Wake by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due.  I am a very big Due fan, so much so that I am psyched to read this book about Zombies even though they are just not my thing.  Finally a very random tidbit that will probably never be useful, but here it is anyway, the three listed releases are all published by Simon & Schuster[...]

Cinco Puntos Press - (Small Press Fortnight Blog Tour)

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 10:00:00 +0000

After spending a three months interning at Periene Press, a small publishing press in London, Jodie from Bookgazing decided to give bloggers the opportunity to  show a little love to smaller, independent presses.  It's no secret that independent publishers have a smaller budget, however this doesn't stop many from focusing much of their attention on marginalized groups.  Just in terms of children's and YA fiction, many small presses are dedicated to publishing multicultural titles.  Cinco Puntos Press, started in 1985, is an small independent press based in El Paso, Texas.  Like most independent houses, it goes for the quality over quantity approach, publishing just a few titles a year. One of the these I love about Cinco Puntos Press is that the owners Bobby and Lee Byrd are conscious of being three miles north of the US Mexican Border. Being so close to the Border it is only natural that El Paso, Texas have a large Latino population. The Byrd's embraced, Latino authors and their stories.Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle are the first two books I read that were published by Cinco Puntos Press.   Since then, they have been one of my go to smaller presses for children's and young adult literature.  I think Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, is one of the best YA novels of all time.  Part of me can't help put wonder if Saenz submitted it to one of  big six, would his YA debut been been published?  Unfortunately  there are only a few of Native American children's and young adult authors.  Because of that a small press who publishes a Native American author is going to get some serious points with me, especially when it is very well done. Tingle's Crossing Bok Chitto is definitely that.Last year, Maximilian &the Mystery of the Guardian Angel by Xavier Garza was a 2012  Pura Belpre Award Honor Book.   I am very much looking forward to -Conspiracy Girl by Karen Chacek (September) Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman (October) The Full Fortnight Schedule.  Thanks so much for Jodie for putting this together.[...]

Small Press Fortnight Blog Tour

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 17:49:00 +0000

For the next two weeks there is an ongoing project that will showcase various independent publishers, started by Jodie from Bookgazing.  The full schedule   Tomorrow, is my official day to post about Cinco Puntos Press. (Still need to finish it.)  Today, I've decided to a list titles by small presses I've loved and some I am looking forward to.  Albert Whitman & Company Zapato Power  by Jacqueline Jules, This is a great seriesBeautiful Lie by Irfan Master, which comes out in August is excellent. The book was first released in the UK.Charlesbridge Flying Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi - A very good debut, this month actually.Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins - I love the author's style and this story  Cinco Puntos Press Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle - This awarding winning book is intense and very good. Conspiracy Girl by Karen Chacek. I don't know what I love more, the cover or the title.  Can't wait to read this one.                                                              Kane Miller Publishing Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke - This is a great series.Lee & Low Books  - First kudos for having such a searchable website. Shining Star:The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo - I love this biography  Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.  I loved the author's award winning debut Under the Mesquite  and I am very much looking forward her next novel and first fantasyPeachtree Publishers The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright - I loved this one so much.  We've Got A Job by Cynthia Levinson -Excellent piece of nonfiction [...]

Flying the Dragon - Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Tue, 03 Jul 2012 16:42:00 +0000

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
Skye and Hiroshi Tsuki are cousins but they've never meet. Skye lives in the United States with her parents and loves to play soccer. Hiroshi lives in Japan with his parents and grandfather, and loves flying kites.  After Skye's father married,he moved to the States, and has never been back to Japan.   Skye is finally going to meet her grandfather because he's moving to Virginia to for medical treatment.  Hiroshi and his parents are moving as well. 

The chapters alternate between the two cousins.  The author does an excellent job, transitioning from Skye to Hiroshi.  The two have very distinct voices and concerns.  Skye has been selected for the soccer all star team for the first time, though there's a conflict with the Japanese lessons and she might not be able to play.  Hiroshi is having a difficult time adjusting to the move and learning English.  One thing the two have in common is their grandfather.  Hirsohi has always been very close to his grandfather. Skye feels an instant bond with his grandfather and wants to get to know him better.

  Some of best scenes center around kite flying/ kite fighting, both of which run through Tsuki's blood, including Skye's even though she never touched a kite until she meets her cousin and grandfather. Many of the readers who pick up this book will be unfamiliar Kokkaku, or Japanese fighting kites and explanations could've easy bogged down the storyline. However the author gives the reader, clear, fun and visually appealing  basic understanding of Kokkaku.  Flying the Dragon is a very fitting title for this great debut.

An excerpt  

On Sale Now : New Releases

Mon, 02 Jul 2012 16:41:00 +0000

Displaying new releases at the beginnning of the month, with characters of color or that sfeature a diverse cast, is my only ongoing feature.  Though recently I've considered stopping it, because each month I am missing a lot of titles.  Not working in a bookstore anymore, I am out of the new release loop, and the lists are more incomplete then I would like.  Though I will continue it for nowJuly New Releases (or at least this year) Love Amalia by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. ZubizarretaPostcards from Pismo by Michael Scotto (May) Flying Dragon by Natalie Dias LorenziBefore You Go by James PrellerCornered: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance edited by Rhoda BellezaThe Letter Q:Queer Writers to their Younger Selves editied by Sarah Moon and James Lecesne (May)Dark Companion by Marta AcostaTeam Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine LarbalestierDown to the Bone by Mayra Lazara DoleDust Girl by Sarah Zettel (June) Losers in Space by John Barnes* (April), This one came to my attention thanks to the Booksmugglers rave review. (I quickly added this to my library queue)*I loved Barnes last novel, Tales of the Madman Underground, which is  more proof that I am losing my find the new release edge. Last year I would not have missed a title by an author who's last novel I couldn't stop talking about.[...]

Texas Gothic - Rosemary Clement-Moore

Wed, 27 Jun 2012 15:40:00 +0000

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Amy Goodnight will be ranch sitting for her aunt Hyancith with her old sister Phin.  All the Goodnight women are practicing witches with the exception of Amy.  After a near death run in with a ghost when she was younger Amy does her best to stay clear of all things magical even though its in her blood.   Amy has her hands full with her aunt's ranch; the goats keep escaping and climbing the trees and there are rumors that a ghost is terrorizing a nearby farm.  Amy is tasked with solving the mystery, the first step is to figure out if the ghost that has attached itself to her is the same one that is causing all the damage on the other farm.

 This novel was so much fun. It has all the right elements.  Beginning with strong writing, continuing to great character chemistry and dialogue, with a dash of mystery and ghosts on top.  I love longer novels that seem smaller then they are.  Texas Gothic is 406 but it felt like 300, I was very much engaged from beginning to end.   This is the first time I've read Clement-Moore, (all thanks do to the interview the author did at Finding Wonderland) and I will definitely be reading more.  Texas Gothic was released in 2011 so there's a good chance it is at your local library, that's where I got my copy. The paperback comes out in August, though it is very much hardcover worthy, if you rather not wait and buy it now. 

An excerpt 

Alien On A Rampage - Clete Barrett Smith

Mon, 25 Jun 2012 13:00:00 +0000

Alien On A Rampage by Clete Barrett Smith
This is the follow up to the author's excellent debut Aliens on Vacation.   Once again David is going to be spending the summer working at his grandmothers bed and breakfast, which caters to aliens who want to visit earth while on vacation.  However, this time David is excited from the start to be going to the Intergalactic Bed &Breakfast.

David's grandmother has more help, making it difficult for him to find ways to be useful.  The bed and breakfast has it's first alien employee, Scratchull.  David does not trust the condescending, and human hating (when no one else is around) alien.  But everyone loves Scratchull and since David keeps on messing up he can't convince anyone that Scratchull is up to no good.  

David is a very likable, down to earth (pun intended) character, and seeing the Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast through his eyes is a lot of fun.  This sequel has all the great elements of the first book. Smith takes it a step father, skillfully building on what he already started; once again the dialogue is sharp and funny.

Chapter One  

Male Protagonists - Are An Essential Part Of My Reading Diet

Fri, 22 Jun 2012 13:00:00 +0000

Most of the novels I've read recently feature female protagonist.  I love stories with female leads but I can not exist on that diet alone, and I am experiencing a bit of a burn out. In the beginning of the year I read a some excellent YA novels featuring male protagonist In Darkness by Nick Lake The Knife and the Butterfly by Ashley Hope PerezFroi of the Exiles by Melina MarchettaAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz  Boy21 by Matthew QuickI loved all of the above, unfortunately the last one was published in March,  and I would very much like find more young adult or middle grade novels  with male protagonists to enjoy.  However there's just not a large selection especially when I disregard the ones I have no interest and the others that end up in my DNF pile because they couldn't keep my attention. However I think my slump is finally ending. I recently read two good YA debuts, A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master and Before You Go by James Preller.A few more I am very much looking forward to reading Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach - I loved the author's debut Stupid Fast, it was one of my favorite debuts of 2011Thou Shall Not Road Trip by Antony John - The author's last novel Five Flavors of Dumb was made me break out my old Nirvana MTV unplugged CD  awesome.  Lucky Fools by Coert Voorhees - I loved the author's 2009 debut, The Brothers Torres and I have been impatiently waiting for a new novel by the author ever since. - (July) The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo  - This is the long awaited follow up (for me anyway)  to The Big Splash, the first and still the best, humorous middle grade mystery (Oct) Street Dreams by Tama Wise - This one I found thanks to author Malinda Lo. I've never read a Maori author , and I like the cover so there's no way I could pass this one upThe Drowned Cities by Paolo Baciqalupi  - This is the companion to Ship Breaker, which I enjoyed but not as much as most people, but I liked it enough not to pass this one up Alien on a Rampage by Clete Barrett Smith was also on this list but I finished it the other day. It really enjoyed it, it was as good as the first one.   And with that my slump is officially over.[...]

Lone Bean - Chudney Ross

Thu, 21 Jun 2012 11:36:00 +0000

Lone Bean by Chudney Ross
I couldn't resist reading this middle grade debut thanks to its very adorable cover.  Bean is excited about the start of third grade, but has a very bad first day.  Carla, the best friend, no longer wants to be friends. Bean feels left out when Carla starts hanging out with Sam, another girl in their class.   Bean is the youngest of three girls. Her older sister's Rose and Gardenia never have time to play with her.  Bean also has a flower name but doesn't like to use it.

 At school Bean  trying very hard to find a new best friend.  Bean's dad  is a music professor and he wants all his daughters to play an instrument of their choosing and it is now time for Bean to pick hers. The Lone Bean was an enjoyable read. Bean is a fun new character a lot of little girls will love.  This is a good debut.  I am looking forward to seeing where the author takes this series.  Ross has started with a very strong  foundation, there is already a lot to like and I can see them getting better with time.   

 Over the last few years there have been more early chapter series featuring Black girls, like Keena Ford  by Thomson, Dyamonde Daniel  by Ford, Sugar Plum Ballerinas by Goldberg. However just passed this reading level there are not a lot of books featuring Black girls.  So Lone Bean helps fill a very large gap and would be a nice addition to any library.

37 Things I Love (in no particular order) Kekla Magoon

Tue, 19 Jun 2012 12:07:00 +0000

37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon
Ellis, has less then a week left of her sophomore year but all she can think about is her father who has been in a coma for the last few years.  Her mother wants to talk about their next step but Ellis doesn't want to let her father go.  When Ellis was younger she had two best friends Abby and Cora.  Cora pulled away from the group around 8th grade, and Ellis never knew why but she was too worried about her father to find out.   Ellis and Abby are still friends but Abby can't be counted on to listen. So Ellis turns to her other friend Colin who does care enough to pay attention but Ellis still feels a bit out of sorts as if something is missing. Slowly and carefully Ellis and Cora are learning how to reconnect. Ellis discovers that her one time best friend is a lesbian.  Cora's old/new friendship/maybe something more is just what Ellis needs.   Ellis and Cora's relationship is handled very well.  However like everything else. it was secondary to Ellis trying to cope with her father's coma and learn how to talk with her mother. This has a softer touch then Magoon's  previous novels.  I appreciate an author with a bit of range, different stories should read differently.  Ellis's heart is on display throughout.  I have read all of Magoon's novels and she has yet to disappoint. Actually she simply keeps getting better.  

An excerpt

Benjamin Alire Saenz Interview (2012 Blog Blast Tour)

Fri, 15 Jun 2012 11:00:00 +0000

Welcome to the final day of the SBBT. I've been a fan of Benjamin Alire Saenz since I read Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood. With each  new book Saenz confirms that he is one of the best YA authors out. His most recent novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has been very well received including two starred reviews.Hi Benjamin, bienveindo. Can you tell us a little about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe? The story follows the implications of the title. The Universe and fifteen years old boys seem so insignificant--and yet they must find their place in the universe--they must discover it. And how do boys discover the universe, anyway? So many mysteries and secrets to be solved. There are the mysteries and secrets of parents. Their are the mysteries and secrets of the body and how it changes in boys and how it changes them. Ari is lost and miserable. Dante, too is lost, but he isn't miserable. He throws himself into the universe and feels a part of it. Ari does not. And yet no boy, can face the world alone. When Ari and Dante meet, the biggest secret of the universe becomes their friendship, their deep and profound love--though they do not understand just how deep and profound that love is. This a love a love story, but not just between two boys. It is a love between boys and their parents, and that love is the most profound love of all.Who spoke to you first Aristotle or Dante? Definitely Ari. He's lost and has to find himself. Not everybody has an easy time discovering who they are. I was such a boy. In a way, he's kind of a stand in for me. And yet, gregarious, likeable, intellectual Dante, in some ways I was more him on the outside. These two boys, they're different versions of me. I am a contradiction. I am both an extrovert and an introvert. It wasn't difficult for me to create these characters. It was as if I was giving myself a gift when I wrote this book. I wish to hell that I had come to terms with my identity when I was boy. It would have made my life so much less complicated. In this coming of age story Dante is the talker and not afraid to share his emotions yet the story is narrated by Aristotle.  Why did you decide to allow readers to see everything through the eyes of Aristotle, the one of few words? Because part of Ari's journey is to discover the words he has inside him. It is Dante that teaches him a new language, a new way of looking at the world. Ari must learn how to articulate himself if he is to survive, so it had to be told from his point of view. It's painful to put yourself into words. Ari tried to make himself invulnerable--but he wasn't. He was just another vulnerable kid in the world who didn't know how to be in the world. It would have been a much less interesting book if it had been told from Dante's point of view. Both sets of parents add another wonderful layer something I've come to expect from your stories. How do you think the parents were changed by the journey of their sons? Good parents are always changed by their children's lives. Ari's father, particularly was changed by his son's journey. In many ways, Ari and his father's journey are parallel. Ari's father has learn to talk to his son. Ari thinks his father's aloof--but he isn't. He just keeps the things he sees to himself. But, as he watches his son, he knows what's going on with his son. But, he has to learn to share those insights with his son. In addition, there is a bond between Dante's mother and Ari. Ari changes Dante's mother somehow. When they come back from being away for a year, Dante's mother says, "Dane isn't the only one who missed you." She sees something beautiful in Ari and it moves her and it changes her. Your writing has a poetic sensibility, with a flu[...]

Cynthia Levinson Interview (2012 Summer Blog Blast Tour)

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 12:17:00 +0000

  Over the past few years there have been several young adult non fiction books on the civil rights movements.  So even though We've Got A Job received three starred reviews, I let the galley sit on my ereader longer then I care to admit to. When I finally  started reading it, I quickly realized it stood out. Today I have a pleasure of presenting an interview with the author, Cynthia Levinson for the Summer Blog Blast TourHi, Cynthia, and welcome. Can you please tell us a little about We've Got A Job? And where the title derives from? We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March tells the story of how 3,000 to 4,000 black school children protested and went to jail in order to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama, and save the Civil Rights Movement, which was in a decline. The book does so through the experiences and voices of four particular young people, each of whom represents a different aspect of the black community in Birmingham then.The title comes from a song, written by a teenager named Carlton Reese. He practiced it on the upright piano in the living room of one of these four children, Audrey Faye Hendricks, and it became her favorite civil rights song. Audrey’s father and many of her aunts and uncles sang in the Birmingham Movement for Human Rights Choir, which recorded an album titled “We’ve Got a Job.” What is your preferred writing process, assembling the information first,or research has you write? Although I did a tremendous amount of research before starting to write the book and even more while writing it, there’s no way that I know of to do all the research in advance. The two are inextricably intertwined and continually inform each other. In addition, inevitably, an editor will ask a question that leads to more investigations. My editor at Peachtree, Kathy Landwehr, for instance, asked me an apparently simple question: who was the mayor of Birmingham in 1963? That question led to my reading most of a 700-page book about municipal politics in Alabama and interviewing the book’s author. It also led to my restructuring an entire chapter and working into the narrative an essential “sub-plot.” The story behind who was the mayor of Birmingham— there were two, who were suing each other for control!—turned out to explain, in part, why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The four young people, We've Got  A Job is based around truly stood out. How did you find Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, Arnetta Streeter and James Stewart? The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) has been conducting video interviews with local civil rights activists (and a few anti-civil rights activists) since the early 1980s. I read through dozens of transcripts of these interviews and “found” Audrey, James, and Wash that way. Audrey was practically a given because she was so young—nine years old when she spent a week in jail. More importantly, she was (sadly, she died three years ago) a lovely woman, who cared deeply about sharing her stories. The first time I met Wash, on the first of my three research trips to Birmingham, I immediately knew he was a given, too, because he was both “a bad boy” and very candid about his exploits. And, James’s interview made him very appealing because, like Wash’s, his memories were very distinct and detailed. However, unlike Wash, he was a law-abiding A student. I could tell that they’d be great foils for each other. When I discovered that they were also friends, that was a bonus. Arnetta came to me through an activist in Birmingham named Odessa Woolfolk. I had also met Odessa on my first trip there. She was very involved in the establishment of the BCRI and, befor[...]

Tanita Davis Interview ( 2012 Summer Blog Blast Tour)

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 11:06:00 +0000

Tanita Davis has been one half of the YA author blog Finding Wonderland since 2005. Her third novel, Happy Families was just released last month. Like the author's previous works, the family dynamic is well executed. I am very happy to have the opportunity to interview Tanita Davis about her latest novel for day two of 2012 SBBTHi. Tanita and welcome. Can you tell us a little about Happy Families? Happy Families is a love story to families, if that’s not too abstruse. It’s about unconditional love, and going the distance in the name of love, no matter how far that takes you from what you might think everyone else is doing. It’s about fear and doing things anyway. It’s …complicated, a bit.The cover flap tells you it’s about a set of twins who have to come to terms with their father’s new life. That’s as good a description as any.You give a quick glimpse of Ysabel and Justin’s life before their father's secret is revealed. Did you develop the twins’ back stories more in drafting? I only ask because while the before was concise, it was still an excellent set up for the after.Thanks. No, I didn’t write a whole bunch more backstory for the twins – it’s my own imaginary Happy Family scenario – parents who are both happy in themselves and deeply invested in the kids, kids who both have challenging and fun hobbies and are invested in each other – loving but not too much in each other’s faces. It was easy to write because it was a familiar dream. I didn’t – don’t – have that family. My people are greatly beloved, but hardly idyllic. A little bonus fact: I wrote Ysabel’s backstory twice because originally she was in orchestra, and my editor said that there were too many YA novels with female characters who played cellos. I had no idea! (I still have no idea!) I was slightly annoyed at the time, since the cello is my Secret Longed-For Instrument (along with the balalaika and the dulcimer), but I’m just as glad now that I changed her focus, and thus changed her entire personality. Also, I got into lamp working and beads and jewelry making just from the research. Pretty much anything that lets me have even a tiny torch to begin with, and ends with jewelry? Is A Good Thing.While the family must come to terms with the father's second identity as Christine, one thing that is never in question is their faith. I really appreciated how well the family’s faith is blended into the storyline. Why do you think religion and faith can be difficult to balance in fiction? Well, the question is taking for granted that I do think that. I don’t. Perhaps I should clarify – maybe religion can be difficult to balance in fiction, but faith? No.When I say “faith,” I don’t mean a kind of outward thing that people do, the denomination to which they belong, the external trappings of organized institutions. The externals are religion – what others may use to define you, or how they may wish to label/categorize you. The internal is faith.Faith touches every part of a person’s life, so writing about it – writing from that personal context – should be the simplest balancing act in the world. (Please note the word Should!) I agree that it’s not always easy, not for everyone.There are reasons why it’s not – in this society we so fear to offend that we’ve all made sure to homogenize so that we cannot possibly be found to be wrong or different or worse, strange. In the political arena, we’ve created offense to be an art form – just look at how many teacup tempests boil over, and how many apologies on behalf of entire peoples and nations are demanded on a weekly basis. We are locked and loaded and sometimes seem to be spoiling fo[...]

Nalo Hopkinson Interview (2012 Summer Blog Blast Tour)

Mon, 11 Jun 2012 11:07:00 +0000

Welcome to the first day of  2012 Summer Blog Blast Tour. This week eight bloggers will be sharing various interviews, all of which will be linked back to Chasing Ray. Nalo Hopkinson is an award winning fantasy author, The Chaos her YA debut has received three starred reviews. I was very excited when I heard about this book back in December.  With there being so few YA fantasy authors of color, when an established one decides to write one, its a reason to cheer.Hi Nalo and welcome. Can you tell us a little about The Chaos? NH: Thanks for the welcome! Now, I suck at synopsizing my own work.Easiest for people to read the publisher's blurb. Basically, my protagonist, Sojourner "Scotch Bonnet" Smith, is a 16 year-old Toronto girl. Her nickname comes from the Jamaican scotch bonnet pepper, one of the hottest peppers in existence. Scotch is biracial. Her parents transferred her from one high school to another because she was being slut-shamed by the girls in her previous school. She's just broken up with her boyfriend although she still cares for him. She's also begun seeing things that no-one else can see, and there's something chasing her. Why is Scotch self conscious about not having a Caribbean accent? NH: Scotch's mother is black middle-class American, and her father is white working-class Jamaican. She's proud of what she is. People who have eyes to see can tell that she is black (though not everyone has eyes to see!). So she feels as though she's representing for the maternal part of her heritage. But no-one can see her Jamaicanness, i.e. her father's side of her heritage. She thinks it would be more obvious if she had a Jamaican accent. She also thinks it'd be something clear and simple that she could claim. Everything about her is so hybridized that although she's not ashamed of it, she doesn't have any easy markers of authenticity. She feels the pressure of that. She doesn't have an easily definable identity, and that can make a person feel lost, like they don't belong anywhere, like they can't claim affiliation with any one group. Canada as a nation wrestles with what it means to be Canadian, so that comes into play a bit, too. It's most obvious in the scene in the bar where Scotch is scoffing at the MC who tries to seem more authentically black by talking in something like an American accent and by name-checking only black American musicians and musical stylings. It's a dilemma for many -- not all --young black Canadians as they try to self-define. On this continent, blackness is seen as synonymous with black Americanness. If they don't look and act like what people associate with American blackness, they get seen as weird, inauthentic. After the Chaos everyone is changed in some way. What says more about a  person, the transformation or whether or not they are accepting of it?I think it depends on the transformation and on the person. The woman who's now sprouting roses even though she's allergic to them might not be so sanguine about her new biology. And Scotch's change --i.e. the appearance of the creature that's stalking her -- she could be hurt. A rolling calf and Baba Yaga, are a part in the story. Caribbean and Russian folklore fusion was unexpected but works. Why did you decide to blend the two?I'm glad that you think they work! I also invoked the firebird, the phoenix, the roc, the simurgh, the kappa, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, Tinkerbell, and Sasquatch. Others I just plain made up. People from the cultures all those mythologies are from live in Toronto, so it made sense to mix things up. Like Scotch's life, mine is also hybridized. It rarely makes sense for me to just pick one thing. Be[...]

Congratulations to Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (2012 Boston Globe -Horn Book Award)

Sat, 09 Jun 2012 01:44:00 +0000

Ms. Nelson is  the 2012 Boston Globe -Horn Book Award Winner in fiction for No Crystal Stair.  A story I absolutely loved. My review.  I interviewed the author earlier in the year. I thought Nelson's documentary novel about Lewis Michaux the first African American bookseller ever, located in Harlem had a lot of adult cross over. So I decided to ask author Carleen Brice if I could post her blog White Readers Meet Black Authors, and she was kind enough to say yes. No Crystal Stair has received four starred reviews.Also Congratulations to the two fiction honor winnersMal Peet for Life.  One can never go wrong with a Peet novel. I've been a fan since Keeper and Life is a very good novel.  Of the three, this is the only one published in 2011, which says (at least to me) a lot about the book. (all good of course)  It received four starred reviewsAnd Elizabeth Wein for Code Name Verity. - I loved this one so much. I will be fan gushing, I mean reviewing this one soon.  Until then definitely believe the hype. It has received at least three starred reviews and a lot of rave reviews are already online.The starred Horn Book reviews for all three can be found here.  A listing of 2012 winners in all categories can be found here.[...]

The Rock of Ivanore - Laurisa White Reyes

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 14:00:00 +0000

The Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes
Each year in the village of Quendal, young men on the verge of manhood are sent on a quest. This year it is 14yr old Marcus turn, along with Jerriod, Zody, Clovis, Tristan and Kelvin. The six are on a quest to find the Rock of Ivanore.  They have no idea, what or who the Rock of Ivanore is or even where to begin the search,  discovery that is all apart of the journey.  The story revolves around Marcus, who is an orphan and always felt like an outsider.  He is the only student of Zyll an older sorcerer who the other boys laugh at. Marcus has a natural talent for magic, he simply has to practice and the quest gives him the opportunity. 

Reyes doesn't do anything new with this story but she tells it well.   Marcus and Kelvin's growing freindship is a nice dymanic.  As is the very solid diagolue throughout.   There are a lot of close calls and the author does a very good job with these scenes.  The visual appeal of them will grab a few reluctant readers. 

"Marcus ran and within moments stumbled upon the gruesome sight.  Kelvin lay unmoving on the ground. Bryn sat on his haunches beside him, his mouth stretched unnaturally wide like a python about to swallow its prey. His eyes glowed yellow. Upon seeing Marcus, the creature let out a deafening, animal like howl.  Marcus rushed forward, swinging Xerxes like a club.  The creature leapt out of the way and slashed at Marcus's back with needle like claws that had grown along its fingertips.  Marcus fell to his knees beside Kelvin.  He could feel blood trickling down his back."  

 I loved the action that leads up to the end which was very satisfying.  It is nice to read a book in a  middle grade fantasy series that does not end in a cliffhanger.  An enjoyable page turner.

Read prologue and chapter one via authors site

On Sale Now - New Releases (Playing Catch Up)

Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:43:00 +0000

Every month I list all children's and young adult titles, that  I am aware of, that feature characters of color or a diverse cast. This I can't find that many new releases for this feature for the month of April, I decided include the titles from previous month that I didn't mention at the time of their release.  Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo, illus. by Beth Lo (April)Lone Bean by Chudney RossThe Choke Artist by David YooSnow Wolf by Fred Lit YiuBack to Me by Earl SewellTranscendence by C.J. OmolouShake It/Got Pride by Stephanie Perry MooreBlack Boy White School by Brian F. Walker (Jan)Yell Out/Do You  by Stephanie Perry MooreSettle Down/Be Real by Stephanie Perry MooreAlways Upbeat/ All That by Stephanie Perry Moore Keep Jumping/ No Hating by Stephanie Perry MooreShadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott (April)A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix (May) The Good Braider by Terry Farish (May) The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi (May)Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (May)[...]

Saying Goodbye to Leo Dillon 1933- 2012

Thu, 31 May 2012 11:00:00 +0000

Awarding winning and groundbreaking illustrator Leo Dillon died on May 26th.  The first I heard of Dillon's passing was when I stopped by illustrator Shadra Strickland's blog yesterday.  Today a friend sent me the link to Dillon's obituary in Publishers Weekly.The first picture book that I read that was  illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon was Honey I Love by Eloise Greenfield and I was hooked ever since. Leo along with his wife/ artistic partner have given so much to children's literature.  Together they opened doors, along with a few others and  made publishing industry pay attention to the beauty of diversity.   Looking at their work always puts a smile on my face. So when I think of Leo Dillon I will visualize myself reading The People Who Could Fly (a gorgeous classic) or  Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears or any of the numerous picture books the Dillon's have illustrated with their signature style that is so easy to love.  I am going to continue on for bit but only because  I think Leo Dillon would approve (or at least I hope so).   Award winning illustrator R. Gregory Christie is opening Gas Art Gifts an art studio/children's bookstore in Atlanta, GA's North Dekalb Mall.  Through The Youth Innovators Program, GAS-ART GIFTS will to expand its reach into the community by providing an opportunity for youth to explore the art fashion design, illustration and entrepreneurship. Each group of youth will be engaged in 12 hours of learning.Since I live in Atlanta I have had the opportunity to see Christie's space and I like it a lot.  See for yourself    Christie has a funding campaign at Indiegogo until Saturday June 23rd, to raise money to help give back the gift of art.I am very excited about Christie's new endeavour.  Even more so after getting to meet Christie, who is very nice and hearing him talk about how much wants to give back the community through Gas Art Gifts.  I thought long and hard about whether or not it would be appropriate to include information about R Gregory Christie's new project   in a post about Leo Dillon passing. In the end I decided that yes it was;Leo Dillon was an artist gave simply by doing what he did best and Christie is an artist is looking to give back.   Plus I'd must rather end on a note of possibility then one of loss.  [...]

The Great Cake Mystery - Alexander McCall Smith, Iain McIntosh

Wed, 23 May 2012 14:00:00 +0000

The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith, Illustrations by Iain McIntosh
The author has a bestselling mystery series called The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. The stories are quaint and a whole lot of fun.  Since I am a fan of the series, I was excited to discover that the author wrote an early chapter featuring Precious Ramostswe, the detective in the series, in her very first case.

In The Great Cake Mystery, readers are introduced to a young Precious Ramotswe who like her adult self lives in Botswana.  Precious loves to listen to her dad's stories, but she can always tell when it starts turning into a tall tale.  Precious pays attention and listens she knows when someone isn't telling the truth.  These are two very important skills for a detective.  When Precious's dad suggest she become a detective, she thinks its a good idea.     

When food starts going missing at school, Precious gets are first case must sooner than expected.  Everyone in the class but Precious, believe a boy named Polowko is the thief.  Precious knows he's innocent and must prove it to clear his name. 

I very much enjoyed this introduction to a young Precious Ramostswe.  McIntosh wonderful illustrations and the short chapters make this an excellent for young readers who are mystery fans and new to chapter books

An excerpt 

Best Shot in the West - Patricia & Fredrick McKissack, Randy Duburke

Mon, 21 May 2012 14:34:00 +0000

Best Shot in the West by Patricia C. McKissack & Fredrick L McKissack Jr illus. by Randy DuburkeThis is a graphic novel based on the life of Nat Love who was born into slavery in 1854 and grew up to become a famous cowboy.  The author's based this graphic novel off of Love's autobiography.  "The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.I was confused by the first few pages, it felt as if I was thrown into Nat Love's post cowboy life as a porter. Being unfamiliar with Nat Love's life, a part of me even wondered if I was reading the right story.    An old friend visits and convinces Love to write about his cowboy days.  Love begins by recounting his years as a slave.  After slavery is abolished Love earns a living by breaking horses, the first step to becoming a cowboy.I did not  connect with this graphic novel textually or visually.  Part of problem was that I was still out of sorts from the early confusion. However I did try to compartmentalize, focusing only on what was in front of me and it still didn't work from. From a textual standpoint I felt it lacked the excitement  a cowboy story should have.  Within the panels the clarity of the faces drawn varies. I would've preferred if Duburke committed to using one style.The story  focuses a lot of the camaraderie of the cowboys as they take on dangerous jobs, like herding cattle.   There's also much time spent on the battles between cowboys and Indians. Seeing Indians portrayed as the bad guys in Best Shot in the West, made me cringe.  "We'd just left Dodge City after driving a herd of cattle. Our time there was not well spent: we'd boozed it up pretty good.  I believe I'd left my good sense there. As we passed the fort, I got the notion that we could use a cannon back at the ranch to protect us from rustlers and Indians."Good or bad history is what  it is and can not be changed nor should it be rewritten. While I am against the rewriting history I am all for having a supplement in the back that places the history of this context.  I got off on the wrong foot with this graphic novel and it never got better.  I am linking this post to Non Fiction Monday. This weeks round up can be found at Apples with Many Seeds. [...]

Flora's Fury - Ysabeau S. Wilce

Tue, 15 May 2012 14:14:00 +0000

Flora's Fury by Ysabeau S. Wilce
This is the third book in the Flora series. I read and loved, Flora Segunda, the first one but somehow I missed the second one. Reading the second one first would've been the smart thing to do, but I decided to mix it up a bit and go ahead and read Flora's Fury first. 
It's been awhile since I read Flora Segunda so it was very nice to see Flora again and get lost in Wilce's writing.  Flora can't practice magic and must hide who she really is. If her true identity is discovered she will be killed.  So Flora has a very strict quiet life doing paper work as a Lieutenant in the Army.  But Flora risks everything to find her well hidden mother.  Flora's quest could put her in the hands of the people who supposedly killed her mother and would love to do the same to her. 
One of the great things about this series is watching Flora grow up.  Even without reading the second one (yet) I could still appreciate the pacing and care Wilce's is taking with Flora who is maturing in a very natural manner.  Now Flora is torn about her feelings for two guys, Udo who she has grown up with and Sieur who she meets on this newest adventure.  

Wilce's writing is pitch perfect from the dialogue, confrontations, banter to those moments meant to creep scare and frighten.  Flora is a well crafted three dimensional character and very easy to love.  The author surrounds Flora with great secondary characters, adding another level of depth to this wonderful series.  Also I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity. The author doesn't make a big deal out of it (which I enjoyed as well) but it is there to be seen for those who are paying attention. Flora's Fury is over 500 pages, but  I was so into the story they flew by.  

An excerpt via the publisher

Happy Families - Tanita Davis

Fri, 11 May 2012 14:00:00 +0000

Happy Families by Tanita Davis
Ysabel and Justin Nicholas are twins from a happy home.  Their parents encourage and support their extracurricular activities.  This cohesive family unit, also includes a set of grandparents that live close by.  The story alternates between Ysabel and Justin.  In the first few chapters the author gives the reader the opportunity to see the Nicholas family in the before, when their joy was second nature.  In the after the twins are trying to understand their dad's secret, that he self identifies as transgender, this revelation forces the Nicholas family to rediscover their happiness which always came so easily.
 Davis gives Ysabel and Justin their own personalities and developments them so one can not help but get invested in their stories.  Caring about the twins means also caring about the family as a whole. The twins will be spending spring break with their dad. It is the first time Ysabel and Justin will be with their dad, since he stopped having to hide a part of who he is from his family.  Through the twins, the  reader learns how important family and faith are to the Nicholas. 

I always enjoy Davis's straight forward approach as well as her ability to create realistic and engaging characters.  Davis has written three very different YA novels, however they all have a common core, family.  And the author excels at creating well round novels centered around families.

Kirkus review  
An excerpt via Random House
Happy Families is the antidote to the "I'm a Christian unless disease" by Ashley Hope Perez

Wanted - Heidi Ayarbe

Wed, 09 May 2012 13:30:00 +0000

Wanted by Heidi Ayarbe  I have a bad tendency of reading review copies well before the release date and not writing up a review or even jotting down notes.  Though this also has it advantages as well because I get the opportunity to revisit a novel and reevaluate my first impressions.   I know a novel is a winner when I can still remember much of the plot line and a few of the quieter moments that moved me in the first place.  This is exactly what happened with Wanted.17 yr old Michal is a bookie,and has set up her own buissness called Sanctuary at her high school.   Michal keeps to herself and follows one rule, never place a bet.  She's convinced herself she needs the money more then the rush.  Before bets are placed, Michal reads from Dostoevsky's, Gambler.  At first it was a cover now it has become ritual.  Everything is going according to plan until Josh moves to Carson City.  Soon after Michal places her first bet and catches the rush bug.   Carson City is town divided by the have and have nots.  Michal wants to use her winnings to even out the odds a bit. When that is not enough Michal and Josh begin a secret crusade. They are Bonnie and Clyde meets Robin Hood.   I am not sure if author intended for Wanted and Sanctuary together so well or if it was simply a happy accident. I am betting (pun intended) on the latter.   Wanted Sanctuary/ Sanctuary Wanted, either way there's  something there that I could not ignore; even more so after reading the novel and getting to know Michal, who is raised by her grandmother, whom she calls Lillian.  She also a longs for her mother and wishes for a closer connection to her mother's homeland of Mexico. After a creative writing assignment  Michal continues to compose 5 word memoirs. When language is sparse I have a great appreication for it. Since the memoirs are only five words, Ayarbe is using punctuation like nobodies business.         "Heart bursts with words not said"Some of the memoirs are by  classmates -  "No country, No nationality, Mexican American exile"   written by Moch. The two were very close when they were younger but drifted apart.  Now Michal worries about the Moch she once knew, while the older one has joined a gang.The author handles difficult subjects like classism and racism with care.  Nothing feels loaded down or forced. It all a smooth natural part of the story, as Michal and Josh risk everything  to challenge status quo.An excerpt via Harperteen[...]

The Chaos - Nalo Hopkinson

Mon, 07 May 2012 12:00:00 +0000

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson Hopkinson is an award winning adult fantasy author, The Chaos is her YA debut and set in Toronto.   After being bullied at her old school,  Sojourner Smith who goes by Scotch is getting a fresh start at a new one. Scotch is doing her best to fit in and not give anyone reasons to tease her.  Being able to see headless horseman floating about won't help Scotch to blend in, so she keeps that a secret. She also goes to great length to hide the  black spots that are appearing out of no where on her skin.     Scotch is a natural dancer and is member of the after school dance team with Gloria her ex best friend.  Scotch life is hard enough with very strict parents and  the headless horseman flying about but  one night it turns upside down.  While  out with her older brother Rich, a volcano appears in the center of Lake Ontario and thus begins the Chaos.   Strange mythical creatures are roaming free on the street and the spots on Scotch body are appearing even faster.  Everyone is running around scared in this unrecognizable world.  In all this confusion Scotch must find her brother who went missing at the start of The Chaos. In the first few hours,  Scotch is walking lost with Punum a girl she just meet.  Scotch does not know what to make who may or may not be  hitting on her and refuses to allow anyone to treat her differently because she's in a wheelchair. As the Chaos continues with no end in sight, Scotch tries to make sense of everything. While looking for her brother see runs into different people in her life.  I loved Scotch's voice which was both, brutally honest and hilarious "In the dance movies, people can dance their way out of any trouble. If some bad guy's coming at you, just take him out with a flying roundhouse kick, right?  After all, aren't you a capoerirista along with being able to get buck with the best of them and pick up the tango after watching someone do it for, like, five seconds?  Oh yeah, and let's pretend that standing on one foot while you fling one leg up in the air and swing it in a circle doesn't have you unbalanced with your crotch open to attack from someone who has the sense to just throw a quick jab at you and get out of the way."The author has created a very bizarre world and I really like it.   Also it's uniqueness allows it  stand out  from other YA fantasy novels. However the author does not depend on the strangeness to carry the story.  At its core are the people who must deal with all the craziness that they can now see and no longer ignore.  An ExcerptStarred Kirkus ReviewStarred Booklist ReviewStarred Publishers Weekly Review     [...]