Friday, March 17, 2017

readergirlz news

I've been with both readergirlz and Guys Lit Wire since they began, and since we have some crossover readership, I wanted to share the rgz news with the GLW community. As posted by Lorie Ann Grover:

Dearest readergirlz,

When we began this nonprofit organization ten years ago, readers in all demographics did not have access to authors. This access was our aim, our mission. The founders of readergirlz were driven to make those connections around the world. And we did.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

 What if you could be the Grim Reaper?

That's the reality in this awesome new book by Neal Shusterman. It's the future, death is a thing of the past. Nano technology means that even getting hit by a Mack Truck isn't the end.

Sure, you'll spend a few days in a recovery centre while you're pieced back together, but hey, the recovery centres have the best hot fudge sundaes in town.  There's no ageing, there's no disease, there's no crime.

On top of this, there's no government. Instead, the online "Cloud", now known as the Thunderhead, is an all knowing, all seeing leader of the world.

To keep the human population from spiralling out of control, select people are chosen to be Scythes, those who live a monk like existence and whose job it is to dole out death.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I am part of a committee at my library system that plans social book talks- we find books that speak to pressing social issues and then we host an event inviting the public to come in and discuss the book and the issues.
ghost-9781481450157_hr.jpg (1400×2128)I am part of a committee at my library system that plans social book talks- we find books that speak to pressing social issues and then we host an event inviting the public to come in and discuss the book and the issues. This month we partnered with a local book store and  we were able to bring in the authors of All American Boys last Saturday for an inspiring conversation. Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds are two great guys. Reynolds in particular is on a hot streak and  his latest book is Ghost.

Set in the city it deals with a young tween called Castle Crenshaw who describes himself as having "mad and sad feelings" which sometimes leads to altercations at school.. He has had a hard life and now he and his mom eke out a hardscrabble existence in a less than desirable neighborhood. His mother works long hours to provide for them both and she has high expectations for him.

He is a tough kid but not tough enough to escape frequent taunts at school from a bully. He stumbles into a track meet one day and although he isn't impressed by the coach's gruff manner and reptilian appearance (Castle thinks he has a "turtle face") he tries out. Lo and behold he discovers that he is a runner. Coach invites him to join the team and thus begins a new phase in Castle's life.

This book covers a lot of topics. I like it's hopeful tone however. Castle is a kid with many flaws but he is resilient, he knows right from wrong and works hard. With those qualities he will go far in life. This is the first in Reynolds' Track series so I will definitely keep my eyes open for future installments. I recommend this book for ages 9 and up. Some read alikes are Coe Booth' s Kinda Like Brothers and  Andrew Clements' The Jacket.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas




Sometimes a book arrives with so much pre-publication hype that you cannot help but be disappointed when you actually read it. Not because the book is bad, necessarily, but because the hype created impossible expectations. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is NOT that book. Impossible expectations have been met, and I cannot overstate the love I give to The Hate U Give as I join the chorus of voices praising this debut novel.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes

Yuki Nakahara is an American. He was born here and is a citizen. His parents on the other hand, were not. After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which directed the removal of "enemy aliens" from coastal areas labeled war zones. Because of their Japanese ancestry, Yuki's father was sent to a prison for investigation while Yuki and the rest of his family were rounded up and sent to an internment camp in Utah. They were called traitors and cursed as "the enemy."
Yuki, and many of the other young Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA), want nothing more than to prove their patriotism by fighting for America, THEIR country.

This story is truly amazing. Reading about what these men endured, how they fought, where they fought, how they were used as assets in the European theater, and how they died was fascinating.

Yuki was fictionally deployed as part of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a combat team that in real life was comprised of about 18,000 AJAs throughout the course of the war. They are still the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Approximately 50% earned a Purple Heart and they suffered a staggering 314% casualty rate.

I highly recommend this book. It is an extremely timely story! So much of the political atmosphere right now regarding Muslims in America sounds so similar to the attitude and behavior of the U.S. government its citizens around the time of World War II.

Here are a couple of interesting links for more information about Japanese Americans in World War II.
Go For Broke National Education Center
The mission of this organization is "to educate and inspire character and equality through the virtue and valor of our World War II American veterans of Japanese ancestry."

Allegiance
George Takei of Star Trek fame, who was rounded up and relocated to an internment camp with his family, has created a Broadway musical based on a true story of another family.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle

From the Guardian a couple of months ago, author Alex Wheatle won the children's fiction prize for Crongton Knights. Here's a bit from the article:

A writer who traces his interest in books back to a spell in jail after the 1981 Brixton riots has won the Guardian children’s fiction prize with a hard-hitting novel set on a fictitious inner-city estate plagued by knife crime and overrun by phone-jacking “hood rats”. 

Alex Wheatle is the 50th writer to have won the award, joining a roster that includes Ted Hughes, Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon and Jacqueline Wilson. 

His winning novel, Crongton Knights, is the second in a planned trilogy set on the South Crongton estate, where schoolboy McKay’s rash attempt to help out a girl in danger of exposure for sexting after her phone is stolen takes him on a mission even more dangerous than his more usual challenge of dodging early-morning visits by the bailiffs to his tower block home. 

 Wheatle's frustrations over his publishing history for adults is evident in a second interview that also ran in November.

Here's a bit from that:

“I felt like I was this token black writer who writes about ghetto stuff,” Wheatle says. He believes working-class characters are increasingly thin on the ground, while the handful of black writers who are feted often explore sweeping tales of immigrant experience, rather than domestic tales rooted firmly in one place and time. “My books are seen as only for a black demographic, whereas Zadie Smith or Andrea Levy’s were propelled higher than that, so I felt cheated, in a way.”

Fortunately, he has found acclaim writing for teens, and is producing some powerful - and award winning - stuff.  While his books are not available in the US yet, but you can buy them online - the first in the trilogy is Liccle Bit, then Crongton Knights and, due in April, Straight Outta Crongton. Wheatle sounds like an amazing writer - be sure to check him out.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Joel ben Izzy interview

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780803740976
I recently interviewed Joel ben Izzy, author of Dreidels on the Brain, as part of the 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award blog tour. Joel is the recipient of the Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers category. In the interview, we discussed how his work as a novelist and a storyteller.

"I suppose that, as a storyteller, most of my life walks the tightrope between fiction and non-fiction," he said, describing Dreidels on the Brain as "mostly a memoir, with some parts fictionalized. But I think that the hard and fast distinction between 'fiction' and 'non-fiction' is overrated," he explained. "I think of my writing as something between the two - 'faction.'"

Learn more about Joel's writing rituals, his stories, and his inspirations in our interview at Bildungsroman.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Joseph is 14 and just got out of prison.

He took a pill that made him go sideways and he attacked a teacher.

Now, as part of his rehabilitation he must stay away from his unstable father and join Jack and his parents as a foster child.

Living on a farm, Joseph works out his demons and tells his foster brother Jack, who's twelve, bits and pieces of his life story.

It turns out Joseph has a daughter named Jupiter, whom he's not allowed to see. Joseph's life revolves around finding where Jupiter is no matter what the cost.

Told by twelve year old Jack, Orbiting Jupiter is told in a short simplistic style that cuts like a razor. The scenes where Jack and Joseph are walking to school in sub zero temperatures reminded me so much of walking to school in Nova Scotia that I felt my bones go cold. I wish I had discovered this book sooner because it would've been my top book of 2016. A heartbreaker, don't miss it.

Gutless by Carl Deuker


Brock is a good, strong name usually associated with a strong character. Not so in this sports novel however. Our Brock is a good kid but as the title suggests he is somewhat of a shrinking violet when it comes to high pressure situations..

Brock is a normal high school kid in Seattle. He plays a bit of soccer and overall does what he's supposed to do.  One day he meets Jimmy Fang, a stereotypical Asian kid who is whip smart. Fang is a Renaissance man however and he just happens to be good in soccer too. He and Brock bond as teammates and become friends. Deuker skilfully manipulates situations that Brock finds himself. I for one don't know how I would have reacted if I were in his shoes at that age.

Football is a quintessential American sport and its players are known for being brave. Fans admire them and that can sometimes create a god mentality. Although it is somewhat of a stereotype, the football star in this novel is also a bigot and he encourages his hangers on to bully and jeer Jimmy for little reason other than due to the fact that he's Asian, a bit weird and very smart. Jimmy however is not the stereotypical Asian in one way however-his temper. He stands up for himself despite Brock's desire that he not do so because of the social order of the school.

This is a very necessary book for the times that we live in. Bullying is very real and often the bullied do not fight back and prefer to suffer in silence.  There is a an unspoken code about snitching that permeates our culture.  This book shows the consequences for both bully and bullied and for me is a good starting point for the dialogue that must occur in order for change to occur.                                                                                                                                        


Monday, February 13, 2017

Playing For The Devil's Fire by Phillippe Diederich





I spoke with my students just last week about how books are both mirrors and windows, reflecting on our own lives and also providing glimpses into lives much different than ours. Mirrors that help us see ourselves with deeper understanding, windows that help us understand others more deeply, building empathy for others. Playing For The Devil’s Fire by Phillippe Diederich is a needed window into life in contemporary Mexico and the necessity of building empathy rather than walls.