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Books Reviews

The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry is a book I love to think about over and over.

When I think about coming of age books, I love to think about The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry (or as I call her, MPL) because the girl in the book is so kickass and you know how I feel about PowerGirls!

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

Earthquake Machine

The Earthquake Machine is the kind of coming of age book I wanted to read when I was a teenager:   Adventure.  Love. Hate. Desire.  Travel. Knives. Crime.  Did I mention Knives? Our protagonist Rhonda has a difficult life and decides to go on an adventure deep within Mexico to find an old family friend.  This story is girl power to the max.  You won’t believe the strength that Rhonda discovers within herself during her adventure.

You are transported to Mexico within the pages of this book:  to the land of Indians and Spaniards and Mexicans and mole and Spanish.  Lowry gets it right:  the bright colors of the sunset and the paint; the smell of the food cooking; the depth of the passion that the Mexicans feel for each other and for their religion.  You forget you are reading a book in English and you become a friend walking along the streets of a small Mexican town next to Rhonda turned Angel, speaking in Spanish and following her story.

Rhonda/Angel’s search leads her to experiences that will shock, horrify, and make you laugh.  To be sure, there are sexual situations within the story that are not for everyone but reflect a teenager’s interests and curiosities.  Lowry’s coming of age story will make you yearn to be go on an adventure and force you to question your beliefs.

This is the best coming of age story I’ve read in a very long time and a perfect blend of multicultural richness.

 

Did I mention that both Mary and I lived in Austin for a time?

Y’all.

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Books Diversity Reading Challenge resources

Hola Let’s Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay

“The whole world does not speak English”

Think about that statement for a second. What do you mean the whole world doesn’t speak English? Well, if you’re a kid, you might not have ever thought about that. And if you’re not a kid, maybe you didn’t realize it either. Regardless of your age my new friend Judy wants to help you learn Spanish.

And I think learning Spanish is a great idea. I learned French growing up and while it was fun to practice the language in France, I rarely use it. I lived in Texas for 10 years and would realized how much better off I would have been if I’d learned Spanish instead. So, here I am, a grown up, trying to learn Spanish.

Fortunately, my friend Judy has this great book called Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish.

Hola! Let's Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay

I love this way of learning because along with a book there’s a website to help you practice your Spanish speaking. So, if you’re a visual learner or an listening learner, you’re sure to learn from this book. The lessons are given in story form: Pete the Pilot takes you on a journey to Mexico and teaches you the things you’ll need to know in order to function on your trip. On the website: http://www.polyglotkidz.com/ you will hear Maria, a native Spanish (Mexican, not Spain) speaker, pronounce the words for you.

It’s a super easy way to learn Spanish! I love the book because the story contains friendly, child like illustrations, and easy sentences with words we will actually use if we were in Mexico. During the book, we attend a party with a pinata filled with los caramelos and meet a new friend, Panchito, the jumping bean. So much cute! The back of the book is like a glossary with conversational skill practices to help you use the words you heard in the story.

I had a jumping bean when I was a kid so meeting Panchito in the story was a cute little bit of nostalgia. The back of the book also contains vocabulary words, geography, and other resources to extend your learning.

It’s muy bien!

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Books

Happy Dia de los Muertos!

When I lived in San Antonio, I witnessed large celebrations of Dia de los Muertos. Being from Pittsburgh, I had no idea what it meant but because I love everything about the Hispanic culture, I was hooked after some education. Day of the Dead translates simply into day of the dead. Despite what you think, it’s not some creepy zombie thing.  It’s a celebration of the lives of those you’ve loved who have died.  The way Mexicans honor those loved ones is by dressing up in sugar skulls and eating lots of candy, decorating in bright festive colors, dancing, drinking and general merriment. Anything that involves candy and cake is my kind of holiday, no?

dayofthedead

I try to review dia books each year but this year I decided just to point you in the direction of other sites to see what they are doing.   Click the link to see my review.

Here’s a link to a list of books from Babble.

Beautiful slide show from National Geographic.

Here’s how they’re celebrating in San Diego. Oh what a beautiful city!

And there’s a movie called The Book of Life which references the beautiful colors of Dia…

The_Book_of_Life_(2014_film)_poster

I haven’t seen the movie so if you’ve seen it let me know what you think.

IMG_5759

Here’s an activity book in case you need some ideas for your sugar skulls.

Now you’re all set.

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resources

5 Books to help you celebrate el Dia de los Muertos

 

I loved living in Texas because of all of the fiestas.  And the food. But that’s another story.  But while living in Texas I learned to celebrate el Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  Day of the dead celebrates your loved ones who have died and if you think about it, it’s kind of nice remembering loved ones.  el Dia celebrations include decorative festive skulls (sugar skulls), brightly colored flowers, music, and food.

Think it sounds like fun?

You betcha!

Here are five books to introduce or help your family celebrate Dia de los Muertos:

unconventional librarian
courtesy The Latin Baby Book Club

Day of the Dead paper dolls.

 

unconventional librarian
courtesy The Latin Baby Book Club

Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston, a picture book incorporating Spanish and English words.

unconventional librarian
courtesy The Latin Baby Book Club

I Remember Abuelito by Janice Levy, a bilingual picture book in which a little girl fondly remembers her grandfather, abuelito.

unconventional librarian
courtesy The Latin Baby Book Club

Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales, is a trickster tale that helps children learn to count in English and Spanish.

 

Unconventional Librarian
courtesy Mommy Maestra

Rosita y Conchita by Eric Gonzalez & Erich Haeger a fact based picture books describing how to celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

 

And because everyone loves a fun app there’s…

Oy, Mexico, a Dia de los Muertos app!

unconventional librarian
courtesy Mommy Maestra

So now you have everything you need to celebrate your loved ones

unconventional librarian

now pass the pan de muerte!

 

 

 

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Books resources

I’m Here to Help by SF Chapman

I’m featuring a book and an author today that sounds like an interesting read: the book is called I’m Here to Help by SF Chapman.

Here’s a synopsis of the book:

Seventeen-year-old Renita discovers some subtle inconsistencies in her birth certificate that put
her mother Sharon’s long held account that she was adopted into doubt. Sharon decides that it is
finally time to tell Renita about both the laudable good deeds and the lamentable oversights that
had led them to the current situation.
Using a series of old framed photos that have hung for years in the living room, Sharon slowly
reveals the complex set of events involving a star-crossed trip to Mexico, a very young stowaway
Hispanic baby sitter named Juliana, the untimely death of Sharon’s husband, the unexpected
pregnancy of Juliana, the eventual birth of Renita to Juliana and finally Juliana’s struggle with
clinical depression that leads to her suicide.
Through some sketchy paperwork filled at the county recorder’s office, Sharon was listed as
Renita’s mom.

Doesn’t that sound interesting? What would you do if you found some inconsistencies in your birth certificate? Me? I’d prolly question everything. And then eat some donuts. But that’s just me. Did I mention I have a niece named Renita? The story’s not about her, btw.  Pretty sure. At least, it better not be.

ANYWAY, If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered whether books were like newborns. You have to nurture them and feed them and help them grow.  Chapman discusses it for me. Let’s listen in, cuz it’s very insightful:

The Literary Newborn

Early in July of 2011 when I was writing the first few chapters of my novel entitled I’m here to help, I was struck by an amusing analogy: Novels are just like newborns.

I chuckled back then as I scribbled out that phrase on a 3 x 5 card, which for me is a slightly more permanent way of retaining literary bits and pieces than using notepads or post-its.

Novels are like newborns; it is a poetic little gathering of amiable words. Perhaps they will find themselves clustered together in the center of song someday.

Being a father of two kids and one of the oldest of twelve siblings, I have been subjected to an uncommonly large number of newborns.

When I penned I’m here to help last year, I had already completed four other novels. I was certainly familiar with the long, slow process of nurturing a narrative along from a wispy notion to a wobbly collection of chapter summaries, then onward to a rough but promising first draft and eventually, after many stern admonishments from my three editors, a refined piece that could be sent out into the uncertainties of the world and stand on its own merits.

Producing a novel, or at least the initial writing of the chapters, is a thankfully brief undertaking that’s often quite similar to having a newborn in the house.

Novels and newborns can be particularly demanding. Both become inexplicably fussy at times. I’ve discovered that sleep seems to cure the crankiness, at least for a while.

Babies and half-done books have a fascinating sparkly effervescence at times; often when you least expect it. Infants will sometimes coo delightfully while you exhaustedly change their diapers at 3 AM. The words of a partially completed novel will occasionally spring off the page and be far more descriptive and compelling than you had imagined earlier when you had scribed them.

One “carries” around newborns and novels in an all-consuming way. If you are not physically lugging an infant, you are certainly thinking about the wee one. When you are not tapping away at the keyboard, you are mentally tussling with plot twists and dialogue.

Manuscripts and munchkins will both rudely awaken you at night and require your undivided but weary attention when you’d really rather be in bed.

Thankfully, for me at least, the all-nighters spent with restless babies and nascent novels have been brief. When it is over and I look back fondly at the effort that went in those early months with my son and daughter or my various literary projects, I rather miss the protracted struggle.

Chapman is a very busy papa as he has two human  children, plus numerous post apocalyptic novel babies.  Let’s follow him on Twitter: @SF_Chapman Facebook: SF Chapman  and GoodReads: SF Chapman to see how his novel babies grow up!

Thanks for visiting SF, this looks like a good read!

Categories
Books Reviews

The Ford 99 Test of The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

Let’s take a brief look into what’s happening on page 99 of The Earthquake Machine. As told to us by the author herself!  Open up your copy of the book and turn to page 99 which starts like this:

“…crazy moonlight and howl their crazy howls.”

Did you find it?  Let’s see what’s going on inside Mary’s head.

The Earthquake MachineBy p. 99 of my novel THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE, the protagonist Rhonda has run away while on a river rafting trip in Big Bend National Park in the desert of West Texas. She swims across the Rio Grande to Mexico, steals a burro and rides him up the hill to the town of Milagros. There she finds a bartender named Juan Diego to help her. Juan Diego is kind, but whacked out on peyote. He helps cut and die her hair black so she can “pass” as a Mexican boy and travel south across Mexico to the state of Oaxaca to search for her family’s gardener.

Juan Diego dubs Rhonda with the moniker Angel (which is a boy’s name in Spanish) and sends her off to ride across the desert on the burro Pablo. Juan Diego tells Angel that if she rides for long enough in a certain direction she will hit a highway and be able to catch a bus to the city of Oaxaca.

On p. 99, Angel is alone in the desert with only the burro Pablo to keep her company. She has water and food that Juan Diego has packed for her, but she’s scorching in the desert and worried about making it all the way to the highway. She’s left her family, friends, country and everything she knows behind. Even her watch has already broken, so she doesn’t even have the familiar comfort of knowing what time it is. She’s on a big adventure with no one to protect her. But being so vulnerable and so alone opens her up to the possibility of miracles, for amazing things to happen to her, for a great transformation to occur.

I’ve read so many books and seen so many movies that depict a guy going on a big adventure while his female love interest waits at home for him to return. I’ve never wanted to wait around for a guy to come back from doing something spectacular. I’ve always wanted to have the adventures myself, and encourage other girls to do the same. I hope girls and women will read THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE and be inspired to take risks and live life fully.

I couldn’t agree more with Mary and one way to go on adventures is through books!

 

Book synopsis:

The Earthquake Machine

The book every girl should read,
and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14-year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home, Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

Author Bio:

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

Categories
Books Reviews

Book Review: The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

Lowry is the author of The Earthquake Machine

Title: THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE

Author: MARY PAULINE LOWRY

ISBN: 978-1-4567-9585-6

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

313 pages, trade paperback

Fiction, paperback $11.55, ebook $0.99

http://www.marypaulinelowry.com/

 Here’s what others are saying:

“REMARKABLE. Wild, maddening, preposterous, beautiful. It’s just crazy good. A marvel.”

–Joy Williams, Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The Earthquake Machine, a fun, fantastical and exhilarating tale, explodes the distinction between Young Adult and adult coming-of-age novels, even as it explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish.

My thoughts:

The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry is the kind of coming of age book I wanted to read when I was a teenager:   Adventure.  Love. Hate. Desire.  Travel. Knives. Crime.  Our protagonist Rhonda has a difficult life and decides to go on an adventure deep within Mexico to find an old family friend.  This story is girl power to the max.  You won’t believe the strength that Rhonda discovers within herself during her adventure.

You are transported to Mexico within the pages of this book:  to the land of Indians and Spaniards and Mexicans and mole and Spanish.  Lowry gets it right:  the bright colors of the sunset and the paint; the smell of the food cooking; the depth of the passion that the Mexicans feel for each other and for their religion.  You forget you are reading a book in English and you become a friend walking along the streets of a small Mexican town next to Rhonda turned Angel, speaking in Spanish and following her story.

Rhonda/Angel’s search leads her to experiences that will shock, horrify, and make you laugh.  To be sure, there are sexual situations within the story that are not for everyone but reflect a teenager’s interests and curiosities.  Lowry’s coming of age story will make you yearn to be go on an adventure and force you to question your beliefs.

This is the best coming of age story I’ve read in a very long time and a perfect blend of multicultural richness.

 

I give it 4 paws!