Categories
Children Diversity Reviews Young Adult

You Should Read Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers is a prolific writer of young adult and middle-grade children’s literature.  The problem is, you might not have heard of him.  WDM’s many titles include:

  • Monster
  • Sunrise over Fallujah
  • Autobiography of My Dead Brother
  • All the Right Stuff
  • and many more

Walter Dean Myers Unconventioinal LibrarianWDM’s writing is good and his work has been awarded countless awards.

That’s because Myers is African  American, his audience is primarily African American children, and his characters are primarily African American or other minorities.  So, unless you’re an avid read of the YA genre, or African American or an educator, you probably haven’t heard of him.

Now you have. And now you should get acquainted with his work.  His work is powerful and speaks to not only those of color but to those who want to do better with their lives or don’t understand why things work the way they do.

Does that sound like you?

That’s because it IS you.

Everyone can benefit from reading a Walter Dean Myers title or two.

I just finished All the Right Stuff, his latest release.

See below as Cleo takes a break from supervising my reading of All the Right Stuff.

Unconventional Librarian All The Right Stuff

I love this book and d’you know why? It’s smart and it makes you think!  Young Paul lives in Harlem and gets a summer job at a soup kitchen where he learns not only how to make soup but how to evaluate his place in the world and how to engage in intelligent conversation about how to change the world for the better.

Any child can relate to this book, not just an African American child or a child who lives in Harlem or another impoverished neighborhood.  Any child who must make a choice between doing good and doing wrong can appreciate the choices Paul has to make.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  Look in your bookshelf; there’s prolly an old copy of a WDM book lying around from a required reading assignment.  Pick it up and read it.  It’ll make you think.  Meanwhile? I’m going to do the same…

I give this book four paws for honest portrayal of young African Americans.

Unconventional Librarian 4paws

 

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge

Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers

What a pleasure it is to read another of the late Walter Dean Myers’ works. “Scorpions” is a bleak book, reminiscent of Dickens, but without the macabre. Myers’ books give the reader insight into the lives of POC in the inner city. “Scorpions” is the tale of young Jamal and his family and his best friend Tito. Jamal’s brother is in jail, and he’s being pressured to take his brother’s place as leader of a gang but the gang members have other ideas. After all, Jamal is only 12 and what does he know about running a gang?

Jamal’s family can’t catch a break. His mother works intermittently, Jamal and his younger sister often fend for themselves for food, and his troubles at school keep mounting. Through it all  is his constant friend Tito.

What I find most troubling in the book is the school. This is not the era of child centered education. The teachers belittle, threaten, and generally don’t offer support to Jamal in a time when he needs it most (like when he’s being beaten by the school bully). It’s no wonder he gets in trouble so much.

Scorpions will tear your heart out, although there are a few tender moments.  Can you see why this was a Newbery Honor book?

Totally qualifies for the Diversity Reading Challenge.

Categories
Books

A New Jacqueline Woodson Title I’m Excited About

I love to read books by authors of color. Even more than that, I love to read books by authors of color ABOUT children of color! To be sure, a nice historical fiction book is ok, but why not make The Hunger Games main character a girl of color. Any color?

But I digress.  One of the authors I enjoy is Jacqueline Woodson.

jacqueline woodson

 

I accidentally ran into her at a posh BEA party last year. I reckon she doesn’t get recognized too much so I was all like OMG Can I have a pic???? As you can see, she wasn’t too keen on me but whatever. I LOVE her.

She’s the kind of author who writes for kids who want to use their brains. Kids will use their brains if you give them something that meets their interest.  I found a picture book about bullying of hers last year that made me weep.  WEEP. It’s called Each Kindness.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

A new girl comes to school and tries to make friends. When Chloe, the narrator, is unkind, the girl keeps trying. And then the girl is gone and Chloe is left only with the memory of her unkindness.

See? Kids GET this stuff. They realize sometimes belatedly what they should have done differently. And maybe next time they’ll get it right. This title speaks to everyone.

The crazy thing about Woodson is that she’s written TONS of books for kids of all ages and many of them are award winners. Probably you’ve heard of Hush.

When she is twelve, Toswiah and her older sister Cameron have to leave the place they’ve always known, change their identities and leave no trace of their past life. Toswiah becomes Evie. Her sister becomes Anna. In the new city, they have to reinvent themselves and figure out how to move on when just about everything they ever loved is behind them.

I could go on and on.  I recently snagged an advanced copy of her latest book, which happens to be an autobiography, called Brown Girl Dreaming. It’s an autobiography written in verse. It incorporates elements of what was going on in the civil rights movement when she was born and growing up.  It’s compelling. I can’t wait to finish it.

If you’ve not heard of Jacqueline Woodson, add her to your repertoire. It’s smart reading.

 

Categories
Adult Fiction Books

The Gods of Gotham Lyndsay Faye SPOTLIGHT

Gods of Gotham

I considered wearing a cowboy hat while writing this post, but I decided against it because…well, because.  I guess  because a cowboy hat is the closest item of clothing I could think of that might remind me of the newly formed New York City police department in 1845.  Yeah, I didn’t know that prior to that, Gotham had no police force either.

Go figure, huh?

So, here we are with this delightful book by my bestie Lyndsay Faye, The Gods of Gotham which was published in 2012.  It’s just been re-released in paperback and am I glad!  Now more people can enjoy the tale of officer Timothy Wilde, the reluctant police officer.  He does the wrong thing but for the right reasons.  You kinda hafta love the poor sod as he can’t really help himself.  He’s a police officer in a world of poor people just trying to earn a day’s wages so they can stay alive.  Unfortunately, these days wages often include prostitution, theft, murder, and other sorts of vagaries.  And here’s young Wilde, just barely one step above them.  Enter a small child covered in blood with an outrageous story that sends Wild discovering the truth, about himself and the community of immigrants with whom he lives.

Fortunately,  the hen (Lyndsay) has decided to cap in with me and have a  palaver about the book and life.   I asked her a few questions:

UNCONVENTIONAL LIBRARIAN: Do you drink coffee?

LYNDSAY FAYE: No.  I’m a very wiry, highly strung person with a heartbeat like a hummingbird’s.  Coffee makes me nervous and irritable.  I drink massive amounts of tea, however, preferably floral or aromatic teas like Earl Grey or green jasmine.  If I do drink coffee, it’s going to be at around four in the afternoon. My beautiful husband is a massive coffee snob, loves trying swanky blends, but I can’t taste the difference.  Ask me a question about beer and I can be much more articulate.

UL: I don’t require coffee drinking so much as much as I require your desire to bring me a cup, so that’ll do.   Do you like donuts or cookies? Do you dunk?

 

courtesy The Donut Plant
courtesy The Donut Plant

 

LF: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but open a package of chips in front of me and it’s all over.  That being said, I can be tempted by the rose flavored donuts from The Donut Plant, which feature rose water pudding, rose water glaze, and an edible candied rose petal, or else their tres leches donut. That was an incredibly specific answer, my apologies.  But go to The Donut Plant if you are in NYC.  I am deeply serious about this instruction.  I don’t dunk because it’s extremely unlikely for me to be drinking coffee at the same time as eating a donut at The Donut Plant (go to The Donut Plant).  Their matcha green tea donut is also pretty wild.

UL:  Oh my heavenly stars.  I have got to get to this donut place! Now, where was I? How did your series get started?

LF: I wanted to see what day one, cop one of the NYPD looked like.  And I wanted an un-Sherlockian hero, one who wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t believe himself to be talented at crimesolving and is reluctantly dragged into it all.  Like, a tiny scrapper who solves things largely due to raw talent and intuition.  Enter Timothy Wilde.  I also wanted to play with an extremely unreliable narrator, and Tim can be completely blinkered when it comes to his loved ones–typical human condition, really.  Everyone loves him because he’s so well-intentioned, but really he’s a complete arse.  I love that little ball of pent-up angst.

UL: I wouldn’t really say Tim is an arse.  Ok maybe he is but he’s a bene bloke.  I like him.  What was your first book?

newDScoverLF: Thank you for asking.  It was not, as countless reviewers would have it, The Gods of Gotham–it was a pastiche pitting Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper.  I adore Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.  They have my heart.  So my first book, Dust and Shadow, is a dark adventure exploring the most beautiful literary friendship of all time, mixed with the historical true facts of the Ripper murders.

UL: Gripping stuff. Have you ever thought of putting a ukelele playing librarian into your book?

LF: I have, but I’ve hesitated because I feel as if the ukelele-playing librarian should take center stage rather than being a guest star, so I’ll have to complete the Timothy Wilde novels before embarking on a new series featuring that protagonist.

UL: Maybe so but how fun would it be if she turns up dead or in a cranky-hutch? Could be interesting…? Share with us how your obsession with Sherlock (of the Benedict Cumberbatch type) came to be.

LF: Oh, I’m obsessed with every incarnation of Sherlock Holmes.  I was ten, my dad told me to read “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” good night Vienna.  Over time, Sherlock Holmes has stopped being a hobby for me and turned into a lifestyle choice.  I’m a part of the Baker Street Babes podcast on the subject, I’m an Adventuress of Sherlock Holmes (we meet monthly), I write regular short pastiches for the Strand Magazine, the theme song for the Granada Holmes series played at our wedding, I’m a Baker Street Irregular, I host several Sherlockian events per year included a benefit for Wounded Warrior Project with the Babes.  It’s madness. I love it.  And I do adore Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch, the man is a complete lovemuffin.

UL: Agreed. He is yummy. If you could have any superpower what would it be?

LF: Flight.  Definitely flight.  I have flying dreams sometimes and they make me very happy.

UL: Me too! What makes you happy?

LF: Flying dreams.  Cheese.  Salty snacks.  My garden.  Cooking for people I care about.  Sad love songs.  Hero stories.  Really filthy filthy dirty jokes.  Swearing.  Whiskey.  Gin.  Pretty dresses.  Audrey Hepburn.  Moon River.  Watching the Love in an Elevator music video.  Watching the Bad Romance music video.  Sherlockians.  Travel–especially the UK, Ireland, Thailand, Spain, France, Belgium, and Belize when I’ve been to those places.  My cats Grendel and Prufrock.  Walking purposelessly through the streets of New York with my husband.

UL: Anything else you wanna tell us?

LF: I have an abnormally long tongue.  I can stick it in either nostril.

UL:  Helpful skill when the zombies come, I’m sure.

So HEY folks, how fun was that??

Lyndsay’s new book drops in a few short days and while Lyndsay will be partying without me on the 18th, I’ll be reviewing Seven for a Secret, the latest escapades from my buddy Timothy Wilde! Stop back on the 19th for my review and a fun GIVEAWAY!!

 

 

 

Categories
Children Diversity Reviews Young Adult

Why You Should Read Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers is a prolific writer of young adult and middle grade children’s literature.  The problem is, you might not have heard of him.  WDM’s many titles include:

  • Monster
  • Sunrise over Fallujah
  • Autobiography of My Dead Brother
  • All the Right Stuff
  • and many many more

Walter Dean Myers Unconventioinal LibrarianWDM’s writing is good and his work has been awarded countless awards.  Currently he is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a position that strives to raise literacy awareness.  So, if he’s so important, why have you probably not heard of him?

That’s because Myers is African  American, his audience is primarily African American children, and his characters are primarily African American or other minorities.  So, unless you’re an avid read of the YA genre, or African American or an educator, you probably haven’t heard of him.

But now you have. And now you should get acquainted with his work.  His work is powerful and speaks to not only those of color, but to those who want to do better with their lives or don’t understand why things work the way they do.

Does that sound like you?

That’s because it IS you.

Everyone can benefit from reading a Walter Dean Myers title or two.

I just finished All the Right Stuff, his latest release.

See below as Cleo takes a break from supervising my reading of All the Right Stuff.

Unconventional Librarian All The Right Stuff

I love this book and d’you know why? It’s smart and it makes you think!  Young Paul lives in Harlem and gets a summer job at a soup kitchen where he learns not only how to make soup but how to evaluate his place in the world and how to engage in intelligent conversation about how to change the world for the better.

Any child can relate to this book, not just an African American child or a child who lives in Harlem or another impoverished neighborhood.  Any child who must make a choice between doing good and doing wrong can appreciate the choices Paul has to make.

I can’t recommend this book enough.  Look in your bookshelf; there’s prolly an old copy of a WDM book lying around from a required reading assignment.  Pick it up and read it.  It’ll make you think.  Meanwhile? I’m going to do the same…

I give this book four paws for honest portrayal of young African Americans.

Unconventional Librarian 4paws