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Children

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet a #Cybils middle grade finalist

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

So much packed into The Orphan Band of Springdale. It covers so many issues yet still manages to be a tender, touching story.

It’s 1941, and tensions are rising in the United States as the Second World War rages in Europe. Eleven-year-old Gusta’s life, like the world around her, is about to change. Her father, a foreign-born labor organizer, has had to flee the country, and Gusta has been sent to live in an orphanage run by her grandmother. Nearsighted, snaggletoothed Gusta arrives in Springdale, Maine, lugging her one precious possession: a beloved old French horn, her sole memento of her father. But in a family that’s long on troubles and short on money, how can a girl hang on to something so valuable and yet so useless when Gusta’s mill-worker uncle needs surgery to fix his mangled hand, with no union to help him pay? Inspired by her mother’s fanciful stories, Gusta secretly hopes to find the coin-like “Wish” that her sea-captain grandfather supposedly left hidden somewhere. Meanwhile, even as Gusta gets to know the rambunctious orphans at the home, she feels like an outsider at her new school — and finds herself facing patriotism turned to prejudice, alien registration drives, and a family secret likely to turn the small town upside down.

I love reading a book about a girl who plays a musical instrument. How about you?

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays Day 7

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays

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On the Seventh day of diversity, we bring you: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

Fall in love is right. Marjane is smart and funny. In a country where I don’t believe that is valued. I can’t stop talking enough about this book!

Categories
Banned Books Books

Banned Books Week Starts TODAY!

We all know the importance of knowledge and learning, right? I don’t want to waste anymore time talking about why banning books is dumb. Let’s celebrate the great books that have been challenged and you can decide for yourself what you think.

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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I love this tiny book so hard. First because it is set in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and second because the setting is the 80s which is also when I grew up, although the author is a couple years younger than I am. Our experiences are kind of similar: no cell phones, record players, pac man and hairspray to name a few.  This is a coming of age tale that is beautifully told about the man character who suffers from some dangerous mental health issues.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

I am a tad confused about why books about teens and intended for teens should be completely sterile. Kids want to read about situations that are similar to what they are experiencing; at least when they are reading realistic fiction, right? So why then, do people insist on challenging books that  “…deals with sexual situations and drug use.” ?

Again, this is a title you should read for yourself.

2. Looking for Alaska by John Green

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This is by far my fave John Green book.

Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

Oh how this title reminds me of some of the books we read in high school: the what’s it all about and how do i make a difference in this world type of books!

The book was challenged because of sexual content.  Again. Teens, experimenting with sex. It’s what they do, right?  This one, however, is rather mild considering what I’ve read in other books.  It’s a botched BJ and while that might not be appropriate material for young teens or even middle grade readers, I guarantee your older teen has read worse. Or heard worse on the bus. Check it out for yourself before you pass judgement. As always, parents have a right to decide what’s best for their own kiddos, just not for everyone.

3. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

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Ironically, Fallen Angels was

Challenged on the Danbury Middle School reading list in Toledo, Ohio (2013) because of inappropriate language. The book depicts the reality of the Vietnam War, with sometimes gruesome descriptions of combat and frequent foul language from soldiers.

But here’s the question that I’d like answered: what kind of language would you expect soldiers to use? I know the books are for young teens but depicting soldiers using language that is a little too clean, might be a little too unrealistic.  I don’t know about where you live, but around here, Fallen Angels is on many schools’ required reading lists.

Have you read it?

4. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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Please don’t confuse Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison with The Invisible Man by HG Wells!

As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.

 

For the same reasons that Invisible Man is an important read to understand the struggles of the African American community, Invisible Man has also been challenged. To be sure, the book contains strong language but you cannot properly depict the struggles of that era by using tame language, I think.  Either way, it’ll make you think. This book is so so so well written.

 

5. The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

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There is so much to learn about the Middle Eastern region and so little time to read.

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians–especially women–have little power, this true story about a librarian’s struggle to save her community’s priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

Sounds great, right? Other people obviously don’t feel the same way and have challenged the book “because of violent illustrations and storyline” which  is rather irrational because what would kind of story do you expect to hear when reading about a war torn country? Perhaps the age group was not appropriate for the book.

 

 

Categories
Books Diversity Reading Challenge

An Unconventional Librarian’s Holiday Guide: Speculative Fiction

 

Speculative Fiction is my FAVE fiction!

Warcross by Marie Lu

 

Sovereign by April Daniels

The Door at the Crossroads by Zetta Elliott

 

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

 

bonus: many of these books contain diversity. WINNING!

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

What’s in my Ear? My #FridayListens #Diversity

 

Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

I’ve said it on Twitter. I think this is Perkins’ magnus opum. What a beautiful portrayal of a Southeast Indian family’s life as they struggle with each other, old family values, and the need to fit in (or not) in modern New York. So much love. A cross-cultural gem.  I had the pleasure of meeting the author a couple of years ago at KidLitCon Baltimore. She’s just lovely. Her book Tiger Boy helped me look at tigers completely differently. Here’s my review.

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana, Abigail Pesta

I’m 300% over the moon excited that Ms. Uwiringiyimana (MUST. PRACTICE. LAST NAME. TO IMPRESS) will be joining us at KidLitCon 2017 in November! woooooo!!! If you’ve ever wondered what the life of a refugee is like or the life of a war child or anything like that, How Dare the Sun Rise is the book for you. Not only is it an excellent indication of the racial divide within the African American community, it also speaks to the lack of substantive support immigrants receive when entering this country. Striking similarities between this and Perkins’ book.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Not sure how accurate a depiction of baby jail is or of a girls group home, but WOW is this story punching me in the gut. A very young girl is accused of killing the baby her mother is babysitting. That’s all I’ll say.

All of these titles are eligible for the Diversity Reading Challenge. I hope you’ll put one or all of them on your TBR list.

 

Categories
Books Children Young Adult

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers

Hotlight Spotlight: Invasion

by Walter Dean Myers

There are many reasons to love Walter Dean Myers.  He writes books for communities who are often overlooked: boys and African Americans.  Many students are turned on to Myers’ books through school assignments.  Then they keep coming back to Myers for more of the hard hitting reality that Myers is known for.  Kids who won’t read about vampires and aren’t interested in sports will often be willing to read about war like “Invasion.”

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What’s “Invasion”?

Walter Dean Myers brilliantly renders the realities of World War II.

Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are on their way to an uncertain future. Their whole lives are ahead of them, yet at the same time, death’s whisper is everywhere.

One white, one black, these young men have nothing in common and everything in common as they approach an experience that will change them forever.

It’s May 1944. World War II is ramping up, and so are these young recruits, ready and eager. In small towns and big cities all over the globe, people are filled with fear. When Josiah and Marcus come together in what will be the greatest test of their lives, they learn hard lessons about race, friendship, and what it really means to fight. Set on the front lines of the Normandy invasion, this novel, rendered with heart-in-the-throat precision, is a cinematic masterpiece. Here we see the bold terror of war, and also the nuanced havoc that affects a young person’s psyche while living in a barrack, not knowing if today he will end up dead or alive.

Need I say more about the power of Myers’ ability to discuss the human condition in a way that boys can understand? TheWWII backround will certainly discuss racism in a manner that the kids might not have thought about.

Which Walter Dean Myers’ books have your children read?

 

Categories
Children Diversity Reading Challenge

Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing by Leda Schubert Pictures by Raul Colon

 

You probably grew up singing a Pete Seeger song or you sang along with him. Tell me if you remember: Abiyoyo or Skip to my Lou or This Land is Your Land?

If you did, then you were singing with Pete Seeger. Seeger sang for justice, up until he died a few years ago, at 94, he was still singing. For peace. And we could sure use some peace today, couldn’t we? To be sure, the songs from the early and mid 20th century may seem trite and full of treacle but I believe the sentiment is there. Pete Seeger fought against racism in the 60s at a time when it was convenient to be racist.

This sweet biography and beautifully illustrated pages depict the diversity of Seeger’s message. He sang, “we shall overcome…one day.”

I sure hope so.

 

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays DAY 7 – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The 12 Books of #Diversity
for the Holidays Day Seven

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On the Seventh day of diversity, we bring you: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

Fall in love is right. Marjane is smart and funny. In a country where I don’t believe that is valued. I can’t stop talking enough about this book!

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

On My TBR: Just a Drop of Water – Kerry OMalley Cerra

On My TBR:
Just a Drop of Water – Kerry OMalley Cerra

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Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross country team, the Palmetto Bugs. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.

According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, and so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. But the final blow comes when his grandpa’s real past is revealed to Jake. Suddenly, everything he ever knew to be true feels like one big lie. In the end, he must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.

Having been an adult during September 11th I wanted to see how it impacted kids who were old enough to slightly understand what was going on. My kids were very young at the time so the effect on them is different. Kids Jake’s age would be grown ups now.

How old were you  September 11th 2001?

Categories
Books

Paws of Courage by Nancy Furstinger

There are many ways to show courage.
Here’s how dogs do it:
Paws of Courage by Nancy Furstinger

Paws of Courage

 

Here’s a great kids book: it’s a book about war dogs and working dogs. But here’s the question: is there anything better than photos of dogs in uniforms? Well besides being awfully cute, these furry friends in uniform are brave. Paws of Courage is a great book that showcases the many types of four legged heroes who help our military over the past century. From Sgt Stubby to Xanto, dogs have performed numerous jobs helping our men and women in uniform. The greatest bit about these dogs is that when they retire, they can get adopted! Usually their handlers adopt them and reward them with love and good dog treats as a way of thanking the pooches for protecting them. Sometimes, regular people get to adopt a retired military working dog.

Can you imagine the stories old Fido could tell about finding explosives in a mine field or sniffing luggage at the airport for hidden items? Or what about the dog who can hear an enemy plane approaching and alert her military friends so they can get to safety?

I’ve always been a fan dogs, but military working dogs have become my all time favorite, after I heard about all the work they did during September 11th. If you have a friend who likes dogs or the military, this book will win their heart too. Also? Information in the back to find out about retired service dogs for sale.  Maybe you can get one!

Here’s a great quote from the book:

 

The Final Woof

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.

~Anonymous