Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr!

“I’ve always been a dreamer” ~My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringgold

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr!

Unconventional Librarian

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


Books Reviews Young Adult

The Talisman of El by Alecia Stone

The Talisman of El by Alecia Stone

Here’s a brief synopsis:

One Planet.
Two Worlds.
Population: Human … 7 billion.
Others … unknown.

When 14-year-old Char­lie Blake wakes up sweat­ing and gasp­ing for air in the mid­dle of the night, he knows it is hap­pen­ing again. This time he wit­nesses a bru­tal mur­der. He’s afraid to tell any­one. No one would believe him … because it was a dream. Just like the one he had four years ago – the day before his dad died.Char­lie doesn’t know why this is hap­pen­ing. He would give any­thing to have an ordi­nary life. The prob­lem: he doesn’t belong in the world he knows as home.He belongs with the others.

There are so many things to enjoy about The Talisman of El by Alecia Stone. As you know, I am always looking for a multicultural perspective.  Stone gave it to me! I’m glad to say that because Stone is a person of color, her characters were also people of color.  Or so it appeared:  I loved how Stone gave the characters different shades and hues, just like people in real life.

Another appealing feature of The Talisman of El is the storyline.  I love the story of Charlie being an orphan and having powers that he’s not really sure exist, intertwined with Charlie’s story is Derkein’s story.  I like Derkein mostly because of his name, but he’s an American in Great Britain which, written from a Brit’s point of view, I find interesting.  Derkein is also an orphan of sorts so I like that he and Charlie have that in common. I enjoyed the friendships between Charlie, Alex, and young Richmond.

Traveling to the inner hidden universe was where the story became intensely interesting and confusing.  I love character definition and while there was development, I couldn’t figure out why Charlie reacted the way he did; I just knew that he would react the way he did, which was often frustrating.  I often felt the story dragged; as if the author wasn’t edited and felt the need to include every single situation.  Sometimes, it was just too much. Perhaps the first book should have been split into two or three books; it was a lot of information to process.

I have mixed feelings about the heavenly overtones with the angels and the other types of beings (Archons, werewolves, etc) and the fight between good and evil.  Is this a timeless message or one that has been overdone?  I’m not sure, but either way, despite my many misgivings, the story is a fast paced enjoyable romp through different dimensions and times.

I give it two paws, because the editing oversights and the sometimes confusing action scenes, but the book will appeal to readers of every ethnicity!


award winners Books Diversity

APeek at Black History Month

Black History month may be winding down but there is still time to talk about some of the great books available.

Remember, it’s appropriate to read these beautiful books all year long, not just during Black History month!

This three just caught my attention recently:

When Grandmama Sings by Margaree King Mitchell 

photo courtesy

then this one

Freedom Song by Sally M. Walker

photo courtesy

and of course, we all love poetry

Freedom’s a Callin’ Me by Ntozake Shange

photo courtesy

Don’t the illustrations look delish?

Putting these on my want list!


Twilight and Ethnicity

In case you don’t know. I like Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. As usual, I came to the party later than some, but earlier than a whole lotta others.  What that means is that I started following Twilight just before the movie craze hit. And I’ve been hooked ever since. We even have Twilight parties.  I enjoy the series because it is something that I can share with my now 17 yr old boy and my 13 yr old girl. And as you can imagine, you don’t often get the chance to share too many fun times with teens that age.  Pumpkin, as you can imagine, loves the series. She is about all things Robert Pattinson; It’s cute. To be sure, his acting in the movie is not that great, and I personally imagined someone else for the role but he IS easy to look at.  But I’m not here to discuss the movie, although I would be happy to on another post.

But the book.  First and foremost I LOVE any book that gets kids interested in reading: it makes them feel good and inspires them to read other books. And that’s all that matters: READING.  Now that I’ve said that, I want to look at the Twilight Series from a multicultural perspective.  As much as I love Twilight, I am saddened or even disappointed that there aren’t a better representation of minorities in the story.  It is still surprising to me that in this day and age that writers still don’t take into consideration the broad ethnicity of readers, young readers, who are out there.  I think the inclusion of the Native American population was great.  And, of course, necessary.

I can’t help thinking that even though the real Forks Washington does not have a large minority population, the Forks in the story could have.  Should have. When the story was brought to film the movie makers rightly added a little bit of color into the story: one of the vampires was black, one high school student (the one who hit Bella with his truck) was black, and a couple of the semi main characters are of a non descript Asian background.  And that’s it, as far as I can remember.  How can this be? Oh yeah, and in one of the stories there are vampires from Mexico and other Latin countries.  I don’t think it’s enough.  To be sure, I don’t like the token people of color addition, but why can’t some of the storylines included a Southeast Asian family and its culture, for example?

I’ll save my complaints about Bella’s need for male validation for another review. Is this the 1950s or what???

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?


Banned Books Reviews Young Adult

Revisiting Banned Book:The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perks is another example of a good book that gets banned or challenged and then becomes a summer reading choice for teens.  It’s a great book. Although the movie was based in my hometown of Pittsburgh, I wasn’t happy with the film.  They changed things.  Important things.

I’m so excited for today’s review because it was written by none other than my Pumpkin!  At 15 Pumpkin is an avid reader and I love to share books with her.  In fact, she’s the one who got me hooked on Twilight and The Hunger Games series.  So I blame her for some of my madness.

Let’s see what Pumpkin says about Perks:

The perks of being a wallflower is a great book but I can see why it is on the banned book list. There is a lot of underage drinking, sex, and drugs going on without the mention of how bad they are. Charlie, the main speaker of the story, has become one of my favorite characters out of all the books I’ve read because of how honest he is. I also felt like I could feel his emotions in the story from the vivid explanations, the story had me crying at many points!

I don’t think I could find anything wrong with the book. I feel it gives a real interpretation of how a kids who gets pulled into a great friendship would react.  Although many of the characters do wrong to Charlie at some point in the book, you don’t end up hating any of them at the end of of the book because of how kind speaking Charlie is about them. He always has a way of forgiving characters or seeing past their rudeness. This is a character trait I love because nowadays, most of the books I read are about people hating people.

Schools should overlook the drug usage and such in the book because The Perks Of Being A Wallflower makes you see things through other peoples eyes and shows you good life lessons. This book has been added to my favorites list!

I couldn’t agree more: you can’t hide drug use from kids, they already know about it.

Have you read it? What are your thoughts?


Banned Books Books Young Adult

Revisiting Banned Book: Go Ask Alice

Revisiting Go Ask Alice:  I know schools are still requiring this book.  Since my original post I’ve discovered that research suggests that this book is truly a work of fiction and not based on a real person.

Wow. Go Ask Alice is my current read for Banned Books Week. And all I can say is: Wow. Seriously.  Supposedly based on a diary of a young teenage girl, the book had me gripped from beginning to end.

I’m sure the book was banned due to its drug use and sex references. But, unlike some books (and many movies) these  experiences are NOT glamorized at all. At ALL.  The main character (whom I do NOT believe to be named Alice, although she references an Alice) complains and suffers bitterly because of her drug use.

If she could do a PSA I’m pretty sure she would say “don’t use drugs. ever!” But, alas, she does not get the chance.

Multiculturalism is a sticky wicket in this book.  I am 100% certain that all the characters in this book are Anglo, however, the main character does interact with her Jewish friend.  The setting is a middle class neighborhood in the early 70s where mothers still stayed at home, etc.  The sticky wicket is the drug activity.  A few references to homosexuality bump this book up to slightly more pluralistic viewpoint than many of the other books I’ve read recently.

Something scary about this? I just NOW noticed that there is a face on the cover of this book.  Wow.  Never saw that before and I look at this book OFTEN.

I HIGHLY recommend that you read this book with your children. Young teens (13+) need to get this lesson.

I wonder why it wasn’t made into a movie?

This is a Four Paw read if there ever was!

Adult Fiction Banned Books Books Reviews Young Adult

Revisiting Banned Books: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I want to revisit this title. Again. The story is so good and the movie was so…not.  Anyway, I now see teens buying this book so I’m guessing classrooms have realized how important this work is.  As always, book is BETTER.


“What about a teakettle? What if the spot opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? “

To be sure, Safran Foer’s new novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, is as interesting as his debut novel, Everything is IlluminatedExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close revolves around 9 year old Oskar Schell, his family, and his father’s death after the Sept 11th events.  Do not be deceived: the story is neither for children (although possibly YA) nor a drab account of the terror attack.

Individual family members suffer with what appears to be post traumatic stress disorder through generations of terrorism and war.  Given his background, it is little wonder that Oskar suffers from anxiety as he copes with and searches for answers to his father’s death.  Safran’s story is imaginative in its presentation, providing photographs and other graphic representations: several pages are empty like pages in a blank book.  The book is clever enough to be different from every other novel, yet at times just a little too clever.

In the end I am satisfied with the author’s ending and the resolution of the character’s situations.  Multiculturally, the main characters are Jewish and while not openly practicing, appeals to my need for ethnic diversity.

I give this story of a precocious child 3 paws!

“I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad’s voice, so I could fall asleep, or maybe a set of kettles that sings the chorus of “Yellow Submarine,” which is a song by the Beatles, who I love, because entomology is one of my raisons d’etre, which is a French expression that I know.”

Banned Books Books Reviews Young Adult

Revisiting Banned Book: ANGUS, Thongs and FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING

Let’s revisit some previously banned books. Enjoy!

Hello, American-type chums! (Perhaps you say “Howdy” in  America—I don’t know—but then I’m not really sure where Tibet is either, or my lipstick)

If you’re not laughing after reading the first lines from this book there is something wrong with you, like you’re missing your funny bone.  This is one of the funniest young adult books I’ve read in a while!  The main character, Georgia Nicolson, reminds me of a young Bridget Jones: endearing and goofy. This is a character that I can relate to (I either was her in middle school or I was friends with her), and probably many young teens can too.

The setting of the book (and I understand there is a series) is England; an English girls’ school.  So, while not very multicultural, readers can learn about British life and culture from a kid’s perspective and compare it to their own lives.

The interesting bit about this book is that I can’t understand why it is a challenged book.  The sexual references are very slight, in my opinion, and not offensive (if you know anything about young teen girls this is certainly relevant to what they talk about).  There is no cursing and none of the characters engage in sexual activity, drugs or drinking. Although I guess the word snogging is somewhat sexual, at least in the UK, although it’s practically a nonsense word here in the states.  Which is prolly why I love it!

This is a delightful, fabby, marvy, and gorgey book.  I give it four paws!

p.s. did i mention i got this used at a thrift store? SCORE!!

p.p.s I STILL love it!