Sunday, June 30, 2013

Black Music Month: Books with Black Musicians

June is Black Music Month, a month to celebrate African-American music traditions and artists in all genres. We're on it.


Stringz by Michael Wenberg. Jace's mother is constantly moving him from one town to another. His only constant is his cello. When they move to Seattle, Jace was he usually does-- plays on the street in hopes of making some money. One listener throws in a business card-- he's a high level celle teacher and sees a promise in Jace and wants to take him to the next level. Can Jace do it? Will his mother just move again?

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi. After his mother's remarriage, Miles moves in with his father. His father concentrates on jazz, while Miles focuses on football, making the team and dreaming of playing pro. When Miles gets to the Superdome though, it's not for football, but rather taking shelter after Katrina hits.

DJ Rising by Love Maia. Marley is an aspiring DJ whose career is just starting to take off, but he has to balance his life-blood of music with a demanding school and his mother's addiction to meth.


Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel. The day Callie plays her father's piano, the biggest dust storm yet comes and takes her mother away. When Callie goes after her, she discovers her mother's mortal, but her long-missing father is a prince of the faerie Unseelie court. So Callie is a princess, but also a pawn in a political game she doesn't understand. The differences between the UnSeelie and Seelie courts in this book are racial, and faeries love music-- so for Callie it's jazz and ragtime. The first in a trilogy, follow it with Golden Girl.

Doing My Own Thing by Nikki Carter. Sunday's career is taking off-- not only is her record a hit, but she has her own reality show, too. But the whiplash is also taking off as people who are supposed to be supporting her would rather take her down. The third in the Fab Life series, start with Not A Good Look.

Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers. Saxophonist Mark wants to spend all summer practicing with his jazz band, but he has to get a job, so he becomes an assistant at The Crisis, Harlem's premeir magazine for the 'New Negro.' This lets him meet lots of big shots, but he also gets on the bad side of the wrong people.


Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. This verse novel is a fictionalized biography of Billie Holiday's early life, when her name was still Eleanora Fagin.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur. This is a collection of rapper Tupac's poetry from the late 80s and early 90s-- before he was famous. In addition to his powerful words, this book pairs the poems with reproductions of the originals so you can read it in his own writing and see his editing process.

Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson and Marc Aronson. This one is a little young and doesn't *quite* fit, but it's so awesome, I had to include it. Historian Nelson uses the clues he finds in the lyrics to find the true story behind "John Henry." It examines several aspects of American history, the development of Rock and Roll, and the research process.

What books would you recommend for Black Music Month?

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month

June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month and we're celebrating by highlighting books with Caribbean-American characters.


Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin. Haitian-American Karina is struggling with school--she's too busy trying to deal with her abusive step-father at home. When he beats her sister up badly enough, social services is called, but Karina's family wants her to take the blame for her sister's injuries.

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos. Set in the late '60s, Cuban-American Rico's sick of being beat up for his white skin and poor Spanish (the result of a lengthy hospital stay as a child). When his friend Jimmy becomes a serious junky, Rico decides it's time to take a cue from Huck Finn, and runs away to a buddy's farm in Wisconsin. He blends in there, but it's still not the escape he thought it would be.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez. Starting in their adulthood and working backwards, this novel-in-stories captures the Garcia sisters and how they fled the Dominican Republic in 1960 for New York, and were caught between worlds. For those who want more information about what was happening and why they escaped, read Alvarez's Before We Were Free, which tells the story of one of their cousins, whose family stayed.


Stormwitch by Susan Vaught. After her parents die in 1969, Ruba moves from Haiti to Mississippi. There, her grandmother doesn't approve of Ruba's religion, seeing it as witchcraft. There Ruba must quickly learn the ways and codes of the American South during the Civil Rights struggle, but when Hurricane Camille comes, it's Ruba's skills that just might save them.

Stir It Up by Ramin Ganeshram. Trinidadian-Indian-American Anjali loves helping in her parents' restaurant and taking cooking classes with her grandmother. Her parents don't understand how deep her passion for food really is though, until she enters a contest to get her own show on the Food Network.

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante. Dellie's family is shattered by the death of her little brother, and in an attempt to keep her safe, Dellie is no longer allowed outside the house. Then new people move into her projects, making them rougher and less safe, and she befriends a young boy who is neglected and abused by his mother. There are many Caribbean-Americans in this novel from many different Caribbean countries.


The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano. In 1969, The Young Lords create in uprising in Evelyn's Spanish Harlem neighborhood. The fight spills into her own home, as Evelyn's grandmother supports the Puerto-Rican Young Lords, but her mother does not, with Evelyn caught in the middle. (Also, Manzano is probably BEST known as Maria from Sesame Street.)

Gold Dust by Chris Lynch. When a new kid, the Dominican immigrant, Napoleon, starts at his school, baseball obsessed Richard wants to turn him from a cricket player into a baseball player, thinking it will help them get through everything, including the racism that Napoleon encounters at the school.

Fresh Girl by Jaira Placide. Mardi was born in New York, but grew up in Haiti with her grandmother while her parents worked. After a coup, she and her sister flee back to the US where they have try to fit in while navigating their parents strict rules in a too-tiny apartment and try to deal with what happened in their last few days in Haiti.

What are your favorite books with Caribbean-Americans?

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Friday, June 28, 2013

First Newbery Medal: Newbery Books for Teens

Yesterday in 1922, the American Library Association gave out its first Newbery medal. The Newbery recognizes excellence in writing for children ages 0-14. The Printz, which is set up to be the teen equivalent, is for ages 12-18, so you see there's a bit of an overlap. To celebrate the first Newbery award, and because I'm off to the ALA Annual Conference today, here's a list of some of my favorite Newbery titles that are great for teens. (This list was originally scheduled to post yesterday, but SCOTUS striking down DOMA was enough to bump it a day.)


The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Matt's DNA came from El Patron, who rules the country of Opium, on the border between the US and the country formerly known as Mexico. But Matt's days are numbered and the only way to survive is to escape, but life outside of El Patron's house isn't easier, or safer. This was a Newbery honor in 2003.

The Thief by Meghan Whalen Turner. Gen is a thief who brags so much in jail, the king frees him to steal the impossible. If he succeeds, he will be greatly rewarded, but he'll die if he fails or tries to run. The first in a series, follow it with The Queen of Attolia. This was an honor book in 1997.

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This book details the lives of children growing up in Europe during Hitler's reign. Some joined the Hitler Youth by choice, some by force. Some joined the resistance and some were sent to camps. Some were sent to the front lines to fight. These are their stories. This was an honor book in 2006.


The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by by Margarita Engle. Starting in 1850, when Rosa, a slave girl with healing knowledge, is lent out to the slave hunter and his son, the story follows her, the son (Lieutenant Death), and a complete cast of characters throughout the next 50 years as Cuba fights multiple wars in an attempt to win independence from Spain. This was an honor in 2009.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson. When her uncle dies and leaves her his homesteading claim, Hattie leaves Iowa for Montana to prove it up. An orphan, Hattie is tired for being bounced between various relatives, but proving the claim in order to keep it is hard for anyone, let alone a teenaged girl living by herself. Follow it with Hattie Ever After. This was an honor in 2007.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Rosa Parks was not the first African American to be arrested in Montgomery for not giving up her seat. Claudette Colvin was. But, unlike Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin did not spark a movement and is not a household name. Hoose tells her story, and gives a close-up look at how the Montgomery Bus Boycott really started. This was an honor in 2010.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. When Jack murders his family, Bod seeks refuge in the graveyard, where he is adopted by the ghosts and other creatures and spends his time exploring the lair of the Indigo Man. Bod is happy there, but he can never leave, for Jack is still out there, waiting. This won in 2009.

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson. Three girls are best friends in Queens, listening to Tupac and trying to deal with the big and small issues of their lives, trying to find where they fit into the larger picture. But then one girl has to leave and Tupac is killed and everything changes. This was an honor in 2009.

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. This was the day's other big winner, winning the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction (full disclosure-- I was on that committee), the Siebert Award (also for nonfiction) and a Newbery Honor. Sheinkin weaves together tales of scientific discovery, partisan sabotage, and spies as the US, Nazi Germany, and the USSR race to build a nuclear weapon while trying to keep the others from being able to do the same. This was an honor in 2013.

What Newbery titles do you recommend for teens?

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

SCOTUS strikes down DOMA: Happy LGBTQ stories

Yesterday the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which made it so the federal government wouldn't recognize a gay marriage, and California's Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in that state. To celebrate this landmark day (and the fact it's Pride Month), today is a list of happy LGBTQ stories.


Gay in America by Scott Pasfield. This nonfiction book profiles 140 gay, American, men, showing the wide diversity as the only thing all 140 men have in common is that they like other men. Each page spread features a large portrait of the man, with accompanying text introducing him and his life.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. This is a quirky love story that takes place in a town where the drag queens have their own clique (and one, Infinite Darlene is the star quarterback), being gay isn't a big deal, and the cheerleaders drive motorcycles. During pep rallies. They're biker gang cheerleaders.

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger. Told in three voices-- TC, his best friend Augie, and the new girl, Ale. They tell the story of their freshman year, of Mary Poppins, and the Red Sox, as they and their family find love and acceptance. Augie is struggling with coming out as gay, not realizing that everyone around him already knows, and he gets some romance, too.


Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. It has always been Naomi and Ely, Ely and Naomi. The two of them have survived everything, until Ely kisses Naomi's boyfriend and it all falls apart. Naomi's been saving herself for Ely, but her gay best friend will never love her the way she loves him. Naomi and Ely aren't sure how to live life without each other, but they may have to.

Totally Joe by James Howe. Joe has to write an alphabiography (something about himself for every letter of the alphabet). This shows us a school year in which the 12-year-old has to deal with his sexuality. He's always known he's gay, but suddenly, it's a thing, except for most of the people in his life, it really isn't a big deal.

Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez. Jason, Kyle, and Nelson have graduated from high school and are road-tripping from Virginia to LA. But can Jason and Kyle's relationship survive all that time in the car? And will Nelson just end up being the third wheel? The final book in a trilogy, start with Rainbow Boys.


Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books by Francesco Lia Block. While not the most racially sensitive titles, the Weetzie Bat novels were ground-breaking in portraying a gay love story as being a totally normal thing.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Because of Tiny Cooper. He doesn't always get what he wants, but he's strong enough to recognize what he needs and wants from his friends and boyfriend and to demand it from them.

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner. This was the first YA novel about lesbians to have a happy ending. What's amazing though is how limited that happy ending was and how much has changed since it came out in 1982, because now, everything is totally different. Especially after yesterday.
v What are your favorite happy LGBTQ stories?

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Luxembourg Lightning Strike/Lightning Safety Week

It's Lightning Safety Week! In addition, on this day in 1807, lightning stuck an armory in Kirchberg, Luxembourg that was storing massive amounts of gunpowder. The explosion leveled 2 city blocks and killed over 300 people. To mark the day and to think about Lightning Safety, here's a list of books where lighting plays a major roll.


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. After getting attacked by his math teacher, Percy Jackson discovers he's actually a demigod-- the son of his mortal mother and Poseidon. Percy starts off at Camp Half-Blood, with the other demigods, but he's been blamed for stealing Zeus's lightning bolt and he and his new friends are on a cross-country quest to get it back. The first in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, follow it with The Sea of Monsters.

Vanished Books One & Two: When Lightning Strikes; Code Name Cassandra by Meg Cabot. When Jessica is struck by lightning, she gets the ability to locate missing children. The FBI and local police are all over this, but the media attention causes a lot of problems in Jess's life. This omnibus edition contains the first 2 books of the Vanished series (previously published as 1-800-Where-R-You). Follow it with Vanished Books Three & Four: Safe House; Sanctuary.

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth. Mia has been struck by lightning several times and has become addicted to it. She lives in LA, because lightning rarely strikes there. But after a freak electrical storm causes an earthquake the destroys the city, different end-of-the-world cults develop. The different cults war with each other, but they both see Mia as the key.


Zombies Don't Cry by Rusty Fischer. When Maddy is struck by lightning, she wakes up as a zombie. Turns out some of her classmates are also zombies and can show her the ropes of her new life, including protecting the humans from some bad zombies. The first in the Living Dead Love Story series, follow it with Zombies Don't Forgive.

Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival by Arthur Slade. Newton lives in a bubble, because everyone in his family, for generations, has died from being struck by lightning. He leaves his bubble to go to Jerry Potts Academy for Survival, which he hopes will teach him the skills he needs to survive in the wild, despite his curse. He just has to survive school, first.

Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer. Carson Phillips thinks the best way to get into Northwestern is to start a literary magazine in his small, conservative town. But, the only way he can get anyone to write for it is by blackmail.

What are your lightning must reads?

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Virginia Statehood

On this day in 1788, Virginia became a state (even though Virginia is actually a commonwealth, so I'm not exactly how that works, but that's ok.) To quote Eddie from Ohio, When you're talking home you mean the Old Dominion, just southeast of heaven between the surf and the hills. She's the best of 13 sisters and 37 more, Sweet Sweet Virginia always keeps an open door.

To celebrate, here are some books by authors who live here in the Old Dominion with me.


Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott. Kate's dad quit his job to sell infomercial vitamins in a mall kiosk-- and makes Kate work with him. Her best friend's gone popular, and Will, the hook-up king, just won't leave her alone. Scott lives in Northern Virginia.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Blue has always known that if she ever kisses her true love, he'll die. Her solution is to never kiss anyone. But, then she meets some boys from a neighboring school that make her question her decision. And they need her help to wake a legendary sleeping Welsh king. The sequel, The Dream Thieves comes out in September. Stiefvater lives in "middle of nowhere, Virginia."
v Isabelle's Boyfriend by Caroline Hickey. Taryn has met the perfect guy-- to bad he already has a girlfriend. In an effort to steal him away, Taryn starts dating his best friend and hanging out with his crowd, but still... Isabelle. Hickey lives in the DC suburbs.


Trickster: Native American Tales edited by Matt Dembecki. Many cultures have trickster tales. In this collection, Native American storytellers worked with a artists (several of whom are also Native) to visually tell a traditional trickster tale from many different North American tribes. Dembecki did something similar in putting together District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC. Dembecki lives in Fairfax.

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecourt White. While at boarding school, Laurel does a project on Victorian flower arranging and the messages different flowers and arrangements held. But when trying some of these arrangements, Laurel discovers that she can make the bouquet actually do the thing the message says, which can be helpful for friends, but not if the wrong people get the flowers! White lives in Arlington (like me!)

Homefront by Doris Gwaltney. Margaret Ann is excited for her sister to go to college so she can have her room. But the war in Europe means that her cousin and aunt have come to stay. Courtney gets the newly opened room. Courtney gets to sit next to Daddy at dinner. Bobby likes Courtney better. But after Pearl Harbor, Margaret Ann's brother enlists and the war is suddenly very real and close to home, allowing both girls to understand each other a little better. Gwaltney lives in Smithfield.


Quaking by Kathryn Erskine. Matilda wants to be called Matt and dresses all in black. Don't mess with her. When she arrives at her latest foster home, she finds a couple that's willing to put up with her defenses and help break them down. But she's bullied at her new school. Her new family is very involved in the anti-war movement and with pacifist houses of worship being vandalized, the town is about the erupt, with Matt caught in the middle.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. Piddy's just trying to do well in school and at work and find her missing father. But Piddy's not Latin enough so Yaqui wants to kick her ass. Too bad Piddy doesn't even know who Yaqui is-- now her entire life is trying to avoid her. Medina lives in Richmond.

Claiming Georgia Tate by Gigi Amateau. Georgia lives with her grandparents-- she thinks her mother is dead and knows her father is just gone. But then her father reappears to claim her and her grandmother dies. Georgia's minister grandfather thinks he is doing the right thing by having Georgia live with her father, because Georgia is too ashamed to tell him what her father does to her at night. Amateau lives in Richmond.

Who are your favorite authors from Virginia?

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