Category Archives: Book Notes

Sunday Select, December 6, 2015

FCLSS

End-of-Year Best/Award Lists Round Up

Some lists were already announced and included in other issues of FCL Sunday Select.  They are not repeated here.  It is always of interest to note the varied opinions from different venues: booksellers vs professional review publications vs popular review platforms.

SLJ’s Best of 2015: Books, Apps, and More — from The School Library Journal

Notable Children’s Books of 2015 — from The New York Times (Sunday Book Review)

2016 Morris Award Finalists — from The Amercian Library Association

The Best Books of 2015 — from The Boston Globe

Editors’ Picks: Books for Children and Teens — from Amazon.com

Goodreads Choice Award 2015 — from Goodreads.com

The Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2015 Edition — from The Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education

Best Children’s Books of 2015 — from The Washington Post

Best Children’s Books of 2015 — from The Guardian

Best Children’s and Teen Books of 2015 — from BookPage.com

 

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Sunday Select, November 29, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

I can’t change the color of my skin or where I come from or what the teacher workforce looks like at this moment, but I can change the way I teach. So I am going to soapbox about something after all. Be the teacher your children of color deserve. In fact, even if you don’t teach children of color, be the teacher America’s children of color deserve, because we, the teachers, are responsible for instilling empathy and understanding in the hearts of all kids. We are responsible for the future of this country.

So teach the texts that paint all the beautiful faces of our children and tell the stories of struggle and victory our nation has faced. Speak openly and freely about the challenges that are taking place in our country at this very moment. Talk about the racial and class stereotypes plaguing our streets, our states, our society. You may agree that black and brown lives matter, but how often do you explore what matters to those lives in your classroom?

— words from a speech by Emily E. Smith
as reported by Valerie Strauss
 “Teacher: A student told me I ‘couldn’t understand because I was a white lady.’ Here’s what I did then.’
 for The Washington Post

Thanksgiving Weekend — A Single Highlighted Selection

Teacher: A student told me I ‘couldn’t understand because I was a white lady.’ Here’s what I did then by Valerie Strauss — from The Washington Post

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Sunday Select, November 1, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

It was interesting to hear my White students say that they think that books do a good job of representing diverse characters. My students of color at this time did not say anything. I did not add to the conversation and I ended the conversation at this point.

…….

It was eye opening to my students. My White students seemed surprised by what my students of color were sharing. I then wrapped up our conversation saying that history and books often overlook certain groups of people and that this year we will be learning about many points of view.

— by Sarah Halter Hahesy
 “Transparency About the Lack of Racial Diversity in Children’s Books
 from Raising Race Conscious Children

Viewpoints & Practical Suggestions

Transparency About the Lack of Racial Diversity in Children’s Books by Sarah Halter Hahesy — from Raising Race Conscious Children

Supplement Materials to Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Children’s/YA Publishing in 2015 by Harold Underdown — from The Purple Crayon

YA Authors Talk Social Media, Research Process…and Spill Secrets by Mahnaz Dar — from School Library Journal

‘Tis The Season (to contemplate on best books for young readers)

Calling Caldecott (for potential Caldecott Contenders) moderated by the Horn Book staff  — from The Horn Book Magazine

Heavy Medal moderated by Jonathan Hunt & Nina Lindsay (for potential Newbery Contenders) — from The School Library Journal

Someday My Printz Will Come (for potential Printz Contenders) moderated by Karyn Silverman, Sarah Couri, and Joy Piedmont — from The School Library Journal

The National Book Award Winners 2015  — from The National Book Foundation

CYBILS Awards — from CYBILS

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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Sunday Select, November 15, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

While the burden of mistakes can be placed on the author and illustrator, in truth publishers share an equal part of the responsibility in making sure that the books they produce are accurate and do not reinforce harmful stereotypes.

— by Jason Low, publisher of Lee & Low Books
 “Is Staff Training Worth It?
 from The Open Book

The Most Important Industry News of the Week

This week, I am featuring only ONE industry news link herebecause I don’t want to dilute its significance.  Hopefully, we’ll start hearing from other publishers, large and small, that take their staff on this worthwhile journey.  As an educator who partook in similar trainings in recent years, I have to say that I believe everyone in the United States should have the experience of going through such tough journeys: self-examining, questioning, and re-affirming ideologies that will help create a more equitable society for our own future.

Is Staff Training Worth It? by Jason Low — from The Open Book (Lee & Low Books Blog)

Authors, Books, & Book Lists

A Conversation With Philip Pullman by Katy Waldman — from The Slate: Book Review

APALA Author Interview – Gene Luen Yang by by Jaena Rae Cabrera — from APALA (Asian Pacific American Library Association)

Pep Talk from Neil Gaiman by Neil Gaiman– from National Novel Writing Month

The Little Black Fish and other stories: Iranian illustrated children’s books – in pictures by David Almond and Saeed Kamali Dehghan — from The Guardian

Thinking About Thanksgiving by Nina Lindsay  — from Reading While White

Family Ties  by Elissa Gershowitz — from The Horn Book Magazine

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide–Children’s Books by Amy Martin — from Oakland Public Library

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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Sunday Select, November 8, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

Updated — I have now included also the entire Panel discussion — which Sean Qualls & Sophie Blackall also shared their views.  They all do not agree with each other.

Around 26:00 — Sophie Blackall talked in details about her own reactions toward the controversy over her book A Fine Dessert; 35:00 – Sean Qualls starts talking; 38:00-ish, he touches briefly on A Fine Dessert; keep watching and you’ll hear Susannah’s views as well.

— Daniel Jose Older
 “Daniel José Older on A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert – Multiple Conversations

Collected below are various online articles, conversations, and comments about the picture book A Fine Dessert written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint at Random House.  The book has been under careful scrutiny by many – when it was highlighted as one of the Caldecott hopefuls, when it was among the 10 illustrated books of 2015 chosen by The New York Times, and when it received objections by readers who found certain text and images hurtful.  I did not read or look at the book until this past Monday, after many others already grappled with the book for a while.  The conversations are important to note and should continue, not only about one book, but about the entire Children’s Publishing industry.  More on that from my own viewpoint is forthcoming.  Since Debbie Reese has been diligently documenting and collecting all the pertinent links.  I’m providing only ONE link here in this section.  Do read as much as you can and consider and re-consider!

Not recommended: A FINE DESSERT by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall by Debbie Reese — from American Indian in Children’s Literature

Books & Awards

The Scholastic Picture Book Award 2015 Winners  — from Scholastic Book Award/Asia

SIMMONS COLLEGE AND LEE & LOW BOOKS ESTABLISH NEW SCHOLARSHIP   — from Lee & Low Books

An Interview with Kate DiCamillo — from The Horn Book Magazine

Please don’t air brush African teen fiction by Ellen Banda-Aaku — from The Guardian

‘Monstress’: Inside The Fantasy Comic About Race, Feminism And The Monster Within by Graeme McMillan — from The Hollywood Reporter

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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Sunday Select, November 1, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

Africa is not rich or poor, educated or illiterate, progressive or archaic.

What Africa is depends on which part of it you are referring to.

No single story can adequately reflect that, but a multiplicity of stories can and should broaden our received wisdom about the continent.

With more platforms and opportunities than ever before, there has never been a better time to challenge that confusing and costly concept of a single African story.

— by Nancy Kacungira
 “Why I cannot tell ‘the African story’
 from BBC News

Viewpoints

Why I Cannot Tell ‘The African Story’ by Nancy Kacungira — from BBC News

Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books by Rachel Grate — from Arts.Mic

You Have to Read the Book by Elizabeth Bird and the Comments section by many — from Fuse8 Production

We Are Not Rainbow Sprinkles by Roger Sutton and the Comments — from The Horn Book

Book Lists & Awards

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS™ ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL WALTER DEAN MYERS GRANT RECIPIENTS  — from weneeddiversebooks.org

PW’s Best Books 2015  — from Publishers Weekly

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015 — from The New York Times

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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Sunday Select, October 25, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

Those words nearly broke my heart. I could have sobbed in the convention hall. Instead, I swallowed them as a reminder that I need to do a better job, too. That I’ll always need to do a better job. That there is no arrival point. I’ll never arrive at some point where I’m outside the system of systemic racism—I’ll always be in it, and because I am, I have to do the best job possible calling people into the conversation that recognizes it, in order to do the work to try to deconstruct it. I’ll always need to do a better job “calling people in” rather than “calling people out.”

— by Brendan Kiely
 “The White Boy in the Third Row
 from Reading While White

Opposing Viewpoints (Do They Have to Be?)

These past couple of weeks we saw sparks flying with opposing views over specific children’s books and general thoughts on children’s book publishing – mostly centered on the “writing the other” notion.  It seems to me that many practitioners (authors, librarians, critics, etc.) have been thinking hard and deeply and some have tried to sort out strongly held convictions when they clash against others’ beliefs.  Selected here are a few strands that I found especially powerful and am currently struggling with.  I lead the list with one article by Brendan Kiely, whose proposal for “calling people in” to the conversation and discussion on diversity issues in children’s and YA literature seems most sage and hopefully can serve as a reminder that we are ALL in this together and our final goals are to provide the best literary work for the young people in our world.

The White Boy in the Third Row by Brendan Kiely — from Reading While White

This Book Is Creating A Space For Queer Black Boys In Children’s Literature by JamesMichael Nichols — from Huffpost Gay Voices

About Meg Rosoff’s next book… a collection of links to various responses to a following facebook blow-up while discussing Large Fears, the book under discussion in “This Book is Creating a Space for Queer Black Boys in Children’s Literature”  — from American Indians in Children Literature

The Privilege of Colour, the Prejudice of White by Shelley Sousa — from Shelley Sousa: real writer made up worlds

The Hired Girl by Jonathan Hunt and especially the Comments section by many enthusiastic readers — from Heavy Medal

Good Intentions, Bad Outcome by Michael Grant as a response to On Writing PoC When You Are White by Justine Larbalestier

Books, Authors, the Publishing Industry

Wordcraft Circle Honors and Awards, 2015  — from worldcraftcircle.org

What it feels like to write a picture book by Viviane Schwarz — from The Kraken Studio

A Defence of Rubbish by Peter Dickinson

International Literature Shines at the USBBY Conference Science  by Lyn Miller-Lachmann — from http://www.lynmillerlachmann.com

The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey 2015: A Younger Workforce, Still Predominantly White by Jim Milliot — from Publishers Weekly

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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Sunday Select, October 11, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

Diversity Matters: …digital media today reflect the real world as children perceive it. Cultural diversity must, therefore, be built into digital media, not added later as an afterthought. Cultures should be represented richly and with integrity and dignity. This is another potential opportunity for children to learn about the world through screen media.

from “Growing Up Digital:
Media Research Symposium”
prepared by American Academy of Pediatrics

Views & Reports

Can children’s books help build a better world? by SF Said — from The Guardian

Yes, Audiobooks & Graphic Novels Count: Accepting Students’ Diverse Reading Choices by Cindy L. Rodriguez  — from Latin@s in Kid Lit

When you’re invisible, every representation matters: Political edition by Adrienne K — from Native American Appropriations

We Are a Family…Not an “Alternative” Family by Janet Alperstein — from Raising Race Conscious Children

Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium from American Academy of Pediatrics

Authors & Books

ALSC Around the World: Ich liebe Bibliotheken! by Andrew Medlar — from ALSC

The Hidden Depths of Sandra Boynton’s Board Books by Ian Bogost — from The New Yorker

Top 10 Science-Project Series  by Miriam Aronin — from Booklist Online

Reading Rainbow IS BACK!

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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Sunday Select, October 4, 2015

FCLSS
This week’s selection is not a lengthy one but the image quote pins a moment in history that I hope to be a turning point in the United States’ public psyche: and I truly believe that children’s and young adult literature can play a big part in our communal effort to raise conscientious and compassionate next generations.

Quote of the Weekdear-congress-1b

by Jonathan Schmock
from “Dear Congress” on http://jonathanschmock.com/dear-congress/

Considering Cultural and Emotional Competency

It’s Banned Books Week again. Can we stop yelling at each other about it?: Jacqueline Woodson interviewed by Ron Charles — from The Washington Post

Big News about Hoffman’s AMAZING GRACE by Debbie Reese — from American Indians in Children’s Literature

Patterns of Immigration Excerpt by Roni Dean-Burren  — from Dean-Burren’s Facebook Post

Authors & Books

It’s a Coder! It’s a Teacher! It’s a Kick-Ass Graphic Novelist!: Is Gene Luen Yang from Kryptonby Michael Mechanicook — from Mother Jones

Alice in Wonderland: A Very Important Date by Monica Edinger — from School Library Journal

Alice: 150 Years of WonderlandOnline Exhibit at The Morgan Library

2015 Finalists: Young Readers  — from Kirkus

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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So You Want to Be A Jedi: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back by Adam Gidwitz

soyouwantobeajediSo You Want to Be A Jedi: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back by Adam Gidwitz, with original concept arts

Really enjoyed much of the book — many of the Jedi lessons are great fun and with the trade-mark Gidwitz caring for a young person’s mind and character. The second person narrative device worked for me and the added extended training segments made me happy. The third person narrative parts about Han & Leia are faithful to the movie but to someone like me who saw the original movie and re-watched it a few times in the past few decades, they can seem a bit bland. I could tell that the imagined audience is actually those who’re young and not exactly familiar with Episode V. Waiting to hear from my 4th & 5th graders of their view.

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Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

unusualchickensUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Definitely a breezy read with some fun bits and pieces. I really like Kelly Jones’ portrayal of Sophie, level-headed, with plenty of normal kid concerns and normal kid courage. Jones included some not-too-heavy-handed tidbits about how others perceive Sophie, being half Mexican American, being viewed as poor, being “presumed” in not-so-flattering ways.

Since my taste runs more toward more saturated kind of fantasy, I wanted the chickens’ powers (and they are amazing powers) to manifest more, stronger, and add more tension to the story.  However, I can also see how this can be quite attractive to those who just want their magic to be more like everyday happenings — not too many world-altering encounters.

My narrative device-detector antenna was definitely alert for this one and wish that the letter-writing device had worked all the way through.  The really really long, as-it-happens, climatic sections did not work all that well for me: not sure when/where Sophie would have been writing to Agnes in the middle of rescuing the chickens and participating in the Poultry Show (and it is apparent that those letters weren’t written after all the excitement as a report, since Agnes would have known all that had happened and wouldn’t have needed such narration of events.)

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Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circusmirandusCircus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

For the most part, the story works, and I did care about the main character and what he was hoping for. The ending is the kind that kid readers always want: the young protagonist actually GOT to enter the fantasy realm, rather than learning some precious lessons on how to hold the magic in one’s heart but knowing that “fantasy world” does not quite exist. So, kudos to Beasley on that front. I was hoping that once we learned the back story of the aunt, I would have had more sympathy toward her behavior but she remained a two-dimensional device and not fleshed out character all the way through. Definitely felt that the writing is a bit plain and some details could be trimmed to tighten the pacing, but totally see it appeal to certain young readers.

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Sunday Select, September 27, 2015

FCLSSQuote of the Week

Are you ready for a revolution?
As an African-American librarian, I am.
Think about it. It’s 2015, and we still need to campaign for “more diverse books.”
————-
The question we librarians need to ask ourselves is: Are you exposing your users to the full range of authors and literature out there? Are you going out of your comfort zone and reading and learning about authors and sharing that with the community you serve?


— by Shauntee Burns-Simpson,

from A Call to Action for Librarians @ BookRiot

We Need Diverse Books

A Call to Action for Librarians by Shauntee Burns-Simpson — from BookRiot

Ta-Nehisi Coates to Write Black Panther Comic for Marvel by George Gene Gustines — from The New York Times

Lying to Children About the California Missions and the Indians by Deborah A. Miranda — from Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan reviewed by Pooja Makhijani — from The Rumpus

The Diversity Baseline Survey — from Lee & Low Books

Authors & Books

Top 25 Books from the 2015 NBA (Neri Book Awards) by G. Neri — from g.neri.com

Some Kids’ Books Are Worth The Wait: ‘They Do Take Time,’ Says Kevin Henkes  — from NPR

Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace  by Monica Edinger — from Educating Alice

Children’s Books Interview – Horn Book Editor, Roger Sutton  — from Miss Marple’s Musings

A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teenager by Philip Nel — from Iowa Review 

I Am Marie Lu: Ask Me Anything  — from reddit.com/r/books

Nielsen Summit Shows the Data Behind the Children’s Book Boom by Natasha Gilmore — from Publishers Weekly

Something Great to Share

 

Size Comparison Science Fiction Spaceships by Dirk Loechel — from Deviant Art

(Click on this small partial image to see the full size, high rez original.)

spaceshipslinkimage

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, etc.

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X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon

xX: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon

So many of my esteemed colleagues have reviewed this book extremely favorably and some of them told me exactly why they love this book.  They cite the energy in the narrative, the honesty in the young man’s anger, and the eventual growth and redemption of this lost soul.

So I feel like walking on thin ice to say that I didn’t find the novel or the protagonist quite compelling all the way through.  I found the beginning of the narrative strong and powerful.  I was moved by Red’s emotional ties to his mother and siblings; I was convinced that he would find justification of he must steal.  His slow realization of his “place” in the world saddened me.  The refrain of “Just a n****r” is both chilling and makes my blood boil!  And one cannot easily forget his witnessing a lynched body and the connection to the song “Strange Fruit.”

But then… we have 200 pages more of Malcolm engaged in various illegal activities, and continuously excusing himself because of his sorrowful past, family situation, societal reality, etc. I understand that all of these are based on real events, family stories, and Malcolm’s own words. I can only speak for myself as a reader how after a while it felt more tedious than compelling. The pacing went from tight to sloppy.  I got quite impatient and did not feel empathy or sympathy toward him.  Perhaps that’s not the intent of the author but it was difficult for me to want to follow his next missteps since I stopped caring.

The final payoff of X’s enlightenment comes very late and lasts very briefly within the confine of this novel. The book ends before his important life’s work begins.  For many who already know quite a bit about Malcolm X, his personal narrative, his rage, and his complex relationship with the Nation of Islam, the ending is but a beginning — we know what he would become.  And the book includes extensive after matter to detail Malcolm X’s achievements.  I just wonder what impression this “novel” of Malcolm X leaves a younger reader.

I also wonder how the pacing feels and my emotional engagement might have been different if the narrative voice had been a more universal third person, so that I could understand his internal struggle and also observe his external charms and charisma (and not just being told by the protagonist that “people seem to be drawn to me” or “girls like me.”)

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Sunday Select, September 20, 2015

FCLSSQuote of the Week

American audiences are capable of so much more than some in your industry imagine. And if we can break that down to what I really mean, I mean this: White Americans can care about more than just themselves. They really can. And the rest of us? We are DYING to see ourselves anywhere.

To be clear: I’m not asking for altruism here. I worked in corporate America for 20 years before I put my book out; I know the stakes, the economics. What I am saying makes solid, actual business sense: There is a vast, untapped audience out there. You need to get to us.

— by Mira Jacob,

from “I Gave A Speech About Race To The Publishing Industry And No One Heard Me” via BuzzFeed

Race & Cultural Literacy

Why a White Blog? by Allie Jane Bruce — from Reading While White (This is the inaugural post of the new blog.)

Author Cornelia Funke Launches Own Publishing Company by Wendy Werris — from Publishers Weekly (Her decision was made due to stylistic and also cultural conflicts with Litte, Brown.)

I Gave A Speech About Race To The Publishing Industry And No One Heard Me by Mira Jacob — from BuzzFeed

Awards, Authors & Writing

The National Book Award announcement of the ten titles that made the long list for the Young Readers category — from The New Yorker

Omission: Choosing what to leave out by John McPhee — from The New Yorker

The Walking and Talking series by Steve Sheinkin — from A Fuse8 Production/SLJ

This web comic series features interviews with children’s authors conducted and drawn by Steve Sheinkin, hosted on Fuse8, since September 2014. Here are the six installments so far:

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, etc.

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Sunday Select, September 13, 2015

FCLSSQuote of the Week

It is long past time for the industry to move past concerns over what–if anything–dominant voices lose when publishers actually choose to publish and promote minority voices over dominant ones. It is long past time to move past that old debate of who-can-write. Moving past that debate means I want to see publishers actually doing what Lasky feared so that more books by minority writers are actually published.

— by Debbie Reese,

from American Indians in Children’s Literature

Cultures – Insiders, Outsiders, Tangled Knots

Deborah Wiles, Debbie Reese, and Choosing a Revolution by Debbie Reese — from American Indians in Children’s Literature

A Tumblr Post about Writing the Other by Maggie Stiefvater — from Content of Maggie Stiefvater’s Brain

A Tumbler Post Response about Maggie Stiefvater’s Tumblr Post  — from La Lune Rousse

A Response to Colten Hibbs and Maggie Stiefvater on Writing the Other by B R Sanders — from Clatter and Clank

The White Poet Who Used an Asian Pseudonym to Get Published Is a Cheater, Not a Crusader by Katy Waldman — from Slate

Sherman Alexie Speaks Out on The Best American Poetry 2015 by Sherman Alexie from The Best American Poetry Blog

News, Awards, Authors

Marvel’s First Native American Hero Is Getting A Standalone Comic Series by James Whitbrook — from io9

Lee & Low Books: New Visions Award (Deadline 10/31/2015) — from Lee & Low Books

First WNDB Short Story Winners  — from We Need Diverse Books

2016 Spring and Summer Favorites? by Nina Lindsay — from Heavy Medal/SLJ

Alex Gino on Debut Novel, “George”, and the Importance of Transgender Voices in the Kid Lit World by Kiera Parrott — from School Library Journal

Goodreads YA Interview – Andrew Smith on Alex Crow

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The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

threebodyproblem The Three Body Problem (三体)by Liu Cixin(刘慈忻),translated by Ken Liu

This is a rare experience for me since my encounters with Science Fiction tend to be on the “soft sci-fi” end: where the details of the science employed by the authors are often quite flexible to suit the narrative needs of the tale.  This is Hard Science Fiction and I was absolutely fascinated (even while I didn’t quite understand them) by the explanation of the Three-Body physics problem, the unfolding of protons into various dimensional modules, and how radio waves are delivered and received, etc. However, what compelled me to keep on reading was the realistic and unflinching depiction of the story’s backdrop (from Cultural Revolution era to contemporary China,) the underlying multiple and somewhat conflicting philosophies about human nature, the life story and struggles of one of the main female characters, and the kinship I feel with a specific type of online gaming.

The author honestly and boldly laid out the views of his characters (and one can choose to side with or against whichever view) and the translator faithfully captured and presented the analytical and yet deeply emotional landscape of the story.

Let’s celebrate this book’s 2015 Hugo Award win for being a solid hard science fiction and for being the very first Hugo novel winner penned by an Asian author.

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The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

alexcrowThe Alex Crow by Andrew Smith was a baffling read from the beginning to the very end.  Baffling but fascinating, engaging, engrossing, moving, and thrilling. I didn’t know where the story was heading and in the end, I wasn’t quite sure where I have been: spanning time and space, from the icy pole in the 1800s to the summer heat of an American summer camp now (?) — encountering the Melting Man (literally,) the refugee boy, the eccentric scientists, the Dumpling Man, and many others.  Or even where we eventually arrived — are we to be pleased with Ariel’s final situation, bonded with his adopted brother and their new found friend, no longer being closely monitored?  Are we to continuously be paranoid of how our lives might be closely examined by unknown forces and crazy scientists?  At least I know to unconditionally love Ariel for his intelligence and compassion.

Since earlier this year’s brouhaha about Andrew Smith’s “lacking” in inclusion of positive female characters in his work, I couldn’t help but noticing that in this book the readers only encounter two real life women: one is a completely ineffective mother figure and the other is a terrifying scientist whose goal is to eliminate all males from the human species.  (I’m not counting the two imaginary women in the Melting Man’s schizophrenic head.)

Of course, introducing compassionate and caring characters (male or female) will result in a completely different story: one that simply wouldn’t have been as brutal to such extreme and thus wouldn’t have had the same level of impact.  If the point is to portray a world for Ariel and his buddies to “survive” in without the physical or emotional support of kind souls, Smith succeeded brilliantly.

And I must mention his ability to effortlessly switch into drastically different narrative voices!  A skilled writer, indeed!

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Sunday Select, September 6, 2015

FCLSSQuote of the Week

Don’t even think about publishing until you’ve actually started writing, and don’t even think about writing until you’ve done a whole lot of reading. And not of websites or how-to guides; that’s just dilly-dallying. Read children’s books. Lots of children’s books. Although my grumpiness is resurfacing to tell you that if you haven’t already read lots of children’s books, for love, I’m probably not going to be interested in what you think you have to contribute. Harshing your buzz? Deal with it and dig out your library card.

— by Roger Sutton,
Editorial of the September/October 2015 Issue of The Horn Book

Books & Book Lists

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, reviewed by Elizabeth Bird– from School Library Journal

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith, reviewed by Jason Reynolds — from The New York Times

George by Alex Gino, author interview by Kiera Parrott — from School Library Journal

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Recent and New Releases by Alyson Beecher — from Kid Lit Frenzy

3 Filipino Folk Tales That Would Make Great YA Novels by Angel Cruz — from Book Riot

Happenings and Musings

Read Before You Write by Roger Sutton — from The Horn Book

Diversity Survey Deadline Nears by By Jim Milliot — from Publishers Weekly

The Opposite of Colorblind: Why It’s Essential to Talk to Children About Race by Hannah Ehrlich — from Lee & Low Books

Ratcheting Up the Rhetoric by Charles Blow — from The New York Times

Literary and Entertaining

The Bay of the Dead, a Facebook Photo Story by M.T. Anderson — from Facebook

17 Things We Wish Had Happened in Harry Potter by Gwen Glazer — from The New York Times

Where the Magic Happens: Children’s Illustrators Open Up Their Studios – in pictures by Jake Green — from The Guardian

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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

goodbyestranger Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

How does an author who already won so many accolades to continue pushing herself for such new heights?

This book has no surprising twist ending: magical or SciFi-esque; it has no flashy mystery elements; it is set in an ordinary school with ordinary middle school students — but yet, one cannot stop reading it because we as readers care so much about the interior lives of the characters (three “main” plus the supporting cast).  It makes one feel compassion and empathy towards all who behave “well” and who might have some questionable motivation.  It also makes readers marvel at the author’s ability to write a “quiet” book that speaks so loudly on the reality of being a young teen who must navigate the treacherous waters of friendship, social dynamics, and power-structure.

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