Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Yes! We Are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy

Yes! We Are Latinos

by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by David Diaz
Charlesbridge ISBN: 978-1-58089-383-1 96p. $18.95(plb) 2013

Covering the breadth of what it means to be Latino in the US, Flor and Campoy start each chapter with a statement of who is telling his or her story told in verse.

My Name Is José Miguel--not Joe, not Mike. I am Cuban and Nicaraguan. I live in Tampa, Florida. I am Latino.  
My Name Is Mónica. I am from El Salvador. I live in Houston. I am Texan. I am Latina.

Interspersed with verse narratives are chapters that place the history, culture, accomplishments, and  challenges of that particular flavor of Latino in context. As a Latina who reads extensively, I was happily surprised to learn about the diversity of Latinos in the US. For the first time I was exposed to segments of the Latino population and their history that I knew nothing of. I did not know about the generations of Chinese and Japanese in Latin America or the Latino grandchildren of those who fled Spain during the time of Franco. All my life I’ve looked for books and stories about my Hispanic, Hispano,  Español, Native American roots and was so happy to see them presented in the last poem, 
Román’s story that illuminates the culture that has been in northern New Mexico for over 400 years. I was also thrilled to learn about the mural, Mundos de mestizaje: The Miracle Wall. It was created by an artist who shares the same last name as three of my great-grandparents and now I must go see it the next time I visit the primos in New Mexico. 

This is a fascinating and important book that belongs in every school library.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book of the Week - Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Meg is fleeing a horrible captivity that is revealed in suspenseful measured steps. Her riveting story starts in the midst of a storm when she goes to the Lakeside Courtyard, a place where humans interact with the "Others,"  the native beings of the planet.  Each courtyard has a human liaison and this one needs to hire one. The liaison's job is to be the intermediary between humans and Others, to accept mail and deliveries and distribute it to the intended recipients and to preserve the uneasy alliance between humans and Others.. The job does have its drawbacks, particularly that Others consider humans to be meat. There are several different kinds of Others including those who are analogous to werewolves, werebears, vampires, as well as elemental creatures. Howling Good Reads, a bookstore plays a big role in the goings on in Lakeside. As Meg worms her way into the hearts of the residents with her kindness and practical nature she befriends Sam, a traumatized wolf pup, stuck in his wolf form which is causing huge problems. Meg is on the run because she has a secret that makes her capture extremely profitable to whom ever finds her and turns her in. The world building is exquisite from the conflict between humans and the myriad different forms of individuals who make up the Others, to politics, sticky relationships,  mythology, and blood profits.

The powerful enthralling story telling and the intense relationships shoot this to the top of my list of best books of the year.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bomb Shelters in Fallout by Todd Strasser and Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

It is always interesting the coincidences that pop up in reading. The most recent one to hit me was reading the middle grade Fallout by Todd Strasser set in 1962 when American school kids had bomb drills and families thought about bomb shelters and Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt, an adult novel that starts in 1956. Both stories tend toward the grim but give a good look at suburbia of the era.

In the early 1960s my dad and uncle decided that we needed a bomb shelter in our house. It was supposed to be a big secret so they made a hatch in a closet and dropped down to the crawl space where they dug a hole that I remember as being about 10 X 10X 10. That was a lot of dirt to remove and I remember we kids distributing over our backyard bucket by bucket. We ended up moving to Okinawa before it was finished and forgot all about it until reading these books.

In Strasser's book, the sirens go off and the reasons for secrecy on the part who have bomb shelters comes to the fore when Scott's family is mobbed when going to the shelter. Over the next weeks, in a tiny space meant for 4 people and never fully provisioned, a number of people fight for survival. To me, the book is way to grim for ten-year-olds although they are often far more resilient than adults.

Leavitt's book about a divorcee with a young son tries to live the American dream but the facts that she is divorced and Jewish make her an outsider. Her son Lewis becomes friends with the only other fatherless kids in the neighborhood, Rose and Billy, a brother and sister. Billy goes missing when the boys are twelve having a profound effect on Lewis, his mother Ava, and Rose who moves away.

Other books I can think of in which bomb shelters play an important role are Farnham's Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein and The Compound by S. A. Bodeen.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I've been invited to be a Riffle expert so I've been playing around with it a bit. Haven't figured the link to my lists but here is a list I put together yesterday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Reading Plan - Week 3 - Story Collections

I'm reposting this in honor of tomorrow's book birthday of David Lubar's Extremities. He wrote about Extremities' long road to publication on his web site and this tied right into what he was saying.

Story collections are becoming more popular. Is it because readers, accustomed to quick reads on the net, are wanting their stories in smaller bites? Do they want to get in and out of a story in small time segments. I'm finding it a welcome trend because access to short stories has been much harder in the past few years as magazines stopped publishing short fiction and so many magazines stopped publishing. Short stories have a long tradition in Speculative Fiction so it is no surprise that the new story collections I found both fall into that broad genre.  I'm not going to talk about anthologies, collections of stories by different authors, right now but there have also been some that are great reads in the last year. 

One of the characteristics of story collections is that readers will usually find some stories they connect to and others that don't make as much of an impression. The interesting thing is, that because reading is a creative endeavor shared by writer and reader, no two people ever experience a story in the same way.  Different readers will like different stories.

For his week of my reading plan,  I read two different collections, both speculative fiction, by authors I have always enjoyed. Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille by James Van Pelt is for adults and mature teens. Extremities is published for teens.

David Lubar, author of the Weenies series of short story collections for middle grade children, is the author of Extremities: Tales of Death Murder, and Revenge a collection of thirteen creepy stories perfect for the slightly older middle school audience. He also injects his punning humor, particularly in the story "Split Decision." Some of the stories are period pieces complete with video stores and cassettes. "Whoodoo" a short short flash fiction type, as well as several of the other stories have an urban legend feel. The final tale, "Evil Twin" is extremely memorable, (I had a nightmare after reading it) a fitting wrap up to the collection that will have readers wanting more.

Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille is the fourth collection by James Van Pelt who has often been a finalist for major SF awards and is way past due. In my opinion he is one of the best if not the best writer of speculative fiction short stories writing today. This book was a procrastiread for me. I rationed myself to one story a day from it. Stories include range from science fiction, to horror, and fantasy. Fewer stories in this collection featured teachers than I remember from his other collections but his stories that do deal with students, teachers, and school are compelling. I really enjoyed the short short story, “Just Before Recess” in which a boy finds a sun in his desk and a grouchy teacher gets what may be his just rewards. “O Tannenbaum” combines the story of Christmas during World War I when the soldiers from both sides joined in a brief cessation of hostilities to celebrate the day but the protagonist is a young man whose life is lived on a very different scale that that of others. A couple of the stories are told from an alien point of view, “Working the Moon Circuit” is set in a tourist destination on the moon where the tourists don human bodies to experience it as a human. “Plant Life” is a truly creepy tale of fruit, fully responsive and grown in the shape of a woman, to be used for a short time. “One in a Thousand” is truly horrifying as a man dreams of deaths, night after night, and when he is away discovers that the people who died in his dreams, die, too, in the waking world. Very Twilight Zone!
“Mrs. Hatcher’s Evaluation” is also terrifying but in a completely different way. It is about a terrific teacher who actually teaches in a way that students learn but is not playing the political game our schools are currently immersed in, so is on the figurative chopping block. “Ark Ascension” is set in an ark, orbiting the earth in a last ditch effort to save life as we know it after species on earth experience disaster mutagens resulted in a “catastrophic species shift.”  So many more wonderful, scary, thought provoking stories. Definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Meme Plague by Angie Smibert

The Meme Plague
Angie Smibert
Amazon                2013

    In the concluding entry in the highly addictive Memento series, the major characters Nora, Micah, Winter, and Aiden are fighting against the new identity chip being forced on everyone as the tendrils of a massive conspiracy change life as we know it. Nora has forgotten much as she is torn between her parents’ two very different homes, Micah learns more about his parentage, and Memento is reborn as a web comic. Smibert’s break neck pacing and the jumping from character to character make this an un-put-downable book complete with rallies and riots. This series features a beautifully conceived paranoid future where change is hard because every memory can be easily expunged. Is it better to forget or to be miserable because something bad happened? Looking forward to sharing this with teens, especially Jack who’s review of Memento Nora was “OH. MY. GOD. I loved this book! this is probably the most suspenseful book i have ever read!”

The Meme Plague goes on sale in August.
Science Fiction. Dystopia

Monday, July 8, 2013

Shallow Pond by Alissa Grosso

Things don't quite add up for Barbara "Babie" Bunting, the youngest of the three orphaned Bunting sisters who live in the small town of Shallow Pond. If it weren't for their age differences they would look like identical triplets. Barbara really wants to get out and has plans for college. She doesn't want to stick around and throw away her life as she thinks her 26 year old sister, Annie, has done. Things start happening when a new boy moves to town with the unlikely story that as an infant he had been left on the steps of a convent and been raised by nuns. He has a mysterious benefactor who has moved him to Shallow Pond to finish out his senior year of high school. Meanwhile the man who as a boy had broken Annie's heart, in Babie's eyes, has returned and started dating Gracie, the middle sister. She should have had memories of the mother who supposedly died after Babie was born but doesn't. The stately pace of this book gives readers the chance to ponder what makes us us; genetic makeup? date of birth? nurture?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Workshops and Programs BSP

I'm going to be in Florida presenting the first week of August. If your library, library system, school district, or library consortium would like to have me present a program or workshop, I still have some availability. To sweeten the deal, your library would not have to pay my travel expenses.


Still Reading

I've not posted lately but it doesn't mean I have quit reading. I do, however, have too many books going at one time. Recently finished Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton, Habits of the House by Fay Weldon, and Declan's Cross by Carla Neggers.