Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Introducing The Sisters

Over the next several weeks, I'll be introducing you to several student bloggers from my summer book club. Each blogger will be answering questions from Welcome to My Tweendom.  These students are new to blogging and look forward to sharing their book thoughts with you.  Please help me welcome:

Courtney and Sydney of
The Sisters Read
(still contemplating it though) any ideas?

What are your favorite genres to read? 
Both of ours are fantasy and mysteries. 

How do you select the books you want to read? 
We choose our books by how interesting the summary is, by recommendations, and by Good Reads. 

What is your favorite book so far? 
Oh wow thats a really hard question. But I guess we'll have to say Harry Potter, Percy Jackson (not as much as Harry but a really good series), The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy. 

What is your favorite thing about reading?
It makes both of us feel like were in the book. Like in Harry Potter, we both feel like were in the Gryffindor commons room having one of those late night conversations. 

Do you read on an e-reader/phone/computer? 
Sydney reads on a nook a lot, but only when I doesn't have that book in paper. Neither of us really ever read on a phone or computer (maybe we will if we ever get iPhones). Courtney has only read 100 pages on a nook, I just don't like the feel of reading on a nook 

What kinds of books do you think are most popular with kids your age? Why? 
We would both have to say fantasy, mystery, Sarah Dessen (for girls), adventure, fantasy romance (once again girls, I have never seen a boy even look at twilight), sports books (for boys, and last but not least adventure. 

What book are you waiting to be released? 
The next book in the Nightshade by Andrea Cremer series… Spiral, the fifth book in the Tunnels by Roderick Gordon series… The next book in the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan… The next book in the Maze Runner by James Dashner series….the next book in the Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan series

The next book in the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan… The next book in the Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan series… The next book in the Maze Runner by James Dashner series… Theres more but I can't think of them right now...

What are you currently reading? 
I am currently reading The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Stewart.

I am reading Closer by Roderick Gordon, the 4th book in the Tunnels series, currently.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Introducing Lucy

Over the next several weeks, I'll be introducing you to several student bloggers from my summer book club. Each blogger will be answering questions from Welcome to My Tweendom.  These students are new to blogging and look forward to sharing their book thoughts with you.  Please help me welcome:

Lucy of
Getting Real With Lucy

What are your favorite genres to read? 
Realistic Fiction... I'm learning to stretch, but that is very hard for me:)

How do you select the books you want to read?  
Goodreads, and what friends suggest. If I see it, then I'll read it. (Again... Depends on Genre)

What is your favorite book so far?  
That's a hard question!! I have really got to like the Mother Daughter Book Club Series.   Hoping to do a couple of reviews on them so you can get my take.

What is your favorite thing about reading?  
Down time. My schedule's so crazy!!!! I'm a golf fanatic, and I'm at the golf course with every opportunity I get! It's nice to just have that time to relax.

Do you read on an e-reader/phone/computer?
No- But that might change by the end of the year. Family sends me gift cards all the time. Since I haven't bought anything with them and I'm at more then $100 I will probably get one. Waiting for my birthday to see if I get any more. Fingers crossed!

What kinds of books do you think are most popular with kids your age?  Why? 
I couldn't say. I look around in all my classes and I see fantasy, realistic, science fiction. It all depends on what students like. (And if they don't like to read... I hand them a book to start!)

What book are you waiting to be released?
This is a toughie... What am I waiting to be released? Well, Power of Six just got released so that crosses that one off. I guess I would say Death Cure (Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner. (Shortly I'll be reading the second one)

What are you currently reading? 
I'm currently reading Power of Six, and Before I Fall (Which I will do a review on)

~ I hope that I can make good times doing this blog! I like to have a good laugh! Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Introducing Aneeqah

Over the next several weeks, I'll be introducing you to several student bloggers from my summer book club. Each blogger will be answering questions from Welcome to My Tweendom.  These students are new to blogging and look forward to sharing their book thoughts with you.  Please help me welcome:

Aneeqah of
Aneeqah's Not So Real Life

What are your favorite genres to read?
 I love to read fantasy [urban fantasy to be specific] and dystopia.

 How do you select the books you want to read?
 I usually base it off of what other people think of it on Goodreads, if the concept sounds intriguing, and if any of my friends have read it and liked it.

 What is your favorite book so far? 
 Gosh, this is a hard one! I think my favorite book goes out to The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

 What is your favorite thing about reading? 
 I love being in a completely new world and meeting new characters. It also gives me a break from the real world.

 Do you read on an e-reader/phone/computer? 
 Not really, though I wish I could! =)

 What kinds of books do you think are most popular with kids your age? Why? 
 I think it depends where you are. Where I am, kids seem to be interested mainly in realistic fiction. I think it helps them connect their experiences with something.

 What book are you waiting to be released? 
 Goodness, this list is long! I think it's around 30 books right now? It could be more...
 My most anxiously awaited are:

  1. The Death Cure by James Dashner 
  2. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan 
  3. Unwind #2 by Neal Shusterman 
  4. Spellbound by Rachel Hawkins 
  5. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare .... and on the list goes! 

 What are you currently reading?
 I actually just finished a book called Unwind by Neal Shusterman, which I absolutely loved! It was fantastic!

Thanks for stopping by Aneeqah! We look forward to seeing what you think of those fantasy books!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Diversify Your Reading - My Summer Foray

 At the beginning of the summer I made this huge promise that I would not just include multicutural books in my reading mix, but specifically books by African American writers that focused on what it's like to be an African American.  Also known as books that would qualify for the Coretta Scott King Award administered through ALA (American Libary Association).

That promise fell through. For the summer.

I did read some multicultural titles though.  Note: I made up these labels (it's caled list-group-label and it's a great pre-reading activity).  I could also be mistaken.

One thing I noticed was when choosing a book for this particular challenge, cover played a larger role than normal in my reading.  I'll talk more about that under the categories

Books with Diverse Authors (other than African American)
Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Odd Girl In by Jo Whittemore
Karma by Cathy Ostlere
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

These are the books where cover played a huge role.  While Karma and Return to Sender each have generic covers, the other three have faces. And while Fury of the Phoenix and The Grand Plan to Fix Everything feature characters on the cover that look Asian, Odd Girl In is the odd book out.  Picking up this book in the library would not give you any hints that there is diversity involved.  I picked this one because it's a "Mix" imprint and the girls seem to like them.  They are fast and fun.

These are also books with authors of color.  I feel Pon uses Fury to share a portion of  Asian culture and history with us as does Krishnaswami and Ostlere.  These are stories that would be totally diffferent if the main characters were re-written as white.  The characters cultural heritage as well as their countries as setting are significant.  The stories are enhanced by the background knowledge the authors bring into play.

Return to Sender is one story that seems to suffer from the author's experience.  The story was bogged down in the details of the migrant workers and you never connected with them nor their plight.  Although told in alternating voices, the Hispanic migrant worker's daughter's voice was heavy-handed and "preachy" while the white co-protagonist's voice was childish and whiny. You could easily exchange these characters with other dichotomous factions without any significant loss or gain.

Odd Girl In has me confused.  The author is Asian but the characters read as "everyone".  It's just a simple story about a family, school and friendships. Nothing more or less.  And I think that's ok.  Isn't it?

Books with Diverse Characters (other than African American)
Shine by Lauren Miracle
Addie On The Inside by James Howe
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler
The Challenger by Greg Fishbone
Black Elk's Vision by SD Nelson

Shine and Addie on the Inside could use a separate category.  I included these because they both feature gay characters.  In the case of Shine, it's a major part of the story but we don't get into the relationship while in Addie it's not the top storyline. LGBT stories are ones that I need to read more.  I did read The Misfits but I haven't read Totally Joe by James Howe.  I do love that Joe is fashioned after Mr Howe which I think lends some authenticity to his story.  I think Addie would work whether or not Joe was in her story since we only get a glimpse of him and his boyfriend.  The think about Shine is it's more about prejudice than about being gay.  You could substitute religion, socioeconomic status, or race and get a similar story which made it easy to relate to.  Prejudice is prevalent and we will go to extremes not to be made fun of, even to the point of making fun of the very thing we secretly embrace so as not to be laughed it.

Sass & Serendipity (Hispanic) and The Challenger (Japanese) both had poc characters but I felt it wasn't an integral part of the story.  Although Challenger did include more background from the author's time spent in Japan, we could lose that and still have the same story.  These books had me thinking, what am I missing?  Why is it significant to point out that the Riveras are Hispanic if nothing they did in the book was any different.  Is that the point, that we are all just the same? If a Hispanic student saw the cover, would she pick it up thinking, hey, they look like me? Or if she didn't see the cover but read the summary?  Why were the main characters in The Challenger Japanese? Was it just because we are desperately searching for "mulitcultural" titles and this was a way to get published? 

Books with African American characters (but not authors)

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan
Tankborn by Karen Sandler

Sources of Light didn't have any actual African American main characters even though it was about Mississippi in the 60s and race relations. Tankborn also didn't have any African American characters (which makes my label misleading) but the main character Kayla's description, "wild and kinked" hair and the "pale mud color of her...skin" leads you to that assumption. Although "pale mud" seems rather grayish to me and I don't know any POC with gray skin! Devak, the other main character is described as high status because Kayla recognized his "straight and glossy" hair and his "rich medium-brown" skin.  Is this a subtle case of  "good hair vs. kinky hair"?  Kayla's immediate recognition of Devka's status based on looks was kind of off-putting to me. The notion of "grades" of hair is something I've grown up with and took a long time to come to terms with. It was a major decision to stop "relaxing" or straightening my hair.  I see enough African American students who damage their hair to make it more like their white counterparts than to give them a book where not only is kinky hair secondary but so is the red hair on Kayla's best friend, Mishalla.  There is a twist in the story that changes the status' but I think damage could be done.  I do like that this book is science fiction, where we see lots of different types of people and animals but I wish the highborn could have had Kayla's description instead of the GEN. 

Books with African American Authors
A Game of Character by Craig Robinson (adult)
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (adult)

Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson (adult)
Flygirl by Sherri L. SmithSilhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Even though they don't count, I wanted to put these adult titles out there.  Of the three, Remember Me features race heavily.  It's the story of an African American woman who had a best friend who was white.  We travel back to high school and trace their story to present day, alternating voices.  We deal a bit with the prejudice some African Americans encounter at all- or mostly- white schools, whether blatant or subtle or sometimes due to ignorance, unintentional.  I went to a mostly-white grade school and high school.  I was lucky that these schools were progressive enough to have a multicultural staff.  Kindergarten through fifth I was at a mostly black school with mostly white teachers. Many were either inexperienced or near retired, most did not want to be there, and it showed.   Jacqueline Woodson's book also deals with prejudice but stemming from interracial dating.  We could include Addie on the Inside here too because Addie's boyfriend is black.  In both books the characters struggle with their own feelings as to whether we should stick with our own race.  My ex-husband is white and I think I struggled with it more than he did.  I felt inadequate due to growing up poor, which I think complicated issues further.  I don't remember us facing any severe prejudice though and we have a truly beautiful daughter!

Flygirl brings the issue of "passing" to children's books.  It reminded me of Imitation of Life in parts.  It was a good way to learn not only about passing but able women pilots and gender prejudices.

Overall, I'm still left with questions.  Is it ok to have poc characters in books, just for the sake of having them?  Does that really fill the need that people have to see themselves reflected in books?  When we talk about "seeing ourselves" what are we looking for? What are students looking for?  We are more than just the color of our skin or the kink in our hair.  But isn't that something worth reading about too? I would love to read a book about an educated black librarian (Beautiful Creatures) that has kinky hair and a snarky sense of humor.  I would also like her to be a snazzy dresser (unlike me) and a lot of fun.  She should also read lots of books and have lots of friends.  Not only would it fill my need to see "me" in a book but I it would show others the possibilities of the future. It's the one thing I loved about Silhoutted by the Blue. The father was an artist.  The uncle was a financier.  They were black and they weren't out selling drugs or even playing basketball.  They were "normal" and that's worth something too.


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