Tag Archive | writing

YOU CAN’T SAY THAT! yes, authors can! #BannedBooksWeek (nonfiction book review)

book cover of You Can't Say That! Writers for Young People Talk About Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. Published by Candlewick Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Too rude! too scary!
Not in our school, our town,
we don’t talk about such things…

Name a ‘controversial topic’ and you can find a list of books for kids and teens that someone, somewhere in the US has tried to censor or ban from class or remove from library shelves.

That’s why this is Banned Books Week and why noted children’s books expert Leonard Marcus decided to talk with authors whose books have challenged by people who think their viewpoint is the only one.

Marcus sets the stage in each chapter by noting the author’s books, the censorship they faced, and how he knows them, so the interviews are conversations between friends as well as explorations of how their depictions of real life often clash with adults trying to protect kids from unpleasant things.

Authors interviewed include: Matt de la Peña, Robie H. Harris, Susan Kuklin, David Levithan, Meg Medina, Lesléa Newman, Katherine Paterson, Dav Pilkey, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Sonya Sones, R. L. Stine, and Angie Thomas.

You’ll recognize challenged titles from Captain Underpants to the Goosebumps series to Heather Has Two Mommies that have been stolen, challenged, and even publicly burned, but might not have heard about authors being ‘disinvited’ from speaking at schools because their books include gay characters or children in families with alcoholism.

Meg Medina expresses the balance between would-be censors and the author’s right to tell their stories freely: “When it comes to formal challenges to books, the problem is not that parents don’t have the right to be involved in deciding what their children read. The problem is that they don’t have the right to make that determination for other people’s children.” (p. 96)

What are your experiences with book banning or censorship at your school?
**kmm

Book Info: You Can’t Say That! Writers for Young People Talk About Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell / Leonard S. Marcus, editor. Candlewick Books, 2021. [editor site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

The more you know: CONSTITUTION DECODED, by Katie Kennedy, art by Ben Kirchner (Nonfiction book review)

book cover of Constitution Decoded, by Katie Kennedy, art by Ben Kirchner. Published by Workman Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Preamble, articles amendments –
we know what they are,
but what do they mean?

If we’re widely reading something over 200 years after its publication, it’s a classic.

To better understand the meanings of the Constitution’s old-time phrasing and vocabulary, we could use some help – here’s the book we need!

Going article by article, even word by word, we get insights into the historical context of key principles like separation of powers, creating new states, and establishing the U.S. monetary and postal systems.

The first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights, detailing important ideas like the rights of free speech, peaceful gatherings, and trial by jury.

Other amendments fine-tuned Constitutional concepts or changed certain sections that were outdated. Did you know that here were no political parties in 1776, so the Vice President was the runner-up in the Presidential election? The 12th Amendment establishes the Electoral College with distinct voting on President and Vice President.

This book gives clarifying ‘translations’ side-by-side with each section of the Constitution and amendments, notes where amendments changed the original document, and provides vocabulary definitions, case examples, and facts in action (the 27th Amendment was ratified in 1992, but had originally been proposed in 1789!).

With full-color art on each page to help readers remember key concepts and fact-checked by a constitutional law scholar, this book makes a very old document very readable today.

Did you have to memorize the Preamble for school?
**kmm

Book Info: The Constitution Decoded: a Guide to the Document That Shapes Our Nation / Katie Kennedy; art by Ben Kirchner; contributions by Kermit Roosevelt. Workman Publishing, 2020. (author site) (artist site) (contributor site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Gothic intrigue in DIRE DAYS OF WILLOWEEP MANOR graphic novel! by Shaenon K. Garrity & Christopher Baldwin – YA book review

book cover of The Dire Days of Willoweep Manor, by Shaenon K. Garrity (story) & Christopher Baldwin (art). Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A daring rescue,
a ghost in the manor,
a brooding hero with a dark secret…

Haley’s teacher insists that she must write a book report on anything but a gothic romance if the African American teen wants to pass English class… sigh.

When Haley rescues a man from drowning under the river bridge, they emerge from the water into a different world! But what world and when??

The manor house is “three centuries and four European architectural traditions smushed together” on the eerie moors, brooding older brother Laurence says they’re in “the year of our Lord none of your business,” and there’s a ghost that only Haley can see or hear – are they actually inside a book?

Perhaps so, because Haley is now “the Maiden” attired in a long dress, the sinister housekeeper lets a few secrets out, and youngest brother Cuthbert acts more zany by the hour.

But maybe not, because Montague (the brother that she rescued) insists that he was seeking help from her world because a devouring Penultimate Evil was encroaching on Willoweep Manor, a pocket universe that’s the final defense…and there are cracks in the barrier!

As the Bile seeps out, it infects every creature to join in its attack against all things good!

Will the three brothers finally band together instead of bickering?
Can Haley become the Gothic Heroine that Willoweep needs?
Is she trapped in this pocket universe forever?

This clever graphic novel uses every trope, tradition, and cliche of gothic romances to great effect as our intrepid heroine and the desperate caretakers of Willoweep fight to save… everything!

What what you learned from reading fiction that can help in real time?
**kmm

Book info: The Dire Days of Willoweep Manor / Shaenon K. Garrity (story) & Christopher Baldwin (art). Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021. (author site) (artist site) (publisher site) Book cover image and review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Listen to art talk – free audiobooks this week

Let’s talk about art – this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC are ready for you to download to your Sora shelf now!

These professionally narrated complete audiobooks are only available for Sora download from Thursday through Wednesday, or you can find them any time through your favorite independent bookshop or local library.

audiobook cover of Poemsia: a novel,  by Lang Leav. Read by Saskia Maarleveld. Published by Listening Library | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Poemsia: a Novel (free download 17-23 June 2021 on Sora)
by Lang Leav
Read by Saskia Maarleveld
Published by Listening Library

When an obscure poem found in her grandfather’s antiquarian bookstore is mistaken for one of Verity’s own writings, the Australian teen is offered a publishing deal and travel to New York City!

Supported by her life-long best friend and new boyfriend, Verity has to cope with sudden fame and high expectations as she strives to stay true to herself.

audiobook cover of This Is What I Know About Art, by Kimberly Drew.
Read by Kimberly Drew Published by Listening Library | recommended on BooksYALove.com

This Is What I Know About Art (free download 17-23 June 2021 on Sora)
by Kimberly Drew
Read by Kimberly Drew
Published by Listening Library

Access to art for all people, the relationship between art and protest – learn more about the ways that artistic expression can be open to everyone with the social media manager of NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art who communicates passionately about cultural studies, fashion, and Black contemporary art.

What art-inspired books can you recommend?
**kmm

She writes hopeful, worried LETTERS FROM CUBA to war-darkened Poland, by Ruth Behar (MG book review)

book cover of Letters From Cuba, by Ruth Behar. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Random House | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Cross the wide ocean,
earn money slowly, slowly –
bring family to safety – soon, soon!

Papa went first to Cuba, trying to make enough money so their whole family could escape the increasing peril of merely being Jewish in Poland.

Esther is the oldest child, ready to travel across the sea and help Papa grow their savings faster, 11 years old on a ship crossing the Atlantic in 1938, writing letters to her sister Malka in an old notebook until time to send them.

Always-summer Cuba means sandals instead of woolen stockings, a small village in the hills away from the city, walking and walking with their peddler’s packs to sell goods throughout the countryside where the air smells like candy from the sugar mills.

As Esther learns Spanish, she’s befriended by Francisco Chang who came from China to his uncle’s store, Doctor Pablo and Senora Graciela whose daughter died young, and Manuela’s formerly enslaved grandmother who honors the gods of her African ancestors.

Angry sugar mill owner Eduardo thinks she and Papa don’t belong here, so the young woman takes refuge in the poems of Juan Marti shared by Senora Graciela as Esther designs and sews stylish cotton dresses that become popular in Havana.

Can she make enough dresses by herself to fill the orders?
Can they earn enough money to get their family here soon?
As Europe rejects Jewish people, will Cuba still welcome them?

As powerful people like Eduardo begin echoing Hitler’s anger and lies, Esther and Papa work hard and pray harder to bring their family to safety!

What letters have shared family stories with you?
**kmm

Book Info: Letters From Cuba / Ruth Behar. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2020. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

YOU WERE MADE FOR ME…the perfect guy, created by me! by Jenna Guillaume (YA book review)

book cover of You Were Made for Me, by Jenna Guillaume. Published in USA by Peachtree Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Writing and hoping,
sketching and sculpting –
make your own dream come true…

“The day I created a boy started like any other” (p. 1) with Katie’s sketches and stories, dreaming of her perfect first kiss, swooning over Declan at school, and constant commentary by BFF Libby. Who knew that their art + science creative project last night would bring handsome, adorable Guy into their lives today?

How?! No time for questions when she awakens to the perfect teen boy in her bedroom! Theo from next door comes to the rescue, and they discover that he’s real, he has no belly button (she forgot to sculpt it), and he loves 16-year-old Katie more than anything!

Katie helped Theo as they lost his mum to cancer, and now he lets Guy share his added-on bedroom as they all try to figure out what’s next… a guy with no last name or ID can’t go to school with them, right?

Aside from Guy being utterly delighted by Katie and sunset and the beach and every new food he tries (which means everything), the rest of her life is the same – Mikayla and the mean girls are still hateful to her and Libby, she’s still nervous about painting the big mural at school, and Declan is still cute – what??

How can she balance her part-time job and Guy and school?
Why is Theo starting to act weird around her?
Will her first kiss be perfect?

A story in two voices, as Libby interrupts often to refocus Katie’s narrative of how Guy was created and learned to live in their Australian neighborhood below parental radar (mostly).

What attributes would you give to the perfect person for you?
**kmm

Book Info: You Were Made For Me / Jenna Guillaume. Peachtree Publishing, 2021. (author link) (publisher link) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Feathers, wizard, corn fritters – HOW TO SAVE A QUEENDOM gets complicated! by Jessica Lawson (MG book review)

book cover of How to Save a Queendom, by Jessica Lawson. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Mistreated at the inn, 12 year old Stub has years of apprenticeship ahead, until she finds a wizard in her apron pocket – tiny, unhappy, and magically bound to stay near her!

A plot to disrupt 100 years of peace? A journey across the entire queendom to the capital city? Only a week to get there!?

If the orphan girl can just get the maps hidden by Beaman’s mother, she and pet chicken Peck can escape the constant bullying…

If Beaman can brave the trip, he could cook his specialties for young Queen Sonora herself…

If wizard Orlan can guide them through perils while his magic is diminished, maybe they can stay alive long enough to save Sonora and the queendom!

Magical beasts, treacherous terrain, running low on spices – life in their coastal town hasn’t prepared Stub or Beaman for travel’s hazards, but they must get to Maradon Cross in time.

Can they stop the evil regent from shattering the Peace?
Will they get to meet Queen Sonora on her 13th birthday?
Is Orlan telling them everything about this mission?

Quick thinking, spells and transformations, a century of secrets – find out How to Save a Queendom at your local library or independent bookstore today!

How have your best friends helped you through difficult times?
**kmm

Book Info: How to Save a Queendom/ Jessica Lawson. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Can she stay safe from THE MEMORY THIEF? by Jody Lynn Anderson (MG book review)

book cover of The Memory Thief by Jodi Lynn Anderson, published by Aladdin | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Lurking spirits,
Mom mourning loss,
stories hide secrets!

When 12 year old Rosie decides it’s time to burn the stories she’s written to fill the empty spaces in herself, the old seaside house that she shares with so-forgetful Mom is filled with ghosts!

Her best friend Germ (really Gemma) starts liking makeup and boys, but Rosie has other things to worry about, like bringing her widowed mom back to the present long enough to sign progress reports so no one suspects her lack of attention to the sixth grader and her obsession with watching the sea.

The ghosts she can now see lead Rosie to an ancient book, The Witch Hunter’s Guide, that reveals much about her family history and perhaps why Mom can’t remember Rosie from day to day.

Somehow Germ also begins to see the ghosts (when not practicing with mean girl Bibi for the talent show!) who lead them to hidden buildings and warn that the 13 witches controlling the world know Rosie is coming into her powers!

What’s keeping the ghosts tethered to her New England town?
Can Rosie and Germ escape the Memory Thief’s cursing touch?
Could they rescue “him floating out there” that Mom is longing for?

First in a new trilogy by the author of My Diary From the Edge of the World (recommended here).

What family story do you want more details about?
**kmm

Book Info: The Memory Thief (Thirteen Witches, book 1) / Jodi Lynn Anderson. Aladdin, 2021. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Celebratory lines – poems about NINE! a Book of Nonet Poems, by Irene Latham (picture book review)

book cover of Nine: a Book of Nonet Poems, by Irene Latham. illustrated by Amy Huntington. Published by Charlesbridge | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Rhymes or none,
poems are fun –
you know haiku,
so try something new!

Expressing yourself in verse or song can make everyday life more interesting. That’s what a birthday girl and her little brother and their armadillo pal do, using the nonet form.

What does that look like? She answers readers in the very first poem, “Nonet”:

Grand
poem
with nine lines –
one syllable
first line builds toward
nine-syllable ninth line
(or the reverse). A staircase
for poets and readers alike!
(Any subject, rhyming optional.)
-page 1

Did you count the syllables as you read down the nonet-staircase? Yep – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Some of the girl’s nonets start with the nine-syllable line and get shorter line by line, like “Nine-Banded Armadillo” and “Dressed to the Nines” for her big birthday bash!

Flip to the back of the book to learn more about all the nines in the poems and even the dimensions of the book itself.

Celebrate Children’s Book Week by writing your own nonet!

What’s your favorite nine fact?
**kmm

Book Info: Nine: a Book of Nonet Poems / Irene Latham; art by Amy Huntington. Charlesbridge, 2020. (author site) (artist site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Whoosh! 11 years of BooksYALove, a decade of April A2Z!

text reads: reflection- Blogging from A to Z April (2021) Challenge http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Like that snowball rolling downhill toward a cartoon character, growing larger and faster as it goes, time seems to pass more swiftly as the calendar pages flip over.

Eleven years ago today, I stepped out into the then-new world of blogging, thanks to the encouragement of Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon in the early 2010s and the repository of book recommendations that I had written for Barb Langridge’s awesome kids’ book discovery site www.abookandahug.com (still going strong – be sure to take the Reader Personality Type quiz here!).

Ten years ago today, I looked back at a whole month of posts (every day but Sunday) pegged alphabetically from A to Z – wow, I really could create content on a daily basis… for at least one month of the year during the April AtoZ Challenge!

At the end of March every year since, I’ve pondered whether I could really complete another AtoZ, not missing a single alphabetical day (X is so hard). And for 10 years straight, I’ve decided that I should try, and I have succeeded!

Book bloggers don’t get medals or awards for our work promoting books, authors, and illustrators.

Most of us don’t get any money for our writing, some of us get review copies from publishers (thank you, thank you!), and many of us pay out of pocket to host our sites.

We all spend innumerable hours reading, deciding which books to write about, looking at our growing TBR (to-be-read) piles of books…and the books waiting for a review.

Book reviewers may never know whether our recommendation of a specific book led someone to read it… but one review and one book may be what makes life better for one reader – and that is enough for me as I begin my 12th year of BooksYALove.

Have you read any of the 1000+ books that I’ve recommended?
**kmm