Friday, August 30, 2013

My Epic Summer of Reading: Be Brave

My latest courageous adventure. Read about it here!
Yes, it has been a minute since my last post but I will attempt to make up for it.  It is Dance Friday, I haven't posted about any other summer books, I'm moving into a new apartment this weekend, AND I had my first week of school.  Roll up your sleeves folks, cuz here we go.

As I mentioned before I read a long list of books for my course at Simmons.  I cranked through that list in record time and had plenty of time to make it to my extended summer reading list.  (I'd like to pat myself on the back for reading a whopping 20 books this summer.  And no, not all of them were picture books.)  There were 3 bonus books that weren't on the original list but they were some of my favorites.  In each book, the characters had to overcome great feats and demonstrated courage in unique ways.

I love books with brave characters because they inspire me to do more, to tackle my own obstacles, and remind me that sometimes my problems aren't all that bad.  The three books, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz, Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos, and The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, all featured young men trying to find their path in life.  Each faces a different challenge and each learns something important about themselves.

For today's post, I am introducing you to these phenomenal books and adding a little Dance Friday twist.  Sara Bareilles just released a new album and a video to her song Brave.  I love the video and there is some particularly fantastic dancing in it so it all sorta works well together.  Happy Friday and cheers to taking on your own challenges.  Be brave!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz, YA

Aristotle (Ari) and Dante are two Mexican-American teenagers growing up in Texas in 1987.  They meet at a pool when Dante notices Ari needs help swimming.  Ari isn't really sure why he lets Dante help him but they become fast friends.  Ari comes from a poor family working hard to get by.  He has twin sisters who are significantly older and have their own families.  He has an older brother, Bernardo, who is in jail, although Ari is not sure why because his family never discusses the matter.  Ari struggles with his own temper, his place in his family, and his friendships.  Dante is easy to get along with, has an optimistic view of his future, but is unsure of his place in the Mexican culture because his family's experience is, as he puts it, "too white."  This unlikely pair find that their normal teenage angst is magnified when Dante reveals to Ari that he is gay.  Sàenz presents a story that hasn't been told, but one that our world desperately needs to hear.  It was an honest portrayal of the universal story of youth, and two teenagers who try to unlock secrets as they navigate that universe.

My favorite line from Aristotle and Dante

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dance Friday with a Big Band!

Today is a very special Dance Friday.  This is for one important reason and one slightly less important reason.

Reason number 1.  It is my mom's birthday!  My mom is my biggest supporter of Dance Friday so it has to be special.

Cheers Mama!!!!
Reason number 2.  It is my last Friday of summer vacation.  Yes, the dream is at an end.  On Monday I start a new job in my new/old city.

For your dance Friday I bring to you a group that will get your feet tapping, your heart racing, and your booty swinging...The Urban Renewal Project. My good friend Jen introduced me to this band a couple of years ago and I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at the House of Blues in LA.  Her friend Lindsay McMurray is a trombone player for the group and one rockin' lady. Taken from their website, they are described as...

Not your granddaddy's big band! The Urban Renewal Project is a 12-piece big band out of Los Angeles that blends the boundaries of traditional genres into a danceable funky mix of styles from pop & rock to jazz & reggae.
This killer group just came out with this new song and it is just the right thing for Dance Friday.  I heard it a couple of weeks ago and I sincerely apologize for keeping it from you all. The song is called My Own Way.  It is perfect for my mom because she is the queen of making her own way.  My own I ended up where I am. 
Wake up world and shake it!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Epic Summer of Reading: Books for Writers.

My new journals, inspired
by Charles Darwin
Where do I even start with this post?  My summer has been filled with so many books, so many stories, soooo much children's literature.  Friends keep asking about the conference at Simmons and I just haven't really wrapped my brain around how to write it all. Do I cram them all into one long post?  Do I break it up into 20 different posts? Hmm, a daunting task to say the least.

After sitting on it for a couple of days I have decided to lump everything into a few posts, maybe five.  So the series will be My Epic Summer of Reading.  Here we go with numero uno: Books for Writers.

In my list of books to read for the Simmons College Children's Institute, three jumped out as instant favorites.  What was it that I loved about them so much?  They made me want to write.  The characters were sometimes writers.  The authors inspired me to keep writing.   A common theme in the weekend at Simmons was that we all have a story to tell.  After hearing these women speak, I starting writing again after about a three year hiatus. (For me this a huge deal.  I started my first journal in 3rd grade and kept one religiously until 3 years ago.  Also, I still have them all.) It feels soooo good! So here are three books for your budding writers.

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry, middle grade (woohoo!)

Lois Lowry can do no wrong.  Yep, I said it. Even now, after I have heard her speak in real life, and after briefly discussing the misfortune of Kanye West's attempt at writing, I can stand even more firmly behind that statement.  It was The Giver, that Lowry wrote many years ago, which changed my relationship with books.  I wish I had read Anastasia Krupnik back then but I am glad that we finally crossed paths.

Anastasia is a young girl living in Cambridge, MA with her parents.  She has a straight forward attitude and isn't afraid to ask questions or speak her mind.  She analyzes and thinks about everything, something I know I did when I was her age.  Lowry admitted at our conference that Amy Carter, former first daughter, inspired her when writing the character of Anastasia. She told us that once, when Amy was asked by a reporter if she had any advice for the children of America, she responded as Anastasia also might respond, "No." 

What I love most about Anastasia is her authentic, honest voice.  I found myself laughing out loud multiple times, simply because she is so very much her own character, and every kid at the same time. My sister even stopped and asked what was so funny all the time and I had to read some out loud to her.

At the end of each chapter Anastasia adds to lists of things she loves and things she hates.  Through her lists we see her develop and transform as things she loves (writing lists, my wort) grow and things she hates sometimes move to a new list (Washburn Cummings, maybe!). Anastasia inspired me to keep my own lists and I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Wake Up and Boogie Saturday?

Breakfast boogie! In bed!
With smoothies!
And my sister/soon-to-be-roommate!
For those of you who are new to my little blog here, let me introduce you.  Sooo, this is a blog about my passion in life, children's literature.  Mostly.  Yeah.  It started out that way almost 4 years ago and then somewhere along the line I also threw in small tidbits about my tendency to move 3,000 miles every few years.  Sometimes I tell you what children's books I am reading when I do the moving.  Then, a few months ago, I introduced another passion of mine, dancing.  I love to dance in any way I can and mostly this happens in the form of heading out to a club in my chucks, a hat, and a need to boogie to old school hip hop.  I guess this makes me a gypsy-hip-hopper with a passion for children's literature?  Hm.

Anyway, the point is you will get ideas for good books to read to your students, to buy for your grandkids/nieces/nephews/kids/other friends' kids, etc.  I love learning about children's literature and the work involved and the stories behind all the books.  But mostly I know that many of you don't have the time or the energy to get into all of that.  So, I guess my book recommendations are for folks out there who constantly ask, "What's a good book for kids?"  If you are someone obsessed with kid lit like me, I hope you find a few things here as well.  If you need to find an author reading to take your own child to, and you live in LA or Boston, you should find that here.  If you are related to me or you have adopted me as part of your family in the many years I have been traveling to and fro, well, you are sure to get an update on my life every now and again.

Today's post will be for those of you who wait for Dance Friday and noticed that last night, once again, I neglected give you something.  You see, tonight I am going dancing with one of my best friends here in Boston and I CAN'T WAIT!  Sadly, a week of working with 18 first graders has left me feeling a little under the weather.  So last night I hunkered down to fight off whatever this is so I can get my boogie on.  Status update...still not feeling so hot.  However, I am determined to beat this thing so I will be resting and reading most of the day.

Fear not, my fellow dancers, I cannot, will not, neglect you.  I discovered this video of Robin Thicke performing Blurred Lines with the Roots and Jimmy Kimmel.  There have been about a million different versions of this song as it exploded into a summer hit.  I would like to  point out, however, that I recognized its potential way back in May (because of my mom).  Either way, enjoy this version of a boogie-perfect song.  Maybe this is a new tradition?  Wake up and boogie Saturday?  Hmm.  Maybe I need to blog about some books soon...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August Events

August means eeking out the last of outdoor movies, free concerts, midday ice cream cones, and lounging around reading books.  In this last month of freedom, here are some book events for you to enjoy!


August 3
* Young Adult and Middle Grade panel including authors Rachele Alpine (Canary), Erin Bowman (Taken), Mindy Raf (The Symptoms of My Insanity), Justina Ireland (Vengeance Bound), Alex Lidell (The Cadet of Tildor), Kit Grindstaff (The Flame in the Mist), and Elisabeth Dahl (Genie Wishes), appear at Brookline Booksmith at 7 pm.

August 4
* Author Monica Brown presents her book Tito Puente, Mambo King, at The Eric Carle, 2 pm

August 9
* Illustrator Kathryn Brown celebrates her latest book Norah's Chicks, her collaboration with author Patricia MacLachlan, 10:30 am
* Local author and illustrator Astrid Sheckles presents her book Nic and Nellie, The Eric Carle, 2 pm

Los Angeles

August 7
* Dorine White presents her middle grade book, Emerald Ring: Cleopatra's Legacy, 4 pm, Once Upon a Time Bookstore

August 8
* Scott Speer, Cecil Castellucci, Kristen Kittscher, Teddy Steinkeller, Elana K. Arnold, and more appear at Mrs. Nelson's for Local Author Night, 5 pm

August 10
* Israel Sanchez and Martha Brockenbrough present The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy,  10:30 am, Vroman's

August 20
* Barbara Bauner and James Iver Mattson present The Glitter Trap (Oh My Godmother), 6:30 pm, Vroman's