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A great graphic novelization

9 Apr

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Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, based on her personal experience of being raped when she was a teenager, first appeared in 1999.

It won  the 1999 National Book Award and the 2000 Printz Award, among many others. It has also been challenged in a number of schools around the country because of the difficult subject matter.

 

 

download-1Now, almost twenty years later, the original story has been  reproduced as a graphic novel, illustrated by Emily Carroll.

The use of grayscale for the illustrations is the right choice for this book, given Melinda’s state of mind through most of the book. In this age where women are speaking up about their experiences of sexual assault, a new audience will have a chance to encounter this powerful story in a new way and learn the importance of having a voice and speaking up.

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Upside down and backwards

19 Feb

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I’ve heard (and used) this quote about Ginger Rogers a number of times. I hadn’t realized it originated in a Frank and Ernest comic!

I got to thinking about it because I just read a new picture book biography of Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, self-taught blues and folk musician, singer, and songwriter. Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten is written by Portland Musician Laura Veirs and illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

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Because she was left-handed she played the guitar “upside down and backwards”, a refrain that repeats throughout the book and that brought to mind the Ginger Rogers reference.

Libba Cotten was convinced by her pastor to give up the guitar, saying she played “Devil’s music”. Later in life, she became the housekeeper for  Ruth Crawford Seeger and, in a house full of music, she rediscovered her passion. She made her first recording in 1958 at the age of 62.

This picture book biography includes an author’s note that gives more details about Cotten’s life and Veirs’ lifelong connection to her work, as well as a list of sources.

Here she is, playing her most famous song, “Freight Train”.

 

Approaching the finish line

10 Dec

I have almost accomplished my goal of reading the five books on the National Book Award’s list for Young People’s Literature.

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Looking at this list, I realize that I am unintentionally reading them in reverse alphabetical order by author’s last name.

This weekend, I read the winner, Far From the Tree by Robin Benway.

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Publisher’s Summary: Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Don’t miss this moving novel that addresses such important topics as adoption, teen pregnancy, and foster care.

Such an excellent book!!! You should read it.

 

A book for animal lovers

4 Dec

One Amazing Elephant, by Linda Oatman High, is a quiet middle grade novel. It reminds me a little of The One and Only Ivan  because it alternates perspectives between Lily and Queenie Grace, providing readers with a deep understanding of and empathy for the elephant’s experience.

It seems to be flying under the radar and not getting a lot of attention, but there is definitely an audience for it. Any reader who loves animals will love it.

 

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Publisher’s Summary:  A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

Perfection

29 Nov

We often make things so black and white for girls. You are either a good girl or you are a bad girl.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L Sanchez, is narrated by Julia, the eponymous imperfect daughter. This is a really great read and was a National Book Awards finalist.I think every young woman who reads this will connect with Julia, who never measures up to her family’s expectations because they never really see her for who she is.

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Publisher’s Summary: Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

A new heroine

24 Nov

One of my complaints with a certain genre, the  kind of fantasy that brings ancient myths into the real world, is that they usually end up being mostly action scenes of battles with the bad guys. This is a problem for me, but what makes true fans of the genre love the books. But there is a new heroine in town.

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Two things set The Epic Crush of Genie Lo  apart from the pack. First, there is a strong female character. Female fans of Percy Jackson and other series have to be content with a female sidekick. Genie Lo is the hero! Additionally, it utilizes the stories of Chinese mythology, a much lesser known mythological canon.

It isn’t a perfect read, but it has some really funny lines and is definitely worth picking up.

Publisher’s Summary: She annihilates standardized tests and the bad guys.

Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.

But when her hometown comes under siege from Hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches.

Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.

Warcross

16 Nov

You’ve probably seen or heard about this one

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Publisher’s Summary:For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I liked Lu’s Legend series but couldn’t get into the Young Elites  series. I figured I had a 50/50 chance with Warcross. 

Although I have almost no interest in online gaming, I got into Warcross quickly and was carried along by the fast-paced writing.  I figured out who the bad guy was early on, but Lu planted enough red-herrings to doubt my theory, though I never really abandoned it. I like the strong, but flawed, female protagonist, and the diverse cast of characters.

Warcross  isn’t the best book I’ve read this year, but it was rather enjoyable.

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