Tag Archives: Margarita Engle

This week’s book talks 5/20-24

24 May

Monday

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House Without Walls by Ching Yeung Russell

Tuesday

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The Other Half of Happy  by Rebecca Balcárcel

Wednesday

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Soaring Earth  by Margarita Engle

Thursday

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Riverland  by Fran Wilde

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A Place to Belong  by Cynthia Kadohata

Wonderful

17 Nov

The White House’s glass ceiling didn’t shatter last week, but girls and women will continue to fight for their place in society, world, business and academia. It can be helpful to look back at girls and women who defied convention for inspiration, and Jeannine Atkin’s Finding Wonders: Three Girls who Changed Science can help.

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Publisher’s Summary:A gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists.

Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not wicked things born from mud, as most people of her time believed. Through careful observation she discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented her findings in gorgeous paintings of the life cycles of insects.

More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England. To him they were merely a source of income, but to Mary they held a stronger fascination. Intrepid and patient, she eventually discovered fossils that would change people’s vision of the past.

Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell helped her mapmaker father in the whaling village of Nantucket. At night they explored the starry sky through his telescope. Maria longed to discover a new comet—and after years of studying the night sky, she finally did.

Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates the joy of discovery and finding wonder in the world around us.

As I read each section, my mind went to other books I have read about these three women of science.

Margarita Engle wrote an excellent picture book about Maria Merian.

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Publisher’s Summary:In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed. She watched carefully as caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths. Maria studied the whole life cycle of the summer birds, and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings.

This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece.

Several years ago, I read an excellent adult fiction book about Mary Anning, by Tracy Chevalier.

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Publisher’s Summary:On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: “the eye” to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.

Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset.

Remarkable Creatures is a stunning historical novel that follows the story of two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the scientific world forever.

Finally, local author, Deborah Hopkinson also published a picture book. Hers was about Maria Mitchell.

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Publisher’s Summary: Maria’s wish burns as brightly as a star. Maria longs to be an astronomer and imagines all the strange worlds she can travel to by looking though her papa’s telescope. One night Maria gets her chance to look through the telescope. For the first time, she sees the night sky stretching endlessly above her, and her dream of exploring constellations seems close enough to touch.
In this story, inspired by the life of Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer, “viewers will find the cobalt-blue nights, lit with constellations that make imaginary (and actual) pictures in the sky, every bit as attractive as Maria does.”

 

A Successful Booktalk

15 Sep

Since school started, I’ve given a daily book talk. I’m trying to showcase different genre and topics. Yesterday, I thought I was taking a bit of a wild chance: a historical fiction novel in verse.

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Publisher’s Summary:In a haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights.

Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. Yet for most Cubans in the nineteenth century, life is anything but beautiful. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and nearly-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields.

So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined that violence will not be the only way to gain liberty.

I chose this book for several reasons: an interesting topic, a novel in verse (which my readers know I love), and a non-white main character.

My classes are majority minority, so I thought I might get some takers. But I didn’t know how they’d take to a novel in verse.

I shouldn’t have worried. As soon as I mentioned that Margarita Engle was the author, eyes lit up. Many of them had read another of her novels in verse, Mountain Dog.  And so, I was pleasantly surprised to see more students than I expected, add Lion Island to the “Next” list.

“The Walter”

22 Jan

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January 20, 2016 (New York) – The We Need Diverse Books™ Walter Award Judges Committee has confirmed selections for the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature – Young Adult Category. One winner and two honors have been named.

The Walter Dean Myers Award, also known as “The Walter,” is named for prolific children’s and young adult author Walter Dean Myers (1937 – 2014). Myers was a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature as well as a champion of diversity in children’s and YA books.

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The winner of the first annual Walter award (2016) is the young adult novel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

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The judges also selected two Walter honor books: Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle

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and X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.

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The Judges Panel reviewed titles published during the 2015 calendar year by diverse authors whose work featured a diverse main character or addressed diversity in a meaningful way. In the case of author pairs (or author-illustrator pairs), at least one member of the pair must be from an underrepresented community. The books covered many genres and included both fiction and nonfiction works. The award’s mission is to honor the memory of Walter Dean Myers and his literary heritage, as well as celebrate diversity in teen literature.

Walter Award Judges Panel: Rita Painter, Rafe Pose, Edi Campbell, Mindy Rhiger, Todd Krueger, Adeeba Rana, Maria Gentle, Christine Taylor-Butler, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Dhonielle Clayton and Kathie Weinberg.

 

YALSA’s 2016 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check-in #3

3 Jan

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I’m rereading the Morris award finalists in reverse order: my favorite first, and working my way down to number 5. My logic is this: I have a favorite, but I need to give the other four an objective opportunity to convince me that they also deserve to be the winner. Reading them in this order, I will arrive in Boston with my #5 fresh in my brain and ready to discuss all five finalists well. I hope my strategy works.

I also managed to reread two nonfiction finalists this week, before I have to go back to work tomorrow . (It is a good thing I love my job!)

Symphony for the City

My first journey through Symphony for the City if the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad,  by M. T. Anderson, was via audiobook. This time through, with the hard copy in hand, I was able to enjoy the text along with the many photos included.

When I first heard that Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air was a nonfiction finalist, I was a little surprised because, although it is a memoir, it is written in poetry. I love this bold move on the part of the committee!

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I always talk to may students about the need to reread and a second reading of Enchanted Air,  was a real treat. If nonfiction isn’t your thing, this would be an excellent place to start.

I still have one more nonfiction book to go, and my hold is waiting for me to pick it up at the library this afternoon.

It is hard to believe that, in a week, I will be a in Boston and on a week and a day, we will know the winners. The 2016 Youth Media Awards will be announced at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, January 11, 2016, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition in Boston. If you can’t make it to Boston, you can watch the presentation live HERE.

Straddling two worlds

20 Sep

The only library book I have ever lost and had to pay for was Margarita Engle’s The Firefly Letters. 

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I think I accidentally packed it into a box of books I was giving to Goodwill. I paid for the book, hoping someone at Goodwill would encounter it and return it to the library, but no one ever did. I hope whoever found it enjoyed it as much as I did and discovered a new writer.

I have read just about every book Engle has written because I know I am sure to get something a little different from what everyone else is writing, novels in verse focusing on the history of Cuba, picture books or novels with a Cuban or Latino connection.

Her latest book, Enchanted Air, follows that pattern, but adds a new twist. It is a poetic memoir of Margarita’s childhood growing up as a child of two cultures, United States and Cuba, during the Cold War.

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Goodreads Summary:Margarita is a girl from two worlds. Her heart lies in Cuba, her mother’s tropical island country, a place so lush with vibrant life that it seems like a fairy tale kingdom. But most of the time she lives in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers when she can take a plane through the enchanted air to her beloved island. Words and images are her constant companions, friendly and comforting when the children at school are not.

Then a revolution breaks out in Cuba. Margarita fears for her far-away family. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupts at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Margarita’s worlds collide in the worst way possible. How can the two countries she loves hate each other so much? And will she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?

I love novels in verse and Engle seems to be a master of this genre. Her poems capture the angst of growing up, feeling torn between two countries, longing for adventure and travel, not always fitting in, confusion over politics and culture clashes, the beauty of Cuba and America. Things that a lot of kids feel , though maybe in a different way. My class this year is made up f children who are predominantly children of immigrants from India, China and Korea. Their experience straddling two worlds is not that different from Engle’s. I will recommend this to my students and I hope you do too.

Marching to their own drums

13 Apr

A while back I told a funny story of a conversation about 3 boys in my class starting a band. It is progressing. They plan to be part of the end of the year talent show and have invited one of the girls in my class to join. In reality she asked if she could join and they said yes. The drummer in the band is a pencil tapper. Quite frankly he drives me crazy sometimes because, like a real drummer, he taps two pencils on his desk, book pencil box in lieu of a drum kit.

He immediately popped into mind as I read Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.

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Based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, we encounter Millo in 1930’s Cuba, where drumming is taboo for girls.

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But Millo is undeterred. She dreams,

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she drums wherever she can,

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until, finally her father sets her up with a teacher.

The text is rhythmic and the illustrations are poetic and I felt I was right there in Cuba with Millo. Although it is a tale told simply, it is the powerful story of one girls dream and her willingness to persevere to achieve it.

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