Wednesday, December 17, 2014

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon

I am Malcolm.
I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me.

They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

 


Malcolm Little's young life is fraught with heartache and tragedy. After his father's murder, his family begins to unravel, no thanks to the white officials who have cut his desperate family off of government assistance and deemed his mother an unfit parent. In addition to his family unraveling, so too do his dreams when a teacher whom Malcolm trusts discourages him from aspiring to be a lawyer, despite the fact that Malcolm is a top student and also class president. His teacher only sees his skin color rather than young Malcolm's potential.

It's at this moment in his life that Malcolm wonders why he bothers even trying anymore and decides to escape to Boston where his half-sister Ella lives. It is here that Malcolm is tempted away from his once promising future into a world of nightclubs, hustling, and drugs. Malcolm thinks he has found a freedom in abandoning his past, but it's only a matter of time before the freedom he thinks he's found comes crashing down around him.

X is a fictionalized portayal of a young Malcolm X's life, co-written by Kekla Magoon and Malcolm's daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz. This is a story that is incredibly timely given the animosity and resentment occurring in our country right now with the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Malcolm X's fight for civil rights was demonized when he was alive and is still done so to this day. In that regard, there are so many parallels that can be made from not only Malcolm's public life, but also his youth in the 1940s (when this novel takes place), to the struggles of African Americans still going on in 2014.

As I was reading X, there were many occasions when I had to put the book down to process and contemplate what I had just read. The scene with Malcolm's teacher was one such occasion because I knew despite the incendiary language used in that moment, it was something that I needed to share with my students. We are taught the power of the N word from a very young age. It is a word so powerful it can no longer be spoken. But it wasn't until the aftermath of the moment when Malcolm is called that horrific word by his teacher that I could fully internalize its power. I wanted my students to experience that same moment of horror and indignation.

X is a profound novel. It is one that can change hearts and minds. I know it did mine.


I'm not meant to be part of the things that are wrong with the world, but neither am I meant to run from them. 
I'm meant to fight against them. 
I can't hold my own in the ring, but out in the world, I do know how to fight. 
With words. 
With truth. 


Download the teachers' guide

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: ARC received for review from publisher

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Palm of My Heart: Poems by African American Children, edited by Davida Adedjouma, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Black stride? It's:
the arch of my back
the curve of my spine
the way I stand
and my stance is
pride


 

Oh this book. It will bring a tear to your eye and give you hope. The poems contained inside its scant pages are small but they are mighty. It is a heartprint book in every sense of the word. And just like the short poems contained therein, so too is this review.



The Palm of My Heart: Poems by African American Children, edited by Davida
Adedjouma, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Published: September 1, 1996
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Pages: 32
Genre: Poetry Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade/Young Adult
Disclosure: Library Copy

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12-15-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Last week on my teaching blog:
5 things I loved about last week

I was the guest poster on the NCTE blog yesterday:
The Story of One is the Story of Many



Last week I reviewed:

Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie 


I finished reading:

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
This book will stay with me for a long time. There were many occasions when I had to just stop and put the book down to contemplate what I had just read. With all of the racial animosity and resentment occurring in our country right now, this book is as relevant as ever. A must-own for any high school teacher's classroom library. I will be writing a lengthier review on here on the blog soon. 


Favorite picture books from last week:

What a Party! by Ana Maria Machado, illustrated by Helene Moureau
The Palm of My Heart: Poems by African American Children, edited by Davida  Adedjouma, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
I have a full reviews of both of these books scheduled for later this week but, spoiler alert, I loved them both.


Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Susan Guevara
A fun, modern twist on Little Red Riding Hood, told in unabashed, bilingual rhyming verse. Little Roja Riding Hood subverts the traditional fairy tale trope with style and swagger.


Currently reading:

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon


Currently and still reading with my ears:

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex 
Blackbird by Anna Cary
Still enjoying my re-listen of Smekday. I started off quite dubious of Blackbird because it's written in 2nd-person POV, which seemed forced and inauthentic at first, but I think that's just because I'm not well-versed in books told from this POV that it didn't feel natural at first. Now that I've started to settle into the story, I'm starting to feel it more. The publisher synopsis calls this The Maze Runner meets Code Name Verity but I think it has more of a Bourne Identity vibe to it. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Sugar Hill, Sugar Hill where life's so sweet
that pride rings out on every street. 

Sugar Hill is the well-known neighborhood in Harlem that came to prominence in the 1920s and 1930s during the Harlem Renaissance. Written in bouncy rhyming verse, this vibrantly illustrated tribute to the artists, writers, and celebrities that resided there is a beautiful historical and cultural title to include in your library - whether it's a school, classroom, or home library. 

The author's note at the end provides readers with further background information about Sugar Hill as well as well as the famous names peppered throughout the story, such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Zora Neale Hurston. 


Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Published: February 1, 2014
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Pages: 32
Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Library Copy 

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12-8-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

The semester of taking two grad classes while working full time is almost over. Never again will I do that. Thankfully, I don't have to since I only have two classes left and I'm planning to graduate next December. I've enjoyed both classes I'm taking this semester, it's just a lot of deadline juggling, which I am not a fan of.

I did have quite a productive reading week though despite all of my panic with looming deadlines. One of those deadlines was a promotional project for a book award in my prizing children's literature class. I decided to be ambitious and choose an award that has only been recently established, no awards have actually been given out yet. So, I give to you my Walter Dean Myers Award promotional project.

Look what I finally finished:

Winger by Andrew Smith
My thoughts about this book are kinda spoilery, so if you've read this book and want to read my thoughts, go to my Goodreads review.  


I also finished reading with my ears:

Shine by Lauren Myracle


Picture books I really enjoyed last week:

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Sometimes a book finds you at just the right time. My students are currently working on a writing assignment called "Words are Powerful" so today we read about how the right word can make all the difference. 

 
Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
I have a review of this book scheduled to post tomorrow so I'll wait till then to share my thoughts. Short review: I loved this book!


The Lonely Typewriter by Peter Ackerman, illustrated by Max
 Perhaps more than the story itself, which is about a typewriter that gets relegated to the attic because no one uses it anymore now that everyone uses computers, I love the the fact that the family in this story is bi-racial. It is done with little fanfare, but there is enough information for readers to notice, yet at the same time, let it just be what it is: a normal, American family. 


Voyage by Billy Collins, illustrated by Karen Romagna
Be still my heart. There is nothing more satisfying than the simple complexity and cadences of a Billy Collins poem. I love that his words have now been given value in the children's literature world with this picture book adaptation of his poem, "Voyage."


 Currently (still) reading:

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon


Currently reading with my ears:

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex 
This week in my prizing children's literature class we need to listen to an award-winning audiobook. This just happens to be my favorite audiobook of all time and so I relished in listening to it once more. Bahni Turpin's narration is insanely funny and brilliant and I just want every person in the world to listen to this audiobook. You think Jim Dale's a good audiobook narrator? Bahni Turpin is better. Blasphemy, you say? Just you wait. Listen to this and tell me I'm wrong. 


On my teaching blog last week:
Remembering Joy
Celebrating NaNoWriMo accomplishments and hard conversations

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Walter Dean Myers Award: Challenge your students to read diverse books

Earlier this spring, a movement began on social media. Frustrated with the lack of diversity in children's literature and the fact that the organizers of the inaugural BookCon in New York City deemed “the world’s biggest children’s authors” to be all white males, authors Melinda Lo and Ellen Oh expressed their frustration via social media and shortly thereafter a hashtag was born: #WeNeedDiverseBooks, which was first tweeted by author Aisha Saeed and began trending on April 29th of this year. It created ripples all over the world of social media.



From this single hashtag, a movement began and now #WeNeedDiverseBooks has transformed beyond simple passive social media activism into something more tangible. Not long after the hashtag went viral, We Need Diverse Books was established as a nonprofit organization, and in October it was announced that they have created a new award: The Walter Dean Myers Award, which "will recognize published authors from diverse backgrounds who celebrate diversity in their writing and '[allow] children to see themselves reflected back' in those works," (Publisher's Weekly).

The award is currently limited to young adult literature and winners will announced in 2015, but there are plans for adding middle grade and picture books to the award in the future.

In the wake of all the racial tension happening in our country right now, reading widely from diverse perspectives is more important than ever. As Matt de la Pena said recently in a panel at NCTE called Reshaping the Landscape of Story: Creating Space for Missing and Marginalized Voices, "The quickest way to create monsters in our inner cities is by never showing them mirrors of themselves in literature." We need to be giving kids positive portrayals of all cultural backgrounds, not just the voices of the privileged. As one contributor to the video above stated, "We need diverse books because they are the vehicles for empathy and empathy is the best weapon against hate."

So just like many teachers and librarians hold mock Newbery and Caldecott awards in their schools, I would encourage you to hold your own mock Walter Awards. Not only will this give your students an opportunity to read from a variety of cultural backgrounds, allowing them to not only look through windows but also into mirrors, it will also give teachers and librarians a chance to add more diverse books to their own classrooms and libraries.

Even though the Walter Award is starting in 2015 with only young adult literature, I would still encourage you to hold mock Walter Awards for middle grade and picture books as well. Encourage your students students to read from a variety of books with diverse characters and authors, and then create a ballot to vote for their favorites. Not sure how to dig in? Here is a list of 2014 titles to get you started. This is by no means an exhaustive list, mainly because my canon of diverse books needs to increase, and also because I don't know what the exact award criteria will be other than "published authors from diverse backgrounds who celebrate diversity in their writing,"  but it's a good place to start so you can seek out further titles. And please let me know what 2014 titles I should add to this list.

Young Adult
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
Fake ID by Lamar Giles
Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi
How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour
Knockout Games by G. Neri
Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela and Elaine DePrince
Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale


Middle Grade
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods
Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
Wrinkles Wallace: Fighters of Foreclosure by Marquin Parks 


Picture Books
Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Qin Leng
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by John Parra
The Hula-Hoopin'Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk,illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Ninja! by Aree Chung
Soccer Star by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated Renato Alarcao
Bravo, Chico Canta! Bravo! by Pat Mora and Libby Martinez, illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling
A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie


In the interest of full-disclosure, book links take you to my Amazon Affiliate page. If you buy any of these books through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound.  


Cross-posted to my teaching blog, Use Your Outside Voice

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12-1-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Holy cow! How did it get to be December already? I missed my It's Monday post last week because I had just returned from NCTE and I was beat. Check out my NCTE recap, complete with video and Storify.


Last week I reviewed:

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle 
Make It Ahead by Ina Garten


My favorite picture book from last week:
 
Once Upon and Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers
Just when you think there is nowhere else to go with an alphabet book, Oliver Jeffers creates something new and innovative. As each letter gets its own short story in Once Upon and Alphabet, you slowly begin to see that some stories weave in and out of each other. Oh the possibilities for using this as a mentor text in the classroom.


I finished reading with my ears:

Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka


Currently (still) reading:

Winger by Andrew Smith
My goal is to finish this book this week. I've been reading it far too long. I am still enjoying it, but there is just far too much reading I have to do for my grad classes.   


Currently reading with my ears:

Shine by Lauren Myracle
This is a book I read when it first came out but I'm re-reading it for my prizing children's literature class. I'm not enjoying it as much the second time around as I did the first time. Probably because I know how it ends and the "whodunnit."