Category Archives: Reading

Yes, Audiobooks & Graphic Novels Count: Accepting Students’ Diverse Reading Choices

I originally delivered a version of this post at the Avon Free Public Library’s Local Author Festival in June. Each of the presenters was asked to talk about the reader’s experience. I recently revised that presentation for a blog post for Latin@s in Kid Lit. The post seems to have resonated with people, and I think it’s an important issue now that young people are back in school. I’ve decided to reblog it here.

 

A reader’s experience, even with a shared text, is dependent on so many things, including background knowledge, interest in the subject, interest in reading in general, and engagement in the moment. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this subjectivity of reading, how one person can have a completely different reaction to a book than another. As a teacher, I’ve gained a whole new level of understanding about the reader’s experience.

When I taught middle school language arts with regular-sized classes, I experienced a typical range of responses from students. When I became a reading specialist, however, the response to reading was more consistent. My students are what’s called reluctant readers. Many of them hate to read, and they all score well below their peers on reading assessments. Of the 27 students who receive reading intervention with me this year, 85 percent are of color and almost half are Latin@. In 2010, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s article, “The Latino Education Crisis,” stated Latin@s are the least educated ethnic group. More recent statistics indicate both good and not-so-good news. The Latin@ dropout rate has dropped significantly, but remains higher than other groups. Meanwhile, the number of Latin@s in college has tripled in ten years, but Latin@s lag behind other groups in obtaining a four-year degree.

Each school year is an opportunity to change these statistics by helping students become better readers.

When I ask my students why they don’t like to read, their most common answers are these: It’s too hard. It’s confusing. It’s boring. It’s too long. I just don’t like it. I can’t connect to it. I have better things to do with my time.

My job, then, is to help them become better readers and hopefully love a book or two or more. In other words, I have to find ways to alter their previous reading experiences. I have to help them find books that aren’t too hard or boring or too long. Books that they can connect with and think are worth their time.

In some ways, this should be easy because libraries have thousands of books to choose from, but this is what happens when I take my students to the library: Some wander around aimlessly with a “get me out of here” look on their face. Some are enthusiastic, which is great, but have no idea what to do. I ask about their favorite author or genre, but they don’t have one. If I keep asking questions, I’ll usually get enough information to guide them to the right area. But, then they are faced with a wall of books and don’t know where to start.

Once, I gave a girl a specific title to find and told her to check the spine for the author’s last name. After a while, she called me over and said the book wasn’t there, that all of these books were written by FIC.

I share this not to make fun of her–because it really isn’t funny–but to shed light on the reality that some middle schoolers don’t know how to navigate a library or the world of books in general. They haven’t read enough in their lives and/or their reading experiences have probably to this point been mandated by school curricula. As a result, their identity as readers doesn’t exist at all or has been completely shaped by others. This is partly due to what they’ve been told “counts” when it comes to reading.

Lowriders in Space_FC_HiResOne boy told me he liked cars, but the library had no books on cars. Hmm, really? When I showed him the nonfiction area filled with books about cars, he said, “But these aren’t stories.” And then, I got it. He didn’t think nonfiction counted. Maybe he has been told this, or maybe he’s been encouraged to read fiction more often. I don’t know, but his desire to read nonfiction about cars was derailed somewhere along the way. Happy ending: he checked out two nonfiction books that day and the librarian ordered Lowriders in Space. So cool (the book and our librarian). And yes, I assured him, graphic novels count, too.

Here are things my students have said:

I like audio books, but that’s cheating.

But, it’s a graphic novel.

But it’s nonfiction.

It’s too short. My teacher said it has to be at least 200 pages.

I don’t like this book, but my teacher said I have to finish it.

These comments pain me.

Because if we say audio books don’t count, then aren’t we negating the tradition of oral storytelling?

If we say graphic novels don’t count, then aren’t we negating the entire field of the visual arts?

If we say something is too short, aren’t we invalidating the short story, the novella, poetry, books in verse, non-fiction articles, or picture books?

If we tell someone to finish an independent reading book he dislikes, then isn’t it no longer independent reading? We’ve taken away his ability to choose what he wants to read and drop what he doesn’t like.

So, we’re sometimes telling readers that their choices don’t count, they aren’t good enough, and this, then, is coupled with the reader’s feelings that reading is boring, hard, and not worthy of his or her time.

So what does that leave us? Classes like mine with students who have had limited, difficult reading experiences.

But, don’t worry, this story has a happy ending.

After 15 years of teaching, but especially after the last five as a reading specialist, I have learned that the reader’s experience is diverse, and therefore, we must learn to accept diverse reading experiences.

What I mean is that I think we’re willing to accept that a reader’s experience is diverse based on personal history, background knowledge, interest, and skill, but we don’t often accept diverse reading experiences, especially with younger people.

Two young children lying on the grass outdoors wearing headphones reading togetherFor example, I’m never told by anyone not to listen to audiobooks, so why should I tell a student it’s cheating?

Ninth graders often read Of Mice and Men, which is 103 pages, but we tell a middle school student she can’t read a book less than 200 pages. Why?

And believe me, I am well versed on the Common Core State Standards and well aware of how competitive schools and the workplace have become. I know the statistics that tell us if a child is not reading on grade level by the third grade, he may never read on grade level without the proper intervention. I understand the push for rigor and the expectation that all people read certain books in high school and college.

At the same time, though, what most studies tell us is that the number one thing that affects a person’s lifelong reading skills is independent reading–self-selected reading that supplements, complements, or challenges in-class reading.

And when people read independently, they should be protected by the Reader’s Bill of Rights.

So, if we want all children to develop an independent reading habit, we have to allow them to truly self-select reading material and we have to be okay with their choices. If they want to read a graphic novel or comic book, fine. If they want to listen to an audio book, awesome. If they want to read an 85 page book, go for it.

Chances are if they do these things, and feel successful, they just might do it again and again and again. And then maybe they’ll start reading longer and more complex things, and they won’t see reading as hard or boring or not worth their time. Maybe then they will be able to navigate the library and decide on a favorite genre or author. Maybe as they get older, they will graduate from high school, reducing the dropout rate even more. Maybe more will earn four-year degrees. And maybe they will then read to their children, who will become avid readers, too. And a simple thing adults can do now to help this along is not to say, “That’s too short, too easy, or doesn’t count.” Instead, support young readers’ diverse choices and allow them to develop their own reading experiences.

Help Me With A Title

I received my editorial letter recently and have been planning my revisions. Since today was the last full day of classes, my mind is shifting from teacher mode to full-time writing mode. The new scenes are playing out in my head, and I’m itching to get them on paper. One thing that will change is the title.

The working title has been RESURRECTING EMILY. The reasons? you ask.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Well, I have a thing for Emily Dickinson (I love her), and she has a strong influence throughout the story. In some ways, I want to help “bring her back” to the forefront with young readers (most of my students know nothing about her). Also, the two main characters are named Emily, although one always goes by her middle name, Elizabeth. One of the Emilys attempts suicide. Which one? you ask. Well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

The title, however, has an obvious religious reference and my novel is not about traditional faith. So, I need a new title, preferably a first line or other phrase from a Dickinson poem since her work is featured in the book. I have some possibilities, and I would love for you to chime in and vote. I’d like to send my editor the best ones.

I was able to shorten the list with the help of my family. If you know them, this exchange will not surprise you. If you don’t, then welcome to my world. (All in good fun here. We’re a tight crew.)

Me: How about A CLEAVING IN THE MIND?

Sister: Cleaving sounds like cleavage and it’s on teens’ minds. No.

Me: How about A PAIN SO UTTER?

Sister: It makes me think of cows. No.

Me: How about A FUNERAL IN MY BRAIN.

Brother: Geez, what kind of book are you writing?

Me: You’d know if you bothered to read an early draft.

Brother: I thought it was about high school.

Me: It is, but it’s not a romantic comedy. It’s about more serious issues in high school–teen depression and attempted suicide.

Brother: I missed that part in high school.

Sister: They covered that in health class when you were skipping.

Mom: How about WHEN PAIN HURTS?

Me: It’s not from a Dickinson poem. And, when doesn’t pain hurt?

Brother: Well, I guess if you’re into that kind of thing.

We all look at my sister-in-law.

Sister-in-law: Don’t look at me.

Brother: Call it FIFTY SHADES OF HIGH SCHOOL!

Me: Why do I bother?

Dad: Come on, guys, when you write a book, it’s like your baby. You put a piece of yourself out there. This is serious.

Everyone is laughing too hard to hear him.

Sigh.

Anywho…..please help me. Here are the ones that survived the family get-together. Trust me–they all “fit” the story. Comment here, on my Facebook Page, or on Twitter. If you could rank them in the order you like them (first being the best), that would be awesome!! Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!

WHEN REASON BREAKS

HOW NOTELESS I COULD DIE

MY LETTER TO THE WORLD

STOPPING FOR DEATH

I STOPPED FOR DEATH

2013 Youth Media Awards

Earlier today, the American Library Association announced the winners of the 2013 Youth Media Awards, which is–as one person on Twitter put it–the Oscars for book nerds. Book lovers live-Tweeted the results, thank goodness, because some of us could not get the ALA web site to load or the live streaming to work. Ugh!

As the winners were announced an enthusiastic round of applause was deserved by “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz for winning two awards and being named an honor book in a third category.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Sáenz, who has written picture books, YA novels, adult novels, and poetry, is the author of “Last Night I Sang to the Monster,” and “Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood.” On Monday, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” was an Honor Book for the Michael L. Printz Award and won both the Pura Belpré and Stonewall Book Awards.

 

Congratulations to all of the winners! Many of these titles will definitely be added to my “to be read” pile. Below are some of the award winners. For the complete list, click here.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. Honor Books were: “Splendors and Glooms” by Laura Amy Schlitz; “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin; and “Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children“This Is Not My Hat,” illustrated and written by Jon Klassen. Honor Books were: “Creepy Carrots!” illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds; “Extra Yarn,” illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett; “Green,” illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; “One Cool Friend,” illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo; “Sleep Like a Tiger,” illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults“Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America” by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Honor Books were: “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis; “No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award: “I, Too, Am America,” illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Langston Hughes. Honor Books were: “H. O. R. S. E.,” illustrated and written by Christopher Myers; “Ellen’s Broom,” illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons; and “I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr.” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults“In Darkness” by Nick Lake. Honor Books were: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein; “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett; “The White Bicycle” by Beverley Brenna.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience“Back to Front and Upside Down!” written and illustrated by Claire Alexander (younger children). “A Dog Called Homeless” by Sarah Lean (middle school). “Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am,” by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis (teen).

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States“The Fault in Our Stars,” written by John Green, narrated by Kate Rudd. Honor Audiobooks were: “Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian,” written by Eoin Colfer, narrated by Nathaniel Parker; “Ghost Knight,” written by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Elliot Hill; and “Monstrous Beauty,” written by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience“Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert,” illustrated by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Honor Book: “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano” by Sonia Manzano.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children“Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin. Honor Books were: “Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin,” written and illustrated by Robert Byrd; “Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95” by Phillip M. Hoose; and “Titanic: Voices from the Disaster” by Deborah Hopkinson.

Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Honor Books were: “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier; “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Hannah Moskowitz; “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” by Lesléa Newman; and “Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie” by S. J. Adams.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens: “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman. Finalists: “Wonder Show” by Hannah Barnaby; “Love and Other Perishable Items” by Laura Buzo; “After the Snow” by S. D. Crockett; and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by emily m. danforth.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon”  by Steve Sheinkin Finalists: “Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different” by Karen Blumenthal; “Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95” by Phillip Hoose; “Titanic: Voices from the Disaster” by Deborah Hopkinson; and “We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March” by Cynthia Levinson.

HAPPY READING!!

My Second Blogversary

Two years ago, I started this blog with a draft of my first novel underway and a hope that it will someday be published. I wanted to get my name “out there” and wasn’t quite sure who would read this, but I started anyway.

Two years later, this space is still a work in progress, but I have figured out the types of posts I like to do and will continue to do those. For example, I made a commitment to read more novels by and about Latinos and spotlight those titles. Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., and I think it’s important to highlight work by Hispanics for readers of all backgrounds. I have also written about my students, who are reluctant readers, and the books they love. Everyone hears about award-winners, but I’ve discovered lots of other great books because my students said, “This was good.” And trust me, when a teen who never reads says that, I pay attention. I’m happy to highlight those books.

I write about what I do daily: read, write, and teach. Because teaching is my full-time paying gig, I haven’t kept a strict schedule with the blog. Some people religiously post on certain days. I admire that, but I’m not there yet. I want to be more consistent, but probably once a week is the best I can do given my schedule.

Other things that have happened since I started this blog:

I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a local critique group.

I attended the New York SCBWI conference and met lots of great people.

I revised my first novel and wrote a second one.

I wrote a guest post for Latina Book Club.

I was part of a blog tour for A THUNDEROUS WHISPER by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

People in 40 countries have checked me out. A big wave to that person in Kenya, the reader in the Philippines, and those seven people in Armenia. How cool is that?

Two years later, my third novel is in the planning stage. I still have the hope that my first novel will be published, but I feel like I’m closer to that becoming a reality. I’ll be attending the New York SCBWI conference again, and this time, I will actually know people! I look forward to this year and will continue to do the things I love–read, write, and teach–and blog about them.

More Diversity Needed in Children’s Literature

Last week, the New York Times published an article about the fact that Latino students don’t often see themselves in books. This sparked lots of discussion, with a few responses printed days later. Then, earlier today, NBC News reported that according to Census data white people will no longer be the majority in the U.S. by 2043.

Times they are a-changing. This is not “news” in the sense that these projections have been made before, but these facts about our country’s changing population have been getting more attention because of the large number of non-white voters who participated in the presidential election. Let’s focus on the reading issue…

When it comes to reading, there are some near-certainties. Children who are read to from birth to age 3 enter preschool with an advantage. Children who attend organized preschool have an advantage. By kindergarten, the literacy gap–even though students cannot yet read themselves–already exists. If a child is not reading on grade level by the third grade, he or she could lag in school forever. Yes, forever. I teach reading in high school, so obviously I believe it’s never too late to improve one’s reading skills. Still, while my students make gains, other students are–you guessed it–making gains, too.

With our changing population, parents, teachers, writers, and the publishing industry have a lot to consider. Parents need to read to their children every day. All subject teachers must see themselves as reading teachers and must make conscious choices in terms of reading material. And, ultimately, I hope more books by and about Latinos are published.

I believe that a child should read widely, not just about one’s own race or culture, but I also think it’s important that a child “see” himself (whether it’s because of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other personal experiences) in a book. Why? Because we live in a diverse society, and our diversity should be represented in the books we read.

Since the recent news was about Latinos, I’m going to focus on that piece. To read book after book with only white characters is simply unrealistic when, in 30 years, the majority of Americans will be non-white. With the growth of the Hispanic community, how strange would it be for children to grow up reading books that do not have Hispanic protagonists or supporting characters? How strange would it be to hardly ever read a novel written by a Latino/a? More books by and about Hispanics would be a great thing.

I also think people need to be more aware of and support current Hispanic writers. There are lots of great MG and YA books out there already! Check out this mega list. Other great places to check out are the Latina Book Club, the Hispanic Reader, and Vamos a Leer.

Anthologies often include stories from a few of the greats–Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, and Gary Soto, to name a few. They are amazing writers, all among my favorites, but teachers and librarians need to venture beyond these go-to authors and give props to other Hispanic writers by using their books in class or offering them to students regularly as independent reading options. My school did this exact thing recently.

Matt de la Peña visits Hall High School in West Hartford, CT, on Dec. 7.

Matt de la Peña visits Hall High School in West Hartford, CT, on Dec. 7.

Matt de la Peña came to my high school on Dec. 7. He talked to all 9th graders (not just Latinos) in the auditorium and then ran smaller sessions that were mixed in terms of grade (9-12) and race. In preparation for his visit, the school library ordered multiple copies of his novels: BALL DON’T LIE, MEXICAN WHITEBOY, WE WERE HERE, and I WILL SAVE YOU. Our students’ comments during and after his visit proved that Matt appealed to ALL of our students.

Comments from my Latino students were interesting, though. More than one asked me if he was rich. I said he has two college degrees and four published YA novels, with a fifth on the way. One was made into a movie. Is he rich? I don’t know, but he is successful, in my opinion. Another boy, who sat through both of the small sessions and talked to Matt afterward lost the book that was signed for him. He thinks someone stole it. I found him one day roaming the halls after school looking for it. The next day he said, “It’s weird, but I kind of miss him. He was cool.”

I know my students well enough to know that they saw themselves in Matt: a young Mexican-American who was a reluctant reader and the first in his family to go to college. They saw themselves in his characters and then met the author and made a connection.

It was an experience they won’t soon forget, and one that proves it is important for Latinos to see themselves in the books they read and names like theirs on the spines.

A Thunderous Whisper Blog Tour and Q&A with author Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Today’s spotlight is on: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, author of THE RED UMBRELLA and the recently released A THUNDEROUS WHISPER. I’m excited to say that I’m part of the novel’s blog tour! Christina Diaz Gonzalez was also kind enough to answer a few questions below about her new book and her writing process, among other things. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes directly from the author’s website at www.christinagonzalez.com)

A daughter of Cuban parents, Christina Diaz Gonzalez studied accounting at the University of Miami and law at Florida State University College of Law. After practicing law for several years, she realized her passion was writing. She is the author of the award-winning and best-selling children’s novel, THE RED UMBRELLA. Ms. Gonzalez’s debut novel (the story of a 14-year-old Cuban girl who is sent to the U.S. in 1961 as part of Operation Pedro Pan) showcases the generosity of the American spirit and highlights the pain of losing one’s homeland. Reviewers from publications such as The Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal have praised the book as being exceptional, compelling and inspirational. Her second novel, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER, was just released.

MG/YA NOVEL: A THUNDEROUS WHISPER

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKETAni is just an insignificant whisper of a girl in a loud world. At least that’s what her mother tells her. Her father made her feel important, but he’s off fighting in Spain’s Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading.

Then Ani meets Mathias. His family recently moved to Guernica, and he’s as far from a whisper as a boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is like lightning. And his father is part of a spy network. Soon Ani finds herself helping Mathias deliver messages to other family members of the underground resistance. For the first time, she’s actually making a difference in the world.

But then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is bombed by Nazi airplanes. In one afternoon, Ani loses everything. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.

Q&A with the author:

Q:  In teacher training, I learned “you can’t cover everything” in a novel. I’d have to let the novel reveal the few most important things that should be explored in-depth in class. Pretend you are a teacher about to start A THUNDEROUS WHISPER with her class. What are the few important things you would be compelled to explore?

Gonzalez: As a teacher, I would love to have the class compare and contrast the characters of Ani and Mathias. See how each character evolves and discuss what experiences (prior to meeting each other) could have led them to be similar and/or different? Finally, at the end of the novel, I’d like students to think about themselves and whether they see themselves more like Ani (thunder) or Mathias (lightning).

Q: As a writer, I’m always interested to hear about how other writers attack a project. Can you talk about your process? Do you do the bulk of your research first, or do you draft and research at the same time? How long does a novel take you, usually, from start to finish? Favorite writing spots or rituals? Anything you would like to share.

Gonzalez: I do the bulk of my research at the beginning and then return to the research process only to add extra layers or to clear up questions that have been raised during the writing process.  I love to write at a local Starbucks with another author friend of mine  (it’s like having a gym partner because even when you feel like playing hookie, you still have to show up because someone is waiting for you — it’s great for keeping you on track). While at Starbucks, I have my favorite writing chair and I’m always ordering a hot chocolate– even in the middle of summer!

Q: You have written two historical novels. Do you think you will continue in this genre, or do you plan to try other areas, such as contemporary?

Gonzalez: I definitely plan on writing some contemporary and possibly some science fiction/fantasy.

Q: Along the same lines, you have written about historical moments in Cuba and Spain. There has been a lot of commentary about diversity in MG and YA literature (the lack of, the need for). Do you think you will continue to write about Latin issues? If so, why is this important to you?

Gonzalez: I write about stories/characters that capture my imagination … regardless of what race or ethnicity is involved.  However, I definitely see a need for diversity in MG/YA fiction and would love to continue to write about strong Latin characters. Children of all races/ethnicities should be able to see characters like themselves in the stories they read!

MY TWO CENTS: Often, I’ll read historical fiction with some knowledge of the era or event, but in this case, I didn’t know anything about the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and what happened to the thousands of orphaned children after the attack. How wonderful to have learned some history while reading about Ani and Mathias, two easily likable characters who are loners for different reasons. Mathias’s family often moves, and Ani is teased for being the sardine seller’s daughter. They become fast friends who share joyous moments and unbelievable heartache. One criticism I have is about Ani’s response to her mother’s abuse. Her character wasn’t one to fight back, and the story wasn’t about abuse, but I felt her overall reaction was too tame and matter-of-fact. Overall, though, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER is an easy, interesting read that could easily fit into middle school history or language arts classrooms.

TEACHING TIPSGonzalez offers some teaching tips in the Q&A above. In addition, the novel is a good fit for a history-language arts interdisciplinary unit about Spain and the early days of World War II. Mathias plans to return to Germany, and he mentions the anti-Jewish laws already in place. If students were to study WWII after reading this novel, the teacher could always have them predict what would be happening to Mathias. The character development of both Ani and Mathias are worth pursuing, as well as the themes of the cost of war, starting over, and finding one’s purpose.

LEXILE: Not available

LINKS for more information:

Find A THUNDEROUS WHISPER on Amazon.comBarnes and Noble.comIndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: The Big Book List

National Hispanic Heritage Month ended earlier this week, but it’s always a good time to read a novel by a Latino/a author!

Here’s a list of authors and titles. Most are YA, although there are some MG titles, too. I’m sure it’s not complete, so if I have missed anyone, please let me know. I will add them to the list and to my personal to-be-read list. Enjoy and Happy Reading!

Malín AlegríaEstrella’s Quinceñera, Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico

Isabel AllendeCity of Beasts series

Julia AlvarezBefore We Were Free, Return to Sender, Finding Miracles

Rudolfo Anaya: Bless Me, Ultima

Diane Gonzalez Bertrand: Trino’s Choice

Eduardo F. CalcinesLeaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle Under Castro

Viola CanalesThe Tequila Worm

Jennifer CervantesTortilla Sun

Veronica ChambersMama’s Girl, Plus, Marisol and Magdalena, Quinceñera Means Sweet 15

Mayra Lazara DoleDown to the Bone

e.E. Charlton-TrujilloPrizefighter en Mi Casa, Feels Like Home

Sandra CisnerosThe House on Mango Street

Judith Ortiz CoferAn Island Like You, Stories of the Barrio, Call Me María, If I Could Fly

Zoraida Cordova: The Vicious Deep, The Savage Blue (coming 2013)

Maria Colleen CruzBorder Crossing

Lulu DelacreGolden Tales, Salsa Stories, Shake it Morena!

Matt de la PeñaI Will Save You, We Were Here, Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican Whiteboy

Margarita EngleThe Firefly Letters, Hurricane Dancers, The Poet Slave of Cuba, The Surrender Tree, Tropical Secrets, The Wild Book

Caridad FerrerWhen the Stars Go Blue, Adiós to My Old Life, It’s Not About the Accent

Kim FloresGamma Glamma

Enrique Flores-Galbis: 90 Miles to Havana

Jack GantosJoey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Joey Pigza Loses Control, Hole in My Life, Dead End in Norvelt

Cristina GarciaI Wanna Be Your Shoebox, Dreams of Significant Girls

Guadalupe Garcia-McCallUnder the Mesquite

Iris GomezTry to Remember

Christina Diaz Gonzalez: The Red Umbrella, A Thunderous Whisper

Stephanie Guerra: Torn

David HernandezSuckerpunch, No More Us for You

Juan Felipe HerreraCrashBoomLove, Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box, SkateFate

Oscar Hijuelos: Dark Dude

Francisco JimenezThe Circuit, Reaching Out, Breaking Through

Ofelia Dumas LachtmanThe Trouble with Tessa, Leticia’s Secret, The Truth About Las Mariposas

Diana LópezConfetti Girl, Choke

Lorraine LopezCall Me Henri

Torrey MaldonadoSecret Saturdays

Agnes MartinezPoe Park

Claudia Guadalupe MartinezThe Smell of Old Lady Perfume

Manuel Luis Martínez: Drift

Meg MedinaThe Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, Milagros

Nico MedinaStraight Road to Kylie, Fat Hoochie Prom Queen

Marisa MontesA Circle of Time

Yxta Maya MurrayWhat it Takes to Get to Vegas, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Kidnapped

Nancy Osa: Cuba 15

Ashley Hope PerezWhat Can’t Wait, The Knife and the Butterfly

David Pérez: Wow!

Elena Perez: The Art of Disappearing

Sofia QuinteroEfrain’s Secret

Bettina RestrepoIllegal

Carmen RodriguesNot Anything

Pam Muñoz RyanEsperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon, The Dreamer, Riding Freedom, Paint the Wind

Benjamin Alire SáenzLast Night I Sang to the Monster, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

René Saldaña Jr.: The Jumping Tree, The Whole Sky Full of Stars, Finding Our Way, A Good Long Way

Alex SanchezBoyfriends with Girlfriends, The God Box, Bait, Rainbow High, Rainbow Road, Rainbow Boys, So Hard to Say, Getting It

Jenny Torres Sanchez: The Downside of Being Charlie, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia

Michele SerrosHoney Blonde Chica, Scandalosa!

Gary SotoBuried Onions, The Afterlife, Accidental Love, Baseball in April etc.

Francisco X. Stork: Marcelo in the Real World, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, Irises, Behind the Eyes, The Way of the Jaguar

Gaby TrianaRiding the Universe, Backstage Pass, The Temptress Four, Cubanita

Alisa ValdesHaters, The Temptation: A Kindred Novel

Diana Rodriguez Wallach: Amor and Summer Secrets, Adios to All the Drama, Amigas and School Scandals

Lila Quintero WeaverDarkroom: A Memoir in Black and White

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