Tag Archives: YA literature

When Reason Breaks: The Official Book Trailer

The production of this book trailer was a family affair, which made it super fun. My sister, Saryna, let me use her home as our meeting place and production studio. She helped me to search for copyright-free photos and videos to match the novel. My niece, Alyna, is the first voice you’ll hear. She needed exactly two takes–what a pro! I can’t say the same for the rest of us. Attempts to narrate the rest of the video often ended with us laughing hysterically. We had so many takes that my daughter and younger nephew memorized it just from hearing us saying it over and over. And then there’s my genius nephew, Dean Jones, who probably should have been named Steve because he’s like the latest version of Steve Jobs & Steven Spielberg; plus, he’s a great DJ! He put the whole thing together on some fancy computer software. So, THANK YOU!!!! to my awesome family for helping me through this process. Here is the latest result: the official book trailer for my debut novel. For the best viewing, click on the settings icon and change it to 1080 HD. Enjoy and please share it with the readers in your life! Thanks!

 

Fellow Fifteener: Moriah McStay–Everything That Makes You

21795576As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Moriah McStay’s young adult novel, Everything That Makes You  (3/17/2015; Katherine Tegen Books). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.

And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?

Hasn’t everyone wondered what if? In this daring debut novel, Moriah McStay gives us the rare opportunity to see what might have happened if things were different. Maybe luck determines our paths. But maybe it’s who we are that determines our luck.

What I liked about it: I was entirely impressed by Moriah McStay and the crazy skills she must have to write this full dual narrative. The two stories of Fiona/Fi hinge on a question we have probably all asked more than once in our lives: “What if _____?” McStay explores this idea by creating two lives of the same person. In one, Fiona’s face is scarred from a childhood accident, and she wants desperately not to be defined by or pitied because of her scars. In the other life, Fi’s face is flawless and she seems to have everything going for her, but….I won’t spoil anything because I’m not that kind of reader. But here are a couple of things I loved about McStay’s novel. I love how certain people crossed paths with Fiona/Fi in both lives, suggesting there are certain things that are meant to happen, yet the element of free will isn’t ignored and most definitely alters the details. Also, I love the point that no matter what, every life has joys and tragedies. A flawless face doesn’t mean a perfect life. No matter which road Fiona/Fi is on, she (and we all) will face certain challenges.

About the author: Moriah McStay grew up in Memphis, TN, where she acquired a come-and-go drawl and a lifelong love of cowboy boots and fried pickles. She attended Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Two graduate degrees and seven jobs later, she finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.

My New Facebook Page!

Earlier this week, I found out that my debut novel, RESURRECTING EMILY, will be on Walker’s Fall 2014 list, if all goes according to plan. This may seem like a long time from now, but it really isn’t. So, I’m now panicking…I mean, preparing…and trying to get my name and face on as many social media sites I think I can handle (which isn’t many. Pinterest is so tempting, but I can’t! Not yet!)

So…this is a quick post to let people know that I now have a Facebook Page that can be liked. I added an icon thingie on the sidebar of this blog, and I’ve programmed it so that whatever I post here will go to my FB page and my Twitter account. (Let’s see if all of this actually works.)

My hope is that my original FB account will be more personal and the page will be all things book-related. I’m sure there will be some cross-pollination, but in general, I want to post pictures of my daughter, dog , etc. on my personal account, not the public FB page. (Although Rusty is an attention monger and would love his furry mug posted everywhere.)

See, there he goes again! But, isn't he cute?

See, there he goes again! But, isn’t he cute?

So, go ahead and “like” me if you want ongoing book news. The page is bare-bones right now, but I promise to post all sorts of scandalous stuff there soon (not really).

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Jenny Torres Sanchez

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book ClubVamos a Leer, and The Hispanic Reader.

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Jenny Torres Sanchez. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes directly from the author’s website and her author page on Amazon.com.)

Before writing her debut novel, THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE, Jenny Torres Sanchez studied English at the University of Central Florida and taught high school for several years in the Orange County school system. Her students were some of the coolest, funniest, strangest, and most eclectic people she’s ever met. She’s grateful to have taught every single one of them and credits them for inspiring her to write YA. Jenny also writes short stories–many of which rooted in her Hispanic culture. She currently writes full-time and lives in Florida with her husband and children.

In addition to writing, she likes to paint, take pictures, and listen to music. Her taste ranges from The Smiths to Violent Femmes, to the Beastie Boys, to Lila Downs, to a band called Los Tigres del Norte.

YA NOVEL: THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared–again–and his dad won’t talk about it.

Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to  hold his head above water in the meantime?

MY TWO CENTS: Charlie is a high school senior who is returning to school after having shed thirty pounds but few of his social insecurities. He has a hip best friend, a crush on the hot new girl (who is not good enough for him, in my opinion), a mom who is mentally unstable,  a distant dad who is having an affair, and a caring photography teacher who helps Charlie develop his talent and find something good about himself. He also has an eating disorder. He binges and purges in an effort to feel better during highly emotional moments. There’s a lot going on in the novel, but Sanchez does a good job of blending the issues and capturing a struggling male teen’s voice. If anything, I wanted more of the bulimia issue. It’s rare to see a male MC in a YA novel with an eating disorder; it’s worth exploring even more.

TEACHING TIPS: English teachers could obviously pursue themes, characterization, and external and internal conflicts, but this novel also has great cross-curricular potential. An art teacher wouldn’t have to read the entire novel with a class, but could pull out and explore the chapters that deal with Charlie’s photography and how it helps him to address what’s going on in his life. Students could create a similar photography project. Also, health teachers could use parts of the novel to address eating disorders, bulimia in this case. Mixing non-fiction with fiction is a good way to engage students in such topics and fits right into the Common Core State Standards.

LEXILE: N/A

LINKS for more information: Find THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE on Amazon.comBarnes and Noble.comIndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

Jenny Torres Sanchez also has a new novel being released soon, on May 28, 2013, called DEATH, DICKINSON, AND THE DEMENTED LIFE OF FRENCHIE GARCIA. I’ll be sure to check this one out!

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia

The Calm Before What Comes Next

So, it’s been almost a month since my novel RESURRECTING EMILY was bought by Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury/Walker, and I have been……exhausted. Weird, right? I mean, I screamed and danced and told just about everyone I spoke to, and then I was like, Whew! (wipes brow), and I’ve been  napping a lot since. I like to think I’m recharging during this calm before what comes next.

When I think about it, I tend to work this way. I push  myself for an extended time, and then when a goal is reached, I crash. I remember once coming home from college after finals and a year as managing editor of The Daily Campus. I fell into a dead sleep for so long that my mom came in and put her finger under my nose to check if I was still breathing.

Now, I work full-time as a teacher, I’m raising a 6-year-old daughter and caring for a 15-year-old mutt, I’m writing and attending my monthly critique group, and I’m doing a mediocre job with Weight Watchers (stuck at 11 pounds). So, yeah, I’ve got a lot going on, and I’m generally sleep-deprived.

On top of all this was the brewing book deal. When emails were being exchanged about the acquisitions process, I thought I was cool, but I was so not cool. I was freaking out inside. So when the deal was done and the excitement was released, I settled into this post-news calm and have allowed myself some time to crash, just like I did each summer after college.

After spending a significant amount of time on a project that required loads of emotional and intellectual energy, I’ve cleared a major hurdle. But the race isn’t over–not even close.

I’ve reached a personal goal, but there’s lots of hard work ahead of me. My editor said I will probably receive her revision notes by the end of April, so soon enough, I will dive back into this project and dig deep to make it even better.

In the meantime, I’m going to allow myself a little mental break. I’m going to enjoy the glorious weather (finally) and push my daughter on the swings. I’m going to spend time with family and friends, and I’m going to nap every chance I get. I’m going to recharge my batteries so that I’m ready for the next leg of the race.

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.

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