Showing posts from July, 2009

Teens Between Cultures 2009 Writing Contests

POETRY WinnersPROSE Winners
CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who entered, and to the winners!

Special thanks to twitter buddies Ellen Hopkins and E. Kristin Anderson,
who helped me get unstuck in judging the poetry.

Children of War in the Congo

I'm launching a new series on the Fire Escape about children growing up with war, hoping to showcase books that inform, illuminate, and inspire us to get involved.

We start with the Congo. Listen to Bahati's story in the video, remembering that he's fourteen.

I couldn't find any children's or YA fiction set in the country (apart from the controversial TINTIN IN THE CONGO), perhaps because of the extent of brutality and terror experienced by Congolese children. My recommendation is a recent non-fiction book, ALL THINGS MUST FIGHT TO LIVE (Bloomsbury, May 2009), by Bryan Mealer. PW said, "Mealer’s book is a quiet paean to the courage he has witnessed, and its final salute to 'the many proud people of Congo' is as much eulogy as affirmation."

If you know of any books for kids or teens set in the Congo, please let me know. Otherwise, please write one.

Meet Neesha Meminger and Sheba Karim!

An Evening with Young Adult Authors
Neesha Meminger and Sheba KarimWednesday, July 29th, 7pmBooks and films for young adults have exploded onto the scene recently with the success of the Twilight series, Gossip Girl, Harry Potter, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. How do teens of color fare amidst this explosion? What is it like to try to publish works with multicultural characters or characters of color in an industry clamoring for the next Twilight?Join SAWCC for a reading and discussion with young adult novelists Neesha Meminger (author of Shine, Coconut Moon) and Sheba Karim (author of Skunk Girl). Meminger and Karim deal with issues ranging from the Sikh experience post 9/11 and single parenthood to body image and Muslim American identity, while providing cohesive narratives of South Asian American adolescences and their growing pains. They'll read from their new novels and discuss their different paths to publication and writing for a teen audience…

YA Books, Xenophobia, and Global Poverty

It was a typical suburban corner bake sale fundraiser on a sunny summer afternoon, so I stopped to do my part.

"We're heading to India in 2010 to work at an orphanage," a cheerful high-schooler said as she handed me a packet of brownies.

Just the kind of girl who might read my books, I thought. "I actually wrote a novel about that," I said, forking over the cash. "It's called Monsoon Summer."

She took a step back. "No way. No way."

"I did. It's set in Indian orphanage."

"I read that book four times," she told me. "It's the whole reason I'm going on this trip."

Now that's why I write for young people. As I've said before, it's a window in life's journey when hearts are wide open.

Which books released in the last couple of years set in contemporary times can inspire teens to battle global poverty and xenophobia? Here's what I've gleaned from a quick look at the lists at YALSA's…

Take Me Away, Fiction

If you can't afford a lavish vacation this summer, here are some books that make you forget where you are by creating a great sense of place.

I haven't read all of these, so don't quote me as your travel agent -- they came in response to my call for YA/Kid novels that turn us into armchair travelers with their mastery of setting. Feel free to suggest other titles/authors/places in the comments, and let us know if they're historical, fantasy, or contemporary fiction.

I'm going on a holiday myself and will be back on the Fire Escape 7/28, so in the meantime, leave your suggestions in the comments or send them to and I'll add them when I get back.

Real Places
FUNNY HOW THINGS CHANGE / Melissa Wyatt / rural West VirginiaBECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE / Kate DeCamillo / rural FloridaWHAT HAPPENED HERE / Tara Altebrando / Las Vegas and EuropeHEART OF A SHEPHERD / Rosanne Parry / rural Eastern OregonBLOOMABILITY / Sharon Creech / Switzerland
Real Places Long A…

Book Covers and Race: WHY?

Think the cover girl of Justine Larbalestier's forthcoming YA thriller LIAR (Bloomsbury / October 2009) looks black? Because the novel features an African American protagonist.

Compare the North American (above) with the Australian (below) packaging of this book.

Some of you remember Straight Talk on Race, my article in School Library Journal's April 2009 issue where I cited examples to illustrate the problem with cover art. I might have to add this one to the list, and once again ask, "Why, Bloomsbury? Why?"

(hat tip: Bargain Librarian)

YA Novels that Create a Sense of Place

The best authors turn us into armchair travelers, whether in this world or into other ones. John Green took us to Orlando in PAPER TOWNS. Sarah Dessen makes me feel like I know the suburbs of North Carolina. Whichy YA novels have you read recently that took you to another place. Leave your answer in the comments to this post and I'll compile a list.

How To Launch a Book Online

Curious about how to throw a virtual book launch party? Stop by Grace Lin's launch of her enchanting new fantasy WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON (Little Brown). We're enjoying goodies, contests, giveaways, and the eternal hope of cupcakes.

Find out more about this lovely novel, which I want to read aloud to every upper elementary kid on the planet. Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist all starred it, and Booklist said, "Children will embrace this accessible, timeless story about the evil of greed and the joy of gratitude."

Happy Book Birthday, Grace!