Friday, November 16, 2012

glimmer haiku

leaves in the pool

in a skin of thin ice
caught in muddy path puddles
autumn's gold glimmers

Andromeda Jazmon

Sometimes when you think all hope is lost the tiniest smile or twinkle in a friend's eye catches your heart. And everything changes. I am hoping you find some glimmer this November weekend, friends. The Friday Poetry round up is hosted by Anastasia at Booktalking. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Tua and the Elephant

by Chiang Mai, Thailand. While her mother works nights at a restaurant Tua visits all her friends and relations at the night market, sampling sweet treats and helping her favorite vendors with a few chores. It's a village were adventure waits around the corner, and sure enough Tua finds delight and opportunity when she meets a wise eyed elephant begging for friendship and rescue. Phon Phon, the elephant, has been captured by cruelly abusive mahouts intent on milking tourists. In a dashing escape and hair-raising chase through the countryside to the refuge at the Buddhist temple they are aided by an opera singer, ragtag children, barking dogs and a buffalo herding boy all of whom add to a rollicking good story. I can't wait to read this book to a circle of bright-eyed children! The only thing I could suggest that would add to the pleasure of reading this aloud would be a glossary and pronunciation guide for the Thai words sprinkled through out. I would also appreciate few recipes for tasty treats like banana roti with chocolate sauce and condensed milk, rice curries with noodles, sticky rice with mango, green papaya salad with shredded carrots, tamarind ice cream, and crispy banana fritters... all described fragrantly in the course of the story. Yes, this book will make you drool. It's on the Middle Grade Fiction list nominated for a Cybil award this year. You can read the Kirkus review here and get a preview of the first couple chapters at the publisher's site here.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Melancholy Haiku for Autumn

porch edge

three rakes; one in use
on the tide of fallen leaves
another leaf falls

-Andromeda Jazmon

Here's another of my autumn sadness haiku/haiga. Traditional haiku always have a season word and those classic words evoke a typical feeling in the reader; with autumn it is often loneliness, sadness, melancholy. I am not finding it hard to dig that this year, since I am missing some of my favorite people. Our household is a little light this fall. I have three rakes because raking is a huge job all through November. But only one rake has been in heavy use. *sigh* It is looking like a good, clear, sunny weekend perfect for yard work so I really can't complain.

The Friday Poetry roundup is hosted by Ed at Think Kid, Think! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Race and Point of View in Children's Books

I've been reading a lot of middle grade chapter books in the past couple months, and I am noticing a broad range of perspectives in the main character's point of view. I think that's a great trend that I always wished for when I was younger. Of course when I was a girl I loved reading the books about girls like me, and I was devoted to Wilder's Little House... books, but I also really longed to hear the stories from people who didn't look like me.

 I wanted more of Sing Down the Moon and Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. I searched for more of Mildred Taylor's Gold Cadillac and Virginia Hamilton's M. C. Higgins, the Great. A world-opening story from another point of view.

There are a number of books published this year for young readers that are set in periods of racial turmoil and change. Some are written from the white character's point of view and focus on the young person's adjustment in understanding as social rules are challenged and institutions change.

One of the really well written and well received books like this is The Lions of Little Rock by Kristen Levine. Marlee is a 12 year old white girl living in Little Rock, AK a year after the forced integration of the schools by the famous "Little Rock Nine" African American students. She makes friends with a light skinned girl who is "passing" in her Jr. Hi. She gets caught up in the turmoil surrounding the closing of the schools by white parents who believe "race mixing" is akin to communism and the destruction of their society. It is a really good book and I will recommend it to many, for sure. But I am left wondering about how the story would be told if it came from Liz, the light skinned Black girl, or her darker skinned brother, her mom, her boyfriend, the maid that works in Marlee' home...? That's the story I want to hear now, after so many others coming from the white woman's perspective. I am thinking of The Help by Karen Stockett, or Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood.

Not that they are not good books; I read them and enjoyed them and will pass them on. But it's so easy for a white reader to miss the parts left out; the really extraordinary story of what it feels like to experience the Black woman's life. How it plays out when you are a Black teen living through race riots or civil rights demonstrations or desegregation.

Or what it means to be the Black young man caught in a flood or left behind or misjudged. That's a dramatic edge that will draw readers in and widen our view of the world. It's fascinating to read The Whole Story of Half a Girl, where the main character is finding her mixed identity in an America Jewish and Pakistani family, or find out what it's like to be Chinese-American and go visit the grandparents in Taiwan for the summer. How about the story of an African American girl whose family is struggling to survive in a Hobo camp during the depression?

We read in a myopic white world for a long time; it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. I'm really excited about this new crop of books for young people. They are showing a world I never heard about when I was making my way through reading groups and literature courses.

What do you think? What books have you read this year that portrays a point of view that is not white? Who wrote it? What did it do you your perspective and understanding?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday Review: Crow

by Barbara Wright. Random House, 2012. (Library copy). This book was nominated for a Cybils award in the middle grade fiction category. This is a story based on historic events that needs to be told. Moses Thomas is a 12 year old Black boy growing up in Wilmington, NC in 1998. He lives with his parents Mama and Daddy, and Boo Nanny, his beloved grandmother. Boo Nanny was born into slavery and walked off the plantation at emancipation in 1865, with nothing but her 3 year old daughter and a wealth of wisdom. Daddy is a well educated, respected member of the Black middle class and a reporter for the Wilmington Daily Record, a Black owned and operated newspaper. Things get tense as an election approaches and white supremacists are agitating to remove Black leadership from the community. Four of the community's ten aldermen were black and there was a growing middle class. After the riots, where armed militias murdered and chased leading black citizens out of town, segregation took over and American Apartheid began to grow. Wilmington's race riots of 1898 are well documented but little discussed in history books so it may come as a surprise to many that the events in this book are actually based on fact.

In spite of the weighty subject matter the characters are well drawn and fully human. Moses is a normal boy, wanting a bike, a dog, and a best friend. He admires his father and tries to live up to his example. He doesn't understand most of what is brewing in the adult world around him, but offers us his observations and wonder. The story is presented from a young person's point of view and so is appealing to youth who may not have heard of this chapter of our history before. There are moments of joy and playfulness as well as struggle. After the traumatic events surrounding the riots, Moses manages to find a way to go on and seek healing and solice in family, friendship, and the natural world. He has a budding friendship with one of the white boys in town. At the end of the book they begin to forge a partnership in fishing. I particularly like the beauty of this passage:
"I wasn't worried. With the blue sky above and the breeze on my face - warm but not too hot - it was a perfect day. The red shoulders of the blackbirds dotted the marsh grass like cherries. A blue heron took flight, stretching its stilt-like legs awkwardly behind, then tucking them underneath. Above, a circling hawk dove straight down, landing with a splash and coming up with breakfast. All this would change next week, when school ended and I had to find a job. But for this one day, I took in the dizzying joy of complete freedom."
The other thing I really like about this book is the relationship Moses has with his father. Mr. Thomas is a well educated, respected member of the community. He is a man of dignity, integrity and strength of honor that inspires and ignites his son. This is one for my list of Fabulous Fathers in New Middle Grade Fiction for sure!

To find out more on this historic period, see actual photos of historic Wilmington at Wright's website. Read an excerpt from the book. Interviews with Barbara Wright are at School Library Journal,   and Read North Carolina Novels blog and more linked at her website.

Shannon Messenger is doing a round up of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts. Go check it out!


Friday, November 02, 2012

Dawn Revisted; After a Hurricane

 quiet time (rest)

Dawn Revisited

by Rita Dove

Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading
glorious shade. If you don't look back, the rest and listen to it here at Writer's Almanac.

Somehow this gives me a little peace, a little relief to read after the past week of horrors from Hurricane Sandy. I'm hanging this poem up in my library today on my "Friday Poetry" wall.

"...the oak still stands, spreading/ glorious shade." For all the trees down and homes washed away, many still stand. In whatever ways we can, lend a hand and reach out to neighbors in trouble, won't you?

We were fortunate in my family; we are all safe and well. I am hoping for a little sun this weekend to cheer us up while we continue to clean up from the storm.

Enjoy your Friday Poetry, hosted by Donna at Mainely Write.