A Diverse Walk in the Park

The flowers are all in Balboa Park. This is the "Crown Plant" from India—Calotropis gigantea.

The flowers are all in Balboa Park. This is the “Crown Plant” from India—Calotropis gigantea.

Finally, I’m getting to more of the books purchased at the 2014 SCBWI conference. Since I first read them so long ago, I’m currently rereading for the second and, in some cases, third time. Confession: I tend to gobble when I read. So I’m getting the subtler flavors on the second readings. These dishes are like the recipes I try out and decide to save to cook another time.

They also help me learn how to concoct original meals—how to present the appetizer, pair ingredients, gauge cooking time—how to achieve peak flavor.

I need to stop thinking about food now.

Skin I'm InWhen I finished the second reading of The Skin I’m In, my first thoughts (after “great book”), were “Maleeka had to learn to be brave enough to be who she is” and “Isn’t that what we all have to do in life?”

The ingredients: a protagonist who feels too tall, too skinny, too poorly-dressed and too dark-skinned; a classmate who bullies through “friendship”; a sweet early romance; a character we question, friend or foe. Sharon G. Flake’s story becomes a case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

But don’t just take my word for it. The Skin I’m In, published by Jump at the Sun and reissued in 2007, won the John Steptoe Award for New Talent.

I never really liked hibiscus—such showoffs and I didn't like that pink much, but the zoo has hibiscus that deserve to flaunt it.

I never really liked hibiscus—such showoffs and I didn’t like that pink much, but check out the stamen on this one.

Fake IDFake I.D. Stop before you read past the title. What do you think the book will be about? Wasn’t what I expected.

Even though I already knew what the fake i.d. refers to on this second reading, I liked the book as much as I did on the first read. I’m more aware of the strength of the voice. When Nick cranks up his iPod to drown out his parents’ argument, he says he “fell asleep with a rapper shouting at me. At least his yelling had a good beat.”

And thinking about his specific voice helps me understand more of how to approach it as a writer since we so often hear editors and agents say they

Another one to challenge my previous limited ideas about hibiscus

Another one to challenge my previous limited ideas about hibiscus

are looking for a “unique voice.” Nick’s voice is true to his character which isn’t over-the-top flamboyant or regional or any of the things we might think of as a “distinctive” voice. He is real within his point of view.

Fake I.D., written by Lamar Giles and published by Amsted in 2014, is a young adult coming-of-age, murders (plural)-mystery thriller. If you don’t want any violence in your YA reading, be forewarned, but it’s not a horror book.

When you read it, check out the dedication. Sweetest murder mystery dedication I ever read.Kira-Kira

Kira-Kira, the middle grade novel written by Cynthia Kadohata and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in 2004, won the Newbury Award. That should be enough to write.

But I won’t let that stop me.

Katie is a Sansei child born in Iowa in 1951. She adores her older sister, Lynn, who “always said she would teach me everything in the world I needed to know.” When the family has to move to Georgia, together they navigate the prejudice and struggles their family encounters.

A true case of "if you've got it, flaunt it!"

A true case of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it!”

But some things the heart needs to know cannot be taught. They have to be experienced directly. This heartbreaking and heart-mending story is the kind of book I would have treasured as a child and do as an adult.

A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010, intertwines two stories, both set in Southern Sudan. In 2008, eleven-year old Nya spends her day obtaining the family water. I don’t know if this character is an actual individual or a composite based on the reality of daily life for many.A Long Walk to Water

The second story is based on the life of Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys. In 1985, Salva was eleven years old when his teacher told his students to escape gunfire by running into the bush and to not return to his village, which would be a target for soldiers. Silva’s story is gripping and inspiring.

Final thought: The more we celebrate our diversity, the more we find the depth of our common humanity.

While I’m trying to shed more of my possessions, these books are staying to be read again.

One last hibiscus from the zoo. This one is delicate and fading, but still beautiful.

One last hibiscus from the zoo. This one is delicate and fading, but still beautiful.

Closing Comments: Reviewing My Stack of Books from The Yellow Book Road

Closing comments. No, not from me . . .

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road.

The books I bought at the Yellow Book Road.

The last post ended with a stack of books purchased from The Yellow Book Road, the wonderful bookstore closing the end of May.

 

Early Picture Books:

Bear on Own                                                                         The first to catch my eye was Bear On His Own, from the “Let’s Go to the Zoo” Smithsonian Institution series and the Trudy Corporation in 2000. Jessie Cohen took the photos of the spectacled bear cub’s day ending with a sweet mama and cub snuggle.

Hey, we need some board books—you know the ones babies chew.

Itsy Bitsy Spider and Baa Baa, Black Sheep! are board books by Annie Kubler, published by Child’s Play International in 2004. Both have illustrations that include simple sign language for some of the words in the songs. Wonderful introduction for teaching babies signing (. . . and singing).BB songs and signs

Also perfect to slip into the pillow quilt for the baby shower.Fletch Q:pillow

So far so good. Next I found The Book of ZZZs, written and photographed by Arlene Alda (stands to reason Alan Alda’s wife is a wonderfully talented woman) and published by Tundra Books in 2005.

Book of ZZZsThis book with it’s photos of sleeping animals including the young human variety will make you think “Awww!” even if you manage not to say it. The text and photos compliment each other and should enchant young children at nap or bedtime.

 

 

A Picture Book for Older Kids:

Then I looked up and saw Bird, a picture book with three award stickers—New Voices Award Honor, Ezra Jack Keats Award, and a Coretta Scott King Award. I had to look. Bird
This picture book, written by Zetta Elliot, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, and published by Lee & Low Books in 2008, is for more mature children.

The heart-breaking and heart-healing story is told by a young boy who mourns the loss of his older brother to drugs and the death of his granddad. Supported by the love of his family and his granddad’s friend, he’s learning to live with what he’s powerless to change and how to claim the power of his own “somethin’.”

The three awards are well-deserved.

You can see that it wasn’t my fault I already had five books I hadn’t intended to buy.

Middle Grade Books by Linda Sue Park:

At that point, I wisely decided to make a bee line for Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2008. We’d recently had a short Twitter conversation about baseball. I’d also learned helpful things from her presentation at a SCBWI conference. So I wanted that book.

Maggie, the protagonist, is a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan who learns the notations for box scores and can’t help but root for Willie Mays (Giants, if you’re not a baseball person). Her brother plays baseball, but Maggie doesn’t have that opportunity.

Hey, I was a huge LA Dodgers fan who loved Willie Mays. My ambition in life was to be a short stop. And I learned to keep score for my brother’s Little League team since girls couldn’t play.

Immediate buy-in.Keeping Score and

The book continually deepens and connects to broader issues. The fireman who taught Maggie to score is drafted and sent to fight in the Korean War. Maggie tries to sort out the relationships between faith, prayers, friendships, and baseball.

My husband, who always greets the opening of baseball season with, “Our long national nightmare is over,” is reading it now.

Okay, so five books I hadn’t intended to get and one that I had. Did I mention that right next to Keeping Score stood a slim book with the intriguing title SeeSaw Girl, also by Linda Sue Park and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 1999?

Jade, a seventeenth-century Korean girl, lives the wealthy, proper, and cloistered life of a nobleman’s daughter. But she wants to see the mountains for herself. How? She also longs to see her cousin. How? And how can she live a happy life without bringing dishonor on her family?

Okay, so six books I hadn’t intended to get and one that I had. I looked for another title that would help balance the score a little bit.

One Last Picture Book:

Incredible Painting ofThe Incredible Painting of Felix Closseau, written and illustrated by Jon Agee and published by Harper Collins, Toronto in 1988, is a hoot. Love the art, the story, the jokes, and the twist at the end. If you like the Hogswart paintings, find this book.

Final score, six unplanned purchases to two planned one. Eight winners total.

Without an actual bookstore, an actual children’s bookstore to peruse, I wouldn’t have found six of these must-haves.

So I’m going back to The Yellow Book Road in Liberty Station, San Diego, before it closes at the end of the month. In the next post, I’ll let you know what I found . . . if you don’t beat me to them.

Also next post, a cautionary tale for indie writers.

The other side which has the pocket to hold the folded quilt and make a pillow. The satiny fabric, which I added for the sense of touch, convinced me to stick to cotton the next time.

The other side which has the pocket to hold the folded quilt and make a pillow. The satiny fabric, which I added for the sense of touch, convinced me to stick to cotton the next time.

The quilt I finished on Tuesday. This side has high contrast designs for infant perception.

The quilt I finished on Tuesday. This side has high contrast designs for infant perception.