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What I’m reading

Writing the Bitter Truth: A Convo this Week with Rex Ogle

By Appearances, What I'm reading
This Wednesday night, Oct 6 at 8pm, EST, I’ll be in conversation with Rex Ogle. He’s the author of the much-lauded YA memoir, Free Lunch, which was the YALSA 2019 Non-fiction winner. His newest memoir, Punching Bag, which explores abuse, mental illness, and family. Anderson’s Bookstore will be our host. I don’t know Rex, so this is the first time we’ll be speaking together. I’m grateful to meet him during Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (his mother was of Mexican descent) since mental health is so often a taboo subject in Latinx families. Seeking professional help is not the norm, or even financially feasible, typically. As a result, families under pressure continue their slow simmer with lasting, hurtful effects. As his fans know, Rex’s work cuts close to the bone as he dives into the world of a family that is imploding. My own YA work - Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, has explored similar terrain, except through fiction. It’s fair to say, though, that both of us have chosen writing as a way to make sense of what we actually saw as children and teens. The difference has been the vehicle. Here’s what’s the same, though. When you write a book about painful family life through the eyes of teens, you’re virtually guaranteed some pushback. Adults have a strong distaste for these tales, although we all know that adults often fail young people in big ways and small. What follows is an urge to shame...
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Ask Meg on Mondays: An on-going summer chat on Goodreads

By #LetsStayConnected, What I'm reading
This summer, I'm trying something new on Goodreads. Whether you love it or hate it, Goodreads is a place for readers to engage. That's been a little tricky in Zoom-land, where there is never enough time to answer all the questions attendees post. So, I’ve refreshed my Goodreads page with up-to-date content, cleaned out my bookshelves (if only it were that easy at home) and started a new open question session called Ask Meg on Mondays. On the first Monday of every month – which is TODAY – I’ll be taking your questions about my work. So what do you want to know? I'm here to answer your questions!I also want to remind you that the Bronx is Reading Book Festival is happening this weekend. On Sunday, 9 am EST, I will give the closing keynote. Do check out the full lineup, where you can hear from some of the most exciting voices in literature today. Have a great week, everyone!
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Join Chelsea Clinton and the Persisters at the Loft’s WordPlay

By Appearances, Chapter Books
I’ve always wanted to visit the Loft’s Wordplay Festival in Minnesota, and this year my dream comes true, albeit virtually. This Thursday, May 6, I will join Chelsea Clinton, Michelle Knudson and Sayantani DasGupta to talk about the biographies we wrote as part of the She Persisted chapter book series (Philomel, 2021), based on Chelsea’s bestselling picture book, She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. The entire experience of joining the project was new to me, and I’m so glad I got the chance. I’d never written non-fiction or a chapter book, meaning a shorter work for kids ages 6 – 10. But when I was told I’d have the chance to write about Justice Sonia Sotomayor – and that I’d be joining an auspicious list of female authors known sweetly as the “persisters,” I couldn’t resist. (You can see the full list of biographies and authors for yourself by following the series link below.) It was an absolute honor to bring the story of Justice Sotomayor - the first Hispanic and third woman on the Supreme Court – to young readers. She is, of course, a titan in Latino history. But as I researched, I found a once-upon-a-time kid who was relatable at every step of her growing up. As a Queens girl myself, I loved our shared New York roots. But I loved the unexpected events of her life even more. She was a handful in the eyes of adults. She didn’t love her early elementary school years...
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Happy New Year! 

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading, Writing Workshops
I’ll be honest. It was tough for me to say goodbye to 2019, a year that began and ended with beautiful career highs. So it’s a good thing that January is looking is so fly. To start, I pressed send on my next novel featuring Merci Suárez, and I got to see the gorgeous final art for my upcoming picture book, EVELYN DEL REY IS MOVING AWAY.  You can read all about that and other upcoming book news right here in Publishers Weekly. Ta Da! Check out this gorgeous cover by Sonia Sánchez. But, I’m also doing a few sweet events at the end of the month, including two in my hometown of Richmond, VA, that I’ve been looking forward to for months. First stop: I’ll be in New York City on January 23 for a presentation to teachers. Carl Anderson, author of A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences*, will be presenting, and then I’ll speak on my own days as a writing teacher and my life as an author. Did what I teach about writing reflect what I actually do as an author today? Sometimes – but there’s plenty I’d do differently. Pre-order it now!* I head home on January 25th for an "In Conversation With" appearance with one of my favorite authors, Lamar Giles, at the main branch of the Richmond Public Library. He’s on tour for his new contemporary young adult novel, NOT SO PURE AND SIMPLE (HarperCollins.) It's new this month, and it's been crushing it...
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Scenes from L.A.

By Appearances, The Writing Life, Young Adult
I spent the last five days in glorious Southern California, and I came home to the exciting news that Merci Suarez Changes Gears is # 7 on the New York Times bestseller list. It's thrilling to see some renewed book love. Thank you to everyone who's been reading and sharing the novel. Anyway, I'm too jetlagged to write much, but here are some photos from the road. I love book people, plain and simple... With the fab librarian team at L.A. Public libraryThe LA Public Library is beautiful.You can't tell you're underground...The ceiling at LA Public Library main branch'memba these?Sample of a mural by Jose Ramirez at LA Public LibraryA love note from a LA library patronSigning on the patio at LA PublicJen Rofe's agenting family!Discovering new books!An adorable chapter book seriesI went to the Woodstock party. Here I am with Paul ZelinskiWith Raul III at the SCBWI Woodstock partySome of my dearest book friends: Lilliam Rivera, Renée Watson, Brandy ColbertWith Jenn Laughran, Linda Sue Park, Ruta Sepetys, and Cynthia Leitich SmithThis reader was excited to find her two favorite books in the same place.
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Heat waves, blackouts, and the beauty of a backlist as I hit the road to California

By Appearances, Middle Grade, Young Adult
I’m having déjà vu as I head to Los Angeles this week. The trip includes a library visit, the SCBWI conference, and a bookstore event to discuss one of my backlist titles that's eerily relevant this summer. Hugo on a reluctant summer walk July 2019 has been a roaster for most of us, no matter where we live. Almost 200 million people have been affected by record high temperatures in July and several deaths were blamed on the heat. Here in Richmond, Hugo – who is stuck in his black fur coat – has flat out refused to go farther than a block for his walk. This, from a dog who lives for them. But as I read about the 50,000 people who lost power in New York City last month, my mind wandered to how eerily similar it was to the summer of 1977, when 9 million people lost power in New York City for 25 hours. It happened during one of the worst heat waves on record, just like now, when even the night temperatures wouldn’t drop below the nineties. What followed in that overheated desperation was looting and arsons, a communal scream about all the ways the city was failing its residents back then. What I remember most of that year is that the heat was a mere backdrop for Son of Sam, a serial murderer who was still on the loose in the boroughs killing young women and their dates. The task force assigned to his capture was located in...
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Summer reads on the airwaves in a city near you

By Appearances, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, Picture Books, What I'm Reading, Young Adult
So, I’ll be on a radio tour for the next couple of weeks, which I love, since it involves zero travel and lots of time to talk books. They’ve asked me to recommend a few summer reads, both older and new. Here’s the list of titles I’m drawing from. I won’t be able to talk about all of them every time, but I hope to plug each of them at some point. Check out the list of stations on my events page and tune in if you can! Picture Books A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña Under My Hijab by Hena Khan and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed  Chapter Books and Early Middle Grade A Boy Called Bat by Elana Arnold (other titles in series: Bat and the Waiting Game and Bat and the End of Everything) Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina (other titles in series: Juana and Lucas) The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by Crystal Allen (other titles in series: Spirit Week Showdown and The Wall of Fame Game) Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (four books in series; next installment this fall.) Middle Grade The Last-Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden New Kid by Jerry Craft The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd...
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San Antonio, Dr. Monica Muñoz Martinez, & historical erasure

By Appearances, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

I just spent a few days in Texas where I spoke at the San Antonio Book Festival, which is now in its seventh year. Bright  and early on the first session, I spoke with librarian Viki Ash about Merci Suárez Changes Gears. This time around, my husband came along, and we had a chance to do some sightseeing – a luxury that almost never occurs when I do author travel on a tight schedule. We visited the Riverwalk and the Tower of the Americas, which was just too tall for me, I’m sorry to say. We did catch an amazing storytelling event at The Moth as well as a cool laser light show that’s shown nightly for free at San Fernando Cathedral, a sort of 20-minute mini-history of the city. All in all, we ate too much good food and got well-earned blisters. But the thing that I wasn’t prepared for was a chance to wrestle with in-your-face historical erasure.  Javier and I visited the San Alamo Mission because, well it was down the block, and “Remember the Alamo”, and all that. But in walking the beautiful grounds and reading the placards describing the “heroic last stand” against 1,800 Mexican troops during the Texas Revolution in 1836, I wondered about all of the history that seemed missing, a bloody history that eventually led to the lynching of people of Mexican descent at the hands of the Texas Rangers and other authorities.

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The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary: An Interview with NoNi Ramos

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

As readers of this blog know, I like to introduce new Latinx writers, especially those whom I’m lucky to meet in person on the road. Today, I’m talking with debut novelist Noni Ramos about The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary (Carol Rhoda Lab Books/Lerner 2018; 292 pages; Young adult.) She’s a new voice, but it’s a startling and strong one, and I predict a long career of great work. Macy is the girl you’ve probably seen in school at some point. She’s the one who spends a lot of time in the office being “supervised” by long-suffering deans when things get too hot in the classroom, the one who has a million labels pinned on her. LD, ADD, disturbed, at-risk – the list goes on. Told in a dictionary format of the words that define her life, Macy’s story is about the girls who are at the heart of those labels and how they get there. It’s a heartbreakingly honest work and, at times, a darkly hilarious one, too. As an author, what Noni brings to the table is a master class on voice and edge. Here she talks a bit on finding the character and how her own experiences as teacher and foster mom led her to the story.  Congratulations on this as your debut novel. What kind of writing had you been doing leading up to this? How did you find Macy’s story? Muchas gracias! Poetry and plays are my first loves. It wasn’t until well after my MFA that I…

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Girls of Summer 2017 in pictures

By Community work, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

What a night! Girls of Summer 2017 launched into the world on Wednesday, June 21. Dancing with Rita Williams Garcia! Book talking with Stacy Hawkins Adams, Beth Morris, Amanda Nelson, and Gigi Amateau. Eating ice pops with girls from all over Richmond. Here’s a peek at how it went down!   To see our entire Girls of Summer list and to start following the weekly author Q & As, visit www.girlsofsummerlist.com.

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Why I Wish I Could Be Split in Two

By Appearances, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

It’s too early to be in this airport, but I’m on the way to the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. I’ll step off the plane and head to right to a school to read Mango, Abuela and Me. Then, it’s all preparation for my time outside tomorrow. The downside to being in the Florida sunshine, though, is that I’ll miss the presentation of the inaugural Walter Award at the Library of Congress. We Need Diverse Books‘s judges picked three of my favorite reads of 2015. I want to send a huge congratulations to winners Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (All-American Boys), and honor winners Margarita Engle (Enchanted Air); Kekla Magoon and Ilyasa Shabazz (X). I am in DC in spirit!

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Meet the Enchanting Margarita Engle

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

For more than two decades, Margarita Engle has produced award-winning work for children of all ages. Among her many distinctions, she is a multiple recipient of the Pura Belpré medal, the Américas Award, and the Jane Addams Award. She is also the first Latina author to have earned a Newbery Honor Award for her 2008 novel-in-verse, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Margarita has long been known for impeccable research and thoughtful books that shine new light on figures in history. But her new project goes inward. Her memoir-in-verse, Enchanted Air (Simon and Schuster,) arrives in book stores this week. Here at the dawn of the United States’s new relationships with Cuba, Margarita tells us about her book, her own relationship to Cuba, and what it means to write from the heart.  *** When we speak of reciting poems “by heart,” we mean “from memory.” That is because memories live in the heart, in emotions, in a past that remains swirled together with the present and future. Memories are the one place where time is defeated by love. Writing about one’s own childhood is a process of writing by heart. There are no guidelines, no patterns to follow, no research to depend on, no papery or digital maps of the mind. When I decided to write ENCHANTED AIR, Two Cultures, Two Wings, all I had was my own memories, and the emotions they still contain, long after adulthood has made an unusual childhood seem like someone else’s strange, impossible life. I wrote this memoir…

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Caminar by Skila Brown

By picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

On Saturday, I had the chance to talk about one of my favorite reads of last year. I read Caminar by Skila Brown in the fall, and I’m so glad I finally had the chance to talk about it on Weekend Reads. I’m often asked who has permission to write Latino stories. My personal view: the person with the humility, depth, research skills, and writing chops to do it. In this case, that person was Skila Brown. Here are some thoughts on violence, children’s literature, and the need to tell our histories. http://www.npr.org/player/embed/415752511/416192516  

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Girls of Summer’s Big, Bad, Birthday Bash

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

It’s here! The Girls of Summer Reading list goes live on our blog today. (Click over and check out the titles and our reviews.) But what this really means is that we’re at the start of a big week for us, since our live events happen this week, too. Last minute plans, airport pickups, raffle items – agh! Gigi and I are so proud of the collection this year – especially since it marks our fifth anniversary of celebrating strong girls and reading. Where did five years go? We launched the list as our daughters were making their way out of high school. Today, Judith is living her dream of running a barn in California, training horses with a sure and skilled hand. Sandra has just moved into her own apartment in Washington, DC and will take the helm of a second grade class in the fall. And Cristina has recently landed her first official office job with Midas Auto Parts – an employer whose embrace of community extends to helping individuals with disabilities make meaningful contributions. Gigi and I have changed, too. We continue to write and publish books about strong girls and to see our respective careers unfold in ways that we could never have imagined five years ago. Earning the Pura Belpré award for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has provided me an incredible platform that I hope I’ve used wisely. I’ve crisscrossed the country encouraging more books that represent all kinds of young people. To Richmond’s great fortune, Gigi recently became the…

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Birds of a Feather…

By Appearances, Awards and news, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

I’m checking out another great indi bookstore. It’s Busboys and Poets  in Washington, DC, and I’m going to their 14th and V location for the first time this Friday. That’s because it’s time for the awards ceremony for the Las Américas prize. This year, top prize went to the lovely picture book Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore, an especially delightful pick from Lee and Low, a smaller publisher that has long been advocating and promoting diverse children’s literature. It’s the story of the near extinction of wild parrots in Puerto  Rico and how that sad situation was turned around. I hope you’ll stop in to the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to see an exhibit of the book and its art, which runs through the end of October. As part of the festivities, Las Américas also sponsors an annual educator workshop – hosted by Busboys and Poets – where teachers and librarians can get hands-on ideas and materials for bringing high quality Latino literature into their classroom or library. I’m so happy to be able to present alongside Duncan Tonatiuh this year. (9:30 – noon). Duncan won honorable mention, as well as a Pura Belpré Honor medal, for his exquisite book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. My own novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, was selected as a commended title this year (along with all of these). If you’re a teacher or librarian, it’s not too late to register. The reasonable $25 registration fee…

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Book Hoarding and other things I admitted to on Book Riot

By Adult books, Appearances, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

My heroes at Book Riot have a new podcast series called Reading Lives, where authors talk about pretty much anything except their own books. I’m on there today, episode #2, where Jeff O’Neal and I talk about my book collection fetish, as well as all the titles and authors (some surprising) that have shaped everything from my sense of culture to how I parented. These days I do a lot of interviews, but I can’t remember a time when doing one was this much fun. Maybe it’s because Jeff (aka @readingape on Twitter) is so charming, but maybe too because the hook is so simple. Two people talking about the books we love, old and new. What can I say?  It’s a literary geek’s dream. If you’ve got some time, check it out. You can subscribe on i-tunes, too.  

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Where books meet disaster: A brief reading list about kids and migration

By Adult books, Awards and news, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

I got home last week from the ALA conference, an experience that still makes me daydream, especially when I think of the energy and passion in the room at the Pura Belpré awards. You can find my speech and Yuyi Morales’s speech here, but the truth is that the text doesn’t replicate the emotion that was in the room. All of us receiving recognition were teary and humbled –and not just by the honor being extended to our books. A good part of our emotion stemmed from the unspoken presence of people who were not actually in the room with us. This summer, our news outlets have exploded with accounts of the nearly 40,000 unaccompanied childrenwho have arrived on our border to find themselves not only exhausted, afraid and alone, but also the target of explosive rage. Whatever your view on immigration policy, I hope you can agree that what we’re seeing is a human tragedy on the backs of the weakest and smallest among us. All of us writers on that stage work for young people because we respect them and treasure what should be a sacred time for all children. All of us on that stage have been touched by migration, either directly or indirectly, in our own families. All of us have been the recipients of our parents’ most ardent hopes for our futures, sometimes at the expense of their own. It is heartbreaking, then, for us to see children so completely lost and in need of help. As Javier and I traveled…

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The Literary Activist: When writing moves beyond your computer

By Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

Picture the fervor of a rock concert smashed into book geekdom and strong girls. That’s the Girls of Summer live launch party, being held tonight, June18, 7 pm at the Richmond Public Library (Main branch). Gigi and I started the project four years ago, and it has grown into a vibrant partnership that has galvanized our local library, improving their children’s and teens circulation numbers– not to mention their good mood. More importantly, it has connected girls in Richmond not only to good books but also to their own sense of what it means to be a strong girl in 2014. When we started this, Gigi and I couldn’t have guessed how it would grow.  The idea was so simple. We had both used books so heavily in helping us raise our own daughters. What were the books we’d recommend to girls and their moms now? Each year, we answer that question with the help of 20 or so exceptionally talented and generous authors who think girls are amazing, too.  We’ve had the titans in children’s literature, like Jacqueline Woodson, and we’ve had debut authors, like this year’s Hannah Barnaby. What matters to us is the story and the celebration of as diverse a group of girls as possible. Our librarians and local friends help, too, as photographers, as copyeditors, as designers, as event planners. The sum total is a notable blog and a live launch event that has moved us from little mentions in local events calendars to articles…

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Football, Racism & Latino History for Teens: A talk with Sandra Neil Wallace

By Guests, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

The holidays are a time to invite friends to your house, and that’s true for this blog, too. I’m honored to have Sandra Neil Wallace with me this week. Sandra is a former ESPN sportscaster and author of Muckers (Knopf 2013), a YA novel for anyone who loves fútbol Americano and underdog stories. But more important to me, it’s also a thoughtful look at anti-Latino racism in the 1950s and the difficult circumstances of Mexican-American families in Arizona at that time. Based on true events, the novel follows Red O’Sullivan, team quarterback, and his friend Cruz as they cobble together their high school’s last football season.  It offers us not only an inspiring look back, but also a way to ask questions about where we are now in sports and race. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IecqNriZVBY&w=420&h=315] ________________________ How did you discover this story? I was living in Sedona, Arizona, working as an ESPN announcer and discovered the Muckers story in a box of letters written to the principal of Jerome High School. Most of the letters were from young Mexican-American men who had graduated and gone to war. The letters helped me uncover the incredible sports triumph of the 1950 football team. Despite being the smallest squad in the state, playing on a rock field, and facing ridicule for being an integrated team, they made a run for the state championship. The football season in Muckers is modeled after theirs, and I interviewed surviving players to create characters I’d imagine experiencing the hardships of that time…

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Gracias Sandra Cisneros

By Adult books, Random howls into the world, What I'm reading

So, I got home from the Nat’l Book Festival on Saturday. I had dusty toes and a tired back, but my head was swirling with gratitude for the way of the world. True, the lines inside the Barnes & Noble tent were obnoxiously long, but it was a great event in every other way. My friend Katharine and I set out by train – a pleasant two-hour ride – and spent our day strolling the  grounds, eating Snicker bars in the sunshine, and generally marveling at the mass of people who came from all over the country to celebrate the best our country has to offer in terms of books and authors.  I got to meet illustrator Rafael López and his lovely wife, Candice, who chatted with us about their mural projects, their new Obama poster, and our shared friends, whose talents we both admire. But in the afternoon, I received a gift I never expected from this festival. I’d managed to snag a chair inside the tent where Sandra Cisneros was speaking.  I read The House on Mango Street in the 1980s, of course, and I’ve been a fan ever since, devouring her short stories, picture books and novels as soon as they’re published. Her voice always rings fierce and true, and like so many other Latina authors, I can point to her work as an influence on why I like to capture Latino culture in fiction. She is, in my view, a literary madrina to our whole country….

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Back again! Girls of Summer 2012

By Appearances, Community work, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Dy8cZJlhI] Ah, it’s almost time to kick back and read the way you’re supposed to read in the summer: curled in a hammock or beach chair. Here comes Girls of Summer 2012.  Gigi Amateau and I are updating our curated reading list  with 18 new titles for this summer. It’s an absolute joy to work on this project for a second year. I get to read (or re-read) books that I think celebrate girls, share time with a close friend, and talk to authors I’ve long admired all summer long. It doesn’t get better. You’ll find the spiffy new list and our comments on the website starting June 20. (We’re under construction now with updates, so please be patient.) But what I really want you to do is save the night of June 19, 2012, 7 – 9 pm and join us at the Richmond Public Library for the live launch. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s the best thing you can do on a Tuesday night. Were you there for our inaugural event last year? We promise another crazy, fun-filled evening, complete with book giveaways, summer refreshments (think popsicles) and authors on hand. Mark the date! Oh — and don’t forget Anita Silvey will be speaking on children’s books at the library this Saturday, May 19. Not to be missed if you are even remotely interested in books for young people. She’s amazing.

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My December reading list

By picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

I did some holiday shopping today, but to treat myself kindly (and to avoid becoming a lunatic by Noche Buena), I made a pit stop at my favorite public library. That’s the Tuckahoe Area library in Henrico, VA, where the librarians make me feel like family and don’t mind walking me around to the different shelves like a lost puppy. These days I’m on the hunt for books at every age group that really dazzle me for their appeal for girls. (All suggestions welcome.) You might remember that I’m half the brains behind Girls of Summer with my friend, Gigi Amateau. We are spending this winter and spring discovering new writers and dreaming of what will make our Must Reads for 2012. Vicky Smith at Kirkus recently posted a nifty list of best books for 2011, so naturally I got curious. Very helpful, as it’s divided by categories. I picked up Inside and Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and The Fires Beneath the Sea by Lydia Millet on her recommendation. Then, because I’m a browser, I grabbed How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (Nat’l Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl) and Mary Hooper’s Fallen Grace, which the Times of London compared to Philip Pullman’s work on Victorian life. Finally, I took a drive to my closest indie bookstore, bbgb, where a team of design “elves” were making snowflakes and other store decorations. I picked up Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. If you follow Shelf Awareness, you know…

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My Favorite Book This Year: A Monster Calls

By picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

I love so many books, it’s usually impossible for me to say that I love one more than another. It’s the mother spirit in me, wanting to love them all in some special way. But all that changed this morning when I finished reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press, 2011). The chilling illustrations by Jim Kay, the balance of tenderness and rage, the magical realism  — I can’t heap enough praise on this work about a boy visited by a monster during the final days of his mother’s illness. Even more awe-inspiring is the fact that Patrick Ness was asked to complete a story idea first proposed by Siobhan Dowd, the human rights activist who lost her own battle to cancer in 2007, shortly after her spectacular debut novel, A Swift Pure Joy, was published. Let me just say this: I started reading this gem Saturday, while I was manning a volunteer table at a school function, and it took no time to go deaf to the world around me. Sunday morning before the sun had even come up, I ignored the chance for an extra hour of sleep and reached in the darkness for the book. A parent and child having to let each other go too early is, in fact, a monstrous event. To me, Patrick got it exactly right in this magical book, and as frightening as it is to follow a tale of a boy’s grief, it is a beautiful and resonant story. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8-psqOON-Y]

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Latino reads for you

By Adult books, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

Last Saturday I did a Hispanic Heritage presentation at Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore. Here is the list a couple of you have asked for. These are some of my favorite Latino reads, oldies and new releases, from picture books to adults. I could list dozens more, but here is a start. Feel free to add recommendations in the comments section. (P.S. Fountain had most of these titles on their shelves, so give them a call.) Picture books  Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes and Yuyi Morales A poetic spanglish romp on Halloween night. Gorgeous illustrations. Fantastic bilingual vocabulary http://marisamontes.com and http://yuyimorales.com La Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos A farm maiden decides to make arroz con leche – rice pudding. Energetic, bilingual vocabulary, gorgeous illustrations. www.samanthavamos.com Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, by Carmen Agra Deedy Carmen is a storyteller of Cuban origins. Also the author of Growing Up Cuban in Decatur Georgia. This is a classic folktale about how to find the right mate in life. The illustrations are gorgeous and the text gets at kids funny bone. http://carmenagradeedy.com/ My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown Brown presents a beautiful bilingual biography of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. In 1945, Mistral became the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. http://www.monicabrown.net Middle Grade  The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sis This middle grade novel is about the early life of poet Pablo Neruda. It is written in a style that parallels Neruda’s THE…

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Dream author interviews and other news

By Adult books, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

Happy Friday! Red-letter day for the  Girls of Summer site.  As you know, GOS is a curated reading list that I compiled with the ever-fabulous Gigi Amateau. It is 18 of our favorite books for strong girls. We launched a week ago, and the response has been terrific. Thanks to all of you who have visited and sent sweet emails. But what makes today great is that we add our new Q & A feature. Our fist interview is with Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newbery Honor, the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Award — do I have to go on? Jacqueline was a headliner at last year’s James River Writer’s conference here in Richmond, where I had the pleasure of getting to hear her insights on writing.   I hope you’ll check in today — and every Friday for a new author interview. Together these authors offer the most empowering images of young women today.  Please continue to spread the word, visit each week, and leave comments. In other news, I’ve been spending a few mornings a week working with my LEAP students at the Steward School. There never seems to be enough time with them, but maybe every teacher feels that way. We’ll be wrapping up our writing and photography work next week. ¡Ay, Chihuahua! There is a lot to do! I’ll be sure to post some of the final projects when I get their permission. Let’s see…stuff I’m reading: …

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