Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Archive for the ‘picture book, middle grade, YA’ Category

For my Holladay ES Peeps

So fun to visit Holladay ES this morning. They’ve been reading MILAGROS in the fourth grade and also TIA ISA in the second grade.  We ran out of time for questions, so as promised, I’m answering here. From grade 2:

How did you get to be so good at writing?
Practice, practice, and more practice. I took lots of writing classes in high school and in college. Even today, I will take a writing class to learn how to tell a story better. Best of all, I have a writing group where I share my work with author friends and get their advice.  
How do you go about writing a book?
I usually start with a good character who has one big problem to solve — but that’s all I know. I write for a few hours every day, and I always start my day by fixing what I wrote the day before. (Sometimes that means I throw it all out and start that work again!) Slowly, slowly — chapter by chapter — the story starts to take shape. One secret is that I usually rewrite the first chapter after I’ve finished writing the whole book. Why? I like the first chapter to give a good hint about everything that is going to happen in the rest of the book.  Since I don’t know what’s going to happen until the book is done, I have to go back and redo it. 
What was your favorite book when you were in 2nd grade?

I can’t remember exactly from second grade, but I can tell you some of the books I loved in elementary school. My all-time favorite book was Charlotte’s Web. Such a sweet story of friendship. I also liked that it was set in the country. I grew up in the city, and the idea of cows and pigs and country fairs seemed so wonderful.

But there were so many books I loved. Here are some of the old book jackets of the stories I loved most. Some of them are still in print today, but they may look very different. Do you love any of these? 


City Mouse Visits Country Mouse, pictures by Richard Scarry

Latino reads for you

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 BOOK OF QUESTIONS. Here Muñoz weaves Neruda’s love of the natural world, his struggle against his father, and the sounds of poetry in the every day and ordinary.

http://www.pammunozryan.com

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

A look at the savage presidency of Trujillo (Dominican Republic) through the eyes of 12-year-old Anita. Excellent historical fiction.

http://www.juliaalvarez.com

The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle 

Margarita Engle’s work captures historical fiction through verse. In the Firefly Letters, she retells the life of Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish suffragette who traveled to Cuba in 1851. It’s a slim book that touches on women’s rights and slavery tucked inside often forgotten history.

http://margaritaengle.com/

Young Adult

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Published in 1984, this is the classic coming-of-age YA story told through interwoven short stories. Fierce and gritty. Often taught in schools.

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle

The Cuban War for Independence as told through the eyes of Rosa, who knows how to heal sickness with medicines made from wild plants. (Herbera). In verse. Creates amazing tension and characters in this look at war.

http://margaritaengle.com/

We Were Here by Matt de la Peña

Miguel finds himself in juvie and eventually on the run from the law on his way to Mexico. Gritty characters, funny and tragic. Matt creates full characters and shows their humanity as they try to find forgiveness and redemption.

http://www.mattdelapena.com/

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos

(author of The Mambo Kings…) Racism. The narrator is a Cuban in NYC during the 1970s, where being light-skinned has its problems. Runs away to Wisconsin, only to find a new kind of racism.

The Red Umbrella by Cristina Gonzalez

Cuba 1961 – The Peter Pan flights – during which parents sent their children to live with American families in order to give them a chance to escape Cuba.

http://www.christinagonzalez.com

Adult

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

An annual family trip from Chicago to Mexico City descends into generational family storytelling that really tries to find out why Awful Grandmother got to be awful. Funny and powerful.

http://www.sandracisneros.com/

The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende

Non-fiction about her life. Picks up where Paula left off. Unflinching look at herself – endearing, appalling, fabulous in every way.

http://www.isabelallende.com/

Women with Large Eyes by Angeles Mastretta (in translation)

Mexican writer. Amazing group of stories that feature strong women.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Stunning, sexy, and funny. Through the most creative use of footnotes I’ve ever seen, Junot gives us a history of the Dominican Republic against a sad-sap story set in Washington Heights today.

http://www.junotdiaz.com/

In Her Absence by Antonio Muñoz Molina

Molina is a highly decorated writer from Spain, but he is only now gaining a reputation here in the states. In this short novel, Mario López is working as a draftsman in the small city of Jaén. The novel chronicles his passionate and painful relationship with Blanca, his artistic and wandering wife of six years.

Before Night Falls by Reynaldo Arenas

Memoir that describes life inside Castro’s Cuba for gay writers.  Set in the 1970s and early 80s. Powerful and tragic – and a testament to the artistic spirit.

Indi Love


The Southern Independent Booksellers Association conference was this weekend in Charleston, SC — four days of food, free books, and figuring out how on to help independent bookstores duel with Amazon, electronic books, and big box sellers. Un-Chain America is the basic battle cry — and they mean it.

Some highlights from #SIBA11:

Western Writers

~First 180 Days Celebration, a sort of meet-and-greet for the booksellers and authors whose books came out in the first half of 2011. As someone who has had her share of quiet book signings, it was nice to have a line of rabid book lovers waiting for a copy of my book.

~The Exhibition Hall: Booksellers who dress in costume! Charms from The Hunger Games. And my favorite find: “A Little Can of Whoop Ass,” which I plan to purchase and put into use right away. (You have been warned.)

~I met fellow Candlewick author Allan Wolf, whose book The Watch That Ends the Night, follows the story (in verse) of an undertaker who came to attend to the dead on the Titanic. Look for it next month.

Allan Wolf and me, both travel weary

~I got a present: my very own necklace made from the cover image of Tía Isa Wants a Car. It’s made by All Things Small Pendants, and I plan to wear it proudly. ¡Muchisimas gracias!

~I slipped into the panel discussion called Not Your Mama’s Teen Reads, a fantastic YA panel of Simon & Schuster authors, moderated by Richmond’s own Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore. The panelists included Ellen Hopkins, who writes two novels a year. (AHH!) She was joined by Brandon Mull (Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion), Michelle Hodkin (The Unbecoming of Mara), and Margaret Peterson Haddix (Always War). Each and every one was funny, insightful, and charming.

~You know, I love to eat, so the children’s book luncheon was double whammy of joy. The Quote To Keep came from author Avi (new book, City of Orphans, Atheneum), on the difference between how children read and how adults read. “A child reads a book and says, ‘How did that writers know so much about me?’ The adult reads a book and says, ‘There are other people out there like me.’”

~I also did an interview for heardtv.com with Robin Reshard. It airs in Octoboer, so I’ll share the link then.

~And last, but not least, I got to eavesdrop on this quirky, driven, book-lovin’ group of businesspeople who help make your city and mine a more interesting place to live. They love books, adore authors, and are fighting for their lives.

So, in the spirit of loving Indies, I’m inviting you to support one this weekend. Please join me at Fountain bookstore this Saturday, 2 pm for a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. You don’t have to be Latino…just Latino-curious. We’ll have some snacks, share some book picks featuring Latino main characters (picture books to adult). We’ll even have ticket giveaways to Latin Ballet of Virginia and Havana Restaurant and Lounge. See you then!

A Back Porch Chat with Writers

What are you doing Thursday night? If you’re anywhere near Central Virginia, I’m inviting you to a back porch chat with five authors – all of whom care passionately for strong girls who read.  This is a relaxed night for girls, parents, librarians, and teachers to talk about how books help girls make sense of the world. We’ll look at strong girls and the lessons we’ve learned along the way about raising them, loving them, and writing for them.

If you’ve had a chance to visit Girls of Summer, you know we’ve been posting new Q & A’s with the fantastic authors who grace our list. Now, it’s time to meet some of them in person. Please help us welcome:

To sweeten the pot, we’re raffling off a complete set of the 18 titles on the Girls of Summer reading list. Feeling lucky?

See you then!

JRW Writing Show

July 28, 6:30 pm, Children’s Museum of Richmond

Tickets $10 in advance at www.jamesriverwriters.org

Dream author interviews and other news

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.

Jacqueline Woodson

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.

LEAPers showing their true colors

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:  Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. It’s adult fiction and glorious in every way. I find myself hearing her voice as she weaves the story of an “outside child” – the daughter of a bigamist’s second wife. (Tayari is coming to the JRW conference in Oct., so if you’re in the neighborhood…) Also getting my time is Uma Krishnaswami’s The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.  I am thoroughly enjoying my romp through India and the “filmi” industry.

Any Bollywood fans?

Finally, by way of my own book news. I will be at University of Virginia this Tuesday as part of the Central Virginia Writing Project, where I’ll meet teachers who are also aspiring writers. (That’s exactly the way I started, so I’m up for the cause.)  Oh, and I got some happy updates this week, too: Tía Isa Wants a Car is up for the Amelia Bloomer project, which celebrates feminist literature. Hurray for strong girls!

BUTTERFLY

I’ve been reading Sonya Hartnett lately. She’s from Australia — a Candlewick author — and her  prose is just gorgeous.  True, her YA is dark and also borders on adult, but that’s a line that I love to flirt with myself. Besides, isn’t “dark and bordering on adult” an exact definition of adolescence? Just finished BUTTERFLY – which came out last  August.  Several sections veer straight into the adult perspective, but she captures these characters so well that I don’t mind at all. (Cydar is especially fantastic.) Other Hartnett titles I’ve admired:  SURRENDER and THE GHOST’S CHILD.