Friday, April 26, 2013

Bruised by Sarah Skilton

Cover art matters. Think of those times when you saw the cover of a book and felt that instant, magical draw. The cover of Bruised is pretty impressive, and I found myself looking more and more at it as I read the story. You will see—you will want to understand why the trophy of the martial artist breaks apart.

Sure, the story will tell you: teen black belt survives a horrific hold-up in a local restaurant. She blanks most of the memory, blames herself for the gunman getting killed, and checks out of most of the rest of her life. Until she is able to step back enough to understand that she couldn’t change what happened in that hold- up. The idea of someone professionally trained in self-defense freezing in a situation like a hold- up makes great sense for a storyline, but this is the first time I have read about it in a young adult novel. I really liked how Skilton wove this story, and I feel certain some of her art came from her own experiences as a black belt herself.

I suggest you search this one out. And of course, check out the great cover!

Friday, April 19, 2013

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

Looking for a little lighthearted funness to read? I know funness is not a word, but read this book and you will see why I laid into that new word. Father/son, stuffed animal/real, twisted truths/honest relationships all show up in this clever story. Multigenre in nature--love that, Tom Romano--and with David Small's brilliant illustrations, kids will swallow this one hook, line, and sinker.

As I read this book again, I can almost see my mother in place of the father (although she is not near as self-absorbed) and me in place of the boy (although I am nowhere near as well-dressed), us finding our ways further into what interests us and then: collision!

Happy Reading! One Cool Friend. Pure funness.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang

The author's bio starts with these words: "Ji-li Jiang was born in Shanghi, China, and now lives near San Francisco, California. For over twenty years she nursed her childhood memories of surviving the Cultural Revolution, and she finally brought them to life in her first book, Red Scarf Girl, which has become required reading in many schools..."

I kinda think Red Kite, Blue Kite ought to become required reading in many schools. The illustrator wisely offers spaciousness, breathing room to the painful story of a boy and his relationship with his father, Baba. The boy and Baba love to fly kites together among other things. Then, "a bad time comes." Baba must go to a labor camp to work. They arrange to fly their kites at dawn and dusk, ensuring each is thinking about the other and seeing the other's kite, even at a great distance apart. Months later, Baba returns for a superbrief time and tells the boy that he, the father, can no longer fly his kite, but the boy must continue to fly his. Angry for his father leaving again, his grandmother smoothes his anger with the story of how the father got to the boy. Confirmed as important, the boy commits to flying his kite even more.

No spoiler here. You gotta read this one. It is beautiful. Important. Required. Red Kite, Blue Kite.

Friday, April 5, 2013

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis

The front cover will stop you. The title force you to open it. On the first pages of the book, just after the title page, these words are written:

The poor and dispossessed take up the drums
For civil rights--freedoms to think and speak,
Petition, pray, and vote. When thunder comes,
The civil righteous are finished being meek. 
Why Sylvia Mendez bet against long odds, 
How Harvey Milk turned hatred on its head,
Why Helen Zia railed against tin gods,

How Freedom Summer's soldiers faced the dread
Are tales of thunder that I hope to tell 
From my thin bag of verse for you to hear
In miniature, like ringing a small bell,
And know a million bells can drown out fear.
For history was mute witness when such crimes
Discolored and discredited our times.

You read the poems then, in order, out of order, the images (created by five different illustrators) calling to you, the strength singing from the pages, the truths laying there for you and me to lift into our hands, our hearts, our minds, to continue the change these people and others like them started. Read it out loud for ears and softly for inner ears; just read it to a bunch of folks. When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders. As Black Elk said in his famous speech turned into a poem, "maybe we are who we have been waiting for."