Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Labor Day!

To my readers all over the United States: 

I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend. Go on lots of picnics and have fun with friends and family. It is my wish that you return from the holiday rested and refreshed to tackle a new autumn of academic pursuits, business, or whatever is near to your heart...

Labor Day photo: Happy Labor Day 5_zpsd7a6d381.gif

Monday, August 26, 2013

Guardian Angel Publishing Lauds Kids' Books With People of Color Protagonists

My post of August 18, titled Why Do Kids' Books Stay Perennially White? caused such a positive stir, I decided to look closer to home--my publishing house, Guardian Angel Publishing.

Margot Finke, Artist and Author
Happily, this house makes a point of showcasing protagonists of color. This post then will feature books and authors who have and continue to do just that.  It is my hope you'll take a look at them, see the real value, and obtain some for the youngsters in your life.

In the words of Guardian Angel publisher, Lynda S. Burch:

 Guardian Angel is proud to offer a mixed variety of children's books for all ethnicities and also multiple language platforms.  We have been aware of the needs for a broader base of stories for kids from around the globe and in our own backyards and have extended our efforts to produce quality children's books that kids can identify with-no matter their skin color or ethnicity.  Many of our books include multicultural characters that gently teach acceptance for all children of the world.  We believe in cultural diversity is a literary portal from which we can embrace our global community with our books.

aboutThe books are in the authors' alphabetical order.  The links for each book will lead you to its page at Guardian Angel Publishing where all information about it can be found.

Bear Cahill
Even if your friends have different mothers and fathers, as children of God, we're all brothers and sisters. As we learn from the Bible, God adopted us all as His children and to find our brothers and sisters, we just need to look around! 

Penelope Cole
Magical Mea

Matthew’s little sister Mea is a trickster. Mea got her magic when Matthew lost his. Matt tries to guide Mea to use her magic for good. But the more Matt tries to mentor Mea, the more she wants to "do it her way.” Matt worries Mea might get into trouble.

Kevin Coller

We’ve sewn a flowing flag of glory, and created a dialogue of resilience: one where seeds of hope are planted, and the fruit is harvested and shared by all.  Believing one person can make a difference to the many is the direction of this story...the direction to a better world. 

 Donna McDine
The Golden Pathway

Ordering details:Raised in a hostile environment where abuse occurs daily, David attempts to break the mold and befriends the slave, Jenkins, owned by his Pa. Fighting against extraordinary times and beliefs, David leads Jenkins to freedom with no regard for his own safety and possible consequences dealt out by his Pa

Margot Finke
Takoni and Claude

Taconi, a young aboriginal boy living on Coorparoo Cattle Station, in outback Australia, fears the unknown. His upcoming Man Ceremony, Dreamtime Spirits, and his Dad's change of job are just three of the unknowns he must tackle. Claude, his chatty cockatoo, offers wise one-liners. Yet Taconi must discover courage and insight for himself. 


Nicole Weaver
My Sister is My Best Friend  

 Sisters are very special: Meet two sisters that do everything together. This delightful story transcends all cultural barriers. It will warm the heart of little girls from all over the world.

Las hermanas son muy especiales: Conozca a dos hermanas que hacen todo juntas. Esta bella historia trasciende todas las barreras culturales. Tocará el corazón de todas las niñas del mundo.

Les sœurs sont très spéciales : Rencontrez deux sœurs qui font tout ensemble. Cette jolie histoire transcende toutes les barrières culturelles. L’histoire va réchauffer le cœur des petites filles dans le monde entier.

Tales from India: Character Counts! RespectVishpriya
Tales from India:  Character Counts! RESPECT

Throughout my growing years, character formation made a distinct mark. Through numerous stories and daily experience, my parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents continuously re-iterated the importance of good character and how it helps form the person you are in future. In this tale Viswas Ram learns about respect.

Emma comes from three generations of Air Force pilots and misses her father when he travels. Her best friend Adam tries to cheer her up. Emma’s great grandfather, one of the first African American pilots during World War II, shares his life story with Emma and Adam and helps them appreciate the spirit of service.

Nancy Stewart
Sea Turtle Summer

Bella and Britt think living by the beach is the coolest thing ever.  When they discover an unprotected sea turtle's nest, they go into action!   Will their bravery and quick thinking save the baby turtles?  How can they do it, and what lessons will they learn about themselves?  The book also contains kid appealing sea turtle facts.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why the Perennial Interest in Coming of Age Novels?

What is a coming of age novel, and why is it appealing to so many people?  Let me answer the first part of the question with a question. 

(Norton)Who doesn't enjoy looking back, at least with a passing glimpse, to our more callow days filled with emotion, hormones, embarrassment, and lots of learning about life?  

Although perusing those earlier years can be a painful experience, for most people it was a time of self-awareness and growth. And it certainly can be again, if we only take the time to revisit those days from the safety of adulthood.

On a personal note, I've been immersed in writing my own coming of age novel.  The protagonist is a new teenager who has to find her way through a morass not of her own making.  Hopefully, the reader will long for her to emerge from the journey as a whole and happy and more mature young person, ready to face anything that life sends her way.

 The effect of my writing this novel is palpable.  I find myself dredging up memories that I would have thought long gone.  My dreams are full of incidents that happened to me years ago, some good and some not so good.  Long forgotten teachers and incidents and memories of home drift through my sleeping mind like ghosts.  It has been quite a journey of my own, an unintended consequence of delving into my own coming of age experience. 

I have included a few coming of age books that I find to be of note. The time tested novel, of course, is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Scout morphs from childhood innocence to the realization of good and evil in people. It is a masterpiece of the first water.

 Have a look.  See what you think.  If you have any to add to the list, please mention them in the Comments Section of this post.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lucky's Lick by Mary Esparza-Vela: A Story of Hope

To all children who have been hurt in accidents. 

Never have I begun a book review with the dedication, but I've made an exception this time.  In her dedication, Mary Esparza-Vela author of Lucky's Lick, says it all.

Juanito, a seven year old boy has two new teeth and a desire to explore and have fun in his world.  He has lots of friends and parents who love him.  Juanito is a normal little boy with one exception.  He has been confined to a wheelchair for the past six months. 

While riding his bike, a car struck him, and he suffered a spinal cord injury, one the doctors are not sure will heal.  "Only time will tell if he walks again," the doctors explained to his mom and  dad.  And to Juanito.

While it is not an "everychild" book, enough children are hurt in accidents of all manner across the world, Lucky's Lick is a book aimed to help.  It succeeds.

Ms. Esparza-Vela's book is loaded with sympathy for Juanito, but more importantly, is is brimming over with hope, if not for a recovery then hope that life still has so much to offer.  That kids can overcome and be happy again.  And that maybe reaching outside of themselves, in this case with a new puppy, wonderful things may happen!

I would heartily recommend this hopeful book to children and parents alike.  Life and hope are reflected in the bright colors and busy illustrations by Denis Proulx   They are a perfect foil for the anticipation of a life well lived, no matter the circumstance.

A bit about the author: 

Ms. Esparza-Vela is an award-winning author who lives in Texas with her husband and three sons.  Previously, she worked as an Editorial Assistant in a publications office where her contributions led to monetary awards and selection as Civilian of the Year.  She has written articles for religious publications and has won several online writing contests.  A number of her children's stories were selected for publication by Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Ms. Esparza-Vela can be found at:


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why do Kids' Books Stay Overwhelmingly White?

When it comes to diversity, children's books are sorely lacking; instead of presenting a representative range of faces, they're overwhelmingly white. How bad is the disconnect?  

A report by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that only 3 percent of children's books are by or about Latinos — even though nearly a quarter of all public school children today are Latino.

When kids are presented with bookshelves that are unbalanced, parents can have a powerful influence. Take 8-year-old Havana Machado, who likes Dr. Seuss and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. At her mothers' insistence, Havana also has lots of books featuring strong Latinas, like Josefina and Marisol from the American Girl Doll books. She says she likes these characters because, with their long, dark hair and olive skin, they look a lot like her.

Only a small fraction of children's books have main characters that are Latino or Native American or black or Asian. And it's been that way for a very long time. In 1965, The Saturday Review ran an article with the headline "The All-White World of Children's Books" — and the topic is still talked about today, nearly 50 years later.
Bad News For Outlaws tells the true story of Bass Reeves, an African-American U.S. Marshal in the Old West — shown here disguised as a farmer. The book won a Coretta Scott King award and became one of Lerner Books' best-selling titles.
Do White-centric Books Sell Better?

So why is diversity in children's books such a persistent issue? One theory is that it's all about money. "I think there is a lot of concern and fear that multicultural literature is not going to sell enough to sustain a company," says Megan Schliesman, a librarian with the Cooperative Children's Book Center.

But Schliesman says that belief is a myth — after all, some companies publish multicultural children's books and are profitable. For instance, Lerner Books published the nonfiction picture book Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal. The book, which told the story of a black lawman in the Old West, won awards, got attention from libraries and independent bookstores and became a best-seller for the company.

"There is an enormous amount of demand for this kind of content from libraries," says Andrew Karre, an editor with Lerner Books. According to Karre, public and school librarians try very hard to put books with a wide range of characters on their shelves.

Why Diverse Book Options Matter

At a San Jose, Calif. library, a young reader browses a shelf of books featuring a variety of main characters: ducks, hens, white kids, black kids. Libraries help drive demand for children's books with nonwhite characters, but book publishers say there aren't enough libraries to make those books best-sellers.Vaunda Micheaux Nelson wrote Bad News For Outlaws, as well as several other books about African-Americans. She is also a librarian at the public library in Rio Rancho, N.M. She says that young people need to see themselves represented on the page so that they will continue reading.

"If they don't see that then perhaps they lose interest," Nelson says. "They don't think there's anything in books about them or for them."

Nelson says she understands that publishers are going to respond to what the market demands. Right now, the vast majority of best-selling children's books are by and about white people. But as the U.S. population changes, Melinda Machado thinks the books American children read will change too.

Publishers might want to catch up a lot sooner, though. According to new data from the Census Bureau, nearly half of today's children under 5 years old are non-white.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Partnership Sends Newborns Home With Books

Here is a non-profit organization dedicated to literacy, the earliest literacy of all, beginning at birth.  Read to Grow promotes early literacy and is committed to giving all children a good start in life.

Each of the approximately 700 babies born annually at the Childbirth Center at Griffin Hospital now goes home with a new children’s book, thanks to a partnership between the hospital and the nonprofit organization Read to Grow.

Griffin Hospital recently became one of 12 Connecticut hospitals to adopt Read to Grow’s Books for Babies program. Statewide, Books for Babies reaches 53% of Connecticut newborns and their parents each year.

Zoom CityParents of newborns also receive a literacy guide as part of this joint effort to foster children’s language and early literacy development, and to encourage reading aloud to babies from birth. Recent research suggests that children should be exposed to a language-rich environment from birth, because it can significantly improve cognitive and language development and readiness for school.

 Books for Babies links health to the importance of early literacy, language and attachment, and meets families in the hospital when a baby is born — an innovative approach to preventing future reading and learning difficulties.

Volunteer visits with parents


A trained volunteer visits with parents to introduce the Read to Grow program and talk about the “how and why” of reading aloud to babies.
The volunteers go through the literacy packet and encourage families to register for a Books for Babies follow-up sessions, which will provide them with another new book and literacy information on their child’s 3-month and 12-month birthdays.
Gently-used books are also available for siblings of newborns to promote family reading time.

A literacy resource for families

prgrsvimg to Grow also provides gently-used books to children across the state through its Books for Kids program. Last year, Books for Kids delivered more than 127,000 books into the hands of young children.

“Studies show that in low-income neighborhoods, children often have few, if any books,” said Chet Brodnicki, interim executive director of Read to Grow. “The Valley Council reports that 10% of children residing in the Lower Naugatuck Valley live in poverty. Read to Grow is a resource for these families.”

Visit for more information.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pew Survey Points to Power of Print

So we really think the printed word is dead?  If it isn't, it has to be soon?  Take a look at this enticing piece of research from the Pew Research Center then draw your conclusions.

In its last library-related survey, researchers at the Pew Research Center found that Americans ages 16-29 are heavy technology users—no surprise there. The big surprise, however, is that despite their comfort with technology, most young Americans still read and borrow printed books, and value libraries and library services.

“Even in an age of increasing digital resources, those in this under-30 cohort are more likely than older Americans to use and appreciate libraries as physical space—places to study for class, go online, or just hang out,” notes a new Pew report on younger Americans library habits. Large majorities of younger patrons say it is “very important” for libraries to have librarians and books for borrowing, and relatively few think that libraries should automate most library services or move most services online.

Among the findings: almost all those in the 16-29 age group are online, and are more likely than older patrons to use libraries’ computer and internet connections. However, younger Americans are also more likely than older adults to have read a printed book in the past year: 75% of younger Americans have done so, compared with 64% of older adults.

prgrsvimg mix of interests is further reflected in younger users’ desires for new library services. Americans ages 16-29 are particularly interested in adding technology-driven features such as apps for accessing library materials and for navigating library spaces, and “Redbox”-style kiosks for convenient access to library materials around town. 

Still, younger Americans, like older adults, think that print books should have a central place at libraries; only 23% strongly support moving some stacks of books out of public areas to create room for things such as technology centers, meeting rooms, and cultural events.

The findings come from data drawn a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above between October 15 and November 10, 2012 by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The report is part of a broader effort by the Pew Internet Project to explore the role libraries play in people’s lives and communities. The research is underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Archie Comic Books? A Horror Series?

Remember Archie? And Veronica? And Betty? I do!  Take a look at what's new in their world.  I think you'll be surprised...

Please view the trailer at the end of this post!

Archie Comics has a new horror series, bringing zombies to Riverdale with Afterlife with Archie.
The first issue will be released on October 9th. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the script and artist Francesco Francavilla created the illustrations. 

You can read more at the comic’s special site.  This marks the first time the company has produced a “direct marketing only, NOT for all ages” comic book. 

Who knew?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How High School Reading Has Changed Since 1907

I think you'll find this report as fascinating as I did.  How times, and reading offerings, have changed.  It is fair, though, to say that some old faithfuls have remained!

Be sure to see the graph at the bottom of this post.

Renaissance Learning has released its fifth edition of the What Kids Are Reading report. Among the many topics covered in the free report, it compared high school reading across the last century.

Below are links to free eBook copies of the most popular books in 1907, 1923 and 1964. The complete report noted “a decline over time in the complexity of required texts for high school students.” Follow this link for an infographic summary of the research. Here’s more from the report:
Albion High School
Class of 1900
Although our analysis is restricted to the  period of 1907 to 2012, there is evidence that writing has become less complex over the last several hundred  year. Complexity is impacted in part by average sentence length; books with longer sentences tend to be more  difficult to comprehend than books with shorter sentences … it is worth noting that just because the books students are being assigned to read are less complex than in  prior years, this does not necessarily mean that they cannot read or comprehend books at higher levels, nor can  we assume that assigning more complex texts would necessarily lead to improvements in achievement.
Top High School Reading, 1907-2012 with Links to Free Books

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Silas Marner by George Eliot

The Rivals: A Comedy by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Night by Elie Wiesel

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Russian Author Risks Arrest by Releasing Gay Themed Children’s Book

The very month that a law banning "promotion" of homosexuality among children and adolescents came into effect may seem an odd time to publish Russia's first young adult book against anti-LGBT prejudice.  

The Jester's Cap is a children's book daring to defy 'gay propaganda' laws in Russia.  Daria Wilke, author of "The Jester's Cap," told The Moscow News that it was "now or never." Ms. Wilke is risking arrest and a massive fine by releasing the children’s book with gay themes.  

The book is defying laws passed by President Vladimir Putin, which bans the spreading of ‘gay propaganda’ to children.

Daria Wilke’s new book tells the story of a 14-year-old boy named Grisha, who lives and works in a puppet theater with his family and an older gay friend called Sam.

Wilke is not living in Russia, as she emigrated from Moscow 13 years ago to the far more welcoming country of Austria.

Anti-gay protester at Gay Pride Event
St. Petersburg, Russia
June 29, 2013
Photo:  Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters

Speaking to The Atlantic, Wilke said: 

I wrote [the book] a year and a half ago, and the publisher was weighing when to release it.  But when these strange laws were being released — first the local anti-gay laws in various cities, then the broader one that passed just last month — eventually the publisher realized that if we didn’t release the book now, we might never be able to.  Because of these laws, in many bookstores, it has an “18+” stamp.

Wilke expects she would be quickly deported if she returned to her home country, but she has not heard from the Russian authorities about her book yet.

‘I haven’t had any bad reactions from the government,’ she said. ‘But then again, the book has only been out a month.'

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What is New Adult Fiction?

An emerging genre, New Adult Fiction is here to stay.  Below is a primer of the genre, complete with free samples of books by leading adult fiction writers. 
The label was first used in 2009 when St. Martin’s Press hosted a contest looking for stories that could be marketed to both YA readers and adult readers. The contest described for new adult fiction as books “with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience.”

Last year, new adult fiction author Cora Carmack landed a three-book deal, bringing the term into a New York Times headline.

To get a definition beyond that simple description, founder Georgia McBride interviewed JJ, an editorial assistant who worked on the St. Martin’s writing contest. Here’s an excerpt:

There is a gap in the current adult market–the literary fiction market–for fiction about twentysomethings. You never stop growing up, I think, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens in your 20s. This is the time of life when you are an actual, legal adult, but just because you’re able to vote (in the US, anyway) that doesn’t mean you know HOW to be one. This is the first time when you are building a life that is your OWN, away from your parents and the family that raised you. It’s a strange and scary place to be. Just as YA is fiction about discovering who you are as a person, I think NA is fiction about building your own life. (Very generalised, of course.) I hope that the creation of this category will allow the adult market to develop and expand in similar ways the children’s market did.

EasyThis is an exciting new genre, reflecting the reading tastes of young people.  With such a large crossover market today, these books will undoubtedly be read by younger as well as older folks as well!

Free Samples of New Adult Fiction Authors Who Landed Book Deals

Losing It by Cora Carmack

Because of Low by Abbi Glines

Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire`

Easy by Tammara Webber