Debut Celebration for The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey!

By Zoraida Córdova

I am super excited to have Melissa Grey with us at Latin@s in Kid Lit! I love fantasy, and I especially love when Latinas write fantasy. The Girl at Midnight has already received wonderful praise and starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist! To celebrate tomorrow’s launch of The Girl at Midnight, we are going to get to know the magic behind Melissa.

 

“Grey’s energetic debut offers a strong protagonist…[and the] well-built world, vivid characters, and perfect blend of action and amour should have readers eagerly seeking the sequel.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred

 

Zoraida: Tell me about The Girl at Midnight and your inspiration for it.

Melissa: In The Girl at Midnight, there’s a magical race of creatures that live beneath the streets of New York called the Avicen. They have feathers for hair and their existence is very much a secret, but they take in a human girl who goes by the name of Echo. Echo has run away from a bad home life and finds a new family in the Avicen, so when they’re threatened by a centuries-old war, she takes it upon herself to find the firebird, a mythical entity prophesied to end the conflict once and for a all.

The book really started with Echo and the firebird. I’m a huge fan of the ballet and the legend behind it, so my research into the folklore involving the firebird gave me a lot to think about when I was developing the plot. Echo was the first character to exist and she kind of predated the story. I came up with her first and eventually found a world for her to inhabit.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

It’s not specifically writing advice, but it can be applied to writing. When I was at art school, one of my professors told me not to be precious with my work. It was the first time I’d ever heard the saying “Kill your darlings” and it really stuck with me. I can be a perfectionist, so not treating my work as something delicate and inviolable was an eye-opening change of strategy. To me, it means not being afraid of scrapping drafts or whole chapters or even characters that aren’t working to the benefit of the work as a whole.

What was the hardest scene in your novel (if it’s not too spoilery)?

The last chapter was a struggle. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers, but as a writer, you do want to leave people wanting more, especially if you’re writing a series like I am, so I tried very hard to strike a balance between giving readers closure and enticing them to come back for the sequel.

How does your culture play a part in your fantasy (if at all)?

Well, I’m Puerto Rican and food is a huge part of that culture. I don’t include Spanish food specifically in the book, but Echo’s life pretty much revolves around food. It’s the foundation of a lot of her relationships, which is definitely something I can relate to.

Where would be your dream writing location?

A secluded little cabin in the Scottish Highlands.

Are there any lessons you learned while writing TGaM, and how is that helping you with book 2?

I learned that I have to trust my gut while not giving into my inner perfectionist. I also learned that I didn’t need to take every single criticism I received on the manuscript as gospel because sometimes my writing partners (and even my agent and editor) didn’t agree, so I had to trust my instincts.  

What books are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading The Archived by Victoria Schwab (it’s amazing), The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (also amazing), and Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (amazing as well).

What do you wish to see more in YA?

That’s tough because I can only comment on what I’ve read and I don’t want to make it sound like I think YA as a whole (which is a super broad categorization) is lacking, but I will say that I love seeing books like Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap and Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn that deal with the gray areas of morality and are peopled by characters that aren’t necessarily likable but are still deeply compelling.

Who would attend your magical fantasy tea party?

Echo, naturally. And some of her friends from TGaM. If it’s a magical fantasy, I assume I can invite anyone, real or fictional, so I’ll say Hermione Granger (Harry and Ron can come, too), Door from Neverwhere, Kell and Lila from A Darker Shade of Magic (Rhys can come, too), Tana and Gavriel from The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Finn, Petey, Roza, and Sean from Bone Gap. Oh, and all of the Raven Boys.

What is your favorite line from your book? (Or a couple of favorite lines. I know it’s hard to choose.)

At one point, Echo is backed into a corner and she basically has to bullshit her way out of it so she says to herself, “When in doubt, bravado.” I feel like that idea has carried me through life pretty well.

 

The Girl at Midnight debuts tomorrowApril 28th, 2015!

ORDER A SIGNED COPY FROM BOOKS OF WONDER

Amazon * B&N * Kobo * IndieBound * Powells

Find Melissa on Goodreads.

 

Praise for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT:

“Grey’s energetic debut offers a strong protagonist…[and the] well-built world, vivid characters, and perfect blend of action and amour should have readers eagerly seeking the sequel.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Sparks fly…This first novel will please fans of Cassandra Clare and Game of Thrones watchers with its remarkable world building; richly developed characters…[and] a breathtaking climax that…cannot come soon enough!”—Booklist starred review

“Inventive, gorgeous, and epic—Grey dazzles in her debut.” — Danielle Paige, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die

“A stunning debut. Equal parts atmosphere and adventure … positively divine.” – Victoria Schwab, author of A Darker Shade of Magic

 

About THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT:

For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and BoneThe Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants … and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melissa Grey was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. After earning a degree in fine arts at Yale University, she traveled the world, then returned to New York City where she currently works as a freelance journalist. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow @meligrey on Twitter.

Libros Latin@s: Salsa: Una poema para cocinar / Salsa: A Cooking Poem

 

By Marianne Snow

DESCRIPTION (from Goodreads): In this new cooking poem, Jorge Argueta brings us a fun and easy recipe for a yummy salsa. A young boy and his sister gather the ingredients and grind them up in a molcajete, just like their ancestors used to do, singing and dancing all the while. The children imagine that their ingredients are different parts of an orchestra — the tomatoes are bongos and kettledrums, the onion, a maraca, the cloves of garlic, trumpets, and the cilantro, the conductor. They chop and then grind these ingredients in the molcajete, along with red chili peppers for the “hotness” that is so delicious, finally adding a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt. When they are finished, their mother warms tortillas and their father lays out plates, as the whole family, including the cat and dog, dance salsa in mouth-watering anticipation.

Winner of the International Latino Book Award for Guacamole, Jorge Argueta‘s text is complemented by the rich, earthy illustrations of Duncan Tonatiuh, winner of the Pura Belpré Award. His interest in honoring the art of the past in contemporary contexts is evident in these wonderful illustrations, which evoke the pre-Columbian Mixtec codex.

MY TWO CENTS: Here’s another Jorge Argueta picture book that’ll make you hungry! Argueta has created several bilingual poetry books that celebrate traditional Latin American dishes – including Guacamole, Sopa de frijoles / Bean Soup, and Arroz con leche / Rice Pudding – and Salsa is just as mouth-watering. I love how he uses beautiful language to stir the senses, appealing to readers’ taste and smell with scrumptious descriptions of vegetables and herbs; sound by drawing comparisons between ingredients and musical instruments; and touch by weaving together the acts of cooking and dancing.

As a lover of spicy food, I particularly enjoy Argueta’s ode to hot chiles, complete with imagery that clearly evokes the crackly, wrinkled skin and the tingly burn of the peppers. Here’s a little taste:

Hay chiles con cara de abuelo

y chiles con cara de abuela.

Hay chiles rojos

como llamitas.

Al morderlos nos calientan la lengua

como si tuviéramos en la boca una lucecita.

 

There are chilies with faces like a grandfather

and chilies with faces like a grandmother.

There are red chilies

like little flames.

When we bite one our tongue gets hot,

as if we had a tiny light on in our mouth.

 

I really wish I had some salsa right now.

Meanwhile, Duncan Tonatiuh’s signature illustration style, which hearkens back to pre-Columbian Mixtec art, captures readers’ sense of sight and beautifully reminds us of Mexico and Central America’s past while celebrating a contemporary family coming together to prepare a meal. Inviting Tonatiuh to illustrate this book is a perfect choice, since his historically inspired images reflect Argueta’s description of the history of the molcajete, the mortar and pestle crafted from volcanic rock that people have long used to grind vegetables and spices. This connection of the past and present through both words and illustrations makes Salsa an especially delicious dish for me.

(My much loved molcajete.)

TEACHING TIPS: This book is an invitation for several meaningful hands-on learning activities. Students and teachers can write up bilingual recipes for salsa using the ingredients Argueta presents in the poem and then make a tasty, healthy snack to eat and share with others at school. If children have family members or friends who have experience using a molcajete to make salsa, teachers can invite these special guests to demonstrate their techniques – a perfect opportunity to welcome students’ home lives and funds of knowledge into the classroom. Afterwards, everyone can write their own food poems utilizing some of the various literary devices – similes, metaphors, rich imagery, synesthesia – that Argueta employs.

Additionally, Salsa is an excellent springboard for a science lesson about composting and plant growth. When the family in the poem finishes making their salsa, the son takes leftover lime seeds and vegetable peels outside and buries them in a hole in the ground:

Las entierro para que se conviertan en abono,

Children can do the same when they finish their own salsa, making hypotheses about what will happen to the seeds and foods scraps and then observing the changes that occur as weeks pass. Will the vegetable matter decompose and turn into soil? Will new plants emerge from the seeds? You’ll have to try it and see!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Salsa’s book jacket): Jorge Argueta is an award-winning author of picture books and poetry for young children. He has won the International Latino Book Award, the Américas Book Award, the NAPPA Gold Award, and the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction for Juveniles. His books have also been named Américas Award Commended Titles, USBBY Outstanding International Books, Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books, and Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. A native Salvadoran and Pipil Nahua Indian, Jorge spent much of his life in rural El Salvador. He now lives in San Francisco.

LINKS / OTHER INFO: Here are a couple of fascinating videos that teachers can use to supplement the book:


FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Salsa visit your local library or bookstore. Also, check out WorldCat.orgIndieBound.orgGoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

 

MarianneMarianne Snow is a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, where she researches Latin@ picture books, representations of Latin@ people in nonfiction children’s texts, and library services for Spanish-speaking children and families. Before moving to Georgia, she taught Pre-K and Kindergarten in her home state of Texas and got her master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Texas A&M University. In her spare time, she enjoys obnoxiously pining for Texas, exploring Georgia, re-learning Spanish, and blogging at Critical Children’s Lit.

Cincos Puntos Press: Publishing Diverse Titles for 30 Years

 

By Patrick Flores-Scott

The El Paso, Texas publisher, Cinco Puntos Press, has been on my radar ever since my mother-in-law—who lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, an hour away from the Cinco Puntos Press offices—handed me a copy of Benjamin Alire Saenz’s YA novel, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood. I fell in love with that book and went on to read Saenz’s follow-up, Last Night I Sang to the Monster. Now my wife and I regularly read Cynthia Weill’s Opuestos and AbeCedario to our toddler and Saenz’s A Gift from Papá Diego is our older son’s current go-to bedtime picture book. (Full disclosure: I cry real tears every time Papá Diego shows up to the party.)

Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces was one of 2014’s most lauded books, winning the Morris Award, and showing up on book of the year lists put out by Kirkus, Booklist and The School Library Journal.

All these great Cinco Puntos titles beg the question: What is going on in El Paso?

Bobby and Lee Byrd, both writers, founded Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, Texas thirty years ago. In a phone conversation, CEO John Byrd explained that, “When my parents moved here they sought out folks who were making art. In El Paso, that means Latino artists and folks writing about the Latino experience. We publish the kind of books we publish because we’re in El Paso. Our mission to do this kind of work was a natural outgrowth of where we were.”

Byrd lists El Paso as a strength for Cinco Puntos because it gives the publisher a unique perspective on life and art. He noted that New York publishers are all bound by the confines of Manhattan. “That’s why so much of what they do seems so similar. Being in El Paso, we don’t hear all that industry noise. We can develop our own unique perspective on publishing.”

A critical factor in Cinco Puntos’ growth has been their relationship with indie distributor Consortium, Book Sales and Distribution. “When we first started with Consortium, the industry had made it clear that books by Hispanic authors couldn’t sell through mainstream channels. Consortium helped change that. They successfully place a lot of stuff that really pushes the boundaries and we’re proud to have our books sold alongside others that are distributed by Consortium.”

I asked Byrd about the relationship between independent publishers and the We Need Diverse Books campaign. He noted that about half of the books (according to the most recent Multicultural Literature Statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center) listed as “multicultural” were published by independent presses.

“It’s hard to find anyone who disagrees with the aims of We Need Diverse Bookseven traditional publishers all agree. Still, New York houses just aren’t publishing those books. We Need Diverse Books is crucial, but energy focused on changing New York is misplaced.” Real change, Byrd insists, will come when we support and grow the diverse publishers, small publishers, independent publishers who are already doing the work of producing great “diverse books” by and about traditionally underrepresented voices.

Check out just of few of the notable Cinco Puntos Press titles below, and while you’re at it, grab some coffee and “Pan Dulce” with founder, Lee Byrd, as she interviews Cinco Puntos authors at the publisher’s YouTube channel .

Picture Books:

   

Little Chanclas by José Lozano

Walking Home to Rosie Lee by A. LaFaye, illustrated by Keith D. Shepherd

Cada Niño/Every Child by Tish Hinojosa

Don’t Say a Word, Mamá by Joe Hays, illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia

Middle Grade:

  

Maximilian and The Mystery of the Guardian Angel by Xavier Garza

Maximilian and the Bingo Rematch by Xavier Garza

Remember Dippy by Shirley Reva Vernick

Teen:

    

This Thing Called the Future by J. L. Powers

The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick

The Smell of Old Lady Perfune by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Graphic Novel/Poetry-Photography:

 

Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush by Luis Alberto Urrea, illustrated by Christopher Cardinale

Vatos by Luis Alberto Urrea, Photographs by Jose Galvez

 

PatrickFS1Patrick Flores-Scott was, until recently, a long-time public school teacher in Seattle, Washington. He’s now a stay-at-home dad and early morning writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Patrick’s first novel, Jumped In, has been named to a YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults book, an NCSS/CBC Notable Book for the Social Studies and a Bank Street College Best Book of 2014. He is currently working on his second book, American Road Trip

Libros Latin@s: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

22639675By Cindy L. Rodriguez

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse….

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer releases May 12 with Knopf Books for Young Readers.

MY TWO CENTS: It’s easy to love Sophie, the half-Latina main character in this middle grade novel that upgrades the “new girl in town” idea by adding cool, magical chickens and letters from the beyond. Sophie and her parents move from Los Angeles to a farm, left to them by her late Great-Uncle Jim. The farm, though, is “more like a big, boring garden. Dead-looking grapevines and blackbirds and junk piles and bugs, that’s it.” Sophie’s family is trying to start over after her dad lost his job.

In the novel, author Kelly Jones addresses issues such as unemployment, racism, and classism, but never in a heavy-handed way. Through her letters to her abuela, Uncle Jim, and Agnes from Redwood Farm Supply, Sophie talks about her family’s financial problems and the small town’s lack of diversity. “There aren’t any people around here–especially no brown people.” In another chapter, Sophie writes, “even though Mom was born here and speaks perfect English, she says you have to be twice as honest and neighborly when everyone assumes you’re an undocumented immigrant.” These moments, though, are not preachy. Instead, they are presented as things Sophie observes or wonders about as she navigates her bicultural reality and being the new girl–a city girl transplanted to a weed-choked farm with magical chickens.

And, for the record, the chickens are awesome. My favorite is the angry, telekinetic chicken. He’s so cute somehow even though he’s got the “if looks could kill” face all the time. Being responsible for the chickens helps Sophie to settle in and connect with her new surroundings. Caring for the chickens, and working hard to keep them safe from a thief, allows Sophie to develop her confidence.

What I really love about Sophie is that she’s a strong girl, but she’s also a quiet girl who isn’t afraid to admit when she’s sad or lonely. Being strong doesn’t always mean wielding weapons; sometimes it means going after a chicken thief or speaking in front of a crowd, even though it scares you. I think lots of middle grade readers will love this novel, which also has great illustrations, information about chickens throughout, and even a recipe for migas!

TEACHING TIPS: Language arts teachers could easily include this novel in a thematic literature circles unit with other stories about moving to new places, whether it’s to a new town or a new country.

Since Sophie writes letters throughout the novel, students could write and send personal letters to friends or family and formal business letters to local companies. In this electronic age, writing, sending, and receiving letters could be a fun activity for this generation of students, who may have seldom done this, if at all.

Asking a local farmer to visit the classroom, or taking students on a field trip, would be a wonderful experiential activity, especially for city students (like Sophie) who may have never visited a farm.

A classroom fiesta, complete with lots of eggs-based dishes and migas, using the recipe in the book, would be a wonderful and tasty way to end a unit.

Kelly JonesABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Jones is a curious person, interested in chickens, magic, farm life, spies, sewing, the odd everyday bits of history, how to make sauerkraut, how to walk goats, superheroes and what makes them so super, recipes to make with a lot of eggs, anything with ghosts (particularly friendly ghosts), how to draw chickens that actually look like chickens, and any story she’s never heard before.

She’s also a writer: Her debut novel Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, about twelve-year-old Sophie and her magical chickens, is forthcoming from Knopf Books For Young Readers in May of 2015.

Her second book, Glamour, is set in 1818, England, about sixteen-year-old Annis, who would like to become a spy like her father and who does not see why the War Office should put up such a fuss (with bonus magical dressmaking!) is forthcoming from Knopf Books for Young Readers in Spring of 2017.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer visit your local library or bookstore. Also, check out WorldCat.orgIndieBound.orgGoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Three Ways to Help Bookstores & Libraries Talk About Your Book

By Kelly Jones

So, you’re a writer, and you’ve written a book. You’ve gotten feedback, polished it, and now it’s being published. Congratulations!

Or, maybe you found a book you love, and you want to help spread the word about it!

But, how do you get it into readers’ hands? For that, you may want some help from booksellers, librarians, and teachers. Here’s how to help them discover and share your book with readers!

1. Build a Booktalk

A “booktalk” is a tool to help readers decide if a book is right for them. If you can share a 30-second booktalk that librarians and booksellers can use with readers, that can make their jobs much easier!

Some ways booktalks are used:

  • A bookseller might pull 3-5 novels off a display and booktalk each of them to help a customer decide what to buy.
  • A school media specialist / librarian might booktalk a number of books for a class assignment, so kids can choose what to read.
  • A book club might solicit booktalks from members to choose the group’s next book.

22639675An example for my novel, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmerwhich releases May 12 with Knopf Books for Young Readers:

Unusual Chickens is a book about twelve-year-old Sophie and her magic chickens. When Sophie’s dad loses his job, she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the Northern California farm they inherited. Sophie doesn’t feel like she fits in – she’s Latina and isn’t used to living in a mostly-white neighborhood – so she writes diary-like letters to her beloved abuela, who recently died. Pretty soon, she’s trying to keep a telekinetic chicken, an invisible chicken, and a super-fast chicken safe from a chicken thief, all while making a friend and getting to know her new community.”

What makes a good booktalk?

It’s conversational. Booktalks are part of a conversation about books; they should be an easy way to tell someone about your book, and they should feel natural to the speaker. Consider starting with words like “This is a book about…” “Imagine you are…” “What if…”

The first line hooks readers.

Sometimes even 30 seconds is too long, and you need a one-sentence booktalk. If you only got to share the first sentence of your booktalk, would that be enough to hook a reader? Work on it, then test it out on readers.

It’s memorable and intriguing. We all hear about hundreds of “great books” – what makes this book perfect for the right readers? What details will help readers remember it? How would a reader ask for this book? What makes it not only memorable, but intriguing to the perfect reader?

It gives the reader clues, so they can make a decision. Clues such as the age of the protagonist, the culture(s) in the story, the location, the genre, and what happens can all help the reader to decide whether the book sounds like something they’d like to read. I especially like to include clues that tell readers if a book might be a mirror (a book they can see themselves in) or a window (a world they’d like to experience through a book).  Unusual Chickens isn’t primarily about Sophie’s experience as a modern Latina girl – it’s about her magic chickens. But who she is can be an important clue for readers, so I include her heritage in my booktalk.

It contains specific details, but not too many. There are more cool details in any book than will fit in a booktalk – let some surprise and delight the reader who picks it up! Do include specific details – they’re what make your book different from all the others — but choose just a few, or the reader may be overwhelmed.

2. Build Your Local Book Community

So, you have a booktalk for your book! Now let’s find some booksellers and librarians to share it with.

Start local. Visit your local bookstore and/or library, and get to know the book people who work there! I like to start by finding people who like the books I like, and books that are similar to my book. I check displays and recommendations by staff, and ask the people who work there if anyone can recommend a book that’s similar to one I liked.

Share your book as part of your conversationI like to start conversations with a compliment (“What a beautiful display – I love that you’re celebrating diverse reads!”) or a question (“Can you help me find other middle grade novels about chickens?”) Once we’re talking about other writers’ books, I feel more comfortable talking about mine (“My book about a Latina girl and her magic chickens comes out in May from Random House – I’m so excited!”)

When someone asks about your book, share your booktalk. You want to memorize the basic details and be able to work them into a conversation, not read from a script. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same words every time – and it shouldn’t sound like you’re reciting a speech. (That isn’t how you’d tell your friends about your book, right?) If it’s too long for you to remember, no one else will remember it either – try a shorter one! This is your chance to help a bookseller or librarian pick which details to tell readers about. Pay attention to what intrigues them, what they ask about, and what they don’t seem as interested in.

3. Build Your Online Book Community

What if you don’t have a local bookstore, or you don’t feel comfortable talking to people in person about your book? Try finding booksellers and librarians online!

Use your booktalk online. People looking for more information about you and your book will find it and share it, if they find it on your blog or through social media and it intrigues them. Your booktalk can help book people share your book with readers even if they haven’t had a chance to read your book themselves yet.

Find your book people. Try the Twitter hashtag #librarylife, search for bookstores’ social media pages, read professional reviews such as School Library Journal, and pay attention to online mentions. What bookstores are hosting your favorite authors? Who gave your book a glowing review? What booksellers chose the Kids’ Indie Next titles? Are they on social media? Follow them! Who are they following? Follow them, too! (Latin@s in KidLit is an awesome starting place, of course!!)

Talk about other people’s books! Book people love to talk about books. So join in! Is a bookseller or librarian looking for book suggestions? Share one! Have you just read an amazing book, or learned about a book you’re excited to read – or that you think some readers might really love? Talk about it! Is there a book that inspired you? Share it! Challenge yourself to an extra-short booktalk of someone else’s book, using specific details rather than “great” or “awesome”.

Then, talk about your book, too! Sneak peeks, exciting moments, the kinds of details you share in your booktalk – these are all great to share on social media! But, do try to keep thinking about the reader’s perspective: What can you share that will help the perfect readers find your book, or share it with other readers? What will excite readers and convince them that this is a book they might love? Share that!

Happy booktalking!

Librarians, booksellers, and teachers: please share your thoughts! What helps you share books with readers? How can authors help you find the right readers for their books?

 

Kelly JonesKelly Jones is a curious person, interested in chickens, magic, farm life, spies, sewing, the odd everyday bits of history, how to make sauerkraut, how to walk goats, superheroes and what makes them so super, recipes to make with a lot of eggs, anything with ghosts (particularly friendly ghosts), how to draw chickens that actually look like chickens, and any story she’s never heard before.

She’s also a writer: Her debut novel Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, about twelve-year-old Sophie and her magical chickens, is forthcoming from Knopf Books For Young Readers in May of 2015.

Her second book, Glamour, is set in 1818, England, about sixteen-year-old Annis, who would like to become a spy like her father and who does not see why the War Office should put up such a fuss (with bonus magical dressmaking!) is forthcoming from Knopf Books for Young Readers in Spring of 2017.

Libros Latin@s: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

12000020By Eileen Fontenot

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

MY TWO CENTS: This book is a four-time award winner–and well deserved! What a moving book. Even days after I finished it, I would still think of Ari and Dante and their friendship, which grows into deeper feelings–how much they influenced each other’s lives over the course of a year, with events tenderly captured by Sáenz. The romantic type of love is not the only one Sáenz touches upon; familial love is also an important topic in the book. Both Dante’s and Ari’s relationships with their families are as complicated as their relationship with each other.

The story is set in 1987 and told from the point of view of Ari–despite this, the reader gains a full picture of Dante. We learn of Dante’s sweet quirks (like his distaste of wearing shoes) and his passion for literature and art. When Dante and Ari meet, Ari is cut off from others. His parents won’t talk about the details of his older brother’s incarceration, and his father is still fighting his demons stemming from his time fighting in Vietnam. He has no real friends. Dante’s openness and delight in the simple pleasures in life helps Ari break out of his self-enforced wall, ostensibly to hide his confusing emotions.

Sáenz packs in so much emotion in such simple and spare dialogue that conveys so much. There are no superfluous words; Sáenz’s writing is lean and packs a powerful emotional punch.

TEACHING TIPS: I would recommend this book to anyone – whether teenager or adult – who ever felt different. And that it’s OK to be that way. This is a universal tale. But besides being just a beautiful love story, the book’s themes include dealing with the feelings that come with an incarcerated sibling, a parent with emotional scars from war, and the challenges that come with being gay, male, and Mexican American. This book is for anyone who feels as if there’s not enough compassion in the world.

If librarians and teachers want to try a writing exercise inspired by this book, I would ask teens who have read the book if they can attempt to reproduce Sáenz’s succinct writing style. You can tell them it’s kind of like writing dialogue on Twitter or that it’s very close to poetry. Ask them to communicate as much as they can with as few words as possible.

AUTHOR (DESCRIPTION FROM INDIEBOUND): Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an American Book Award–winning author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a Printz Honor Book, the Stonewall Award winner, the Pura Belpré Award winner, and won the Lambda Literary Award for Children’s/Young Adult Fiction. Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. His first novel for teens, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, was an ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His second book for teens, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Southwest Book Award, and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe visit your local library or bookstore. Also, check out WorldCat.orgIndieBound.orgGoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

 

Eileenfontenot headshot Fontenot is a recent graduate of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston. She works at a public library and is interested in community service and working toward social justice. A sci-fi/fantasy fan, Eileen was formerly a newspaper writer and editor.