12.24.2008

Jingle Bells, Ha ha ha!

I'm loving Christmas season this year because Lukas and Mikah (especially) have taken to singing Christmas songs: I'll see if after the holidays I can figure out how to upload voice recordings, or I'll put it all together with pictures in a photo story bit. It's awesome!

To you and yours: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 2009!

11.19.2008

NCTE/ALAN 2008

This year's NCTE convention's taking place this week and weekend in San Antonio TX, and it's going to be quite a show. I'm looking forward to meeting up with Linda Sue Park (Keeping Score & Tap Dancing on the Roof), Terry Trueman (Hurricane), Matt de la Peña (Mexican WhiteBoy), Lyn Miller-Lachman (get you an ARC of her up-coming Gringolandia), the Byrds of Cinco Puntos Press, the many folks at Arte Público, Adrienne W. and Tracy L. at Random House, Catharine S. at S&S, Diana Lopez (who's there with Little, Brown pushing her up-coming YA novel, Confetti Girl (due out in June of 2009--if there are copies of the ARC available, snag one, it's a great book)), Don Gallo and C.J. Bott (C.J. and I are talking about how to promote more widely her monthly chatroom author talks (open to teachers, librarian, students, and anyone else willing to read a book, meet in the chatroom the week prior to chatting with the author, to sort of do a pre-talk), my wonderful and most bestest of the best editor, Wendy Lamb, and a slue of other folks. I can't wait. The members of NCTE's Standing Committee Against Censorship, too, will be there.

As for my schedule, if you want to come hang out at a couple of presentations and panels, here it is:

Friday, November 21: 11AM-12.15PM (213A/HBG Convention Center, Concourse Level): Against the Ropes: a conversation with latino authors about books for reluctant adolescent readers (with Diane Bertrand and Ray Villarreal)

Saturday, November 22: 8AM-9.15AM (006D/HBG Convention Center, River Level): The Right to Write: authors on writing outside their culture (with Linda Sue Park, Lyn Miller-Lachman, and Terry Trueman)

Saturday, November 22: 1PM-2PM (Random House Children's, Booth #313): I'll be signing copies of my books, specifically the very recent paperback release of my third title, The Whole Sky Full of Stars)

Monday, November 24: 9.10AM-9.45AM (Marriot Rivercenter/Salon E/3rd Floor, 101 Bowie St): ALAN Workshop Panel: Family and Culture in Young Adult Literature (with Sheila Moses and Padma Venkatraman, Holly Atkins to moderate)

Come enjoy.

10.31.2008

Writing: My Next Work

Hey, here's an image of the cover-in-progress of my next book (The Case of the Pen Gone Missing: A Mickey Rangel Mystery), being published in the spring of 2009 by Arte Público/Piñata Books, the first of three in my chapterbook-length detective/mystery series. It's an awesome cover now, I can only imagine what it'll look like when Giovanni Mora, the artist, finishes with the coloring. Something else cool about the book, AP/PB is having it translated into Spanish; what's cooler is that they'll release it as a two-books-in-one, like Bertrand's Upsidedown and Backwards, in which you get the English version from page one to the middle of the book, and if you turn it, literally, upsidedown and backwards, you get the Spanish from pagina una to the middle, where English and Spanish meet. Cool concept.

NOTE: you'll have to trust me that the cover is awesome! I just got a reject trying to upload the thing: either a corrupt file or in an unrecognizable format.

10.19.2008

Lubbock: Friends of the Library Book Sale: Saturday, 10.18

I so look forward to the Friends' book sales, twice yearly. This go-round was their regular book sale, which means more often than not books in really good shape for an awesome price: in the YA section, where I spent much of my time, hardbacks were .50 and paperbacks went for .25. You can't beat those prices, unless we're talking about their 2009 1/2 sale. Then you'll leave Mahon branch's basement with more books than a kid can read in a year. Anyway, here's a list of the titles I purchased, all hard back, hardly a one cracked open (which is good for me, of course, but bad for literacy):
Cart, Michael (editor): Necessary Noise: Stories About Our Families as They Really Are
Deuker, Carl: Heart of a Champion
Lynch, Chris: Slot Machine
McNamee, Graham: Acceleration
Myers, Walter Dean: The Dream Bearer
Myers, Walter Dean: Shooter
Naidoo, Beverley: Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope
O'Dell, Scott: Island of the Blue Dolphins (14th printing)
Schmidt, Gary D.: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Shusterman, Neal: The Schwa Was Here
Singer, Marilyn (editor): Face Relations: 11 Stories About Seeing Beyond Color
Van Draanen, Wendelin: Flipped

In paperback:
Grimes, Nikki: Bronx Masquerade

Picture books:
Mora, Pat: A Birthday Basket for Tia (Cecily Lang, illustrator)
Suen, Anastasia: Window Music (Wade Zahares, illustrator)

That's not taking into account the other bags full that Tina brought home for the boys. Our Golden Books collection is growing. Speaking of our boys: Lukas and I are big time Rat Patrol fans. If you don't know the show, it's a WW II series that aired back in the mid-60s, and follows the exploits of four soldiers, three U.S. and one Brit, in the African desert fighting the German army. The production often is weak/poor, but man, when they were showing as reruns when I was a kid, I loved them, and now that I've got season one on DVD, Lukas loves them just as much. Anyway, why talk about this on a book sale post? Well, go figure: there's a book version as well. And I found a copy, pulled it from the shelf, showed it to Lukas, whose eyes practically popped out of their sockets, his face broke into a huge smile, and he said, "The Rat Patrol! Cool!" So guess what he and I'll be reading soon?

10.14.2008

Lubbock: B&N Educator Night and Texas Latino Voices

Busy day today: first, early morning at the doctor's for a procedure on Tina; thank God everything turned out okay. Later, I sat with Will Terrell at Barnes & Noble for close to two hours to sign our respective books. He's a comic book guy, a pretty good one, who's done the color for, among other titles, Gargoyles by Greg Weisman. He's also the founder of the Lubbock Sketchclub, a group of folks ranging, he says, from age 7 to 77, artists the lot of them, all at different levels regarding ability, but each and every one of the 40-60 participants looking to get better at the craft. And he's got proof: the Lubbock Sketchclub Sketchbook, a short book highlighting participants' work. For more info, check out their site: www.elSketchoClubo.com. He does school visits too. Thanks to Teri, Community Relations Manager at B&N for keeping teachers in mind this way. And for the invite. Then immidiately following this signing, I headed to Mahon Library, downtown Lubbock for the Texas Latino Voices, organized by Texas Center for the Book and paid for, at least in part, by Humanities Texas. A program that brings Latino authors to different parts of Texas, TLV has been going on for several years now, and I'm happy Gail Bialas at TCB keeps inviting me to work this gig. Thanks to Humanities Texas for, year after year, funding it. Anyway, Jane Clausen, the library director set up the show, and it went really well. Thanks to all the profs from TTU's COE who showed up. You all were half the crowd, how I appreciate the symbolic pat on the back. You guys are awesome! And all the others present, man, you guys made it a very cool way to finish the evening. Now I can't wait for Saturday morning to go back to Mahon to buy books on the very cheap. Friends of the Library are holding one of their book sales, and I am ready with bags in hand. Better yet, a shopping cart. No lie: they've got those.

10.11.2008

Tyler, TX: What a Visit!

So, finally, my entry on my visit to Tyler: man, oh, man, do those folks know how to treat a visitor. And I'm not talking about just me; city librarian, Chris Albertson, took me on a tour of the city. This was just after Ike had done its damage in that part of the Republic and so there were a few thousand folks there, surviving the best they could.

The evening I got there, I had a gig sponsored by Dallas Public Library and Humanities Texas. I'll tell you what, too: it was fun. We didn't quite know how many folks were going to show up, and so we were pleasantly surprised when around 50 people showed up. Among them Gregory and Miles Zeorlin (father and son, visual artist and super reader and all-around teen, respectively). I had a blast reading and addressing questions and comments from the audience. So fun it was that I went on and on and on, and we closed down the place.

Thanks for a great first visit to east Texas.

René.

9.27.2008

Light Over Lubbock

Okay, it's been a while since I've posted anything. I still owe you a post on my wonderful visit to Tyler Public Library (Tyler TX)--a very awesome reading community, very friendly (more to come). But, I thought I'd post the following video I took thinking it would be the thing that would make me a thousandaire. At least that. It's a video I took tonight, after my wife, Tina, said I needed to come outside and get a load of this in the sky. The experienced videographer that I am (can't you tell from the wonderful work?) I ran in for my digividcam, dreaming of selling this video to the news. Alas, the news trumped me. Channel 11 and the Reeds (friends from Lubbock Baptist Temple here in Lubbock) said it was a "weather balloon." "A NASA balloon experiment," they say. "Taller than a 60 storey building." "25 miles high up in the sky." That's all what the news says. But we are in Lubbock. Close to Roswell. 'Nuff said.

And for more awesome videos, go to my students' blogs (EDLL 6349) to the right and above. Some very cool video book talks.

8.22.2008

Teaching

So, this coming semester (fall of '08) I'm teaching another section of Developing Language Arts Programs (5350) and have am excited about how the regular-length semester will go. I'm doing much of what we did in the summer session, including a lot of work online. I'm so excited because we had two authors, Ada and Roberts, contact students via their blogs and email, and we want to continue in that vein. I loved the Video Booktalks, too, and will expect maybe a few more than just the one. Bookwink.com sets a high bar, and that's what I want my students to shoot for.

The other class I'm teaching is 6349, a graduate level Adolescent Lit class: here's the reading list (in no particular order):

Red Hot Salsa, edited by Lori Carlson
Getting Away with Murder by Chris Crowe
The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle
Up Before Daybreak by Deborah Hopkinson
Standing Against the Wind by Traci L. Jones
Daisy Kutter by Kazu Kibuishi
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
A Step from Heaven by An Na
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Acceleration by Graham McNamee
Miracle's Boys by Jaqueline Woodson
and Naked Reading by the fantastic! Teri Lesesne.

Keep reading for my students' blogs!

8.11.2008

Diane Roberts, Alma Flor Ada, and My Students

This summer I had the distinct pleasure of teaching two classes: Developing Language Arts Classes (EDLL 5350) and Studies in Langauge Arts (EDLL 6350), the subtitle of this second class was Creative Writing for the Classroom Teachers. I've written about the latter earlier in the summer, and now I want to mention the former: some highlights anyway. Among the authors we studied this summer were Alma Flor Ada (I Love Saturdays y domingos and My Name Is Maria Isabel) and Diane Roberts (a fellow Texan whose Made You Look was a hit in class). And among the different projects I assigned were blog reading responses and craft lessons in the manner of Fletcher. The end products are very good; you should take a look at some via the links below under the heading "summer ii '08 (5350). Besides the responses and craft lessons, students also put together digital literacy narratives and video book reviews. Like I said, all very exciting, but then came one of those moments in a class that a teacher just can't get over. Molly Long, one of the students, finished reading Diane's book super quick and blogged about it. Saying she had enjoyed the book for various reasons, one having to do with her family also being into traveling on vacations together. I got the idea to give Molly Diane's email and to get in touch with a living, breathing author. Molly took me up on the offer and Diane emailed back within a day or two. Then came a second email from the writer. Molly was so excited by this development that I asked her to share her experience with the class. So far as I know, they're still emailing back and forth. Then there's Carmen Ontiveros. She put together a craft lesson on Ada's Saturdays y domingos. Earlier this evening I was checking to see if there'd been any movement in terms of blog updates now that the summer term is over (in the hopes that the students would actually keep these up as a sort of techno-intro to potential employers and future students). And so you can imagine how excited I got when I opened up Carmen's blog and saw two comments under the Ada craft lesson and saw that Ada herself had found Carmen's blog and thought enough of it to do more than just pass through. She gives a really cool description of how the story in the picture book came about. It's a must read. So are my students' blogs.

8.04.2008

They're Home, Have Been, and Look To Be...

Hey, I'm working on a blog entry detailing the travails of the trip from Sweden back for Tina and the boy, mine to Dallas to pick them up, and from Dallas to Lubbock. Sounds boring, but it ain't. There was craziness aplenty. But with finals coming up this second summer session (which I've enjoyed immensely: teaching two classes can get busy, but man, both classes have done some great work and I've had the pleasure of being witness to it), I've not had too much time. The Welcome Home post will be a long one, longer than this one. Much longer. So look out for it. And a few more Sweden pics from when I wasn't there.

I'm super happy the family's back together in Lubbock, where 100 degree weather is the norm right about now.

7.25.2008

Almost home!

The whole gang on Morbror Lars's Birthday.
Lukas and Mikah helping Agneta Sjöstedt feeding her sheep.Lukas and Mikah making friends with Ulla the sheep.
Sitting on a moss covered stone that at night turns into a troll.Annelie and Lukas infront of a stone age hut.
Lukas working on his canoe.
Canoe finished, time for a ride!Grinding wheat, bronze age style.
Sampling different foods made during the bronze age.
Learning to master the bow and arrow.
Iron age burial field in forground, and bronze age dwelling in background. Mikah in front of an iron age house.
Lukas milking a cow at the cheese factory in Falköping. Mikah doing the same.

7.19.2008

Reading Life 32

Alamo Wars by Ray Villarreal

There is a danger that a many readers who start Villarreal's second novel for young adults (his first being My Father, The Angel of Death) will choose not to finish it. Here's why: for a good while, the characters are presented in a very stereotypical and flat way. The white kids, including the book's bully Billy Ray Cansler, are very one-dimensional. They play the part of ignorant racists. As do the Anglo teachers. The Mexican American and Mexican kids are bullied, are victimized by an uncaring white public school system. It would be a shame, though, if those readers did put the book down for these reasons. Though they are there, the book changes routes a few chapters after midway. Villarreal makes of most typed characters more fleshy ones. So don't despair, those of you (myself included in this bunch) who might think this book is one that bashes white folks outright. It turns into a book about admitting a misunderstanding of those very differences that traditionally keep us separate (culturally and racially speaking) and a sincere moving toward the beginning of acceptance of one another for who we are, period.

Anyhow, the story is this: Miss Mac, an icon at Rosemont Middle School in San Antonio, dies in the classroom. Several generations of students whose lives she touched are greatly saddened. In cleaning out her filing cabinets, Team 3 teacher and a long time friend, Mrs. Frymire finds a play that Miss Mac had written a long time back. To honor her friend, Mrs. Frymire talks folks into putting on the play, titled "Thirteen Days to Glory--The Battle of the Alamo." It's a great idea, except that according to some of the Mexican American students playing the parts of Mexicans One, Two, and Three, and according to Miss Mac's replacement, Miss Martinez, the play is a very one-sided look at the history of the battle, and the dialogue is more Speedy Gonzalez than accurate. People take sides: Marco, Raquel, Izzy, and Miss Martinez (and a few others) stand on the one side; Mrs. Frymire, Billy Ray, and others stand opposed. Production shuts down. Racial tension grows.

But Villarreal is not about spitting venom. He is, instead, about himself and his characters trying to find out for themselves who they are and where they stand on serious issues. And it is at this point in the story that the characters really and truly come alive, and they remain so to the end. It's a good book. Don't put it aside like I did time and again. Plug away at it, and you'll see for yourself, it is a good book.

7.17.2008

Sweden: The Farm

There had been a rumor that my brother-in-law, Erick, otherwise known on this blog as Anon in Dubai, was going to lift the stone at the farm, and he was willing to do it on video. Unfortunately, he "got sick" and is leaving Sweden today for Dubai and Tina, who would serve as videographer, my boys, and my folks-in-law are conveniently on a road trip. So the world and fate seem to have conspired against him. Have a safe trip back, you and Anna.

7.08.2008

Rene, remember that big pile of sticks and brush you helped build? Well, it's all gone!

Mikah picking more bluberries.


Mikah resting up on some of the burial stones.

Lukas climbing on some of the stones.


Lukas on a visit to domareringar (judging circles), about six to seven circles of stones put up 2000 years ago. It's an actual burial ground where even the giants were thought to have buried some of their own.

Morfar and the boys with a view of Jönköping in the background.

Mormor and the boys picking cherries on the top of Taberg.

Lukas and Mikah on top of Taberg.

View from the top of Taberg.

Mormor and Mikah on top of Taberg. Taberg is a mountian which contains a rare mineral, titanmagnetitolivinit, found only here and two other places in the world. Now you can go to the top of the other side of the mountian and look out.

still in Sweden

Well I geuss it's my turn to be the blog keeper; sorry, but I'm not as funny as René . Good thing Lukas and Mikah have a little humour. Here Mikah had gotten into his morbror Thomas's candy box and decided that the bigger pieces look best on the face.

Mikah picking blueberries at family camp in Kuvarp.
Lukas with his bountiful harvest.

Blueberry bush.

Kuvarp at midnight. Kuvarp, a little south of Jönköping, is where family camp was held.

7.04.2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Celebrating our nation's independence with family and friends is always a wonderful experience. This year was no exception over at the Reed's homestead. It was great to see all the folks again. I wish Tina and the boys had been there, too. Alas, I won't see them for another three or so weeks. The house is too quiet without them.

6.28.2008

Life 6

My time in Sweden came to an end yesterday, very early in the morning. Very early. It was also a long flight, but I got back to Lubbock safely, so thank God for that. Though my bags didn't arrive with me from Dallas, where I had to check them through Customs then recheck the bags. Still, they were delivered to me later that evening.

I miss my family and the farm. I miss the weather, because though it is sprinkling rain here in Lubbock right at this moment, it's still in the nineties, I'm sure. When I left for the airport, I needed a light sweater. When I got on the breezeway in Dallas, I took the first opportunity to pull it off.

Anyway, Tina is going to keep posting her Sweden trip. She and the boys will continue on for another month, while I get to teach. Somebody's got to pay for the trip, right? He he he.

6.26.2008

Sweden 14: Stadsparken & the John Bauer Museum

Back in Jönköping, we had a chance to visit a local city park that includes merri-go-rounds and swings and mini-rock climbing equipment and the like, but also a bird museum and a little zoo, where they keep llamas and real reindeer (which we haven't visited yet, but Tina assures me that she and the boys will return to visit the animals and then we'll have pictures of that). For now, just the cute Lukas/Mikah shots.
A view of Jönköping and the lake from Stadsparken.
Mikah pointing at dinner? Nope, it's Mikah pointing at one of the stuffed birds in the bird museum, fålgel museum.
Lukas at one of several cases full of birds' eggs. He wondered a couple times how they got the baby birds out without cracking the shells.
Here is Lukas playing with a few authentic Swedish children at the park. This contraption involves filling a bucket full of sand, using a pulley system to then dump the sand in a slot that then empties out this end back into the sand pit.

This is a combination swing/merri-go-round. A kid sits on it, then is pushed round and round, high and low. Much fun. Lukas, then a bit later Mikah, kept screaming, "Mayday! Mayday!," all the while laughing.Here are the boys on a real merri-go-round.
Mikah sticking out the front end of a train tunnel.

We also went to a really cool museum downtown dedicated to the very well-known Swedish artist, John Bauer, famous for his paintings of trolls and giants and other fantastical Swedish icons.
Prince MikahTroll Lukas


Sweden 13c--Stockholm

I'll spare you pictures of the changing of the guard at that castle (it's just a lot of soldiers marching and playing music and more soldiers, etc. Really cool, but we've got better photos of Lukas and Mikah in Stockholm). Also, later I might go through all the pictures we've got and choose some Gamla Stan (Old Town) Stockholm because it is a beautiful place, but we've got too many and so I'd have to upload a ton of them and (according to Tina and my brother) I have a ton more to write. So I'll spare you that, too. Now, to the final Stockholm shots.This is one of the more famous alleyways in the city. At some points you can stretch out your arms and touch both sides of the alley.

In preparation for the first Sweden soccer (fotboll (no, I didn't just misspell the word in English, that's how it's spelled here in Sweden)) match in the Euro Cup 2008 (which they didn't win, by the way). For this game, though, they did get to release blue and yellow balloons after the match because they did win it.

6.20.2008

Sweden 13b--Stockholm

Here we are at Skansen, that sort of amusement park minus the rides, that was like a combination zoo and old old old house place.This is Mikah, trying to find a wolverine, which was rolled up into a little ball trying to sleep. Funny, it looked nothing like the comic book hero or the movie one. Though Mikah's kind of smiling.
Here's Mikah really smiling. I think in this shot we've found the seals, but they're doing nothing but sleeping. No bouncing balls on tips of noses, no barking, no nothing. But again, it's Mikah, and the kid's real cute.
This is morbro Thomas and the boys in front of a really old house. You can tell by the grass growing on the roof. Actually, this style of roof was common back in the day. It served a great many purposes like insulating the place and according to Lukas, a place to feed the family's goat if you ran out of grass on the regular ground. I would think a green thumb like Tina could grow a few rose bushes up there, too. Lesa, you might get Leslie to consider doing something like this to your all's farmhouse for his next project. I'll take pictures, if you want.A closeer shot of morbro and the boys in front of the same house.
As promised, the animals: here is a momma bear and her three cubs, only months old. All snoozing in the shade.So it's no wonder that the moose are taking in some zzzs too. It was such a nice day for it, too. We don't have a good picture of the baby moose that had been born only three days before our visit, but it was a cute one.
Here's a shot of Lukas and the peacock. Which one looks prouder, do you think?
This is not Mikah, or Lukas, or me. It's a giant rabbit. No lie, you can get a ton of meat off this bunny if you were going hungry and were so inclined.
And talk about sweet: this is Lukas eating cotton candy. Not as colorful or as thick as the stuff you'd get at the State Fair, but he had fun eating it. Mikah swept the park's grounds with his, to some Swedes' amusement.
And I'll finish this set with the boys and Tina on a canon looking over the city of Stockholm. And since Lukas is such a military buff, the kid was climbing every single one of them and making like he was shooting them. With the stories to go with the action, too. Mikah, like a good baby brother, followed suit, but wasn't as quick climbing.