Titles for My Summer 1 5351.001 Children's Lit

Following are the covers to the books I'll be using for my Children's Literature class this summer:


Texas Institute of Letters Awards Announced...

On April 18th, the Texas Institute of Letters named its award winners and runners-up. I was honored to serve and chair the Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for Best Children's Book and the Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for Best Young Adult Book committees, along with Jean Flynn and Bobbi Samuels. They made the work easy and fun. And thanks to TIL for the opportunity. To all of the authors and publishers who participated, thank you for the wonderful books that you are writing and publishing; our children and young adults will benefit greatly.

Here are the winners and runners-up:

In the Children's Book category,
the winner is
Benjamin Alire Saenz for his picture book A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un tiempo perfecto para soñar, illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia (Cinco Puntos Press).
The runners-up are
Ten-Gallon Bart and the Wild West Show by Susan S. Crummel
Join Hands by Pat Mora
Yellow Moon, Apple Moon by Pamela Porter
In the Young Adult Book category,
the winner is
Claudia Guadalupe Martinez for her first novel, The Smell of Old Lady Perfume (Cinco Puntos Press).

The runners-up are
Chicken Foot Farm by Anne Estevis
Birth of the Fifth Sun by Jo Harper (non-fiction)
My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson


Just In, Literally

UPDATE (04/16/2009): In Book Fiesta, Mora sings the myriad ways kids read, and with whom and to whom, where, and in what languages. From sitting inside a whale's mouth with friends to lying out in the open alone, everyone of these kids are reading. And that's what ought be celebrated. The artwork by Rafael Lopez is classic: colorful, playful, and detailed. Included at the end is a history of how El dia del los niños/El dia de los libros started. Another success for this poet/illustrator combo.

* * *

Sitting at the table this morning, grading, I spied the postman walking up the ways to our front door, package in hand. I've ordered enough books over the years, and had others shipped by different publishers for review, to know it was a book he was going to drop off. I didn't know which one, because it was only last night, late, way past midnight even, that I placed an order for Gaines' Mozart and Leadbelly: Essays and Stories (to reread the essay by the same title, which has to do, in part, with the craft of writing), and so I knew it couldn't be it yet. Not even with the great work that Better World Books does. And I don't have other orders still outstanding.

Well, the good folks at HarperCollins sent me a review copy of Pat Mora's latest picture book. Artwork by one of my favorites, Rafael Lopez. The book's called Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day, a bilingual set up. I'm getting ready for work so I haven't had a chance to read it, but I will, and I'll post my review of it post haste. You're probably saying it would've taken me the time it took me to read the book as it's taken me to write this pre-review post, but whatever. I'll get it done.


A Solid Read!!! Matt de la Peña's Next

Though it's not due out until October of this year, I was able to get my grubby hands on Matt's upcoming novel for teens, We Were There (Delacorte Press/Random House). I've been a long time fan of Matt's work, dating back to that day browsing the Teen shelves in the Barnes & Noble in McAllen TX. But if I'm gonna be up front about this, I have to say that when I first saw the Spanish surname, and then saw that he was being published by Random House, my own publisher, I didn't want to spend the bucks on this book, this Ball Don't Lie novel. I think it had to do with me being jealous of the guy, who I'd never met, didn't want to meet. Or maybe it had to do with my wanting to be the house's only Latino YA male writer (though I know there are more than just Matt and me, but I was blinded, maybe?). Or whatever. Maybe I didn't have the cash on me at the time, and then the next time I came in I forgot that he was even there.

Eventually I did get to meet the guy, in San Antonio, and Adrienne Waintraub at RH must've sent me a copy of Ball Don't Lie, then in paperback already, so that I could, if I wanted to (fat chance! right? knowing what you know about my feelings described above) be up on other folks who'd be attending either TLA or NCTE. She also sent me copies of Dana Reinhardt's first two titles. All I'm saying is, I shouldn't've read his book, man. Because if I hadn't I wouldn't've been so kicking myself on the backside for not having read him before getting a free copy from AW, and I wouldn't've been thinking, Okay, I might want to meet the guy who wrote this novel. And then I did meet the dude, and it turns out he's an awesome guy to boot. Real buena gente, I'd call him back in deep South Texas, good people, and real, as in a lot and authentic both. Back then he was talking about his next book that he was working on, this Mexican WhiteBoy manuscript that he was excited about because he would be exploring some stuff about race, ethnicity, language, being and not being a part of a culture, and the like. I'm happy we hit it off.

We've met again a couple times at different functions, and always it's great to hear him talk about his writing, his work teaching, what he's reading. And about his life. And I tell him about my wife and boys, what I'm reading, my teaching, etc. And the last time we met, fall 2008 for NCTE, again in San Anto, he told me about this new book of his. He said, first, that it would be so very different from what he'd already done in the first two books. Not a sports-based story (though there is some hoops in this one too, but not as a backdrop like in the first two). Dealing with others sorts of struggles. I didn't get much in the way of plot, or character, or even the process. He did joke that he kept the language cleaner in this book than in the first two. (It came up because I've told him that his use of graphic language is what is keeping his books out of the classroom across the country; I'm a teacher in Texas, a teacher of teachers, I know). And I got no clue what he meant by "keeping it cleaner than the other two," because language again will be an issue. But I'll tell you this much, the characters are so very compelling, the story itself (though seemingly nothing is happening except for three group home kids escape, making off with the group home's petty cash fund, and head south to Mexico) is very moving. I grow to feel for these boys who I'd maybe normally dismiss if I saw them walking down the hallway at school where I used to teach, or down the ways at the mall. Boys I'd like to avoid because trouble is very much written in their faces, in their struts as they saunter down the breezeway, in their flat nothing looks as they pass you by. Trouble-makers, who cares about them? Well, Matt makes you care about them. Makes me, anyhow. And hopefully you, too. And, it's a book like this one that will so appeal to young men today who are facing similar struggles as Miguel, Rondell, and Mong. Maybe not to the same extent or in the same way, but kids looking for a way, not a way out, but a way to someplace different where they can move forward. And Matt's writing, in general, is the kind of writing that high school teachers can feel comfortable teaching in an English class because it is writing that blows away any kind of categorization. That is, some teachers might feel iffy about teaching YA lit because it's this or that. Not Matt's stuff. It's got the makings of becoming canonical. Lasting.

Maybe I'm saying all this because I did read the dude way back when I got a book of his for free, or because I've met him and we've become friends, or maybe because it's the solid truth that I'm telling. Whatever, I'm saying so. So there! It's the book to look for this year.