Wait…there’s more!

June 18, 2008

Agent Jen Carlson stopped by the Brown Bookshelf forum and answered questions about how the economy may be affecting those writing for children, what’s hot in kiddie lit and more.  Check out her answers.

But wait…if you didn’t get to ask a question or jump in the discussion, agent Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary Agency will be stopping by later today.  So keep the questions coming.

Regina is the agent to children’s author Derrick Barnes and 28 Days Later spotlight author, Sundee T. Frazier, this year’s Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award winner.

It’s not too late to stop in and add your .02 or benefit from someone else’s.

Chat Today at 10 a.m. Eastern

June 18, 2008

Just a reminder that the chat with agent, Jennifer Carlson starts at 10 a.m. eastern.  Discuss the state of children’s literature with an industry insider.

Post questions now on the Brown Bookshelf forum or join the forum chat at 10 a.m.

What’s The State of Children’s Literature?

June 16, 2008

Is the children’s market in a boom period or declining?

What are agents and editors looking for when it comes to books for young readers?

Do cycles matter? Or when it comes to the highs and lows of the publishing industry do writer’s simply have to step up their game during the tough times?

If you want to know the answers to these questions, pose them to agent Jennifer Carlson of Dunow, Carlson, Lerner at the Brown Bookshelf Myspace forum

If you haven’t joined our forum yet, there’s still time.  Questions can be posted on the forum now and Jen Carlson will be answering them in real-time, Wednesday morning June 18th 10-11 a.m. eastern time.

Join the Brown Bookshelf for its first summer chat series and learn what’s going on in the children’s lit industry.

YA Book Review: Sunrise Over Fallujah

June 13, 2008

Last weekend I participated in Mother Reader’s 48 Hour Reading Challenge.  Participants get 48 hours to read and review books of at least a fifth grade reading level.  This was right up my alley and I was able to read so many great books by familiar and unfamiliar authors.

African American author Walter Dean Myers’ newest book Sunrise Over Fallujah was one of the books that I curled up with on the first leg of the challenge.

Emotionally, this was a difficult read for me.  Walter Dean Myers put the initial days and months of Operation Iraqi Freedom into words through they eyes of Robin “Birdy” Perry.  Birdy enters the war at conflict with his dad who did not want his child to even be in the military.   He has an uncle who served in the Vietnam War as well as his mother to lean on and encourage him from the outside.  He knows his dad loves him but his dad does not agree with his decision to join the military and now be a part of the war.

I’ve never been in the military so I am very removed from war and what it is like.  My father served in the Navy and I have a cousin and her husband who have been a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  She’s told me stories and shared with me brief details of what it’s like over there as well as what it’s like once you leave and have to readjust to life in America.

We’ve seen reports on the news, read articles about the war and those who lose their lives, but last weekend for several hours I read a detailed account of it.  As I read it, I hoped that various characters, especially those who were connected with the protagonist, would survive and get to come back home to live out their dreams, raise their kids, and just simply live their lives with their friends and family.

282 pages is more than enough to share what can happen in a war, but at the same time, it isn’t enough.  Reading about the different places that the soldiers went to and the maneuvers they did as well as the need to be on alert as they moved throughout Iraq was well captured by Myers.   I can only imagine the number of soldiers that he interviewed as well as articles and news clips that he watched in order to write this story.  The details and imagery are very vivid and it encaptured me to the point where I felt that I was riding in the Humvee with Birdie, Ahmed, Marla, Captain Coles, and Jonesy.  I could hear Jonesy sing his beloved blues songs while Birdie tried to figure out Marla. 

Sunrise Over Fallujah is a wonderfully told story by an author who has told so many stories in the course of my lifetime.  It’s a mature YA read that gives a very detailed account of war through the eyes of American soldiers who don’t understand the real purpose of the war nor what exactly is the prize that will go to the victor.

It’s a coming of age story that shows even after you are officially grown, high school diploma in hand, there is still more growing up to be done.


On Saturday, June 14, 2008, Walter Dean Myers will be on Cover to Cover broadcast on BCAT Online.

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

June 11, 2008

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

Written by Anne Broyles

Illustrated by Anna Alter

Published by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc., 2008

Priscilla dreamed of freedom, a dream to be fulfilled, but only after the loss of her mother, and after toiling through the life of a slave.

When Priscilla was very young, her mother was sold away, “like a steer led to slaughter.” All she had left were her memories, and the Hollyhocks her mother had planted down by the cow pond.

When she was old enough, Priscilla was put to work in the big house, where she tried to remain invisible and stay out of the way. But mostly, she was scared. Especially at night when she heard the screams of slaves being beaten.

One day, a young man, Massa Basil Silkwood, visited the plantation. He stopped to chat with Priscilla and told her how smart she was, and that she should be in school. Massa Silkwood wasn’t cool with slavery.

Soon after, Priscilla’s master died, and she was sold on the auction block. Her new master, a Cherokee Indian and his wife, put Priscilla to work, “Another plantation, same life.” With the memory of her mother in her heart, Priscilla found solace sitting amongst the Hollyhocks she’d planted after arriving at the plantation. But once again, change was about to come.

As a result of the Indian Removal Act, a law that made it easier for the government to take land from Indians, Priscilla and her master’s family — and 16,000 other Cherokees — were rounded up and forced to move. They walked for months, trudging through the elements. Many people died along the way, as did Priscilla’s master’s eldest son.

While passing through a town, Priscilla, just by chance, saw someone she recognized: Massa Basil Silkwood! She told him her story, and he rescued her, purchasing her freedom.

While researching the Cherokee Trail of Tears for a novel she was writing, Anne Broyles discovered Priscilla’s story. Priscilla and the Hollyhocks offers a somewhat different story of slavery in America, a story unknown to many — or at least to me, anyway — African slaves who were not owned by whites, but by Native Americans. Who’da thought?

Anne Broyles tells an important story with an authentic voice. It was heart-breaking, yet ended on a high note: Priscilla found her freedom, and she inherited a large family who claimed her as daughter and sister, not slave.

Anna Alter’s folksy acrylic illustrations portray the story with the same tenderness and attention to detail as the story was told.

If you have a picture book that you’d like to submit for possible mention here, send me an email and I’ll return it with my mailing address.

What to send:
Picture books or very early chapter books, of particular interest to African American children (regardless of the race of the author). I’m looking for books with African American characters (however you choose to define that) or subject matter.

For other types of books — YA novels, middle grade chapters, graphic novels, contact Paula, Varian, Kelly or Carla (Although they, I’m sure, would welcome picture books too.)

– Don

You can’t choose what you can’t see

June 10, 2008

Hmm…feels a little weird in the blogger’s chair.  Have I been away that long?

I’m peeking my head up from a forced hiatus because Becky Laney over at Becky’s Book Reviews is gearing up for the annual Librarian’s Choices 2008.  Last year, I was excited to learn of this list, sponsored by the Texas Woman’s University, but disappointed that the African American books represented were from only established authors.

I’m desperately anxious to see more African American children’s authors represented on awards and librarian lists and was prompted to lament the lack thereof within last year’s LC awards. Becky responded with a very sensible, succient point – the books can’t be considered if the committee doesn’t know about them.

Ahh…touche, Madame Laney.

So look, the window is now open via Becky’s encouragement to have traditional publishers or their authors  send along books for consideration.  The books must have been published in 2008.

Authors, publishers step up and drop your name into the ring.  Half the battle is increasing awareness.

Meet Shante Keys

June 1, 2008