Nominate Today: AALA Show

June 30, 2009

Last year, the kiddie lit authors had great representation at the fourth annual African American Literary Award show. The two winners (in bold below) were Brown Bookshelf spotlight authors and all of the children’s authors or their books have been featured on the BBS!

Could be coincidence, but I choose to think it’s progress.

•Denene Milner & Mitzi Miller – Hotlanta No. 1
Sharon M. Draper – November Blues
•Stephanie Perry Moore – Pressing Hard: Perry Sky Jr. Series #2

•L. Divine – Frenemies

Today, make sure your favorite African American children’s lit author is among contention. It’s the last day to nominate, so send any noms to yvette at literaryawardshow dot com by midnight. Authors, you’re allowed to self-nom!

Nominated books must have been published between July 2008 and June 2009. I refuse to tip you either way but *ahem* you can find great nominees among the BBS website pages who fit those requirements.

I’m just saying.

For the New Yorkers in the house, nominees will be announced at the Nominations Brunch on July 18, 2009 at Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem.

Amy Hodgepodge Winner

June 29, 2009

Congratultions, Summer, the winner of the Amy Hodgepodge series!!

Please email Paula with your snail mail address so that we can pass your name along to the publisher.

Dork Diaries Wrap Up

June 16, 2009

Thank you to everyone for stopping by last week to read the review of Dork Diaries and meeting Miss Nikki Maxwell and her creator Rachel Renee Russell.

The winner of the Dork Diaries giveaway is Olugbemisola. Congratulations to you and thank you for your support of new authors and the Brown Bookshelf’s initiatives.

Amy Hodgepodge Joins The MG Club

June 15, 2009

You know how people like Ashton Kutcher and Diddy are tweeting? And so people think – ooh I can talk to Diddy. Except, when you look at celeb tweeters follow list you notice they’re like anyone else, they’re pal’ing around with people they know. Sure they may read tweets directed to them by their fan/followers, but make no mistake, for many of them it’s primarily a publicity thing.

But there are some celebrities on Twitter who are doing more than proclaming grandiosity for themselves (is that a word?).

One day, Kim Wayans, of the Hollywood Wayans (it’s nice to have our own comedic version of the Baldwins and Sutherlands) re-tweeted Don Tate’s book tweet. And I thought – oh that’s interesting.

But what was more interesting is, Kim and her husband, Kevin are authors of a chapter book series, Amy Hodgepodge, a bi-racial fourth grader who enters public school for the first time after being home schooled most of her life.

I approached Kim and Kevin about an interview and they obliged.

That is the power of Twitter and other social networks – bringing like-minded folks together.

If you’re looking for a good summer brown book for your young readers, Amy has five books to keep them engaged.

And if you comment, by eight p.m. eastern tonight, you’ll be automatically entered to win a set of the Amy HodgePodge series.

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BBS: How many books are planned in the series?

Kim & Kevin: Five titles are available now, with two more coming out next year. After that, we’ll have to wait and see if the Penguin, our publisher, orders more. So, all you Amy Hodgepodge lovers out there, write and tell them to keep the books coming!

BBS: What age group are the books best suited for? Amazon had 9-12 year olds listed, but that’s a large range, especially where illustrated books are concerned.

Kim & Kevin: The books are best suited for ages 6-9. Amy is a fourth-grader.

BBS:There is ongoing debate in the kid lit community about whether it’s better or worse to have characters in children’s books so heavily identified by race or ethnicity – if you remove race/ethnicity from the Amy Hodgepodge series, tell us what makes them a good read and for what ideal reader?

Kim & Kevin: We think it’s important that all children see positive images of themselves reflected in the culture at large. This book series is unique in that there aren’t any other mainstream series out that revolve around a multiracial child and her racially and ethnically diverse peers.

The first book in the series introduces race and ethnicity in a way that encourages children to engage in discussions about identity, culture, etc. organically, That said, when you take away race and ethnicity, Amy is just like every other little girl who wants to make friends and fit in, and the beauty of the Amy Hodgepodge series is that the topics dealt with are universal– all children relate to them regardless of race or ethnicity.

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The books are fun and entertaining and they impart valuable life lessons to children about friendship, loyalty, bullying, teasing, honesty, cheating, etc. The world Amy dwells in is a much more accurate reflection of the hodgepodge nation we’ve truly become.

BBS:Since you’re both from a film/TV background, are there any plans to get Amy to the big or small screen?

Kim & Kevin: Yes. We would love to expand the property and do a cartoon series and an Amy Hodgepodge movie, among other things. But right now, it’s about raising the awareness of the book series and gathering a mighty crowd of Amy fans.

BBS:Tell us a little bit about your collaborative writing process. Is one of you the primary writer, while the other “fills” in detail or do you write together?

Kim & Kevin: Kevin and I have honed our writing process over the years. This isn’t our first writing venture; we wrote together on the television sitcom, “My Wife and Kids” and have a comedy feature we’ve written as well. For the most part, we write together…we’re both primary writers.

BBS:Writing is usually a solitary thing. What’s the best and worst thing about writing with your spouse?

Kim & Kevin: The best thing about writing together is that we get to spend so much quality time with one another. Many couples’ number one complaint is that they don’t get to see each other enough–that’s never a problem for us! Plus it’s so much fun…I like to act things out as we write, and Kevin’s a great audience for my antics.

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BBS:What’s your favorite children’s book now? As a kid? And why was it your fave?

Kim & Kevin: Our favorite children’s book was “Charlotte’s Web.” As children, we were so moved by the themes of friendship, loss, the circle of life, and the inevitability of death. It’s such a beautiful and profound book.

Kim: I also loved the series “Pippi Longstockings” because she was wacky, odd and independent…just like me! Currently, we’re both loving May May Ali’s book about her amazing dad, I Shook Up The World.

BBS:Are there any writers who have inspired you or your writing style?

Kim & Kevin: We’ve been inspired by countless writers from Walt Whitman to Maya Angelou to Tennessee Williams to Toni Morrison, just to name a few.

BBS:Tell us about any future kid lit projects you have in the works:

Kim & Kevin: Our main focus right now is on growing the Amy Hodgepodge series, but we do have some other ideas for kid’s literature we’ll be working on developing soon. So stay posted!

This article complied by Paula Chase-Hyman, author of The Del Rio Bay series. She makes sure all of her celebrity tweets are inclusive.

Free Books For Summer

June 13, 2009

All The World’s A Stage is giving away nine books, to kick of summer reading.

Pass it on…enter…

Blog Tour: Dork Diaries

June 5, 2009

1416980067On June 2, 2009, author Rachel Renee Russell released her debut middle grade  book Dork Diaries.   Never fear, being a dork is cool these days and Nikki Maxwell, the dorky protagonist, embraces her dork status.

To welcome Nikki and Rachel to The Brown Bookshelf family, I sat down with the two of them recently to talk about the book, Nikki’s life as a dork, Rachel’s journey to publication, and what’s next for the both of them.

Nikki, what makes you a dork?
 NM:  It all started when that snob, MacKenzie, called me a dork because I was always writing in my diary.  She said, “OMG!  Only a dork writes in a diary!”  And, I was like, “If I flush, will you go away!”  But, after a while, that word started to take on a different meaning for me.  Now, dork means independent, different and unconventional, which are all good things.  I call myself, dorkalicious :-)!

Dork Diaries is coming to the big screen.  Who are your ideal choices to play you, Mackenzie, and Brandon?
NM:  I would love to be cast as myself in the movie.  I was the understudy for Little Red Riding Hood back in second grade, so I know I can do it.  And, of course, I think Brandon should play himself too, especially since I have this huge crush on him.   I would NOT want MacKenzie anywhere near the movie set.  She is such a diva! I think that snobby girl from High School Musical, Sharpay, should be cast as MacKenzie.  I believe the actress’ name is Ashley Tisdale.

Who’s your celebrity crush?
NM:  I have two: Nick Jonas, from the Jonas Brothers and Corbin Bleu, from High School Musical.  I even drew sketches of both of them in my diary.

The remote control is in your hand, what’s on the TV screen?
NM:  I LOVE that brand new TV show GLEE!  It’s High School Musical on steroids!

I believe a lot of kids will be able to relate to various things that happen to you.  Do you ever plan to go from a written diary to an online blog?  Maybe have an advice column for fellow dorks?
NM:  Actually, I already have a blog  at  The advice column is a good idea.  I think I’m going to consider adding one since being in middle school can sometimes be really traumatic.

Nickelodeon or Disney?
NM:  I’m a Disney kind of girl.  Actually, I’m really hoping Disney will buy the film rights to my diary.  Then,  I can use the money to get that iPhone I’ve been wanting.  And, maybe buy some more art supplies and a new wardrobe from the Mall.  Oh!  And, since I don’t have a drivers license yet, I would need to buy a private jet like Oprah’s.

Rachel, what’s next for Nikki Maxwell?
RRR:  I’m currently working on Book 2 which will be released in the Spring of 2010.

What inspired you to create Dork Diaries?
RRR:  I wanted to write and illustrate a really funny book for Tween girls.  And, I wanted it to have a unique voice, be slightly quirky and contain a lot of pop culture.  I mainly wanted to make people laugh.

I loved the artwork in Dork Diaries.  What led you to create a graphic novel?  Who did the artwork for Dork Diaries?
RRR:  Actually, the book format is not a true graphic novel.  It’s usually referred to as a “hybrid” or “illustrated novel.”  I am the illustrator of the book.  However, toward the end, I started running a bit behind schedule so I took on two assistant artists to help get it finished by the deadline, which is not that unusual when you’re both writing and illustrating a huge project.

Every author has their own story about what led them to pick up a pen to write that first story and how their book was born.  What is your story?
RRR:  I started writing and illustrating homemade books for my family members back in grade school.  I also did several for my two daughters when they were younger.  So, it’s been something I’ve always loved doing.  In recent years, I’ve written a young adult book, a middle grade graphic novel and  Dork Diaries.  So, although this is actually my third book, it’s the first one to get published.

Your main character, Nikki,  is not an African-American. Why did you choose to do this?
RRR:  The character, Nikki, came to me as she is written.  At first I was hesitant, but I remembered reading an article about Shonda Rhimes, the creator, writer and executive director of the hit television show, Grey’s Anatomy.  She was my inspiration for attempting to write a main character very different from myself. The other two major characters in Dork Diaries are  Zoey, who is African-American and Chloe, who is Hispanic.  So, my book has quite a bit of diversity.  The three girls are best friends and are considered the biggest dorks in their school.  They get into all sorts of hilarious mischief.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid took the MG/YA audience by storm with its debut in 2007.  I’ve seen a lot of buzz about your book as well as the expected comparison and contrast to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  How does that make you feel?  Is there more pressure for Dork Diaries to stand out from Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s shadow?
RRR:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a funny and well-written series.  So, I’m really flattered by any comparison.  Dork Diaries, however, is very different.  It’s from a female perspective and deals with issues Tween girls face on a daily basis.  My main character is a bit older and has an edgier voice.  And, my artwork has a slight manga influence.  However, I would be totally elated if  Dork Diaries does even half as well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Rachel and Nikki have been busy blog hopping this week and it doesn’t end today.  Check out some of their other tour stops.

A Patchwork of Books

Peeking Between the Pages

Next week, she will be featured at Bildungsroman on June 8th, That Teen Can Blog on June 10th, and The Reading Zone on June 12th.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Dork Diaries along with a very cool purse that contains items mentioned in the book.

MG Book Review: Dork Diaries

June 2, 2009

1416980067Diaries are both mysterious and popular.  There is a fascination with reading another person’s diary.  There have been many television show episodes dedicated to a spouse, a sibling, a parent, or a friend reading someone’s diary and finding out a big secret.

Diaries are not only popular on the television screen.  Throughout literature, diaries have been used to tell a story or two.  The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney are joined today by Rachel Renee Russell’s debut Dork Diaries.

It’s not easy being a dork.  For some, not fitting in with the popular kids can be the worst feeling in the world.  It’s like walking the Green Mile to Dorkville, population you and only you.  Thanks to Amanda Bynes’ movie Sydney White, the dork stigma is less negative than it was years ago.  It’s kind of cool to be a dork.

The protagonist Nikki Maxwell might need some convincing of that.  Dork Diaries follows Nikki through her first weeks at her new private school where she feels totally alone.  A talented artist, Nikki’s diary captures the melodrama that is an eighth grader’s life.

Top 5 Signs You Are a Dork According to Nikki Maxwell

5.  You work in the school library.

4.  You work in the school cafeteria and all of your food covers you from head to toe.

3.  The school newspaper’s photographer takes a photo of you covered in food.

2.  Your dad drives a car with a bug on top.

1.  You’re not invited to THE party of the year hosted by the most popular girl in the eighth grade.

In spite of her dorky status, Nikki is an enjoyable character who finds her stride at Westchester Country Day School with two great new friends in her corner.

And for the romance lovers, there is a budding romance in Nikki’s life.

Dork Diaries1

Dork Diaries, filled with wonderful drawings, is a fun, quick-paced read that allows you to experience Nikki’s dorktastic life through her eyes.  By the time I finished reading, I didn’t find Nikki quite as dorky as she thinks.  She helped remind me that it’s really important to be yourself and be happy with who you really are.

Return to The Brown Bookshelf on Friday, June 5, 2009 when Nikki and Rachel will stop by as part of their online blog tour promoting Dork Diaries.   Leave a comment on today’s blog or Friday’s blog to have a chance at winning a copy of Dork Diaries along with Nikki’s purse filled with several great items.  I loved my purse and so did my little cousin who laid claim to it for all of the pink goodness inside.  The winner will be chosen and announced on Monday, June 15, 2009.