Monday, December 5, 2016

10 Native Titles for Gifting!

Piggy-backing on our amazing! huge! wonderful! lovely! empathy and diversity in kidlit book giveaway last month, here's the perfect list for you to support Native titles this holiday season while also spreading knowledge and awareness.

In no particular order...

Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy—though you wouldn’t guess it by his name: his father is part white and part Lakota, and his mother is Lakota. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history. Drawing references and inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition, celebrated author Joseph Marshall III juxtaposes the contemporary story of Jimmy with an insider’s perspective on the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse (c. 1840–1877). The book follows the heroic deeds of the Lakota leader who took up arms against the US federal government to fight against encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Along with Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse was the last of the Lakota to surrender his people to the US army. Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.

2. A BLANKET OF BUTTERFLIES by Richard Van Camp: Graphic Novel.

A Blanket of Butterflies explores the journey of Shinobu, a mysterious stranger who visits Fort Smith, NWT, to retrieve his family’s samurai suit of armor and sword from the museum. When he discovers that his grandfather’s sword has been lost in a poker game to the man they call “Benny the Bank,” he sets out to retrieve it, with the help of a young boy, Sonny, and his grandmother. Together, they face Benny and his men, Torchy, Sfen and the giant they call Flinch. This graphic novel, beautifully illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, explores the grace of family and the power of the Great Mystery.

3. KAMIK'S FIRST SLED by Matilda Sulurayok and Qin Leng: Picture Book.

Jake’s puppy Kamik is growing quickly, but the dog isn’t becoming any easier to handle. All Jake wants is to raise his puppy into a strong, fast sled dog, but Kamik is far from ready to pull a sled with a dog team. With some advice and a little help from his grandmother, Jake learns basic principles of how to begin training a dog to pull. Kamik finally has his first sled, and he and Jake can finally begin exploring the tundra together. But Jake and Kamik are still inexperienced, and when a blizzard starts blowing in across the tundra, Jake has to rely on his knowledge to get home. Inspired by the life memories of the author, an Inuit elder, this book lovingly presents basic dog-rearing practices that even the youngest dog lover can try.

What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins...or hightops with bright orange shoelaces?
Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa. After all, it's Grampa Halfmoon who's always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes -- like the time they are forced to get creative after a homemade haircut makes Ray's head look like a lawn-mowing accident.
This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it's like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a take in rural Oklahoma.

5. DREAMING IN INDIAN: CONTEMPORARY NATIVE AMERICAN VOICESedited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale: Young Adult.

Whether discussing the transformative power of art or music, the lasting trauma of residential schools, growing up poor, or achieving success, the contributors to this remarkable anthology all have something in common: a rich Native heritage that has informed who they are. This dynamic, creative work is an interactive portal that introduces readers to the lives of 64 indigenous Native American young people. The writers include an award-winning throat singer, a fashion model, a hip-hop dancer, a tribal leader, an activist, a graphic designer, a comic book creator, a chef, a dancer, a musician, a makeup artist, and a rapper, and the contributors communicate powerfully who they are in their own words and images. 

6. HIAWATHA AND THE PEACEMAKER by Robbie Robertson: Historical, Middle Grade.

Born of Mohawk and Cayuga descent, musical icon Robbie Robertson learned the story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, as part of the Iroquois oral tradition. Now he shares the same gift of storytelling with a new generation.

Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves—a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator David Shannon brings the journey of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker to life with arresting oil paintings. Together, the team of Robertson and Shannon has crafted a new children’s classic that will both educate and inspire readers of all ages.

Curiosity leads a young warrior to track a new animal. It leads him far from home, but at last he finds a herd of the strange new creatures. They are horses that shimmer with colour and run swift as the wind. The Lakota capture and tame them, and the people grow rich and powerful. They become filled with pride. With their newfound strength they rule over the plains. Then the Great Spirit, who gave the gift of the horse, takes it away. Donald F. Montileaux retells the legend of Tasunka from the traditional stories of the Lakota people. Using the ledger-art style of his forefathers he adds colorful detail. His beautiful images enhance our understanding of the horse and its importance in Lakota culture.

8. URBAN TRIBES: NATIVE AMERICANS IN THE CITY, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale: Young Adult.

Young, urban Natives powerfully show how their culture and values can survive—and enrich—city life. Urban Tribes offers unique insight into this growing and often misperceived group. Emotionally potent and visually arresting, the anthology profiles young urban Natives from across North America, exploring how they connect with Native culture and values in their contemporary lives. Their stories are as diverse as they are. From a young Dene woman pursuing a MBA at Stanford to a Pima photographer in Phoenix to a Mohawk actress in New York, these urban Natives share their unique perspectives to bridge the divide between their past and their future, their cultural home, and their adopted cities. Unflinchingly honest and deeply moving, contributors explore a wide-range of topics. From the trials and tribulations of dating in the city to the alienating experience of leaving a remote reserve to attend high school in the city, from the mainstream success of Electric Pow wow music to the humiliation of dealing with racist school mascots, personal perspectives illuminate larger political issues. An innovative and highly visual design offers a dynamic, reading experience.

9. HOW I BECAME A GHOST by Tim Tingle: Middle Grade Series.

In this first novel for children by internationally renowned Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle, a ten-year-old boy tells the story of his tribe’s removal from its Mississippi homeland, and how the Choctaws exodus to the American West led him to become a ghost — one able to help those left behind.

All cultures have tales of the trickster—a crafty creature or being who uses cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief. He disrupts the order of things, often humiliating others and sometimes himself. In Native American traditions, the trickster takes many forms, from coyote or rabbit to raccoon or raven. The first graphic anthology of Native American trickster tales, Trickster brings together Native American folklore and the world of comics.
In Trickster more than twenty Native American tales are cleverly adapted into comic form. Each story is written by a different Native American storyteller who worked closely with a selected illustrator, a combination that gives each tale a unique and powerful voice and look. Ranging from serious and dramatic to funny and sometimes downright fiendish, these tales bring tricksters back into popular culture in a very vivid form. From an ego-driven social misstep in “Coyote and the Pebbles” to the hijinks of “How Wildcat Caught a Turkey” and the hilarity of “Rabbit’s Choctaw Tail Tale,” Trickster provides entertainment for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

For more Native titles, be sure to check out Debbie Reese's recommended/not recommended books of 2015 at American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL).

Looking for even more diverse books? Visit the end of year booklist over at We Need Diverse Books!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Secrets Of Kidlit: 3 Reasons Why Your Art Matters.

Stories matter, right?

Maybe you feel this doubt sometimes. Maybe you occasionally wonder if your work, and the time you spend writing stories.... is really important enough to be worth it.

On those days when you doubt yourself, or when you feel overwhelmed by other demands on your time and focus, it's important to remember that your stories matter. Here are three reasons why:

1) Voice: Imagine what the world would be like if all books sounded pretty much the same. That would stink, wouldn't it? Stories would become flat without new insights to discover, different personalities to enjoy, or different writing styles. That's why your unique voice and vision is important. Only you interpret the world in the exact way you do, and readers need a wide variety of voices.

2) Simulation. When we fall into a story, we experience the character's troubles from the safety of our home. fMRI exams have shown that when we read, our brain activity mirrors some of the activity that it would if we were actually experiencing it. That's why we feel so 'connected' to a good story - it's because we are! Our brain is experiencing the story as a simulation while we read.

How do you know this is true? By the strength of your emotional reaction to a story. Maybe you sometimes put down your book just so you can imagine how you would react differently in that same situation. No? That's just me? Okay. But I'm almost positive a certain story has moved you enough that you'd be happy to throw a few snarky remarks to this character: (scroll down...)










If so, you sympathized with Harry Potter, his friends, and classmates who suffered under the rule of Professor Umbridge. You sympathized because emotionally, it happened to you too. When your story lands in the hands of readers, they will experience the world you created - a world that is different from their own. We know that the more variety of experiences that people have, the more wisdom they gain. The same is true of reading. Reading books about characters who are different from yourself gives you awareness and strengthens your empathy.

3) Stories can change lives. Not only can they show us ways to solve problems (as well as how NOT to solve problems), but they express ideas and philosophies that can leave deep impressions on the reader. Maybe your experiences, your voice, your story will help you create the book that will really matter to someone. Or maybe to many people. And if you think you're not the one to write an important book, consider this quote:

From the journal of L.M. Montgomery:
"... My book came today, fresh from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was for me a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment! There in my hand lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of my whole conscious existence - my first book! Not a great book at all - but mine, mine, mine, - something to which I had given birth - something which, but for me, would never have existed...."

Lucy Maud Montgomery was writing about ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. It's hard to imagine that she didn't think it was a 'great book.' She had no idea it'd still be on bookshelves a hundred years later and that millions of readers (and many writers) would hold it dearly in their hearts. As I've said in the past, the 'Anne series' changed my outlook on life - for the better in many ways. I know I would not be the person I am today without these books. I've met many other people who have said similar things about Anne. The author didn't think it was a great book, but it most certainly is.

Because stories evoke emotion, they matter.
They make us fall in love and shows us what it feels like to be loved.
They teach us about strength and hope, courage and sacrifice.
They help us to find those emotions within ourselves.
Stories give us insight into our personal struggles when we find a character with similar problems.
Stories will always be important because they give us an emotional connection to lives that are different from our own.

Your stories matter.

So, continue your work of awesomeness. Keep supporting literacy and people's love for stories. Support artwork across all genres and mediums. There are probably a million quotes on why art is important, but I'm going to close with these three:

"Life isn't a support system for art, it's the other way around." - Stephen King

"For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgement."
 - President John F. Kennedy

"Art can transform lives. It gives us the power to question, to confront, to explore, and to challenge how we think about the world." - Lucy Liu

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. CookAll Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Here's the one for right now," Big Ed says. "Seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Keep your head down. Get to know others before you reveal yourself."

As he crosses days off the calendar, eleven-year-old Perry T. Cook has taken Big Ed's wisdom to heart. Perry is determined to keep focused on his goal ever since the day he was taken from his mom and placed with a foster family. He misses the home he was raised in, even though that home is a prison.

As Perry works to be reunited with his mom, a homework project sparks a larger idea: tell the stories of the people he grew up with in the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility. But will these stories do more harm than good?

Despite tackling the tough issue of incarceration, Connor's novel is hopeful and heartfelt. Perry has seen his share of injustice. Separated from his mom, he is living it. But as he manages through the emotional rollercoaster of living on "the outside", he finds a way forward that is rooted in empathy and understanding. He understands that finding solutions means working with others.

From person to person, love, home, and family may look dramatically different, but they all feel the same.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts, #1) by Vic James

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts, #1)Gilded Cage by Vic James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One family is torn apart by Equals, aristocrats with mysterious powers, and held captive.

Sixteen-year-old, Luke Hadley, is ripped away from his family and sent to Millmoor, the dusty, grimy low down, work camp everyone spends ten years, to fulfill societal obligations. While his two sisters and parents are sent to work for none other than Lord Jardine, ruler of the most powerful family in Great Britain. Thanks to his sister Abi’s smarts, the rest of his family works underfoot, serving their time, and his ten-year-old sister is in charge of caring for Heir Jardin’s illegitimate new baby.

ID chipped, and living in Millmore, the country’s oldest slave town. Luke meets a few unusual suspects and joins in the plans for a revolution.

Back at the Royal Family’s in Kyneston, Abi is falling for Jenner, Lord Jardine’s polite, and handsome (UnSkilled) son, while working together to organize the offices.
Baby Libby’s father is Gavar Jardine, heir of Jardine, and his anger is explosive at best. Ten-year-old, Daisy, has come to trust him, against the family’s best interests. And there’s the Young Master, Silyen Jardine, whose “gift” makes Abi’s uncomfortable, if not downright ill, the way he enters her head and sees everything.

Lords and Ladies, torment, and secrets and possible revolution, a dystopian world that feels familiar but oh, so different, and the likelihood of it being feasible are quite frightening. Gilded Cage, is told in multiple POVs, which kept the pace flowing and the tension tight. I was hooked from the start, the pace, and the author’s imagination is extraordinary, the end (chill bumps!) leaves you wanting more.

A magical, YA fantasy. I hope this book becomes series, for years and years to come. Outstanding YA debut for all ages.

Expected publication: February 14th, 2017 by Del Rey Books

*There’s a Goodreads Giveaway for this book through mid-December.

View all my reviews 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Celebrating Diversity with #WNDB!

Today, we at Kidliterati are excited to host a celebration of diversity in children's literature. Diverse titles create more empathetic readers, and we are proud to support empathy in the classroom with a very special giveaway--more on that in a minute!

Books provide perspective. Children need mirrors, books that reflect their point of view and tell them that their voices matter. Children also need windows, stories that show them new points of view to encourage empathy with others. We need now, more than ever, to understand and relate to one another.

We at Kidliterati have long admired the amazing work of We Need Diverse Books, which is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. Thanks to #WNDB, so many new voices have support, both as artists and as publishing professionals. But there is more work yet to be done.

We need as much diversity as possible in children's literature. 

Now, on to the giveaway! Entries are open to teachers, librarians, and parents who wish to share diverse titles with their communities (be that schools, libraries, or classroom collections). Know a teacher friend who could use more diversity in their classroom collection? Want to broaden your library's collection? Help us share these titles and build empathy with young readers! The Rafflecopter entry form is at the bottom of this page, but first, here are the amazing titles we're giving away--50 BOOKS IN ALL!

5 copies of EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson

3 copies of LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Pena

3 copies of BLACK BIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly

3 copies of THE FLETCHER FAMILY TAKE ROCK ISLAND by Dana Alison Levy

3 copies of EL DEAFO by Cece Bell

3 copies of 8TH GRADE SUPER ZERO by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

3 copies of THE PURIM SUPERHERO by Elisabeth Kushner
The LULU series by Hilary McKay--6 Books for one winner!


3 copies of STELLA BY STARLIGHT by Sharon M. Draper

3 copies of THE GOOD RAINBOW ROAD by Simon J. Ortiz

3 copies of INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai
3 copies of A LONG WALK TO WATER by Linda Sue Park

3 copies of BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

3 copies of A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT by Kristy Dempsey

a Rafflecopter giveaway
For more great books, check out the End of Year lists at We Need Diverse Books. Book Riot also put together a list of children's books about the immigrant experience. And in closing, here's an amazing video from Matt De La Pena and Christian Robinson on the importance of diversity in children's literature. Here's to the readers of tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder

The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder
My rating: 4.5 our of 5 stars

Lauren has a secret. Colby has a problem. But when they find each other, everything falls into place.

In alternating chapters of verse and prose, new girl Lauren and football hero Colby come together, fall apart, and build something stronger than either of them thought possible - something to truly believe in.

I loved this book! At first, I thought I wouldn't like that Lauren's chapters are in verse and Colby's are in prose, but it's a perfect expression for each character. Verse sharpens Lauren's story as she struggles with the pain of past child abuse and neglect. Colby, a star football player who is longing to do something else, has an insightful and entertaining voice in prose. I expected it to be jarring, but it flows smoothly, and the short chapters and compelling story make it a quick read.

I also love that this book's theme is of the expectations teens grapple with as they grow up. Whether they are struggling to live up to them, or trying to succeed in spite of them, expectations can be a heavy burden. Colby knows that he doesn't want to follow his father's dream of a college football career. Lauren, who is trying to put her mother's abuse and neglect behind her, is keenly aware that people expect her to be a messed up and troublesome teenager.

But to balance the darkness, this book is filled with hope and love. The love of family, the dedication of friends, and the passion a small town has for its football team. As Lauren and Colby's friendship blossoms into a relationship, they discover what it means to believe in yourself.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has ever felt they wouldn't be accepted if they broke away from the path people expected them to follow. Which basically means, I recommend this book to everyone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Don't Be Nice: Improving Your Story Through Your Villain

Are you a nice person?

Do you prefer to avoid conflict whenever possible? Do you want everyone to just be friends and get along?

Here’s the bigger question: Is being nice ruining your story?

You probably started your story with a great idea for your main character, or maybe your theme. Perhaps you have a really cool hook or twist that you want to use–because everyone loves a good twist at the end of the book. So you don’t understand why your story is not working. You go through the middle without getting anywhere. And then it seems to just fall flat at the end.

The problem for a lot of writers is that they don’t like being mean to their characters. They’ll give them small bumps along the way in their story, but they stop short before making it too tough on them.

And, unfortunately, that leads to a weak story.

When you don’t challenge your characters, they can’t grow. No one wants to fail and I understand that you don’t want your characters to struggle. These are like your own kids, for crying out loud! Failure can make you feel bad, disappointed, angry–or worse. But trust me, your characters need this because it can challenge them to change, and eventually to succeed.

If you have a weak story, it most likely means you have weak conflict, which usually means you have a weak and under-developed antagonist (who I shall now refer to as the “villain”). If you write your story with your villain as an afterthought, you will always end up with a weak story.

How can you improve your villain, and thereby improve your story?

Writers often give great thought to the protagonist’s (who I shall now refer to as the “hero”) backstory and character development. The same care needs to be given to the villain. Villains are passionate and motivated, too. You need this in the story because this allows your hero to show what he’s passionate about. By being against the villain, it allows you to show the hero’s beliefs and goals, it gives you a way to contrast the two and showcase how they are different.

Think of it this way: say you have two children, a wonderful son and a superb daughter. You love them both. You tell everyone how great they are. Your children may have different quirks or traits. They may not share interests. Their skills or abilities may not be equal. These kids of yours have needs, fears and goals, even if they don’t see eye-to-eye with each other. Sure, they fight, as siblings do. But you love them both. And you want to see them both work hard to reach their dreams.

Now think of these two beautiful children of yours as characters in your story. One is your hero and one is your villain. (Don’t tell your kids I just called one of them a villain—but you know which one I mean, right? You were already thinking who the villain was, weren’t you?)

You need to figure out what is your story’s external conflict. To do this, you have to look at both your hero and your villain to figure out their wants and needs. They will both have a selfish goal that they think will fix some problem in their lives. What are they each separately trying to achieve, and more importantly, why? Do you have stakes, both public and private, if they fail to reach their goal?

Let’s say that you’re writing a story about these children-characters of yours. You will be out of town for the weekend, leaving your teens home alone.

The hero, your daughter, is planning to throw a big party while you’re away, even though she didn’t get permission from you. She thinks it will make her popular, a deep desire she’s had since her best friend started dating a football player and now never has time for her, leaving her alone at school. This is her “want,” her selfish goal that she thinks will fix her inner problem. Her “need” is to have friends and be accepted.

The villain, your son, plans to use his time studying for the SATs because he “wants” a perfect score to get into the best college. This will show his parents how smart he is, while also making him feel superior to his sister and classmates. He “needs” acceptance by pleasing his parents, thus proving to them that he is the better child.

Notice how their “needs” overlap? They both want acceptance, even though they don’t have the same goal. The party is the external conflict between the hero and the villain reaching their goals.

Your daughter’s goal is to invite all the popular kids to her party so she can be a part of the “in” crowd. Your son’s goal is to bust up this party so he can have quiet to study. Plus, he thinks getting his sister in trouble would make him look better to mom and dad, maybe even getting his some kind of reward.

If your son fails to get a perfect score, he will feel like an idiot and be a laughingstock at school. But if he succeeds in shutting down the party, your daughter fails at throwing the biggest, best party, thereby “losing face” with any chance to join the popular kids. She will be forever embarrassed and alone. Plus, if he gets a perfect score on his SATs, she will never hear the end of it from you, her parents, who are always bragging about how smart he is, anyway.

See how when both the hero and the villain have clearly defined and opposing goals, conflict is sure to happen?

Villains are characters who stand in the way of the hero. That is where you get your story conflict. Your villain doesn’t want the hero to reach their goal. They're not trying to stop the hero for “no reason at all.” The villain has their own perfectly good goals, and therefore needs to stop the hero from ruining those goals. Whether you think your villain is good or bad is all a matter of perspective.

You can see how our hero and villain are now both motivated to push forward with their own personal goals, while at the same time, trying to prevent the other person from reaching their goal. You can imagine tons of ways that this brother and sister will try to outwit and sabotage each other over this party.

The stress of the conflict is what makes the reader care more about your story because they need to know what happens. They’re more invested in finding out the outcome when that conflict pushes the hero to act. Remember, if nothing happens, there is no story.

Don’t think of it as YOU being mean to your characters. Your characters are making these choices. And it’s these choices that THEY make that lead to trouble. So, it’s not you, as the writer, being mean. There are reasons things happen.

Which is good to know, because you’re still a nice person.

Do you need other ways to improve your villain? Check out these fun idea generators for inspiration! (There are even more generator on these sites, too–check them out!)
Villains Generator
Character Motivation Generator
Plot Twists Genrator (to add conflict!)Inspiration Finder Generator
All the help you could need - list of lots of generators

Happy Writing!


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