Wednesday, April 21, 2021

LIST OF TEN: A YA Book Review and TWO Autographed Giveaways!

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won THE LITTLE THIEVES audio book from last week's blog and to Rosi Hollinbeck who won DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. 

                                                                                ***** 

Tourette (too-RET) syndrome: a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that can't be easily controlled. For instance, you might repeatedly blink your eyes, shrug your shoulders or blurt out unusual sounds or offensive words

(From: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tourette-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20350465)

REVIEW

If you've never heard of Tourette syndrome and you're interested in reading a remarkable young adult book which conveys the physical, mental, and psychological pain associated with this disorder, the List of Ten by my friend Halli Gomez is a book for you.


For ten years, sixteen-year-old Troy Hayes has lived with the diagnosis that he shares with his estranged mother: Tourette syndrome. Troy not only suffers from uncontrollable muscle twitches that are accompanied by severe pain, he also has obsessive compulsive disorder. The two together make his academic and social life unbearable. Troy decides that the only way out of his pain is to kill himself.

By page two the reader knows it is only a matter of Troy getting through the other nine items on his "to do" list that he keeps on his phone, before he will take his own life which is #10 on his list. 

So, how did Halli Gomez write a 353-page book and keep the reader interested since the ending has already been revealed?

By raising the question--does he do it? And by hooking every reader into hoping and believing that he doesn't. 

By using deep point of view, Troy's conflicting thoughts and torturous emotions are shown on the first pages. Through his eyes we meet Khory Price, a girl imprisoned in her own life of pain. She is someone who is able to look beyond his compulsion to touch a dirty floor multiple times as he walks down the school hallway, a girl who finds him cute and smart, and a girl who he becomes afraid to hurt.

The novel is full of teenage angst as Troy moves from just being Khory's math tutor, to being a friend, to becoming her boyfriend. He finally wins her protective parents' trust only to blow it when he tries to drive and his erratic behavior on the road attracts police attention. He's busted for driving without a license and his friend is busted for having marijuana papers in the car. But Troy is no normal teenager. The shadow of his list of ten things to do before he kills himself pervades all of his thoughts and drives many of his choices.

Khory is a well-developed, authentic secondary character. She has struggles with her own parents, guilt over being a surviving twin, and gives Troy reasons to think about his purpose in life. 

Beyond amazing "showing not telling" what it feels like to be a person with Tourette, my other favorite parts of the book are when Troy begins wrestling with his decision to kill himself. When his science teacher tells him he has potential, when he is an inspiration to another family whose son has Tourette, when he realizes how Khory will feel when she realizes he lied to her--these were all very authentic and compelling conflicts. 

My least favorite part of the book was when Troy's father attempts to have a discussion about sex and ends the conversation by giving his son condoms. I know I'm in the minority,  but I don't believe literature for young adults should include frank permissiveness toward sex.

So, how does List of Ten end? I won't tell you! But, it is satisfying and it is hopeful. And that should be enough to make you want to read it!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As Halli explains in the author's note, when she was eight-years-old, she told her mother she wanted to die. That was when she learned that she had Tourette syndrome; medications and doctors visits became a normal part of her life. A #myownvoices book, Halli wanted others "who have neurological disorders, or who are contemplating suicide, know they are not alone." She has accomplished this in a BIG way. Teens with neurological problems will see themselves and those who don't have similar issues will grow in empathy for someone who faces these challenges. I applaud Halli's transparency in writing a book so close to her emotional home. 

For an in-depth author interview, please see The Winged Pen. In this other post, Halli and some other debut authors provide ideas on launching and marketing their books.

Here is a downloadable pdf of discussion questions and resources.

GIVEAWAY

I have two copies of List of Ten to give away and Halli has agreed to personally autograph each one! Please leave me a comment by April 23 with your email address if you are new to my blog. Share this on social media or decide to follow my blog and I'll give you an extra chance to win a copy--just tell me what you do. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

THE GOOD THIEVES: An Audio Book Review and Giveaway

 Congratulations to Barbara Younger who won Little Sock Makes A Friend from last week's blog.

I recently listened to a middle-grade audio book that will delight and entertain both girls and boys. The Good Thieves, by Katherine Rundell is an adventure story with a compelling main character and loyal, believable side-kicks.



REVIEW

Vita Marlowe arrives in prohibition-era New York City with her mother in order to help her beloved, grieving grandfather.  He is destitute having recently lost not only his wife, but also his castle home to Sorrotore, a greedy businessman. Vita is convinced that if she can retrieve an emerald buried within the castle, at least her grandfather's financial worries will be over. But how is she going to get inside the well-guarded castle and retrieve the emerald all by herself?

Although Vita had polio as a child and still suffers from pain and discomfort, her physical disability doesn't stop her spunk and determination to reclaim her grandfather's majestic home. Brief flashbacks in the beginning show Vita with her grandfather, ground the reader in her illness and their relationship, and reveal her special talents that will help her out at the end. 

Soon after arriving in New York, Vita meets Arkady (an animal and bird lover) and Samuel (a gymnast) who are traveling with a circus. In addition, she meets Silk, an orphaned pick-pocket. Vita's new friends hear about Vita's dilemma and pledge their help. 

This fast-paced story goes from one scenario to another. Vita is the mastermind of the operation and her three accomplices use their talents to help her accomplish her goal. Readers will want to sit back and applaud Vita for her well-thought out plan! Katherine Rundell has the last word with a story twist which I did not foresee. Afterwards, I recognized the well-place clue that I had ignored in my desire to see what would happen next.


I love a book in which readers are exposed not only to a captivating plot line with terrific stakes and tension, but also in which the reader is exposed to beautiful written language. 

I highly recommend this suspenseful adventure story with lively characters that middle grade readers will enjoy. As a classroom read, it would be interesting to analyze Vita's external conflicts (her bad foot, the bad guys who are always close to capturing her, etc) and internal conflicts (can she eliminate Sorrotore when she actually has the chance?). I'd also love to hear middle school students debate the question: Is it stealing when you take something that belongs to your family?

AUDIO CLIP

The narrator, Margaret Cabourn-Smith does a great job portraying the different voices of the characters. From the Russian circus performers to the New York gangster--she's got them all. Here is an audio clip to give you a preview.

GIVEAWAY

Leave a comment by April 16 (with your email address if you are new to my blog) and I'll enter your name to win the download code for this great middle grade read. 



Wednesday, April 7, 2021

BECAUSE I'M NEW and LITTLE SOCK MAKES A FRIEND: Two Picture Books, One Giveaway

Sleeping Bear Press keeps sending me books! Here are two that young readers (and pre-readers) in your life will enjoy. 

BECAUSE I'M NEW

Who would have thought of writing a book from the point of view of the new child in the family? Author-illustrator Brad Sneed, that's who. 



The title page shows a little boy peering out the living room window. On the copyright page, he jumps off the sofa and exclaims, "They're home!"

In that way Brad introduces the reader to the main star of the book: New Baby. 



And even though baby can't catch a ball or run; baby can sit, watch, and listen.


Baby is sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, but ALWAYS needs lots of help from Mom, Dad, and Big Brother. Baby doesn't stay little, and he doesn't stay new. 



Baby grows, plays, cries, and laughs. But most of all,


With simple text and a unique point of view, big brothers and sisters glimpse what they mean to the newest member of their family. A great gift for a sibling welcoming his new brother or sister.


LITTLE SOCK MAKES A FRIEND




Two years ago I reviewed Little Sock the picture book prequel to Little Sock Makes a Friend written by Kia Heise and Christopher D. Park. As we discovered in the first book, 



Sometimes, after the other socks have gone to sleep, he sneaks out of the drawer... and into a hidden tunnel in the back of the dryer. This leads to a place where only socks can go.


Little sock finds other socks eating ice cream, listening to music, and even going around on the merry go round!

But he's lonely and realizes he needs a friend to do all of these fun things with. He sees another sock who seems to need a friend too. But, his mind is full of questions. 


As nervous as he feels, Little Sock drums up his courage and asks her if she'll be his friend. 

Together, they find lots of fun things to do and Little Sock concludes, 


Who can resist a story about two socks who become friends? A fun book to read in the classroom or at home. 

GIVEAWAY

I'm giving away Little Sock Makes a Friend to one of you! (Because of You will be a gift to my grandson who adores his baby brother). Please leave me a comment by April 9 with your email address if you are new to my blog. U.S. addresses only. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE: A Picture Book Review, Author Interview, and Giveaway!

Congratulations to Angela Kunkel who won How to Find A Bird on last week's blog. Kim Doele and Jolene Gutiérrez won Skype visits in their classrooms. 

                                                                                *****

Last month, I announced Laura Sassi's picture book Master Class sponsored by Write2Ignite on April 24. Today I'm featuring her delightful friendship story, Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse



REVIEW

The story begins with an introduction of the characters and their "backstories."

Fernando loved chocolate
and cheese on dry toast,
and popcorn and gumdrops,
But what he liked most...




was feasting on Mozart, 
Puccini and Strauss,
and lending a paw
at the Old Opera House.

On the next page, we meet Delores.

Delores loved glamour and
spotlights and praise.
She longed to be showered 
with fragrant bouquets.

Now here was her chance,
after years in the chorus,
to take center stage and be
Diva Delores!

Fernando is ready and willing to help Delores with her debut, but she haughtily determines she has no need of him. Not one to take rebuffs easily, Fernando continues to help her--despite her disdain.  On the day before the opening, Fernando comes to her rescue when Delores finds (ahem) that she has a problem fitting into her gown.


With one day remaining

till opening night

Delores discovered

her gown was too tight!



 
Needless to say, Fernando's efforts aren't appreciated.

Delores FINALLY comes to her senses when she falters during her performance. She needs help from her little friend--but where is he? Has he abandoned her?

Of course not! Fernando pops out of his hiding place inside her wig and saves the show amidst cheers from the crowd.



She sang high, she sang low,
with a voice rich and sweet,
as the Opera House mouse
tapped along to the beat.

And when she forgot 
the last verse of her song,
He said, "I can help!"
Then he tra-la'd along. 

And the audience loved them.
They brought down the house.
"Three cheers for Delores!"
"Three cheers for that mouse!"


AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Here is my email interview with Laura about her path to publication. 

Carol: Could you tell me a little about Diva’s publication journey? 

Laura: The journey from spark to publication took seven years. I got the original idea for my story while participating in Tara Lazar’s wonderful STORYSTORM challenge, or Picture Book Idea Month as it was called back in 2011. I worked on the story off and on for five years. I played with plot, rhyme, character development - everything but setting, really - until finally it was ready to sub in 2016. It was acquired by Sterling Children’s Books that spring and took another two years to be published, which is typical for picture books.

Carol: How did you EVER think of this idea?

Laura: The story was prompted by paging through my writing notebook and looking at early notes for a completely different piece called “Mouse House”, a short rebus about a little mouse curling up in his house in the woods to sleep.  Seeing those notes, prompted me to imagine where else a mouse might live - and that imagining led me to the opera house! And once I envisioned that opera house mouse it wasn’t long until Delores was there was there as well, snootily preparing for her opera debut.

Carol: How many drafts?  

Laura: I’ve lost count. YEARS worth!  


Carol: The illustrations match the text so well. Did you supply any illustration notes?   

Laura: Illustrator Rebecca Gerlings did a wonderful job and it was really all her! I saw sketches along the way, which was fun, but the illustrations were her domain.

Out of curiosity, I checked the final version I sent to Sterling and saw that I had only three illustration notes. Two were stage notes explaining, for example, that Fernando hides in Delores’s wig and that his home was in a hole at the Opera House (as opposed to elsewhere).
  
One of Rebecca's original sketches,
"Delores is a hippo."


But there’s a fun story behind the first note which said simply, “Delores is a hippo.”  Obviously that changed. The early sketches of Delores as a hippo were cute, but everyone - Rebecca, me, the art team etc. - all agreed that she wasn’t quite what we envisioned so the art director asked Rebecca to come up with another animal. The result? The wonderfully snooty, yet lovable Delores the seal!  


EXTENSION ACTIVITIES

You'll find several activities related to Delores and Fernando here.

VIDEO

And here is a short video that will make you run out and buy this book for your child, classroom, or grandchild:




WRITE2IGNITE MASTER CLASS

Want to know how Laura creates those fun, unqiue rhymes? Want to work on your own picture book ideas? Join her at Write2Ignite's picture book Master class. It's on Zoom and there is room for YOU!

For more information about the class, click here

GIVEAWAY

I'll be giving away a copy of Diva Delores in conjunction with an upcoming blogpost on Write2Ignite. If you leave me a comment, I'll add your name to that contest. Make sure you leave your email address if you are new to my blog. U.S. addresses only. 


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

HOW TO FIND A BIRD: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

 Congratulations to Sandra Warren who won THE OTHER MADISONS audio book on last week's blog.

*****

I was introduced to How to Find a Bird  through NF FEST, a blog dedicated to nonfiction picture book writers. (Oh, I didn't tell you that I'm working on a picture book? Stay tuned.) Written by Jennifer Ward with engaging illustrations by Diana Sudyka  this new book (Beach Lane Books, 2020) will immediately draw young readers inside the pages.


REVIEW

The text starts with a simple fact,

which is "the wonderful thing about birds."

Of course,



You must move quietly and look all around. Not just in the sky, but also,



Some birds "sneak snacks," others splash, and some hide in trees.



Looking up into the sky works too!




Sometimes birds let you know if they see you or "announce your presence when they see you."




But the best way to find a bird is to LISTEN!


CURRICULUM RESOURCE 

This book will not only be a great read aloud at home, but K-2nd grade classroom teachers can use it to encourage the young birders in their classroom. They can discuss the five senses as well as the birds' habitats.  Jennifer has this great bibliography of bird-focused books. The back matter includes tools and tips on bird watching and ways to become a citizen scientist which would make a great school project. 


TWO GIVEAWAYS!

Jennifer is giving away an autographed copy of the book to one winner, and TWO Zoom or Skype visits (which can include multiple classrooms) to another winner. Please leave a comment (with your email address if you are new to my blog) by March 26. Please indicate if you are interested in winning the book or the Zoom/Skype visits. I will try to honor your request. 

TO ENTICE YOU FURTHER

Here's the book trailer:


Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go outside and find the birds who are nesting outside my window. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Other Madisons: An Audio Book Review

 For those of you who know me and my journey with Half-Truths, you will appreciate that when I heard of Bettye Kearse's book, The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President's Black Family, I knew I had to read it. Since I am way behind on my to-be-read books, I was fortunate to receive a review copy from Recorded Books. See the giveaway notes at the bottom to see how you can receive a copy of this rich memoir. 


I heard Bettye speak at a webinar sponsored by the Charlotte chapter of the Women's National Book Association. After I heard Bettye's compelling talk I reached out to her and we met virtually and have exchanged emails and phone calls. I am thrilled to share her book with you, as well as a few thoughts about her writing journey. Let's just stay that I'm not alone in investing over fifteen years into a project I love.

REVIEW

Few of us can trace our ancestry as Bettye Kearse has.  She is a eighth-generation griotte and her mother said to her from the time she was a child, "Always remember--you are a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president." 

Bettye unpacks the full implication of this family credo when her mother passes on to her a box full of ancestral documents, priceless mementoes, and photographs.  At the time, Bettye was a successful pediatrician in Boston. Her life was about to change.

Bettye (around four or five) standing with her mother .

This rich, sensory memoir begins and ends with the voice of Mandy, Bettye's enslaved ancestor stolen from Ghana. Kidnapped from her home, Mandy is crammed into a slave ship. The reader feels the splinters in her hands in the hold of the ship, smells the reek of urine and feces, and feels the horrific chains binding her. 

When she gets to Montpelier, James Madison's Virginia plantation, Mandy's agonies have only just begun. Sexually assaulted by James Madison senior, she gives birth to their daughter Coreen. James Madison's son, James junior, is attracted to Coreen and he takes her for himself--despite the fact that she is his half-sister. (Bettye explains these complicated relationships in this interview.)

Having grown up in the sixties, Bettye is uncomfortable with her mother's unflinching pride in being a descendent of the Madisons. President James Madison had owned and abused her ancestors! How could she be proud of that? 

Knowing that she was challenging parts of her family history that her mother hadn't, Bettye wonders what she can contribute to the family legacy. Though hesitant, Bettye determines to uncover the truths about her ancestors and becomes the first person to write the family history down. 


An 1860 slave census listing Bettye's 
great-great-grandparents
and their children.


Bettye was very close to her grandfather, and the book is full of their relationship. He frequently told her mother, "Our white ancestors laid the foundation of this country, but our dark-skinned ancestors built it." Another time he commented, "Racism is just another challenge, and challenges make us strong." 

Bettye's research into her past takes her to Lagos, Portugal. What she finds rocks her to the core. The people who live in this tourist town are oblivious to the slave trade that had begun there in 1441. "There wasn't one morsel of information about slave stockades. The erasure was complete."


Bettye visits the Elmina Castle in Ghana and imagines what it was like for the enslaved men and women who were stolen, separated from their families, and kept in bondage. Her description of these atrocious events is complete. 150-300 women stood pressed together in "rooms of deep sorrow." They were marched through a "gate of no return" to a slave ship. "The ocean wiped away their footprints."


When Bettye comes back to the states, she visits the National Black Wax Museum in Baltimore. On board a replica of a slave ship, Bettye puts herself into Mandy's horrific experiences of possibly being raped, sick, and close to death. She wonders if she would have made it to the New World. 


There is much more to this book: Bettye's conversations with her mother over the nature of the sexual relationships between owners and slaves (her mother called it "visiting"),  Bettye's first encounter with Jim Crow when she was five-years-old, the racism she still experiences, Bettye's pride for her family and other enslaved Blacks, how she feels holding the picture of her great-great-great grandmother--the first ancestor she could see. 


This is an important book and one you won't quickly forget. 


IN HER OWN WORDS

In one of our conversations, Bettye told me that the hardest part of writing this memoir was what to do with the "rich material" she had received from her mother. Initially, Bettye wrote the book the way her mother wanted, as a record of their family stories. Then, she realized that her story wasn't unique to her and a mentor recommended that she write it as fiction; but that came out "flat." Her mentor then suggested Bettye write a memoir. Inserting her own feelings was difficult, but that process breathed life into the narrative. "It was very rewarding to discover my purpose by writing this as a memoir and realizing that I had a message for others."

AUDIO and VIDEOS

The narrator, Karen Chilton, has a beautiful reading voice and immersed me in the memoir. Sometimes I forgot that it wasn't Bettye speaking. Here is an audio snippet to show you how well Chilton reads the book:

https://soundcloud.com/recorded_books/audiobook-excerpt-the-other-madisons


Here is a video sequence narrated by Bettye and other historians.


A VIRTUAL SCREENING

Join Bettye for a virtual screening of the Eduardo Montes-Bradley documentary, The Other Madisons. There are several opportunities to view the film over the next few weeks.

GIVEAWAY


Leave me a comment by March 20 at 6 PM if you would like to enter this giveaway. PLEASE leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. 

DISCUSSION GUIDE

This book is a great book club selection. Download the discussion guide here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Born to Swing: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have a shelf full of picture books to review, use as mentor texts, and to give away. In honor of Women's History month, here's my next one, Born to Swing (Calkins Creek, 2018) by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Michelle Wood



"I was born to swing, that's all. Call it what you want, blues, swing, jazz, it caught hold of me way back in Memphis and it looks like it won't ever let go." Lil Hardin Armstrong

REVIEW

In this vivid picture book biography, Lillian Hardin Armstrong's life and love of music is depicted on every page.

From the time she was a child, Lillian loved to listen to the Father of the Blues, Mister W.C. Handy's band playing outside her Memphis boarding house window.

Although her mother called it "Devil's music," she couldn't keep Lillian away from the family organ. Her legs were too short, so her cousin played the pedals for her!



Lillian played hymns for Sunday School--albeit with a beat. She didn't know it at the time, but she was playing jazz! During a piano contest she lost her place, improvised, and won!

When the Great Migration north started, she and her mother headed to Chicago. There she strolled up and down the Stroll listening to music at all hours of the day and night. 

She got a job playing piano in a music store and earned the tile, "The Jazz Wonder Child."




She met Jelly Roll Morton (who said he invented jazz) and despite being a woman, started playing with the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band.

She was "swinging with the swingingest band in Chicago. I laid those rhythms down so hot, they called me Hot Miss Lil." That's when she met Louis Armstrong. 

"Louis was not a handsome man. His clothes were out of style. But when he blew his horn, oh, gee!"

Of course, they had a jazz wedding! No honeymoon for the two of them, they were too busy touring across the country with the band.


Lil and Louis wrote songs and put a band together they called the Hot Five. Their marriage lasted for 14 years; the author reporting their divorce as Louis moving on. 

Lil continued to write songs and play piano. She also started her own band, ran a restaurant, designed clothes, and traveled to Paris where the French had flipped for le jazz hot. 

When she returned home, the country was wild about rock and roll. She thought maybe everyone had forgotten her, but she was labeled a "living legend" and she was on television-- a new type of entertainment media back in the day!



Interestingly, the book ends with Lil saying,

You won't believe me, but I died at the piano, playing that "St. Louis Blues"--playing hard. Oh boy, I went out swinging.

Right up to the end, I had the widest smile and the biggest brightest eyes.

In 1971, shortly following Louis's death, Lillian collapsed at the piano and had a heart attack on the way to the hospital. Wikipedia notes that the autobiography she was working on, and her personal letters, disappeared shortly after her death.


END PAGES & CURRICULUM RESOURCE

The back of the book notes include five pages of information including a timeline, bibliography of both primary and secondary sources, and a list of her songs to find online. This is a great curriculum resource for Kindergarten-third graders studying women in the arts, jazz, and African American history. Reluctant readers in fourth-sixth grades will also enjoy the text and pictures.

Here is a youtube short video showing Lil at the piano.



The text is very reader friendly and inspirational. The illustrator's use of yellow throughout the book was magnificent. From Lillian's dresses, to the color of the horns, to the background of several pages--it makes the story pop from the pages. 

GIVEAWAY

Leave me a comment by 6 PM on March 12 along with your email address (if you are new to my blog) and I'll enter your name. If you choose to follow my blog, let me know and I'll put your name in twice. U.S. addresses only. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Korean War by Bruce Cummings: An Audio Book Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef who shared Stompin' at the Savoy in three places on social media--and won my copy of the book.


                                                     ****

It's been awhile since I've reviewed an audio book because of my new-found fascination with nonfiction picture books. I initially ordered The Korean War from Audible Books to gain a better perspective on what Ben Dinsmore, my protagonist in Half-Truthsfather, experienced during and after the war. 


Bruce Cummings, author of The Korean War (Penguin Random House, 2011), is an award-winning professor and lecturer of East Asian studies. At 350 pages (eight hours) this book is not an easy read, but provides a lot of information and a different perspective of the "Forgotten War." 




MY TAKEAWAYS

The following points helped me understand what Kate's father witnessed.


  • Cummings detailed the “dirty history” of both Communist and South Korean atrocities. 
  •  Cummings believed that American soldiers who fought on behalf of defending the United States against the much-feared Communists, shouldered a thankless task. He also thought that Dean Acheson  arrived at the decision to enter the war alone. It was a question of defeating Russia and obtaining prestige for the United States.
  • South Koreans were trying to go against centuries of inequities of social structure. The state squelched the middle class so there were two classes: peasants and aristocracy.  There was a tiny elite of rich but the vast majority of Koreans were poor. 
  • To Americans, the task of trying to create democracy for South Korea seemed impossible. Their ostensible vision was to bring freedom and liberty to servants who were under Japanese imperialism. 
  • Americans underestimated the enemy, North Korea. American GI’s were infected by the racism they knew in the States. They saw all Koreans as unreliable allies, primitive people of color, who lived in mud and squalor. 
  • Cummings provides the historic context for the conflict both in Korean history, as well as showing American political and military agendas after WWII. He includes a lot of information about what led up to the war: MacArthur's background,  Korean's history with Chiang Kai-Shek), Korean blood lines, how the monarchy was influenced by Confucianism, nationalism in the North... You get the picture. There's a ton of information. 

    Circa 1950: An elderly woman and her grandchild wander among the debris of their wrecked home in the aftermath of an air raid by U.S. planes over Pyongyang, the Communist capital of North Korea. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • During the first two years of war, the American perception was that south Koreans weren’t trained well and just broke and ran in combat situation. 
  • American GIs were constantly threatened by guerillas. 
  • MacArthur contributed to this dehumanization of the "gooks." In the "Naked Parade of Shame," 2000 POW’s were paraded naked after capturing Inchon. The war atrocities came out years later. All sides violated conventions of protecting civilians, women and children. It didn’t dawn on Americans that South Koreans wouldn’t like to be called gooks. 
  • Korea was a picture of extreme brutality. Upward of 100000 Koreans were killed before the war began. Another 100,000 afterwards.  As in Germany during WWII, incendiary bombing was also used in in Korea. Oceans of napalm were dropped on Korea. Depending on which side of the weapon you were on, it was either an infernal jelly or a wonder weapon. 

                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig4XOziHC2Q
                                  North American F-100 Super Sabre deploying napalm.

  • The air war was awful. Many innocent civilians were killed in saturation bombing that was unimaginably destructive. 
  •  

  • In 1951, newspaper journalism was put under the jurisdiction of the U.S. army and articles were censored. American journalists were cowed and useless. McCarthy used labels instead of arguments during this destructive era--evidence made no difference. 
  • Korea was the place to where the Cold war first came and never left. Seven decades later there is still oriental bigotry.
  • Soldiers were there to kill, but also to save and protect. They are supposed to protect the weak and unarmed. When he violates that, he threatens the fabric of international society. 
  • Cummings argued that journalists and historians misread and misreported the Korean war so that it was slanted against North Korea. Atrocities were hidden and classified for 50 years, such as the systematic slaughter of political prisoners in 1950. He feared American complicity in this and believed the Joint Chiefs of Staff repressed photos for 50 years.  
  • Cummings noted some of the results of the Korean conflict including more U.S. army bases around the world. The military industrial complex rose in the 1950’s with a larger standing army as a result. The armaments industry grew after Korea. 
  • Cummings thought the war was never won. "If you look at the Washington Memorial, you will see mysteries and unresolved tensions on the stone faces". He felt as the war failed to liberate the north. In fact, our war with North Korea continues with fears of nuclear warheads. "Someday archives will open and someday there will be a full understanding of the war."
  • Cummings advocated that the United States find ways to acknowledge past crimes and to reconcile with victims. "Forgetting is a gate keeper of conscience." He favored seeking reconciliation, not placing blame and understanding of one’s former enemy. Techniques of requiem, trial, reparations, and apology will help the country put ghosts to rest.
  • "There is no military solution in Korea, and there never was."


MY THOUGHTS

It would have helped if Cummings had placed the history of the area and of American involvement in the first part of the book. Since there was a lot of material, important facts were given in the middle of the book. That made the chronology difficult to follow. 

It was clear by the end of the book that Cummings did not favor American involvement in the war. As it turned out, the day I finished listening to this I met someone who immigrated to America from South Korea many years ago. His opinion was very different. He was vehement in his appreciation of American involvement. 

I recommend this book for any young adult or adult who is interested in learning more about this time period. 

The narrator, David de Bries did a fine job of reading this book. Here is an audio snippet: https://tinyurl.com/yb5xlsf4.

GIVEAWAY

If you would like to win a copy of this audio book, please leave your name and email address in the comments and Recorded Books will provide a download code for you. This could be a great gift for the history lover in your life, Giveaway ends March 5 at 6 PM.

 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Stompin' at the Savoy: A Nonfiction Picture Book Review and Giveaway

 Congratulations to Joan Edwards who won Barbara Younger's painting from last week's blog.

The other day I received a stack of books from Sleeping Bear Press which included several nonfiction titles.


In honor of Black History month, I chose Stompin' at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums by Moira Rose Donohue as the first one to read and giveaway. 


As I write two nonfiction picture books, I am participating in a superb online "crash course" in writing nonfiction, NF Fest. Each day a different author posts information and an activity related to writing nonfiction. Today, I was inspired by Candace Fleming's challenge, "Let's Make a Scene" to look at the scenes and summaries in a nonfiction text. She defines scenes as "a specific time, a specific place, and one change." Summaries,
tell the reader something necessary without creating a full scene. You can use summary to transition between scenes, set the tone or mood for the next scene, leap forward in time, or explain something (context) your readers will need to understand the next scene. We can identify it by its lack of time and place.

This blog will be my analysis of some of the scenes and summaries in Stompin' at the Savoy

REVIEW

The book opens with a scene of William Henry "Chick" Webb tapping rhythms on iron railings and marble steps. The author and illustrator foreshadow the changes that will occur in Chick's life.


The reader turns the page and on the left side finds a summary of William's early childhood illness that affected his spine. On the right is the dramatic illustration of this scene:


After the fall and an operation, the doctor wanted him to get a set of drums to strengthen his arms (summary). In the next two-page scene William is in the kitchen with his mother pounding on "pots and pats, floorboards and washboards" (notice the wonderful alliteration and internal rhyme!) because the family couldn't afford drums or drumsticks. William made his own drumsticks!

The following page is a summary illustrated here. There's no time or place, but rather an explanation of how William became known as Chick.


Next, the reader sees a scene in which Chick is making money by selling newspapers and twirling his real drumsticks in the air. The change is that he has saved up money to buy the drumsticks and is attracting attention, and spare change, with his tricks.

The next scene shows how although Chick stopped growing at four feet, one inch, he saved enough money to buy a drum set.


The reader then learns through the following scenes how jazz bands were "jamming all over the country" and Chick was hired to play with other bands.  Finally, Chick started his own swing band and hired Ella Fitzgerald as his lead singer.

The next scene shows the dancers at the Savoy ballroom where Chick's band was hired to play. 


At that time, band competitions were the rage. There's a scene where Chick loses to Duke Ellington. Disappointed but undeterred, Chick challenges Benny Goodman, the "King of Swing" to a battle of the bands.

Several pages depict both summary and scenes at the Savoy the big contest night.  

The climax of the competition is depicted in this scene in which Benny Goodman's drummer bows to the new "King of Drums."



How About You?

Have you considered scenes and summaries in the book you are writing or reading? This exercise was helpful to me as I go forward in writing picture books, but it is also helpful for all genres of writing. I previously blogged about scene elements here and here.

Other Thoughts

I loved Laura Freeman's artwork that swirls through the pages.  She captures the music's movement through art--which to me, seems like an incredible feat. 

Stompin' at the Savoy is a great classroom resource to teach K-2nd graders about African American history, music, and perseverance. The one page of back matter expands the reader's knowledge of the challenges which Chick faced as well as information about swing music. In the touching last paragraph, the author shares why she was drawn to Chick's story. 

Giveaway

Leave me a comment by 6 PM on February 26 to enter this giveaway. Increase your chances to win by sharing it on social media and/or following my blog. Make sure you tell me which you do. If you are new to my blog, make sure you leave your email address so I can notify you if you win. U.S. addresses only. 

LIST OF TEN: A YA Book Review and TWO Autographed Giveaways!

Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won THE LITTLE THIEVES audio book from last week's blog and to Rosi Hollinbeck who won DIVA DELOR...