Monday, September 16, 2019

Maybe He Just Likes You- A Review and ARC Giveaway

After watching Colby Sharp's YouTube  recommendation of Barbara Dee's newest book, Maybe He Just Likes You (Simon and Schuster), I knew I wanted to read it. 

As I mentioned to Ms. Dee when I connected with her on Facebook, it's a book that I both love and hate. I love it because it is written so well. I hate it because it deals so honestly with a topic-- sexual harassment--that no 7th grader should have to think about or deal with.  


Barbara Dee doesn't waste time. Right off the bat, the protagonist, Mila, receives unwelcome attention from Callum. He and his three friends (all basketball players) join a circle of friendship Mila and her friends created to celebrate their friend Omi's birthday. After singing "Happy Birthday" Callum continues to hug Mila. 
I wriggled my shoulders, but Callum's hand was squeezing. And I am not leaving.
Now I could feel my armpits getting damp. (p. 7)
From that uncomfortable encounter onward, Callum and his friends continue to harass Mila. Zara dismisses the incidents as the boys just being friendly and/or Mila being a baby or flirting with them. Omi fails to support Mila. Her fourth friend, Max, sees the bullying and recommends she talk to the assistant principal. But since he is also the basketball coach, Mila is reluctant to bring him into the picture. 

At the same time that Mila is experiencing increased unwanted attention and physical contact from the boys, her divorced mother loses her job and the family experiences financial stress. Mila can't confide in her mother and feels alone. Her one source of comfort--playing her trumpet--doesn't give her the normal "blue sky feeling" since Callum is in the school band and things seem to happen during practice. 

As the book progresses, Mila gets to know Samira, a Black star clarinetest, who observes the unwanted attention Mila is receiving. Here is an interchange between the two girls, beginning with Samira:
"If it was me, I wouldn't allow it."  
"You think I allowed it?" 
"I'm just saying, you don't  have to put up with stuff like that, Mila. It's just really wrong, you know?" (p. 56)
Although Mila is validated that the boys' attention is inappropriate, she misunderstands Samira's comment and is left feeling as if all this is her fault.

Mila's mother begins working out a local gym that also has classes for kids. Mila ends up in a karate class where Samira clearly knows how to handle herself. Mila thinks,
How do you get like that? 
knowing what to do, in what order. 
Not thinking. Or not-thinking. 
Not ignoring. And not running away. 
Could I ever do any of that? 
Could one of those girls ever be me? 
As hard as I tried, it was impossible to 
imagine.  (p. 105)
As Mila begins to see that she is a victim of the boys' bullying, she starts reacting--but not always in appropriate ways. Not until she disrupts the band concert and has a heart-to-heart talk with her band teacher, is Mila given words to understand her experience of sexual harassment. Becoming more adept at karate class gives her newfound confidence. In turn, this is translated into stronger thoughts about herself and more forthright communication with others.

I highly recommend Maybe He Just Likes You for both girls and boys; it would be a useful conversation starter in any classroom or family. 


I wrote to Ms. Dee in our Facebook interchange, "I'm over 60. Wish there had been a book like this when I was that age. It would have helped."

She replied, "Totally agree. We never discussed these things and they never got solved."


I am giving away my ARC to one fortunate reader. Leave me a comment (with your email address if you are new to my blog) by September 19 if you want to enter the giveaway. Giveaway limited to continental United States. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

I Finished My Book, Now What? Some ABC's of Being Between Books

Congratulations to Theresa Milstein who won Tomorrow's Bread from last week's blog.


One of the television shows my husband and I enjoy is ChoppedBesides watching the incredible creations the cooks come up with out of their mystery baskets, I like the final second when the cooks' time is up. They throw up their hands and step away from the plates. There is nothing more they can do.

That's how I felt last week when I typed "The End" on HALF-TRUTHS, tweaked it a few more times, and pressed SEND.

After over eleven years, my young adult historical novel was on its way to an agent. 


I step back, but I'm not about to throw my hands up in the air.

Instead, here's a peak at what will keep me busy--and keep me from checking my email every minute of the day as I wait for an answer. 

A is for agents. I'll continue to work on my list of agents who I'll query next. I have a folder in my email box in which I've been saving agents I've read about who are interested in YA historical novels; most of them from Kathy Temean's excellent blog, Writing and Illustrating. (If you are serious about writing or illustrating for children or teens, you need to follow this blog.) I'll study each agent's wish list and if I think they're a good fit, I'll move their name and agency information to my list on Query Tracker. For $25.00/a year you get the premium membership with many benefits. 

B is for brochure. Mine is out of date and it'll probably take hours for me to come up with a new design template. Not my favorite thing to do. 

Old brochure.

C is for clean up my computer. I keep running out of room on my hard drive! Time to move photos and files. 

A little old-school, I know. But I still like them!

D is for dentist. Overdue.  

E is for EQUAL.  

Joyce Hostetter sent me the manuscript for her last book in the Baker Mountain Series several months ago. She has given me a tremendous amount of feedback and input into HALF-TRUTHS. Time to return the favor. 

F is for the Federlin files.

One of Henry Federlin's genealogy lists.

I inherited many things from my father, Henry Federlin, including his desire to document his life. I have two folders full of papers that he saved which I promised to copy for my brother and sister.  

I is for Instagram. 
Apparently Instagram (not Facebook!) is the way to connect with teen readers. I have an account, but have only a smidgen of knowledge how to use it. 

L is for lunch with friends.

 (my friends are less furry but I couldn't resist this!)

M is for Marguerite Higgins.

While researching HALF-TRUTHS, I came across Marguerite Higgins, a journalist who covered WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. She becomes Kate's heroine and perhaps, my subject for a non-fiction picture book biography. 

M is also for Dr. Marie Maynard Daly.

I also discovered Dr. Marie Daly, who becomes Lillian's heroine. I think she would make an excellent subject for a non-fiction picture book biography. 

S is for Scrivener 3.  

See comment on Instagram above about learning something new. Except that I've begun my next book in both Scrivener 2 and 3. First off: figure out how to import one to the other.

T is for Talking Story.  Our fall issue is on Native Americans and First Nations. 

T is also for THREADS. The working title for my sequel to HALF-TRUTHS.  
Charlotte textile industry roots
Image courtesy Bank of America.

The textile mills are as much a part of Charlotte, NC's history as the Jim Crow laws. The story will take place in 1954, involve the textile mills, and revolve around Frank, Kate Dinsmore's younger brother, and Isaac, Lillian Harris's older brother who has just returned from his service in Korea. 

W is for Write2Ignite. Our annual conference is less than two weeks away and I need to finish getting ready. I'm giving three talks for teens and am excited to encourage these burgeoning authors. There's still time to register!


How about you? What do you put off doing until you've completed a project? 

Which item on my "to do" list will I tackle first? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Author Interview with Anna Jean Mayhew- Part II

As promised on last week's blog, A.J.Mayhew, author of Tomorrow's Bread answers more questions on the art of writing fiction, being a White author writing from a Black POV, and dealing with doubt.

Secondary Characters

CAROL How did you pick Eben and Persy as your secondary characters?

A.J. It may sound weird, but I feel like they picked me. I knew right off that Loraylee would be my primary narrator. Initially I wrote her narration in third person past tense, but that wasn't "active" enough…when I changed it to first person present tense, she leapt off the page. I began to think about other people who lived in Brooklyn; I wanted a community leader for my second narrator, and Eben worked well for that. He was perhaps the easiest to write, although I was surprised by his doubts; I had assumed that as a minister he would have a deep and abiding faith, but throughout the novel he voices great uncertainties.

Persy was the most difficult of the three narrators, maybe because she was the most like me. The address I chose for her home with her husband Blair is less than a mile from where I grew up; she was a young wife only a few years before I had the same role, same neighborhood, same schools, etc. I had to find a way to let her be her unique self, so I wrote a lot of back story that never made it into the book, pages and pages about her parents, her brother, about her husband's parents (his realtor father, his meddlesome housewife mother); I found that by creating a life story for her that was vastly different from mine, I became free to write her narration.

One reason I chose to have Persy and her husband Blair live on Sugar Creek is that I wanted something to connect them with Brooklyn besides politics. Thus the creek became sort of a character in the novel, roaming as it does from north Charlotte through south Charlotte and on to the Catawba river. It's mentioned in the opening line of the novel and in the last line. I didn't plan that, but when it happened I realized how important Sugar Creek, aka Little Sugar, meant to the story and to me (I grew up only a couple of blocks from the creek, and it was always there in my life).
1942 image of houses near Little Sugar Creek.
Photo courtesy of Beaumert Whitton Papers,
UNC Charlotte Atkins Library

History + Fiction = A Great Story!

CAROL You mentioned in your acknowledgments that Cliff Staton "relieved you of the burden of sticking to the facts.” As a hopeful historical novelist, I’m curious about this. Obviously, there is a ton of truth in this book. How did you decide what to fictionalize? I’m curious about the church and the cemetery. Were they real? Any “real” people? 

A.J. I found a story about a “lost” graveyard behind Myers Park Country Club in a wealthy area of Charlotte; human remains were discovered when foundations were dug for a new development in the mid-1980s, where an AME Zion church once stood. That led me to read about old graveyards—particularly those where slaves were buried—and to look into what would happen if a cemetery got in the way of urban renewal. I imagined a graveyard behind St. Timothy’s, and for the purposes of the drama such a burial ground would create, I chose to fictionalize, to disregard the fact that there was no cemetery in Brooklyn.

As for being relieved of the burden of sticking to the facts, my friend Cliff Staton was referring to an author statement about writing fiction, and having the right—as novelists—to "make stuff up." Cliff and I had a long conversation at the kitchen table back when I was agonizing about whether I would get all the facts right. He helped me see that my story was driven by the characters—fictional people—and that if I got the historical facts right (e.g., when the bulldozers rolled), I could have fun making up the rest. And I did!

Commemorating the Brooklyn community.
Placard hanging in Second Ward High gymnasium. 

Writing as a White Author

CAROL Have you had any negative response from the Black community for writing two of the viewpoints from a Black person’s POV? 

AJ I have had two reviews thus far from men who grew up in Brooklyn, and await a third from a woman who lived there. The first two were stunning in their approval and praise. A big weight was lifted when I got those comments!

Thus far the only criticism of being white and writing black has been in one of the Amazon reviews, wherein someone named Petunia said: "I'm just not really sure that the author does a good job of representing POC [people of color] and often wonder if someone who is white should be writing from that perspective."

I am sick and tired of the whole issue of what's being called "cultural appropriation." As a white person perceptive about such things (how could I write what I write without being aware of and respectful of race issues?), I was at first quite defensive when considering whether I had appropriated. But any such issue can be taken to extremes. If Tolstoy and Flaubert had been told they could not write from the POV of a woman, we wouldn't have Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary. If Puccini had been told he could not "appropriate" Japanese mores, we would not have Madama Butterfly. Likewise, there's Carmen, set in Southern Spain and written by Georges Bizet, French and male, about a gypsy woman falling in love.

And what about Uncle Tom's Cabin by the white author Harriet Beecher Stowe? 

The most stunning recent example is The Vain Conversation, an amazing novel with a young white protagonist—the son of a sharecropper—who witnesses the murder of four blacks from his town and whose life is forever changed. The author, Anthony Grooms, is a professor of English and black. I wonder what Petunia et al would have to say to him.

Writers must pay homage to the truth while creating fictional settings and characters, and must write with sensitivity no matter the setting or plot. I am first and foremost a Southern writer; as such, if I didn't include blacks in my stories, I would certainly be accused of the sin of omission.

To paraphrase the inimitable Toni Morrison, I don't appropriate, I imagine. 

Sugar Creek cleaned up and now enjoyed by many
in Freedom Park. 9/1/19

Taking your Time and Writerly Doubts

CAROL I love the fact that it took you 18 years to write and publish The Dry Grass of August. I’m well over 10 years into Half-Truths (I don’t really want to know how long it’s been) but given this is my first novel, I had a lot to learn. Here’s the question: How did you maintain your momentum while writing? Any doubts along the way that nagged at you? (I’m revealing my hand with that question.)

AJ I don't trust any writer (any artist of any medium) who never has doubts. I certainly did, many, and the only thing that dispelled them or took away their strength was to go right back to the computer (the manuscript, the drawing board). I have a quote pasted to the top of my monitor: "Trust the process. Let go of the results." That has served me well over the years. And as for maintaining my momentum, I've been in a writing group for 32 years; knowing that I would have to read to the group from my work in progress helped me tremendously. We meet on Thursday mornings, and I've said that my first novel should have had a subtitle: The Dry Grass of August: A Novel Written on Wednesday Evenings.

CAROL What's next?

AJ As I said in my "interview" in the back matter of TB, when asked, "Are you working on a third novel?" I answered, "Yes. No. Maybe." I've pulled out some short stories I wrote many years ago, so maybe a collection of them. Maybe a third novel…I do have an idea I'm pursuing, based on a book I wrote 25 years ago. But as I approach 80, the idea of writing another book makes me weary. Don't quote me!

Thank you, A.J., for taking the time to answer all my questions. If you live in the Charlotte area, A.J. will be one of the guests at the Women's National Book Association annual Bibliofeast on October 21. If you win her book, you can get her autograph!

By the way, ten discussion questions at the end make this book a perfect book club selection. 


Leave me a comment with your email address if you are new to my blog. Winner's name will be drawn on September 5. For additional chances, share this on social media and let me know what you did. 

This description of urban renewal is posted on
Second Ward High's refurbished gymnasium.
The high school was torn down in 1969.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Author Interview with Anna Jean Mayhew: Part I

As a fan of historical fiction, I love it when a book seems so real that it could have happened just like the author described it. That's how I felt when I read Tomorrow's Bread which I reviewed last week. (If you haven't already read my review, please do that first. This interview will make more sense if you do.) Some of my questions about what was real and what was fictionalized were answered in the Author's Note, but not all. As you'll see in this interview, A.J. Mayhew drew from facts and her imagination. There is no better way to write a book. 


CAROL Your books bring to life Charlotte’s history. Can you give us a few words about how growing up in Charlotte shaped your books? 

A. J. In 2008 I returned to my hometown of Charlotte for a high school reunion, and for some reason decided to drive through the heart of the city rather than taking my usual route on the perimeter. It was then that I saw how much open land remained where Brooklyn used to be. I couldn't help wondering why, 40 years later, the city hadn't built on the land they appropriated in 1968. That curiosity led to the writing of Tomorrow's Bread.

CAROL How did your first book, The Dry Grass of August influence Tomorrow’s Bread ? Was this your idea or did your publisher request another book? 

A. J. I got a two-book deal when my agent sold Dry Grass to Kensington Publishing, in 2009; at that time I was given a year to write the second book. But I don't write fast, never have, and I didn't finish Tomorrow's Bread until the winter of 2017. The only real influence of the first novel on the second was that I'd done a lot of research for Dry Grass about black/white history in North Carolina; that came in handy as I started the second novel.

CAROL Where did you get the titles of your novels?

A. J. Both my titles came from poems. The Dry Grass of August is a phrase from Robert Penn Warren's poem, "Star-Fall," and Tomorrow's Bread is from "Democracy" by Langston Hughes. I wish I could write poetry, but I absolutely cannot, have tried. I read it quite a bit, though, and have a deep appreciation for the art form.

CAROL You seem to gravitate towards historical fiction. Please comment on your process of research. Any sticky points? Recommendations for other historical fiction novelists?

A.J. When I began to write Dry Grass it never occurred to me that I was writing historical fiction; I had a story to tell. The fact that it was set in the 1950s and would require a lot of research was of no concern, at least not until I began to have to check facts, to determine whether my memories were accurate. The internet is both a boon and a pit of misinformation. I learned quickly not to trust what I found online unless the source was valid (and sometimes it wasn't easy or even possible to track down an original source). Journals I'd kept over the years (some of them going back to my twenties and thirties) were helpful. Encyclopedia yearbooks were a boon when I discovered them. Old magazines helped me get into the mindset of someone living in the early fifties, especially my female characters. I saw how publications like Good Housekeeping, Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post, etc., geared their advertising toward the stay-at-home mom. Magazines aimed at people of color were harder to find, but when I began to write Tomorrow's Bread, I found Ebony and Jet to be of incredible value.

There's a thing I do that might be useful to other writers: When I'm perusing magazines of the period of my story (the 50s for Dry Grass and the 60s for Bread), I find photos of my characters and create a scrap book; for Dry Grass it was a physical book; for Bread it was digital, on my computer. For example, here's a photo of Uncle Ray, sitting on the front porch of 1105 Brown Street, with the old rocking chair behind him.

And here's my doctored photo of 1105 Brown Street, with the magnolia tree dominating the front yard:

And the duplex they find:

CAROL That's what I use Pinterest for!



Next week, A.J. returns with more thoughts about writing historical fiction, writing as a white author, and what she's working on next. I'm giving away my copy of Tomorrow's Bread and the contest ends on September 5. Each time you leave a comment I'll add another entry in your name. Make sure you leave your email address if I don't have it!

Monday, August 19, 2019

TOMORROW'S BREAD: A Review and Giveaway

Congratulations to Gail Cartee who won The End of the World and Beyond on last week's giveaway.

When I began researching Half-Truths someone--I'm afraid I don't remember who it was--told me about how Brooklyn, an African American neighborhood in Charlotte that was leveled as a part of urban renewal.  Tomorrow's Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew, breathes life into that vital, bygone neighborhood. 

This story of a community affected by urban renewal is not unique to Charlotte, NC; but it is told in such well-researched detail that people living in Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis --any area that was torn down and cleared out--will resonate with the book. As A.J. points out in her Author's Note, there were homes that would meet the definition of blight. 

This photo, taken in the old Brooklyn neighborhood, was typical of the image often presented of Charlotte's historically black neighborhood near uptown. In reality, the area was made up of mixed-income residences and businesses.  COURTESY OF CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG LIBRARY

But, there were also business, churches, theaters, and spacious brick homes that were destroyed.
Business district in Brooklyn.


This historical novel for adults is told through three different points of view. We see the destruction of the neighborhood primarily through the eyes of Loraylee, a single black mother who lives with her son, uncle and grandmother. Loraylee is in love with a white man, but in the sixties, it is against the law for them to get married. Everyone in Loraylee's family is attached to their friends, fellow church-goers, schools and businesses in Brooklyn; all four can't imagine life elsewhere. Her hard-working and matter-of-fact manner made her a person I would have liked to know. 

Reverend Ebenezer Gabriel Polk ("Eben") is the faithful pastor of St. Tim's and unofficial church historian of the church cemetery and the 151 slaves that were buried there. His third-person account of watching his cemetery and community bulldozed is gripping and poignant. (Personal note: Since I have included  a cemetery disinterment in Half-Truths, I was interested in how Mayhew incorporated that into the story.) Eben's own family history (most likely descended from President Polk), his sorrow over his deceased wife and his brother's tragedies, and his commitment to his community weave throughout the book. 

Persy, a white woman who has had struggles of her own, is the third point-of-view in the story. Her childless and loveless marriage contrasts with the loving family relationships in Brooklyn. Her husband is on the committee for urban renewal and she is as helpless to stop him as she is to heal their failing marriage. Although Persy is mainly on the periphery of the story, her life intersects with Loraylee's when they both are at the beach, and Persy is instrumental in saving Loraylee's son's life in a near-drowning. 

Half-Truths takes place about ten years before Brooklyn's urban renewal. Although it is in a different area of the city, Black leaders were concerned about how urban renewal would not provide relocation to the families and businesses. In this article, local NAACP leader, Mr. Kelly Alexander (who makes a cameo appearance in Half-Truths) stated some of his concerns.  


Next week, I am interviewing A.J. on my blog. Leave me a comment on this blog and I'll enter your name in the giveaway. Enter again next week, and you're in twice! Tomorrow's Bread could be yours! Make sure you leave your email address if you are new to my blog. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

The End of the World and Beyond by Avi: A Review and Audiobook Giveaway

Congratulations to Susan Rice who won One Red Sock on last week's blog. 


I'm a pretty big Avi fan, so when I found The End of the World and Beyond in the Recorded Books catalog, I knew it was a book I'd want to pass along. (I heard Avi speak at the SC Reading Association conference and still quote his thoughts on revision.)

This story of twelve-year-old Oliver Cromwell Pitts takes place in 1725. When the book opens, he is a prisoner on board an English ship taking him to the colonies. Instead of being hung for thievery, Oliver has been sold into slavery. The book is told in first person, uses the language of the times, and is aptly narrated by James LangtonHere is a brief link to the recording so you can get a taste of the book. 

Before boarding the ship, "Goodwill," he and his beloved older sister, Charity, are separated. Finding her is Oliver's driving goal throughout the story.

While on board, Oliver is padlocked to six other prisoners. Their ordeal to survive with chains around their necks, is described in detail. At one point Oliver observes, “Truth is always held up as a shining ideal. ...truth can also be horrific." He develops new empathy for Negroes who are slaves for life. Although his future is dismal, he hopes he'll be able to be freed after his years of service.

The boat docks in Annapolis where the captain proceeds to sell the prisoners. As much as it is an anathema to him, he realizes he must sell himself or become the property of the city. Since he is young, he is passed over and feels shame over being sold for a lot less than the other felons. Locked up for a time because no one purchases him, he concludes that London jails and American jails are both awfulMisery has no geography, and he "remains a tethered bird in a locked cage."

Eventually, he his bought by a cruel master, Mr. Fitzhugh, an alcoholic tobacco planter. Oliver is released from jail and into an unknown, dreadful world. Even on the way to the tobacco farm, escape was always in his mind. "But fear overwhelmed me. My iron collar showed I was an enslaved felon." When he realizes that many people were attempting to running from their masters he observes that this doesn’t speak well of America. 

Oliver's antagonist, Mr. Fitzhugh, is shown vividly through his dialogue and actions. He threatens Oliver, “You are my property... I only do what I want, when I want. If you try to stop me, I’ll kill you." Fitzhugh's ever-present loaded pistol and knife in his belt demonstrate how he is the epitome of being a malicious bully.  

When Oliver gets to his master's house he feels as if he is at the end of the world. There he meets the other servant, a Negro teenager named Bara. Fitzhugh says to Oliver, "Consider yourself lucky. Bara will never get free."

Oliver observes that Bara "is self-contained. It was if most of what he had was within and he had little desire of letting anything out." Bara shows Oliver how to survive Fitzhugh's cruelty and advises him not to resist. "He becomes enraged at resistance. He wants you to fight back." He also suggests that the master will make someone helpless so that he becomes even more helpless as he believes the lies.

Oliver's discovers that his sister Charity is in Philadelphia and his desire to find her leads him to several reckless decisions. Bara is frustrated with him, but together they make a difficult and harrowing escape. When the two part, Oliver feels as if he is saying goodbye to his brother. In fact, Bara was the best friend and mentor Oliver needed. The book chronicles Oliver's physical and psychological maturation.

The ending will surprise you. But, take my word for it, this is a terrific book and classroom resource. It will open middle grade and young adult readers' eyes to slavery and indentured servitude before the Revolution. 


Leave me a comment by August 15 and leave me your email address if you are new to my blog. Start following this blog or share it on social media and you will earn an extra chance to win. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Two Socks, One Giveaway

Congratulations to Gwen Porter who won "A Boy Like You" and to Linda Townsend who won "A Fist for Joe Louis and Me."


If you didn't win last week, here's another chance at winning an adorable picture book, also courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press. 

Little Sock

This debut picture book by Kia Heise and Chrispher D. Park, is one that children (and their parents or caregivers) will enjoy reading. 

Little Sock is bored. Every day it's the same old thing. He gets worn, gets dirty, and gets washed. "All the other Socks seem happy, but Little Sock dreams of something different." He's heard of a place called Sock City where every day is a new adventure and he is determined to find it--even though it means going through a scary, dark tunnel in the back of the dryer. 

On the other end of the tunnel Little Sock finds Sock City and lots of different Socks,

and determines to go back again. 

Only next time, he'll bring a friend. 

One Red Sock

This is the second book I've reviewed by author-illustrator Jennifer Sattler. Like BULLY, ONE RED SOCK also is light on text but full of bold, larger-than-life illustrations which will amuse young readers.

How many purple hippos do you know who live in a room full of colorful dots? And how many can't seem to find a red sock to match the one she already has on? Young readers will enjoy meeting this unique hippo, identifying colors, and learning the rhymes.

In the end, after trying out a rainbow of colored socks, Ms. Hippo decides to wear one that has polka dots to match her room.

Jennifer was featured last week on Kathy Temean's blog. Check out the link to see more of Jennifer's illustrations and her entire process!


Since my youngest grandson is turning one this week, LITTLE SOCK is on its way to his house. I think his older sister will enjoy reading it to him. 

Four-year-old Eleanor, "reading" Five Little Ladybugs
to her brother, Luke. According to my daughter,
Luke listens the best when she reads to him.
ONE RED SOCK is up for grabs though! Leave me a comment by August 8 and I'll enter your name in the giveaway. Just make sure you leave me your email address if I don't have it.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Two "Boy" Picture Books--for Boys and Girls + Two Giveaways!

Not so long ago, writers were encouraged to write "boy books"--books that would appeal to young males who were less likely to be readers than girls. Many authors have taken up the challenge to create books that would engage boys. Here are two picture books that boys will like, as well as girls. 

A Boy Like You

Frank Murphy, the author of A Boy like You (Sleeping Bear Press, 2019), has a message he wants to share with boys (both young and old):

"The world needs a boy--a strong and brave and kind boy--now more than ever."

This sentiment pervades every page of this picture book that will be a great curriculum resource for the preschool-second grade crowd. 

The opening spread shows boys enthusiastically playing a variety of sports but ends with the admonition that a strong boy will,  "Play hard, but play fair. Be a great teammate. Say 'Nice goal!' and 'Good try!' Don't say 'You throw like a girl.' Ever. And, remember, there's so much more than sports..."

The pages which follow show a Black boy (with a White father and Black mother) working in the garden, baking, reading, and playing music which are all wonderful activities in addition to sports. This character is encouraged to discover other people's stories from a diverse cast which are skillfully and artistically portrayed by illustrator Kayla Harren

My favorite pages are when Murphy uses a play on words and instructs the reader to,  "Oh boy, be curious." And, "Oh boy, be thoughtful." I also really enjoyed the page of the little boy being scared to jump off the diving board. The text reads, "Here's a secret that not many people know. Fear and bravery are partners. You can't be brave without first being afraid."

Although the text may seem a tad didactic to adult readers, boys and girls will get the message loud and clear: 

"You are original. And that's a wonderful thing."

A Fist for Joe Louis and Me

In the author's note Trinka Hakes Noble writes that she first saw Joe Lewis's bronzed boxing glove in plexiglass in Cobo Center in Detroit. It inspired her to write this book, just as Joe Louis's knock out fight with Max Schmeling gave hope "during the dark days of the Great Depression and the coming of World War II with Nazi Germany." This book is coming out soon from Sleeping Bear Press and beautifully illustrated by Nicole Tadgell.

This sweet story highlights an unlikely friendship between the young Black boy Gordy Williams, and his Jewish friend, Ira Rubenstein. Gordy's father has been teaching him how to box and afterwards they listen to radio broadcasts of boxing fights--especially when Joe Louis is fighting. 

The Depression hits Detroit hard and his father--along with many others--loses his job at a car manufacturing plant. But Gordy thinks, "But we still had Joe Louis in our corner." 

Gordy meets Ira who's family just immigrated from Germany and they bond over boxing matches and Gordy teaches Ira how to "put up his dukes". They come up with boxing names  and become "Gordy Steel" and "Iron Ira" and joke how they are iron and steel--tough and strong, just like Detroit. 

Their friendship is solidified when Gordy sticks up for Ira against a bully, and their father's friendship is solidified when they discover their joint interest in boxing. In a conversation about Joe's upcoming fight against German Max Schmeling, Mr. Rubinstein says,

"My people and your people, we have much in common, Mr. Williams. This fight is for us too."
I didn't know what Mr. Rubinstien was talking about, but my father did.
"It's for all of us," he said as he stood and reached out his big hand. Mr. Rubenstien reached out his hand, too.
I wasn't sure why, but their handshake felt important, like reaching across something far greater than our kitchen table.


I am giving book picture books away so please tell me which one you want in the comments. Make sure you leave me your email address if you are new to my blog! Giveaway ends August 1. Follow my blog or share this on social media for an extra chance to win. 

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