#DiverseAThon TL;DR

A quick overview of my results from the January 2017 #DiverseAThon:

Elementary Chapter Books

I enjoyed Encore, Grace! but was confused until I learned that there was another book in the series which I missed reading.  I chose not to read Bravo, Grace! because it is a collection of short stories, not a novel, and thus better suited to reading another time.

The alternate Scraps of Time 1928 I didn’t read as I didn’t finish my original TBR and would prefer to read the books from that series in order if possible.

Middle Grade Novels

I liked One Crazy Summer a lot (and finished it) but didn’t like The Red Pencil as much as I hoped (thus didn’t finish it yet).

Teen/YA Novel

I didn’t get a chance to read Flygirl.  My plan was to read it on one of the weekends when I had an uninterrupted block of time, which never happened.  I am still very excited to read it at some point soon.

Nonfiction

Hidden Figures (which I had started reading on my lunch breaks before DiverseAThon) continued to be great.  I’ll be going to see the movie and starting the young reader’s edition.  Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice had a different format than I expected, but was still a worthwhile read.  I’m close to the end of both.

Overall

I wasn’t super happy with my reading for this week but given the busier than average week and emergencies, this is what happened.  It was interesting limiting my reading for one week to books with black characters that I already owned.  This won’t often be a possibility for me, given how much reading I need to do for my various works and classes, but it was a fun challenge.

If you want more details, I kept a running record of what I was reading each day of the DiverseAThon over in this post.

#DiverseAThon Jan 2017 Results

Here’s what I read during #DiverseAThon.  I kept a post draft open throughout the week and wrote down what I was reading at least once each day.  It was a busier week than normal, but I also didn’t do any reading outside of this challenge which is very unusual for me.  Usually I’m reading at least one chapter book for school, one for the library book group, and one for personal reading.  The only personal reading I had ongoing this week was the adult version of Hidden Figures, which certainly relates to this challenge.

If this post is too long for you (lots of details of my reading habits for the week), there’s a shorter synopsis here.

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January 2017 #DiverseAThon TBR

Continue reading “#DiverseAThon Jan 2017 Results”

Review: The Buried Bones Mystery – Clubhouse Mysteries #1

“School was over and the summer morning stretched ahead like a soft, sweet piece of bubble gum.” p. 1

The Buried Bones Mystery (Clubhouse Mysteries #1) by Sharon M. Draper, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson.
Aladdin, imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 1994, my edition published in 2006.
Elementary/middle school mystery fiction, 94 pages + excerpt from book two.
Lexile: 700L
AR Level: 4.3 (worth 2.0 points)
NOTE: Previously published under the title Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs.

Rico and his three best friends have nothing to do this summer now that the closest basketball court is ruined.  So they’re going to start a club, first building a clubhouse.  But then they discover a mysterious box, and something important turns up missing.  What could be going on?

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The Buried Bones Mystery (Clubhouse Mysteries #1) by Sharon Draper.

This book was something of a leap of faith for me.  I had never read a book by Sharon Draper before, although several were on my TBR list.  So many of her novels have come so highly recommended, that I went ahead and ordered this book in hardcover, sight unseen.  I’m so glad, because I foresee it getting a lot of use.

Continue reading “Review: The Buried Bones Mystery – Clubhouse Mysteries #1”

Web: In the Public Domain

Anybody who loves 18th century literature has heard of Project Gutenberg and similar online methods of obtaining books which no longer have a copyright, but when we browse these websites, it is often easier to find books with racist commentary or ideologies than to source books by authors of color.  Today I have a few sources to help you.

The list Black Writers in the Public Domain has a variety of genres available mostly through Gutenberg, but also from some other Public Domain sites.

The same website also has a review of a novel called The Conjure Woman, which is set in the antebellum South and was written by a black journalist.

There are two bookshelves available on Project Gutenberg.  One is African-American Writers, and the other (which has some overlap) is the Slavery bookshelf.  The Slavery bookshelf has some international writers, but is mainly about African-American slavery, which means it includes abolitionist writings by white authors.

Following this rabbit hole eventually brought me to The Antislavery Literature Project, which is all about trying to source original texts about the American antislavery movement from a variety of public domain sources and link them in their database.  This includes writings by white abolitionists as well as trying to source a variety of early writings by authors of color.  Their website is helpful for finding items from smaller digitization projects and gives a brief synopsis of each work.

If you’d like to do a unit on poetry by black authors, poets.org is a great starting place.  They have biographies, essays on, and at least one or two poems by everyone from well-known poets like Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou to comparatively newer poets like Claudia Rankine.

This website is full of sources for teachers, including recommended poems for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Black History Month and other occasions, searchable by poetic form.  Get even more in-depth for Black History Month with this part of the site that includes poems, essays, and original source documents.  There are also areas for movements like the Harlem Renaissance.  I’ve only covered the African-American areas, but this site is pretty good about including poets from a variety of traditions and ethnic backgrounds; if you’re interested in poetry, it’s definitely worth a look!

Oh, and for a starter, here’s an anthology of poems, The African American Experience.  I’m reading this and a nonfiction book from the first list electronically and enjoying both.

Further Update March 2022: Updated to fix broken links and remove those that no longer exist, as this post still seems to be popular.

Update October 2019: Since this post has recently been getting a lot of attention from search engines, I’ll also mention that if you’re interested in freely available works, check out my freebies tag, which has all of the free online books that I’ve read and reviewed so far.  I typically only review ebooks that are available as a free download or can be freely and legally read online in my home country (USA).

If you know of a site or have a link to your own freely available or public domain work, I might be interested.  Please do not contact me asking me to create ebooks from published works I have reviewed on this blog.  I respect copyright and will not respond to those requests.

Review: State of Wonder

“Her skin was all cream and light in comparison to her father’s and very dark when she held her wrist against her mother’s.” p. 35

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
Harper Perennial, HaperCollins, 2012.
Adult fiction, 353 pages plus extras.
New York Times Bestseller
Best book of the year 2011 from ten different news sources
Lexile: 990L
AR Level: 6.7 (worth 21.0 points)

Dr. Marina Singh has no interest in going to Brazil.  She’s quite happy sitting in her small windowless lab running pharmacological tests, and her lab partner Anders Eckman was happy to go into the Amazon as long as he could take some side trips to photograph rare and unusual birds.  But Marina’s plain, comfortable world shatters when a letter arrives relating his death.  The company wants to know what happened, and so does his widow.

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State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

This was a free book from the library that I grabbed after forgetting my bag so I couldn’t read Hidden Figures on my break.  It was surprisingly gripping!  There are so many points to discuss which are major spoilers, but I’m going to limit the spoilers here as much as possible.

Continue reading “Review: State of Wonder”

#DiverseAThon January 2017

I don’t normally post these sorts of things, but Naz at ReadDiverseBooks was very convincing about the need to promote the #DiverseAThon and maybe I have a few readers who might not know about it yet.

It runs from January 22nd to the 29th and “The goal of Diverse-A-Thon is simply to celebrate diversity in literature by reading diverse books all week and engage in thoughtful discussions on Twitter under the #DiverseAthon hashtag. The readathon will largely remain the same. It is low-stress and there no challenges – just read as many diverse books as you are comfortable reading in 7 days. There will be daily chats on Twitter this time around as well, so be sure to follow the @Diverseathon Twitter account to stay updated on all future news regarding the chats.”

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January 2017 #DiverseAThon TBR

It takes me ages to plan and write a review (I’m not great with cameras), and some of these I might not review, so just like last month’s book haul, this is what I’m (hopefully) reading and what you might see reviewed in the distant future.

Continue reading “#DiverseAThon January 2017”

Review: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A very basic text explaining the holiday to very young students.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Robin Nelson.
First Step Nonfiction, Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Early reader non-fiction, 23 pages including glossary and index.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 2.1 (worth 0.5 points)

This is a very basic early reader as part of a formulaic series for preschool to first or maybe second grade learners.  It is typically marketed to teachers and schools as part of a holidays set, which is how I acquired it.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Robin Nelson

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Review: The Sun is Also a Star

“Before the deportation notice, he refused to speak with a Jamaican accent or use Jamaican slang.” p. 25

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.
Delacorte Press, Penguin Random House, 2016.
YA romance, 348 pages.
Lexile: HL650L  (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.7 (worth 10.0 points)

This book takes place over one very intense day.  Natasha is a serious girl who loves science and music.  Daniel is a romantic boy who loves poetry but works diligently to meet his parents high expectations.  When they meet on the streets of New York City, love is destined, except for one catch: Natasha’s family is about to be deported.  Can she stay in America?  Can they somehow make it work?  Is love really about fate or just a chemical reaction in the brain?

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

As Natasha and Daniel are telling their story, there are interludes from a third person perspective that give more information about various details and background about people in their lives.

Continue reading “Review: The Sun is Also a Star”

Web: Kitaab World

There are several areas of diverse lit that I have very little knowledge about.  I don’t know much about Islamic books, so I rely on bloggers like Notes From an Islamic School Librarian to point me towards good reads or point out flaws in books that I might not notice.  I’m sadly ignorant about indigenous culture, but Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children’s Literature is helping educate all of us about good Native representation in literature.

But until very recently, I didn’t have many ideas about good South Asian books.  Enter the new website Kitaabworld (kitaab means book in many languages).  They curate books and some other children’s items from South Asian cultures, including bilingual and religious books.

In addition to selling South Asian books right there on their website, they offer a lot of helpful content for the clueless but well-meaning non-South Asian, such as their guide to the best books of 2016.

I had only heard of four books on this list before, although Save Me a Seat was one of my favorite books of 2016.  However there are now several I would like to read, including One Half from the East and YA novel Rani Patel in Full Effect.  Mirror in the Sky also looks intriguing.

I hope you are also able to find some new reads from this awesome website!

Awards You Might Not Know About

Book awards beyond the Newberry and Caldecott.

We’ve all heard of the Newberry and Caldecott Awards.  In fact, you might even have done a book report on one at some time in your childhood.  If you’re a savvy librarian or teacher, you might know about some of the other awards like the Giesel or Wilder Medals.

But did you know that there are many awards out there specifically for helping you find the best books and authors for a host of diverse groups?

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The Coretta Scott King Book Awards – 2016
There are four different categories.  This long-running award is probably the most likely to be seen on the shelves of your local bookstore.  The number of honors (vs. awards) seems to change yearly based on what is published.

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Schneider Family Book Award – 2016
“The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”  Both fiction and non-fiction are eligible but fiction tends to win more.  Categories are Children’s, Teens, and Middle School, and multiple books can win, but there are no honors.

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Stonewall Book Award – 2016  
Running since 1971, this award honors books relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender experience.  There are currently six categories including fiction and non-fiction for children, YA, and adults, and up to four books can be honored in some categories (it varies by year).

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Pura Belpré Award – 2016  
“The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”  There are winners and honors for authors and illustrators, fiction and non-fiction are mixed with fiction more predominate.

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American Indian Youth Literature Award – 2016   
These awards are given every two years to fiction or non-fiction books in the categories of picture book, middle grades, and YA. “Books selected to receive the award will present American Indians in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts.”

 

Of course, awards are not perfect.  Some years mediocre books win an award, other times modern classics are passed over (Amazing Grace) and don’t win any awards.  However, for parents, teachers, and librarians, these award lists can be a huge help as we try to find quality books in areas we might not be very knowledgeable in.

What major awards am I missing?  Does your local library buy the winners of these awards?