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It's the summer of 1968, and three sisters are sent cross-country from Brooklyn to Oakland to spend a month with their mother. Their mother who left them when the youngest was a brand-new baby, their mother who is fierce and angry and doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with any of them, who dresses like a spy and has a strange new name, who pushes them out of the house and sends them to spend their summer days anywhere but in her hair.
She sends the girls to a community summer camp run by Black Panthers, and lets them eat greasy take-out Chinese food for every meal. Clearly the girls will have to fend for themselves and luckily, oldest-sister Delphine is sensible and wiser than her 11 years. Delphine takes care of Vonetta and Fern when their "mom" Nzila won't, or can't.
This is historical fiction, sure, but it isn't a history lesson... it is LIVING history. The voices of each of the three girls, and their poet mother Nzila, and even the smallest side character, are true and infused with their own rhythm. I felt like I was on the streets of Oakland listening to real people. The girls themselves are smart girls, and strong girls, but they've had a very traditional upbringing and they are walking into a completely unknown world. In 28 days, we see them each grow up, to learn to feel the world a bit more like how their poet mother does, and get radicalized in their own ways. I think that the reader will take some of that rhythm, poetry and revolutionary spirit away from the book as well.
I know it must seem like Not Your Mother's is sort of a "girly" group, what with the pink blog and all, but really, we have a healthy number of fellas who are regulars at our events. Contrary to popular opinion, there ARE dudes who read YA!
Here are a couple of brand-new titles that are both funny and fun to read, and will definitely appeal to anyone who wants a dose of summer escapism.
FAT VAMPIRE by Adam Rex
Doug is a regular guy, but he has a rather unusual problem. See, he got bitten by a vampire, and now he is one. But he ISN'T hot, sparkly, fashionable or rich. He DOESN'T have a hot car or a bad reputation. He is, in fact, a chubby dork without a gift for seduction or anything else. And it seems he'll be this way... for eternity. To add to Doug's problems is the fact that he's being chased by a crossbow-wielding TV host, that blood is not just available on tap at 7-11, and that the girl of his dreams might prefer her guys on the mortal side. Sucks for him.
FAT VAMPIRE is a breezy romp that pokes fun at many of the characters and tropes that all readers of YA will recognize. I loved the humor, I loved the main character and his human sidekick, and while I am still not sure I am satisfied by the ending... I am still thinking about it! And that is a good thing. Rating: Four out of five vampire bites.
For more, check out this lively interview with the author.
SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO by Eric Luper
Seth thought getting dumped by his girlfriend in an Applebees was bad enough. But when he sees his dad having a clearly not-business related lunch with some random short-skirt-wearing, not-mom woman, he totally loses his cool. Oh, and his job. He decides to do some detective work to find out where The Other Woman lives, and to document this search and get over his post-breakup heartache by venting his problems on an anonymous podcast that (naturally) does not stay anonymous for long.
There is nothing mind-bending about this book. There is no magic or danger. What there is, though, is lots of heart and a TON of humor. Seth is charming but far from perfect, and his frustrations and joys (and often, complete cluelessness!) really ring true. The guys in this book seem not only like real guys, but like guys you'd have fun hanging out with. Um... provided they didn't start podcasting about you! Rating: Four and a half out of five MP3s.
Has the soccer fever you caught at the World Cup not been cured yet?
Join us for Picture Book Pals in Palo Alto on Saturday at 11am, as we welcome special guest author Mina Javaherbin and her book GOAL.
"Uplifting and inspiring, this beautifully written and illustrated book reminds us of the joys and saving grace of friendship and sport. Set in South Africa, this book is a gift for soccer fans and all families around the world." -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
This Saturday, a gang of about 40 werewolf-loving teens and YA fans descended upon a small fro-yo shop in Burlingame, CA, to meet their current fave author, the fabulous MAGGIE STIEFVATER. Maggie was fresh from debuting at number one on the NYT bestsellers list (!!!) and had a great story to tell about how she got the call (let's just say, an illegal airplane phone was involved). She also talked to everyone about what is next for her characters, and how much she likes to make teenagers cry. :-) Then everyone had fun rooting through their goodie bags to mix-and-match free books.
Here's a pic from the event -- yay for a beautiful day, an unforgettable event, and very happy readers!
Thanks, BLUSH, for delicious yogurt, endless patience, and being color-coordinated to the book.
Best friends Dessy and Veronica arrive in Europe with wildly different plans. Dessy hopes to heal her newly broken heart by diving into the creative writing workshop that brought the girls to Prague. Veronica's plan, meanwhile, is to conquer as many hot-dudes as possible in one month and help Dessy recycle her heart in the process.
At first, Veronica's plan is working so well that Dessy thinks she might be a love genius. But soon it's clear that Operation Maneater has a few holes. Like its failure to anticipate crazy mixed signals...and worse, its mysterious tendency to plague a friendship with secrets and lies.
Well, no one ever said breaking hearts was a simple craft!
KRISTEN TRACY is a prolific children's book author and poet who makes her home in San Francisco with a very demanding cat. She also "moonlights" with a job on ALCATRAZ! Which is super cool. She is hilarious. Read her books!!
Best Friends Forever... Sarah promised Marjorie when they were five years old that they would be best friends forever. But that was before seventh grade, when everything changed—everything except Marjorie. While Sarah wants to meet new people and try new things, Marjorie still likes doing the same things they always did. It seems the more time the two girls spend together, the more time Sarah wants to spend apart. How did a promise that was so easy to make become so hard to keep?
With beautifully drawn characters and vivid details, this incisive novel portrays middle school in all its complexity—both the promise of what is to come and the pain of what must be left behind.
Conflicted by staying true to her promise while trying to figure out what she wants for herself, Sarah suffers through a series of uncomfortable situations that pit her budding desires to sing and make new friends against loyalty to her fading friendship with Marjorie. Willner-Pardo captures Sarah's torment well...Scenes with Sarah's practical mom and salty Grandpa offer some comic relief, as do those showcasing Marjorie's fierce individualism. -- Kirkus
THE HARD KIND OF PROMISE by Gina Willner-Pardo is brand new. If you like middle grade stories about real kids and their friendships, with all the drama, sometimes-cruelty and sometimes-hilarity that go with... this is a book for you. PROMISE will be a hit with fans of authors like Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Kate Messner.
Gina has written 15+ books for children and lives in the SF Bay Area.