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There are many teachers and students who are aware of Kwame now who didn't know anything about him before his novel, Crossover won the 2015 Newbery Medal. I am forever in debt to Bryan Ripley Crandall for his recommendation that I get to know more about this wonderful author before he hit the big time. I did, I was thrilled, and, as a result, Kwame was invited to be a keynote speaker at the YA conference I held in June 2015 at LSU. Booked is a wonderful book. Your students will love it.
I have been following Kate DiCamillo's works for a long time. I think I first discovered Kate's books long before I became a professor focusing on YA literature. It was when one of my daughters was reading Because of Winn-Dixie. I am quite sure that those of us who teach YA have a favorite DiCamillo novel: The Tiger Rising, Flora and Ulysses, or maybe The Tale of Desperaux. It doesn't matter, DiCamillo is a lovely writer. One of my regrets from last spring is that she was in Las Vegas doing a public reading, and I had a meeting that I just couldn't avoid. Dang. I hope there is a next time.
I have been watching this series unfold. Given the turmoil currently surrounding the conversations and actions of equity and race throughout the country and the world, it seems timely and important to remember past sacrifices. This long list was announced the morning after I spend much of the night finishing another brilliant book, Blood Brother, by Rich and Sandra Neil Wallace, their book would make a great companion to this series. We need to keep reading and talking about these events, least we forget, least we forget.
Grace Lin is an author who has not been on my radar. This is one of the great reasons I love the announcement of the long list. It gives me an opportunity to widen my gaze and include authors that have slipped by unnoticed in my limited sphere. Happily, I find that she has several more novels (Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, Dumpling Days, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon) that need my attention. It is wonderful to find more books that are both windows and mirrors.
Here is another author who is new for me. I opened her website and was captured right away with the phrase: "Most of what I write could be called magical realism." Okay, Anna-Marie, you have me. I love YA that channels Allende, Marquez Cortazar, Morrison, and Faulkner, among other authors. Her novels, The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon was Ours are on my reading list.
Now, back to a novelist that I read and admire a great deal. I owe her a great debt. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick your Ass is one of the finest books I have read over the last couple of years. I was one of the early readers of Burn Baby Burn and excited to find that she can do great books back to back. In addition, she has several children's books as well. She is a wonderful person and is concerned about her readers and the larger community of Latino/a writers. I absolutely love that she strives to have her books released in Spanish as well. Read her books as fast as you can get your hands on them.
Sara is an author whose books (primarily the Clementine series) are on my radar, but I tend to be a young adult advocate who drifts to the upper end of YA fiction. I gravitate to books that might be considered inheritors of The Cather in the Rye or realistic novels with issue that are often challenging for teachers to tackle in the classroom. It is important to remember that beauty and truth can be direct and simple. Thanks, Sara and Jon, we need books that remind us that Keats is right; "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,--that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
I am one the people in the world who listens carefully when Jacqueline Woodson says something; especially If I ask her a direct question and she answers it. In early 2014, when I was arranging for her to attend a conference, we lamented the passing of Walter Dean Myers and discussed YA literature. The question I asked was: Who is the emerging African America male writer of YA fiction that I should know and should be writing about? Her answer, without hesitation, Jason Reynolds. I have been reading his books since that conversation and have written about Jason's work in several blog posts. Find the first one here. If you don't believe me, please listen to the sage wisdom of Jaqueline Woodson and start reading his books.
I love how frequently nonfiction appears on the longlist and the final five of this award. I do not know this author, but I am anxious to add to the list of books I love, Blood Brother, Bomb, Most Dangerous, and Symphony for the City of the Dead. I am glad that I have been adding more and more nonfiction to my resource YA bank. Again a story that reminds us that our actions have consequences; least we forget.
I met Nicola Yoon, briefly at the ALAN workshop. She won't remember; hundreds of people wanted her attention as a result of the introduction to her book Everything, Everything. For me, her novel was one of the great revelations of the workshop. It is so exciting to see that her sophomore effort is reaping such great rewards. I look forward to marking this one off the list.
If you have an idea for a blog post, I would love to have you contribute. Just send me an email. I would especially like to here about your reading experience with these authors and their books.