28 September 2016

Books I Love: Habibi

Naomi Shihab Nye
I first read this book
during my senior year of college in 1998

I first learned about Naomi Shihab Nye from a poetry reading she gave at Texas Lutheran University, the college I attended. During her presentation, she read a poem about Shiner, a small town in central Texas that was ten miles from my own hometown.

At that point in time, lots of people in Texas had never heard of Shiner (although that has changed now due to increased marketing of Shiner Beer), so it was quite a shock to hear a poet mention it. After the reading, Nye was signing books, and I went up to her and asked if she had ever been to my hometown. She said, "No, but I want to live there for a year."

This baffled me. Like people from small towns often do, I thought my hometown was the dead end of the world. Who in their right mind would want to live there?

But I was also baffled for another reason. Why would anyone want to live somewhere for only a year? Why go to all that trouble to move if it's only temporary?

I remained fascinated by Nye, however. Something about her poetry combined with her amazingly open way of seeing the world intrigued me.

While I was attending my first Texas Library Association conference (technically the exhibits only) in San Antonio, I spotted a children's book with a gorgeous cover. Seeing Nye's name on it meant I had to read it. As it was a finished book and not an advanced reader copy, I paid for it and took it back to my college apartment to read. What a wise decision that was!

Habibi is inspired by Nye's own childhood when her family moved to Jerusalem to be closer to her paternal grandmother. It is a beautiful story of an American girl learning about her cultural heritage, her family, and herself while far away from the life she is used to living.

Each chapter begins with these poetic sentences that are simply perfect. I wish I could write like that. I wish I could think like that. I'll never be a poet, but I do love to read it. Habibi is prose, but it reads like poetry. It's nothing less than beautiful and has stayed with me all these years.

Books like Habibi make me think there could be a more peaceful, tolerant future for the world. People like Naomi Shihab Nye make me think that, too.

20 September 2016

Suggested Reading: Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month began September 15 and continues through mid-October. Of course, Hispanic heritage should be celebrated year-round, and here are some books to kick off that celebration.

Picture Books

Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book
written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
written by Kathleen Krull
illustrated by Yuyi Morales

written by C. Drew Lamm
illustrated by Fabian Negrin

Chapter Books

Before We Were Free*
written by Julia Alvarez

Frida ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!
written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

written by Bettina Restrepo

Happy reading!

For the purposes of the Suggested Reading posts, chapter books refers to any books with chapters. Those that are appropriate for teens are marked with an asterisk.

14 September 2016

Teen Services Today: A Practical Guide for Librarians

I have a new book out! It's a nonfiction book about teen services in public libraries that I co-wrote with Geri Swanzy, a friend and colleague, called Teen Services Today: A Practical Guide for Librarians.

Writing this book was a different experience from writing fiction. For one thing, my name was suggested to the editor by another library colleague. I knew writing nonfiction would be different and recruited my friend Geri, so we could share the work. The two of us wrote a proposal for the book and were pleasantly surprised when it was accepted by Rowman & Littlefield.

The biggest difference between my experiences writing fiction and my experience writing nonfiction was the actual process of writing. And I don't just mean having a collaborator. We wrote this book out of chapter order and sent the individual chapters to our editor as we completed them. With fiction, the entire book is written before I send it to my agent.

While we were writing this book, we faced a number of hurdles. Since we set our own deadline with the initial proposal, we foolishly gave ourselves about six months to get this all done. Little did we know that I would accept another job and move 1200 miles during that time. And that's not even factoring in vacations and conferences!

We wrote the book for new librarians or paraprofessionals to give them some background, history, resources, and programming ideas to help them serve the teens in their communities. Our goal was to make it chatty and easy to read.

I hope Teen Services Today proves helpful to those library staff members who need and use it.

01 September 2016

Suggested Reading: Don't Forget Your Library Card!

Do you have a library card? If not, you’re in luck because September is Library Card Sign-up Month! Head on over to your nearest public library and sign up for a library card. You’ll have access to a world of online resources plus all those wonderful books. To celebrate Library Card Sign-up Month, here are some books about libraries.

Picture Books

Finding Lincoln
written by Ann Malaspina
illustrated by Colin Bootman

ABC Letters In the Library
written by Bonnie Farmer
illustrated by Chum McLeod

The Plot Chickens
written and illustrated by Mary Jane and Herm Auch

Chapter Books

My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World
written by Margriet Ruurs

Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians
written by Brandon Sanderson
illustrated by Hayley Lazo

Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq*
written and illustrated by Mark Alan Stamaty

Happy reading!

For the purposes of the Suggested Reading posts, chapter books refers to any books with chapters. Those that are appropriate for teens are marked with an asterisk.