PATRICIA REILLY GIFF: UNTIL I FIND JULIAN

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Too long since I had cracked open a middle grade novel by
Patricia Reilly Giff who I met with her Irish potato famine tale,
NORY RYAN’S SONG, which taught me much about my Irish heritage.
This author of more than 90 books for children including
two Newbery Honor titles offers a new one at the end of summer.

Fortunately for me, UNTIL I FIND JULIAN is on a topic I glom onto in
headlines and book titles.
Here in Florida, like in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, we feel
immigration pressures directly at state borders, which unlike, say, Wyoming,
are also international/national borders.

MATEO-MATTY
Mateo, who must take on the Americanized name Matty,
in his parched journey north, is the sort of child anyone would like to
have doing chores such he handles for his mother, grandmother & a man who
befriends him later when he is far from home.
Matty has an artist’s eye & he loves the hand-stitched notebook his grandmother
created – maybe more than her hand-stitched quilts.
Older brother Julian has covered for Matty’s mild mistakes, such as
skipping school to fish & has also shown him how to be kind to the eccentric
woman who lives down the creek.
Now Julian, eight years older, is missing in Arkansas. He was working
odd jobs illegally, to send money back to the impoverished Mexican family.
Word has come back to the family that he may have been injured in a fall
from a construction site.
Matty’s quest begins. He finds a disreputable man to help with the trip.
There is a river to cross. And despite living by a creek, Matty can’t swim.

Memorable moments
“I kick against the fast moving water, my legs deep under the surface.
Head up like a turtle, I keep my eyes on the island in the center of the river.”
Sidekick moment – Angel, a runaway girl, guides Matty into the U.S. after
he escapes from the human trafficker. She hides sad secrets
that Matty tries to fathom.
On the hunt – Julian is like a ghost, tracked by Matty from one fleeting jobsite to
another in Arkansas, each step dangerous for the younger brother; he has entered illegally & is a child who speaks very little English. How can he “pass?”
Bonus – Because Matty has always dreamed of publishing a book some day,
he manages to take a few notes on the journey. His writings are included,
throughout the novel as, “I Remember.”

I can see great classroom connections for this vivid story of Mateo-Matty, Julian & Angel. Look for it in September or
pre-order now at your favorite bookseller or from the publisher.
About Patricia Reilly Giff
I imagine there will be more conversations near the release date, but here
is an interview in The New York Times by Tammy La Gorce in 2008.

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It was my honor to win this book as part of the Florida-SCBWI MidYear conference. Thank you!

hurricane season

WHAT stories for young readers have hurricanes as the backdrop? We can always react to a seasonal interest with out of print books such as Hurricane Luck by Carl Carmer.  A review of the Katrina-inspired A PLACE WHERE HURRICANES HAPPEN, from Renee Watson in 2010, is here.

And thanks to the timely comment (see below) I’m pleased to post a link to a review and comment  on a new hurricane picture book,  A STORM CALLED KATRINA by Myron Uhlberg, with  illustrations by Colin Bootman.

For my current hurricane reading, I am taking cover against predicted rains from Lee, in the classic 1958 non-fiction from the Everglades’ protector, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

YURACAN is only one word for the worrisome weather.

To fathom hurricanes, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas studied them for three years in league with the (old) Hurricane Research Project of the U.S. Weather Bureau, Miami.

As we seek from a legendary writer who herself was a force of nature, living until 108, her quest resulted in goodness – a 393-page nonfiction literary volume, HURRICANE.   And yes, the view of destruction on the back cover from my own prized volume is a blurry image from Montauk, Long Island.   So this older book has resonance for today, what with the recently departed H. Irene having discombobulated family & friends in New England.

I recommend the Douglas history of these killer cyclones. It is a keen read, especially for those recently/currently acquainted in a personal way with one. Some dear family &  pals went for days – almost a week for one family, without power.  So a history of indoor plumbing & the shower is more appreciated than ever in these times. But that’s another book.

Also, I can’t talk about hurricanes without sending you to read up on book loss at libraries, as a result of Irene. Be generous if you can, starting with information from an alert & talented author, whose pages I traveled to via an indispensible blog at  School Library Journal.

HURRICANE was first published in 1958. Douglas reports on a 1464 hurricane that dealt a coup de grace to Mayans.  She sails on from there, dropping anchor for interesting ports of call such as : “In 1790 on his trip down the Ohio, George Washington noted hurricane damage to the trees between Steubenville, Ohio and Wheeling, West Virginia.”

Her book reminds us/introduces us to Yuracan & other suspected sources of our term, hurricane, including the Indians we know as Caribs, the island dwelling Tainos  and the good people of Central and South America.  Her recounting of the beliefs about the gods of wind and storms fascinates.

Douglas also covers geography of past destruction, including a detailed section & maps of  “Hurricanes, North.” So the possibility of Irene’s interesting path away from Florida and up into the rivers of Vermont may have come as no surprise if we read our history, which of course we do, correct? No, not nearly enough.

from HURRICANE by Marjory Stoneman Douglas "A boat awash at Montauk, Long Island - photographed by The New York Times"

One of my favorite aspects of this book involves the stories of heroes who risk their lives to save people from injury and death as a result of hurricanes.

In looking backward with Douglas, it is clear how today’s forecast information, which, let’s be honest, we take for granted, would have been worshipped, cheered, embraced & yes, well-heeded in times past.

To not follow it today seems without enough regard for the first responders who can risk their lives in hurricane-affiliated rescues. And some of those stressful storm-soaked saves may be unnecessary, if only said stranded residents had heeded warnings.

We know much more about inevitable hurricanes today, than when Douglas wrote beautifully on them with that era’s limited knowledge, some 50 years ago. So this makes me ponder: What makes sense about new construction or rebuilding, in marshes, on riverbanks that flood hugely after strong sustained storms, on our coastal sands,  & in similar zones?

Despite the heft of this book, it is a fast-paced read. Especially in hurricane season, which lasts, I recall, through October.

It was reissued in 1976 and if you are pondering which library near you carries which edition, a fast way to look is with the wonderful World Catalogue  WorldCat http://www.world.cat.org

Full disclosure: Douglas personally charmed my reading club during her long visit with us, captured in a photograph of her on my sofa. I am in touch with most book group pals, but if I haven’t heard from you in ages, please give a shout.  I don’t have a functioning scanner at this moment but do want to get that photo up here. Please check back after the next few hurricanes! I expect to have it posted then.

In the meantime, check with your Red Cross folks, follow the forecasts & take a look at hurricane books.

First readers looked like this

Is this shape a little Kindle-like?

This is a Horn Book.  The kind before we had today’s The Horn Book .

Horn Books were available to learners, especially children (usually boys) who were able to  sit with a teacher,  in the Colonies, especially Massachusetts, New York, Connectitcut, Rhode Island, New Jersey & Pennsylvania, of Great Britain (later the U.S.A)

This Horn Book is for a wealthy family, crafted of silver and ivory & it most likely was made in England.

It is one of many treasures in the Children’s Literature Center of the Library of Congress, where the Chief, Dr. Sybille A.  Jagusch, is herself another treasure for you to discover there.

www.loc.gov/rr/child

Follow the Library of Congress on twitter http://twitter.com/libraryccongress

c. 2009 Jan Godown Annino at the Library of Congress

c. 2009 Jan Godown Annino at the Library of Congress

Obama’s poet

A Poet and a Secretary

THE book I just devoured in celebration of Obama’s elevation to the Presidency of the United States is for children.

And it’s not one of the several handy bios of him for young readers.

It’s a picture book of  poems in several voices, by his poet, Elizabeth Alexander, of Yale, and her equally distinguished colleague, Marilyn Nelson, a much-honored creator of children’s literature.

http://www.wordsongpoetry.com or

http://www.wordsongpoetry.com/another_starred_review_for_mis.html

Elizabeth Alexander’s presence on the platform at this historic event shouts out that this president lauds the arts & art creators.

Already sensing that, Quincy Jones asks for support to imbed the arts in the White House with a Cabinet level secretary post. See

http://www.petitionsonline.com/esnyc/petition.html

and reach it by typing in US Secretary of Arts

Meanwhile, Poet Elizabeth Alexander will receive a wider audience because of her Jan. 20th role on the world stage.

I want you to know she is already beloved by librarians, teachers, students & many others for  MISS CRANDALL’s SCHOOL for YOUNG LADIES & LITTLE MISSES of COLOR.

This book, with illustrations by Floyd Cooper (winner of three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards) is an unforgettable visit to the true story of a Quaker woman’s dedication to her black students in New England in the 1830s.

Her determination to stand tall against local terrorists affiliated with churches, the town council & local business community makes me, “ache with caring,” to borrow a phrase of Mem Fox, about seeing this history presented to a wider audience.

If you are more interested in the present day than in history,  notes in the book mention more recent updates, including how the 1984 dedication of the Prudence Crandall Museum, was also marked in an undistinguished way by the  Connecticut KKK.

Enjoy. Weep. Share. Rejoice in the presidency of Barack Obama.

(And a palette of color to Janeen Mason

http://www.janeenmason.com,   for the petition tip.