I was very happy to be the first interviewee in The Enchanted Inkpot's new occasional series of talks with independent booksellers. You can read my (incredibly long-winded and, on third read, oddly short-sentenced) answers to their questions here.
My dad was in the Navy, so when I was younger we moved a few times. Unfortunately for me, the two moves that took place after I began school both occurred in the middle of the school year. Middle of second grade, middle of fifth grade. This? Sucked. Everyone had chosen their desks, their lunch tables, their friend groups. In the fifth grade the musical had been casts, the safety patrol filled, the library aides assigned. So I know more than a little about how hard it is to be the new kid in the class - even if your classmates are nice to you - and I have a special fondness for books that portray those feelings accurately.
Nikki Grimes does just that in MAKE WAY FOR DYAMONDE DANIEL.
Dyamonde is in the third grade, and when her parents got divorced, she moved with her mom from their quiet Brooklyn neighborhood to a tiny apartment in Washington Heights. She likes her new neighborhood well enough, but misses her best friend and her bedroom and her school and her dad. Still, Dyamonde's a fighter, and she's bursting with the desire to fit in and make a new life for herself. And more than anything else, she wants a new best friend. One right here in her school, who she can sit with and play with and laugh with every day.
Enter Free. New boy. He's sullen and keeps to himself. When Dyamonde invites him to sit with her at lunch on his first day, he tells her to leave him alone. She secretly nicknames him "Rude Boy," but at the same time becomes kind of obsessed by figuring out what his deal is. Why won't he read out loud in class when Dyamonde's seen him reading books in the school yard? Why won't he sit with anyone at lunch? Why does he keep growling at everyone?
And even though Dyamonde projects confidence and Free projects anger, could they be the same deep down inside? Is Free the friend Dyamonde's been looking for?
I love Dyamonde and her whole little world. I love her spunk and her friendliness and her smarts and her determination. I think she's a great character to headline a series, and I highly recommend her.
I just wish that all early reader and elementary series like this were published simultaneously in hardcover and paperback. Unless you're talking about something like Magic Tree House, it is so hard to sell a book like this in hardcover. I understand that libraries and schools need these in hardcover so they don't fall apart easily, but parents of newish readers are often buying books frequently and are more likely to buy two paperbacks than one hardcover.
I think this issue is especially important because there are a billion inexpensive paperback series out there featuring little white children, and almost none with children of color. Children of color from well-off families are going to be able to get whatever books they want. Children of color from families that are not well-off are going to have to get a paperback book, if they get a new book, and if they want a book with a kid that looks like them on the front there are only going to be a couple of choices.
And I think, too, that children from poverty-stricken homes might just be the kids who need books with faces like theirs more than anyone else. They are the ones whose parents will be working so often and so hard that there won't be a lot of time at home to read together. They are the ones who might never become readers because the early reader window was missed. I think you have a greater chance of hooking some of these kids if they can look around at a selection of books and see more than a sea of white faces, and if that selection of books is more affordable to them.
(Please don't think that I am saying that elementary level books featuring children of color should all be published in paperback because all of those kids are poor - if that's what you're taking away from this then I've stated it badly. I think that elementary books in general should be published in paperback more often than not, and turning disadvantaged children of color into readers is only one of many reasons. It's a good one, but it's hardly the only one.)
This book was read as part of the Color Me Brown Book Challenge. Order this book from an independent bookstore!
In response to an email: I only review books from Random House, Scholastic, Penguin and HarperCollins because those are the only four publishers I currently have contacts at. I am absolutely looking for galleys from other publishers!
I've now got some covers up - the last five reviews, anyway (except THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS because I can't find a nice sharp picture to use). Now you can scroll down and see the amazing cover for FLYGIRL.
5-day headache + the passing over of Ike in St. Louis (with bonus water in the basement) has not equaled much computer time. I have, however, read eight books in the last five days (thank you, toddler naps). There will be something up tomorrow, I promise - FLYGIRL, by Sherri Smith, is what it will most likely be. It will definitely be a Penguin book as I have just finished reading basically their entire spring list.
Kidliterate's on vacation until next Tuesday - we're off to Disney World for a wedding. And I am actually taking a whole book with me that is NOT a galley!
(Okay, I'm also taking three galleys, but who's perfect?)
Three of my four favorite fall books have now gotten starred reviews in Publishers Weekly: Chalice by Robin McKinley; Graceling by Kristin Cashore; and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
(Yes, I realize I have actually discussed none of these books here. Hopefully I will rectify that soon. There are also seven galleys that I have finished and enjoyed sitting here waiting for me to write up. I think I'll go sleep instead.)
This blog is still mostly under construction. There are three of us who will ultimately be writing here - maybe four - and we're still getting our act together. If you've Googled and found us, please bookmark us, because we'll be up and running very very soon!