Monday, April 24, 2017

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM --1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM --1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis  (January 1995)

Even though I'm the Middle Grade Mafioso, there are gaps in my reading. (I know, what a shocker!) I'd never read anything by Christopher Paul Curtis, but that has been rectified now because my 4th-grader was reading The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 for a class project, and we read it together. I loved it!

What It's About:
Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There's Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron, who's thirteen and an "official juvenile delinquent." When Momma and Dad decide it's time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. They're heading South to Birmingham, Alabama, toward one of the darkest moments in America's history.

Opening Lines:
"It was one of those super-duper-cold Saturdays. One of those days that when you breathed out your breath kind of hung frozen in the air like a hunk of smoke and you could walk along and look exactly like a train bowing out big, fat, white puffs of smoke."

Things I Loved About It:
Well, first, my 4th-grader was captivated by it. It really has "all the feels" as they say. It's at times comic, at others pretty harrowing. The relationship between Kenny and his older brother Byron is complicated but, at the end, we see that Byron, despite all his adolescent demons, really has his eye out for his younger, more tender brother.

As a supporter of living parents in middle grade, this novel gets an 'A' from me. The parents are an integral part of their kids' lives (as parents really are in the majority of families) and they were also realistic characters.

The wider society might have been preoccupied with race relations at this time, but they are peripheral to Kenny (whose focus is mainly on his family and school, and trying to avoid bullies) until the scene in Birmingham (I won't spoil it for you) when the reality of what black Americans have had to face comes to the fore.

I'll let my 4th-grader have the final word: "It was entertaining. I could visualize what happened, and the time period."

About the Author: (from Random House Kids)
Born in Flint, Michigan, Christopher Paul Curtis spent his first 13 years after high school on the assembly line of Flint’s historic Fisher Body Plant #1. His job entailed hanging car doors, and it left him with an aversion to getting into and out of large automobiles—particularly big Buicks.

Curtis’s writing—and his dedication to it—has been greatly influenced by his family members. With grandfathers like Earl “Lefty” Lewis, a Negro Baseball League pitcher, and 1930s bandleader Herman E. Curtis, Sr., of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, it is easy to see why Christopher Paul Curtis was destined to become an entertainer.

Christopher Paul Curtis made an outstanding debut in children’s s literature with The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. His second novel, Bud, Not Buddy, is the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

 Christopher Paul Curtis and his wife, Habon, have three children, Steven, Cydney, and Ayaan. He lives in Detroit, Michigan, with his family.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman (Blog Tour)

Welcome to Day #9 of the One Good Thing About America Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman (3/14/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Ruth and 10 chances to win a copy of One Good Thing About America, as well as a chance to win a Skype visit with Ruth in the Grand Prize Giveaway!
Shelfie by Ruth Freeman
Here’s a “shelfie” of me in front of one of my bookshelves. Travel books, history, novels, photograph albums and…children’s books! A few of the stranger ones are books left over from the research I did for my nonfiction books. The Philosophy of the Bed was for Bedtime, the picture book I did on the history of beds. And The Corset was one book I used when I was doing research for my book: Underwear: What We Wear Under There. I could talk about books and reading for ever but I don’t want to keep you that long. So, I wanted to show you my very, very favorite children’s books… When I read a book, I love going somewhere else, a place I’ve never been. Going on some kind of adventure. I love to find a book where the author uses words so well that you can believe the story is real. I will never go to Narnia, but I can tell you exactly what it feels like to be there with Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy. I will never live in the Plaza Hotel like Eloise, but I know her well enough to love her and Nanny. Reading brings us all these amazing experiences! I learned about being brave and making do in the Little House books, I learned about mean, wicked people in James and the Giant Peach and the Black Arrow, I learned about love in Charlotte’s Web. Books bring us whole worlds we will never know, but we learn so much from them about life and what is means to be a human being.
    Stop by The Hiding Spot tomorrow for the last stop on the tour!
    Blog Tour Schedule:
    April 10th – Geo Librarian April 11thLate Bloomer's Book Blog April 12th Mrs. Mommy BookNerd April 13thKristi's Book Nook April 14thLife Naturally April 17th – Books My Kids Read April 18th – Chat with Vera April 19th Word Spelunking April 20th – Middle Grade Mafioso April 21st – The Hiding Spot
    Follow Ruth: Website | Facebook Publisher: Holiday House
    ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA is a sweet, often funny middle-grade novel that explores differences and common ground across cultures. It's hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you're in a new country. Back home, Anaïs was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn't know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anaïs misses her family . . . so she writes lots of letters to Oma, her grandmother. She tells her she misses her and hopes the war is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac 'n' cheese dinners, and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself.
    About the Author: Ruth Freeman grew up in rural Pennsylvania but now lives in Maine where she teaches students who are English language learners, including many newly arrived immigrants. She is the author of several acclaimed nonfiction picture books. One Good Thing About America is her first novel..

    • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of One Good Thing About America for their personal collection, as well as a 30 minute Skype visit with Ruth Freeman to the school of their choice and a signed copy for the school's library.
    • Enter via the rafflecopter below
    • US Only
    • Ends 4/23 at midnight ET
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Monday, April 17, 2017

    What's Up in Mafiosoland

    Okay, it's officially that time of the year when I go "where the heck is the time going?!" Mid-April, already, folks!! I'd like to think the Don and I have been setting the world to rights, or strolling through the olive groves during our spring holidays, but it's actually been nose to the grindstone in my other official role as family chauffeur.

    Those of you familiar with the Mafioso brood may remember that I have three sons. The oldest is in college, but the younger two are both still at home. Middle is a thespian and his latest play--ROBIN HOOD at Portland's Northwest Children's Theater--is about to start performances this week. (A LOT of driving to rehearsals and such.) Youngest is a basketball and baseball player, and we have been attempting to play baseball during what may turn out to be our wettest spring on record. They've played two games, and finally won a game for the first time in two years. O sweet victory! You'd have thought they'd won the World Series from all the carrying on.

    In between, I've been trying to write my novels, keep Project Mayhem up-and-running, and reading all sorts of adult books for my various book groups. (One of the novels being The River Why, which I first read 20 years ago. It bears reading again!) Here's one quote I've just read:

    "Always it is the same; it is the greedy, the cruel, the ungrateful that bring down suffering upon the people."
                                                                    -- Thomas Bigeater

    I do have a busy few weeks coming up, as I've been invited to take part in several blog tours. There will be a post this coming Thursday when I will be featuring Ruth Freeman's ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA.

    I would love it if you would drop by on the 20th, to learn about  Ruth 's novel, and for the chance of winning an ARC.

    Till then, you'll find me behind the wheel. Ciao!