Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

I haven't made New Year's Resolutions since I was in high school! I've decided to make New Year's Resolutions for 2011 that are connected to my blog. Here they are:

1. Read more books.

This means I need to stop wasting so much time watching random videos on YouTube and aimlessly blog hopping. I need to get more real reading done!

2. Be a better blog reader and commenter.

Again, this means I need to stop spending too much time aimlessly blog hopping. There are blogs I absolutely love and I find that I don't get to keep up with their updates as much as I would like to because of too much time spent searching for new blogs to follow.

3. Blog more often.

If I successfully read more books (Resolution 1), then I have more to blog about and can blog more often. This goes for all THREE of my book blogs!

To help me do this, I have finally made tables/records of my books to be read and reviewed. I have also started taking notes while reading books that are to be featured on my book blogs. (I use Microsoft OneNote 2010 for all of these tables, records, and notes.)

4. Graduate!

I'm thisclose to a master's degree. I just need to write and defend my thesis, which is a critical analysis of the three Newbery Medal books written by Asian Americans.

I hope everyone has a very Happy New Year! What are your New Year's Resolutions connected to your blog?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

To you and yours, from me and mine. :o)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Now the best reason to search for quality children's books:

My niece Kezhia, the first baby in the family!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

OMG, hilarious.

Thanks to Shaken & Stirred for sharing this video!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Guest Blog Post by Lindsay Below

I've got another guest on a blog tour for you, dear readers. Welcome, Lindsay Below! And best wishes for your YA novel!

Writing Head Over Hand-Bought Heels
By Lindsay Below

Head Over Hand-Bought Heels began as a very vivid dream. I get a lot of ideas that way, to tell the truth. Too many to ever be able to finish writing, sadly. But this dream was special. For one, it introduced me to Katie, Courtney, Tia, and Jane, the four main characters in my book. For another, it occurred two days before National Novel Writing Month.

National Novel Writing Month occurs every November, and in 2008, I’d decided to try it for the very first time. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I knew that I wanted to give it a shot. But by two days beforehand, I’d already decided on a different book, with characters I’d worked on developing and some semblance of a plot that I already knew.

I had neither for Head Over Hand-Bought Heels, just a first scene and four characters who wouldn’t get out of my head. But even with so little, I decided to take the plunge.

I found out that yes (!) I could finish a book in a month, but it was a scary journey. I lived every moment along with Katie, because I had no idea what would happen next. But that was okay. It was like I was a part of the gang, listening as Courtney cried on my shoulder about her breakup with her girlfriend, calming Katie down after she realized that she might have feelings for Courtney, and helping all four of them plot to set up Tia with a guy. In that month, as I wrote, those four girls became my best friends.

That’s the reason I write books. To make new friends and get swept away in their crazy lives for a while. If you’d like to learn more about Katie and the gang, check out my website. Don’t miss your chance to win an ebook copy of the book! Just comment here or on any other of my blog tour posts for your chance to win -- the full list of where I’ll be stopping can be found on my website. This contest is open until Friday, December 17th at 11:59PM EST. I’ll be announcing the winner on my website then, so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guest Blog Post by Lori Calabrese

Children's book reviewer, blogger, and author Lori Calabrese is on a blog tour and today she is stopping by Into the Wardrobe! Lori's picture book The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade (Dragonfly Publishing, 2010) is about a boy who has caught a bug - both literally and figuratively! I love how it is a rhyming picture book. Unfortunately, the illustrations by Chet Taylor look amateur and they do not do justice to Lori's great writing. Still, the story is cute. And by cute I do not mean trite. I mean you will smile and your kids will smile because of it! :o) So I am very happy to host Lori today. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Lori!

Discovering My Writing Process by Lori Calabrese

So what exactly is the writing process and how do you find your voice? As a new writer, those were just a few of the questions I often pondered. Was there some secret veteran writers weren’t sharing or was it something that just came naturally? Whether we know it or not, all authors have a writing process. As I dived into writing my first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, I discovered that although writing is a task no two people do the same, every writer follows the same basic steps to create their manuscript. And I was no different.

First comes the prewriting. I love this stage because it’s all about generating an idea and the possibilities are endless. I get most of my inspiration from my two boys and the idea for The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade was one of the first they gave me. When my son got a vicious stomach bug, friends and family called to see how he was doing. I always replied, “He caught the bug.” It’s something we always say when we’re sick, but it made me question why we say that. Of course, I needed to build on the idea, but the play on words of catching an insect and catching a cold was enough to get me started.

With the idea brewing, I grabbed my laptop and let my fingers do the walking. However, the writing that eventually came out would not be winning any children’s literature awards. Fortunately, it was a little reassuring to learn this is normal for many—it doesn’t always come out right the first time. So I wrote several drafts and ventured on to revising.

With most of the writing laid out, it became easier to rework. But this was when a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that, although I had a fun rhyming story, my plot wasn’t working. So I decided to write the story without the rhymes. As soon as I did this, I really discovered what my beginning, middle and ending were. I also discovered I hadn’t chosen a bug! The bug was one of the main characters in my story, so it had to be a good one. It also had to be able to cause havoc and it needed to be rare. I researched until I found a story about the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly. I always loved dragonflies and am continually amazed how they can dart and hover in mid-air. When I learned that the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is the only dragonfly on the federal endangered species list, I knew it was the one! From there, the story just seemed to come to life and I was able to rework it into a rhyming story once again.

I love rhyming picture books and have been influenced by so many I really find this stage fun. I often compare it to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It definitely helped to immerse myself in some of the stories I loved growing up and reading to my boys. Some of my favorites are A Fly Went By by Mike McClintock, All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund, Parts by Tedd Arnold and If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. Of course, it took about a year, but after scratching paper copies with that dreaded red pen, consulting often to make sure I had the perfect rhyming words, and submitting to my critique group, all of the vivid details added up to a manuscript that was ready to submit. What a surprise it was to learn The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade won DFP’s Best Children’s Book Award.

Some people say that as soon as you write one book, the rest are a bit easier because you get your writing process down. Others say each book presents its own difficulties. Frankly, I agree with both. But although every author’s writing process is different, it’s important to note we all start staring at that blank page and finish with a manuscript we can’t help but feel has the potential to line book store shelves. So as you may be settling down to discover your writing process, don’t forget to start with the basics.

About the guest blogger: Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, was awarded DFP’s Best Children’s Book Award. She writes for various children’s magazines, is the National Children’s Books Examiner at and enjoys sharing her passion for children’s books at festivals, schools and events. Visit her website to learn more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dancing Pancake by Eileen Spinelli

Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

The Dancing Pancake, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2010), is a middle grade novel in verse. Eleven-year-old Bindi is really struggling with the fact that her dad has left her and her mom. She also has to adjust to the new apartment she and her mom have moved into and The Dancing Pancake, the diner her mom and Aunt Darnell have just opened. There are definite perks to being part of a diner: Bindi and her friends Albert, Megan, and Kyra sit in the back booth and eat waffles with strawberries and whipped cream or triple-decker grilled sandwiches with root beer floats. But mostly Bindi is feeling mad-sad-bad about all the changes in her life. Then there is Grace, the homeless woman who is a regular customer at The Dancing Pancake. Bindi wants to rent a room for Grace but her mom won't help her. Why must everything be so frustrating???

One of the first things I noticed about The Dancing Pancake (and this is just an observation, not criticism) was that, unlike a few other novels-in-verse, each "chapter" cannot stand as an individual poem. The Dancing Pancake is one long poem. My first impression of The Dancing Pancake was that it was a surface level exploration of a preteen dealing with her parents' separation. It didn't seem to go very deep into the thoughts and feelings of Bindi. This was initially disappointing, as I believe the novel's form and content were naturally ripe for "deep exploration." As I continued reading, my opinion of the book changed. I saw that The Dancing Pancake was not a shallow story; it was actually a compelling story that stirred young readers and left gaps here and there for them to fill in with their own imagination and their own thoughts and feelings about the characters and what was happening.

There seems to be a bit too much going on in the novel because aside from Bindi's family, The Dancing Pancake is also about business at The Dancing Pancake (the diner), Bindi's friendships, and Bindi trying to help the homeless Grace. But having all these side stories works out. At its heart, The Dancing Pancake - as it should be - is about LIFE from a child's point of view.

I'd like to mention something I especially appreciate about the timeless illustrations that accompany this timeless story. Joanne Lew-Vriethoff has illustrated Bindi's Uncle Tim (Aunt Darnell's husband) as African American and Bindi's cousin Jackson (Uncle Tim and Aunt Darnell's son) is illustrated as obviously of mixed race. Nowhere in the story is Uncle Tim's and Jackson's skin color mentioned, so this is just the illustrator's touch and contribution to the story. So many illustrations in children's books seem to use white as the default for characters' skin color when the stories could easily apply to different races. I am happy that Lew-Vriethoff's illustrations realistically reflect America's multicolored society.

To end this blog post/book review, I'd like to tell you how a young reader responded to the novel: I read several pages of The Dancing Pancake aloud to my sixteen-year-old cousin Bobby. He listened very attentively and when I didn't want to read aloud anymore, he asked if he could borrow the book - and he finished reading it. (By the way, Bobby's parents are divorced. I am certain this is part of why the book appealed to him.) Bobby is what teachers and librarians call a "reluctant reader." It's true what they say. Give a reluctant reader an interesting book to read and he will be reluctant no more.

[I bought my own copy of The Dancing Pancake.]

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Second Filipino Book Bloggers' Meet Up

Last Saturday (the 13th), I attended the second Filipino Book Bloggers' meet up at Libreria Bookstore. Libreria is a cozy bookstore where you can sit, read or talk, and drink good coffee - and buy cheap books! The meet up was fun because I got to connect faces with blogs and we all talked about bookish and blog-ish things. I've posted a few pictures from the meet up below. I stole these pictures from Philippine Genre Stories and Chachic's Book Nook. =P

See you all again soon! :o)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Radioactive by Lauren Redniss

Marie & Pierre Curie
A Tale of Love and Fallout

The October issue of my favorite fashion magazine, Nylon (it's a little more street, a little more relatable and down-to-earth compared to other fashion magazines), had this book review by Ali Hoffman for Radioactive (IT Books, December 2010):

Author and artist Lauren Redniss opens her latest book, Radioactive, with the following disclaimer: "With apologies to Marie Curie, who said, 'There is no connection between my scientific work and the facts about my private life.'" It's an apt opening for a book that goes on to convey the astonishing life of a woman who, aside from coining the term "radioactivity" and winning two Nobel Prizes, is barely remembered today. In addition to her life as a scientist, Redniss tells of Curie's struggles as a wife, a mother, a foreigner, and a teacher. But that's not to say that Radioactive is just a good biography: Like her multifaceted protagonist, Redniss tells Curie's story through a continuously changing style of prose and more than 100 hand-made photographic collages. Whether looking for a new art book for your coffee table, a history lesson, or a tragic love story, Radioactive delivers.

I want this cool book! And doesn't it sound like a perfect Christmas gift for your daughter/granddaughter/niece/goddaughter/sister who wants to be a scientist? =D

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm still alive!

And today I blogged a few of my thoughts on Jhumpa Lahiri's adult fiction over at Color Online. See you there? =D

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Guest Blog Post by YA Author Beth Fehlbaum

YA author Beth Fehlbaum is a guest blogger at Into the Wardrobe today. We are celebrating the upcoming release of her novel Hope in Patience (WestSide Books, October 27, 2010)! Hope in Patience is the companion novel to Beth's 2008 YA novel Courage in Patience (Kunati, Inc.). Click here to read my review of Courage in Patience and my interview with Beth. :o)

"Writing as Healing: My Creative Process"
By Beth Fehlbaum

Writing has always been a way of satisfying my need to know. Even as a small child, I processed my problems by allowing what was in my head to trickle down my arm and escape through my fingertips. In my late thirties, I was working through the immense emotional, physical, and mental damage that years of childhood sexual abuse had left me with. The pain I was in was so great that the memory of it is very much like the pain of childbirth: unfathomable. In an effort to cope with the overwhelming feelings, I was writing short stories and poems and sharing them with my therapist. One day, he suggested that I try writing a novel. It took about four months of stopping and starting, always ending up stuck in spiral thoughts that looked like this: Why? How could this have happened to me? How could the person I thought I could never live without have turned her back on me? Why?... It never stopped.

One day, I decided to try imagining the experience I was having through the eyes of someone else. I dug deep and found a girl who was not me, but whose feelings I could understand: Ashley Nicole Asher, age 15, whose outcry to her mother about her stepfather’s abuse was ignored. I created for Ashley a biological father she had never known, and a tiny East Texas town that would become Ashley’s new home. This became Courage in Patience. I wrote the first draft of Courage in Patience in the wee hours of the morning, in about four months. There were more rewrites in the revising and editing process, but that first cathartic draft had a pretty quick birth. I am a teacher and I was working at the time, but because my life was so entrenched in recovery and my mind was working so hard to process and heal, I was sleeping very little. To be honest, I dreaded sleep. I preferred to be with Ashley and her newfound family in Patience during those quiet night hours instead of fighting the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder-driven nightmares and flashbacks that were happening frequently. I’d come home from school and work out, fall asleep for about four hours, then wake around 11 p.m. or so and write through the night. I have no idea how I functioned at the time! I just remember my mind constantly “writing.” When I’d wake around 11, it was like my feet could not get to the kitchen table and my laptop fast enough to let the rest of me record what was happening in my head.

By the time I finished writing Courage in Patience, I had come to know in my heart what my therapist had been telling me all along: what had happened to me was not my fault, and—this is an even bigger deal, believe me—the fact that people who were supposed to love me and protect me had chosen not to do so was NOT a reflection of my inherent worth as a person. I learned those things by writing Courage in Patience, because I wanted Ashley to know that about herself.

Hope in Patience was not such a quick write, and while it was a healing experience, I was less frantic by then. The pain was beginning to settle, but I was struggling mightily with the notion that the losses I had experienced were not just temporary. I started writing Hope in Patience the summer after Courage in Patience released, mainly because I realized that Ashley had unfinished business, and that was acceptance of the situation with her mom. Ashley—and I—were still waiting for the people who should have loved and protected us to—you know—snap out of it! Ashley thought her mom had to change because, well, she’s her mom, and no mom could really be that cold and messed up... Could she?

No more middle of the night writing: my body had readjusted to a normal schedule, and I could not pull the all-nighters that I had with Courage in Patience. I treated writing Hope in Patience like a full-time job. The entire summer (between “Mom Stuff” I did with my college-age daughters, that is), I wrote from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. I did a lot more research than I did for Courage in Patience. Unlike Courage in Patience, which takes place during the first summer that Ashley lives in Patience, Hope in Patience takes place during the regular school year. I researched World War II, since Ashley’s American history teacher, Coach Griffin, is a WWII fanatic. I bought an American History textbook off Amazon and used it as the basis for what Coach Griffin teaches. Ashley’s stepmom, Bev, teaches the novel Farewell to Manzanar, and I reread the novel (I used to teach it when I taught middle school). I wrote to Dwight Okita, the wonderful poet who wrote, “In Response to Executive Order 9066,” for permission to use the poem in Hope in Patience. I also wrote to Densho: The Japanese-American Legacy Project, for permission to quote from a video they have online. I studied World War II propaganda and newsreels. Ashley is in a class called Human Ecology—I LOVE that label!— it’s the study of families and child development. I researched a lot of Consumer and Family Science lesson plans. Throughout this process, I had kind of a spider-web-looking flowchart because I wanted all three of these classes to intersect. Luckily, I have enough experience in planning cross-curricular units that it was not very difficult for me to do.

Ashley’s stepfather, Charlie, goes to court for breaking her arm, so I did a lot of research into the trial process. My brother, Brett, is a police sergeant, and for many years he worked child abuse cases. I peppered him with questions about the legal process and sent him the early drafts of the chapter in which the trial takes place. He walked me through the Victim Impact Statement and told me whether the events in the courtroom seemed realistic.

I drew on my therapist’s expertise not only for myself, but for writing Hope in Patience, too. I needed to understand from an objective point-of-view the “why” behind self-mutilation, because I had never done it to the extent Ashley does, and I needed to know it from the mental health professional’s standpoint, too. I questioned him about how he would actually talk to a teenage girl. I wrote to Tom Russell, a Texas singer-songwriter, for permission to use a few lines from his song, “It Goes Away,” which Ashley’s therapist, Dr. Matt, plays for her during a therapy session. I even researched haunted houses—you know, the kind that people put on around Halloween-and Halloween theme parks, so that the Tour of Terror that Ashley goes on would be authentic.

Even though I worked steadily on Hope in Patience for one entire summer, it took me most of the following summer to complete it. I really don’t write novels during the school year. My full-time job requires so much creative “juju” that just keeping up with lesson plans, grading, housework, and promotion of my already-out-there books pretty much leave me too drained to storyweave. That said, I started the third (and final??) book in the Patience series, Truth in Patience, this past summer (between moving two of my daughters to Colorado and working on final edits for Hope in Patience). I’m about four chapters in, and I expect to complete it this coming summer.

In the meantime, Hope in Patience releases the end of this month, and I am so excited to tell you that it’s already been nominated for a 2011 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers! I invite you to stop by my website and read chapter previews of Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience.

Beth, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful and touching writing and healing process!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Family Update =D

My brothers JP and Brian, along with their teammate Tonek, won the gold for the men's team event at the World Poomsae Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan!!!

Congratulations, JP, Brian, and Tonek!!!

(Those are JP and Brian's medals in the picture. =D)

Kataastaasan by Hannah Buena and Paolo Chikiamco

I want to quickly mention Kataastaasan (Highest), a comic book by Hannah Buena and Paolo Chikiamco, because I was having a pretty dead day today until I read it. Kataastaasan is an entertaining mixture of steampunk and Philippine folklore - with cool illustrations. It's targeted at adult readers. I think it has some teen appeal (yes, I am always thinking of young readers!) because it is set in Cebu City in 1770 and is an alternate history of the Philippine struggle for independence from Spain. High school and college students study this revolution and Kataastaasan seems like a fun supplement or springboard for discussion on Philippine history. There's a bit of innuendo in the story. That might make some people hesitant to recommend it to teens, but the innuendos weren't really gratuitous. After all, sometimes revolutionary women had to pretend to be tramps to spy on the enemy . . .

It appears Kataastaasan will not be a series, as it will be published later this year by Espresso Comics, "a weekly comics magazine that features one-shot comic stories by Filipino creators." Too bad. :o(

[My copy of Kataastaasan was an advance reading copy provided by Paolo Chikiamco.]

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís

When I first saw The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís (Scholastic Press, 2010) on a bookstore shelf, I gasped and clutched the book to my chest. I was stunned. Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís in ONE BOOK? A book for middle grade readers that is a fictionalized biography of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda? I imagine that this is the kind of project editors live for.

The Dreamer introduces us to the young boy Neftalí Reyes and takes us into his life. Neftalí is shy and sickly. He speaks with a stutter. He is also bright, sensitive, and inquisitive. His imagination rich. Numbers from a mathematics homework assignment fly off the page and out his bedroom through a window crack. His bedroom becomes an enormous tree that he tries to walk around. A rhinoceros beetle is his steed through a rain forest.

Neftalí collects rocks, feathers, leaves, and anything that he is curious about – which is just about everything. He is fascinated by the world around him, but above all, he is fascinated by words. Neftalí loves the look of words when they are written, their feel and sound when they are spoken. When he writes, he shows incredible skill and talent for his age.

Using appropriately poetic prose, Pam Muñoz Ryan has written a beautiful portrait of a young poet and shows how he becomes Pablo Neruda, one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers and a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. We clearly see and understand how Neftalí’s heart and mind work and how he sees the world around him. Peter Sís’ gorgeous, detailed illustrations amplify Ryan’s writing. The dark green illustrations and the use of the same color ink for the text adds to the book’s poetic, even ethereal, air.

Though characterization for Neftalí was most satisfying, I wish the characterization for his father had been equally excellent. The main conflict in the story is Neftalí’s struggle for acceptance and affection from his father. José Reyes is an often harsh man and he disapproves of his sons’ interests. He is not proud of Neftalí or his older brother Rodolfo, and thinks that their interest in language, literature, and music will never amount to anything. One summer vacation by the sea, he even forces Neftalí and his younger sister Laurita to swim every day even though they are terrified of the water - all in the hopes of changing his children (apparently Laurita is becoming too much like Neftalí) and making them “stronger.” At the beginning of the novel, it is revealed that José Reyes does not want his sons to struggle for money the way he did. But readers need much more than a single line of dialogue to understand why the antagonist in a novel is the way he is.

My other concern with The Dreamer is its quiet plot and how many children might take it. This isn’t a page turner. I really wonder, will many children have the patience for and appreciate the character-driven plot?

One thing is for sure: Readers will come away from The Dreamer inspired. Those new to poetry will find their appetites for poetry whetted. Poetry lovers will find their love for poetry expanded. The book includes an author’s note on Pablo Neruda and some of his poems and odes. Even before readers reach this last section of the book, they will find themselves eager to learn more about Pablo Neruda and read his work. More importantly, readers will find themselves more like Neftalí Reyes, more open to and aware of the poetry that surrounds us every day, the poetry in twigs and pinecones and nests. The poetry of lost mittens and umbrellas and discarded boots and keys.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hello, my luvlies!

I haven't forgotten about all of you, and I haven't stopped reading for this blog. I'm drafting a review of The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sis (Scholastic Press, 2010). Watch out for that! (Who has read The Dreamer too?)

Over the weekend I met up with some fellow Filipino book bloggers. It was so nice to finally meet them and talk about bookish things in person! Below are a couple pictures from our time together:

There are more pictures here, here, here, and here. :o)

What have you all been up to? What are you reading now?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

When Grace was a little girl, she was bitten by wolves. They pulled her off the tire swing in her backyard and dragged her into the woods. Grace remembers only one of the wolves. The one with mesmerizing yellow eyes. The wolf who stopped the attack.

For six years after the attack Grace sees the yellow-eyed wolf in the woods behind her house. She watches him, he watches her, and they fall in love.

Grace's wolf is only a wolf in the cold of winter. Under the summer sun, he is Sam and he is very human.

Shiver (Scholastic Press, 2009) is a paranormal romance for young adult readers by Maggie Stiefvater. It is very romantic in the more traditional sense of the word: It focuses on and moves readers to focus on nature, the imagination, and emotions. This is wonderful. The woods and the weather have prominent roles in the story. (In fact, each chapter begins with the temperature for that day or time of day.) Stiefvater succeeds in building an atmosphere of mystery and suspense around Grace, Sam, other wolves, their friends, and their small town of Mercy Falls, Minnesota. Readers will keep turning the pages of Shiver because there are always intriguing questions raised about the characters. Many questions are answered by the end of the novel. A couple unanswered questions are moving me to read Linger, the sequel to Shiver.

But a couple other unanswered questions annoyed me.

"Of course," she said, and her voice was frustrated. "Magic would be intangible. Science has cures. Haven't you ever wondered how it all started?"

I didn't open my eyes. "One day a wolf bit a man and the man caught it. Magic or science, it's all the same. The only thing magical about it is that we can't explain it."

The passage above is from a conversation between Sam and Grace (pg. 244-245 in the hardcover edition of Shiver). As seen in the passage above, no back story is provided to explain the origin of the wolves or to explain their condition. Throughout the novel, Sam is dismissive of his wolfish background. This is consistent with his ambivalent feelings toward being a wolf. However, the absence of a back story made suspending my disbelief about the wolves a little difficult.

Perhaps these questions will be answered in Linger? Regardless, Shiver should be able to stand on its own.

Stiefvater also succeeds in expressing and evoking a swirl of emotions for readers: love, desire, obsession, confusion, sadness, and so much more. Sam's struggle with his identity - Is he man or is he wolf? How can he possibly be both? - is convincing and moving. (This is greatly helped by the novel alternating between Sam and Grace's points of view.) And Stiefvater brings readers to really feel and explore this question: How can a girl and a wolf boy truly be together? The yearning, oh the yearning, Sam and Grace feel for each other is palpable.

As a reader, I was less than satisfied with the paranormal aspect of this novel, but thoroughly satisfied with its love story. As impossible as this love story seems, it will speak to the emotions of teen readers and to the teen inside all of us.

[I bought my own copy of Shiver.]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Get Caught Reading an Author of Color's Book!

If you catch anyone reading a book by an author of color, take his/her picture! Email the jpeg file with a short blurb about the picture to Amy Bowllan, the blogger behind Writers Against Racism.

Amy's email address:

Let's help spread the word about authors of color and their books!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sweet 15 by Emily Adler and Alex Echevarria

Destiny Lozada is turning 15. It's time to plan for her quinceañera. Time to start preparing the special gown and heels and tiara, the live music, the fancy venue, and of course her escort (caballero) and court (seven girls called damas and seven boys called chambelanes) and the waltz they will perform.

Destiny's mom insists that Destiny have a proper quinceañera - a proper celebration of her "transition to womanhood" with her family and friends. Destiny's mom didn't have a proper quinceañera of her own because she grew up poor in Puerto Rico. Destiny's older sister America didn't have a quinceañera at all. America believes that a quinceañera "stands for virginity, chastity, and nonsense. It's a rehearsal for how to walk, talk, sit, eat, and obey. . . It's also used to show wealth." As for Destiny's dad, he's determined to stay out of the debate.

Destiny doesn't quite agree with her mom when she says that a quinceañera is a beautiful religious ceremony and a way for a New Yorker like Destiny to keep in touch with her Puerto Rican roots. She also doesn't quite agree with her sister when she says that a quinceañera is "just another tool used by The Man to imprison women in a lifelong sentence of loveless marriages filled with dirty dishes and ungrateful babies and dirty babies and ungrateful dishes!" Destiny doesn't know what to think. She doesn't know what she wants. But she's super close to her mom and sister and wants to please them both, so she ends up saying yes to all of their demands for her quinceañera, even though their demands contradict each other. For example: Destiny's mom thinks Destiny should have a caballero. America thinks Destiny should proudly stand alone at her birthday party.

Sweet 15 by Emily Adler and Alex Echevarria (Marshall Cavendish, 2010) is HILARIOUS. Destiny (the novel's narrator) and her family and friends all have a great sense of humor. And all of them - from Destiny's quirky and dorky best guy friend Omar to America's strong and beautiful best friends Hailey and Maritza - are colorful and likable characters. Destiny's mom and America are particularly wacky and have very funny exchanges about the quinceañera.

Sweet 15 is an entertaining story about a young woman discovering who she is and what she wants. It's sometimes packaged as a story about a young woman with a cultural identity crisis of sorts. Sometimes Destiny talks about feeling lost somewhere between the United States and Puerto Rico and "being pulled in different directions by my family with these two different cultures. . ." But these are all just explicit statements found in the book. Destiny doesn't spend time reflecting on this issue and there is no real evidence of this struggle in her life. Sweet 15 is really about Destiny finding her own voice instead of just pleasing her parents and living in her sister's shadow. It's about her figuring out what makes her happy and fighting for it instead of prioritizing what makes her parents, sister, or other people happy.

The novel does have a sour note: all the "aha moments." These are the moments where a quinceañera is explained through narration/exposition or dialogue. Below are examples from two different chapters in the book.

"Fact check: a quinceañera (which is Spanish for 'fifteen years') is like a Sweet Sixteen party or bat mitzvah, only the Spanish, or Mexican, or Puerto Rican, or Cuban, or Central or South American version for fifteen-year-old girls, with chunks of religious and cultural stuff mixed together."

"Omar wipes melted sugar off his chin and clears his throat: 'The quinceañera has two sections, a mass and a party. During the mass, fourteen candles are lit, and the mother places a tiara on her daughter's head. . .'"

These "aha moments" make for awkward reading and have a tendency to exoticize the quinceañera (which is definitely counterproductive to multicultural literature). It would have been better reading if that rich information had been shared through the characters' actions and through much more natural dialogue.

Still, I recommend Sweet 15 to readers looking for something light and fun and interesting, and, of course, to readers who may be curious about quinceañeras.

[My copy of Sweet 15 was provided by the publisher.]

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Where are all your book reviews and author and illustrator interviews, Tarie?

I apologize for the lack of really substantial updates lately. I've been a bad blogger. But I was busy with judging this! Then I had to study for a major Spanish exam! Then I got sick!

Anywayyy . . . The good news is that I am now reading Sweet 15 by Alex Echevarria and Emily Adler (Marshall Cavendish 2010). So my next blog post will be a review of Sweet 15. :o)

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Zarah Gagatiga, head of the Philippine Board on Books for Young People, is...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why do we need more children's and YA books with characters of color?

"If you cannot find yourself on the page very early in life, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places."
- Richard Peck

I heard Candy Gourlay quote Richard Peck in a speech and I was nearly in tears thinking of all the kids of color who are still looking for themselves in the pages of books.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bling for the Bunny-Eat-Bunny World!

I just couldn't resist buying this ring. :o)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Can I have one minute of your time?

Please watch this one-minute video about why The Last Airbender is an example of institutionalized racism.

Thank you so much for your minute.

If you have more time, please check out this blog post. It's a very thorough and articulate explanation of why one man is not supporting The Last Airbender for professional, philosophical, and personal reasons.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

* Dies Laughing *

Watch this HILARIOUS and fabulous video from YA author Jackson Pearce. It's her version of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok," and it's dedicated to writer's block. You MUST watch it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Head on over to...

* Chasing Ray, where book reviewer extraordinaire Colleen Mondor asks children's and YA authors and bloggers (including me) What historical figure or nonfiction book (s) do you wish you knew about or read the last summer before your senior year in high school?

* Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, where I interview Indian American author Uma Krishnaswami about her latest picture book Out of the Way! Out of the Way!

* Chachic's Book Nook, where I talk a bit about why I love YA books.

* And if you are a Filipino book blogger (any genre; anywhere in the world), please visit Filipino Book Bloggers and have your blog details added to the directory. :o)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Bookmark!

I bought this bookmark because the children's book industry is said to be a "bunny-eat-bunny world." ;)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Reflected Faces" by Tanita Davis

Please read "Reflected Faces" by Tanita Davis. It's a painfully true article about how " still seems as if young people with brown skin are acceptable to ignore [in contemporary YA literature], at least in the marketing departments where the Powers That Be have determined that Brown doesn’t equal Buy."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Children's Book Necklaces

At the Summer Solstice Rockwell Bazaar, I discovered Thingys Accessories by Cessa Gaston. There are lots of cute and quirky Thingys Accessories, but I zoomed in on the children's book necklaces! There were necklaces for Grimm's Fairy Tales, Harry Potter, and other children's books. I bought the necklaces for The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss and Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. I *loved* those books as a child. I read them over and over and over again.

I'm not really a necklace person though. So I'll use the necklaces as bag accessories. :o)

"The Elephant in the Room" by Elizabeth Bluemle

Please read "The Elephant in the Room," an article by Elizabeth Bluemle. It's a call to publishers, editors, art directors, sales representatives, librarians, booksellers, and other stakeholders to make the children's and YA book industry more inclusive and better reflective of the great diversity in our world. I am answering this call. I hope you will too.

Below is Grace Lin's illustration for "The Elephant in the Room." Thirteen children's book illustrators including Grace Lin created artwork specifically for the article.

Distractions =D

When not checking out children's and young adult literature blogs, I am checking out entertaining fashion blogs. I love the confidence of these fashion bloggers:

Behind the Seams
Blushing Ambition (fashion + food!)
Cupcakes and Cashmere (fashion + food!)
Maison des Reveries (fashion + food!)
The Sartorialist
Sea of Shoes
Song of Style
Tricia Will Go Places

And I am addicted to dressing up an avatar of myself for this online fashion game:


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Bellyfest 2010

On Saturday, my beautiful, fabulous poet friend Chloe (I fondly call her Chloebellabelles LOL) invited me to watch a dance show with her at the PETA Theater. (A note about the PETA Theater: I was appalled to see that the theater chairs were plastic chairs and that the stage was all scratched up / beaten up. It's a shame because the rest of the building is so clean and beautiful!) The dance show was the grand evening show of Bellyfest 2010. It was a recital of professional and amateur belly dancers. The very talented belly dancers were beauties of all different ages, shapes, and sizes. They were exuding a lot of confidence and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. I wanted to get up and dance, too!

Unfortunately, in one part of the recital there was an attempt to string together dance numbers using a narrative. It was a story about a man searching the world for a priceless gift to give his beloved. There was a dance number for each country he visited (Spain, Brazil, China, Egypt, etc.). The dance numbers were charming, but the story was trite and felt very forced. The narrator didn't enunciate his words well and there was no passion or any other kind of feeling coming from the actor playing the man who was traveling the world.

Still, I thought it was an excellent recital. Click here to read Chloe's review of the show. Her review includes a video of one of the amazing performers balancing a sword on her head while belly dancing!


I bought my ticket to Bellyfest 2010, but I did get freebies from one of their sponsors, Slenda. The people from Slenda were so nice and they gave me a lovely gift bag. Thank you, Slenda!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Big Changes

I've resigned from my job to be a full-time graduate student. Yesterday was my last day at work. I worked as an editor for the Resources Development Department at goFLUENT, a provider of distance English training solutions for corporations. Resources Development has two teams, the Trainer Resources Team and the Learner Resources Team. I was part of the Trainer Resources Team. This was my little corner in the office (yes, right next to the fire extinguisher :P )...

The rest of the Resources Development office...

Oh, hi Ray! Don't let me disturb you.

Ray is a writer for the Trainer Resources Team.

This is Jem. She's a fantastic writer and she's replacing me as editor for the team.

Here's Max, the manager of the Trainer Resources Team. :)

Check out Issa, a writer for the Learner Resources Team. She's holding our work "bible," Practical English Usage by Michael Swan.

Chloe hard at work. Chloe is also a writer for the Learner Resources Team.

Anya is the manager for the entire Resources Development Department.

There was a little going away party for me...

In the picture below I am with Aika (a writer for the Learner Resources Team), Chloe, and Issa.


Why aren't you smiling, Jem?!

And here I am with my good friend Carlo. Carlo is part of the IT Department at goFLUENT. He did the artwork and design for this blog and Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind!

Yesterday was bittersweet. I will miss my wonderful coworkers, but I am also excited about being a full-time graduate student.