Boys

It seems like girls are more likely to read stories about either girls or boys, but boys prefer to read stories about other boys. So far, my stories have been about girls, but I wanted to write a book for my boy readers. Saving Kenny is about a boy from an abusive home who dreams of becoming a costume designer. It is my first book written from a boy’s perspective.

A favorite author who writes for boys is Greg Neri. Mr. Neri has published novels for young adults and middle graders, a graphic novel, a free verse novella, and a picture book due out later this month.

Greg likes writing for boys, especially reluctant readers. One way he encourages reading is through his extensive reading list. Visit his website to learn more about him and find something great to read.

Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers

Writer Walter Dean Myers died last month at the age of 76 on July 1. He wrote books for children of all ages, including picture books and non-fiction, but was especially known for his Young Adult literature.

He wrote over 100 books during a career that spanned 45 years and received every major award in his field including two Newbery Honor awards, three National Book Award Finalists, and six Coretta Scott King awards. In 2012 he was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and served for two years.

Walter Dean Myers was born in West Virginia. He moved to Harlem, in New York City, at a young age and considered Harlem to be his beloved home. Many of his books are set in Harlem neighborhoods.

Although challenged with a speech impediment and poor grades, Myers was an avid reader, and that love of reading led him to a career as a writer. His books encourage young people to overcome difficulties and never give up, a message that he often took to incarcerated teens in detention centers.

He will be missed, but we can look forward to three up-coming books: Juba! ( April, 2015),  a novel for teens based on the life of an African American dancer, On a Clear Day (September, 2014), and a graphic novel adaptation of his novel Monster.

To learn more about Walter Dean Myers and find a good book to read, check out his website: http://walterdeanmyers.net/  Whether you are interested in adventure, biographies, Harlem, history, music, poetry, sports, war, or writing, with so many books to choose from, you are bound to find something wonderful.

Read about Summer Vacations on Your Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is a great time for adventures and new experiences. It is also a great time for reading. You can combine the two by reading about the adventures of kids on their summer vacations.

Here are some great books to read this summer.

Summerland by Michael Chabon

Ethan Feld, the worst player on his Little League team, becomes an unlikely hero when he must use his newfound skills as a catcher to save a tiny race of people, known as ferrishers, and their magical realm called Summerland.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Ten-year-old Opal makes a makes new friends in her new hometown with the help of a scruffy, adopted dog named Winn Dixie.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

The title tells it all—a wonderful story full of friendship, sisterhood, and adventure.

The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

Fourteen-year-old Sara, caught up in her own mood swings and teenage concerns, learns what it means to care more about someone else when her mentally handicapped younger brother goes missing.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

Almost twelve-year-old Glory writes a no-nonsense letter to the editor in the summer of 1964, when she learns that the citizens of her hometown, Hanging Moss, Mississippi, would rather close down the local swimming pool than desegregate it.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Three sisters fly from Brooklyn, New York, to Oakland, California, to visit their poet mother who ran off years ago. During the summer of 1968, the girls learn about Black Power, their mother’s poetry, her involvement with the Black Panther Party, and her reason for leaving them behind.

The Watson Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watson family travels to Birmingham, Alabama right after the spring civil rights campaign in this story that is both serious and hilarious.

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

In 1960, thirteen-year-old Sophie wishes for an adventure to liven up a boring summer at her grandmother’s house, on former the site of her family’s plantation. She gets more than she bargained for when she finds herself mistaken for a slave on her ancestor’s plantation.

Freedom Summer

Freedom Summer, also known as The Mississippi Summer Project, was launched fifty years ago this month. In June, 1964 over one thousand out of state volunteer college students, mostly white, joined thousands of black Mississippians in a campaign to register black voters in the state of Mississippi, which had the lowest number of African American registered voters in the country.

At that time, even though they had the right to vote, southern states prevented blacks from voting by making it extra difficult to register. African Americans were singled out to pass literacy tests or pay a poll tax before they could register to vote. Black Mississippians were required to fill out a 21-question registration form and be prepared to answer a question from any section of the state constitution. African Americans were also intimidated and threatened with violence if they registered to vote.

In many parts of Mississippi, African Americans had large populations and were in the majority, but since they could not vote, they could not influence their governments and remained powerless to change things. That is why it was so important to get them registered.

SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and COFO (Council of Federated Organizations), sponsored Freedom Summer. In addition to registering voters, they established the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and brought in doctors, nurses and other medical students and professionals to teach health education. They also set up over 30 Freedom Schools, which taught thousands of children basic literacy, math, black history, and civil rights, in a creative and positive atmosphere.

Freedom Summer was a dangerous undertaking. During the summer, four civil rights workers were killed, three Mississippi blacks who supported the civil rights movement were murdered, four people were critically wounded, 80 Freedom Summer workers were beaten, 1,062 people both out of state and locals were arrested, and 30 black homes or businesses, as well as 37churches were burned or bombed.

On June 21, 1964 three young men, James Chaney a black Mississippian activist and member of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), Michael Schwerner, a Jewish CORE member, and Andrew Goodman, a Jewish volunteer, were arrested and held in jail until night. Soon after the police released them, the three were abducted and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. A search that eventually involved the FBI discovered the bodies of the three men on August 4, 1964. In the fall of 1964, the FBI arrested 19 men as suspects for the murders, but all were set free. It wasn’t until 1967 that seven of the men were tried, convicted and sentenced to 3-10 years.

Although they failed to register many voters, the seeds of Freedom Summer took root in Mississippi and all over our country. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave nationwide protection for voters and outlawed literacy tests. It also required some states, which were guilty of preventing blacks from voting, have any changes to their election laws receive federal approval. In 1980s and 90s, thanks to African American voters, Mississippi elected more black officials than any other state. The Freedom Schools inspired educators all over the country. Last year when I went to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, I met teacher from a Freedom School operating now in Rochester, New York.

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required some states to get federal approval for changes to election laws. Also, several states have passed laws that require voters to have a photo ID in order to vote. Some people feel that these two things will once again make it difficult for African Americans and other minority groups to vote.

If you would like to know more, a movie about Freedom Summer will air on television on PBS, The American Experience – 6/24/14 9pm. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/

 Check out http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/freedom-summer for more information about Freedom Summer.

Read:  Freedom Summer and Revolution, the Sixties Trilogy by Deborah Wiles

I hope that you all have a wonderful summer. While you are out having fun, remember the brave people who spent their summer bringing freedom to Mississippi, fifty years ago.

 

 

Meet me at Inkwood Books

I am excited about returning to Inkwood Books for a Self Pub Club event on March 20th at 7:00 PM. The first event was great fun. I will be reading from my book, Fearless Freedom, and answering questions. Inkwood Books, a wonderful independent book store, is well worth the visit. The cozy Florida bungalow is a great place to relax and browse. Inkwood Books is located at 216 South Armenia Avenue, Tampa, FL 33609. Their phone number is 813 253-2638.

See you there!

Fearless Freedom Class Project

IMG_0162Colin Sprung displays his school project, an impressive 3-D book report on Fearless Freedom. Colin drew a picture of Bernice Givens at a civil rights protest holding a picket sign. He listed some of his favorite characters in the book and wrote a report on the story. GREAT JOB COLIN!

SCBWI Conference, Miami

My book giveaway at Goodreads ended on December 25. I want to thank all of the 534 people who entered the contest. It’s nice to see so many folks interested in my book Fearless Freedom. It was fun and I will do another giveaway this spring.

I’m on my way to the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Miami. I especially look forward to attending an all day workshop, led by literary agent Jen Rofé, editor Stacy Abrams, and writer Chris Crutcher, to work on my latest manuscript, Saving Kenny. On Saturday and Sunday there will be panels, presentations and workshops, lunches, dinners and receptions. The Clockwork Ball, a steampunk costume affair, is on Saturday night. I won’t be sporting a corset, but I think my costume, a no-nonsense day-outing look, will represent.  

My book, Saving Kenny, is also historical fiction. It is not a sequel to Fearless Freedom, but my characters are the beneficiaries of advances won during the civil rights era. The story begins in 1968 on the day after Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated and incorporates the flavor of the late sixties, when Black was Beautiful, Afros were big, and the war in Vietnam was unpopular. It is an exciting time period that I am very familiar with, having lived through it.

Twelve-year-old Kenny Reed, from inner city Boston, has always lived in the shadow of his charismatic, justice-seeking, Black Panther Party member, big brother, Vaughn, and his gorgeous, smart, talented, opera-diva, sister, Gwen, but he finds a new sense of confidence when he discovers his passion for costume design.  All three kids are veterans of their mother’s abusive rages, but since he’s only twelve, and can’t escape living alone with Ma, the Reed siblings must find a way of saving Kenny.

The book has lots of details from 1968, but deals with the serious subject of child abuse. I’m proud of this book and I believe my readers will enjoy it. 

Reading @ The Studio @620

I had a terrific time on Thursday night, reading and discussing my book, Fearless Freedom, at The Studio @ 620. After a wonderful introduction by founder and Artistic Director, Bob Devin Jones, I took to the podium. I had a great audience who asked great questions. We had some spontaneous go-go dancers inspired by soul music from the early sixties. Thanks to everyone who came.

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My next event is this Thursday. I will be reading from my book Fearless Freedom this Thursday. Meet me and other local authors for readings, discussion, and book signing at the Self Pub Open House, December 19, 7 pm at Inkwood Books, 216 S. Armenia Avenue, Tampa, Florida.

Kirkus Review

Kirkus Reviews call Fearless Freedom “A moving, triumphant novel encapsulating a young girl’s personal struggle for equality within the larger movement.” To read the entire review click here.