2015 Edwards Award Winner: Sharon M. Draper

Have you heard of the Margaret A. Edwards Award? It was established in 1988 and it

honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. The annual award is administered by YALSA and sponsored by School Library Journal magazine. It recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world. (x)

Sharon DraperThe 2015 winner is Sharon M. Draper, an African-American writer. Draper has written books for children, tweens, and teens, plus books for educators and poetry collections. You can learn more about Draper and her work on her official website. Six of Draper’s young adult books—Tears of a Tiger, Forged By Fire, Darkness Before Dawn, The Battle of Jericho, November Blues, and Copper Sun—were named by the Edwards Award committee as her significant and lasting contributions. The committee chair praised Draper’s work: “Draper has imbued her characters with deeply human complexity and born witness to the universality of their experiences, sparking powerful conversations and building empathy among teen readers.”

stellaDraper’s most recent book, Stella By Starlight, was published earlier this year. (Review) If you haven’t already read one of Draper’s books, there’s still plenty of time to get a hold of one of them before the 2015 ALA Annual Conference, which will be held from June 26th to July 1st.

New Releases

Just in time for Spring Break! A plethora of exciting new releases this week, many we here at Rich in Color are excited about and recommend.

First up, the highly anticipated conclusion to Ellen Oh’s fantastic Dragon King Chronicles. I know I will be at the bookstore Tuesday buying my copy. Look for my review in the next few weeks.

KingKing (The Dragon King Chronicles #3) by Ellen Oh
HarperTeen

Girl warrior, demon slayer, Tiger spirit of the Yellow Eyes—Kira is ready for her final quest. In this thrilling finale to the Prophecy trilogy, fans will get even more of the fierce Kira and her quest to save her kingdom!

All eyes are on her. Kira, once an outcast in her home village of Hansong, is now the only one with the power to save her kingdom. She must save her cousin, the boy fated to be the future king, uncover the third lost treasure, and face innumerable enemies in order to fulfill the famed prophecy.

Kira braves a sea of tigers and battles armies of demons as she musters her inner strength and learns to trust herself, the romantic feelings for Jaewon that are growing within her, and the destiny that must be hers.

 

Next is another historical fiction novel by the author of Code Name Verity. Crystal loved the book and reviewed it here – Black Dove, White Raven.

doveBlack Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion

Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

Also coming out is another book that has been getting buzz and one that Jessica reviewed just last week. Read her glowing review here – The Kidney Hypothetical.

kidneyThe Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days by Lisa Yee
Arthur A. Levine Books

Higgs Boson Bing has seven days left before his perfect high school career is completed. Then it’s on to Harvard to fulfill the fantasy portrait of success that he and his parents have cultivated for the past four years. Four years of academic achievement. Four years of debate championships. Two years of dating the most popular girl in school. It was, literally, everything his parents could have wanted. Everything they wanted for Higgs’s older brother Jeffrey, in fact.

But something’s not right. And when Higgs’s girlfriend presents him with a seemingly innocent hypothetical question about whether or not he’d give her a kidney . . . the exposed fault lines reach straight down to the foundations of his life. . . . – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

The sequel to last year’s hit, Dorothy Must Die, finally arrives on Tuesday as well. I enjoyed the first book and am looking forward to the sequel.

dorothy2The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die #2) by Danielle Paige                                       HarperCollins

In this dark, high-octane sequel to the New York Times bestselling Dorothy Must Die, Amy Gumm must do everything in her power to kill Dorothy and free Oz.

To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die….

But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn’t wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?  (summary and image from Goodreads)

 

eyeEye Candy by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
K-Teen

She’s gone from gossip reporter to half of the entertainment industry’s newest power couple. And hot singer J. Love’s mad string of hits definitely makes him a good look for Maya—and her career. But she’s feeling something more for laid-back, mellow “civilian” Alvin. A lot more. Now J. Love is using every dirty-spin trick in the glitterati book to humiliate Alvin—and sink Maya’s brand if he can’t hold onto her—and their celebrity-couple perks. With her empire on the line and her rep at stake, Maya will draw on every reliable source and every crazy scheme she’s ever played to save what she’s earned—and prove she can have love and fame. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

 

The Frail DaysThe Frail Days by Gabrielle Prendergast
Orca Books

Sixteen-year-old drummer Stella, guitarist Jacob and bassist Miles need a wild singer for their old-school rock band. When they discover nerdy Tamara Donnelly, who nails the national anthem at a baseball game, Stella is not convinced Tamara’s sound is right for the band. Stella wants to turn Tamara into a rock goddess, but Tamara proves to be a confident performer who has her own ideas about music and what it means to be epic cool.

When their band, the Frail Days, starts to build a local following, Stella and Tamara clash over the direction the band should take, forcing them to consider what true musical collaboration means.

Review: The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days

23013680Title: The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days
Author: Lisa Yee
Genres: contemporary, realistic
Pages: 272
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Availability: March 31st, 2015

Summary: Higgs Boson Bing has seven days left before his perfect high school career is completed. Then it’s on to Harvard to fulfill the fantasy portrait of success that he and his parents have cultivated for the past four years. Four years of academic achievement. Four years of debate championships. Two years of dating the most popular girl in school. It was, literally, everything his parents could have wanted. Everything they wanted for Higgs’s older brother Jeffrey, in fact.

But something’s not right. And when Higgs’s girlfriend presents him with a seemingly innocent hypothetical question about whether or not he’d give her a kidney… the exposed fault lines reach straight down to the foundations of his life… [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: All cards on the table — when I heard that Lisa Yee was coming out with The Kidney Hypothetical, I fell out of my chair. That’s how psyched I was for it. I mean, Yee’s book Millicent Min, Girl Genius was one of my favorite books in middle school, right up there with Harry Potter. So I had high expectations going into this… and I wasn’t disappointed.

In The Kidney Hypothetical, Higgs Boson Bing is this perfect high-achieving kid on his way to Harvard, until he flunks a hypothetical question posed to him by his girlfriend. Then, suddenly, his life isn’t so perfect… He manages to ruin his life in seven days, and this feat is narrated from his perspective. That he manages to still come across as a fleshed-out, flawed-yet-lovable character is impressive. Even as you get to know him (he’s a cocky know-it-all! but also a huge gardening nerd! awww), you see him grow as a character in the span of the seven days of the book. In fiction, character growth often feels either contrived, or completely neglected. Higgs is the exception — maturation happens, and it works.

The Kidney Hypothetical is definitely a fun, light-hearted read with moments of depth driven by Higgs’s relationships. Higgs may be the focus, but his family and friends all come across as fully-realized characters with stories of their own. For instance, I would love to read a follow-up book about Higgs’s sister Charlie…

Having gone to fairly competitive high school (86% Asian and nearly everyone except me took SAT classes), Higgs’s hyper-competitive attitude and cultural background resonated with me. I’m used to enjoying books without relating to them. I’m not a rich boarding school kid, or a vampire socialite, or a white girl fighting to take down a dystopian government. And I’m no Harvard-bound high-achieving teenage boy named after a particle, either, but I could relate — for once, I could relate.

When I was in middle school, I wasn’t a genius named Millicent Min, but I was an Asian girl searching for someone like me on the library shelves, and I found it. Reading The Kidney Hypothetical was another one of those moments.

Recommendation: Buy it when it comes out on March 31st, 2015!

Two Wonderful Years

Two years have already gone by since Rich in Color had its start. If you’re interested in finding out about the beginnings, Audrey, Jon and I did a podcast last year to provide a little history. Speaking for myself, being part of this blog has been a fantastic learning journey as we have sought out, read and promoted young adult lit by and about people of color. I’ve met amazing authors and readers who have inspired and challenged me.

In honor of our 2nd anniversary, we’re having another giveaway. We get ARCs from publishers or may even purchase books for review and we would like to share some of these books with our readers. We also have a few brand new books on offer. While we have your attention, please let us know about any great books that you’re looking forward to reading especially if they aren’t on our calendar yet. Thanks for visiting the blog and being a part of our journey.

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Two Releases for Spring

There are two books on our radar this week, and they both sound like a lot of fun!

Written in the StarsWritten in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Nancy Paulsen Books

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

CatalystCatalyst by Lydia Kang
Kathy Dawson Books

For fans of Uglies and The Maze Runner comes a complex, thrill-filled love story that will make you question exactly what it means to be human

In the past year Zel lost her father, the boy she loves, her safety, and any future she might have imagined for herself. Now she, her sister, and the band of genetic outcasts they’ve come to call their family are forced on the run when their safe house is attacked by men with neural guns. But on the way to a rumored haven in Chicago, Zel hears something–a whisper from Cy, the boy who traded himself for her sister’s safety. And when she veers off plan in order to search for him, what she finds is not what she expected. There’s more to their genetic mutations than they ever imagined…aspects that make them wonder if they might be accepted by the outside world after all.

Book Review: Stella by Starlight

stellaTitle: Stella by Starlight
Author: Sharon Draper
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: In Bookstores now

Summary: When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community – her world – is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end. (Image & summary via Goodreads)

Review: As a huge fan of Sharon Draper’s young adult novels, I was excited to read her newest Stella by Starlight. I didn’t realize at the time it was a middle grade novel, until I started reading it, but because the story draws you in and Stella is such a wonderful character, I enjoyed the novel immensely. In fact, my 12 year old self emerged and was giddy at a book that spoke to her – especially a story about a young girl finding her voice through writing.

The novel takes place in the South in 1932, so you know it’s not going to be an easy read. Stella is a 12 year old girl who is loved by both of her parents, has a good relationship with her little brother, wonderful friends, and lives in a tight knit African American community. What could go wrong? Well, the Klan shows up one night and sets the entire community on edge. The issue is that there is a presidential election coming and, of course, the Klan does not want the African American members of their community to vote, so they use the usual scare tactics, which thankfully, do not work. I loved the way Draper showed how small African-American communities came together during crisis, helping each other out when they often didn’t have very much to give. She also balanced this out by showing that not all of the members of the White community agreed with the Klan’s tactics, and were willing to make a stand. While the heart of the novel is very much on Stella and her perspective on life, the scenes that focused on social justice, way back in 1932, clearly showing the seeds for the Civil Rights movement and our current #Black Lives Matter movement, were moving.

Stella is the star of the novel and her voice is truly one of a young girl on the edge of womanhood who is actively thinking about the world around here. One aspect of Stella’s character that I really related to was her emerging status as a writer. At the beginning of the book, she struggled with writing (even though she liked to) because she often couldn’t find the words to say. She would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night and write underneath the stars. I so related to her as I would write underneath the covers with a flashlight. Her writing eventually becomes stronger as she practices and then when she receives a typewriter as a gift, she starts her own newspaper, readership of one (that was also me at age 10!). The little girl K. Imani instantly fell in love with Stella as I remembered some of the struggles I had finding my voice, but with the encouragement of teachers, like Stella, I grew into the writer I am today. I also appreciated that Draper doesn’t make Stella a super duper writer right away and actually has her experience rejection in the form of not being picked for a writing contest. The disappointment Stella felt allowed for a true growth moment where she recognized her writing was not as strong as it could be and that the only way for her to get better was to practice. A message writers of all ages need to be reminded of.

One of my favorite childhood books of all time is Mildred Taylor’s “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” and I feel that Draper’s novel is written in the spirit of that novel. All these years later I still love that novel, and Stella by Starlight brought those same emotions forth. Stella’s story is a fitting compliment to Taylor’s classic novel, but yet is perfect for our current children who need to understand how the Americans fought for equality in the past, just as they fight for it now.

Recommendation: Get It Now!