I received review copies of two books from Hannah Ehrlich at Lee and Low Books. I have read this company's catalog before, and purchased many of their multicultural Cinderalla picture books, so I was thrilled that they have a new imprint, Tu Books, which will launch in 2011 with science fiction and fantasy books with greater diversity! I was disappointed that much of their catalog is picture books, but I will definitely be looking for their first graphic novel by G. Neri, The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. I liked Neri's Chess Rumble, and quality graphic novels are always welcome in my library. This company certainly fills a much needed gap, with books on a wide range of cultures.
Russell, Ching Yeung. Tofu Quilt.
Yeung Ying lives in China in the 1960s. Her father is a tailor, and her mother defends Yeung's right to an education and opportunity even though she is a girl. Yeung loves to read, and wants to be a writer, so she works very hard at school (when she's not reading in math class!) and takes in piece work such as painting metal cars, so that she can afford to buy books. She struggles to overcome the cultural expectations that come with being a girl, and aided by her family, manages to win a writing contest. Based on the writer's own life, and told in verse, I was sceptical of this at first, but found it very interesting. The only good thing about novels in verse is that sometimes struggling readers will pick them up because there aren't as many words on the page. I would have rather had more details about life in China and Russell's experiences.
Marx, Trish and Ellen B. Senisi. Steel Drumming at the Apollo.
This is not something I would have picked up on my own, because my students have shown no interest in steel drumming. Apparently, it is a pretty big deal in the city. The book follows a group of boys from the Hamilton Hill Arts Center who put together a band for a try out at the Apollo Theater. It tells a bit about each member, and about the process they must go through to enter the competition. The book is graphically well-arranged, with plentiful illustrations and side bars with additional information. Not only that, but there was even a CD included, so I could hear what a steel band sounds like. This short (54 pages) book was fast-paced and interesting, and I must admit that the best part for me was that the band did NOT win the competition! It would have been just as easy for the authors to interview the winner, and I liked the fact that the band tried hard, didn't win, and managed to go on anyway! I will have to see if I can "drum" up interest for this book in the fall!