Book Review – Tortilla Sun

Author: Jennifer Cervantes

Publisher:  Chronicle Books (May 5, 2010)

Reading Level: Grades 4th to 8th

Source: Personal Copy

Rating: 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

A tender, magical story about 12 year old Izzy Roybal who is sent to spend the summer in her nana’s New Mexico village where she is soon caught up in the foreign world of her own culture, from patron saints and soulful food to the curious and magical blessings Nana gives her tortillas. In Nana’s village she meets Mateo, the adventurous, treasure seeking thirteen year old boy who lives on the other side of the bolted door in Izzy’s bedroom and six year old Maggie who is raising her cat, Frida, as a dog and sees marshmallow ghosts float out windows. When the wind begins to whisper to Izzy, she is soon led on an adventure to learn about her father’s mysterious death, who she really is, and to connect the hidden pieces of her past.

Several months ago, I signed up to participate in The Story Siren’s 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  I will add admit that Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes was a late addition to my list of Debut Authors.  However, I am so thrilled that I found this absolutely lovely book.

If you hang around me for any length of time, you will know that trying to find books that my students will relate to is a big concern of mine.  The majority of my students are from Hispanic backgrounds.  Many are Mexican American.  There are some but not enough stories that feature Latino characters.  I was barely a chapter into Tortilla Sun when I knew that this was a book that I not only wanted to share with my students but that I would use as a read aloud with my fifth graders.

By now you may be wondering, what is so special about Tortilla Sun? Cervantes has created a story filled with well-developed characters, a vibrant setting, and a message of loss, love, family, and hope (pull out your tissues when reading this – I sobbed for nearly the last 1/4 of the book).  Twelve year old Izzy never met her father who died before she was born.  Her mother and she have never settled into one house or an apartment for any extended time.  After moving into yet another new place, Izzy uncovers a box of things that belonged to her father including a baseball with the worn words “Because____ ____ magic”.   Shortly after this discovery, Izzy’s mother is called away on a research trip and sends Izzy off to spend the summer in New Mexico with her grandmother.  At first Izzy is unhappy with this decision but shortly after arriving she discovers that the summer may be a time where she can learn about who her father was and what are the missing words rubbed off from the baseball.  From her Nana, she discovers the magic of homemade tortillas, and learns that the past needs time to be revealed.  From 13 year old Matteo and 6 year old Maggie, she learns about friendship, adventure, and caring about others.  From the adults that surround her in this small village, she learns to embrace the magic around her and discovers who she is.  Cervantes also weaves together Spanish words and phrases along with wonderful references to food and activities that further embrace the Latino culture.

This coming of age story is beautifully and masterfully told.  Cervantes has hit her own home-run with this debut offering and I am eager to read any future books from her.

You can find out more about Jennifer Cervantes and her book at: http://www.jennifercervantes.com/

You can find Jennifer on Twitter @jencerv or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/jennifercervanteswriter?ref=ts

You can purchase a signed copy (while they last) of Tortilla Sun at Borders Glendale:  http://www.borders.com/online/store/StoreDetailView_149

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Debut Author Signing

Way back in December, I signed up for the Story Siren’s 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  As I was searching for books to read for the challenge, I discovered Sea by Heidi R. Kling, The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, and eventually Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes.  I loved all three of these books.  You can find my review of Sea here, and I will be posting reviews for The Red Umbrella and Tortilla Sun later this week.  Just a warning, keep tissues by you when you read them.  Each book deals with the themes of loss, grief, and hope in their own powerful manner, but don’t be surprised when you find yourself tearing up.

After waiting for the books to finally be released, and chatting with the authors via Twitter and Facebook, I found out that not only would they be doing a book event in Southern California but that I would have an opportunity to help out.    Thanks to MyGirlSnark (Amber) and Frootjoos (Alethea), I was granted “green room” privileges.  Just a fancy way of saying I had a chance to hang with our wonderful authors before the event.  Here is Heidi signing a copy of Sea before hand (Christina is in the background signing books).

Jennifer Cervantes’ daughters challenged Christina to try some of the hot salsa.  Here she is deciding whether or not her mouth was on fire.

At the signing, Jennifer, Heidi, and Christina shared the mic.  They talked about their books, read snippets, answered questions and brought goodies to raffle off. (Oops!  Forgot to take pictures of the raffle prizes.)

One lucky family won three of the prizes.  Since I was helping with the Q & A, and the raffle drawing, I didn’t get pictures.  Next time, I need to make a list of the kind of things I need for pictures and assign someone the task (but thank you Frootjoos for trying to run around and snap some pictures).  I will say the prizes were very cool.  There was a Sea tank top, a red umbrella (read the book to discover the significance), a mug, and a beautiful Mexican bowl, and a couple of special necklaces.

After all of the books were signed, we did manage to group a group shot of the authors, Borders Staff members, and volunteer staff.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was very thankful for being allowed the opportunity to participate in the behind the scenes activities.

This is my last known author event for the summer but I am seriously looking forward to the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour in September.

-Aly

P.S. If anyone is looking for a signed copy of any of these books, give Borders/Glendale a call.

Upcoming Author Event – You’re Invited

On Sunday, August 1, 2010, at 2 p.m., Borders/Glendale will be hosting three amazing 2010 debut authors for a book signing.  You did read that right – three authors.  Jennifer Cervantes (Tortilla Sun), Christina Diaz Gonzalez (The Red Umbrella), and Heidi R. Kling (Sea) will be speaking about their respective books, and answering questions.  There will probably be some other surprises and you might even be able to spot one or two other YA authors in the audience.

Where:  Borders/Glendale – 100 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91204

Time:  2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

What to bring:  Yourself and a friend or two (or three)

Books by each of these awesome authors will be available for purchase at the store.  Consider purchasing one for yourself and an extra as a gift to a friend, or a school library.

Looking forward to seeing any Southern California folks there.

-Aly

Maggie Stiefvater, Linger Contest, and photos

Some of you may know that I started out reviewing on Young Adult Literature Review Blogspot.  I still hang out of there with my friend Vi and Renee.  I did a blog post with my photos from the Maggie Stiefvater event at Borders/Glendale (Monday, July 26, 2010) and am offering up a signed copy of my ARC of Linger.  To enter the contest, find out more about this phenomenal event, click here.

Winner of the Keys to the Repository Contest

Congratulations!  There is a winner for the Two-in-One Contest.  Diana G. – you won a signed copy of The Keys to the Repository by Melissa De La Cruz.  Please contact me at kidlitfrenzy(at)gmail(dot)com within the next 24 hours.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  For those of you, who were hoping to win, the Heist Society by Ally Carter – keep an eye open for another chance to win.

Book Review: Linger

Author:  Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 13, 2010)

Reading Level: Young Adult

Source: Advanced Reader’s Copy

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

In Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love — the light and the dark, the warm and the cold — in a way you will never forget.

I received a copy of Linger back in March and basically inhaled it in one sitting.  However, it was too early to write a review at that point.  Anyway, I am glad I saved my review though for now because I can do a back to back post.  First, a review of Linger and then follow it up with an Author Event post about Maggie’s visit to Borders/Glendale.  Maybe even a contest for that ARC I have.

Back to my review of Linger.  Last year, I accidentally happened upon Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  I was looking for a book to read and saw a display on release day and picked it up.  I read it straight through and fell in love with Grace and Sam.  Stiefvater’s writing was lyrical, heart-warming, and moving.  There was something magical about it and I wasn’t referring to the werewolves.  It was probably my favorite read of the summer of 2009, and I highly anticipated the release of Linger.

In March, I had a chance to finally find out what happened to Sam and Grace.  Linger picks up where Shiver left off.  (Please note there will definitely be spoilers for Shiver and I will attempt to keep this as spoiler free for Linger.) Sam has supposedly been cured and isn’t shifting from boy to wolf based on temperature.  This should be an exciting time for Grace and Sam.  However, this is a book 2.  I say this because book 2 is always where the author takes her beloved characters and makes them struggle, suffer, go through really crappy things.  And Stiefvater does not disappoint.  These are the things that I *hate* about book 2, in any series. There were times while reading that I wanted to throw the book and other times when I wanted to scream at Stiefvater.  Yes, I get emotional when reading about my favorite characters.  And if the characters didn’t struggle, the author wouldn’t have done her job.  Without saying much more about some of those struggles, let me just say keep the tissue box close by.

Now that you know what I *hated* about Linger.  Here is what I loved about Linger?  I loved the addition of a new wolf, Cole.  Cole is charming, sexy, and definitely a bad boy.  You will love him.  He plays well off of Isabel’s character and offers a bit of relief from the emotional rollercoaster that Sam and Grace are navigating.

What I am still up in the air about? Grace’s parents have a much more prominent role in this book than they did in Shiver.  I have mixed feelings about the transition from book 1’s lack of involvement to book 2’s extreme involvement.  I’m still not sure about this, but you will have to see what you think about it.

Finally, the ending of the story, though the cliff-hanger, was somewhat predictable.  I am not certain if the ending was the most natural progression for the story or if it was just the easiest.  Despite though having a strong idea about how the book would end (not all of the details but the conflict), I still cried.

Linger may not win over any Shiver fence-sitters, but it will definitely be a book that passionate fans will be eager to read and devour.

If you post any comments, please keep them spoiler free.

Congratulations to Maggie Stiefvater for debuting at #1 on the New York Times Best-Seller List.  Now I wonder if I can hack into her computer and download Forever?

-Aly

Book-a-Day Challenge Week 5 Update

It is amazing that I am already doing a week 5 update.  It is also scary at how fast my summer is flying by.  The Book-A-Day Challenge is being hosted by Donalyn Miller, teacher extraordinaire and a write to boot.  I have been linking to her original challenge but she recently posted an her own update which included a list to the blogs of others participating in the challenge.  You can find it here.  It has been fun seeing what everyone is reading for Book-A-Day.  Lots of wonderful books.

I have to confess that this was not one of my best reading weeks.  It was a busy week with lots of commitments that left little time for reading.  Since I knew it was going to be a slow reading week, I stocked up on graphic novels, manga, and picture books.

Book-A-Day Week 5 Reads:

Picture Books

It’s A Book by Lane Smith (Advanced Readers Copy) This picture book will be out in the fall.  It is hysterical!  One character is very technology savvy.  The other is partial to traditional books.  The dialogue between the two is hilarious.  Check out Amazon’s page for the trailer.  Note: Some parents may not appreciate the use of “jacka**” in the book.  You will have to read it and determine its appropriateness for your class.

Mirror, Mirror! A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer This is a beautiful and amazing book.  Filled with two page spreads that incorporate stunning illustrations and reversible text that provides two sides for every featured fairy tale.  For my review, click here

Alfred Zector, Book Collector by Kelly DiPucchio Alfred as a young boy sets out to collect every book in the town and then to read every book.  In the end, he learns a lesson that reading books is good but sharing them is even better.

Non-fiction Picture Books

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver  I love finding creative non-fiction picture books to use with upper grade elementary students.  This one covers the history of the hot dog.  For my review, click here.

Graphic Novels:

Flight Explore, Vol. 1 by Kazu Kibuishi This is Kibuishi’s Middle Grade version of his Flight series.  I enjoyed the collection of stories included in this volume and hope that more will be coming.  For my review, click here.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (Season 8 Vol. 1) by Joss Whedon This is Whedon’s first attempt at writing a graphic novel and also a chance to continue the Buffy Series after it went off the air.  It benefits the reader if you are familiar with the series.  Though it is a little “clunky”, I did enjoy it and have been promised by friends that subsequent volumes improve. (Note: This would be considered YA and up).

Manga

Death Note Vol. 1 Boredom by Tsugumi Obba A bright but bored teen discovers a Death Notebook left intentionally by a death god.  Light (main character) attempts to create an utopia using the notebook.  The dialogue between Light and Ryuk (death god) is probably the best part of the book.  Not sure Manga is really my thing but this was interesting.

YA

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony This has been on my TBR list since before it was released and is part of my list of books for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  Considered a dystopian novel (and it does have many elements of a dystopian novel) it is very different from something like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  For my review, click here.

All in all, still a pretty good reading week.  What have you been reading this summer?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.