Monday, July 08, 2013

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday!


Hey, Gang! 

I’m so happy to be joining the MMGM gang on ShannonMessenger’s blog. The other reviewers are bloggers I’ve enjoyed reading for a long time—and I’ve been lucky to have my own books reviewed by them, too! :-)

Since I’m a huge fan of MG and write MG and adore MG, it makes sense that I’ve been dying to join the fun for more than a year. And finally, I’m jumping in!

This week I’m spotlighting SUGAR by Jewell Parker Rhodes!


First, a Story!

In March of 2012 I met Jewell at the Tucson Book Festival. We were on a panel together (just the two of us talking about magical realism in middle-grade books) and instantly hit it off. She’s a professor of literature and Creative Writing at ASU in Arizona; warm and funny and brilliant.

In preparation for meeting her, I immediately ran out and read her book NINTH WARD, which I’d already been planning to read but this made me jump on it a bit faster since I was going to meet her and get my copy autographed, too!

Before I read NINTH WARD I knew from reviews and *buzz* that it was a story about a girl who survives Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans so I was expecting a contemporary, serious story about the dangers of the terrible storm as well as tragedy along with the courage and triumph of the human spirit. 

But NINTH WARD was all that and SO much more. What knocked my socks off was the magical realism and spirituality that had been incorporated into the story. And I simply *loved* the beautiful, loving and strong relationship between Lanesha, the main character, and Mama Ya Ya, the woman who took her in as a baby and raised her and taught her and loved her so unconditionally.

I was so moved by this story and the writing was powerful and dynamic and gorgeous.

Jewell Parker Rhodes is powerful and dynamic and gorgeous herself! She is a natural storyteller, teacher, and actress, too —and she taught me how to inject those elements into my own readings at book signing events (although she didn’t realize I was watching and studying and taking notes!) 


I learned a lot from Jewell and feel blessed to know her. She is also the Founding Director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing in Tempe Arizona at the University of Arizona. The Center puts on a marvelous writer’s conference - with authors, editors and agents - the weekend of February 21-23 in 2014 in Arizona – and I’ve been invited as a presenter! So mark your calendars for the DESERT NIGHTS, RISING STARS CONFERENCE! Details are coming soon about the faculty and workshops.

Jewel’s new MG novel, SUGAR, recently released, and is another sparely written and lovely book – historical this time, a few years after the Civil War in Louisiana (a state of my heart and the setting of all of my MG novels with Scholastic so Jewell and I are a great match!)

Sugar is a girl who has been raised since a baby as a slave on a sugar cane plantation. SUGAR is now ten, has recently lost her mother to the illness and exhaustion that comes from the back-breaking work of sugar cane, and is now watched over by a stern, but loving older couple, Mister and Missus Beales who were slaves but are now free. The former slaves still live in the same slave shacks on dirt floors with no beds, no furniture, and very little money. Life is still extremely difficult and precarious since the former slaves are doing back-breaking work and are getting older in years and unable to work as they could when they were younger.

Even as Sugar lives alone in the shack she shared with her mother and mourns her and is often lonely, she has no guile, and maintains her enthusiasm for life. She’s also not afraid to make friends with the white plantation owner’s son, Billy – even as they keep their friendship a secret, which brings trouble down the road. Another source of fear and contention is when the plantation owner hires a crew of Chinese men and the former black slaves fear for their jobs and homes.

The author brings to live in vivid detail the life of slaves *after* the Civil War when life was still precarious and extremely difficult and thousands of Chinese workers were brought in to help the plantation work get done. This actually happened in the South and is based on fact.  

SUGAR is a tale of family and love and home—and working toward your dreams. I think most of us can relate. 

Enjoy the rest of the MMGM posts all found here (updated as soon as I get the links from Shannon's blog. :-)

Happy Monday!

~Kimberley
 MMGM Links (Week of 7/8/13)
- Kimberley Griffiths Little joins the MMGM fun, with her first feature. Click HERE to see which book she's gushing about and welcome her to the group. 
- Mariah Lyons ALSO joins the MMGM fun with a feature on--EEP--KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES!!! Click HERE to see what she thought! 
- Zenia is ALSO joining the MMGM fun, with a feature on PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF. Click HERE to welcome her to the group. 
- Michelle Mason is shouting from the rooftops for HALF UPON A TIME. Click HERE to see why.
- 11-year-old Xander is gushing about THE MERITS OF MISCHIEF: THE BAD APPLE. Click HERE to see what he thought.  
- Andrea Mack is loving THE YEAR OF THE BOOK. Click HERE to see why.  
- Jennifer Rumberger is sharing MOON OVER MANIFEST. Click HERE to see her review.  
- Flash, the Feline Extraordinaire, (and Professional Mews to Cindy Strandvold) recommends THE CREATURE FROM THE SEVENTH GRADE: BOY OR BEAST. Click HERE to see what that's all about. 
- Dorine White has a guest post from author Katherine Holmes. Click HERE for all the fun! 
- Natalie Lorenzi is cheering for ETCHED IN CLAY: THE LIFE OF DAVE, ENSLAVED POTTER AND POET. Click HERE to see what she thought. 
 - Laurisa White Reyes has an interview with author Marissa Meyer. Click HERE for all the fun. 
- Medeia Sharif is spotlighting HOLES. Click HERE to why. 
- Deb Marshall is an MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week. 
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week. 
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome!    
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week.
   
If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so I see it)
NOTE: I used to not have a cut-off time for adding links to the post, but with how insane my schedule is right now, if you don't email me by Sunday evening (usually around 11pm PST is when I put the links together) I can't guarantee I'll have a chance to add you. BUT, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you!

14 comments:

Deb Marshall said...

Yay on you joing the MMGM crew! Love your books (aka fangirl, lol) and will be reading both books you shared with us this week. Thanks for sharing.

michelleimason said...

Welcome to MMGM, Kimberley! I look forward to seeing more reviews from you.

Ms. Yingling said...

Welcome! I always think it's great to see what MG books MG authors are reading! Always helps to do your research.

Janet said...

Welcome to MMGM. Thanks for the review, it sounds like an interesting book.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome you're joining MMGM. And thanks for the book recommendations. Both sound good.

Jill Haugh said...

Yay! How fun to stumble across your site. My daughter and I both read "When the Butterflies Came" and really enjoyed it.
I'll stay tune for more bloggy fun as I signed up for email notices from your site.
TTFN,
~Just Jill

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Many thanks to Deb, Michelle, Mrs. Yingling, Janet, Natalie and Jill for the warm *Welcome*!!! I love it and glad to be a part of the MG Gang! :-)

And Jill, thank you so much for the kudos on When the Butterflies Came, I'm so glad you both enjoyed it! And welcome to my blog, too!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

I KNOW I left a comment on your blog yesterday, Kimberley, because I'm getting the follow-up comments in my email feed. But my comment seems to have disappeared. Not the only comment that disappeared yesterday. Blogger's messing with me.

Wanted to say, welcome to the group! And both of these books sound wonderful. I'd heard of The Ninth Ward before and knew it won some awards. How lucky for you that you've gotten to know Jewell in person.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Joanna! Thank you for coming back and commenting, and thank you for the warm welcome! Now where did your first comment go . . . lurking around here somewhere . . . off to nab it! :-)

Andrea Mack said...

So great to see you on MMGM! These books sound so intriguing. I'll have to look for them.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Thanks, Andrea! It's fun to see you all here, too!

Susan said...

I loved NINTH WARD, too, so I'll definitely have to check out SUGAR. It sounds like a really good one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention :)

Akoss said...

Welcome!!!
Sorry I'm late to this. I've head NW on my list forever but I hope to get to it sometime soon.
It would be amazing to meet you at that conference in Feb. I really hope to make it.
Thanks for your lovely features. I'm adding them to my list.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Thanks for the welcome, Akoss! And that would be awesome to meet you at the conference next year!

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