Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This dreary weather is making me sleepy and grouchy. Or, it may have something to do with the fact that I spent the last 3 hours writing a midterm exam. Yeah - I think that is where this brain dead feeling is coming from. Writing the right answer for multiple choice tests is easy, creating three "good" wrong answers isn't always quite as easy.

We celebrated Mardi Gras last night down at Tickles. We had no intention of doing so - Steve was just going to Cingular to cut off the phone service to my old phone, but I was having so much fun people watching while I was sitting in Tickles waiting for him that we stayed for dinner. The wait staff was all decked out in hats and beads. I came home with a cool set of beads with a surf board at the end, and they didn't cost me anything other than a headache from the wine I drank. That place was packed and I don't think there was a berth left in the marina. I just drool over the luxury yachts docked there. Heck - I couldn't afford to fill their fuel tank or pay for their dinghy! But looking doesn't cost anything and down here at this time of the year there is a cornucopia of yachts to drool over.

One of my favorite YA novels from the 1990s is Han Nolan's Dancing on the Edge. I can still close my eyes and see her bathrobe catch fire as she tries to get nearer to her father. She is dancing at the edge of the flames and gets too close. Nolan sets scenes so deftly you are left breathless. Nolan had my undivided attention again, with her upcoming title from Harcourt - A Summer of Kings. The cover itself is a visual feast - the side view of a young blonde blue eyed teenage girl, the face of a young black man with haunted eyes, and a sepia/reddish tone photograph of a group of marchers headed for Washington. Esther is the less than appreciated daughter of parents whose lives revolve around their other two talented children. Esther is told, flat to her face, that she has no talent and no one stops her younger sister or brother from calling her stupid. Since she got held back in 3rd grade Esther has lost every summer to some type of lessons so that she will catch up. But, Esther's talents will never lie in math and science. Her talent is in her innocent truthfulnes and her open acceptance of others that encourages them to tell her their story. And if they don't do so willingly, Esther will drag it out of them. That's what happens when 18-year-old King-Roy is sent to live with them. King-Roy has been accused of shooting a white man and if his mama, Esther's mother's best friend when they were little, says he is innocent, he is welcome to live with them. But King-Roy is angry and not content to live in the white devil's big mansion. He spends more and more time in Harlem, with the followers of Malcolm X. Esther is worried that King-Roy no longer cares about her and does he think of her as one of those white devils. Esther's family might think she is slow, but she is far from it. Her talks with King-Roy spark an interest in the civil rights movement and she becomes a regular at the library, reading everything she can about Martin Luther King Junior and Gandhi. She even convinces her family that they should join the March on Washington. This is a beautifully written book with characters so fleshed out, even the secondary characters, that I can close my eyes and see them - Aunt Pie with her hose rolled around her knees, Mother in her prim and proper dress and jacket, Father brushing his hair back in consternation, and Pip, the boy next door who has matured while Esther was busy convincing herself that she could be King-Roy's girlfriend. I had a whirlwind of emotions as I read this book - sadness, fear for the character's safety, laughter over Esther's delightful innocence, and the conviction that this is a book we must share with teens.

Now I am taking a break to play mah jong for a bit before my evening chat with my class and wonderful YA author Lara Zeises.