Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fusion Stories! (and other ramblings)

So, May is Asian-American Heritage Month. To celebrate, 10 children's and YA authors got together to spotlight "Ten new contemporary novels by Asian Americans aren’t traditional tales set in Asia nor stories about coming to America for the first time."

Check out the list at Fusion Stories.

I thought this was an awesome idea, so to join the party, I'm reading all the fusion stories this month, substituting earlier works if the highlighted story isn't published yet.

But, first I'm going to ramble on about myself for a while, because it's my blog! I can do what I want!

Mainly, the wedding I went to this weekend was wonderfully fun AND I got to meet some other kidlit dorks, including someone who knows David Levithan. And Rachel Cohn! My geeky heart just about died! My response was "Can I touch you?!" Initially, he thought I was being a bitch, when really, I was in total AWE!

And now I'm off to North Carolina for my sister's wedding!

Also, I want to give a shout-out to Lauren. She's my new-ish coworker and she is awesome. I don't think I've mentioned that yet. But who else would randomly burst into song with you on the reference desk? Especially when said song is a medley of the Simpson's musical version of Street Car Named Desire?

You can always depend on the kindness of strangers!
To buck up your spirits and shield you from dangers!
Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret:
A stranger's just a friend you haven't met.
You haven't met!

That's what too much story time can do to a person!

Also, here's a video I've been watching a lot of lately:

Because do you know what's better than a Kate Pierson muppet? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Also, how awesome is it when you look like a total moody rock star while rocking out on a banjo?!

Anyway, some reviews!

Good Luck, Ivy Lisa Yee

I haven't read an American Girl book in years. Like, not since I was the targeted reading age and read all of the Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly books. Yes, only those three, because BACK IN MY DAY there only were three. Initially, there were only 3 books for 3 dolls! Yes, I was a recipient of the original Pleasant Company catalog.

Anyway, Yee's book took me right back there. And it was weird at the same time, because after reading Yee's other work (by which I mean the hysterical Millicent Min, Girl Genius) this has a very different voice. This... reads like an American Girl book, which it should. I think writing like that, in someone else's corporate voice must be very hard, but Yee's awesome at it. (Ok, I've drafted my share of press releases in hoity toity British English in the proper corporate voice. I know it's hard.)

Anyway, the book. Ivy Ling is not feeling lucky. Her best friend, Julie (who is actually the American Girl) has moved across town. Her parents are really busy and can't help Ivy with her Chinese school project. Plus, they've been eating take-away Chinese food from her grandparent's Chinese resteraunt. And Ivy's grandparents heard her complaining.

But that's not the worst of it. The big inter-city gymnastics tournament is coming up. Ivy needs to compete in the all events, but she fell off the balance beam last time and is having a hard time getting her routine right again. As if that weren't bad enough, the big Ling family reunion is coming up. On the same day as the gymnastics meet.

Ivy can't go to both, and her parents are making her decide, only they have different ideas about which one is more important.

Whatever will Ivy do?!

I loved the "American Girl" ness of it. Also, in the background material, there are some awesome pictures of Lisa Yee in the 70s.

I had forgotten how many appearance details American Girl books put in. As a kid I really liked that, but it's a little jarring to me as an adult.

Minn and Jake Janet S. Wong

This is not really a fusion story. Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer is a Fusion Story, but it doesn't come out until August, so I have to wait for it. So, I read the one that came before it instead. But, as far as the reader knows, this one doesn't have any Asian-Americans in it, because the fact that Jake is 1/4 Korean comes out in the next book and causes some tension when Minn wonders why Jake didn't tell her. At least, that's what the various blurbs I've read tell me.

Anyway, in this book (a prose novel)

Minn is feeling very empty,
and very tall,
and very odd,
and very pigtailed,
and very lizardy,
and very much alone.

Because her best friend laughed at her with another girl. She ends up being paired with the new kid,Jake, who's afraid of lizards. Catching lizards is the only thing kids do in Santa Brunella. So, Minn is going to teach Jake how to catch lizards. But there are accidents and mean kids and other grade-school stuff to endure.

Very well told. Minn and Jake, as well as the rest of the kids, are authentic, and their trials and tribulations are small, as they are for most kids, but aren't trivialized, which is refreshing.

And now for some non-Fusion Stories, because who knows when I'll get to blog again?

Thumbelina: Tiny Runaway Bride Barbara Ensor

This is a retelling of Thumbelina, in the sense of straight-up retelling it with a few variations, not recasting it, a la Shannon Hale or Gail Carson Levine.

Except the ending is different. But the narrator warns us. I'm quoting from an ARC here, so it might not be 100% accurate (but I hope it is, because it's the very matter-of-fact voice that the narrator and Thumbelina use throughout)

Now you know exactly what happened and can write a book report, if you need to do that, or count this as part of your summer reading list. Nobody will mind or think any less of you if you just close the book and DO NOT READ ANOTHER WORD.

But, to tell you the truth, there is something more. If you felt there was something forced about that ending, you were right."

And that's why I loved the book. That, and the wonderful illustrations that were made by cutting out black construction paper. A nice retelling of a fairy tale that gives Thumbelina back her spunk without detracting from Anderson's original.

Clementine's Letter Sara Pennypaker

Just when Clementine and her 3rd grade teacher have figured each other out, Mr. D'Matz is going to go off and go to Egypt IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCHOOL YEAR! And the new teacher has new rules that Clementine can't guess.

If you liked the others, you'll like this. I'm seriously starting to worry about Margaret though. That girl's going to need therapy sooner rather than later. I do like how well Clementine handles her, though.

In the paint section, hundreds of little paint tubes, all neat and new, sat on the shelf. Margaret threw her hands up and backed away, as if the tubes of paint were just waiting to burst all over her clean clothes. Margaret doesn't even liket o look at things that might get her dirty.

"Quick, run over to the paper aisle!" I told her. "Just keep staring at all those nice clean stacks of paper!"

I also like how the trip to the Chinese grocery store yields a whole new host of vegetable names for her brother. Bamboo shoot, scallion, daikon radish...


Lisa Yee said...

Thank you for your kind words about IVY!

Ms. Lauren said...

And I lucked out and got a co-worker with a fine appreciation of Sesame Street (and a superb interpretation of Elephant and Piggie) :)

Jennie said...

Lisa-- I just call 'em as I see 'em! Keep the stories coming!

Lauren-- I think we have more fun than should be allowed at work. :)