NaNoWriMo starts today, but look at me, I'm still totally posting over here at The YA-5! If you, too, are NaNo-ing, I posted some info on my own NaNo process (or, um, lackthereof) here. Also, Hannah Moskowitz posted an awesome blog on NaNo and PJ Hoover put up another 10 Things From the Place post, this time NaNo-themed, which our writing group compiled on Friday.
Anyway, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite reads from small presses. Why? Small presses are awesome, but it's often word of mouth that gets books in the hands of readers. Recently I told you about Ilsa J. Bick's DRAW THE DARK, published by Carolrhoda. If you don't have this book yet, GO GET ONE. Or check to see if your library has a copy. It's awesome.
But there are other small press books I want to share with you, too! So here goes.
TOFU QUILT by Ching Yeung Russell (Lee & Low, 2008)
This is a beautiful collection of poetry, which reads almost like a verse novel. Together, the autobiographical poems tell the story of a girl growing up in Hong Kong in the 60s. This girl wants so badly to be a writer, and while some, like her cousins and her mother, support her, some teachers ridicule her for her efforts. The girl's extended family chastises her mother for continuing to send her daughter to school. Both heartbreaking and enriching, this book is an empowering read for young girls and women. I hope the poetically-inclined as well as those interested in cross-cultural themes will give it a read.
THE SECRETS OF THE CHEESE SYNDICATE by Donna St. Cyr (CBAY Books, 2009)
A fun middle-grade romp perfect for reluctant readers, this book is the story of a boy destined to be a cheese monger. Except a cheese monger isn't what you think it is -- in the world of The Cheese Syndicate, different cheeses have different powers. And it is up to one boy to save the world -- and his long-missing father -- from things such as manticores and those who might use cheese for evil. Plus, his annoying little sister drank a secret elixir, and without a very special cheese, she's pretty much doomed. I absolutely can't wait for the next book in this series, and fans of quick reads and mysterious fantasies like SPIDERWICK and mythology-influenced stories like PERCY JACKSON will love CHEESE SYNDICATE.
NO SAFE PLACE by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, 2010)
This highly political but ridiculously engrossing story will break your heart by page two. And yet, you won't be able to put it down for a second. It's the story of Iraqi refugee Abdul, a fifteen-year-old boy living in a place called "The Jungle" in France. He's come a long way from his war-torn home country, where he's seen so many loved ones die, but he still has a long way to go. The Jungle is not a safe place to live, and it's only through the help of a nasty smuggler with a tiny boat that he -- and a few other refugees from various other backgrounds -- have any hope of getting to England, where they envision their lives will change for the better. An absolutely eye-opening look at young people across the globe, NO SAFE PLACE is a book that both fiction readers and politically-minded youth will enjoy.
GIRL FROM MARS by Tamara Bach (Groundwood Books, 2008)
A sweet story of unlikely love, set in German suburbia, this quirky book will be quick to make you smile. Miriam, a self-described plain fifteen-year-old girl in a small town who dreams, like many of us, of getting out and living a fabulous big-city life. She wishes she were beautiful and popular and spends every morning commiserating in the girls' restroom with her two best friends, Ines and Suse. Then enters Laura, with her wild black hair and carefree attitude, who rolls her own cigarettes and goes to clubs. Miriam is instantly enchanted, and begins to feel something she's never felt before, especially for a girl. GIRL FROM MARS is beautifully written, and rife with genuine emotion. This is a book that should not be ignored, and I urge anyone who can to track down a copy. It will make your heart ache in all the right ways. I am really hoping that Groundwood will publish translations of Tamara Bach's other books in the near future.
There you go! Lots of books to go looking for! You can pretend it's like a scavenger hunt, where all the hunters are winners -- as soon as you find these books, you get to read them and enjoy them and love them and tell all your friends about them! YAY! And remember, if your local bookstore or library doesn't stock books from these publishers, TELL THEM that they totally should!
PS: I am hosting a giveaway over at my dot com! Go here to read an interview with Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguié, and enter to win a copy of CRUSADE! Woo!