Tag Archives: coming-of-age

What in The Hound is That? Fellhounds & Fantasy Make Great YA in Farr’s Moon Chase and Moon Crossing

fellhound

Picture found on Google Images

They stared each other down,

eye-to -eye, flesh-to-fur, waiting

for the magic to begin.

What really drew me to Cathy Farr was not only her books and the fellhounds, but her decision to write different versions of her books for struggling readers. As a former English teacher, I have worked with struggling readers across all grade levels, from middle school to college level.  I admire writers who want to create stories that can be read and understood by all of their readers.

 

Cathy & Finn B & W

Cathy Farr, Author of MOON CHASE, MOON CROSSING, & THE BRIDGE READERS

Bio

Cathy Farr has always loved stories; listening to them, reading them and writing them. She lives in South Wales with her husband and her Irish Wolfhound, Mojo. It was Cathy’s first Wolfhound, Finn who inspired the magnificent Fellhounds of her books. Nine foot long nose to tail, Finn weighed almost fifteen stone and Mojo, now only 18 months is almost that big already; Cathy is 5ft 7inches but her weight remains a closely guarded secret.

 

Author Interview

How did you come up with the idea to write MOON CHASE & MOON CROSSING?

 

The original idea came to me when I was working in Scotland about 30 years ago. That was where I saw my first Irish Wolfhound. I came home and asked my mum if we could have one but she said no (too big, she said!) so I started to write a story about massive hounds that I called Fellhounds. But it was only after I got my first wolfhound Finn, six years ago, that I really started to get a feel for what the fellhounds might be like, and walking with the dog in the gorgeous countryside around my village gave me lots of inspiration for the land of Thesk and the adventures the hounds have there.

 

 

How did you come up with the character of Wil? How do you flesh out your characters? Do you write character sketches, or do they tell you whom they are?

 

Wil evolved from the original idea I had all those years ago. Back then he was older and had a different name but the more I thought of him as a teenager the stronger he got in my mind’s eye. His basic traits are based on my best friend’s son who is kind, helpful, a bit clumsy and tries but doesn’t always succeed. I used that as my base and developed Wil from there.

I decided early on that he wasn’t going to be some super-hero; I like the fact that he acts before he thinks and gets himself into some really sticky situations because of it. I also like the fact that he missed his mum so much and he isn’t afraid to cry – he’s human, after all.

All my characters tell me who they are. When I’m writing dialogue I always ask myself, ‘Would they really say that, and in that way?’ When I was working on Moon Crossing I re-wrote a whole scene in the middle of the book when they get attached by eagards (huge birds of prey) because Mortimer just didn’t sound right at all.

I spend a lot of my time walking the dog with my characters in my head – I think I know them pretty well now, but they still surprise me every now and then!

 

What are fellhounds, and why should young adults be interested in them?

 

Fellhounds are just like Irish Wolfhounds but they are much bigger. An Irish wolfhound stands eye-height to a child but fellhounds stand eye-height to an adult. They are brave and loyal but they don’t have human characteristics – they are animals and, largely, behave like animals. When I visit schools I take my wolfhound with me so that the children can have an idea of what fellhounds might be like. They have the most beautiful amber eyes that have a way of looking at you like they really do know what you’re saying. I love that – and so do the children. They are just awesome, beautiful animals that command respect – you just want to know more about them.

 

How can teen boys relate to Wil’s story?

 

Wil’s problem in Moon Chase is that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and is accused of something he didn’t do. He could run away, go home and hope he never gets caught but he knows he will always be looking over his shoulder; then, during the Moon Chase itself he realizes he actually cares about his companions, especially Gisella. He cares about his mother, too, has no idea what happened to his father when he was taken away by Lord Rexmoore and he worries about what people think about him; he doubts himself, too, and as I said before, he’s also not afraid to cry – so in many ways he’s not unlike a lot of teen boys today.

 

What YA genre best describes MOON CHASE & MOON CROSSING? Which features of this genre draw teen readers in the most?

 

They are fantasy adventures but I’ve been careful to avoid any overt magic; it’s all very subtle, so you think – was that magic or could that really happen? Both books are also very fast paced. I always worry about boring people – the same goes for my writing. I firmly believe something has to happen on every page, otherwise people might get bored and stop reading. One reviewer described the pace of Moon Chase as being like ‘a hare on roller skates’! He loved it.

 

How do the fellhounds compare to THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES? Would you pair your book with Doyle’s work in a thematic study? If you could pair your books with a classic or contemporary book, which book would you choose?

 

I was walking with Mojo in the fog a while ago, out in the middle of a field. He was up ahead of me and stopped to see where I was; as he looked around I did think he really did look like the Hound of the Baskervilles. But in reality, no, the fellhounds are not the same. The hound in Doyle’s story was a victim; an animal that had been brutalized by neglect and bad treatment. The myth was far scarier than the reality, and of course, the Baskervilles hound didn’t appear until almost the very end of the tale. My fellhounds are part of the lives of the people of Thesk, just like Irish wolfhounds. They were originally bred for hunting wolves, bears and wild boar; they were kings’ dogs and were also used in battle to get men off horses and out of chariots – that’s why they’re so big. That was what I used as my inspiration for the brave and powerful beasts of my books.

 

As for pairing my books, I’m not sure: I think there are echoes of Wuthering Heights particularly in the second book, and some people talk about The Hobbit, but really only because Thesk is a made up land and the map in the book reminds people of the Shire, I think.

 

Tell me more about the idea behind and the concept of THE BRIDGE READERS.

At a book signing event last summer a young girl sidled up to my table, picked up a book and read the first page. Then she looked at me.

‘I just don’t get it,’ she said, her eyes full of genuine concern. ‘I can read the words, you know. It’s not like I can’t, you know, read. But I don’t know what they’re saying.’ She read the page again then looked at me and shrugged.

‘I just don’t get them,’ she said, put the book down and walked away. But that young lady stayed in my head and I decided to write a book she could read.

Now, the original version of Moon Chase is some 82,000 words and tells of a boy who, wrongly accused of a crime, sets out to prove his innocence helped by huge hounds called fellhounds; it is enjoyed by confident 7 years olds and octogenarians alike.

So how to go about re-writing a story that, as the reviewer described it, has a pace as fast as a hare on roller skates?

My mission was to keep that pace using vocabulary and grammar accessible to weaker readers while not being boring – or worse, patronising. Passive sentences and idioms were also a big no no because children struggling with language just don’t get them. The key was using words that would keep a struggling reader engaged while also giving them small hurdles to build confidence with the turn of each page.

 

What inspires you to write?

 

I’ve made up stories since I was very little. As a young child I had an imaginary friend called Stingray and I used to lie in bed at night telling him stories until I fell asleep. I love seeing a story evolve. I don’t write to a plan, I just start. I ask myself questions as I’m going: What could happen next? What if this happened? What would she do if he did this? I heard a writer say once that he wrote stories to find out what happens in the end – that’s why I write.

 

If someone were to write a fantasy or myth about you, what would your character be like and what unique qualities would the myth reveal to your readers?

 

I think I’d be like Lady Élanor in my books: she is mysterious and can read minds. I love her calm competence. But she is vulnerable, too, and can’t solve everyone’s problems – if she could there’d be no story as she could just sort it all out!

 

Today’s world can sometimes be scarier than the fictional world of your books. What advice would you give to adolescents?

 

Never forget you’re not the only one in the world. There are people all around you who have feelings, too; who get hurt, who are happy, sad, hungry, in pain. There is always somewhere in the world where someone is having a far better time than you …and somewhere else where they are having a much, much worse time. So think about others. There’s not nearly enough empathy in today’s world.

 

It seems like Wil undergoes a journey in each book in which he discovers something new about himself and about life in general. When you were around Wil’s age, what lessons did you learn on your journey of growing up?

 

When I was Wil’s age, my mum said to me one day, ‘Well, Cathy, there are pretty girls in this world, and there are ones with lovely personalities, so you’re just going to have to develop your personality.’ Harsh, yes, but at that age I just thought she was right and did my best to be interesting, caring and nice to be with – and I like to think that I did OK in the end.

 

 

Many writers want to leave their mark on the world. How do you want your work to be remembered?

 

I would love it if my books helped just one person to read and become interested in reading more. Books are so important; they hold the key to all that has made us who we are today. It would be a disaster for mankind if books were forgotten.

 

 

 

Moon Chase cover shot-1

Excerpt from MOON CHASE

 

Behind him, up on the Fell, deep, resounding barks echoed around the black hills, Fellmen shouted and horses snorted – the Moon Chase was now at full tilt.

Below, the wolf in the hollow had stopped. It took no notice of the noise from the Chase; it was concentrating all of its attention on the narrowing gully. Wil crouched. He could see that the beast was getting ready to spring – and right in the line of its gaze was the athletic shape of Gisella, picking her way down the edge of the rocks towards the wolf. Wil didn’t need to read the wolf’s mind; he could see clearly that it was watching the girl – what Wil didn’t know was if she could see the wolf!

There was no time to try to get back to get the others so Wil half-climbed, half-fell down onto the path and ducked behind the remains of a rotting tree. He listened and prayed that the wolf wouldn’t hear his pounding heart. Its throaty growl instantly brought back memories of the snarling heads mounted in the Great Hall – including the two sets of deadly-sharp teeth!

He counted to three, took a deep breath and quickly popped his head around the decaying stump. What he saw rooted him to the spot.

Gisella was standing at the end of the gully; once again, eyes fixed, feet apart and her shoulders square. But this time her crossbow was aimed directly at the body of a massive, snarling wolf that was getting ready to spring. Its hackles were standing in a ridge along its back from its ears to the base of its great black tail, which it was wagging in slow, deliberate sweeps across the ground.

But Wil’s sudden movement made Gisella look up – the wolf sprang.

Wil screamed, ‘GISELLA!’ and pelted forward.

 

Moon-Crossing front coverExcerpt from MOON CROSSING

Gisella opened her mouth to speak but another coughing fit robbed her of any words. She sat back, defeated, and by the look in her eyes Wil could see she was also frightened.

‘I’ll get you home, Giz,’ he said. ‘Trust me.’

She bit her lip and spoke again in a voice broken by her battle for air.

‘Have you got any of that… potion we gave… Mortimer…You know… the stuff for… blood loss?’

Wil looked down at Gisella’s blood-stained cloak and tried to fix his face into an expression that didn’t betray his alarm.

‘You’re not… are you… is it–’

Gisella gave a weak smile.

‘For Phinn,’ she said.

‘Oh, yes! I… of course. For a moment then–’

‘Wil! Give Phinn some of that… potion! If he’s going to get us home… he’s going to… need it.’

Then she sank back against a wooden plank that ran as a seat across the centre of the boat – behind the seat the boat no longer existed.

‘Oh, right. Yes. I’ll do that now. I’ve got it here somewhere,’ Wil lied. How could he tell Gisella he’d given her the remains of the potion back at the castle?

After a little searching, he found the little silk bag. It had been wedged up under the transom – during the landing, Wil guessed. He moved away before he sought out the bottle that he knew was empty; although he needn’t have worried – when he looked back Gisella’s eyes were closed.

‘Don’t die,’ he whispered and turned away.

From behind him, almost lost in the wind, he just caught her weak reply.

‘I’ll try not to.’

 

Book Blurb about THE BRIDGE READERS

Cathy adapted Moon Chase as a Bridge Reader after working with ESL children in local schools and with the charity Afasic Cymru*. Bridge Readers help improving readers to develop their reading skills as they move towards Young Adult and Adult fiction. Ideal for weaker and improving readers and those learning English as a second language, they contain no bad language and no sexual content – they’re just really great reads.

Bridge Readers: bridging the gap between learning to read and reading for pleasure.

*Afasic is a parent led organisation representing children and young people with specific language impairment (SLI) and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN); their work has helped open the world of words to many who would otherwise still find that door firmly closed.

 

Thematic Connections

A boy and his dog has always been a common theme in literature.  Teachers can use Farr’s books in any grade level, 6-12, to explore this theme.  Students can examine how the relationship dynamics between animals and humans in each book.  A playful twist on the MTV reality show, Parental Control, can be having different characters from different books being interviewed by one of the dog characters.  The pet could be looking for a new owner or it may decide to stay with his current one. Each owner or character from the books would have to tell how they treated their pet in the novel.  Each contestant could also make a diorama or 3D model of their setting from the novel to aid the pet in its decision. The pet could also ask different questions. It allows students to use role play and their imaginations to connect with the literature.

  • Books That Feature Dogs/Wolves

meeting chance MEETING CHANCE by Jennifer Lavoie

 

 

rottenROTTEN by Michael Northrup

 

 

shiloh_bookcoverSHILOH  by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

 

 

white fang WHITE FANG by Jack London

 

 

winnBECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE  by Kate DiCamillo

 

 

12th grade is usually the time that students explore British literature in depth.  MOON CHASE & MOON CROSSING would make great thematic connections.  Fantasy and Gothic genres are very compatible when pairing Farr’s works with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, or even The Hound of the Baskervilles.  But the British invasion of the literature classroom can branch out from the classics and include YA literature by British authors.

  • Books by British YA authors

entangled ENTANGLED  by Cat Clarke

 

 

tiberius found TIBERIUS FOUND  by Andrew Goodman

 

 

you against me YOU AGAINST ME by Jenny Downham

 

 

 

silenced  SILENCED by Simon Packham

 

 

Connect with Cathy Farr!

 

Website:  www.fellhounds.co.uk

Twitter:  @cathy_farr

FBhttps://www.facebook.com/AuthorCathyFarr

 

People can buy signed copies of my books from my website www.fellhounds.co.uk

OR they can get copies from Waterstones, The Times books on line, Amazon, or they can get their local bookshop to order it from their distributor (UK only).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is Hidden Will Eventually Be Unearthed–Wraithsong by E. J. Squires

Wraithsong cover-1

~Birthed from the cradle of humanity. Destined to break the boundaries of both worlds.~

Eve, mother of all living,

labored and toiled long days and nights.

One day, God came down and visited her.

Embarrassed that she only had enough time

to clean seven of her thirteen children,

she hid the six soiled ones from him.

God found them, and reprimanded Eve

for having been ashamed

of her own flesh and blood.

“Those you have hidden from me…”

God said, “…they will stand out

from the rest of mankind.

 I will clean them for you

so that all men and women will aspire

to be that which you have cast aside.

From this day forward,

they will be known as the Huldra,

meaning secret desire.”

–Origin myth excerpted from Wraithsong

Wraithsong is a YA paranormal romance in which Sonia is a high school senior approaching graduation and her eighteenth birthday.  She is dealing with typical adolescent girl problems: a Mean Girls Regina George  carbon copy, Savannah, harassing her over a guy she could care less about & Sonia’s unique conflict-resolution  style of spitting in the Savannah’s face leading to a principal’s office visit and a work detail punishment with a guy whom she would rather be with, Anthony.

Oh, yeah—the spit has a supernatural effect on people: it brings them under Sonia’s control.

As Sonia approaches her 18th birthday, other powers and secrets about her ancestry are revealed through a sensational chain of events and plot twists that will keep the reader engaged in suspense. She discovers that she is part of a mystical group of beings known as The Huldra.  They are very powerful and beautiful creatures who are facing extinction at the hands of someone deep within their ranks.  But who is it?  Is it Anthony, his mother–The Great Huldra– or someone else?  Things get really complicated as Sonia and Anthony get closer and Sonia’s mother is kidnapped.

Wraithsong is the perfect blend of mythology, the paranormal, and adolescent angst.  It would appeal to middle school and high school readers.  Teens will be especially drawn to Sonia and Anthony.

Six Questions For Evelyn Squires

1) Before you started writing, you were a ballerina and a dance studio director. What do you like about dancing? How are dancing and writing similar or different to you?
I started dancing when I was twelve, and immediately fell in love with the art form—I still love it. I love music, so that is a big part of it, but I also love the freedom movement gives and the creativity behind choreography. In ballet you learn hundreds upon hundreds of different movements or steps, and to choreograph, you weave them together. It is the same in writing, but in writing you use words and weave them together to create a story. They are also the same in that the art form makes you think and feel human experience and emotion if done correctly. They are very different because one words as the medium, the other uses movements with music. Both can be very powerful, if done right, in conveying.

2) How did you come up with the idea for Wraithsong?
My husband actually suggested I write a contemporary novel based on these alluring creatures, and I just started writing!

3) Why would Norse mythology interest young teens?
I think in general any type of mythology and folklore interests teens and adults. There is something compelling about Norse mythology and folklore in general, from Thor’s mighty hammer to light and dark elves, to trolls and beyond. So much of literature is base in Norse mythology (Think Lord of the Rings for example), and most don’t realize how many of these supernatural beings originally come from Norse Mythology (Elves, trolls, dwarfs, giants…)

4) If Wraithsong was made into a movie, which actor and actress would you like to see as Sonia and Anthony?
Sonia: Jane Levy (blonde)
Anthony: Alex Pettyfer

5) What makes Wraithsong stand out among other paranormal YA romance novels? What made you interested in writing for young adults?
It stands out from others because it takes a completely new supernatural creature and weaves it into today’s world. There are no vampires or witches, but a new being with some really amazing powers. Teens can relate to Sonia (the lead) because she goes through a lot of challenges as she matures and grows up. She doesn’t understand what is happening to her and why she is changing so dramatically, and the intense urges and feelings she is experiencing, and I remember feeling that way as a teen (though, of course I don’t have the power she does). I love the YA genre, because you are just coming to truly know yourself and it is an exciting time in life where anything can happen. The world is at your fingertips and there is so much to look forward to.

6) The Huldra have the ability to take certain qualities from humans. If you could select certain qualities or powers from real or imagined people, which five would you choose?
I would choose the following:

Patience (Could always use more!)

Assertiveness (So I would put myself out there more)

Wisdom (So I would know what to do in difficult predicaments or situations)

Humor (I am not too serious of a person, but more humor in the everyday would be awesome!)

Self-control (So I would stop eating so much chocolate!)

Author Bio
Evelyn J. Squires was born in Asker, Norway and is the second of eight children. Her father, being an entrepreneur, moved the family back and forth from the US to Norway, and finally settled in Utah in 1992. Evelyn completed high school and continued her education at Brigham Young University where she studied Comparative Literature and Ballet among other things, and in 2007 she opened a ballet studio in Florida. Evelyn has always loved to read and has written poetry, lyrics and short stories. In 2012 she decided it was time to change careers so she could spend more time with her three young children and started writing. Her first series, A Viking Blood Saga, though truly an Epic Fantasy, is centered around Norse Mythology and the Vikings. Being from Norway she enjoys learning about her heritage as she writes books. Wraithsong, the first book in the Desirable Creatures series, is her first contemporary Paranormal Romance and is based in Norse Folklore. Currently, Evelyn resides in Florida with her husband and three young children.

Connect with Evelyn on her website:  http://ejsquires.com/about-me.html

Where to Buy Wraithsong

http://www.amazon.com/Wraithsong-Desirable-Creatures-Series-Book-ebook/dp/B00IT5ADXC/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Teaching Activity for Wraithsong

Mythology is one of the main genres of literature that is covered in 9th grade. Typically, adolescents become familiar with Greek mythology through works such as The Odyssey, The AeneidAntigone, & etc.  Wraithsong gives teachers the opportunity to broaden the scope.

With Roman & Greek mythology, students learn about the hierarchies of gods and goddesses.  Wraithsong has its own hierarchy as well.  The Huldra have the power to appropriate characteristics from humans.  Students could decide which powers or characteristics they can take from various gods and goddesses and create their own.  Since Wraithsong has the Huldra existing in modern day times, students could place their newly formed creatures in a modern high school setting and write their own stories. The idea of taking different qualities and merging them together seems similar to cooking.  All of those ingredients come together to create a uniform dish of flavors.  Instead of stories, students can describe the composition of their new gods and goddesses in the form of a recipe.  Each appropriated or newly created attribute or power could be listed as ingredients.  The directions could tell how to combine them into a new creature and explain how this creature would impact the world.

The YA novel also poses a real world problem:  people’s misuse or abuse of power.  Whether you are the Great Huldra trying to galvanize different groups within the supernatural race or a CEO running a large corporation, the famous quotes still apply:  1) “With great power comes great responsibility.”  2) “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  There are other real world and/or social problems that plague our society today as well.  In what ways could they be portrayed and solved?  How can the problems that Sonia, Anthony, & the Huldra be portrayed and resolved?

Students could pursue the answer to this question creatively, of course, through recipes and haiku.

Here are two examples that deal with Hurricane Katrina and language discrimination:

A haiku follows this pattern:

1st line—–5 syllables

2nd line— 7 syllables

3rd line—  5 syllables

Hurricane Katrina

Nature’s fury strikes,

Leaving her victims despondent.

Don’t blame; help rebuild.

Cooking up a solution to language discrimination

1 cup of acceptance

½ cup of change

2 teaspoons of each dialect and language

3 cups of grammar rules

4 tablespoons of code-switching

2 quarts of misconceptions

2 cups of stereotypes

Blend stereotypes and misconceptions until the mixture is smooth and all lumps disappear.  Stereotypes and misconceptions must be minimized before change is added.  Fold in change, a little at a time.  Pause during the process to allow the change to slowly dissolve the mixture.  Sprinkle grammar rules into the mixture gently.  They are needed for students to learn Standard English, but dumping them in all at once may threaten the texture of the mixture. Spoon in each dialect and language and stir slowly, allowing each one of them to be represented equally.  Sift code-switching into the batter.  This ingredient allows students to realize that certain situations call for certain types of language.  Pour the mixture into a classroom and cover with acceptance.   Bake at 180 degrees or days.  Give time for students and teachers to compromise on the use and variety of language.

Thematic Connections

(These novels also contain some of the themes and paranormal attributes found in Wraithsong.  Listed below is a mix of literature that involves Greek and Norse mythology and fantastical myths and characters representative of different cultures and settings. They can be paired together for whole group, small group, or a thematic feature for independent reading areas.  Wraithsong can also be paired with classical literature such as Dante’s Inferno & Paradise Lost because the YA novel’s detailed history of the Huldra includes similar elements.)

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When Variables Unbalance the Equations of Teenage Love & Life: My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson

Image courtesy of Google Images

Image courtesy of Google Images

If I could only rearrange and eliminate

the variables of hit-and-miss relationships

to achieve the perfect balance.

–By Alexandra Caselle

Image courtesy of Google Images

Image courtesy of Google Images

Like a moth to a flame

Burned by the fire

My love is blind

Can’t you see my desire?

That’s the way love goes

–“That’s the Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Image Courtesy of Google Images

First love is like a Goody’s powder:

All that ails you goes away,

giddiness bubbles up inside,

the calm before the storm.

Then the effects wear off.

–By Alexandra Caselle

 

rhombus 2     My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson. 2007, Woodbury, MN:  Flux. ISBN13:  978-0-7387-1160-7.

Teen angst involves Mother Nature’s cruel joke of puberty:

Gangly arms grazing against the ground.  Boys’ voices echoing in alternating crescendos of thunder booming and frogs croaking after a summer rain. Fitting rooms brimming over with World War III battles of the hems between mothers and daughters.

Then Mother Nature wanted to add hormones to the mix.

Falling in love for the first time derails and disrupts.

If adolescents only knew that the first relationship creates a lens in which they will view every future, intimate connection.  It will propel them like caterpillars into a cocoon where they will eventually break out and transform into a monarch butterfly—each tear, each experience, each emotional, mental, and spiritual scar imprinted on the mosaic of their wings.

The next significant other bound by the coordinates on the x(ex)-y axis.

With Rhonda, she chooses to rely on the “comfort in the exactness of math and the precision of science (pg. 33)” to prevent future heartbreaks.  The whirlwind of fun, fumbling sex and the flowing legato of game ends when Rhonda gets pregnant.  Christopher’s choir boy image risks the chance of being marred not only socially, but physically by his father’s pummeling fists.

Rhonda’s dad decides to take her to Atlanta to end her pregnancy.  Rhonda returns home to focus her energies on studying and tutoring in the local college’s program. It isn’t until one of the most popular girls waltzes in with trig problems and baby issues of her own that Rhonda realizes that she may not have been totally sure of her father’s decision.

So the overlapping of Sarah’s problems into Rhonda’s life blurs the lines of order. Having a crush on Sarah’s brother, David, does not help the situation.

David is the inverse of Christopher, but Rhonda continuously wants to label him as a jerk like her ex, Christopher. She can’t deny the way she feels.  She soon realizes that she must see herself through a different angle before she can explore all of the contours of real love that David can offer.

There is an element of surprise when the father of Sarah’s baby is revealed. This climactic event also places David in conflict with Christopher.

Johnson’s writing style really draws the reader in. Throughout my reading of the novel, I thought Varian Johnson was a female.  He depicts each character with such deft detail, especially the way he is able to place himself inside the thoughts and emotions of a teenage girl in a predicament like Rhonda’s.  The reader can actually feel the steely personality of Rhonda and Christopher’s mother, Judge Gamble.  Forget about Miranda on The Devil Wears Prada and the mother in Mommie Dearest.

Dare I say, that this writer who has always been plagued by math anxiety thoroughly enjoyed the blend of math and literature.  Some areas of his book helped me, the mathematically challenged, understand some concepts through his writing.

And those adolescents who love numbers like writers love words (those extraordinary individuals affectionately dubbed as “blerds” or “nerds” by today’s social media communities) will enjoy Johnson’s use of word problems, graphs, Venn diagrams, geometry, and other mathematic functions to describe the complexities of Rhonda’s, Sarah’s, and David’s lives as the plot advances.

Johnson also dispels the stereotype that boys excel in math and sciences. Here, he portrays a young, African American girl who loves these subjects and plans to study a major.  Adolescent girls need to read about Rhonda so they can be motivated to enter those fields.

Through the language of mathematics, Rhonda breaks down the language of recovery: healing from the past, manipulating the variables of relationships between parents and children, and discovering new postulates of friendship and romance through Sarah and David Gamble.  She draws new boundaries of intersecting life lines.

The rhombus also becomes a significant symbol because of the way Rhonda negatively boxes her identity into it, but she inverts its meaning into something more defining and beautiful.

This book would be a great read-aloud for English/ reading classes and all levels of math classes.  It provides many opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching. Math teachers could also use the problems in the book to simplify the concepts behind the actual mathematical functions.  English teachers can show how mathematics can be used to tell stories mathematically and figuratively. It also will fit nicely into a Southern literature unit, high school or college-level, since Johnson sets the story in South Carolina.  Teachers can discuss how the characters and the themes/topics challenge or confirm Southern mores and how they compare to today’s Southern culture.

Since My Life as a Rhombus deals with handling different types of math, people and situations, teachers can bring the kinesthetic into the classroom and make the reading of this novel more concrete by participating in “The Marshmallow Challenge:”http://www.productivemindset.com/problem-solving/team-building-with-the-marshmallow-challenge/.

I participated in this activity in a team-building training. It challenged my perspective on how our imagination and thinking processes change as we progress from kindergarteners to adults.

My Life as a Rhombus will also challenge readers’ perceptions of mathematics, romance, and tough decisions.

Text-to-Text Connections— Romance & Relationships in African American Young Adult Literature (YAL)

jason and kyra   Jason & Kyra by Dana Davidson

played   Played by Dana Davidson

a teenage love affair  Teenage Love Affair  by Ni-Ni Simone

boyfriend diaries  The Break-Up Diaries by Ni-Ni Simone and Kelli London

breakup diaries   The Break-Up Diaries Vol. 2  by Nikki Carter & Kevin Elliott

chasing romeo  Chasing Romeo  by A. J. Byrd

kelli london  Boyfriend Season by Kelli London

love on 145th street  What They Found on 145th Street  by Walter Dean Myers

romietteRomiette and Julio by Sharon Draper

born Born Blue by Han Nolan

woodsonIf You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Can you suggest any other YAL romances that can be paired with this book?

COMING UP IN BOOK REVIEWS (Yes, Virginia, there are African-American YAL paranormal books. They do exist!):  Ninth Ward  by Jewel Parker Rhodes, Asleep by Wendy Raven McNair, & Orleans by Sherri L. Smith


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Persevering Like Palm Trees in the Wind of Adversity: The Boy from Willow Bend by Joanne C. Hillhouse

boy blog

Red Wines in Antiguan Nights

By Alexandra Caselle

I’m Tanty’s beloved—

tattooed with his mark, red

wine welts on my skin.

They hum and vibrate.

They channel the other spirits,

women I have lost.

My nerves convulse with

synapses of energy,

the call of nature.

Wind rustles through trees,

earthen vessel flooded by

eternal kisses.

Light particles, dust

specks swirl into a tribe,

chanting soucouyants*.

Words flow from their lips,

an all-healing salve, soothing

my prism of pain.

Daydream disperses

like dandelion flurries.

I rub red wine welts,

left by grandaddy’s belt.

His drunken rage, Tanty’s tales

One remains; one gone.

Whisper those four words:

I’m Tanty’s beloved.  Nothing.

Inside , I’m crying.

*soucouyant = [a] woman who is said to have the ability to remove her skin and transform herself into a ball of fire which glides through the night in search of a sleeping victim whose blood she sucks. (word taken from glossary found in the back of Hillhouse’s book)

JoanneHillhouse-Lrg

Image taken from Google Images–(original source) http://www.365antigua.com/arts/literature/BoyFromWillowBendRedux.php

 

 

 

Hillhouse, Joanne C. The Boy from Willow Bend. Turnaround: 2009. 978-1906190293. 95pgs.

Vere Joseph Carmino is a young Antiguan boy enamored by stories.  As The Boy from Willow Bend begins, he is enchanting Kim, one of his first crushes, and others with a tale.  He gets the love of stories from his grandmother, Tanty.  The musicality of the authentic, Antiguan language resonates like wind dipping in and out of multicolored bottle trees as Tanty scolds Vere for not being in the house before dark:

   “Vere Joseph Carmino, why you won’t take telling? I tell you make sure you find yourself home before night fall, an’ every night you come running down the road after dark like some devil chasin’ you.  Then you still expect to go back an’ watch TV.  You best haul your tail inside ‘fore I get vex.”

Tanty envelops Vere into a nurturing warmth and love that is missing from his life.  His mother is gone, and his grandfather only shows affection through physical abuse.  He spends his pension check on alcohol, and Vere’s grandmother has to find odd jobs to maintain a small cushion of money for Vere’s needs.  But soon Tanty is gone and she becomes one of the many women, Makeba the Rasta Queen, Kim, and Elisabeth who abandons him.

Imagine being a youth with no one for support, only a drunk grandfather who takes out his frustration on you.  Imagine handling all of this turmoil while trying to survive poverty.  But Vere survives and develops an inner strength that frees him from his situation.

Vere’s story may take place in Antigua, but the problems he experiences are universal. The book is a great resource to discuss those experiences in the classroom and learn about different cultures and language.  Language inquiry offers adolescents to study language through a network of social constructs such as gender, power structures, race/culture, and class.  It also provides them with an opportunity to study the structure of language linguistically.  Students can examine the lexicon/vocabulary, morphology, phonetics, syntax, rhetorical features, and pragmatic nature of the Antiguan language.

They realize that different languages and dialects are more than just “slang.”

Hillhouse includes an Antiguan glossary in the back of her book, which could be used to introduce the language study. Through language inquiry, teachers will instill an appreciation for language diversity.

The Boy From Willow Bend brings two classroom activities to mind.

When I first started teaching 7th grade Language Arts in Orlando, back in 1996, I taught a multicultural literature unit called Around the Literary World in 9 Weeks.  After reading and discussing several short stories from the literature anthology, I had students to research a country, create a brochure advertising the culture, share a poem or short story by a writer from that country, bring in food indicative of the culture, and choose another activity from a list to represent their research.

During the day of the presentations, I remember how I did not think about all of the specifics dealing with the food aspect of this group project.  For each of the six periods, I had to run downstairs to the faculty lounge, heat up food, and haul it back to the classroom.  It was worth it because some students who were from some of the countries felt pride sharing their culture with their classmates. All in all, everyone, including other teachers who popped in for a bite, enjoyed it.

The Boy From Willow Bend offers an opportunity for this type of project.  Students can research Antigua and other Caribbean countries in a thematic unit.

Another activity allows students to engage in creative writing by writing prepositional poems.  I learned about prepositional poems from a Florida professional development workshop.  Students used books they have read, pictures, or any kind of prompt to write a short poem in which each line begins with a preposition. Students wrote the final drafts on construction paper and decorated the border with scraps of fabric.

Students reading Hillhouse’s book can write prepositional poems about Antigua, a place in the book, or something else from a character’s point-of-view. They can use any type of material from a crafts store to create a mosaic as a background for their poetry. Teachers can also have the students each write a poem that can be combined into one class poem. To introduce the activity, teachers may want to construct examples, write each line on sentence strips, and allow students to put them together in poems.  Afterwards, they have students create their own prepositional poems.

Here is one that I wrote for The Boy From Willow Bend:

In front of the emerald green waters

On top of the pearl white sands

Inside the grove of palm trees

Behind the shanties

Down the dark road

At the dead end

Against the brick wall stands Vere, looking

for a way out.

Here is another one written by someone else:

Above us all a star

with shiny silver reflections.

Over all the mountains it glares.

Onto the water it shines.

Through the trees it glows.

Throughout the sky it’s seen.

From my window

During the night I see a star.

To learn more about additional themes in The Boy From Willow Bend, Althea Romeo-Mark has written an in-depth critical analysis of Hillhouse’s book here:http://aromaproductions.blogspot.com/2012/03/from-dead-end-alley-to-willow-bend.html

 

For more information about language study and inquiry, please see the article, “Feeling the Rhythm of the Critically Conscious Mind” in The English Journal Vol. 93, No. 3 (Jan., 2004), pp. 58-63.

Author Information

“Five Questions for Joanne C. Hillhouse”

http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/five-questions-for-joanne-c-hillhouse

Text-to-Text Connections

Here are more examples of Caribbean young adult and contemporary novels, short stories, and nonfiction that can be used with The Boy From Willow Bend in a thematic unit.  I have also included poems from American poets that would fit into some of the literary themes.  Even though City of Beasts is set in the Amazon rainforest, I still think it would fit into a thematic unit involving these works.

fresh girlFresh Girl  by Jaira Placide

behind the mountains Behind the Mountains  by Edwidge Danticat

before we were free Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

esmeralda santiagoWhen I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

city of the beasts City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

annie johnAnnie John by Jamaica Kincaid

brother i'm dyingBrother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

flight to freedomFlight to Freedom by Ana Veciana-Suarez

cuba 15  Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

browngirl, BrownstonesBrown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall

krik krak Krik?Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

in darknessIn Darkness by Nick Lake

“Parsley” by Rita Dove http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172128

“Harlem Dancer” by Claude McKay  http://www.poetry-archive.com/m/the_harlem_dancer.html

“NaPoWriMo: Poems 4-6”  by Stacia L. Brown  http://stacialbrown.com/2011/04/08/napowrimo-poems-4-6/

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A Deeper Story Lies Underneath: The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake

Color

failure of an invention

by Safiya Henderson-Holmes

i am not any of the faces

you have put on me America

every mask has slipped

i am not any of the names

or sounds you have called me

the tones have nearly

made me deaf

this dark skin, both of us

have tried to bleach

i can smell the cancer.

this thick hair, these thick lips

both of us have tried to narrow

begging entrance through

the needle of your eye

some of me broken

in the squeeze

and even as i carry

a bone of yours in my back

your soul America no matter what we’ve tried

I’ve never been able to bear

color2Flake, Sharon. The Skin I’m In. Perfection Learning: 2007. 978-0756984687.

Maleeka Madison is a young girl who is not comfortable in her own skin.  She is teased by her peers for her skin color and her handmade clothes.  It isn’t until an English teacher named Miss Saunders comes along and teaches her to acknowledge the beauty on the inside and the outside.  Miss Saunders has a condition known as vitiligo.  It causes her skin to look imperfect in others’ eyes.  But Miss Saunders does not let what others think bother her.  She tries to get Maleeka to feel the same way, but Maleeka is trying to fit in with the in crowd.  The in crowd clowns Miss Saunders every day, so Maleeka follows suit.  As Maleeka digs deeper into a writing assignment that entails the diary of a slave girl, she begins the quest of loving herself.

This novel works well on many levels.  There is a cultural connection.  The color complex is a social and cultural construct that is unfortunately included in the fabric of many cultures.  The historical implications of the light vs. dark have sown many weeds into a person’s self-esteem.  In African American literature, the issue of color has been around since Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry & Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.

Flake’s writing style draws adolescents in because she connects Maleeka’s plight to the common angst of being a teenager:  fitting in.  Whether it is weight, clothes, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, or color, teens have to deal with something about them that disqualifies them to be a part of the popular clique.  Flake’s use of the vernacular also engages adolescents more into the storyline.  My students enjoyed the tension between Maleeka and Char, Maleeka’s “friend.”

An assignment that I had my students do after reading this novel was a collage of their definition of beauty.  The various, visual interpretations amazed me and became a counter narrative to the message society advocates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text-to-Text Connections (The following novels and short story collection deal with self-image, race,mixed race, and transgender adolescents.  They would be perfect to pair up with The Skin I’m In  because the characters in each book struggle with balancing or negating society’s perceptions of them.)

step to this  Step to This by Nikki Carter

http://www.amazon.com/Step-This-Real-Nikki-Carter/dp/0758234392/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361379813&sr=1-1&keywords=step+to+this+nikki+carter

flavor of the weekFlavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw

http://www.amazon.com/Flavor-Week-Tucker-Shaw/dp/B000FILLBY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361379865&sr=1-1&keywords=flavor+of+the+week+tucker+shaw

you are freeYou Are Free:  Stories by Danzy Senna

http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Free-Danzy-Senna/dp/B006TQVHVK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361379909&sr=1-1&keywords=you+are+free+danzy+senna

skinnySkinny by Ibi Kaslik

http://www.amazon.com/Skinny-Ibi-Kaslik/dp/B005UVYE42/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361379945&sr=1-1&keywords=skinny+ibi+kaslik

shrink to fitShrink to Fit  Dona Sarkar

http://www.amazon.com/Shrink-Fit-Kimani-TRU-Quality/dp/0373830955/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361379991&sr=1-1&keywords=shrink+to+fit+dona+sarkar

luna-julie-anne-peters2 Luna    Julie Anne Peters

http://www.amazon.com/Luna-Julie-Anne-Peters/dp/0316011274/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361380025&sr=1-1&keywords=luna+julie+anne+peters

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When Your Back Is Against the Wall, What Else Are You Gonna Do Except Hustle?: Tyrell by Coe Booth

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

Edu-my-cation

By Alexandra Caselle

Extra! Extra!

Read all about it!

Urban schools

are failing, failing, failing!

People, people,

What must be done?

Our kids can’t read or

write ; they can’t do math.

Man, please.

I know how to read and write.

I know that 2 + 2 =4.

I am not illiterate.

See, where I come from

2 + 2 don’t always equal 4.

It equals me getting shot

if I walk on a certain set

or getting beat down for

what I wear, who I associate

with, or where I live.

I know how to read words.

I sometimes comprehend what I read.

But, I also know how to “read” life.

I got to “read” guys standing on

the block trying to find out if

they are trying to be down with me

or use or abuse me.

I got to “read” the cops patrolling

my hood, trying to figure out

if they are really trying to serve

and protect or are they trying

to put another brother in the clank.

I got to worry about if my mama

is coming home tonight or if

I  have to feed my little brother

and be both parents

and on top of that handle being

a kid my damn self.

Oh, yeah.  I know how to write.

But, writing on some bs topic about

why the principal should enforce uniforms

doesn’t help me.

Let me write about why society

doesn’t erase the class boundaries that

make junkies and the homeless

roam aimlessly.

Let me write about the importance

of daddies sticking around so

their daughters don’t seek love inside

a fifteen minute sexual excursion

instead of themselves.

I know I need to get the skills

needed to survive in the real world

and gain my e-co-nom-ic  mo-bil-i-ty.

But, every time I look around you telling

me how I am failing and I’m trying to push

all these obstacles out of my way.

And now you wanna wonder why so

many of us are dropping out.

You hear those bells ringin’?

Class is over.

tyrellBooth, Coe. Tyrell. Push: 2007. 978-0-439-83880-1.

Tyrell is facing a lot to be only fifteen years old.  His father has been sent to jail for the third time.  His mother is not the poster child for the typical parent.  She wants him to get out on the streets and hustle to bring in income.  The burden of taking care of his young brother falls squarely on his shoulders.  To add to the family drama, he has girl trouble.  A new girl, Jasmine, poses a threat to his relationship to Novisha.  But he discovers that Novisha may have some skeletons in her closet that may destroy his trust in her.  Will Tyrell succumb to the sway of the streets?

I truly enjoyed reading this book.  I had used this book as a read-aloud with 11th & 12th grade struggling readers who had failed the state assessment exam several times.  They connected to Tyrell’s story and looked forward to hearing about what happened next every day.  Some of these kids abhorred reading.  A book was the other four-letter word just like pork was the other white meat.  But Booth pulled the students into the narrative.

Tyrell is a gritty tale that includes some mature scenes.  With the read aloud format, I could skillfully skip over those sections and maintain the students’ interests.  Since my classes had no set curriculum, I read aloud young adult novels as an opening exercise for my classes.  It gave me an opportunity to model reading strategies, teach vocabulary, and hone comprehension skills.  I often created tests based on the read aloud books because I believed in the interconnections among curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

 I specifically chose Tyrell for another reason.  It highlighted the broader definition of literacy that our students function in today.  Learning the basic tenets of literacy such as reading, writing, and mathematics is very important.  Literacy also entails technology and discourses.  According to James P. Gee, author of Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses, literacy is a type of a discourse.  A discourse can be defined as ways of reading, writing, acting, believing, thinking, etc.

With school literacy (reading, writing), there is a certain way to interact with text.  Within one’s neighborhood, church, family, workplace, culture, or society itself, there is a certain way to act, believe, think, etc.   All of those literacies impact our students, and we should embrace those other types of literacies in our classroom as a stepping stone toward guiding our students to the mastery of school literacy.

Tyrell is an excellent example of how different types of literacies or discourses impact an adolescent.

Text-to-Text Connections

upstate Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon  This epistolary novel describes the relationship between a young girl and her boyfriend and how his imprisonment changes both of them. I used this novel as a read aloud as well and used the epistolary format to teach different reading skills and reinforce vocabulary development.

bronxmasq  Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes  This multigenre novel blends poetry and narrative to tell the stories behind each chapter’s character.  Adolescent readers see how domestic violence and other social issues affect young people.  This is another great choice for a read aloud because the chapters are short and it works well for teaching different reading strategies.

bees  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd  Lily and Tyrell are connected by the impact their circumstances make on them.  Both live with one parent, and Lily’s father and Tyrell’s mom are cut from the same cloth.  One can’t say that kneeling in grits for a long period of time will not distract a child from learning the three R’s.  Adolescent readers also learn the discourse of sorrow as they read about May’s wailing wall.

firstpartlast The First Part Last by Angela Johnson  Being a teenage father is hard enough.  Raising a young daughter alone because her mother is no longer there is even harder.  This is the dilemma that Bobby faces as he takes care of Feather.  Johnson’s narrative style of alternating chapters between the past and present engrosses reader into Bobby’s life.

Teaching Exercise for Tyrell

This exercise depicts a scene that did not occur in the novel.  I used the cloze technique (removing words from a passage and requiring students to use clues within the passage to choose the correct word) to assess students’ understanding of the weekly vocabulary words. In the upcoming weeks, I will begin posting short stories that will teach a vocabulary word, a reading skill, or literary term because I believe that stories can teach concepts.

Directions:  Choose the word from the list below that will best complete the sentences.

ransack

panache

circumvent

ambivalent

expatriate

Novisha was angry with Tyrell.  Her girlfriend, Tasha, stayed at the same hotel.  She saw Tyrell walk into Jasmine’s room.  She called Novisha on her cell phone and told her what she had seen.  Novisha cried at first. Then she wanted to believe that Tyrell would not cheat on her.  She felt (1) ______________.  Novisha caught the subway over to the hotel.  On her way there, she noticed several people from different countries on the train.  They were (2) __________________from their homelands.  Even though she was mad at Tyrell, Novisha felt badly about them leaving without choice.  Novisha got off at her stop.  She showed (3) _______________ as she walked quickly down the sidewalk with her Timberland boots, Apple Bottom jeans, and matching Apple Bottom sweater.  She went inside the building and found her friend in the hallway.  Tasha pointed to room 207.  Novisha cracked her knuckles and popped her neck. The door was slightly cracked.  She threw it open and cried about the sight before her.  Tyrell and Jasmine were kissing each other passionately.  They did not notice Novisha at all.

Tasha took off her earrings and put her hair in a ponytail.  “Oh, no!  Girl, let’s beat both of them up!”  Tyrell and Jasmine looked up.  Tyrell stumbled toward Novisha.  Novisha slapped him so hard that she left her handprint on his jaw.  Jasmine got mad and shoved Novisha.  Tasha jumped in and the girls started to fight.  While they fought, Novisha (4) _______________the room and looked for more signs of Tyrell’s unfaithfulness.  Tyrell saw his chance to (5)_____________the drama.  He paused at the door and smirked at the girls.  It made him feel good to see three chicks fighting over him.   Today was a good day.

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Supernatural Synergy of the Adolescent Kind–Manifest: A Mystyx Novel by Artist Arthur

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

It reverberates

throughout her inner being

Calling, connecting.

–By Alexandra Caselle

manifest

Arthur, Artist. Manifest:  A Mystyx Novel. $9.99. Kimani Tru/Kimani
Press: 2010. 978-0-373-83196-8.  
People always say to beware of things that look good on the outside. One never knows the hang ups that are inside.  But why does this cute guy who suddenly appears in fifteen-year-old Krystal’s life has to be a ghost?  Some boys don’t shower or have bad breath.  But who has ever heard of a boy who is part of the undead? And the undead wants her to find his murderer.

It is bad enough that her parents have divorced, her mother remarries, and she is in a new school. Now she is the teen Long Island medium.  As Krystal struggles with this newfound power, she discovers other teens at her school, Sasha and Jake, who possess the powers of teleportation and telekinesis.  Now they want her to acclimate to her new power as if she were just adjusting to a change of clothing or hairstyle.

Arthur includes new and old ways of communication such as texting and letters from someone in the past to pull middle and high school readers into the plot.  In the middle of all of this mayhem in Krystal’s life, there is the mysterious power that may not only threaten her but everyone around her.

This novel gives adolescents an African American paranormal heroine and charts her journey of coming-of-age and coming into her powers. They will identify with her plight of accepting what makes her different as a gift instead of a curse and dealing with the real-life changes that occur in most families today.

Text-to-Text Connections

blood magic  Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton  Reese and Silla have family problems of a different kind than what Krystal endures.  Their parents were killed in a murder-suicide.  The whole town thinks that they are crazy,too.  Well, piercing her finger and using the blood to conjure up the supernatural doesn’t help change public consensus.  Silla discovers her father’s journal and begins experimenting with spells.  The “blood magic” rituals catches the attention of Josephine, a centuries-old ghost who is not to be crossed.

good houseThe Good House by Tanarive Due It is often heard that the sins of the father become the sins of the children, and that which is in the dark always come into the light.  For Angela Touissant, she discovers how one person’s actions can have a detrimental, generational impact on her family.  She returns to her grandmother’s home to reconcile her own family, but she ends up challenging a formaidable spirit that may be more detrimental than the loss of her son.  Due’s narrative style will send chills up adolescent readers’ spines as her details make them feel like they are standing right beside Angela as she faces evil incarnate.

Due’s short story, “Summer,” would be another chilling work to pair with Manifest.  http://nightmare-magazine.com/fiction/summer/

bad to cursedFrom Bad to Cursed  by Katie Alender  With the name like the Sunshine Club, an adolescent girl would think that this club was harmless.  All of the girls who join it become popular and beautiful overnight.  Everyone would die to be in their shoes.  In order to be a Sunshine girl, a girl literally would die.  Behind the chillingly bright smiles is a psychic connection to a force known as Aralt.  Unfortuantely for Alexis, she has already had enough of the supernatural.  She and her sister Katie just survived Katie’s ghostly possession.  Alexis and her friend, Megan infiltrate the group in hopes of saving her sister, but Alexis soon finds out how easy it is to get the “devil” in her.

sea rising red  When The Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen  Vampires, magic, competing royal houses—When The Sea is Rising Red is a novel that blends fantasy, the paranormal, and the fantastic into an intriguing tale of one girl’s desire to buck tradition and live life according to her rules.  Felicita is born into one of the richest ruling classes in Pelimburg.  When her best friend, Ilven, commits suicide right before she is betrothed, Felicita runs away to the mainland and tries to shed her royal ties.  The further she gets away from home, the less power she has.  The scriven dust is the root of her power and her family is the only one who manufactures it.  As she juggles her growing interest in Jannik, a vampire who also struggles with family tradition, and Dash, the mainland’s bad boy, Felicita begins to realize the true impact of Ilven’s suicide and the true identity of the sea spirit that threatens the land.

mama day Mama Day by Gloria Naylor  Set in an island off the coast of Georgia, this novel again shows the impact of one’s actions on a family’s lineage.  Mama Day is a force to be reckoned with, a conjure woman who can cause lightning to strike with one wave of her stick.  But the beauty of Naylor’s work is how she uses the supernatural to make social commentary.  Her work is reminiscent of the late Octavia Butler’s style, whose novels Kindred and Wild Seed can also be used with Arthur’s Manifest.

Manifest is the first of the Mystyx series.  Read more about these mysterious teens who share powers that are out of this world.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a supernatural power and to be connected to someone through it?  Oh wait, we do.  As part of the human race, we are connected by the power of love.

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