Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Don't go wastin' all those bright tomorrows you ain't even seen by hangin' onto what happened yesterday. Let go, child. Just breathe and let go."

It's easy to tell that there is something different about CeeCee's mother. No one else has a mom spends all her money on secondhand prom dresses . . . and then wanders all over town wearing them. CeeCee's father can't handle her mother's behavior, so he has largely disappeared from their lives. Fortunately for CeeCee, the next door neighbor, Mrs. O'dell, has always been there to take care of her. However, no one can protect CeeCee's mother from herself and, when an unfortunate accident occurs, her father decides that CeeCee will go live with her Great Aunt Tootie.

CeeCee does not know Aunt Tootie and is hesitant about leaving everything she has always known, but she discovers that leaving behind what she loves does not mean losing herself. Moving into Aunt Tootie's home and life connects CeeCee with an amazing group of women who guide, protect, and love her unconditionally, allowing her to reconcile with her mother's bizarre life and become her own person at the same time.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman first attracted me because of the cover. It's beautiful. Seriously. Even more lovely is the language Hoffman uses to describe CeeCee's life, the customs she encounters in the South, and the people she meets along the way. I kept reading passages over and over and marking places that I wanted to remember for later. I'm also a sucker for intergenerational relationships and CeeCee is fortunate enough to find people who transform her life throughout her story.

It was officially announced last week that Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is the first book Sam's Club is promoting for its new book club. This is a great first choice--it will be interesting to see where Sam's Club goes from here in terms of book choices and how their recommendation effects book sales.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was published January 12, 2010. The ARC I read was sent to me by Beth Hoffman.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"I felt very emotional about segregation, about the way we were treated, and about the way we treated each other."

I had the good fortune of hearing Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan of Bookends Book Blog speak at the 2009 Michigan Association for Media in Education Conference in October. Their session focused on nonfiction books and graphic novels. The book that really caught my attention was Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. I was interested to read the story of the teenager who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama nine months before Rosa Parks' historic moment. I have always known about Rosa Parks--"her" bus is on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and my children love to get on the bus and hear the story. I had not, however, heard of Claudette Colvin and her place in history.

I was not disappointed when I finally had the chance to read this book. While Hoose tells the facts and fills in many interesting historical events that were taking place as Colvin's story unfolded, the most amazing words in this book are written by Colvin herself. She writes about her experiences, bringing them to life and demonstrating how courageous and frustrated she was. She gives a firsthand perspective of what it was like to be a teen living in a city that strongly enforced segregation.

As I read this book I thought about all the amazing pieces of history that we lose when stories are never told. Then, upon reading the Author's Note, I discovered that Claudette Colvin's story may never have been told in this amazing book. She did not seek out the spotlight. In fact, it took many years after his initial request for Colvin to agree to work with Hoose to tell her story.

Each time I talk about this book I have a student ask me where it is and if I have more copies--both reactions that any librarian could love! It's also wonderful to see this book get some award attention. It won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (Claudette Colvin and Phillip Hoose accepted the award together--video included on the site) and is on the shortlist for the new YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award (the winner will be announced at ALA Midwinter in Boston).

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose was published January 20, 2009. The copy I read was from my school library.

The Facts First! Nonfiction Monday round-up is hosted today at Picture Book of the Day.