10 Minute Review: Lost In The Sun by Lisa Graff

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I’ve read this book. It is awesome. If you want to be awesome, you must read this book, too.

sharpread

To spread the Lisa Graff love, Penguin Young Readers is hosting a sweepstakes to give away 25 copies of LOST IN THE SUN!

To enter, tweet “Preorder #LostInTheSun http://bit.ly/PreOrderLostInTheSun @lisagraff to enter to win 25 signed copies! US only Ends 5/25” or your own language—but make sure to use the link and the hashtag.

School Library Journal will also be hosting a twitter chat with Lisa Graff on pub day, so please join for that on May 26th!
lost

Sometimes I read professional book reviews and wonder why the heck do I bother writing about books on this little blog. Did you see the review of Lisa Graff’s Lost in the Sun in the New York Times? It is a beautiful review. I wish that I could figure out how to do such beautiful things with the words and sentence I use when writing about books.

The truth is…

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Help me give away books, and cupcakes n' stuff! You're awesome!

Help me give away books, and cupcakes n’ stuff! You’re awesome!

GO FUND ME

I’m counting on you to help make this work. When President of the Whole Sixth Grade gets released in November, I want to make a splash. Name in lights! Press conferences! Television appearances! OK, none of that’s going to happen. So help me have the next best thing. I want to travel to Detroit, Mich., my home away from home, and give away 300 books to deserving middle school kids who may have a tough time paying for brand new hard cover book. Much as I’d love to claim to have the resources of my favorite faux author, Richard Castle on ABC’s Castle, I do not. My heart is big, but my bank account, not so much.

GET ME TO DETROIT

What I need is for you to visit my gofundme.com campaign. Make a donation. Then follow my blogs and facebook or twitter for constant updates. With the cost of purchasing the books, traveling to Detroit, and staying for three nights so that I can visit the schools, the cost will be $7,000. I am donating my time and offering my services to schools that couldn’t ordinarily afford the $300 speaking fee for an author. (And trust me, my fee is on the low end.)

 

So that’s the dealio. Help me put brand spanking new books in the hands of some great kids. Growing up with books home changed my life. Now let’s see if we can do it for someone else. In advance, I love you for caring enough to help. In a few weeks, I’ll post the rewards for donations. But you can give just any ol’ time! Smooches!

http://www.gofundme.com/Sherri-winston

My favorite book when I was little

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CORDUROY by DON FREEMAN

Author Don Freeman wrote one of the most endearing books of my life. I loved this book!

Author Don Freeman wrote one of the most endearing books of my life. I loved this book!

I have memories of sitting with my mother, tucked protectively behind the crook of her legs. We’re on a sofa in our living room. The ‘70s have yet to dawn. As memories sometimes do, these appear in quick, tiny bursts—a tiny flash of recognition, before—poof—the image dissipates and fades. Flash! My mother’s smile, warm. Flash! Me absorbing the warmth of her body. Flash! The shifting intonation in her voice as she reads the story of a loveable but overlooked teddy bear waiting for just the right girl to love. Flash! My joy at discovering the artwork. As real as Diahann Caroll in Julia on TV.

She starred in televisions first show featuring working class, well-spoken, African Americans who were ordinary people. Lighthearted comedy, family.

She starred in televisions first show featuring working class, well-spoken, African Americans who were ordinary people. Lighthearted comedy, family.

Courderoy was the first book I remember that featured African American characters, a mother and daughter, who were just everyday people. Shopping. Planning. Moving. Growing. No apathy or pity; not destitute or wanton. Written and illustrated by Don Freeman, the book was published in 1968 by Viking Press. According to a site dedicated to his memory (donfreeman.info), Freeman simply wanted to tell a story that took place while shopping and featured a character named Corduroy from a previously unpublished manuscript he’d written. I would later learn that Corduroy was first rejected by Viking Press; then it was rejected by several others before Freeman resubmitted to Viking Press and finally got the green light. Now, it has celebrated a 40-year anniversary and is still in print.

Great inspiration from a great book. Thank you, Don Freeman.

Super Bowl, special?

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Are you ready for some football?

You gotta have faith

Two days from now, people of all ages and backgrounds will come together to watch Sunday Bowl XLIX on NBC. You may be watching the Big Game for your favorite team, Katy Perry’s [roaring] halftime show, the $4.5 million commercials, or because you want to participate in the tradition that is Super Bowl Sunday. Which leads me to ask, what really makes the Super Bowl so special?

For some people in America, the Super Bowl is bigger than most holidays. Sports fans, and non-sports fans, are dedicated to this day. There are no Black Friday deals to keep people away from their families and homes, and food, there is lots of food. It is common for the “unofficial” event planners to map out their recipes and grocery lists months ahead of time. People put their creative skills to test with guacamole grass fields and sandwich-made stadiums. No doubt, Pinterest is booming this time of year.

Might I add that people love football? It’s…

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Best Friend I Never Had

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We never met, not officially, at least. Stuart Scott, the courageous ESPN sports anchor with the contagious wit and zest for life, succumbed to his fight with cancer on Sunday. Despite never sharing a single how-do-you-do, he and I were besties. In my head, at least.Unknown

On Sunday, during NFL Countdown, ESPN invited Good Morning America icon and ESPN alum, Robin Roberts to pay a stunning tribute to Scott, who at age 49, lost his third bout with cancer of the appendix. As Roberts so elegantly revealed the paths and passages of Scott’s trailblazing life, not to mention his unending love for his two daughters, I couldn’t hold back my own tears.

In this day and age of social media and electronic relationships, it’s not difficult to feel connected to someone whose handshake you’ve never felt. Yet, my bond with Scott predates Twitter and Facebook; Youtube and Instagram. For decades he and I have done a sort of cosmic dance, circling each other. He was a brother to me, not in the vernacular but in spirit. Check this out:

In 1990, I worked for ESPN. While working fulltime for the Hartford Courant’s sports department, I decided to put a childhood fantasy to the test. ESPN was headquartered about 45 minutes away, in Bristol, Conn. I called the producer of High School Sports America and asked if he’d let me take him to lunch to discuss his job. He agreed. A short time later, he created a job for me – and I jumped at the chance.

The opportunity to glimpse Dick Vitale strolling the labyrinth of ESPN trailers or bumping into Dan Patrick in the lunchroom, man, that was nirvana. And when I passed Robin Roberts in the halls a few time, I nearly went all fan girl. But you know, I kept my cool.

While I was at ESPN, Stuart Scott was an up-and-coming newsman working in Central Florida WESH TV News.

My career trajectory was set in newsprint. So as much as I loved being at ESPN, when an opportunity came to work at a newspaper in South Florida, I took it. I left two-and-a-half years before anyone had ever heard of Stuart Scott nationally. But that would change.

Seemingly out of nowhere, in 1993, this guy appears on the TV giving sports scores and doing stories with swagger. I mean, saying things like: “Boo-yaa” and “cooler than the other side of the pillow.” My kind of talk. Stuart Scott didn’t just tell us the sports news, he did an open mic night — night after night. Brash and buttery, all at the same time. And the instant I saw him, I couldn’t help thinking, What if I’d stayed at ESPN?

He brought younger folks into the conversation in a way I’d only dreamed of. In a way I wished I could have done.

From that point on he became an icon. A fixture. He was that guy on ESPN. “He’s crazy, man,” friends of mine would say. “Did you hear that guy last night?” dudes crowded along bar rails would ask.

I crossed paths with Scott a few times. In an airport in New York; a few times at NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) conferences. Always on escalators, believe it or not. Always going one way while he was going the other; yet, inextricably bound. Never introduced myself or gushed. Somehow, that didn’t seem like the right move.

So he and I exchanged head nods. Cool like that. He didn’t know me from Adam. But I felt like I knew him. And he was all right with me.

Life kept moving as life does. My time in South Florida was all about making a name for myself as a print journalist. Until cancer punched its way into my family and left a gaping hole. The same year that Scott was starting at ESPN, I was starting the year without my mother. She died of lung cancer at the age of 56 during the Christmas of ‘92. And in 2000, when I was burying my father, who also died of lung cancer, Scott was bouncing his youngest daughter, Sydni, I was pondering the definition of family when so much of mine was gone.

I know, it might seem like I’m reaching. Seeing connections that aren’t real. I don’t know. I just feel like I was more than a fan. A kindred spirit, perhaps. See, the same year I buried my father, I adopted my first child. A year later, thanks to a friend I made while I was a University of Michigan Journalism Fellow, I got the chance for a do over. A chance to interview for a big girl job at ESPN. No more part-time hustle. This was a chance to go pro.

Although I’d fantasized for years about what it would have meant to be a trailblazer and lead the way for Scott, now I was getting a chance to follow, somewhat, in his footsteps. While the job I was interviewing for was in production, I had a candid discussion about the possibility to moving into an on-air spot someday.

It was a good interview that ESPN left open for me to pursue. I was jazzed. Then I realized halfway through my plane ride back to South Florida that the only thing I truly remembered talking about with the guy was our kids. I was a new single mom of a little girl. I was contemplating uprooting her to take a job that meant working the overnight shift. In the end, I couldn’t do it.

Little by little, my focus shifted. I gave up the ESPN channel for the Disney channel. Adopted a second daughter, and lost myself in tutus and Crayolas. In 2005, I was diagnosed with lupus and by 2007 the illness was taking a toll. I left my newspaper job in 2008, exhausted and in a lot of pain. I did not know that during that same time, Stuart Scott was beginning his battle with appendix cancer.

So here we are. And it’s weird, you know? I ended up moving from South Florida to Central Florida to raise my two girls. The same TV market where Stuart Scott began. And he died during the holiday season, just like so many of my relatives. Tell me that’s not some sort of karmic convergence.

I really wanted to see him win his battle. But as he said in his Espy Award acceptance speech in July of 2014, “When you die, that does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

We can all learn a lesson from Stuart Scott, the best friend I never knew.

The finest school in all the land . . .

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. . .and the BIG GAME!

Michigan State running back Nick Hill does a tightrope act along the sideline and leaves Indiana's T.J. Simmons behind at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct 18, 2014. The Spartans defeated the Hoosiers, 56-17.  Dale G. Young, Detroit News

Michigan State running back Nick Hill does a tightrope act along the sideline and leaves Indiana’s T.J. Simmons behind at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Oct 18, 2014. The Spartans defeated the Hoosiers, 56-17. Dale G. Young, Detroit News

 

I went to Michigan State University. That means I’m a Spartan. A Michigan State Spartan. If you say GREEN. I say WHITE. College football is more than a sport to me. It’s tradition. Honor. Pride. A chance to dance around in my undies while belting out the Fight Song. Yesterday, MSU beat Indiana 56-17. Ahhh! It was a very good day.

Spooky Writing Contest

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No Magic In SchoolSPOOKY WRITING CONTEST <>SPOOKY WRITING CONTEST <> SPOOKY WRITING CONTEST <> SPOOKY WRITING CONTEST <> SPOOKY <>

SEPT. 2 THROUGH OCT. 17 <> SEPT. 2 THROUGH OCT 17 <> SEPT. 2 THROUGH OCT. 17 <> SEPT 2 THROUGH OCT. 17 <> SEPT. 2 THROUGH OCT.

FREE<> FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE<>FREE

Today I am announcing my first-ever spooky writing contest. I am so excited. During my years as a journalist at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, I was privileged to play host to such a contest for young writers. It has been a goal of mine since becoming published to offer a contest on my blog. Thanks to the success of President of the Whole Fifth Grade, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has blessed me with an opportunity to write a sequel — President of the Whole Sixth Grade.

In honor of the recent announcement of the book’s 2015 anticipated publishing date, I would like to encourage little authors to think big. Therefore, I am holding a writing contest that features spooky themes, fun prompts and yes, even candy-filled gift bags.

The contest begins Sept. 2 and ends on Oct. 17. When is the deadline, you ask? Oct. 17, 2014. When does it begin? Well, thanks for asking. It begins Sept. 2. It is open to all third, fourth and fifth grade classes. How much does it cost? Well, though the experience is valued in the gazillions, the fee is $0. Last-minute entries will have to pay double.

Each Monday, on this site, I will include tips for writing that the kids can use not only for the contest but in there daily writing, as well.

I will continue to update, cajole, pester and otherwise make the contest known to as many as possible. Come on media specialists, teachers and reading coaches, don’t leave me hanging. Check out the attached flyer for details. Entries can be either scanned and emailed to sherriberries@gmail.com or sent through traditional mail upon contacting me.

All emails relating to the contact should say SPOOKY in the subject field. Allow me to boost your writing programs and help make the 2014-15 school year an absolute blast!

Contest Instructions

2014 FLYER

President of the Whole SIXTH Grade!

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Congratulations to my favorite alter ego, Brianna Justice. Little, Brown has just announced the upcoming release to the sequel of President of the Fifth Grade. Brianna and her friends will face the social land mines of middle school in the 2015 release of President of the Whole SIXTH Grade! Woo-hoo!

Congratulations to my favorite alter ego, Brianna Justice. Little, Brown has just announced the upcoming release to the sequel of President of the Fifth Grade. Brianna and her friends will face the social land mines of middle school in the 2015 release of President of the Whole SIXTH Grade! Woo-hoo!

I have waited a while for this announcement. It’s official — President of the Whole Sixth Grade is set for a 2015 Fall release.

A year ago, I was returning home from a summer of craziness, teaching at a camp in Western Pennsylvania and having a time of a my life. Except for the part where I went to New York to pitch a manuscript I’d been working on for over six months only to learn that the editors at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers were interested in hearing more from the heroine of my previous LB middle-grade novel, Brianna Justice.

The hardest thing about waiting for the next book in the sequence is anticipating the new cover.

The hardest thing about waiting for the next book in the sequence is anticipating the new cover.

Luckily, I, too, felt that Miss Justice had plenty more to say. President of the Whole Fifth Grade featured a 10-year-old girl who wanted to become a cupcake-making millionaire. She idolized television cooking personality Miss Delicious and hoped to follow in her diamond-studded footsteps. However, as Brianna grew closer to her goal, she started to realize that she was sacrificing her friends and herself.

Hey, who hasn’t been there, right?

I love the Brianna Justice character because she represents wish-fullfilment. I was such a timid and shy kid in fifth grade that when I look back, I wish I could have been more daring and outgoing, like Brianna. Now, in President of the Whole Sixth Grade, I get to push my wish fulfillment a step further, positing a sixth-grade in which a smart, level-headed girl is able to gather her wits and strength to motivate those around her to be their absolute best. And make a difference.

With so much to celebrate, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without a beautiful chocolate cake.

So here’s to you, Brianna Justice — and all the Brianna Justices out there. Thank you for your awesomeness!