Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vernon Jordan is not the only black man who should be able to read...

Of course everybody should read and even better appreciate being educated. But clearly that's not the case, especially among our young black males. I've been so affected by the number of black young men not graduating from high school (check this piece on the 20% who graduate on time in Detroit) that I had to find some folks who are doing all they can and some to support and encourage our black boys to take their education seriously. Pass these on and on and on to anyone you know that may benefit from their missions. Please send me more to add to the list. A mind is truly a terrible thing to waste.

Shot above is from the filming of the MLK Jr. biopic The Boy King filmed in ATL circa 1985. My brother is on the end. I'll stop putting his past on blast after this post. I'll give it a rest, man. Love ya.

And I did have a good reason for not posting yesterday. The dog did not eat my adapter cord, but it nearly did burst into flames. It burnt out. But thanks to a heck of a friend who hooked me up with a new one in exchange for my copy of the graphic novel, Nat Turner (read it and you'll be angry, informed and amazed), I'm back on the grind. Power to the writers! JD

Resources for Educating Black Males

Center for African-American Male Research, Success and Leadership
The CAAMRSL's aim is to address the challenges faced by African-American males in post-secondary institutions by stimulating civic responsibility, developing brotherhood, promoting integrity as well as academic excellence.

Boys Who D.A.R.E
Boys Who D.A.R.E. reading program that offers the male child a full and equal literary opportunity, regardless of background, education and income of parents. A group of concerned parents, community leaders, local businesses and writers have partnered with boys who d.a.r.e. to provide monthly literary events. Each month, young boys are introduced to a new book by a different adult male role model.

100 Black Men
With a mission to improve the quality of life and enhance educational opportunities for African Americans, members of the 100 continue to serve as a strong force in the world by overcoming the cultural and financial obstacles that have limited the achievements of some African Americans, particularly young African American males. Members of the 100 have made outstanding progress, proving that Blacks can, and do, excel as corporate leaders, community leaders and as independent business owners.

Korey M. Dawson Scholarship
We offer financial support for youth offenders who plan to go to college and to vocational trade school.

African American Youth Leadership Program
Each year the Research and Policy Institute of California hosts the African American Youth Leadership Program. The annual conference invites high school juniors and seniors from throughout the state to participate in a week-long conference in Sacramento. During the week, participants are exposed to training in leadership and personal development and are shown the tools of success in education, business, and government.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sometimes you just need to laugh

You can see that my brother and I were getting our laugh on a few years back. I pulled this picture out tonight because I needed it. Today was a bizarre day for me — quite a roller coaster of emotional mess brought to the surface by everything from personal crap to lamenting the 50% of black kids who aren't graduating from high school (what the HELL are they doing?!?!?!). So luckily, I was able to get some writing done. And I found myself laughing out loud at the scenes I was writing. Strangely enough, I remembered that I'd done the same thing the day before, while writing in Barnes & Noble. And I didn't even care about the weird looks I was getting from folks reading nearby. Then I came home and at my mom's behest, I watched the opening monologue of Jay Leno, who compared a real life praying-at-the-gas-pumps prayer group to Bush's energy plan — and I laughed some more. Earlier in this evening I was in the deepest despair, but just laughing helped me become more optimistic about the future. So, feeling down? Here comes the corn: Turn that frown upside down. Ciao, jd

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who knows why I started this blog?

I guess I do. I'm a writer and writers write, right? Now this blog is supposed to encourage me to write about something, anything, everyday. Lets see how long I can keep this up. I'm on deadline for my next teen novel that was due many moons ago and I fear the procrasination devil is doing whatever he can to keep me from completing that book. Even if that is part of the reason I started this blog, I'm determined to turn lemons into lemonade. Lord, I hate how corny I am sometimes. Okay folks, welcome to me. Lets hope we all enjoy the ride. jd

Children's/Tween's Book List - From Joyce's Folks

A while back, a friend of mine asked me if I had any recommendations for children's / tween's books with African American girl characters that her advanced first grader could read. I got an incredible response from friends, associates and family members. Below are some great books (described in the responders own words). Many of these offerings have African American lead characters. If you have suggestions, please add them as a comment. I'd love to keep this list growing. Keep reading to the young folks. It works. jd

Children's/Tween's Book List - From Joyce's Folks


So of course have you stated the beverly cleary books? my daughter is reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8. She has read a bunch of Junie B and a couple of Whilemina too. there is a "chapter book" section at our library so I check out what is there. Her teacher has suggested branching out to some non-fictions, so during women's history month I picked up a book about women inventors. Also she likes to collect rocks so she has been reading a kid's book about rocks. I browse the non-fic section and try to get her to check out at least one when we go to the library. Also while aat here classroom last week, I saw one of the girls with a Sweet Valley Kids book. I read Sweet Valley High as a middle schooler but hadn't seen this series.


Please consider Born in Sin, Freedom Train and Shadows on Society Hill by Evelyn Coleman


try the Newberry collection


As a former children's librarian (now a bookstore owner) I'm gonna make a few suggestions for books that I think that would be great reading but not to mature/or complex in nature.

1) Akimbo series by Alexander McCall Smith (African boy)
2) author Patricia Mc C. Kissack has a series of books that are readers
ex: Scraps of Time, some biographies of famous African Americans.She also writes folk tale picture books that you can read together.

3)American Girl Addy series-they now have long versions called
An Addy Mystery--- plus the old series of Meet Addy.....
4)Stories that Julian tells series--
5)Danitra Brown series
6)Wilhemina series

Hope this helps


I'm VERY late to this but send her a copy of "Black Books Galore! Guide to Great African American Children's Books about Girls" I have the boys' version. It' organized by reading level.


Do you already have the Gloria, Huey, and Julian books on your list?



STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE, an extremely talented, African American (Atlanta-based) author who has a number of teen/tween girls books in series form; too numerous to count!
With more than 15 books in print, "her groundbreaking series Payton Skky is the first African-American Christian teen series in the country.

Then, in 2007, "Moore broke new ground" by bringing readers a young man as the main character with the Perry Skky Jr series (Dafina/Kensington).
Her other teen series books include: Laurel Shadrach, Carmen Browne, and Faith Tomas. Have your friend visit her site at for the books/series that best suits her child's age.


In reference to your friend maybe refer her to the American Girls books...they are interesting and have an African American, along with an American Indian, and Indian character also other nationalities as well...she might be ready for something like that, also I loved the Nancy Drew stories as an avid reader kid, even some Hardy Boys....


You can try the Everybody Hates Chris series of book.


Cam Jansen - Adler (there's a series for younger readers as well as a more challenging set)
Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs - Draper (although about a group of boys they're fun reads)
Addy - Porter (part of the American Girls series)


Please check out Briana’s Neighborhood written by an African American female from Brooklyn named Sahar Simmons. It’s all that, great illustrations, awesome stories and valuable lessons!


How wonderful! My youngest daughter really enjoys the Andrew Clements series (although there are no black characters).

When I was a teacher, I used to compile a reading list for advance middle school and high school readers, so I'll have to ask my kids for recommendations for the younger age group.

In the meantime, perhaps she can check out this Web site:
Another good suggestion is to pull the reading list for private schools in the Atlanta Independent Schools system: Westminster, Lovett, Paideia, Pace, the Atlanta Girls School, the Atlanta International Academy, the Ron Clark Academy, etc.

By now, they have published their summer reading lists, but their school year lists are probably available as well.
For reviews, try Common Sense Media:


Tell your friend to use this link and there is a resource for all kinds of books for all age levels.


Tell your friend to look at the Magic Treehouse series. My Language Arts and Reading teacher allow her students to read these books.


The Curious George series is good. All of the classics we grew up as children. Below are mostly books for 8 and up.

Here are some of their favorites (mostly for ages 7-11):

The Spiderwick Chronicles (Boxed Set): The Field Guide; The Seeing Stone; Lucinda's Secret; The Ironwood Tree; The Wrath of Mulgrath by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Maizon at Blue Hill by Jacqueline Woodson

Last Summer with Maizon by Jacqueline Woodson (any books by her and Walter Dean Myers are good)

Between Madison and Palmetto by Jacqueline Woodson

Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff by Walter Dean Myers

Cousins by Virginia Hamilton

Time Pieces by Virginia Hamilton (Author)

Zeely by Virginia Hamilton

Cheetah Girls: Off the Hook!: Bind-Up #4 (Cheetah Girls, 4) [Paperback] by...
Sold by: sortfloorbooks

The Cheetah Girls 2 [Enhanced] [Soundtrack] [Audio CD] The Cheetah Girls

Cheetah Girls Supa-Dupa Sparkle: Books 5 - 8 by Gregory, Deborah

The Cheetah Girls [DVD] (2004) Raven (VII); Adrienne Bailon; Kiely Williams...

Cheetah Girls, The: Growl Power Forever: Bind-Up #3 - Books #9-12 (The Cheetah

Cheetah Girls Livin' Large: Books 1 - 4 Gregory, Deborah

The Cheetah Girls [Enhanced] [EP] [Soundtrack] [Audio CD] The Cheetah Girls

I Like Being Me: Poems for Children, About Feeling Special, Appreciating Others, and Getting Along

Spin a Soft Black Song



The Wiz [DVD] (1999) Diana Ross; Michael Jackson; Nipsey Russell; Ted Ross...

The Ramona Collection, Vol. 1: Ramona the Brave / Ramona and Her Father/Ramona the Pest/Beezus and Ramona

The Ramona Collection, Vol. 2: Ramona Quim... by Beverly Cleary

The Ralph Mouse Collection by Beverly Cleary

Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume

Double Fudge by Judy Blume

Superfudge by Judy Blume

Blubber by Judy Blume

Judy Blume's Fudge Box Set by Judy Blume (Author)

Best of Judy Blume 4 Copy Box Set

Cheetah Girls Livin' Large: Books 1 - 4 by Deborah Gregory

Cheetah Girls Supa-Dupa Sparkle: Books 5 - 8 (Woff, There it Is - It's Raining Benjamins - Dorinda's Secret - Growl Power) by Deborah Gregory

Dorinda's Secret (Cheetah Girls) by Deborah Gregory

Growl Power (Cheetah Girls) by Deborah Gregory

In the House with Mouse (Cheetah Girls) by Deborah Gregory

The People Could Fly: The Picture Book (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards) by Virginia Hamilton, Leo Dillon, and Diane Phd Dillon

Cornrows by Camille Yarbrough

I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

Shades Of Black by Sandra L. Pinkney

My Aunt Came Back (Harper Growing Tree) by Pat Cummings

Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Cliffs Notes) by Robinson, Mary (for MUCH older)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (for MUCH older)


The good news is that Scholastic is putting out a series this summer called Ruby and The Booker Boys, by Derrick Barnes, a brother out of Brooklyn who has done some other children's books. The series is about a precocious little girl with three big brothers, who has to learn how to make her mark on the school where her brothers are famous. I believe two of those books will be published come June or July. He has a website and a myspace page; the books look delicious.

That said, there are some series out there that are fun reads:

The Judy Moody series

The Stink series (this is Judy Moody's funny, crazy little brother)

Clementine, by Sarah Pennypacker (there are follow-ups to this book, too)

The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie (all of these are books her mom may have to read with her)

No Talking, by Andrew Clements (and anything else by him, though she may need a little help with these, too)

Judy Blume has a new series aimed at the younger set; the first in that series is "Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One."

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney (there are two). I read this one personally--it's hysterical, but if she's a rising 1st grader, her mom may want to hold off on this one. My 6 year old daughter thought it was really funny (she read parts of it, and my 9 year old read some of it to her) but some of the situations may be a little extra for the younger set. Just be aware.

The I, Freddy series. I didn't really care for this one, but my 9 year old seemed to like it--but only a little. By this point, she'd blown through everything and really just wanted something to read.

I would also recommend Shel Silverstein's books. They are perfect for a first grader--complicated enough for an advanced reader, but accessible enough for a child who is just starting to understand the meaning of words... it's poetry, but it's a lot of fun. To this day, these are my 9 year old's favorites. Think Dr. Seuss, but on a much more intellectual level. She'll love them, and her mom will, too.


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