Some worthy items from the Book Expo of America

1. Fat stuff:

Some think the Book Expo of America is just about getting free totebags. Nope, there are books to read, too! (Ha ha ha). Anyway, I've been meaning to share a few things I picked up:

When I was a kid and read young-adult book after young-adult book, I enjoyed a few really good novels about fat kids trying to lose weight. Some that fell into the category were:
I. One Fat Summer (I thought there was a sequel to it, but now I can't find it on the web). Author Robert Lipsyte is more well known for his baseball writing, but his YA stuff was great. One Fat Summer is a true classic. (You also may have heard of Lipsyte's son Sam, a successful novelist in his own right).
II. A book called Slim-Down Camp that I really loved. According to the web, it came out in 1983 and was by Stephen Manes, who went on to write more YA in the 1990s.
III. Jelly Belly was popular with my friends, and I liked it too, but not as much as One Fat Summer and Slim-Down Camp.
IV. The Fat Girl. I'm just realizing that all four of these books have a guy as the protagonist - even The Fat Girl, which is about a teenager who starts dating a fat girl and works with her to help her slim down. The ending of this book really made me think, and was very well-done. The book was by Marilyn Sachs, who wrote a few YA's I loved as a pre-teen. It was re-released three years ago by a new young-adult imprint called Flux.

Anyway, this is all a lead-up to a YA novel I spotted at BEA called Fat Boy Chronicles. This one definitely joins its illustrious forbears. It's also about a guy (I'm starting to wonder about this! How come the chick lit books about fat protags are about women, but the YA is about boys?) It's published by Sleeping Bear Press in Ann Arbor, Mich. The authors are Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan and it says it's "inspired by a true story." It's also dedicated to Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.

With that lead-in you'd think it might be maudlin or medical, but it's not at all -- It's very a lively, true-to-life YA in the voice of a typical teenage boy. The novel chronicles 14-year-old Jimmy Winterpock, and is told (in a humorous way) through the journal entries he's forced to write for his English class (weren't we all?) It starts like this:

"Hey, Mrs. Pope. I'm the diet-challenged kid who sits in the last seat by the door. I'm probably bigger now than I was this morning because your class is right after lunch and homeroom..."

I'm only a few pages into it but it's already made me laugh out loud. It's told like a YA should be: Straightforward, no pretentiousness. Very well-written. The kid isn't perfect, either; he comments in one entry that another kid sitting near him smells. Isn't it just like an insecure kid to hate being picked on, but have a choice word about someone else? I think that's pretty realistic. Anyway, so far, the book is a good read, and should definitely resonate with teen and YA readers. I like Jimmy and want to see what happens to him in high school. So I hope to keep reading, and to see more from Sleeping Bear Press. Some of the other children's books on their website look really great.

2. Two charities:

I happened to also stop by a booth run by a group called WriteGirl (www.writegirl.org). It's an organization in Los Angeles that helps young girls channel their energy into writing. They say they are "helping girls through mentorship and self-expression." I am soooo for that. (There's a mentoring group like that here in NYC, too, called "Girls Write Now.") Anyway, stop by www.writegirl.org if you desire. I just did, and what a great website. Love the layout and pastel colors.

Also, a group called Happy Hearts Fund (www.happyheartsfund.org) was giving out stickers. You can text "HEART" to 85944 and reply "YES" to donate $5. Their site looks really involved, and it says "The Happy Hearts Fund mission is to improve children's lives through educational and sustainable programs in natural disaster areas." Looks like they rebuild schools and start programs all over the world. So take a look!

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