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Please join us in welcoming our first Author-in-Residence at rgz: Beth Kephart! Beth will be in house through the end of 2009, popping into the blog, chats, and posting video blog entries on the writing life throughout her visit. We are honored to have her among us. Learn more about Beth Kephart and our author-in-residence position.

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Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell


Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell

In prose poetry and alternating voices, Sweetgrass Basket tells the story of Mattie and Sarah Tarbell, two Mohawk sisters from upstate New York who are sent to an off-reservation school after the death of their mother. Subject to intimidation and corporal punishment, with little hope of contact with their father, the girls are taught menial tasks to prepare them for life as domestics. After Mattie is falsely accused of stealing, and subsequently runs away, Sarah feels helpless and alone. How Mattie and Sarah protect their culture, memories of family life, and their love for each other under this forced assimilation makes for a powerful, unforgettable historical novel.

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"In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, it is an honor to spotlight Marlene Carvell's novel Sweetgrass Basket. In beautiful free verse, Marlene sensitively relays the struggles of two girls clinging to their Mohawk heritage in the midst of forced assimilation. This is a book that should be read and treasured." - Lorie Ann Grover, rgz co-founder

Winner: Jefferson Cup Award (2006)

A Jane Addams Peace Honor Title

CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book

IRA Children's Book Award Notable

IRA Notable Book for a Global Society

Marlene Carvell

 

Things to Know

 Marlene Carvell


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On the nightstand: Quicksilver (Book One of Neal Stephenson's Trilogy)

Favorite drink while you write: Green tea in the morning, decaf coffee in the evening

Favorite bookstores: Locally, Colgate (University) Bookstore. Out in the world, just about any Barnes and Noble.

Favorite library: So many libraries have been very nice to me; I think I'll be diplomatic and avoid answering this specifically.

Pets: Growing up, I had dogs and cats and horses; while my two sons were growing up, two cats, one which acted more like a dog; none currently

Place to write: At a computer in the study in my home in the town by the stream near the woods on a hill . . .

Inspiration: Family and personal experiences with students from when I was teaching.

Dream book tour: I like to write, and I love to talk about my work, but, while I do school visits and conferences, I have no dream tour in my head. When I travel, I frequently stop in unexpectedly at libraries to chat and sign my books. I've had some very interesting conversations that way; it's enough of a dream tour for me.

Writer buddies: Hmmm. . . I'm very much a loner when it comes to writing. Feedback from my husband (who has a great understanding of young people), my agent, and my editor is enough for me.

Cure for writer's block: While my husband often has to listen to me think out loud on long walks, real stumbling blocks have generally been hurdled over pizza and beer at a couple favorite locations.

Favorite outfit: My closets and dressers look like I have a split personality. Jeans and tank tops or sweatshirts for most days and a closet full of glittery dance dresses for those nights out at ballroom/Latin dance venues.

Laptop or longhand? Thank heavens for the invention of the computer. I usually have a tiny notebook somewhere handy when I'm out of the house for those ideas I don't want to lose, but that would be the extent of any writing I do in longhand.

Stilettos or Uggs? Neither. Sneakers and sandals, plus low-heeled, sequined pumps to go with those glittery dance dresses.

Next up: Two novels are currently in the hands of my agent and/or my publisher, one where the protagonist is the older brother of the two girls in Sweetgrass Basket, and the other where a teenage girl who lives in a foster home thinks she hates everybody and everything.

Author idols: Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Theodore Geisel

Other YA Novels: Who Will tell My Brother? (Hyperion); Caught Between the Pages (Dutton)

Roundtable: readergirlz divas and postergirlz discuss Sweetgrass Basket

Website: www.marlenecarvell.com

Chat with Marlene Carvell at readergirlz on November 24th

New Moon chat at readergirlz on November 21st

Homecoming at readergirlz on November 30th

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Special Projects

TBD 2010

readergirlz and Teen Read Week

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rgz LIVE!

Discuss the book with the author herself. Marlene Carvell will be chatting live at the readergirlz blog on Tuesday, November 24th at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST.

Are your toes curling for the premiere of New Moon? Will you still love the book more? Hit the rgz blog on Saturday, November 21st at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST to dish with TwilightMOMS and rgz. Join the fun for a chance to win a Twilight necklace from Gypsy Wings and other fantastic swag!

Join our first rgz RAVE Homecoming to chat with former rgz featured authors Coe Booth, Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Cecil Castellucci, Justina Chen, Rachel Cohn, Holly Cupala, Liz Gallagher, Nikki Grimes, Lorie Ann Grover, Ellen Hopkins, Sarah Miller, Mary Pearson, Mitali Perkins, Dana Reinhardt, Laura Resau, Melissa Walker, Ellen Emerson White, Rita Williams-Garcia, Sara Zarr, and more. Join us at the rgz blog on Monday, November 30th at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST.

Each chat will last for an hour.

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In Sweetgrass Basket, Mattie and Sarah long for family. The two sisters would probably agree with Alex Haley, who said, "In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future."

Link with your family on Saturday, November 21st for National Family Volunteer Day. Volunteering as a family is the perfect way to spend quality time with your loved ones while doing meaningful work in your community.

Visit http://www.serve.gov for a searchable database of volunteering opportunities near you and encourage the whole fam to get out and make a difference!

The following tunes were hand-picked by the author to accompany her book.

Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
Lift Me Up by Kate Voegele
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson
Angel by Sarah McLachlan
I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan
Homeless by Paul Simon
Believe in Me by Lenny Kravitz
Stronger by Demi Lovato


 

CD   CD

CD   CD

Sarah is overwhelmed with homesickness. Have you ever been homesick? How did you deal with it?

Sarah and Mattie's ability to preserve their Mohawk heritage is threatened as soon as they arrive at the school. Does family heritage/ethnicity play a strong role in your sense of identity? How so?

Young women of the early 1900s had few career options compared to young women of today. However, Indian women had even fewer opportunities: most in the boarding schools were trained to be servants. Has anyone ever told you or implied to you that you couldn't do something because you were a girl?

Despite being sisters and having the same life experiences, Sarah and Mattie have very different personalities. With which one do you identify?

Do you know anyone like Mrs. Dwyer? How do you deal with that person?

While Mrs. Dwyer, both literally and symbolically, is depicted as the enemy, most other adults in the novel fare much better. Which adult character do you like the best? Why?

Ida is another young Indian girl at the school. How might you explain her meanness? Have you ever known anyone like her?

A major point in the plot occurs when Mattie is falsely accused of stealing. Have you (or someone you know) ever been accused of doing something you didn't do? Would you (or did you) handle the situation differently?

Friendship plays an important role in the story, but Mattie's friendship with Gracie causes jealousy in Sara. Have you ever found yourself frustrated or angry because a friendship seemed to be invaded by someone else?

Mattie feels betrayed by Gracie, yet she understands Gracie is not as strong-willed as she is. Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend? Were you able to forgive that person?

Have you ever felt like running away? Should Mattie have run away from the school?

When Sarah finds the brooch, she is faced with an ethical decision. Did she do the right thing? Why or why not?

 

 


Planning your own book group/get-together for this book? Here are some party ideas from the author.

Invite: An invitation in the shape of a basket; Mohawk baskets are unique in that they usually have a lid. The lid could lift to show the details of the party.

Food: Pumpkin muffins or zucchini bread (squash is one of The Three Sisters) and apple cider.

Décor: Mattie's treasured possession is the basket her mother made for her. Party participants could be asked to bring a favorite basket to help set the mood.

Movies: Rabbit-Proof Fence

Craft: Print bookmarks with the Hiawatha Belt design found on the cover. have participants choose a word that they associate most closely with the book. Write that word in English on one side and in Mohawk on the other.

 

 

Moccasin Thunder anthology Rain is Not a Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Native Time: A Historical Time Line of Native America by Lee Francis

Recommended by postergirlz, the readergirlz advisory council, in celebration of Native American Heritage Month:

Fiction
Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, an anthology edited by Lori Marie Carlson
Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell
The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Non-Fiction
Native Time: A Historical Time Line of Native America by Lee Francis

 

 

Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce

 

 

 

 

Join us in December to talk about Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce.

 

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