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Showing posts from January, 2011

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green and David Levithan

I love a well-written YA book -- one that has a strong voice, real situations, and realistic teens. Will Grayson, Will Grayson fills the bill.

It’s a story about two Will Graysons—one straight and one gay—and Tiny Cooper, best friend of the former and short-time boyfriend of the latter (though that comes later). The Wills take turn narrating, with the gay will grayson using all lower-case. Plus they talk about different friends, different family situations, and, of course, different love interests, so you should be able to easily tell the difference. (Or you can be clueless like I was for about 1/3 of the book and then have it suddenly dawn on you. No matter that I read the reviews, which clearly state this fact. I forgot.)

Tiny is larger than life. And the plot revolves around a musical he’s producing about his life. Will is an important character in that life story, though in typical teenage fashion, often feels not enough attention is paid to him. Turns out Tiny feels the same way.…

“I Am Number Four,” by Pittacus Lore

I really wanted to read I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore after I read a review of it a few months ago. I remember the reviewer saying that the author’s name is obviously a pseudonym, then just filed the title away. (I actually have a “book book” – a little book in which I write titles of books I want to read, organized by author. My kids tease me about my book book, but when you’re a motherboard with limited RAM, you need to write things down.) More recently I heard that it’s already been made into a “major motion picture” (due out in February!), so I knew I had to read it soon.
And it was OK. The idea – aliens living among us, waiting to get strong enough to go back to rescue their home planet from horrible monsters who now might be coming to conquer Earth – was rather interesting. But the book was just OK. I liked it enough to keep reading it, but probably not enough to bother with the sequels.
It’s certainly not as good as Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, which is also being …

2011 ALA Prize Winners

Lots of surprises here (at least to me).

Caldecott (best illustrated book for children)
Winner: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead
Honors: Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick
Interrupting Chicken, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein

Newbery (most distinguished contribution to American literature for children)
Winner: Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool
Honors: Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus
One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams Garcia

Printz (literary excellence in young adult literature)
Winner: Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi
Honors: Nothing, by Janne Teller
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King
Revolver, by Marcus Sedgwick
Stolen, by Lucy Christopher


There are lots of other awards. You can check out the ALA site for others.

One listing I found particularly interesting: The Alex Awards a…

Newbery Awards, Part 4 (and Last)

Sigh. There’s not enough time to write about all the wonderful books before the winner is named tomorrow. In addition to Keeper and Countdown, there are (in no particular order) The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan, ChasingOrion by Kathryn Lasky, The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, The Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia, and The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. I guess that’s my shortlist.

Some of those I loved and am sure won’t win (Chasing Orion and The Mysterious Howling, to name names). Some I didn’t like so much (The Heart of a Samurai, but we know how I feel about historical fiction and all the while I was reading it, I feared a chapter like Herman Melville’s centerpiece of Moby Dick, detailing whaling in ways I didn't want to read about in college or now).

Of course, I’m looking forward to hearing who the winner is. And to another year of fantastic reading.

2011 Caldecott Award Prediction

A few words about the Caldecott Award, which is given for the “most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published the previous year", by the ALA and its Association for Library Service to Children. There’s a long list of criteria that goes along with choosing the winner, but I find this a difficult pick. Illustrations are so subjective…beauty in the art of the beholder, etc.
However, there’s one book that really stands out for me: “Art and Max” by David Wiesner.
Other contenders I really liked: • “Ballet for Martha” by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca; • “Chalk” by Bill Thomson; • “City Dog and Country Frog” by Mo Willems, illustrated by John Muth; and • “Elsie’s Bird” by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Small.
The Caldecott Award is scheduled to be awarded tomorrow.

Historical Fiction and Me

I don’t like historical fiction. It’s purely personal taste. I do, very much, like historic fiction and would (and do) read Jane Austen novels over and over again. Same goes for Louisa May Alcott’s books. This year (every year), a few historical novels are on the shortlists for the Newbery Award and while considering their literary merits, I think I hit upon why, perhaps, I don’t like historical fiction.
Several times (at least three), in Alchemy and Meggie Swann by Karen Cushman, a master of the historical fiction genre, we’re told that Meggie throws her sewage out into the street. Scraps from her meager meals, human refuse, a number of other things—they’re all thrown into the street. And because of this practice, Elizabethan London smells. I think Meggie, who is crippled, even falls down in the dirty street once or twice. OK. Point made: London is dirty, messy, smelly. Its sanitation leaves much to be desired.
It’s a teaching moment. We’ve learned something about Elizabethan England. …

“Keeper,” by Kathi Appelt

I’m curious about Kathi Appelt’s process in writing Keeper.
The book, which is one of my top choices for the Newbery Award, takes place in what I guess would be called an inlet along the Gulf Coast of Texas. And the story is told – for the most part – to the ebb and flow of the tide. We get forward moving action… the tide coming in. And we get background information… the tide going out. The forward action takes place mostly on the water. Our heroine, Keeper, is out to find her mother, Meggie Marie, whom she believes is a mermaid and whom she hopes will help her sort out the trouble she caused earlier in the day.
Did Appelt set out to replicate the tide? Lots of novels use this technique. We’re placed in the middle of the story and then go back and forth between what happened before and what is happening now. But here it seems especially suited and after I finished the book, I could still feel the wave action.
Unfortunately, this pacing is also a bit of a problem for the book, which is s…

The 2010 Newbery Awards, Part 1

In about a week, the American Library Association will name what it considers “the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year.” Of course, those of us who care about such matters have been coming up with Newbery shortlists throughout the year. Unfortunately, no matter how much you care, it’s impossible to read everything. However, one thing I’ve noticed from the books I have read is that none strike me as truly magical or distinguished.
A few months ago, it occurred to me that some things my favorite bloggers – Tom and Lorenzo of Project Rungay – have said about fashion and “Project Runway” also applies to Newbery books. For instance, they have said that a great designer should propose a new way of how a woman should dress. And that the designer should know his/her client. For the former, think of Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. Or Dior’s “New Look.” (Of course, the fashions aren’t completely new, but perhaps present a sea change at the time.) As for th…