Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Holy partially anticipated occurrences!

First things first. In one truly unanticipated occurrence, that creepy adult-eyed look at youth The Ocean at the End of the Lane did not win an Alex Award. As promised, I am about to eat a bug.

I'm glad to have just learned that spider-shaped  fruit snacks are tastier than they sound, because I own a box of them now.  But they don't rival the deliciousness of the Newberys-and-blueberries ritual I've carried out since a 2009 brunch at the home of several Simmons classmates. This year, in the bowels of the bookstore, I popped blueberries like a moviegoer pops popcorn as I stared, riveted, at the Twitter ticker at the bottom of the ALA website, sorted through the reactions to weed out the new information, and rushed to plug titles and suggested quantities into a Google doc for the intrepid buyer across from me. (Note to ALA: if you tweeted Honor books in addition to Medalists, those of us hoping to order the books could do so more efficiently.) (Note to self: Twitter did not exist in 1922, and booksellers managed.)

It speaks to the strength of this year that the only big surprises, to my mind, were in what didn't win anything. There were no moments of "Seriously? That won?" (There were a few moments of "Okay, add that to the TBR list," but there's always some of that.) I'm super-excited about Flora and Ulysses, and the appropriately grandiose Locomotive should be held up next to The Stinky Cheese Man as an example of why book design matters. I'll admit I'm rethinking the idea of a Caldecott-based story time; three wordless Honor books and a very wordy Medalist might not be the most practical combination. But I'll happily handsell all of the above; Journey in particular is a staff favorite.

Other thoughts:
I need to read Midwinterblood.
We had Navigating Early shelved in Intermediate next to Moon Over Manifest, as I imagine many stores and libraries did (or still do), but I'd been recommending it as a transitional book. And now here it is with a Printz Honor... let's try it in YA!
Hooray The Year of Billy Miller! Hooray P.S. Be Eleven! And the completely un-shocking Nelson Mandela! Ditto Eleanor and Park! And Better Nate Than Ever!

If anyone's looking for me, I'll be catching up on the winners I've missed. And probably eating Spiderman fruit snacks.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Other awards: a round-up

Lemony Snicket has won the Charlotte Zolotow Award for The Dark. I'm always glad this award for writing in a picture book exists. The Caldecott recognizes illustration, which is one important aspect of picture books, but illustrations alone do not a picture book make. (Except when they do, and I'm sure there's been a debate at some point about whether a well-plotted wordless picture book could win the CZA.) In any case, I wonder how that kid in the All the Wrong Questions books would feel about the accolades in his future.

Aline Sax and Caryl Strzelecki have won the National Jewish Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature for The War Within These Walls. The Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers goes to The Longest Night:A Passover Story by Laurel Snyder; for Older Readers, to The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco; and for Teen Readers, to The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi. A good mix, and I'm glad The Blessing Cup wasn't judged by its picture book-sized cover.

The Edgar Awards have announced their nominees, and I'm pleased to see that there's both a Juvenile and a Young Adult category. Also, that's officially enough buzz that All the Truth That's in Me is now on my library-hold list.

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill has won the Scott O'Dell Award. I hadn't known much about this one, but it looks like a good (if decades-later) read-alike for the Little House books.

And of course, the National Book Award is old news by now, but I'm happy to see The Thing About Luck getting so much attention.

What did I miss?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Since we've just been introduced, I'll call it SLJRoBERT.

The Contender list is out for School Library Journal's 2014 Battle of the Books! We'll be on a nickname basis soon, but for now, I'll address BoB formally as Rehashing of Brilliant, Esteemed, Renowned Tomes.

I love that this list gets announced before the ALA winners do. The odds are high that some major award winners are on this list, but we don't know that for sure, and "hey, it won the Newbery" will at most be just one of some Contender's vital stats. (I'm still pulling for a Newbery for Counting by Sevens, which coulda been a Contender. And I think it's one of many strong Printz candidates, but I admit it would be fun to see how people described Reality Boy's premise if it won.)

This SLJBoB list shows exactly why I'm hesitant to make more concrete award predictions: 2013 was a strong and varied year. Just look at these contenders, virtually all of which have received serious mock Newbery and/or Printz attention. We have here a slim volume of emotion-encapsulating poetry and a semigraphic novel about a poetry-typing squirrel. We have two sequels that cover very different ground from their predecessors, which is exactly what makes them interesting. We have graphic novels set during China's Boxer Rebellion and America's Civil Rights Movement, and prose fiction set in the 1980s, in a village that might be in colonial America, and in the space between childhood and adolescence. We have animal factoids and arguments with a grandmother. In short, we have a lot of choices that are distinguished in very different ways, and my hat is off to the committees that will have to choose among them.

But I'm still planning to eat a bug, or possibly several metaphorical bugs in the form of ants on a log, if The Ocean at the End of the Lane doesn't win an Alex.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thou shalt read.

Just before we graduated from Simmons, I got to read an early draft of a novel about a girl with the Troubles. Gloria Jean's diagnosis of celiac disease brought on some kissing concerns; who wants to worry about what her partner has been chewing? But Gloria Jean also had some less typically-YA worries. If she couldn't have gluten, how could she take Communion?
That draft has since become Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean, by Britt Leigh, now out from Pauline Books and Media. I've seen the humor, thoughtfulness, and YA moxie that went into this novel, and I can't wait to read the final product. Happy book birthweek, Britt!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy things this year, so far

Allow me to join the chorus of those happy to see Kate DiCamillo named as the next National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. KD is an author who gets that "young people's literature" encompasses more than one category, and young people fit more than one description. Her books often ignore the boundaries between categories, which makes Bink, Gollie, and Mercy perfect for kids who are just starting to edge into chapter books. Her writing at all levels is challenging and calls readers to pay attention, and making people pay attention and challenging them sounds like a job for an Ambassador.

I'm also happy to see that according to PW, kids' and YA books were a force to be reckoned with this past year. That's a whole lot of adults buying books as gifts for  their nieces and nephews and neighbors, a lot of parents listening to their kids' insistence that the new Wimpy Kid was worth a trip to the bookstore, a lot of kids spending their own allowance on books, maybe a lot of libraries with the capability to buy kids' books for their collections. Whatever made a piece of middle-grade humor rocket to the top of the list, with several other middle-grade and YA titles not too far below it, rock on.

More anecdotally, it made happy that when the Valentine's display went up at the front of the store, my coworker went looking for more diverse love stories... and found them in the YA section. Two Boys Kissing and If You Could Be Mine look perfect up there.

Finally, a dear friend - a friend who I'm pretty sure is cosmically connected to Kate DiCamillo - has a book release in progress. More on that soon, but for now I'll just say that, literarily at least, 2014 is looking up.