2014 Youth Media Award Winners

Only once in my 7.5 year library career have I correctly guessed an award-winning title. (I just knew Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe would be a Printz honor.) Once. So it came as no surprise that, once again, I only got one correct guess.

The 2014 Printz Award winner Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is a book I have never even seen, nonetheless heard about. Am I a poor Teen Services librarian, or is the publisher to blame?  The Printz Honor books include Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (which I just died over) and three other titles I have never. ever. heard. of. (Again, should I be embarrassed? Because I am…)
Of the 10 Alex Award Winners, I have read one and heard of another two. Three. Three out of ten. What? 
Embarrassing.
But, oh wait…I got two correct guesses! When I first saw Brian Floca’s Locomotive I just had to buy it for my nephews (specifically the five-year old Ronan who just adores trains, and for his third birthday I bought him a conductors cap, apron, and whistle). Locomotive is the Caldecott winner – for excellence in illustrations. See why:
loco

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The entire list of winners can be found at the ALA website. Browse, peruse, check out from your library, or purchase. They are all deserving winners, and I can say that despite not reading more than a handful. Why? Because the authors, illustrators, narrators, editors, and publishers put love and care into each of them. Writing is an art that, whether or not we someday go 100% paperless, will never ever die. Writing can send us places we have never been, writing can encourage and inspire us.

 

Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Marie Semple

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Marie Semple is a witty, humorous novel that will have you booking a flight to Seattle cruise to Antarctica (Is the Drake Passage that bad?). Bernadette is mother to Bee, a precocious teenager whose impressive academic and social standing barely hold a candle to her wit and wisdom. Bernadette hates Seattle and the people in it so much that she lives the life of a recluse, and even goes so far as to hire a virtual assistant living in India. But Manjoola isn’t who Bernadette believes her to be. And upon realizing the trouble she put herself and her family into because of her pathetic reclusiveness, she flees.

This novel of a woman’s disappearance is told from multiple perspectives – her Micrsoft-inventor-husband, FBI files, and emails to and from the many people who played a part in her escape act. I listened to this on AudioCD in my car, so it took me a moment to re-orient myself when the format went from narrative to primary source. I still recommend listening to it, though, because the reader has such a unique voice, lending so well to the uniquness of Bee, Bernadette, and the entire whirlwind of a saga they were caught up in.

This book was recently given the distinction of being named a 2013 Alex Award Winner, awarded to adult books with appeal to young adult readers. Many times as I was listening to this book I thought of the Alex Awards, so I feel validated as a Teen Services Librarian who can choose adult fiction for her demographic. I am also validated in that I choose to read really great books.

I want my best friend Dawn to read this book. I think she will “get” Bernadette. I also think hipster-haters will enjoy this, because that is all Bernadette does, really…hates on Seattle’s Queen Bee moms and rich-wannabe lifestyles. But deep down, Bernadette is sad about a life gone awry…which many of us can relate to. In fact, the author’s idea for the main character came from her own experience. Read about it on her website.

Awards Season! And no…I don’t mean the Oscars

MY STREAK IS OVER!! I finally finally FINALLY guessed an award-winning novel!! YYYYYEEEESSS!!!!! This may seem trivial to you, but I truly was beginning to think that I had no idea what a “good book” looked like, because I had never read a winning book before it was announced that it won. The year 2013 has changed all that my friends, and in numerous categories! I can keep my job!* Yes!

I won’t do what every other blogger is doing and review every winning title. Who has time for that. Instead I will highlight the ones I’ve read and encourage you to read them.

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I read Printz Honor book Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz last September at the recommendation of a coworker who said of the novel, “I haven’t fallen in love with a book since high school. Until this.” That brief review encouraged me to read. And read I did. This beautiful coming-of-age story also won the Pura Belpré award and the Stonewall Book Award.

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Of the ten Alex Award Winners, I read 4, one of which I have yet to review. I’ll do that this week. (Maybe?) They are:
girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: a novel by Robin Sloan
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Marie Semple

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The Odyssey Award winner The Fault in Our Stars was actually the fifth book (of 77) that I read in 2012 and called it possibly “my favorite book of 2012”, despite it being January. But I didn’t care.

Oh, and I totally read Creepy Carrots! illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds, but this is a YA and adult book blog. Not a children’s blog. I’ll save you from a review of that fun, “scary” children’s book.


*It is not a pre-requisite to guess or even read award-winning YA literature, but it is a point of pride. For me. Probably not for many other people.

Book 61: That’s Not a Feeling by Dan Josefson

Roaring Orchards School for Troubled Teens in upstate New York is under the direction of Aubrey, a man with a somewhat unconventional system for rehabilitating teens from their suicidal, self-harming, depressive, or just generally wild states. This is the convoluted home of Dan Josefson’s That’s Not a Feeling, published by what is becoming my favorite publishing company, SOHO. (I never thought I’d have a favorite publishing company, but after interacting with them at two conferences and reading the books they publish, I can’t help but hold them in very high esteem. Call me a nerd if you want. I’ll own that.)

The many veritable characters in this book are what make it so fascinating and un-put-down-able (is there a better word for this)? Suicidal Benjamin narrates the story of his first year at Roaring Orchards, complete with making friends with a known biter who carries around a felt-wrapped teddy bear named Burn Victim (her silent witness). Together they set (accidental) fires, alone they bite, they attack with axes, and they break down from the unsureness of simply being a hormonal teen (that has been caged inside of a rather unorthodox rehab facility).

I like that the book presents so many opportunities for the reader to ask “What would I do?”. Of course, you don’t ask/answer as you’re reading. Only afterwards, when you’re sipping coffee or watching TV and it hits you. Check out the book trailer here:

This is not being marketed towards teens, but it will absolutely appeal to those teens who enjoy reading adult novels with advanced language. (As a matter of fact, for the second time this week I am going to recommend a book to the Alex Award committee.) This book is one of those that requires you read every word, every sentence. No skipping around here, folks. The pages are too dense with words and meaning, that skipping means you’ll miss something.

Book 41: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan is a 2012 Alex Award winning title. The book is written in the form of a dictonary. Every (or every-other) page is a new word, but it is not defined normally. Instead, Levithan uses an anecdote from the relationship between the two protagonists to define the word. For example:

belittle, v.No, I don’t want to listen to the weather in the morning. No, I don’t keep track of what I spend. No, it hadn’t occurred to me that the Q train would have been much faster. But every time you give me that look, it doesn’t make me want to live up to your standards.**

Other entries are much more romantic and lighthearted, or funny and sweet. But, sadly, many of them are difficult lessons learned during a rather normal relationship. One that is both supportive and judgmental, loving and hurtful.

This book, I truly hate to admit, made me reflect on my own relationship a bit too much for my own liking. It made me realize that, perhaps I should re-evaluate my reactions, responses, feelings…because sometimes I forget that being in a relationship is just as much about the other person as it is about me.

I don’t quite know if this book is Alex Award -worthy, if only because the relationship is so adult. Living together, enduring funerals of loved ones together/apart, cheating…these are very adult situations (especially how they are described in the novel) so I don’t know how teens can relate. Regardless, the book is wonderful and I will absolutely be recommending it to adult friends and adults who enjoy reading YA lit, as the author is a wonderful author of YA lit.

 

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**Guilty. :/

livid” was one of the strongest, most honest paragraphs I have ever read. Read this book, if only for that passage.

unabashedly” was hysterical. I love the line, “You know, I’d get a tattoo with your name on it. Only, I want you to have the freedom to change your name if you want to.” What an incredibly well-thought out and completely rock-solid cop-out/excuse!

Book 26: The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures by Caroline Preston

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures by Caroline Preston is a very cute story of young adult Frankie told via scrapbook pictures, captions, and momentos. The story begins with her wrapping up her public education, readying herself to be a woman of the 1920s. She loves Hemingway and English, graduates a Vasser girl, travels the Mauretania to get to Paris to fulfill her life’s dream of living in the city, and so much more. The story of this girl’s life is adventurous yet simple, and that is why Frankie is so endearing. She does incredible things, but she is does not carry herself as such. She is just simply a nice girl who sets goals and achieves them, even if they aren’t in the manner she initially hoped.

I will recommend this book to fans of historical fiction. The items in the scrapbook include old receipts, post cards, photographs, charms, and more. Those primary sources are peppered heavily throughout the novel and make the reader nostalgic for a long-ago era. I will also recommend this book to crafty young ladies who enjoy fine things, vintage/antique clothing, and propriety. Frankie deviates from societal norms only briefly, and each time it comes with a lesson learned and a new personal goal. It is an empowering book, a great foil to the aristocratic women of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Reading more…

As I told you all a couple weeks ago, I am going to read every 2011 Alex Award- and Printz Award Winners and Honor books. Today I will tell you all a tale of The Boy Who couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To.

DC Pierson tells us the story of two teen boys who grow closer over hours of comic-book-illustrating-turned-movie-screenplay writing. Eric admits to Darren that he does not sleep. Not by way of caffeine or electric shock therapy, but because he cannot. In a moment of anger, Darren spills his friend’s secret to a mysterious man who is shockingly similar to the main villain in his comic book/screenplay. What ensues is an action-packed couple of days where the boys are escaping the very characters they created.

I recommend this book to anyone who needs a change-up in their day-to-day reading lifestyle. This book is one part action, one part sci-fi, and one part YA. I truly enjoyed getting to know the characters and theircharacters, as well.