So I Won an Award, and am Going to an Academy

I don’t blog to gain millions of followers or to make money (although that’d be nice…). I write because  I have something to say, and think that this is the best medium for that. So imagine my surprise when I won a YALSA writing award for something I wrote for the YALSA blog in February, 2013.

The article, titled Serving Homeless Teens: other ways to help was true third in a series, with the first two authored by Kelly Czarnecki (Technology Education Librarian at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library), and Marie Harris (Teen Services Specialist, ImaginOn-Charlotte Mecklenburg Library). The YALSA blog editor sent out an email asking which YALSA bloggers had experience in serving homeless youth in libraries. The three of us responded, and coordinated topics so we weren’t writing about the same service or situation. Each of the blog posts are distinctly unique to serving homeless youth, which I think proves the complexity of serving that demographic. Each homeless teen has a different story, different dreams, and different needs – but they all need and deserve service from librarians who have ways to help.

Check out the blog posts – linked above – to read about our experiences and our ideas.

A big thank you to YALSA for recognizing my (and our) work. It validates the hard work we put into not only writing, but serving.


A second shocking piece of news came across my desk this month – but this one I had been hoping for. I was accepted into the 2014 class of the Virginia Library Leadership Academy – sponsored by the Virginia Library Association. The Academy begins in May with a 2-day workshop in Staunton, Virginia where I (and the other 23 attendees) will receive project management training. I will then meet with my Academy mentor, who will work closely with me for the next year. Over that year’s time, I will plan and implement a program that utilizes the skills I learned at the workshop.

I am honored to be a part of the 2014 VALLA class, and cannot wait to discuss my experiences on this here blog.


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? 
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:


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.


2012 Michael L. Printz Awards ceremony! Or, authors who play the accordian and spell the word dumb incorrectly

Being a teen services librarian and lover of YA fiction, I naturally had to spend the 30-some-odd dollars necessary to attend the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award ceremony while in Anaheim, CA (aka Disneyland Land) for the American Library Association Conference. And man, was that money well spent. I listened to incredible authors discuss their stories, how the ideas came about, and how books and librarians forever changed their lives, whether as children visiting the library, or by choosing their book as one of the best of the year. I’d like to share with you some inspiring messages and funny lines that were shared on that awesome night.

Daniel Handler wrote (with Maira Kalman illustrating) Why We Broke Up (<– my review), a story where, as the Printz committee chair said, “heartbreak becomes art”. As Handler and Kalman took the stage and the crowd went wild (no, seriously…) two young-ish librarians behind me squealed, “He’s so cuuuuute!!!” And I just died. And then stopped. Because really, Daniel Handler is one of the cutest guys in literature. He wore a stunning suit vest in a shade of brown that was perfect on him, and his salt-and-pepper hair with that perfect cowlick just really did me in. Then he picked up his accordion, and I was smitten. He sang the most hilarious song titled (I think?) “Without Libraries We’d be Dum”. (The ‘b’ is missing for a reason. To see the reason, watch this video of the hilarious performance.) Oh, and Maira was spot-on with the extra percussion sounds (book slamming, bag popping). Their chemistry as performers was impeccable, making them the epitome of “a hard act to follow”.

But follow, someone must. And Brit Christine Hinwood, author of The Returning, did so, opening with her story of the moment she found out her book was a Printz honor title. Where Hinwood lives is far enough away from London that she only gets Internet reception from the front porch of her home, which is fine…except that Printz Awards are announced in the very chilly month of January. Hinwood missed numerous emails and phone calls until a week or so later, when she was on the train going into the city. She so rudely picked up the phone (something you just don’t do on British public transportation…cough*whycan’tAmericansdothat*cough), heard the news, and flipped out. Upon hanging up the phone, the man next to her said so softly, “Um, couldn’t help but overhear. What’s your book?” And proceeded to download her newly-awarded book onto his Kindle.
Something Hinwood said about her own reading experience as a child really stuck out to me. she said, “the fantasy I read as a child wasn’t childish,”. And, if you read my review of her book, you’ll see that I said that same thing about her novel. She knew she was writing for young adults, but wrote about adult themes, trusting that teen readers would understand the themes and ideas, and appreciate them. I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Following Hinwood was Craig Silvey, the Australian author behind the book Jasper Jones. Silvey was a very humble and humorous winner. I could have listened to his stories for hours, which is indicative of a good storyteller (as is, you know…that award he won). He said that upon hearing he won a ‘prince award’, he said, “I’ve been honored by Prince? I had no idea he’d been following my career!”. He also thanked YALSA “for being so absurdly kind to Australians” (quite a few Australians have won, or been honored, since the award’s inception). He then thanked a part-time librarian that absentmindedly handed him A Clockwork Orange at age 10; “We both made mistakes that day,” he said of the incident.
He spoke for a while on stories – reading and writing them – and their impact on him as a young person and as a writer. As a reader he was drawn to fiction moreso than non-fiction because “the truth…was hidden in the lies.” Meaning, he was able to garner from the fictitious stories the reality of whatever situation he was reading about, be it love, war, or any other theme that adults try keeping from children. He learned that “words are public, but the story is private,” which is why readers react with such fervor to their favorite books (or, conversely, their most hated books). I truly enjoyed his musings and am eagerly awaiting his next book.

Up next was the adorable Maggie Stiefvater, author of the honor winning title The Scorpio Races. She spoke about the books and authors that influenced her love of other worlds, which was very appropriate because her creation of the island of Thisby was absolutely perfect. She really pulled the reader into the story using all of their senses, and it was nice to hear where she learned that skill from.

Lastly…was the winner. John Corey Whaley gave a wonderful speech about how the came up with the idea for his book, and how he came up with character names: driving to visit his parents in Louisiana in 2005, names for characters came to him in the form of city names…one of which was Cullen. He said he remembered thinking, “Surely there won’t be another literary character with the name Cullen, in the near future.” teehee
Whaley thanked the Printz committee because, “you have forever given me the power to shake off the haters,”.
Whaley broke up his speech into segments that had their own “book title” (much like his main character). He is a funny guy, and was very humble in his thanks to the people who helped him earn his way onto that stage. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book(s).

I hope my wrap-up of the night’s events gives you an accurate glimpse into a night at a book award ceremony. If you can ever attend one, do so. The inordinate amount of praise of librarians aside, the authors are gracious and funny, and it is fascinating to learn about how, or why they wrote that particular book.

Book 42: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

2012 Printz Award Honor book Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey is the story of what happens in the summer of 1965 in a small town in rural Australia. Young Charlie Bucktin is smart, clever, and rather friendless, as he is town bully’s main object of attention. Charlie dreams of whisking the beautiful Eliza Wishart off to New York City, of writing the next great American novel, and of not holding in the secret that Jasper Jones, the town misfit, imposed onto him.

Jasper, terrified that he would be framed for the murder of an adored teenaged girl, solicited the assistance of the town mouse (Charlie) in hiding the body then finding the killer. The secret and the search nearly break Charlie down, but his growth, slow and gradual throughout the novel, finally culminates with surprising strength and courage.

I adored the character of Charlie, and could totally relate to him. For how hilarious, witty, and intelligent he was during conversations with his best friend, the Vietnamese immigrant Jeffrey, he was just as quiet and meek around everyone else. His courage grew from just thinking the retaliatory thought to actually speaking – or shouting or demanding – the retort. I grew to respect Charlie.

I will recommend this book to teens who don’t try to speed-read through a book. This is a very intricately-written story, and skipping even one sentence could mean missing a key plot element. I find this to be a typical characteristic of Australian authors. As my coworker put it, ‘Australian authors expect more of their readers,” and I like that. There is no fluff in this entire 310 pages of this book. Please allow me to share with you a few lines worth sharing. Sorry for the length, this first one is just too awesome:

*During Charlie’s first nighttime excursion with Jasper, he smokes his first cigarette: “I take a small incendiary pull. Of course, it attacks my mouth and burns down the length of my throat. I gag immediately….This shit is poison. And I realize I’ve been betrayed by the two vices that fiction promised me I’d adore. Sal Paradise held up bottles of booze like a housewife in a detergent commercial. Holden Caulfield reached for his cigarettes like an act of faith. Even Huckleberry Finn tapped his pipe with relief and satisfaction. I can’t trust anything. If sex turns out to be this bad, I’m never reading again,” p.35

*During Charlie’s bout of restriction/grounding (whatever you call it…): “Mostly, I spent time writing. Almost obsessively. Every day and ever night. it’s the thing that gave me company. Along with reading. It’s what got me out of the house without them being able to stop me at the door.” p.169

*While bantering with his bff Jeffrey, the second wittiest character in the novel/I’ve ever read: “Jeffrey, all due respect, but a strike like that wouldn’t even cause noticeable discomfort to a newborn rabbit with some kind of brittle-bone disease.” p.219

*While learning how to live in the ‘after’: Cooking is conducting, knowing when each piece comes in and how strong. it’s all about timing.” p.29i

*Oh, and I have serious beef with the alternative cover to this book. Check it out: Okay, there is no way the kid on this cover is the nerdy, friendless Charlie Bucktin. This is the Jonas-Brother-look-alike kid that all the girls in school would fawn over. So…false advertising, publisher. It’s like putting a rosy-cheeked cherub on the cover of the Saw movies. Lies.

Book 36: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt is the story of Ranger, the dog who lives underneath the dilapidated house of Gar Face, the meanest man on the planet (whose goal it is to capture and kill the giant alligator living in the lake). After mis-stepping during a hunting excursion with Gar Face, Ranger (who was shot in the leg during the incident) has been tied underneath the house by a steel chain. One day he makes a friend when a pregnant and lonely cat hears Ranger’s baying, finds him, and befriends him. She and her kittens Puck and Sabine become a family. But much danger awaits them once they leave the underneath. The third story line weaving through this intricate tale is that of Grandmother Moccasin, whose selfish love for her daughter ends tragically.

The story has many elements of mythology, including entire (short) chapters that describe the trees and their feelings, their experiences, and their abilities. The storyline of Grandmother Moccasin includes shape-shifting and a Native American tribe. The imagery, mythology, and language are all quite beautiful.

This is one of those books you either love!or HATE!! (Just read the reviews at Amazon.) I am sad to say that while I am glad I read it, I definitely lean more towards the “nay” side. I do not think this book is appropriate for readers ages 9-12 (as the publishers claim), nor does it flow the way a book should. The plot jumps from the Grandmother Moccasin’s life from “a thousand years ago” to the modern-day plot of Ranger and the kittens. It was a bit hard to follow because there were no transitions between plot lines or time periods. You just had to remember that there were three plots and two time periods to follow.

I read this book as a member of the 1Book1Community committee. I understand that the book is a multiple award winner, and I see exactly why it is. But this is not a book I would recommend to young readers, or even most adults, for that matter. This is definitely a book for folks who enjoy well-written literature, not “a good story”.