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:
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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.

 

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Wednesday reads: cooking and creepy stuff

I probably should have posted this yesterday. Would have been a bit more appropriate, considering it’s called Wednesday Reads and not Thursday Reads. (Wow, that doesn’t even sound intriguing…) Sorry for the lateness. it will never happen again. Until it does.

sharperThe last time I read a book by Kathleen Flinn I purchased 4 copies – one for myself and 3 as gifts. I think the same will happen this time. In fact, I already ordered my own copy and got my husband’s blessing to put “go back to Paris” on our five-year plan. I love him. And macaroons. And French accents.

On, right…reviewing…um, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry is Kathleen’s first memoir, about her experience as a student at Le Cordon Bleu. That’ll happen in my next life…

house ofHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is…a really intersting book. An old man is found dead, and the young man who finds his writings decides to publish them. So House of Leaves is a book about a book. Right. So this one is going to take me a while.

What are yyyyoooouuu reading?

Book 59: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins has been on my TBR pile since my future SIL told me about it last summer. Another Suzanne Collins series? I thought. Sure!

Eleven year-old Gregor is totally selfless and gave up his summer to babysit his two-year old sister Boots (Margaret, really, but the nickname stuck) while his mom works and his middle sister can attend summer camp. He doesn’t complain because he knows that ever since his dad disappeared over two years ago, life has been difficult for his mother. For Gregor, too, but he files  those feelings away in order to be helpful. One afternoon while putting the clothes in the dryer in the apartment complex’s laundry room, Boots and Gregor fall down the proverbial hole of children’s literature lore, into the Underland. He learns that his father is being held captive and so joins cockroaches and bats and Underland humans in a fight against the rats who are holding his dad against his will. Battle ensues, and action and adventure reign down on the pages (er, cds).

There are times it will be very hard to find. Times when it will be much easier to choose hate instead. But if you want to find peace, you must first be able to hope it is possible. -Vikas

I am glad I read it, because it is an action book with a young boy protagonist. Dime a dozen, right? Wrong. Gregor’s self-reflection, his maturity, and his sense of duty and honor all make for quite an inspiring story. I will recommend this to my young male readers, and those who like action, but who could also benefit from a more predictable storyline. I likely won’t continue with the series (oh, don’t be surprised. What was the last trilogy I continued after book 1? I didn’t even finish the sequels to Birthmarked, Need, Matched, or Uglies. I don’t have a very good track record with trilogies. I get bored. I want something new.

NEW! I tell you. NEW!

Sorry.)

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”.

Book 12: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is an exquisitely written children’s (or tween-aged) novel that expertly weaves fairy tales into realism. Hazel, the adopted daughter of two recently-divorced parents, is a bit of a misfit. She fidgets, thinks and speaks beyond her years (often confusing her critical peers), and is harder on herself than most professional athletes. Hazel is honest, confused, hopeful, and curious…all of which makes for an intriguing character.

Her best friend and neighbor, Jack, is not nearly as complex. A normal fifth grader who enjoys baseball and drawing comics, Jack is only ever confused about whether he wants to play kickball with the guys at recess, or discuss his new comic book characters with Hazel. But his home life changes drastically one day, leaving Jack sad and looking for a way out. Which he finds in the Snow Queen.

Hazel learns of the circumstances of Jack’s disappearance from Tyler, a rival classmate and friend of Jack’s. She decides instantly that she is meant to save him, despite only being in her tennis shoes. (One of the defining moments for me in this tale was when she debates- only for a moment- with going back home to get her snow boots, but decides against it because it will waste precious Jack-saving time…how profound.)

Numerous fairy tales are referenced in this book- some overtly and some less so- namely The Snow Queen, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter, and Hansel and Gretel. The individuals and groups she encounters each have their own dilemma, some of which come from the aforementioned fairy tales.

Let me also mention that, while reading this novel at 5:30am (I couldn’t sleep…) I felt that many of the more creepy or problematic characters Hazel met along her way to save Jack alluded to contemporary issues such as divorce, depression, and…I saw drug abuse and/or an obsession with body image in the swan creature…but please tell me if I’m wrong. I’ve never been a fairy tale person, so perhaps I was reading too much into it? Have you read it? Am I right, or way off?

Lastly…I loved her writing as much as I love Neil Gaiman’s in The Graveyard Book. Really wonderfully executed.

A few lines I thought were just beautifully constructed:
“Hazel could not help put stop and stare at it- this, the biggest tree in the world. There was a flickering within the leaves, birds that made their universe inside the mammouth cloud of branches. She wondered if they even knew about the sky.” p.174

“Jack hesitated still, and Hazel wanted to say something comforting, to give him some bright plastic flowers of words, but Jack would see them for what they were. Jack knew how to see things.” p.310