Monday, January 27, 2014

Newbery,Caldecott, and Printz, Oh My!

Yes indeed - it is that time of year once again!  At the American Library Association's Mid-Winter Meeting in Philadelphia, the awards for youth literature for 2013 were announced!  Huzzah!  

Just so everyone is clear on this -- the books are chosen by a committee of people (mostly school and public librarians) that spend the year reading, re-reading, analyzing and discussing a LARGE assortment of books.  Folks that I know who have served on a committee often do not want to even pick a book up for six months after their year is over.  Or at least not read anything seriously. So it's not a popular vote. Or a vote done by kids (though there are many, many "Mock" awards presented that ARE done by kids.)  Anyway - just so folks know the groundwork of how the selections are made.

I was happy with the choices for this year!  I had actually read (and rooted for) quite a few of them.  Without further delay - 

NEWBERY goes to Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo - Hooray!  This choice makes me happy!  This one took me about 25 pages to get into so please, give it a chance!  You'll want your very own squirrel. With superpowers.  And a giant doughnut.     

There were also four Newbery Honor Books-  Doll Bones  by Holly Black, The Year of Billy Miller  by Kevin Henkes, Paperboy  by Vince Vawter  and..... One Came Home by Amy Timberlake!  VERY excited about One Came Home receiving an Honor Award.  

CALDECOTT goes to Locomotive written and illustrated by Brian Floca.  It's beautiful.  If you like trains, you'll love this book.  
And - three Caldecott Honor Books! Journey written and illustrated by Aaron Becker, Flora and the Flamingo written and illustrated by Molly Idle, and Mr. Wuffles written and illustrated by David Wiesner.  I thought Journey and Mr. Wuffles were both delightful. Journey is a wordless book about where your imagination can take you - especially when you are lonely.  Mr. Wuffles is about a cat defending his home against alien invaders.  :-)   As for Flora - I enjoyed the theme and story; I just was not delighted with the delivery.  Lots of lift the flaps which were pretty much destroyed in the copy I borrowed from my library.  

PRINTZ (for excellence in lit for young adults) goes to Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.  I read this - it is very well written.  I am not sure how many teens will like it --  it is definitely for an older teen audience.  A bit of a dark fantasy intertwined with a mystery.   Four Printz Honor books - Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (have not read it but I want to!); Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal (don't know anything about this one!), Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (have not read it) and Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (read it; loved it - wonderful read for 7th and up!)

More tomorrow -- if you want to explore the awards on your own, take a peek here

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Counting by 7's" and "Rags & Bones"

Rags & Bones by Melissa MarrCounting by 7s

I really do read more than picture books!

This week I finished two books.  Today's book was Rags and Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt.  This is a rather strange anthology of stories.  When I picked it up, I thought that they would be based on fairy tales or folk tales but that was not the case for the majority of the stories.  Also, it has a story by Neil Gaiman and I wanted to see if it was one I had read.  I am delighted to announce that it was new to me and that I loved it.  It was my favorite in the whole collection.  Also, this was published as a young adult book but at least two of the stories, in my opinion, do not belong in a collection for YAs.  Not so much because of the sex because a lot of YA books have sexual content - but they just are not stories that seem like they would appeal to teens.  I did enjoy reading what the individual authors had to say about their selections.
As I said, my favorite was "The Sleeper and the Spindle" which was inspired by Sleeping Beauty.  I also enjoyed Kami Garcia's take on Rumpelstiltskin.  Very different from the Grimm's version but quite enjoyable.  Tim Pratt did a story inspired by Henry James's "The Jolly Corner" that I also liked and which left me with a craving for Carolina BBQ.  
There is a vampire story and a selkie story (which was inspired by Kate Chopin's The Awakening), and a story about a monkey's paw that grants wishes set in a dystopian future. The two stories I liked the least were Gene Wolfe's "Uncaged" and "Losing Her Divinity" by Garth Nix.  I thought "Uncaged" was disjointed and predictable.  It is one of the stories that I felt just did not belong in this collection.  I disliked Nix's story because i did not like his characterization of Rudyard Kipling.  His story was inspired by Kipling's "The Man Who Would be King" and the main character is supposedly Kipling - and I just could not see it.  I could see Peachy in that role; absolutely!  Or someone else that had dictated the story to Kipling.  But not Kipling himself.  I enjoyed the premise of the story, though - "The Man Who Would be King" is a favorite of mine.  
My suggestion is - if you are a Twilight Zone fan or a Gaiman fan, borrow this one from your local library if only to read Mr. Gaiman's story.

The other book I finished this week is Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  I really liked this book.  Again, it falls into the category of "I'm an adult and I really liked this book; but I don't know if a 12 year old would like this book..."  So if you know of any 12 year-olds that have an opinion, please let me know?  The story is about WIllow Chance. Willow is a genius.  Because of her highly developed mind, she is somewhat lacking in the social graces that are normally required to navigate the murky waters of public school.  As the story opens, she is about to begin middle school.  And, as could have been predicted, she hates it.  But she's trying to put on a good show for her parents.  Did I mention Willow is adopted?  Anyway - Willow is accused of cheating on standardized tests (she got a perfect score; no one gets a perfect score so she MUST have cheated, right?) and is sent to a school counselor - Dell Duke.  She does not report this incident to her parents. While meeting with Dell, she meets two high school students - a brother and sister - from Viet Nam.  OK - that's the set up.  One day after a counseling session, they all four go for ice cream.  When they arrive at Willow's house, the police are there to inform her that both of her parents have been tragically killed in a car accident.  And Willow has no other relatives and really, no friends.  Or so she thought.  Again - I really enjoyed this book.  But it's hard to figure out WHAT it is.  It's not realistic fiction.  But it's not fantasy or magical realism.  It's funny and sad and quirky and about creating a family with what you have. And redemption.  Redeeming seemingly unimportant, overlooked people.  And there's gardening!  (I like gardening...) Highly recommended.  It might even win the Newbery; who knows?

Monday, January 6, 2014



I volunteer at my local library on Mondays during story hour.  Crowd control for the most part.  Which gives me lots of time to peruse the New Book shelf and read a few picture books.  This is what I read today!

Amy's Three Best Things by Philippa Pearce; illustrated by Helen Craig ~  I really enjoyed this book.  Possibly because I'm a Philippa Pearce fan?  Amy is headed off to spend three nights at her grandmother's house.  She knows she will miss mom and little brother, so she takes along three special things to help her when she becomes lonely.  Delightful!  Ages 5 and up.  (A side note -- if you have not read Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, it is highly recommended.)

And the Cars Go.... by William Bee ~ If you liked Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" you will enjoy Mr. Bee's book.  All the cars are stuck in a traffic jam, each making their own individual sound.  Whatever could be causing the delay?  Ages 2 and up.

Animal ABC by Marcus Pfister ~ This is just what the title says - an alphabet book with animals!  The illustrations are lovely and I think young ones will enjoy the little rhymes (though not all adults will appreciate them.)  As always, the U and the X prove problematic when creating an animal ABC book.  The reader will have to decide how well Mr. Pfister manages the dilemma.  I think four and five year olds will be happy to have this added to their collection.

Baby Bear Counts ONE by Ashely Wolff - Very cute counting book!  Also introduces the idea of hibernation.  3 year olds and up should love this one.  

Birthday Queen by Audrey and Don Wood - It's your birthday and the Birthday Queen is going to go all out to make sure it's a super special day!  Not sure this would apply to everyone...  While everyone has a birthday, not everyone has a birthday queen or celebrates in the same way.  I liked the other Audrey Wood better!

Blue Sky by Audrey Wood - Simple concept book that looks at the sky at different times during the day.  It revolves around one family and their day at the beach.  Lovely illustrations - perfect for 2s and 3s.  

Night Sounds by Javier Sobrino; illustrated by Emilio Urberuagua ~ I think this one would make a good read aloud because you could make the animal voices be much more expressive than they appear on the page of the book.  These rain forest animals want to go to sleep but every few minutes they are interrupted by something inside a wooden box.  Children will be delighted to discover who is making all the noise!  PreK - 1st

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester ~ This is a picture book for some of our older readers - ages 8 and up.  Sophie is nine years old and lives in Australia.  Her father is the captain of an icebreaker - the Aurora Australis.  Sophie gets to go with him on one of his trips to Antarctica to visit Mawson,taking supplies and people.  The story is based on the author's own trip to Antarctica told through the voice of Sophie.  It is written in a diary type format and has lots of pictures and illustrations.  Lovely!

Terrific Tongues Up Close by Melissa Stewart ~ Children will be delighted to learn that a cow uses her tongue to wipe her nose!  And I learned that a penguin has a spiky, ridged tongue so that those slippery fish don't escape before they can be gulped down.  K and up.

I am not sure I'll manage this many each week!  There were a lot of new books on the shelves.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014


We take a brief pause from our 2013 retrospective tour to look ahead to 2014 and what is currently in my stack of books to read. (again - in no particular order)  What books are in your "to be read" pile?

The Searchers:  A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt by Joseph Loconte  Recommended by Os Guinness and Eric Metaxas

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Splintered by A. G. Howard

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales by folks like Holly Black and Neil Gaiman

Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig (Book 1 of The Heartland Trilogy)

Fallout by Todd Strasser  (What if the bomb had actually been dropped?  What if your family was the only one with a shelter?)

A Street Cat Named Bob and How He Saved My Life by Jim Bowen (due back at the library so this will be first!)

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen (sequel to The False Prince)

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill  "Time travel done right"

Scorched by Mari Mancusi (dragons!)

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Friday, January 3, 2014


What I Read in 2013 (#4) 


Prisoner 88 by Leah Pileggi ~ Historical fiction loosely based on the true story of a young boy who is arrested and jailed in Idaho in 1885.  The story is narrated by ten-year old Jake as we follow him into a prison system that was created for adult men.  Jake faces lots of tough choices that will make for some great discussions if this is used in a book club or read aloud.  Ages 10 and up.

Salt:  A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost ~ Historical fiction written in free verse.  Set in 1812, it is the story of two twelve-year old boys, James and Anikwa, who live in the Indiana Territory.  It relates how they - and their family and friends - must handle rising tensions between the Miami and the American settlers.  Again, good discussion material.  Ages 10 and up.

And Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman ~ Just read it - very short, absurdly silly, and delightful.  Several years ago, Neil Gaiman wrote "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish".  The dad in that story was, basically, clueless.  But folks kept writing to Neil about how they were giving that book to their dads on Father's Day...  so he decided he needed to create a story in which the dad was a bit more of a hero.  So, we have a time traveling stegosaurus, aliens, dwarves, wumpires, ponies...  and a hero dad who saves the world.  Ages 9 and up.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein ~ Mr. Lemoncello is a modern day Willy Wonka except instead of creating yummy candies, he creates games.  All kinds of games - board games, electronic games, computer games.  And he loves books.  So he builds a brand new library for his home town and invites a dozen twelve year olds to join him on the even of the grand opening.  Delightfully fun.  

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata ~ Winner of the National Book Award, the story of twelve year old Summer and her younger brother, Jaz, who must accompany her grandparents as part of a harvesting team working their way up through the Midwest.  I liked parts of this book -- even though Summer's life is very different from many other twelve-year olds, it is also very similar.  Summer also has lots of difficult choices to make; it's a good story of persevering through hard times.  Ages 12 and up?  This is not going to appeal to everyone - mainly girls, is my guess.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate diCamillo ~ An unassuming squirrel is accidentally sucked up into a Ulysses vacuum cleaner by Flora Belle Buckman's ditzy neighbor.  Amazingly, the squirrel comes out alive and now in the possession of several super powers.  Flora, of course, immediately adopts him and names him Ulysses.  I LOVED this book.  Please read it.  It may take you a few pages to get into it but trust me -- it is worth it.  It is one of my top ten favorites of the year.  

One Crazy Summer & PS Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia ~  Books 1 & 2 in the Gaither Girl series.  One Crazy Summer follows Delphine and her two younger sisters as they fly from Brooklyn to California.  They are headed for Oakland to spend the summer with the poet mother who abandoned them years before.  The books take place in the 60s and the Black Panthers play a role in Delphine's Crazy Summer.  The second book finds them all safely back home in Brooklyn and heading off to a new school year.  Their beloved Uncle Darnell has returned home from Vietnam but he is very different.  And their dad has gone and gotten himself a girlfriend!  These are excellent books.  Highly recommended for ages 10 and up.  

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander ~ Also a National Book Award winner, Alexander creates a complex fantasy world called Zombay.  There is a witch named Graba (very much like Baba Yaga) who has a horde of abandoned youngsters living with her and answering to her every need (or else).  Rownie is one of them but he desperately wants to find his missing brother so he risks running away from Graba to join a roving theatre troupe comprised of goblins.  Fascinating and well written!  I have the second Zombay book on my stack of to be reads. Ages 10 and up

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu ~ Another of my top ten favorites for the year.  This is the story of Hazel and her dear friend Jack.  Jack is injured by a snowball that Hazel threw at him in the midst of a jealous fit.  Unfortunately, the injury is in the form of a piece of glass from a magic mirror and it lodges in Jack's heart.  This causes Jack to enter the Magic Forest, lured by the Snow Queen.  Hazel, of course, must go after her friend and rescue him.  Loosely based on Andersen's "The Snow Queen", but set in modern day Minneapolis. The thing I love most about this story is what Hazel learns about herself as she ventures out to find Jack.  Please read this if you get the chance.  It also has lovely illustrations by Erin McGuire.  

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt ~ Oh, Kathi Appelt!  Why must you write such complicated stories?  Parts of this tale are perfect for the younger set - two adorable raccoon brothers, J'miah and Bingo, entrusted with guarding the swamp from danger plus the story of twelve year old Chap whose mama makes the best fried pies in Louisiana but needs a boat load of money to keep her house and cafe from -- and this is where the story shifts to an older audience -- the bad guys.  Sonny Boy Beaucoup, and his alligator wrestling partner, Jaeger Stitch are determined to pave over the swamp and create a theme park.  Plus a marauding horde of wild hogs and, of course, the Sugar Man. It's a great romp of a story; I just always have a hard time deciding what age is best for her books.  Realistic fiction with a touch of magic.