Sunday, September 11, 2016


The books to read this week have all been selected for an awards list.  They have either received the National Book Award OR they are a Printz winner or honor book.  First - a brief intro to these two awards.
The Printz is a literary award, and so when choosing an award winner or honor book, literary merit should be valued above everything else. YALSA does want kids from 12 to 18 to read the book BUT popularity is never the standard for the award. Controversial topics are sometimes considered a good thing – they make for interesting discussion. The Printz selection committee is made up of nine Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) members. They read and discuss and read and discuss and nominate books and have straw pools and repeat that process and finally reach a consensus.  One winner and up to four Honor Books. Want more info?  See

The National Book Award is a little different.  Entrants pay to enter their books. The book must be written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year. The five judges read all of the books submitted. In mid-September, they narrow their choice down to ten titles.  By mid-October, that list is narrowed to five titles.  And the winner is chosen from those five titles. This year’s judges are William Alexander (he wrote Goblin Secrets which won an NBA); Katherine Paterson (children’s author); Valerie Lewis (an advocate for young people’s lit); Ellen Oh (We Need Diverse Books CEO); and Laura Ruby (she wrote Bone Gap). 

I had read about 1/4 of the books on the Printz list (we only read 2003-2016 award/honor books) and for the National Book Award we  read 2003-2015 award and short list books. I had read about 1/4 of those also. 

On to the books I read -- or at least two of the four.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi was my favorite from the Printz Award winners (and it did win in 2010). It also was a National Book Award nominee.  It's Dystopian - set in a waterlogged future.  There are lots of really, really poor people and a some really rich people and a few somewhere in the middle.  The book focuses on a poor boy - Nailer ; a rich girl (swank) - Nita; and a genetically engineered half-man named Tool.  The main topic is trust and what is family?  Who can you trust? You should be able to trust your family but - that's not always true.  Nailer's dad was an addict, an alcoholic, and he beat Nailer. I think that's a relatable topic for teens.  It does not fly off of our shelves but it gets read.  And recommended. 

My favorite from the National Book Awards list (it was a finalist in 2008) was Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti.  It's a love story.  It's not a book I would have read if it wasn't for this class.  And - that's sad because it's really a great book.  It's also about family and falling in love.  And it's about being the quiet, good girl who decides one summer she doesn't want to be that anymore so she looks for a bad boy.  She finds him.  And he is bad in a rich, spoiled bad boy way. But the main story of the book is the relationships Ruby develops with a book club of senior citizens called the Casserole Queens.  How do these two seemingly opposite developments occur?  Well, you need to read the book. This book also circulates -- True Love is pretty popular at my library.  But I will recommend it now.  It's a sweet story (with a bit of language). You want to shake Ruby at times but she learns a lot over the summer. And, as Miss June says, Ruby really fell in love with the motorcycle. 

So - seek out award books.  Some are excellent and destined to be classics.  Others you kind of scratch your head and wonder what the committee or judges saw in the book that you don't see. If you are worried about content - read the reviews first.  Like I said earlier, covering controversial topics is often considered a plus. The National Book Awards long list should be announced any day -- I'm looking forward to it!

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