Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

My newbery predictions—mostly a swing and a miss January 24, 2012

Filed under: Newbery,Newbery potential — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:51 am
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The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer Holm

Inside Out and Back Again by  Thanhha Lai (the only one I was in the park with!)

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberley Bradley

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

 

Don’t Forget About the Printz Award January 19, 2012

Filed under: ALA,Caldecott,Newbery,Newbery potential,Printz — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:54 pm

It seems like every year there is quite a bit of buzz about potential Newbery and Caldecott award winners. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I’ve always loved trying to “pick” what book I think is going to be the winner– before the announcements. Some years I have been even willing to place a bet with a friend-I was that certain.

This got me thinking about the Printz award. There isn’t nearly the buzz about it as the Newbery and Caldecott awards. Why is that, I found myself wondering?

The Printz Award has only been around since 2000 as compared to 1937 for the Caldecott Award, which is awarded to the “artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year”. The Newbery Award is the oldest and began in 1922 and was the first children’s book award in history! .  It is awarded “for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year”.

The Printz “honors excellence in literature written for young adults” and the “book may be fiction, nonfiction, poetry or an anthology and can be a work of joint authorship or editorship. Nominated books may have been previously published in another country , but must have been in the U.S. during the preceding year. The books must be designated by their publishers as either a young adult book or one published for ages 12 through 18”.

Hmmm…. Are there other “awards” out there that are similar? What about the Cybils or the National Book Awards?

The National Book Award seems to have some overlap between those finalists and the Printz, or sometimes the Newbery. The National Book Award is given “by writers to writers” and was started in 1950.

The Cybils, on the other hand, came about in 2006 and “rewards the children’s and young adult authors (and illustrators) whose books combine the highest literary merit and “kid appeal”. Created by bloggers for bloggers, it certainly has caught on. Despite the existence of the Cybils, which is more open to participation by the non-librarian, mock Newbery and Caldecott “clubs” continue to go strong.

Here’s a short round-up of Printz predictions/contenders from the web:

Bookhenge2011 blog, which is tied to Young Adult Literature course and a library (appears to have just shy of 30 members) gave their mock awards to:

2012 Printz Winner – Paper Covers Rock, by Jenny Hubbard

2012 Honors

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
Every You, Every Me, by David Levithan
Chime, by Frannie Billingsley
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente

Someday My Printz will Come  is from the School Library Journal and had votes tallied from 116 votes and gave their mock winner and honors to:

Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Chime by Frannie Billingsley

 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Steph Su Reads blog has a longer list of possibilities.

Here’s what I am thinking are possibilities based on what I have read–

Everybody Sess the Ants by A.S. King (my money is on this one-I’ll post my review this weekend)

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt


Here’s my to-read pile that:

I’d like to try to complete before the award is announced, but I won’t get to AND–

I think has a shot at winning–

Paper Covers Rock

Scorpio Races

The Girl Who Circumnavigated the Earth

The Returning

Chime (started, but couldn’t get into)

 

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu January 13, 2012

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

September 2011, 320 pages

Walden Pond Press

Library Copy

Anne Ursu has written an amazing book. I love the intersection of realistic fiction with a version of  The Snow Queen. The two friends Hazel and Jack each are suffering from their own family problems. Hazel doesn’t “fit” with her school and her father has recently left, doesn’t call, and is getting remarried. Jack gets teased by the boys in his class for being friends with a girl and has a mother suffering from a serious depression.

So that I can get on to other reading, instead of writing my own review, I’m going to give you a couple links to other blog reviews:

NPR December 2011 Kids’ Book Club Pick  (This is the first I’m learning of Backseat Book Club. Love it!)

Jen Robinson’s review 

Book Smugglers interview  with author in their Inspirations and Influences category.

The author’s use of language really grabbed me. I aspire to write as well as she. Here are my favorite lines:

“Everyone in the fifth grade had messenger bags, everyone but Hazel, who had not been cc’ed on that particular school-wide e-mail.” (p. 11)

“She spoke in bright, shiny words, as if that might distract Hazel from thoughts of Jack.” (p.98)

“Her heart plummeted, and her feathers fell away.” (p. 108)

“…their voices were rough and loud and had the sharp edges of crushed-up beer cans.” (p. 138)

“They were plastic flowers of words–but they looked nice on the surface.” (p. 142)

“She had stepped into the woods in the park and landed in an entirely different place. She knew this might happen. She’d been to Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Dictionopolis. She had tessered, fallen through the rabbit hole, crossed the ice bridge into the unknown world beyond. Hazel knew this world. And it should have made this easier. But it did not. (p. 160)

“There were so many Jacks she had known, and he had known so many Hazels. And maybe she wasn’t going to be able to know all the Jacks that there would be. But all the Hazels that ever would be would have Jack in them, somewhere.” (p. 247)

“The truth was he had been getting more and more scratchy and thick lately. Because sometimes when you are scratchy and thick you don’t want to be sitting in a shack with someone pretending it’s a palace, especially someone who can tell you are scratchy and thick, especially someone who tries to remind you who you really are.” (p. 248)

Brilliant don’t you think? 

I had heard about this book for a long time before it was released. I probably would have read it sooner if it wasn’t for the one thing that bothers me about it. I don’t think it’s very nice to point out a negative about such a great book, and of no fault of the author’s, but it REALLY bothers me that the girl on the cover looks so much like a Disney cartoon. In the shower this morning, I decided she looks like a cross between Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and Pocohantas. I don’t want a Newbery-worthy book to have a cartoon-like character on the cover. I know that’s probabaly dumb, but really???

That aside, teachers and parents definitely should introduce this book to your middle grade readers! 

 

Couldn’t Put it Down! January 6, 2012

It was unfortunate that both my children were sick today. It was not unfortunate for my reading life though. I finished Jefferson’s Sons, which despite my initial hesitation, completely grabbed me today. I’ve never been to Monticello and have added to the places I would love to go some time. The author did an amazing job with her research with this historical fiction. When part two (of three) of the book started and it became clear to me that each section was going to be narrated by a different character, I was a little annoyed. I can’t really put my finger on why, but I think it’s because the change from Beverly to Maddy was more abrupt than I would have cared for. The change from character two to three occurred without me hardly noticing.

I can see why it is on potential Newbery lists. A story about an American icon, slavery, family and a part of history not known to many all make a great story.

I then picked up The Apothecary, which I read in two long sittings today! LOVE THAT BOOK! The characters are so well developed and felt like real people you’d like to know. A great blend of historical fiction/adventure/fantasy that I can’t really compare to anything else. The preface had me wanting to know about Benjamin. The first chapter had me ready to read a whole book set during the 1950’s when Hollywood movie writers were suspect and often accused of Communism. I then could have read a whole book about an American girl transplanted to a British prep school. If this makes the book sound choppy, it is not at all! It moves seamlessly, weaving in murder, magic, mean girls, espionage, all in a way that I could not put down! I’m having to reevaluate my list after this one.

 

Search for the Next Best Book January 4, 2012

Filed under: book reviews,Newbery — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:16 pm

Cuddled up with three dogs and a stack of books has a lot of appeal to me, especially when it’s cold outside! I wish I had my camera so I could upload a picture of them right now. Love my public library where I was able to go online yesterday and mark all the books I consider possible Newbery winners I am hoping to read that I didn’t have and then have start arriving today, with a convenient pick-up reminder e-mail.

So I’ve started Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley, which I am liking well-enough but I am not in love with. I then moved on to surfing KidLit blogs and find an old Mother Reader post  that completely grabbed my attention.

“This is a new one for me. I read the first chapter of this book online, switched to Amazon, and ordered it immediately.”

I love the Kindle/Amazon feature that allows you to read the first chapter free! I currently have 43 free first chapters on the Kindle app on my iphone. I’ve read 17 of those first chapters, sometimes several in one sitting until I find something that grabs me. I keep the sample chapter if I think I might read later, kind of like a visual list, delete those that don’t grab me. It allows me try out books that I wouldn’t normally come across such as nonfiction books, business psychology books, as well as new Children’s and Young Adult books that other bloggers mention.

Mother Reader provides a link to the first chapter of The Only Ones by Aaron Stramer that is currently online and I will tell you that it grabbed me in a way that I want all Newbery contenders to be able to do. I think I’m wrapping this up to head to the library to check out their copy!

 

It’s That Time of Year January 3, 2012

Filed under: book reviews,Cybils,Newbery — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:44 pm

It’s the time of year when I try to read every book that is getting serious Newbery buzz and/or Cybil finalists that I haven’t read already. So far, I’ve read The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. I LOVED, LOVED Wonderstruck and REALLY LIKED The Mostly True Story of Jack. I’ve been following some of the blog conversations about whether Wonderstruck can be considered for a Newbery or not. I’m not going to get too worked up about it one or the other, but if the decision is made that Wonderstruck can be a contender, it is pretty darn brilliant. Once again, Selznick knocks it out of the park. I even loved reading the Afterword where he discusses his research process!

The Mostly True Story of Jack is also a really great story. I can imagine it as a great read-aloud or having students who have been really into all the “new” fairy tale shows be enthralled.

I’ve read Okay for Now (loved it-screamed Newbery at me as soon as I started reading it), Small Persons with Wings (disappointed), Inside Out and Back Again (loved it),

Up next: Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley (this one just hit my radar this weekend) , The Trouble with May Amelia, A Monster Calls, Breadcrumbs, and Lunch-Box Dream, not necessarily in this order.

 

#BookaDay #6 One Crazy Summer January 2, 2011

Filed under: #bookaday,Newbery — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:54 pm
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Here’s the 60 second synopsis which is so unfair to such a great book, but…

One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams-Garcia

 

Definitely a Newbery possibility

Historical Fiction-set in 1960’s Oakland California

I learned interesting things about the Black Panthers that I did not know (and realized I know hardly anything about that part of American history). Was talking with my daughter about the contrast between California during that times and the south like Watsons Go to Birmingham.

Three daughters-Delphine, Vonetta and Fern. Their mother had left them upon birth of third child, supposedly because their mother hadn’t been allowed to name her daughter what she wanted. Mom is definitely not motherly, is a member of the Black Panthers, and a poet.

I agree that the cover does not draw a middle grade reader in. My daughter’s comment was, “I wouldn’t have read it because of the cover looking so unappealing, but did because you thought it might win the Newbery. It’s great and I’m going to tell my teacher about it!”

 

I’m headed over to Amazon to buy the hardbacks at bargain price of $6.40 !

Are they CRAZY!!! Don’t they know it’s getting ready to win the Newbery???!!!!

 

The first review is by Betsy Bird and I certainly can’t beat that!

This review is from: One Crazy Summer (Hardcover)

When I heard that teen author Rita Williams-Garcia had written a middle grade novel for kids I wasn’t moved one way or another. I don’t read teen books. Couldn’t say I knew much of the woman’s work. When I heard that her book was about the Black Panthers, however, my interest was piqued. Black Panthers, eh? The one political group so difficult to write about that you can’t find them in a single children’s book (aside from “The Rock and the River” by Kekla Magoon, of course). So what was her take? How was she going to do it? But the thing is, “One Crazy Summer” is more than merely a historical tale. It’s a story about family and friendships and self-sacrifice. There are so many ideas floating about this little novel that you’d think it would end up some kind of unholy mess. Instead, it’s funny and painful and just a little bit brilliant. “One Crazy Summer” is a book that’s going to earn itself a lot of fans. And a lot of them are going to be kids.

Eleven going on twelve Delphine has always kept a sharp eye on her little nine and seven-year-old sisters Vonetta and Fern. That’s because their mother left them seven years ago and never came back again. “Cecile Johnson – mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner – is our mother. A statement of fact.” So when their father packs them on a plane and sends them to Oakland, California to see Cecile, their mom, the girls have no idea what to expect. Certainly they didn’t think she’d just leave them in a kind of daycare over the summer run by members of the Black Panthers. And they probably didn’t expect that their mother would want near to nothing to do with them, save the occasional meal and admonishment to keep out of her kitchen. Only Delphine knew what might happen, and she makes it her mission to not only take care of her siblings, no matter how crazy they make her, but also to negotiate the tricky waters that surround the woman who gave her up so long ago.

The whole reason this novel works is because author Rita Williams-Garcia has a fantastic story that also happens to meld seamlessly into the summer of 1968. I’ve been complaining for years that when it comes to the Black Panthers, there wasn’t so much as a page of literature out there for kids on the topic (except the aforementioned “The Rock and the River” and even that’s almost teen fare). Now “One Crazy Summer” is here. Certainly I don’t know how Ms. Williams-Garcia set about writing the darn thing, but if she had stridently set about to teach without taking into consideration the essentials of good storytelling, this book would have sank like a stone. Instead, she infuses this tale with danger, characters you want to take a turn about the block with, and the heat of an Oakland sun.

I mean, take the people in this book! Someone once sold this story to me as “The Penderwicks meets the Black Panthers” and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why they`d said it. Then I started thinking back to the sisters. Ms. Wiliams-Garcia must have sisters. She must. How else to explain the dynamic between Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern? So it all became clear. If you love the family dynamics of “The Penderwicks”, you’ll probably find yourself loving the same thing here. Of course, when your heroine is an upright citizen like Delphine there is a danger of making her too goody goody to like. But this girl isn’t like that. She has a duty that she believes in (taking care of her sisters) and she’ll do it, even when they fight each other. Even when they team up against HER! The sheer unfairness of what Delphine has to handle, and the cheery lack of complaining (aside from the occasional and very understandable grumble) makes you care for her. Her interactions with her mother are what make you love her.

Because this mother is a pip. Cecile throws a wrench (and a couple of other metal objects besides, I’d wager) into the good guy/bad guy way of looking at things. For kids, she’s a pretty clear-cut villain from page one onward. And adults who have enough historical understand to be clear on why she does some of the things she does still won’t like her. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some parents referred to her as the world’s worst mother. She isn’t really, but many a parent’s ire will be raised when they see how she refuses to call her daughter Fern by her name out of spite, or refuses to so much as look her own daughters for a while. Heck, this may be the only book where the phrase, “Should have gone to Mexico to get rid of you when I had the chance,” comes from the lips of a parental unit (not that any kid in the world would decipher what it means). Under normal circumstances, when you get a kid talking about the selfishness of their parent at the beginning of a book they turn out to be wrong in the end. So naturally I was waiting on tenterhooks for much of this book to see if Cecile would be perfectly redeemed by the story’s end. Williams-Garcia never wraps anything up with a cute little bow, but she gives you closure with Cecile and maybe a drop of understanding. It’s a far better solution.

Williams-Garcia will even use character development to place the story within the context of its time. The opinionated Big Ma who raised the three girls gives her thoughts on any matter rain or shine. Delphine then lists them, and kids are treated to a quickie encapsulation of life in ’68. Pretty sneaky. Teaches `em when they’re not looking. And one of those very topics is the Black Panther party. I was very pleased with how Williams-Garcia sought to define that group. She dispels misconceptions and rumors. Delphine herself often has to come to grips with her initial perceptions and the actual truths. As for the rest of the time period itself, little details spotted throughout the book make 1968 feel real. For example, the girls play a game where they count the number of black characters on television shows and commercials. Or the one time Delphine had felt truly scared, when a police officer in Alabama pulled her father over.

And, I’m sorry. You can make amazing, believable characters all day if you want to, but there’s more to writing than just that. This writer doesn’t just conjure up people. She has a way with a turn of a phrase. Three Black Panthers talking with Cecile are, “Telling it like it is, like talking was their weapon.” Later Cecile tells her eldest daughter, “It wouldn’t kill you to be selfish, Delphine.” This book is a pleasure to cast your eyes over.

There is a moment near the end of the book when Fern recites a poem that is just so good that I couldn’t seriously believe that a seven-year-old would be able to pull it off. So I mentioned this fact to a teacher and a librarian and found myself swiftly corrected. “Oh no,” said the librarian. “Seven is when kids are at their most shockingly creative. It’s only later that they start worrying about whether or not it’s any good.” So I’m willing to believe that Fern’s poem could have happened. Otherwise, I certainly would have appreciated an Author’s Note at the end with information about the Black Panthers for kids who wanted to learn more. And I was also left wondering where Delphine got her name. She spends a bit of time agonizing over that question, why her mother named her that, and never really finds out. Some kind of explanation there would have been nice.

It was teacher Monica Edinger who pointed out that “One Crazy Summer” pairs strangely well with “Cosmic” if you look at them in terms of fathers (on the “Cosmic” side) and mothers (“One Crazy Summer”‘s focus). That’s one theme for the book, but you could pluck out so many more if you wanted to. Race and family and forgiveness and growth. Everyone grows in this book. Everyone learns. But you’ll have so much fun reading it you might not even notice. You might just find yourself happily ensconced in the world of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern without ever wishing to leave it. If this is how Ms. Williams-Garcia writes books for kids, then she better stop writing all that teen fare and crank a couple more like this one. Kids are gonna dig it.

Ages 9-12.