ALA Award Winners

On Monday I had the ALA Youth Media Awards Twitter account running in the background while eating lunch. I checked every few seconds while waiting for the awards to be announced.  Boy, was this a wildcard year for a few awards!  I was thrilled with some, surprised by others, and shocked by some more.  Here are the winners:

Newbery Medal-
Moon Over Manifest written by Clare Vanderpool- Well, I did not read this one before the announcement.  In fact, I did not even recognize the title!  However, upon coming home I did find a copy in my TBR pile. Needless to say, it has been moved to the top of the file!

Newbery Honor Books:

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm- My sister’s all-time favorite author. She was so excited when I called to tell her that Jennifer won another Newbery Honor.  Needless to say, my sister read “Turtle in Paradise” the day it was released and is anxiously awaiting Holm’s next book. 🙂  (read)

Heart of a Samurai written by Margi Preus

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night written by Joyce Sidman

One Crazy Summer written by Rita Williams-Garcia

Printz Award:
Ship Breaker written by Paolo Bacigalupi- I was actually in the middle of reading this one on Monday. So I am counting this as read!

Printz Honor Books:

Stolen by Lucy Christopher  (read)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (was on the TBR pile, reading now)

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Nothing by Janne Teller- Woohoo!  This was my pick and I am so glad that it got recognized. My favorite book of the year, without a doubt.


And I was beyond thrilled when After Ever After won the Schneider Middle Grade Award. I love love love this book and somehow managed to leave it off my “hopeful” list. Needless to say, I am thrilled it picked up a shiny sticker!

Alex Awards (Best Adult Books for Teens)
“The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel,” by Alden Bell,

“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel,” by Aimee Bender

“The House of Tomorrow,” by Peter Bognanni

“Room: A Novel,” by Emma Donoghue (read this one!)

“The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel,” by Helen Grant

“The Radleys,” by Matt Haig

“The Lock Artist,” by Steve Hamilton

“Girl in Translation,” by Jean Kwok

“Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard,” by Liz Murray

“The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To,” by DC Pierson

Looking forward to adding all of these to my library.

See all of the award winners here!

On a more personal note, I was checking Facebook and saw that a high school friend posted a link to the ALA Notable Recordings list. Imagine my surprise when I learned that The Flannery Brothers, he and his brother’s band, made the list!  How cool is that?!  So if you are a children’s librarian, make sure you get a copy of The New Explorers Club into circulation!

Finally, I am not happy to learn that the Today show did not invite the winners of the ALA Awards onto their show this year.  I love seeing the books and authors get more exposure and it’s always a great segment.  This year, they turned down ALA’s proposal and their literacy time was devoted to Snooki and her book instead.  Jersey Shore is a guilty pleasure of mine (I admit it…), but it should NOT be bumping actual authors promoting great children’s literature from major media promotion.  Ridiculous.

ALA Awards


Jan. 10, 7:45 a.m. PST


It’s almost Newbery and Printz Award time!  Be sure to follow the awards live online, via Twitter or Facebook.  I’m compiling my list of Newbery and Printz hopefuls and will post it later this weekend.  In the meantime, what do you hope will take home a shiny sticker on Monday?


As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynn Rae Perkins

I’ve been hearing a lot about this one- all good things- for months now.  I finally ordered it when school ended and I have to say, all those good things were warranted!  As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth is one for the ages.  Kid appeal?  Check!  Distinguished writing?  Check!  Fun almost comic-like illustrations sprinkle throughout the book?  Check plus!  I’m telling you- this is a book for everyone.

In As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, sixteen-year old Ryan has been having a bad string of luck.  Seriously- every last thing that could go wrong has been going wrong.  He was supposed to spend the summer at camp while his parents sailed the Caribbean and put the spark back in their marriage.  Instead, camp is cancelled and he doesn’t open the cancellation notice until he is on the train.  Then the train leaves him behind when he steps off for some fresh air.  He is in the middle of nowhere (ok, he is in Minnesota, but still…).  He soon loses a shoe, his phone charger, and all contact with his grandfather back home.  His poor grandfather ends up hurt and can’t remember where he is.  His parents are blown off course.  And life continues to go wrong from there.

This one knocked me off my feet.  The story is perfection- who hasn’t had one of those days or weeks where every single thing that can go wrong, does?  And while a summary of the story might sound fantastical, it doesn’t read that way.  Each event plays off those before it and they are completely believable.  Cell phone batteries die, plans change, bankrupt companies are becoming more and more common, Facebook is a way to chat without really talking to someone, and nice people do exist.  Ryan’s situation gets more and more complicated in realistic situations that teens will see as a part of their own lives.  (Maybe not all in a few weeks’ span, like Ryan, but still…)

And the writing! My god, it’s like poetry.  This is full of distinguished writing and I can not wait to share it with my new high schoolers. However, it is also perfect for middle school readers.  I think this one will be on the shortlist for awards season this winter, and rightfully so.  It’s just one of those perfect books that has kid appeal and distinguished writing.  Those don’t come around too often, so pick this one up as soon as you can!

Keeper by Kathi Appelt

I will be up-front with you all- Kathi and I had coffee when she was last in NJ and I consider her a friend (albeit a friend who lives in Texas.  🙂 ) However, that did not affect my view of her latest book. (Kathi and I met after I reviewed The Underneath and I fell in love with her writing.)

I admit I was reluctant to pick up her newest novel, Keeper. I loved, loved, loved her Newbery Honor winning book, The Underneath; I was its biggest champion. When I received my review copy (courtesy of Ms. Appelt and the publisher), I put it on my shelf and kept moving it down in my pile. I was so afraid that nothing could live up to the beauty that was The Underneath.

Well there was no reason for me to worry- Keeper is a stunning book.  STUNNING.  It is poetry, prose, magic, fairy tale, and real life wrapped into one.  I think it will appeal to readers across the board.  The entire story takes place over the course of one short day, but with flashbacks to different points in the characters’s lives.  I love how Appelt doesn’t hesitate to toss perspective around like a beach ball.  Most of the book is told from Keeper’s viewpoint, but at times Signe tells the story, Dogie steps in, and even the animals get their chance to share.  The chapters are short, which kept me reading.  However, Kathi’s signature cadence is here, which may frustrate some readers.  The plot is not action-filled but rather ebbs and flows like the waves on the shore.  However, the story does take place over the course of one day, so it never slows to a stop.

This is a beach book.  As I was reading I could practically feel the sand beneath my toes and smell the saltwater in the air.  Appelt has drawn a world that readers immediately fall into, head over heels, like  Alice into the rabbit hole.  Reading this homage to the Gulf and Gulf coast I couldn’t help but feel sadness for what it is going through right now.  This book is especially apropos given the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico right now.  I already ached for the people and nature affected, but Kathi Appelt made me fall in love with a place I have never even been and now my heart breaks even more.

The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, too.  They complement Appelt’s text perfectly and I found myself drawn to them. (And I am not an illustrations person at all.)  Hall’s illustrations matched my own visions of the characters perfectly.  Which leads me to the characters- you will fall in love with them all.  I do think there will be some shocked parents out there, though.  Old Mr. Beauchamp has spent his entire life missing his love.  He frequently sits back and remembers the 15 year old boy named Jack that he met briefly in France, before setting sail on the seas.  I admit I was a caught off-guard but only because the relationships I see are almost always heterosexual in mainstream children’s literature.  Mr. Beauchamp’s love is pure and beautiful and he brought a tear to my eye more than once…I am thrilled that a tale like this is being told in a middle grade novel and that it is presented without fanfare or shock and awe.

This is a book about nontraditional families and the importance of family.  It is about the Gulf and the nature that is a part of it.  It is about friendship and heartbreak.  It is about mermaids and legends of the sea, dolphins and stingrays.  But most importantly, it is a simple store about the complicatedness of love.  And it’s on my shortlist for the Newbery.

*There are portions of this book that I would pull out and share on their own, like the chapters devoted to the stingrays.  They are just that gorgeous.

*review copy courtesy of the publisher

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

I’ve been hearing rumblings about Deborah Wiles’ Countdown for a few months now. I was intrigued so I ended up ordering myself a copy before my review copy arrived. It was well-worth it!

This is the story of Franny and her family during the brief, but terrifying, Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960’s. While I did not experience this firsthand, I could feel the fear and terror radiating from the pages as I read.  The world has been turned upside down by air-raid drills, bomb shelters, Russians, spies, and the Civil Rights Movement.  With all of this going on outside of her home, within her own four walls Fanny has to face her older sister’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, her uncle’s post-traumatic stress disorder, her “perfect” little brother, her best-friend-turned-enemy, and the cute new-old boy down the street.

Deborah Wiles has created a masterpiece.  The story is straight-up historical fiction based on her own memories of the time and I think tweens and teens alike will enjoy it.  Despite the setting of 1962, I think today’s tweens and teens will identify with the feelings of fear and terror that permeate the story.  But what really sets this book apart is the multi-genre approach Wiles uses.  She is calling it a documentary novel and there is no better description.

Interspersed between the chapters are primary sources, essays, song lyrics, posters, and much more from the time period. The references to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Bob Dylan, Kennedy’s speeches, popular advertisements of the time, etc. appeal to an older audience.  I found myself turning the pages very slowly, inhaling the primary sources deeply and connecting them to the story of Franny and her family.  Every single item is chosen carefully and enhances the story while also presenting more information about the time period.  I’ve never seen a novel like this and can’t wait to read more like it from Deborah Wiles.  I’ve been a fan of hers for a while but this book has taken her to another stratosphere.

My only qualm so far has been the age range that I would use this with.  Franny is in elementary or middle school, depending on your view of the grade levels, which usually means students similar in age will be the most likely audience.  But the story appeals to a wider audience.  The primary sources take the story to a much higher level of thinking, and I could see this book being used in high school US History classes.  It’s a genius way of presenting information in a nonthreatening way.  The primary sources never take away from the story and only enhance the book.  In many ways, Wiles’ book reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird in the sense that the protagonist is an elementary/middle school student but the audience will be much broader.

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