We’re almost four months into 2014!
What are some of your favorite books of 2014 so far?
And what are some of the books you’re looking forward to?
I realized I never posted about the Printz Award and Honor Books!
The Printz Award:
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. From my review:“Always, there is an Eric and a Merle; a hare and a loss; and the island of Blessed. These are the constants. What changes in the seven stories of Midwinterblood is the time, starting in the future, 2073, and going back in time again and again until the seventh story set in a time so far past it has no date. What changes are who, exactly, Eric and Merle are; and how they connect or don’t. On what is lost. And always there is the hare. What is happening? What is going on Blessed?“
The Honor Books:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. From my review: “A wonderful, enchanting story of two sixteen-year-olds falling in love. When Eleanor and Park’s hands touch for the first time — when they realize that what they feel is reciprocated — as they try to work out their feelings for each other against a harsh background — oh, all the highs and lows and first love.”
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal. From my review: “King Christian V and his French wife, Isabel, have produced over a half dozen children, securing the future of the country. The eldest, twelve year old Princess Sophia, is being married to Duke Magnus of Sweden, promising peace. It sounds just like a fairy tale! Except this is no fairy tale. The children are all sickly. Sophie dies in her marriage bed. Isabel, pregnant again, seems to be going mad. Christian is ill. And while the voices of the royals occasionally join in the telling, the true story of The Kingdom of Little Wounds is about two teenagers on the edges of the royal story, a servant, Ava Bingen, and a slave, Midi Sorte. . . . The Kingdom of Little Woods is not a quick read. It’s a dense, complicated book that plunges the reader into the story, into 1572, and the world of Skyggehaven. Isabel’s story, her marriage and children and unborn child, are important, yes, but — unlike many a fairy tale about a princess — the two strongest voices, the two stories most important to the reader, are those of Ava and Midi. Isabel’s story matters because of how it affects Ava and Midi.“
MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch. From my review: “What is going on? It’s a bit of a puzzle for the reader to put together. There is the Motherland, it’s red and black flag. A war lost. A wall topped with glass. Mothers for Purity. Rewards for large families. And, finally, a date is given: Thursday, 19th July 1956. Maggot Moon is set in an alternate universe, in an alternate history, a timeline a wee bit different from our own. Standish’s country lost a war years and years ago; and now Standish lives in dystopian world. Standish is telling the story, in his own way, which means that it’s simply his story. There is little explanation or exposition. Instead, the reader can fill in the pieces, try to connect the dots, attempt to understand. Just from that, from how the story is told, is enough to see why this got a Printz nod.“
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. The one book I haven’t yet read!
The winner for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults was announced at Midwinter!
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb. From my review: “In 1960, a group of Israeli spies and operatives captured the Nazi fugitive, Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann had been in charge of “Jewish affairs,” the head of operations for the Final Solution. In the chaos of the aftermath of World War II, he had disappeared. The Nazi Hunters traces the rumors of Eichmann being in Argentina; the steps to investigate whether the old man living in a small house is, indeed, the man responsible for the death of millions of men, women, and children. And, then, what was involved in Israel sending in a team to capture Eichmann and get him back to Israel for a trial.“
Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd. From my review: “A book about graphic design, designed in such a way to both show and tell what graphic design is. To be honest, the nonfiction titles on the YALSA Nonfiction Finalist that are about history are ones that I would want to read anyway. One thing I like about my self-imposed challenge to read all the titles on the list is it pushes me to read outside my typical scope of interests. GO is terrific. I love how Kidd both tells the reader what graphic design is, but also shows it, using pictures, fonts, and other design features.“
Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler. From my review: “I was familiar with the general story of the Japanese American internment camps. Mostly, I admit, from a line or two in history class, and books and movies. Imprisoned shares all the details, the years of prejudices and fears that led to politicians and others believing, without any proof, that Japanese American citizens, of all ages, were a significant military threat justifying their imprisonment. And, because of the nature of the imprisonment, it was also the loss of property and homes and businesses that had to be left behind or sold at a loss; it was the nature of the imprisonment; the loss of freedom, the humiliation.”
Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone. From my review: “During World War II, the US Armed Forces were segregated. This discrimination also included what roles African American men were, and weren’t, allowed. Combat? No. Cleaning? Yes. Courage Has No Color is the story of one group of men who challenged and helped change the status quo: the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the “Triple Nickles.” “What is courage? What is strength? Perhaps it is being ready to fight for your nation even when your nation isn’t ready to fight for you.”“
The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson. From my review: “The past November — the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK — I watched a lot of specials and documentaries about Kennedy, his life, his presidency, his death, the assassination, the aftermath. While “where were you when Kennedy was shot” is a defining question for the generation before mine, a moment of cultural unity, a loss of innocence. For the rest of us, it’s a story. A story known from fragments, here and there: a short home video; a handful of photographs; names and moments, recognized before they were understood or comprehended.“
A look back at what I reviewed in April 2012:
Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin & Lisa Brown. From my review: “Jennie Lovell’s loved ones left to fight in the Civil War: her twin brother, Tobias; her fiance and cousin, Will Pritchett; and her other cousin, Quinn, Will’s brother. She knew the moment Toby died: could feel it. She never suspected Will’s death, not until a wounded Quinn came home and told them his brother Will had died. Jennie wishes she could feel Will’s presence the way she does Toby’s. Will’s grieving parents, Jennie’s Aunt and Uncle, seek out a photographer who can capture the images of departed spirits. Jennie begins getting strange messages – is it Will? What is he trying to tell her? As Jennie struggles with the loss of Toby and Will, she also struggles for her future. Her Aunt and Uncle had never looked kindly or generously on their orphaned niece, and now her position is even more precarious. To make matters even more confusing, Quinn has returned from war a changed man. It’s not just that he’s physically injured: he seems almost a different person. War changes a man, he explains. Would falling in love with Quinn be a betrayal of Will?“
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. From my review: “Polly Whittacker, 19, is packing for college when she begins to read a book that she thought she had already read. Only the stories are different — something is missing — it doesn’t seem quite right. One of the stories, one of the ones she remembers, is about a man with two sets of memories. Polly realizes that her memories don’t match up with facts, and begins to recover memories. Memories of a man named Thomas Lynn. Memories of danger from the wealthy Leroy family. People that she thought she’d just met, she’d known for years. Things had happened — unbelievable, fantastical things — that she didn’t remember. People, places, and things come back from age 10, 11, and onward. Thomas Lynn was in danger. The dual memories stop at fifteen. What did she do that erased Thomas Lynn from her memory? Is it too late to save him?“
The List by Siobhan Vivian. From my review: “Mount Washington High School has a tradition: each year, before Homecoming, a list is made. The four prettiest girls in school, one in each grade. And the four ugliest girls, one in each grade. This year’s anointed pretty girls: Abby, Lauren, Bridget, Margo. The ugly girls: Danielle, Candace, Sarah, Jennifer. The List is their story, of how it impacts each girl. Eight story lines are juggled; eight points of view come together for one story about the power of words and labels. The List is also about casual, everyday cruelty; a meanness that here is in high school, brought to the forefront because of the list, but it could happen anywhere or anytime. Some people are “broken” by the list; some are made stronger; some embrace it; others, reject it.“
After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive by Lisa R. Cohen. From my review: “The story is heartbreaking: six year old Etan disappears during the short walk to his school bus stop. Etan never arrived at school that morning, but the school didn’t call his parents, so it wasn’t until Etan didn’t come home that his mother knew he’d gone missing. After Etan is about those first few days, yes, but it also the months and years and decades after. It is about Etan’s parents. It is about the change in society, in knowledge, in laws.”
Catch & Release by Blythe Woolston. From my review: “I adored Polly — the new Polly. I’m not sure what I would have thought of Polly-That-Was, with her future set in stone and all her choices made because those choices, like her life, were nice and easy. Polly was a much wanted only child; she met Bridger at a dance her freshman year of high school and they’ve dated and Planned their lives ever since. Two nice kids planning a nice life. . . . Once Polly got sick, Bridger and his family disappeared. . . . Polly has lost everything, especially the niceness that used to define who she was and what she wanted out of life. Her future is lost to her. Her present, also. . . . Catch & Release is about Polly picking up those shattered pieces.“
The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks. From my review: “Sunday morning, at 7:16 in the morning, Rain is woken up by a phone call from Wendy Geller’s mother. Wendy’s mother sounds like someone who is scared but is trying not to be scared: Wendy didn’t come home last night. Does Rain know where she is? Ms. Geller doesn’t realize that Rain and Wendy haven’t been friends since freshman year, two years ago. It’s not till later that night that Rain hears the news: Wendy’s body has been found in Central Park. She’s been murdered. It’s Day One. And even though the two girls were no longer friends, Rain feels she owes Wendy. No matter what it takes, Rain will find out who killed Wendy.“
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 2: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen. From my review: “Miss Lumley and young Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia now venture off to London, armed with a slightly-odd Guide Book. How much trouble can they get into, really? The three children wear their clothes, do their lessons, and only start howling when there is a reason to, such as the moon or a tempting squirrel. That incident at the Christmas ball — well, best not talked about, right? It turns out that London has secrets of its own; or, rather, is an occasion for Penelope and her three charges to discover secrets about themselves.“
Pure by Julianna Baggott. From my review: “Pressa’s and Partridge’s world is one destroyed and shattered; even the Pures untouched and isolated and protected within the Dome do not live in a familiar society. Pressa’s story of survival is told while Partridge dreams of a way to escape the Dome and his father and find his mother. Not only does the reader learn more about their worlds, just as important, the reader learns what they do and don’t know about those worlds. Pressa doesn’t know much beyond her tiny neighborhood, but she is knowledgeable about the dangers of that world. Partridge has no idea the reality of life outside the Dome, and what he’s been taught isn’t always accurate.”
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. From my review: “What better way to reinvent oneself than travel? Bria Sandoval, 18, does just that, following a bad break up and disappointing college decisions. Carefree travel, seeing new places, meeting new people — heck, maybe she’ll even follow her friends’ advice and pursue a random, no-emotions-invested hookup with some cute guy who means nothing. Perhaps all you need to know about Bria’s personality is that the way she implements her plan is by signing up for a guided tour. Yes. An eighteen year old on a guided tour of South America.“
Here’s the scenario:
Something has happened. A library (public or school) is destroyed or damaged, by fire, flood, wind, locust.
“I know,” says a well-meaning person. “Let’s have a book drive!”
And the books are gathered and sent to the library, so the kids have something. And the people who sent the books — whether they are ones that they owned and donated, or bought at the local bookstore just for the drive — are happy at their contribution.
I’m here to share why the well-meaning book drive is a bad idea.
What I suggest, instead, is taking those good intentions, contacting someone at the library, and asking them what they need and working with them to meet that need. Here’s one prediction: yes, there is a need. But the need is better met by doing something fund raising (having a book sale with all those donations) and sending the library money. Or, they may create a wish list with a vendor so that people can select particular items that are needed.
Generosity is a wonderful, appreciated thing. But in the event of a disasters, what matters is not what someone wants to send, but what the community wants and needs. Community and library involvement in that planned charity must be considered from step one. Ideally, charity is for the benefit of the recipient, not for the giver. What does the library want? How will they manage the donations?
If a library and it’s community is in a time of crisis, the last thing they need is a ton of books left at their doorstep.
Why? Here’s my list of what the library will need to do with your donations. All these things involve money and staff time, money and time that is now being taken away from other things. Also, planning for such things, which cycles back to staff time.
Storage. If the building is destroyed, there is no place for those books to go. Storage has to be obtained, which costs money. Especially when how something is stored matters. For books, for example, temperature and humidity matter to prevent mold.
Sorting. The donations have to be sorted, which takes time. Even if this is delegated to volunteers, those volunteers need some initial guidance. What to sort for? If the book is outdated. If the book is in bad condition. If the book is appropriate for the intended library. (The number of clearly adult titles that wind up in donations to a school library, for instance. Stephen King may indeed be right for that middle school; Fifty Shades, not so much.) Sorting matters, because why store something you’re not going to be able to use?
Disposal. Those books in poor condition, or that aren’t a fit for the library, have to go somewhere.
Processing. Let’s keep in mind, at this point, that if the library is gone, it means all the materials used to process books are also gone. Unless some type of cloud storage was being used, that includes any OPAC records and databases.
Here is what has to be done for each donated book that will be added to the library collection. Whether paperback or hardcover, a book jacket for the protection of the book — so it last longer — needs to be added. The book needs to be stamped with the name of the library. Spine labels need to be added, which actually requires cataloging. So the book now has to be cataloged, and if the old records are lost, that is original cataloging for each book instead of just adjusting the number of copies owned. And, a barcode has to be added.
Here’s a library secret: many libraries purchase books with all this already done. The book is ordered already processed, it’s taken out of the box, barcode scanned; the catalog records are uploaded to the OPAC. It’s usually not that big a cost, and a huge savings in time and materials for the librarian.
Collection Development. Restoring and recreating a library isn’t an easy process. Fiction, non-fiction, reference, all have to be considered. The right mix includes things that are popular, things that are literary, various genres, entertainment and information. It’s about all the people who will be using the collection, and must reflect the community (both the local community and the broader world.) There are ways to make it easier, especially starting from scratch. What may make it harder? Working around donations which may be heavily slanted towards new popular titles, with many duplicates of some books and none of others.
I am NOT saying that, when one hears about a library that has lost it’s collection, to do nothing.
I am saying: reach out to the library and LISTEN. They will know what the library needs, rather than what you want to give. They will also know what is needed short-term versus long-term; and what insurance will (and won’t) cover.
So, here’s my questions for you!
Have I left any steps out of what happens with unsolicited donated books?
What suggestions do you have for people who want to help?
A look back to what I reviewed in March 2006:
Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley. From my review: “Patty Ho is half-Taiwanese, half white. She was born in the United States, but she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. At home, there is her ultra-strict mother and overachieving going-to-Harvard brother; there are less than a handful Asian kids at school (and certainly no half Asians), all who are “China Dolls” — something Patty is not. When a fortune teller predicts that Patty will end up with a white guy, Patty’s mother decides she can change fate by sending Patty to Math Camp at Stanford. . . . What Patty also finds is what many teens find the first time they are truly away from home — that she has the freedom to not so much reinvent herself as to discover herself. And, that finding yourself does not mean abandoning your self or forgetting where you started.”
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. From my review: “I’m in love. I’ve fallen in love with characters before — I think Will Stanton was my first book boyfriend. And there have been others, like Mr. Darcy. But it’s been a while…. until I met Gen. Oh, yeah, the plot. Gen is a master thief — in prison because while he may be a master thief, successfully stealing the King’s seal, he then boasted about it. In public. Including showing the King’s seal to one and all. And thanks to the boasting, he is now in prison. He’s lost track of time, until the King’s Magus comes to him with a deal: Gen will be let out of prison. Provided he helps Magus steal Hamiathes’s Gift. Gen says yes — hello, it’s getting him out of prison, of course he’s going to say yes — all the while plotting, wondering how he can make this situation work for him. Top on the list, of course, is not returning to prison.”
The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint. From my review: “New School Year, New School, New Home: Imogene has resolved to start over. She’s putting her bad-girl, gang-member past behind her. Everything is going according to plan: she’s made friends with the shy and smart Maxine and she is not causing trouble, no matter what the popular jocks and cheerleaders say or do. Then Imogene meets Adrian — the school ghost. Which attracts the attention of the fairies. Who feel a little threatened by Imogene and Adrian’s friendship. And as we all know, fairies aren’t always cute little creatures out of a children’s storybook. They can be mean. But the fairies have chosen to mess with the wrong girl.”
Sing, Nightingale, Sing! by Francoise de Guibert, illustrated by Chiaki Miyamoto. From my review: “You know how frustrating it is to read about a sound being described, but how you just can’t “get it” because it’s a sound, music, a bird call? Or at most they give you an Internet link that may or many not still be working, and that depending on your connection you may or may not hear? Not to worry: find out what all the birds really sound like thanks to the included CD, with music by Daniel Goyone. It’s birds and music; way cool.“
Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher. From my review: “Rob is a talented artist. Right now, he’s using his art as an escape from home. Home has been little more than a house he lives in, ever since his younger sister, Chloe, was in a riding accident. For months, she’s been in a coma. Rob’s talent brings him a job, at an archaeological site that has found something truly unique: an ancient upside down tree. What is the connection to Chloe? And who is the mysterious man, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, and what is his connection to all of this?”
Blackthorn Winter by Kathryn Reiss. From my review: “Juliana, 15, is upset at her parents’ trial separation. Her father had gotten busier and busier at work; her mother is an artist. So her mother decides to move to a small arts colony and pursue her art. Unfortunately, that means leaving California for her mother’s native England, to a small seaside town, Blackthorn. Juliana’s younger brother and sister, Edmund and Ivy, are excited about the move, but Juliana misses her friends and her family. Shortly after the family arrives in Blackthorn, someone is murdered. Juliana decides she has to investigate, whatever the cost.”
Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart. From my review: “Gretchen Kaufman Yee goes to a New York City high school that specializes in the arts. She’s an only child, rather fierce in her individuality and independence; her preferred art form is comics, her preferred character Spider-Man, and she’s not about to let teachers tell her that that comics and graphic novels are not art. Gretchen is not comfortable around the opposite sex; to her, they are a different species entirely, not quite trustworthy. One day she wishes that she could be “a fly on the wall of the boys’ locker room,” just to find out what the guys really talk about. And the next thing she knows… she is. A fly. On the wall of the locker room.“
Entertainment Weekly is one of my favorite magazines, so I was very excited to see this in the April 11, 2014 edition:
Kid Lit’s Primary Color: White by Nina Terrero, illustration by David Schwen.
A couple of weeks ago, I was doing a Skype visit with a class and the conversation turned to diversity and children’s literature and what can be done; and one thing that we touched on was how often the conversations we have are with each other, and that can be a problem. That articles and attention need to be in places with a broader reach. So, when I saw this article in EW I was quite excited!
But how is the article?
Pretty darn good.
– an interview with a parent, talking of the personal challenge of finding books for her children.
– statistics, showing how few feature main characters who aren’t white.
– interviews with various people from publishing houses.
– interviews with authors.
– the ongoing efforts to have books that reflect the demographics of our country.
It’s a two page article, which is pretty darn good coverage.
My only complaint is what isn’t included — and that is titles.
Here is a terrific article being read by many people who are being introduced to the lack of diversity in children’s and teen books for the first time. Some EW readers will be nodding in agreement, others will be realizing it for the first time.
I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic when I think, many of those readers will be wanting to know titles. Yes, there aren’t enough books being published, but one of the “reasons” quoted in the article is a belief that books with nonwhite characters don’t sell.
There is also, I believe, difficulty in finding the books that are being published. The parent in the article says “Flat Stanley could be Asian or Latino” and part of me wanted to answer, “but there is Alvin Ho and Delphine Gaither.”
I firmly believe in pushing for more books, but also in talking about the books that are already there. And the EW article doesn’t do that — it doesn’t include a book list of recent titles for parents, to give them a starting point when they go into their local bookstores.
To continue my optimism: one of the reasons I like EW is that it always includes books. And it also frequently includes YA books. While there is no list with the article, I’m hoping that going forward EW will be including more books with nonwhite characters in its reviews.
My prediction: “Far Far Away v Rose Under Fire v (return from grave) Eleanor & Park, Judge Jennifer Holm. And what will win here? I think Eleanor & Park.”
How close was I? Boxers & Saints vs P.S. Be Eleven vs Eleanor & Park judged by Jennifer Holm
Alas, I wasn’t right enough to really matter — at this point, the odds were against me. I only had a one in three chance of being right.
And the odds weren’t with me. Boxers & Saints triumphed!
I’m going to do something a bit different here: not talk about the actual decision. All three books are terrific; Holm writes beautifully about all three, and about her choice.
Rather, I’m going to talk about two things that I didn’t see in the decisions.
I was thrilled to see various critiques of books; acknowledging of flaws; and people both liking and disliking books. Some did it from emotion, some from in-depth knowledge of certain topics in the books.
What I would have liked to see:
Eleanor & Park is a wonderful book. It’s a thrilling look at first love. But, I would have loved to see a discussion of Park’s heritage. As Laura writes in Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, “as a Korean-American, I found this simplistic attitude that portrays being a minority solely as a negative solely based on racial appearance shallow, offensive and frustrating because this type of poor depiction has been going on for my whole life, repeatedly, in every cultural medium.”
Angry Girl Comics also offers a critique on Park: “Park’s Asian-ness is only brought up in the context that it is different to what Eleanor is used to, that it is EXOTIC and MAGICAL and because of that she likes him. No, but it’s in the text, where Eleanor openly admits to fetishizing.”
And Lost in Cynicism also discusses the issues of Park, his mother, assimilation, and accuracy within the text of Eleanor & Park. Part of that discussion also touches on the realities of the American military presence in Korea.
And, given there were decisions that talked about when a word was first used, I would have liked to see this issue of Eleanor & Park discussed.
I’m not done.
I loved Boxers & Saints. I gave it three blog posts. Why?
While Boxers & Saints is sold as a set, and the judges (as other reviewers and various groups did) read it as a set, it is also sold as individual titles.
That can be purchased individually.
That, when they end up in a library, have catalog information that makes each book appear to be a standalone. (No, really.)
The reader handed the set will, well, read it as a set.
The kid reader, browsing library or bookstore shelves? Won’t see a set, won’t read it as a set. And I would have liked to see this discussed, at least briefly — that yes, this was an interesting decision for the publisher, and as such it has some negative implications on the reader experience. Is this a reason for it not to have won SLJ BoB? Absolutely not! I just wish I’d seen someone acknowledge the problems presented by having two books — not one book, but two books — make up one story.
So, what are your thoughts on this year’s SLJ BoB?
My prediction: “P.S. Be Eleven v Rose Under Fire, Judge Robin LaFevers. I think Rose Under Fire will take this one.”
What actually happened? P.S. Be Eleven vs The Thing About Luck judged by Robin LeFevers.
So, going in, half-right! Alas, the wrong half: P.S. Be Eleven moved on to Round 4.
I think, much as it’s fun to read the decisions where someone clearly doesn’t like a book, that it’s harder for the judge when they like both books. When forced to choose — and that is what is happening here — what to pick?.
And, of course, the “why” is what is so intriguing.
Here, what pushes P.S. Be Eleven to the front is Delphine: “I ultimately came to realize that it was Delphine’s journey that reached the farthest into my heart, perhaps because my own childhood was peppered with such similar disruptions to the ones she experienced.” There are “complexities;” there are “skillful shading of issues of power;” and darn if this doesn’t also win me over, to want to read P.S. Be Eleven.