Round Three: Cardturner v Keeper

Match: The Cardturner v. Keeper

Judge: Grace Lin

Listen to this — no, really! LISTEN.

Lin both read and listened to the two books in this round, The Cardturner and Keeper.

Lin, on those differences: “To save time, I listened to many of them on audio book while I worked on illustrations or commuted. One of the first audio books I listened to was Keeper. I have to admit, the audio book did not enamor me and I stopped listening half way though.” Yet, later when reading: “I knew I had to give the book another chance. So, with physical book in hand, I began to read. And what a difference! When I read the book, suddenly the magic became apparent.”

And, this: “I also listened to The Cardturner before reading the physical book. This, I found quite enjoyable, especially as there is a hilarious foghorn noise in place of the whale image (which is in the physical book) to warn of a bridge information dump. The Cardturner is a very, very enjoyable book. Strangely, I found myself liking the audio version just a tad more. Knowing nothing of bridge, I found it easier explained through the audio narrator than seeing the diagrams in the book. However, even while reading the physical book, I didn’t feel lost in any of the explanations and I still found myself caught up in the excitement of the game.”

One reading experience worked for Lin; one did not. Sometimes, the opposite can be true — the audio can be a more meaningful experience than reading.

Does listening to a book count as reading? Can you listen to a book for a school assignment, or for book club? I say “yes,” but it is also true that listening to a book is different from reading the print version. Right now, having read White Cat by Holly Black, on Angie Manfredi’s recommendation I am listening to the audiobook. They are two different reading experiences. For this reason, whether or not listening to a book counts when one is on a book award committee is a point of debate — is the book not working because of the narrator, not the text? Does the book work because the narration is so compelling it masks flaws in the text? One answer is to do what Lin did: experience the book in both formats.

Can a reader overcome a so-so audio experience?


Round Two: Grimm v Trash

Match: A Tale Dark and Grimm v Trash

Judge: Pete Hautman

Hautman decides to channel his inner younger self while reading these two books. A Tale Dark and Grimm is “a forbidden fruit deliciousness here—like being a kid and having your most favorite and funniest uncle telling you stories that might make your overly-protective helicopter parents blanch.” While Trash has “fewer brutal deaths, amputations, and maimings than in the Gidwitz book, Trash comes across as darker and grimmer—perhaps because the world and the events it describes are all too real. This is no fairy tale.”

 The Judge uses language that — to me — makes it obvious not just what book he (or his younger self) likes, but also what he thinks is the better book. As much as he enjoyed one book, the best thing about that book was inspiring Hautman to read a different book! One book is more polished, but one is more raw and powerful. One is more agreeable; one cuts deeper. It’s a fascinating opinion to read and reread, just because of how Hautman presents his opinions on these two books, how he words what he sees as their strengths and weaknesses without using those words.

What’s even more interesting — the comments! The book that wasn’t picked sure has it’s supporters!

Round Two: Odyssey v Solomon

Match: The Odyssey v. The  Ring of Solomon (my review)

Judge: Patricia Reilly Giff

I love you, Patricia Reilly Giff.

Having just stayed up till 2 in the morning reading a book because the thought of sleeping before finishing it was unthinkable (White Cat by Holly Black), I so appreciate this description of that “I should be sleeping but I’m not” feeling: “One other thing that factored in my decision: I had to stay up at night to keep reading, just to see what [the author] had in store, those twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end. I was sorry to get to that end.”

A book that the reader is sorry to have end? It’s hard to beat that.

But the reason for my love? Is the title Giff picked to move up. I admit… I didn’t have the faith, and even though I wanted her to pick the title she picked, I did not pick it myself. I am so happy to have picked wrong for this match!

Round Two: Barbie v Keeper

Match: Barbie v Keeper

Judge: Naomi Shihab Nye

Nye is a poet, and she starts with allusions to one of my favorite poems from one of my favorite poetry books: Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. Nye’s own language is wonderful: “Languid, overheated/chilled lostness enables focused horizontal absorption into material,” “bravado-spirit,” “Americana historiana,” “a gumbo-rich brew of magical farfetched wishing,” “You would look very long to find an extra word or syllable. This is a gift.”

For me, the gift continues to be reading about why people like books, what it is that they connect with, what they think is important enough to write about. 

Nye’s decision (like the other authors before her) shows that a critical review does not mean a negative review. It can mean looking at a book to see what it is about the book that works, and why.

Round Two: Cardturner v Countdown

Match: The Cardturner v Countdown

Judge: Laura Amy Schlitz

Let us be clear about something: all the books in contention for SLJ BoB are good books, or they wouldn’t be here on this list. One may say that a book is not a perfect book, but how often are books perfect? One may say other books are just as good or better.

SLJs BoB is about these books before the judges. Why? It gives the books some extra attention, true, as Amy pointed out in the comments to Mitali Perkin’s Trash decision.

But, it also shows us what people think about books. Not just people; authors, who readers think they “know” because they read their books or blogs or Twitter. Judge Schlitz rightly observes, “It’s likely that what I choose will say more about me than about the books I judged.” Pushing a person to make a decision pushes them to reveal more of themselves.

And what has Schlitz revealed? This amazing definition of what Comedy is:Comedy is a celebration of human resilience.  At its best, it takes the tensions and failures and tragedies of life, and transmutes them. It pulls the threads taut, mending the rift in the cloth. It draws the toxins out. And of course this is tremendously refreshing, because we are surrounded by tensions and failures and tragedies.”

Round One: Trash v 2WG

MatchTrash by Andy Mulligan v Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

Judge: Mitali Perkins

Perkins approached this by examining the elements of the two books. I have to laugh at this, because it is so familiar! I don’t have a “list” that I use for reviews, but when I’ve been on a committee I do use lists to keep the focus off me and on the book.

Perkins looked at five elements: characters (well, technically, that she loved the characters); setting; language; plot; and theme. Two of these were a tie, one went to one book, two went to another. In selecting one book over another, Perkins was matter-of-fact: “Clever turns of phrase, funny and moving dialog, rich vocabulary, and scrupulous avoidance of cliché gave Will Grayson, Will Grayson an edge over the more sparely told Trash. I wondered if this was partly due to the older target audience Levithan and Green had in mind, but nonetheless, the language point went to Will Grayson, Will Grayson.” I can easily imagine, in a group, arguing about whether “sparely told” does mean a book shouldn’t get the language point.

Thanks to Perkins, I am officially fifty/fifty at this point; but, alas, since my two Big Kahuna picks were already knocked out my ballot isn’t going to be a winner. Still, some of my round two and round three choices are still in contention!

Round One: Tale v KKK

MatchA Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz v They Called Themselves the K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (my review)

Judge: R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine – best known for the nightmares he creates for readers in his books. Guess what? Stine can add another notch to the nightmares he gives — this time to authors! Stine is not afraid to say, “but I have one negative comment here.”

NEGATIVE? Here I am, thinking all the SLJ BoB reviews were going to be puppies and daisies and double rainbows (informative and fun, but still, we’ve been singing kumbaya a lot) and now suddenly it’s not My Pretty Pony unicorns, it’s killer unicorns and zombies!

And again! “One negative comment“. Want reviews that are more thoughtful critiques, the good and the bad? Read Stine’s opinion. Which puts me at picking 3 of 7 winners so far, and, alas, 2 of the 4 that didn’t win I had going all the way.

Round One: Solomon v World

MatchThe Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (my review) v Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Judge: Adam Rex

Oh, sugar, sugar.

You know what is made of awesome sauce? Using footnotes in writing about a Bartimaeus novel. Rex gets it! “I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that Bartimaeus is refreshingly without an arc here. Throughout the book he behaves only in the singularly free-thinking fashion that has made him the irritant of both humans and spirits alike, what with his universal impudence and humorously digressive.”

 Bartimaeus is like the House of young adult books. I wouldn’t want to hang out with him in real life, but I sure enjoy reading about him.

Well, OK, if he promised not to eat me? I’d hang out with Bartimaeus.

But it’s up against Sugar! Sugar has illustrations and photographs and primary sources and a timeline and…

Wait, what is Rex asking?

Does it have footnotes? Does it?

(For those following along, I am now 50/50, with both of my final two out of contention.)

Round One: Mirka v Keeper

Match: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch v Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Judge: Susan Patron

Part of the fun and strategy of doing your own brackets for SLJ Bob is trying to get into the head of the judge. As of today, I’m 50/50 split, guessing two correctly; guessing one incorrectly; and allowing hope to trump common sense for one. No, I’m not telling.

For this round, it all depended on whether or not the judge, Susan Patron, veered more towards novel or graphic novel.

Patron’s decision making process included her working through reviewing a book by someone she knows — Appelt blurbed one of Patron’s books and they share an editor. With the increase of friendliness on the Internet, via Twitter and blogs and other social media, there is more “knowing” the authors of books. Does one just say “no, won’t do it” as Patron initially does? How does one work to the place of “judge the book, not the author”?

Patron wrote about the three ways she read the book: “inner librarian, my inner writer, and my inner tween.” The hats I wear when reading books is inner librarian; inner teen; and inner me. The librarian me may think “I know teens who would like this,” my inner teen may think, “my fifteen year old self would have loved this book,” and inner me is actually me saying “I love this book.” Sometimes, there are all these three reactions to a book; other times, it’s just one of those inner voices speaking.

I have to say, I also like how Patron managed to trump Barry Lyga — Barry had only Barry-A and Barry-B to listen to, while Patron had three inner voices to contend with!

(And, why, yes, I had the day off from work so was able to write a longer response to the SLJ Bob entry!)