Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mock Newbery at APL

This year I am excited to host a Mock Newbery discussion at Anchorage Public Library. I loved doing these when I lived in Kansas and so far the reaction from other librarians and literature lovers has been very positive. If it goes well, I'll make it an annual event.

We've already released the Mock Newbery reading list so we could have the event in mid-December though I think that after this we might shoot for mid-January. I want everyone to have plenty of time to get a chance to read at least four of the books before discussion. Of course this means anything that comes out later or that APL doesn't have a copy of yet won't be on our radar. That's fine. It's all for fun.

And I feel obligated to say this. Yes, I am on the committee this year, but that in no way should mean that what is on this list is on the official committee list. I asked for nominations from librarians who wanted to join us and I read sites like Heavy Medal and For Those About to Mock. So please don't take this list to mean anything more than it would from any other librarian or youth literature lover.

Saturday December 15th, 10am to Noon
Mountain View Library, 120 Bragaw St, Anchorage, AK 907-343-2818

(we ask all participants to read a minimum of four of these before coming)
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath
Temple Grandin by Sy Montgomery
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Neversink by Barry Wolverton

If you go to our website, you'll find the full details and clickable links for the books that search the APL catalog. Several of those we own in downloadable ebook and audiobook form.

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Five Books I've Recommended

Five things on a Friday: In reading my "Newbery Year" of juvenile books, here are five I've recommended and the reactions I got from the other readers (including myself). As always this does not indicate that I or anyone else on the committee have suggested or nominated these books, only that as I attempt to read a broad swatch of juvenile literature this year, these five were included.
  1. One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    I recommended this to a young man who was sad that all of the Animorphs books had been weeded due to age, lack of popularity, and lack of a complete set. He reported loving it. At least one librarian I discussed it with didn't like it and didn't think it would appeal to kids. I liked it, but found it quite hard to push myself through the pathos in the middle.
  2. Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
    Recommended this to a local school librarian who LOVED it. I haven't got to try it on a child reader yet, but I liked it and I don't normally enjoy mysteries much. One quibble was that I kept forgetting that the book was set in North Carolina and kept trying to put it in the Gulf Coast instead. I'm not sure if that is my issue or a failing in setting by the author.
  3. Neversink: a puffin saga by Barry Wolverton
    I lent my copy to a friend's 10 year-old son and she ended up having to buy it for him. It was THE BEST book that boy has ever read and he is continually drawing the characters from it even four months later. I liked it a lot too. Maybe it is that we live in Alaska with the puffins? Or maybe it is just that puffins are cool. The setting was marvelous both the arctic I know and the arctic of fantasy at the same time. I think this would be a huge hit with kids who liked the Ice Age movies.
  4. Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton
    When a 10 year-old boy asks you for a boy "with a kid who rides his bicycle", this is an obvious answer. Two weeks later he was back to ask for the sequel. Sadly I've told him not every book has a sequel. But I understand that feeling. This book had very engaging characters and I found myself emotionally attached enough to Frankie Joe and his brothers to want a sequel too.
  5. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
    I feel like everyone has read this book and everyone is talking about it, but that might just be the fact that I read a lot of children's literature blogs and my slice of "everyone" on the internet is skewed.  When my fiance and I have conversations about what "everyone" on the internet was talking about during a given day/week, we find that we have very different groups of everyones. Lent my copy to my children's librarian and my future mother-in-law. Haven't heard yet from the future mother-in-law but my children's librarian adored it. This is another book wherein I got really invested in the characters. Everytime we switched narrators I was a bit sad because I felt like I was leaving behind the voice of a friend until I got to know the new narrator and then was sad to leave them behind. It's amazing to me how quickly each narrator's voice was established as unique and yet it formed a cohesive story. Unfortunately there were one or two moments that felt forced and rushed that pulled you out of the narration and caused you to doubt those particular narrators.
Realizing I haven't much committed myself about what I've thought about any books read this year, at least not in print. It's not forbidden by Newbery rules, but you are warned to be cautious. And with every book, I tend to have a gut reaction and a more nuanced reaction with a more critical eye. Here you're mostly getting my gut reactions to five random books.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dead Mom Books

When I got elected to the Newbery, someone cracked a joke about all the "dead mom" books. They weren't joking. I've started to think of this as the "dead mom year" though it is really dead parents of both genders. Below are the ones I've noticed (not at all a complete list just a quick glance through my notes) that have a dead parent before the book begins. Not included are missing parents, divorced or run off parents, or parents who die during the book. Included are a few books where the parentage is a bit of confusion, but they're dead. At least two of these the dead part could be considered a spoiler so consider yourself warned. Also two of these might be more properly considered teens.
  • Laugh with the Moon by Burg (dead mom)
  • Letters to Leo by Hest (dead mom)
  • What the Dog Said by Reisfeld (dead dad)
  • Fourmile by Key (dead dad)
  • Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Loftin (dead mom)
  • The Great Unexpected by Creech (about half the town are orphans)
  • Tracks by Wilson (dead dad)
  • Child of the Mountains by Shank (dead dad)
  • The Wicked and the Just by Coats (dead mom)
  • Summer of the Wolves by Carlson-Voiles (both parents dead, mom most recently)
  • The Unfortunate Son by Leeds (there is confusion here)
  • Irises by Stork (dead father, comatose mother)
  • Starters by Price (both parents dead)
  • The False Prince by Nielsen (confusion about who his parents are)
  • The Book of Wonders by Richards (dead mom)
  • If Only by Geithner (dead mom)
  • Winterling by Prineas (dead mom and dad)
  • The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Stone (dead mom)
  • The Humming Room by Potter (dead mom and dad)
  • Oddfellow's Orphanage by Martin (everyone's an orphan give or take)
  • Glory Be by Scattergood (dead mom)
  • Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Rocklin (dead dad)
This is probably not an unusually large number of books; it's probably that high every year. I just don't look at every single book published on a normal year. Still I don't think I knew a single kid with a deceased parent when I was a child. Of course in my children's lit class they taught us that the first problem of children's lit was to get rid of the parents, freeing up the kids for adventures.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Reading Everything

This week our chair sent back the list of nominated Newbery books. Just like Roxanne I read mine on my phone squinting without glasses. Later in the day I gave it a closer re-read, paying attention to the wording of each nomination.

We didn't all nominate the same 3 books and we didn't nominate 45 different books. I've gotten better about not finishing every book this year, but I still have finished FAR more than I probably should have. (I can think of at least three books that I kept reading after I knew they weren't distinguished because I was still enjoying them and at least in one case it was the only book I had brought with me.) Our chair keeps telling us to be ruthless, if you know by page xx this isn't distinguished, let it go.

Good news: there's only one book on the nominated list I didn't finish (and one book I haven't gotten a copy of yet). The one I don't have yet looks amazing. The one I didn't finish was boring (at least to me, hence the not finishing). I'll try it again. Maybe it will catch me this time, but even if it doesn't I will finish it.

There was one book earlier this year that was getting a ton of hype that I just couldn't get into, until I did. David caught me at one point still reading, very late, because I couldn't put it down, after complaining to him about it and forcing myself through the entire first half.

Some of the books I was nervous about nominating got other nominations and that made my week. I was surprised by what was nominated and by who. Maybe I don't remember people or I've switched them in my head. At ALA we all had nametags on the table in front of us. I need a sheet with our photos and names to help me remember people.

This weekend: I'm pulling into a special section all the nominated books so I can start the re-reading and reviewing. I'm sorting that huge box of books I haven't sorted yet. But yesterday I took a night off as did David from his studies and we went to a movie. (I completely recommend Pitch Perfect FYI).

And if you're interested, we've got a personal blog/wedding site/website going now:
You'll all be happy to see that the knitting goes there now. And really I've resisted flooding this blog with knitting. So from now on it should be all librarianship all the time, mostly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Now it gets real

For (give or take) 10 months I've been reading like a mad woman on all potential Newbery candidates. Every month I've sent in suggestions of the best of what I've read to my chair. Those were compiled and sent out to committee members but who suggested what remained anonymous.

We'll still suggest, but now we move on to the serious stuff, the nominations. Each committee member gets 7 nominations. Nominated books are the ONLY books on the table at the final discussion meeting.  3 of those 7 nominations were due this month.

That's a lot of pressure. Almost half of my nomination slots. And they won't be anonymous anymore. I wrote up between 150 and 500 words on each book which the other committee members will receive with my name attached.

At some point, I thought that my committee chair had sent in an example of a written nomination. But I couldn't find it, so I wrote on my own sans guidance. That part was scary. It's been a long time since I wrote critically about books. (Blog and goodread reviews aside, those don't really count). In the end I wrote a sentence or two about each book, a few sentences about each specific criteria in which I thought that book was particularly distinguished, and a few sentences in conclusion. (Thank you to my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ruggles for teaching me the five paragraph essay format, it really is the answer to everything, just shortened or lengthened.)

Writing aside, choosing the books was the hardest part. My collection of books has long since grown out of the entire wall full of book cases dedicated to it in my house. The ones I have read are stored in large Rubbermaid tubs. Over the weekend I went through all of them and pulled out books that I could see either myself or someone else on the committee nominating. That was about 20 books but I'm sure I've missed some. I'll probably be very surprised at what people nominate.

Of those 20 books, I sorted out 10 that I would be happy to nominate. Clearly that is too many, so I chose four for this first round. As I was writing the nominations I narrowed those four down to three based on which nominations I thought would be easiest to write first.

I kept running into one problem when choosing books to nominate. I'd look at a book that was clearly distinguished and knew that someone on the committee would be nominating it, probably several someones. Part of me then wanted to put it aside as it was a "sure thing" and choose an also distinguished but less obvious choice. Isn't that a bit disingenuous to choose not the best book because I'm playing a game with which books get nominated?  I had this great ethical debate with the cats. The cats were in favor of being sneaky. They were also in favor of immediate treats, snuggles, and being allowed into the backyard to chase the birds around the bird feeder. Needless to say, the cats don't always get their way.

I can't tell you what I chose to nominate. Sorry! I am very excited about the crop of books we have available to us this year. There are some marvelous things out there. And I can't wait to see what my fellow committee members have nominated.

That said, a giant box of books, apparently the entire Houghton Mifflin Fall line arrived for me today. I'll have to sort that tonight. Except it is too heavy to lift. That might be a problem.