The nominees for the 2015 Edgar Awards have been announced. The awards are presented by the Mystery Writers of America and celebrate the best in the mystery genre. Here are the nominees for books for youth:
Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Saving Kabul Corner by N. H. Senzai
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
BEST YOUNG ADULT
The Art of Secrets by James Klise
The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi
Fake ID by Lamar Giles
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Told in masterful verse, this is the story of real-life heroine Clara Lemlich who led the largest strike by women in the history of the United States. Born in Russia, Clara was forbidden any education because her devout Jewish father did not approve. When her family emigrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, Clara was required to go to work to support her family while her father and brothers dedicated their lives to prayer. Clara got work in the garment industry, discovering horrific working conditions and refusing to just accept them. Clara worked to get women workers taken seriously by the male-driven unions and for their plight to be incorporated into union strikes and negotiations. Along the way, she also used the public library and free classes to teach herself English. Anyone wondering if one person can truly make a difference in a larger world has only to read this book to be inspired to action.
Crowder’s poetry here is completely amazing. From one page to the next, she captures the incredible spirit of this young woman and her desire to educate herself. When she finds something to fight for, she is unstoppable, fearless and unbeatable. Crowder also ties Clara to nature, even in among the tenement buildings of New York City. She is a small hawk, a flower in the concrete, she herself is the force of nature in the city.
Just the descriptions of the horrific beatings that Clara withstood on the streets and the picket lines would make most people quit. But Crowder makes sure to depict Clara as a person first and a hero second. It makes what she did so much more amazing but also encourages everyone to realize that they too have this within them if they are willing to take on the fight. This woman was a heroine in such a profound way, unsupported by her family and willing to use all of her free time to make a difference, she is exactly what the modern world needs to have us make change now.
Strong, beautiful and wonderfully defiant, this book is an incredible testament to the power of one woman to change the world. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel.
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Zulay is in first grade along with her three best friends. She starts the day by linking arms with them and singing in the hallways and then waiting in line to hug their teacher hello. When she finds her desk, she feels with her legs to make sure she is sitting right and then readers see her cane, which she pushes to the back of her desk. It is at this point that it becomes clear that Zulay is blind. She still studies what everyone else does, but she also has extra classes to learn to use her cane. When Field Day is announced, Zulay surprises everyone by declaring that she wants to run in a race. Will Zulay be able to make her dream come true?
Best introduces Zulay as a person first and then reveals her disability. It offers readers a chance to meet Zulay as a first grade girl and see how she is just like her friends first and then realize that she is still just like the others in her class but with the added component of blindness in her life. Best also incorporates all of the details that children will want to know. How does Zulay find her desk? How does she do class work? What is her red and white cane for? The result is a very friendly book that celebrates diversity in a number of ways.
Brantley-Newton’s illustrations add to that friendly feel. They feature children of many different races together in school. She clearly shows the emotions of her characters too from worry to pride to joy. The illustrations are bright and cheery.
This is a book about diversity and meeting challenges head on. It’s a great addition to public libraries of all sizes. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Dear Mr. Washington by Lynn Cullen, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Based on a true story, this enchanting picture book will have everyone smiling. When George Washington comes to the Stuart house to have his official portrait painted, the children must all by on their best behavior. But it doesn’t quite work out that way. With each visit to the house, Charlotte has to write another letter of apology. She has to apologize for the cat racing up his shoulder, for the baby chewing on his hair ribbon, and much more. She shares a list of how they will be better behaved the next time. But then there are her many examples in the following letter of how very good they had been, which was not actually true. In each and every letter though, she is cajoling Mr. Washington to smile in his picture. Can a very serious president handle the wild and silly Stuart clan?
A large part of the joy of this book is that it’s based on a true story. You can read the author’s note at the end to see just how much. The interplay between Mr. Washington and the children is lovely. He mutters under his breath, ignores them as best he can, and yet it all ends up a mess anyway. And the children themselves are cheery and playful, undeterred by either their parents demanding they behave or the scowling Mr. Washington.
Carpenter’s art adds to the fun. She merrily depicts the naughty children from the baby chewing on Mr. Washington’s shoe to the entire group falling asleep all together on top of him. It’s great to see a historical book that is playful and fun.
A great read aloud, this book is funny, silly and filled with history and art. What more could you want? Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial.
X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
This is the story of Malcolm X’s boyhood and teen years. Malcolm Little grew up during the Depression, surviving on dandelion greens soup after his father is murdered. When his mother gains the attention of social services, Malcolm is moved out of the family home and away from his days of stealing melons from patches and apples from stands to fill his belly. When Malcolm gets a chance to leave his foster home and head to live with his half-sister in Boston, he jumps at the chance. Boston and its neighborhoods are a buzz with activity and nightlife and Malcolm immediately joins the fray, turning his back firmly on the way he was raised. Malcolm continues to explore the dangerous side of society by dealing reefer, drinking, and dating a white woman. He moves to Harlem where the jazz is even more incredible and where he really gets into serious trouble. This novel follows Malcolm from his childhood until he is imprisoned for theft at age 20 and eventually converts to Islam.
Shabazz is one of the daughters of Malcolm X and according to the Authors Note at the end of the book the story while fiction is firmly based in real life people and events. The writing prowess of Magoon is also here in full force, directing a story that is a headlong dash into sex, drugs and jazz into something that speaks volumes about the intelligence and emotions of the young man at its center. The result is a book that shines light on difficult years of Malcolm X’s life where he lost himself and then the tremendous results of having returned and found himself again.
There is such emotion here on the page. Malcolm’s heart shows in each interaction he has, each moment of losing himself that he manages to find. It is a road map of hope for those who are lost to these moments in their lives that you can return and be better than ever. It also shows the humanity behind the historical figure, the real boy behind the legend.
Powerful, gritty and honest, this novel expands what young readers know about Malcolm X and offers hope for those in their own crisis. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Candlewick Press and Netgalley.
The winners of the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Awards have been announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Here are the winners:
My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, Mac Lizano and Greg Salsedo
Storm by Donna Jo Napoli
Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss
When Harry Colebourn saw a bear cub at the train station, he immediately asked about her. Since she was for sale, he bought her for $20 and took her aboard the train with him, naming her Winnipeg. He was on his way to military training in Quebec and there the two of them bonded even further. Winnie helped Harry in his veterinarian duties, caring for the military horses and searching the pockets of his uniform for treats. Harry fed her condensed milk and she slept on the floor under his cot. When news came that they would be leaving for England, Harry took her along. But when they were going to head to battle in France, Harry knew he had to do something else with Winnie since she could be hurt in warfare. So Winnie was placed in the London Zoo where she quickly made friends with the other bears. It was there that she met one special little boy named Christopher Robin and his father, A. A. Milne.
Walker writes a warm story here. Though they are surrounded by preparations for World War I, the book focuses on the relationship between Harry and Winnie. Happily, Walker also shares information on how Winnie was cared for, showing the freedom that she had and the loving care she was given by Harry and the rest of the soldiers. Just as fascinating is her time at the zoo where she was so gentle that children were allowed to ride on her back. This was one special bear indeed.
The book’s endpages are filled with photographs of the real Harry and Winnie. Voss’ illustrations are realistic and detailed, staying true to the photographs that readers see first. The result is a lovely continuum from the real to the story of what happened, with no jarring differences.
A delightful and cheery story of a bear who is found by one man and then adored by many. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Co.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Finch and Violet go to the same high school but don’t move in the same social circles. So when they both find themselves at the top of the school’s bell tower one day, it’s a chance for that to change. Finch is a boy who flirts constantly with death, thinking about different ways to kill himself and researching suicide statistics. He’s known as “Theodore Freak” by his classmates and has a couple of close friends but that’s it. Violet moves among the popular kids at school, but lost her older sister in a car accident the year before, something she’s having problems coping with. The two of them start working on a school project together since Finch tricks Violet into agreeing. For the project, they travel the state of Indiana finding unique places to visit and leaving small things behind. As they travel, the two become closer and more honest with one another about what they are going through. Violet begins to come out of her grief and live more, but something different is happening to Finch.
Niven creates a movie-like novel here with scenes that comes to life complete with cinematography in your mind. There are iconic moments throughout the book, thanks to the plot of them moving from one unique spot to another. Moments that stand out as important and vital even as they are happening, moments that disguise but also highlight what is happening to the two main characters. There is a moment in the middle of the book where things switch and change starts to happen for both characters, but in opposite directions. There is a sense of loss at that moment, of being unable to save someone that echoes suicide right then and there. It is beautifully done.
The two main characters are brilliantly written as well. The sorrowful Violet who can’t see her way towards trying at school or connecting with others at all and who finds her light in Finch that moves her forward. The clever and sarcastic Finch who steeps himself in dark thoughts but flares alive, sleepless and awake, desperate never to fall into the trap of sleeping for days or months again. He is a deep character, fighting being bipolar on his own.
Niven writes with a simple beauty that will appeal to teens, especially as they explore these complicated subjects. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from ARC received from Knopf.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books announced their picks for the best of 2014 for literature for youth. They mention that poetry is the big story of 2014 and I certainly agree. What a year!
You can also head to their Stellar Series of 2014 list that offers the best in series books for children and teens. The list includes both completed and ongoing series that they reviewed in 2014.
Both lists are definitely worth checking out and are filled with great reads.
Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy
Chester Greenwood is credited with being the inventor of the earmuffs. The story goes that he was a boy with big ears that were sensitive to cold so he had his grandmother create him a pair of earmuffs from wire and cloth. However, the author also shows that earmuffs were actually invented before Greenwood was even born. He did however get a patent himself at age 19 for ear-mufflers. Chester had a great business sense too, one that he honed even as a boy. He also invented other things besides ear-mufflers, designing new features into kettles and rakes and even creating a portable house. It was an article in Life Magazine in the 1930s that credited Greenwood with the invention and that continued into the 1970s when there was a day named after him in Maine that continues to be celebrated today.
McCarthy immediately invites readers into the earmuff mystery, showing the early patents by others and then turning to Greenwood. Readers will see how convoluted stories can become in history, how distorted credit for inventions can be, and also how hard it can be to piece together the truth fully once again. It is to McCarthy’s credit that her focus is on more than the inventor but also on the others in history and the patent process. Don’t miss her notes at the end which detail even more fully her search for the truth about earmuffs.
McCarthy populates her books with friendly characters with big googly eyes. Her paintings are fresh and colorful. They range from double-page spreads to smaller images on the page. All of them exude a cheery feeling and invite readers to explore.
This nonfiction picture book embraces the complexity of the past and demonstrates the search for the truth behind an everyday object. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.