The UK’s Branford Boase Award focuses on debut novels for children and teens. Here are the shortlisted titles for this year:
Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
Cowgirl by Giancarlo Gemin
The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis
Half Bad by Sally Green
Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell
Trouble by Non Pratt
The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
30 most unforgettable animals from literature (infographic) http://buff.ly/1EYmZTp
85 years of Nancy Drew: Did you know these facts about the popular teen detective? – Firstpost http://buff.ly/1ESqicQ
I Am So Over Writing About Strong Girls* – Kirby Larson http://buff.ly/1RajSei
An Indigenous perspective on diversity in young adult and children’s literature in Australia http://buff.ly/1KMlRB6
Calgary Public Library CEO’s major changes making noise http://buff.ly/1bmnMzN
Oh, Those Clever Librarians and Their
Wisconsin police groups want ‘Don’t Shoot’ painting removed from library http://buff.ly/1ERzQF7
“I bet I’d like The Pitcher in the Rye better. Less whining, more throwing stuff.” — Best critical reaction to catcher in the rye I’ve ever heard (via yahighway)
Jandy Nelson: I felt like every work I’ve ever fallen in love with spoke to me all at once http://buff.ly/1c2ioCY
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (InfoSoup)
The third and final book in the Gaither Sisters trilogy is just as delightful as the first two. Delphine, Vonetta and Fern travel south to Alabama to spend the summer with their grandmother and great-grandmother, Big Ma and Ma Charles. After living in Brooklyn, they are surprised at how slow life is in the country with no stores to visit and little to do to pass the time. Their cousin JimmyTrotter lives on the other side of the creek with Miss Trotter who is the half sister of Ma Charles. But the two sisters don’t speak at all except in messages that the children carry back and forth across the creek. The Gaither sisters learn about their extended family and all of the sorts of people that are part of their heritage, including Native Americans and white people. Delphine is just as hard on Vonetta as she always is, but it may be too much when Vonetta runs away from home. When tragedy strikes, it is up to Delphine to rethink the way that she interacts with her sisters, even when they drive her crazy.
Throughout the trilogy, Williams-Garcia has used these books to offer young readers a glimpse at the lives of African-American people in different parts of the country as well as the discrimination they face. This third book celebrates the various parts of African-American history, including some lesser known pieces like Native Americans owning and selling slaves. Here we also see the KKK and the mixed heritage of some of the more hateful people in a community.
Rippling through these more serious parts of the book are the personalities of all of the characters from the three sisters at its heart to their extended family. There are moments of hilarity mixed into it, creating a book that is a pleasure to read but also has a solidity to it thanks to its clear ties to real history. The dynamics of the sisters and their families is also captured in a realistic and loving way. Themes such as forgiveness, anger and family commitments are all part of this gorgeous read.
Readers who loved the first two books will adore this southern country ending to the series, though we will all mourn not being able to join these three sisters in more adventures. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath (InfoSoup)
Released May 12, 2015.
Sophie has just moved to a farm they inherited from her great-uncle. Sophie’s father hunts for a job while her mother shuts herself in a room to write articles in order to pay the bills. Sophie’s father also works on the farm, trying to figure out how to care for the grapes and how to start the tractor. Sophie discovers a flyer in the barn about exceptional chickens from Redwood Farm Supply. She wants to start raising chickens herself and starts to write letters not only to Redwood Farm Supply, but to her dead Great-Uncle Jim and her deceased Abuelita. Soon Sophie discovers a small house on the farm and then a little white chicken with a grumpy attitude appears. Sophie has a chicken of her own! But a lady shows up and wants to steal the chicken just as Sophie is realizing that this is definitely one of those “exceptional” chickens from Redwood Farm Supply. It is up to Sophie to keep her chicken safe from the chicken thief and also discover what happened to the rest of her great-uncle’s flock of amazing birds.
Jones has inventively mixed magical realism with farming and chickens in this children’s novel. Sophie mentions several times in the book that there are not many other brown-skinned people around their new home. Then her letters to her Abuelita show her own Hispanic heritage in a way that is natural and organic. The book is rich with the wonder of figuring out how to care for all chickens, but it also tingles with the mystery of Redwood Farm Supply, who Agnes actually is, and why she can’t type well at all. Then when the amazing chickens arrive in the story, it’s a treat to see each breed of bird explained but also how their natural traits are heightened into super powers.
Sophie is a great main character. She’s a girl who is not afraid of the hard and dirty work of a farm and caring for chickens. She is lonely and isolated in their new home, partly due to her absent but also helicopter parents who over protect her. While there is plenty of magic in the book, the story also has down-to-earth elements that keep it grounded, including the slow process of making new friends, the pressures of a family low on money, and the satisfaction of hard work paying off.
A delightful mix of magical chickens and farm life, this book will appeal to fantasy readers but also to kids wanting more realistic fiction too. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Released May 12, 2015.
Sadie can take a cardboard box and make it into a ship where she looks for land, but not too hard. She can sail all the way around her room before breakfast. Sadie loves to spend time with her friends, whether in real life or in books. She has pretended to be all sorts of things from mermaids to wild boys raised by wolves. She can be Alice in Wonderland or a hero on a horse. She can even have wings, almost invisible ones but they can still take her flying. She fills her days with imagination, play and reading. What could be better?
O’Leary captures the wonder of a child’s imagination in this gorgeous picture book. Right from the beginning the tone is light and playful, inviting the reader to see the world as Sadie does. Perhaps they have wings too? Adults do not appear in the book at all, giving the entire story to Sadie and her imagination. They are referred to in passing, but that’s about it. The book whirls with ideas, all gathered together from heroes to wings to undersea adventures, we are riding along with Sadie in each of her imaginary places. It’s a confectionery of creativity.
Morstad’s illustrations are done in gouache and watercolor. They fully embrace the worlds that Sadie envisions, bringing them into full color vibrancy on the page. The book changes from the imaginative worlds to Sadie’s room and reality, but each are just as winningly portrayed as the other. Her room has lovely touches like a mushroom lamp, beds for stuffed animals, and a chair piled high with books.
An invitation to come and play is clear in this imaginative picture book that will dazzle readers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Tundra Books.
Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado
Released May 12, 2015.
Join Claudette on her second quest as a warrior. This time it is Claudette’s father who heads out alone into battle, attempting to get his sword back from the dragon who swallowed it along with his legs and one of his arms. But Claudette is determined not to be left behind in town and heads off with just her dog with her. Her best friend Marie and her little brother Gaston join her a little later. Together they are all captured by the evil wizard Grombach and his army of stone gargoyles. Grombach has encased the entire town army in amber, using his ability to turn things to stone. When he is distracted by the Apple Hag, the children rescue people along with the Apple Hag who in turn is the one who finds the Gaston could be a magic user. The children continue on toward to dragon’s lair, managing to sneak past the dragon’s offspring and deep within the mountain. There they discover Claudette’s father trapped by the dragon and set out to rescue him. But it will take more than the power of the sword and fighting to get them out alive.
I adore Claudette, a girl who wants to be a warrior and never shrinks away from any battle no matter how outnumbered she is. She is entirely herself, proud to be the girl she is. At the same time, I love that she has Marie as her counterpoint. Marie is a girl who loves pretty dresses and worries about her hair, but she too heads into battle in her own distinct way, this time with diplomacy. Then there is Gaston, the boy who loves to cook but also wants to make his father proud so he’s working on warrior skills like creating swords. He’s not very good at it.
These three protagonists make this book a marvelous adventure. It is filled with their large personalities, laugh-out-loud funny puns and one-liners, and lots and lots of adventure, danger and battles. Claudette’s father fights despite being in a wheelchair and characters of all colors appear in the story. This is a celebration of diversity on the page thanks to the art by Rosado which ranges from completely silly to blazing fight scenes.
A very strong female protagonist is the center of these books and she will thrill children with her bravery. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and First Second.
In an awards ceremony hosted by two literary giants, Betsy Bird from NYPL and Fuse 8 and Jon Scieszka, the 2015 Children’s Choice Book Awards were announced. These awards are the only ones where the winners are selected by children and teens. Here are the winners in both children’s and teen categories:
KINDERGARTEN to 2nd GRADE
Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut EVER! by Jeff Cohen, illustrated by Elanna Allen
3rd to 4th GRADE
Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis, illustrated by John Gomes
5th to 6th GRADE
The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley
TEEN BOOK OF THE YEAR
The One by Kiera Cass
CHILDREN’S CHOICE DEBUT AUTHOR
J. A. White for The Thickety: A Path Begins
TEEN CHOICE DEBUT AUTHOR
Jennifer Mathieu for The Truth about Alice
CHILDREN’S CHOICE ILLUSTRATOR
Chris Appelhans for Sparky! by Jenny Offill
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (InfoSoup)
The Captain is always watching, constantly there, even before the ship. Caden knows the Captain well and knows enough to both respect and fear him. As he spends more time on the ship, he also gets close to the parrot who is working to plot against the Captain and bring Caden onto his side. But at times the ship fades away and reality comes back to Caden. He realizes that he’s pushing friends away and becoming more and more alone in his life. He’s always been popular and had plenty of friends but his new oddness and the strange way his mind is working keeps them at a distance. As the ship approaches the deepest part of the ocean, others join the crew, teens who have their own roles on the ship, those who navigate and those who look into the future. As Caden begins to get the treatment he needs for the voices in his head, these are revealed as the other patients around him. Caden has to journey across the dark sea alone, figure out who is on his side, and hopefully come out the other side alive. It’s a journey through a mind that is fighting an internal chemical battle against itself but it is also a journey of brilliance and beauty.
Shusterman writes from experience about the impact a mentally-ill teen can have on a family. His own son battles mental illness and the illustrations throughout the novel are ones that his son did as he got treatment. The book is raw and stunning in its depiction of the vivid world that schizophrenia can create, the voices making sense in this alternate reality of captains, parrots, ships and crewmen. There are moments of breathtaking clarity, where the deception is swept clear and the reader sees what had been clouded before. It is in these moments that the power of mental illness is striking and blazing bright. And then the clouds descend again and the fiction takes over the brain.
Shusterman writes a brave story here, one that doesn’t try to explain the fictions of the mind, but instead allows readers to ride the waves of paranoia and delusion along with Caden. Caden himself is a character that is so caught up in the throes of mental illness that one realizes that the battle all along has been for himself and his own survival. Shusterman plays with perspective, changing the narration from first person to second person and back again. It’s disarming and wild, something that readers may not notice at first, except as a strange jarring that slowly builds. It’s a very smart use of perspective, creating its own jittery feel for the reader.
A journey through mental illness, this book for teens speaks to the hope that treatment brings but also the hard work that it takes to leave the world of the mind behind and enter reality again. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HarperCollins.
The winners of the 2015 Edgar Award Winners have been announced by the Mystery Writers of America. Here are the winners in the youth categories:
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
BEST YOUNG ADULT
The Art of Secrets by James Klise