2020 Hugo Award Finalists

The finalists for the 2020 Hugo Awards have been announced, including those for the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.

LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK FINALISTS

Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer

Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge

Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee

Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher

Riverland, by Fran Wilde

The Wicked King, by Holly Black

 

BEST GRAPHIC STORY FINALISTS includes:

Mooncakes, by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

Enchanter’s Child: Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage

Enchanter's Child Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage

Enchanter’s Child: Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage (9780062875143)

The author of the Septimus Heap series returns with a new fantasy world. Alex lives in Luma, where all magic is forbidden. She has a deck of Hex cards that come to life in her hands and show her images of the future. She’s always had them, given to her as a small child by the family that gave her away. But one jealous foster sister decides to name Alex as an enchanter and everything changes. Alex flees with her youngest foster brother into a world designed to hunt her down with magical hauntings. Her step mother is placed in jail for harboring her. As Alex escapes, she still doesn’t believe that she’s an enchanter’s child, though the Hauntings do target her. Meanwhile, her father who used to be an important enchanter, is searching for her. But it’s a large world, full of Hauntings that will kill them both, even though he designed them all.

Sage has a skill for developing entire worlds that click together beautifully as the story continues. Readers will wonder about why people don’t just flee the gloomy streets of Luma out to the countryside, and Sage has built dark and deadly reasons for them to stay behind the walls of the city. The entire world though is also piercingly beautiful with its citrus groves, deep woods, large meadows and turreted cities. Sage takes the time to fully build her world and its logic, allowing young readers to explore it alongside Alex.

Alex herself is a grand protagonist, figuring out that she actually is an enchanter’s child on her journeys. She is brave, forthright and clever. Happily, she is also joined by a large group of secondary characters who are all interesting as well. That includes her father, who was been hiding for years in the woods, eating snakes and spider eggs. He is joined by a person tasked with killing enchanters who just can’t bring himself to do it. Then you also have a family happy to help Alex, who have lost enchanters themselves.

Brilliantly structured, beautifully described settings, and great characters bring this new series fully alive. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

Swim Swim Sink by Jenn Harney

Swim Swim Sink by Jenn Harney

Swim Swim Sink by Jenn Harney (9781368052764)

After three tiny ducks hatch from their eggs: “Crack! Crack! Crack!” “Quack! Quack! Quack!” Their mother leads them down to the pond to swim. The ducklings jump in: “Swim, swim…sink!” Wait, ducks are supposed to float and swim. They try it again, and the duckling sinks every time. Perhaps there’s a solution? Water wings? Scuba gear? A jetski? But nothing seems quite right, until the duckling comes up with a unique solution all their own that involves using their discarded eggshell. Now the story works again and so does the rhyme. 

Harney uses broad comedy in this picture book that just has to be read aloud to be enjoyed to the fullest. The rhyme she creates is wonderfully bouncy and jaunty, offering just the right amount of rhythm and speed to be cleverly derailed by the sinking duckling. The humor here is just right for toddlers who will delight in the surprise of the story shifting right in front of them. 

The art is bright and bubbly with a merry tone. The sinking duckling in the green-blue water is satisfying and abrupt, adding to the humor of the moment. The final solution the duckling figures out is another great visual moment in the story. 

Reading this one aloud will always go swimmingly. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (9780449812914)

Mother Jones is mad. She is furious at the treatment of children who work in the mills for a paltry 2 cents an hour to help keep their families from ruin. She saw the issue first hand and called the newspapers. But the newspapers are owned by wealthy men who were friends with the owners of the mills. So Mother Jones came up with a plan to create a protest march from Philadelphia to New York City. The march started on July 7, 1903. They got a lot of media attention, and Mother Jones changed her plan and decided to march to Washington, D.C. Mother Jones presented her arguments in every town and then the children put on a play. It took them fourteen days to reach New York City and six more to reach D.C. They didn’t get to see the President, but the march did its job anyway and laws changed to forbid child labor in the United States. 

Winter tells the complex story of Mother Jones and her fight to stop child labor in the United States. By focusing on the march itself, the picture book stays sharp and fast paced. He uses quotes from Mother Jones in the text as well as on the endpapers which really capture the spirit of Mother Jones and her willingness to fight for others. 

The illustrations center on Mother Jones in her black and white outfit standing out against a pastel world that is almost foggy in its softness. This works very well for this subject, showing the impact of a person willing to make sacrifices and stand up to demand change.

A dynamic look at the unique historical figure of Mother Jones and her continued impact on our world. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (9780062463319)

When a child doesn’t want to go to school because he’s scared and nervous, he talks with his grandfather. His grandfather understands exactly how his grandchild is feeling and takes him on a ride in his car which is also a time machine. It takes them both to see when he left his mother back in 1952 and had to be brave himself. They stop in 1955 to see him working up high on buildings, needing to get beyond being so scared. In 1957, Big Papa had to get over his fears to ask a lovely girl to dance, a girl who would eventually marry him. They then head to 1986 when the child was left with Big Papa. He wasn’t sure if he could take care of a baby all on his own. All about bravery in spite of being scared and nervous, this book shows that it is those moments that define a life.

Bernstrom takes readers on a real ride through history through the eyes of this African-American family. Generations appear and their clear love for one another is evident. Even with a baby being left behind for a grandparent to raise is shown as a chance to save a life and find a new way forward. Children in smaller non-nuclear families will recognize the connection between a sole adult and their child in these pages. It’s particularly lovely to see an African-American man in this role.

Evans makes the pages shine with light as he uses bright yellows and mystical swirls and stars to show the passing of time. Every page is saturated in color, glowing with the connection of the two characters. The child is never declared to be a specific gender in either the text or illustrations, making the book all the more inclusive.

A bright and vibrant look at why to be brave. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Deep Dark Blue by Niki Smith

The Deep Dark Blue by Niki Smith

The Deep Dark Blue by Niki Smith (9780316485982)

When their family is killed in front of them in a political coup, twin brothers Hawke and Grayson are forced into hiding. They become initiates into the Communion of Blue, a society of women who weave the blue thread of reality and can control the strings of power. Disguised as girls, the two must learn new ways of life, including battling unarmed rather than with swords and learning the spinning skills that girls are taught by their mothers. The siblings create their own plan to take back their royal home, using old and new skills. But Grayson, who has hidden as Grayce, is unwilling to leave the first place she’s been allowed to live as a girl.

Smith’s graphic novel has a wonderful edge to it in both story and imagery. The tale is timeless as is the need for vengeance. Yet Smith makes it modern with her art but also the inclusion of a transgender character as one of the main protagonists. Grayce’s identity is handled clearly and with sensitivity, allowing her to become fully herself as the story unfolds.

The art is spectacular, using a palette of blues, purples and pinks, this kingdom comes alive. The Communion of Blue is fascinating to learn more about, visually as well as in the story. The cast of characters is racially diverse as well.

A graphic novel full of magic, familial honor and LGBTQ representation. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

April 2020 New YA Books to Wake Your Brain Cells

Here are some of the new teen titles being published in April. These all have received praise and starred reviews:

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

The Dark Matter of Mona Starr by Laura Lee Gulledge

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health by Melanie Siebert, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich

Kent State by Deborah Wiles

Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin

Little Universes by Heather Demetrios

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

This Is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregorio

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changed the World by Todd Hasak-Lowy

We Didn’t Ask for This by Adi Alsaid

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – April 3

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

10 empowering books to read to your children in honor of Women’s History Month – Simplemost

15 picture books for comfort – This Picture Book Life

Baek Heena wins 2020 Astrid Lindgren Award – Publishers Weekly

Children’s book roundup – the best new picture books and novels – The Guardian

Favorite children’s books about art – MoMA

‘One big virtual love-in’: how children’s book authors are creating online sanctuaries – The Guardian

These digitized collections let you read thousands of historic children’s books for free – My Modern Met

Why the Judy Blume renaissance can’t come soon enough – Vogue

LIBRARIES

Libraries get creative with e-books and other online offerings – NPR

The magic of libraries: where fantasy meets reality – Tor

Need wi-fi during the coronavirus social distancing limits? Try a library’s parking lot. It’s OK. – Syracuse.com

Virtually visit 8 world-class libraries – Library Journal

TEEN LIT

12 great YA reads for Trans Day of Visibility – Buzzfeed

14 April YA book releases to TBR – Book Riot

All the new young adult SFF books arriving in April – Tor

The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas announces new novel, Concrete Rose: ‘I expect it to get banned’ – People

Jason Reynolds is the bard of black YA fiction. Now he’s written a totally different kind of book. – Washingtonian

So many free books from Simon Teen to read right now! – Book Riot

April 2020 Middle-Grade Books to Wake Your Brain Cells

Here are a bunch of new middle-grade books coming out in April that have gotten praise and starred reviews:

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese

In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter by Aaron Reynolds

Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryon

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

On the Horizon by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak

Rick by Alex Gino

The Water Bears by Kimberly Baker

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson