Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Can't Believe It! I Know Another Award Winner!

Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton is a Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal (pause and take a breath) Honor Book.

I am doubly excited now.

Thank goodness Camille at BookMoot wrote a post that finally caught my eye. I had been flipping through all the award announcement posts at other blogs thinking, Yeah, yeah, yeah. Heard that...heard that... Until I got to BookMoot and realized, No, I hadn't heard that.


Oh, My Gosh! Tanita! It's Your Year!

I just this minute learned that Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis was named a Coretta Scott King Award honor book. Or, I should say, the honor book, since only one was chosen this year, and it was Tanita's.

I am excited.

Thanks to Book Moot for the news.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wow, Tanita

Tanita S. Davis has been nominated for a NAACP Image Award in the category Outstanding Literary Work--Youth/Teens for her book Mare's War. Does this mean she'll be at the televised awards ceremony? Are the winners for her category at least announced at the televised awards ceremony?

I love that Tanita says at her blog that finding out she was nominated was "beyond startling." Startling. I like that word, anyway, but I'm really enjoying it in this situation.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Money Changes Hands With Many Awards, By The Way

Salon has an interesting story up today called Vanity Book Awards about one specific award that appears to make a winner or finalist of every book that enters and pays the entry fee.

What many members of the book-reading public may not be aware of is that some very legitimate book awards require entry fees. According to its website, there's a $125 entry fee for the National Book Awards (not $69 as the Salon article indicates) and publishers, who must enter the books, have to agree to come up with another $1,000 if the book becomes a finalist. Some of the state book awards (not to be confused with the state readers' choice awards for children's books) also require an entry fee.

There's nothing wrong with this, but I think the public should be aware that awards are given for the best book entered in the event, that not every book out there is considered. It wouldn't be possible to consider every book out there (the Salon article says 400,000 books are published each year in the U.S), and, sure, not every book out there is worthy of consideration. But money comes into the picture when making the decision about what is worthy to consider. And that means the people putting up the money have to make some shrewd decisions about which books they're going to gamble on.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Sweet Natured Little Devil

I have to say that if I had a gun pointed to my head and was told to choose a book from any book award list, I'd choose something from the Printz. I've had a lot more luck with finding enjoyable reads from those winners and honor books than with any other award.

Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins was a Printz Honor Book in 2008. It's marvelously witty but also very moral. In fact, at some points the book teeters on becoming a bit instructive--"girls with big butts are worthy of love," for instance. I think the sophistication of the moral issues saves it from going over the edge into preachiness. The book is too serious--in a funny way--to be a sermon.

Repossessed is the story of a demon who has had all he can take of hell for a while and steps into the body of a teenage boy who was about to step in front of a truck and buy the farm, as we used to say back in college. The kid wasn't going to have a use for the body in a couple of minutes, so our demonic friend, Kiriel, hasn't really done any harm. He's hell bent on experiencing material life, though he doesn't think he's going to get to do it for very long. He will be missed.

But not by the Creator, who has never noticed him. Kiriel clearly is suffering--or at least has an attitude--because of his separation from God. For those of us who taught Sunday school for years and years...and years...this suffering because of separation from God will sound very familiar. Jenkins is dealing with what appears to me to be a very Christian concept. (Though I can't guarantee it doesn't occur in other faiths, too.)

Hell is interesting in Repossessed. The damneds' eternal torment is due to the guilt they, themselves, feel for their human behavior.

One of the many things I liked about this book was the treatment of Jason, the younger brother of the boy Kiriel has replaced. Jason clearly has ADHD, but the term is never used. ADHD books often involve some of that instructive stuff I was talking about earlier, so that we all know what's going on. In this one we're just shown this poor boy whose behavioral problems have led him to a sad, solitary life.

A thought I had while reading this book--This is definitely YA, dealing with the theme of what will I do with myself? (Kiriel wants to make a difference, wants to have a hand in shaping things, which is what led to his becoming a fallen angel in the first place.) But if Jenkins had placed her demon in an adult's body and given him adult concerns, she could have easily turned this into an adult book. Not that I'm saying she should have. It was just something I thought about as I was reading.

You can catch an interview and question and answer session (in the comments) with A.M. Jenkins at YA Authors Cafe and another interview at Cynsations.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

One Of Those British Shortlists

The shortlist for the Booktrust Teenage Prize was announced earlier this week. Among the titles to make the cut: The Graveyard Book (It makes the cut for everything. I liked it, but, come on.) by Neil Gaiman and The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine.

Valentine also wrote Me, the Missing, and the Dead, which I liked a great deal. Gaiman, of course, wrote everything else. Much of which I also liked.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

So Happy For "Me, The Missing, And The Dead"

I loved Me, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine, so I was delighted to see that it's a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. And look at the names of the folks on the award committee--two of them are very close to my stomping ground here in the land of steady habits and regular income.

It would be very cool to set up your own book award during your last days. If I can scrape together enough money, I think one of my criteria will be that the book be one that no one has heard about.


Friday, June 05, 2009

What A Neat Idea

Here in the United States, we wonder if teenagers will be able to read Octavian Nothing. In England, a "shadow panel" of teenagers read the Orange prize longlist and came up with its own short list and winner.

"The "shadow" panel of teenage judges was set up to help a younger audience engage with the prize."

A great idea--encouraging young people to get involved with contemporary adult literature.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How Odd Was This?

I met someone new today while off in the woods with my hiking group. While I was making some notes about skunk cabbage (I have a friend who's seriously into flora), it came out that I'm a writer. I believe the first thing my new walking companion asked was how many books I'd written. The second thing she asked was, "What awards have you won?"

When I told this tale at dinner, someone asked, "Was that rude?" I don't know. I wasn't offended, but I was...stunned. I was able to cobble together some award-like facts about my writing, so I wasn't left feeling humiliated by any means. But I kept thinking, Is this how people think about writers, writing, and books? I realize that one person isn't statistically significant and this poor woman whom I know felt uncomfortable as a newbie to the group was just trying to make conversation, but I wondered if she were representative of the public.

I think she might be because I believe ours is a culture that's overly fixated on winners. It's true in all fields, but with books the race to identify and promote the "best" (assuming we even know what that is) in all kinds of categories means that we miss out on so much that's creative and exciting and new. Already bloggers and listserv members are beginning to speculate about next year's big kidlit winners, narrowing the field and sucking attention from thousands of fine books that aren't making it to the top of the heap, for whatever reason. This desire to hunt for winners can actually limit the reading experience. While we're chasing after the next big thing, we're not even noticing the books that would have been the perfect match for us.

As a writer, I think awards are certainly nice, and I'm happy to pick up whatever I can. But as a reader, I like going rogue. In fact, all the serious readers I know I would probably describe that way. They're familiar with awards, but they've learned to take them with a grain of salt. They're feral readers.

A couple of us walkers do discuss books while we're out in the woods. (One walker/reader went to hear Marilynne Robinson speak last night.) If we have a chance for book talk with our newbie group member, we'll try to encourage her to go wild with her reading.

Today's Training Report: As you may have guessed, except for acquiring some material on skunk cabbages (as well as some juicy stuff about jack in the pulpits), I didn't do much today. I was able to spend some time researching journals for possible short story submissions. But I ran into the same problem I often run into when I do that--I only like a fraction of the stories I read. Or try to.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Wow. An Entertaining Book Just Won The Newbery Medal.

I happened to check my e-mail around ten o'clock and found that someone at one of my listservs had posted a link to the ALA awards webcast. So I ended up watching close to forty minutes of awards announcements, which was more interesting than I expected it to be.

And I'd actually read--and liked--the winner of this year's Newbery Medal.


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Newbery Wars?

I've been chatting, so to speak with a couple of people about the interest general papers have been showing in Anita Silvey's School Library Journal essay on the Newbery Award. Yesterday I realized these "Is the Newbery doing its job?" articles remind me of the Mommy War pieces you used to see in the '90s. They were feature articles that were designed to be divisive and polarize women into two camps--working versus so-called nonworking mothers. The Newbery articles seem similar to me, an attempt to set up Newbery detractors and supporters who can then gather into opposing camps. Conflict is newsworthy and presumably sells magazines and papers.

I can't see this going very far, though. For one thing, though children's literature does inspire volatile feelings (children's titles make up a big part of banned book lists), those feelings are nowhere near as personal as those enflamed when a person thinks her parenting skills are under fire. Whether or not I'm a good mother will determine how successful I am at getting and keeping my genes in the gene pool. We're talking primal here! Whether or not I think last year's Newbery winner was any good? Eh.

In addition, we're told over and over again that people aren't reading. The number of people who know what the Newbery is and which book won it last year (ah...ah...Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) is nowhere near as great as the number of people who have given birth.

So, really, I think this is a conflict that's going to sputter along but never erupt into a real war.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Graphic Novel Problems Up North

Cybils nominee Skim has been nominated for Canada's Governor-General's Award for children's literature, but only for the author, not the illustrator.

Sacre bleu!

Link from Blog of a Bookslut.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Understanding The Newbery

School Library Journal carries a response to Has the Newbery Lost Its Way? called The Newbery Remembers its Way, or "Gee, thanks Mr. Sachar." The point of this second article is that the Newbery is awarded for literary quality. That isn't necessarily the same as readability, though it certainly can be.

Unfortunately, a lot of people outside the library and literary world aren't aware of what the Newbery is supposed to reward. Thus the disappointment when it goes to books that are well written but not necessarily of a type that will draw in crowds of readers. (Whatever that "type" is.)

Personally, I can accept that the award is for writing and not, shall we say, the kid appeal of the content. But I think the Newberyites need to also accept that some years there's going to be a gulf between their choices and readers.

That's not a bad thing or a good thing. It's just a thing.

The original article is being discussed at one of my listservs as well as at Read Roger.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Newbery Winners Aren't Big Draws

I've been hearing rumblings about the Newbery for years. Others are beginning to hear them, too. Has the Newbery Lost Its Way, in School Library Journal, argues that kids, librarians, and booksellers have all found recent winners disappointing.

The link comes from cynsations.

This seems like a good time to remind you that you can nominate titles for the Cybils.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Former Cyblist Makes The Longlist For Guardian Prize

Anthony McGowan, whose first novel, Hellbent, was nominated for a Cybil the year I was a panelist, now has a novel, The Knife That Killed Me, on the longlist for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

Thanks to Kelly at Big A, little a.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Oh, My Gosh! Shirley Has An Award!

I was just thinking today about how much Shirley Jackson meant to me when I was in high school. Yes, back in the dark ages we didn't have a lot of YA gothie, dark, creepy stuff, so I had to read Shirley Jackson.

Well, Leila reports that there is now a Shirley Jackson Award. And there is a Shirley Jackson Awards Blog! (I suspect it won't be very active.)

Here are the finalists. Notice they don't have a YA category. I so think they should. Seriously, was I the only teenager who read her work?

The award will be given for "outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic." I want to write some of that, so I can be considered for the Shirl.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Here's An Award I'm Very Happy To Hear About

I just learned this afternoon that A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat has been nominated for the Kansas Reading Circle Award. And look what the folks in Kansas say about it in their catalogue: "riotous, imaginative"..."Funny and fast-paced."

That's the second time in just over a week that one of my books has been nominated for a state award. I am feeling rather special right now.

UPDATE: This isn't actually an award nomination. The Reading Circle Catalogue is a reading list circulated throughout the state of Kansas. I was so delighted to hear that I was on it that I felt as if I'd been nominated for an award. It's fine to congratulate me on having made the list, though.

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Here's An Award I Don't Hear Much About

Sonja Hartnett (whose presence on the 'net is a little spotty, when you consider what she's done) has won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Literature.

I've only been vaguely aware of this award, even though it's supposed to be the largest (I guess they mean in terms of money) children's award in the world. Probably this is because it's only been around six years.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Beloved Book Earns Newbery Honor

I had the good luck to read The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt just before the ALA announced it had been named one of this year's honor books. I wasn't surprised. The Wednesday Wars is adored on my listservs and there was Newbery talk regarding it way back in April.

Personally, I didn't think there was a whole lot of story to Wednesday Wars. It's more just charming episodes from the life of seventh grader Holling Hoodhood. I think the title "Wednesday Wars" refers to conflict between Holling and his teacher who are alone together every Wednesday afternoon when, back in 1968 when our story takes place, all the Jewish and Catholic kids (Holling is neither) in the classroom are released early from school to attend religious classes. However, this aspect of the plot is dropped pretty early on. His teacher, Mrs. Baker, remains an imposing character, but after the first few chapters Holling no longer talks of her hating him. We get a lot of history lessons by way of Holling's family who represent, in rather superficial ways, various aspects of 1960's life. His sister is a big Bobby Kennedy fan. (I wondered how many kids would know who Bobby Kennedy was.) Dad is a conservative supporter of the Vietnam War. Mom desperately needs to read The Feminine Mystique.

But while I found the book only so-so, I understand that Newbery books tend to be books (other) adults like. I'm okay with that. I can see what those other adult readers found so very attractive about The Wednesday Wars. Holling and his teacher end up (probably? improbably?) reading Shakespeare together and that gives the book a very literary tone. The book is also improving. In addition to the instruction relating to literature, readers also get lessons on tolerance and, to a lesser extent, good parenting.

Many adults in kidlit do believe children's books should be instructive, and this is an attitude toward literature for the young that goes back for generations, if not centuries, according to my sources on my listservs. While overt lessons are not something I look for in any of my reading, I understand that the adults in kidlit who do want it have tradition to justify their position.

For all the flaws I find in The Wednesday Wars, it may be a Newbery book that child readers can actually enjoy. Some kids may find the 1960's world portrayed here far less disturbing than the one they live in in the twenty-first century. The bad dad in The Wednesday Wars is merely narrow-minded, demanding, and focused on his work rather than his family. He's absolutely quaint compared to the bad dads we see in the news now who molest and murder their children. The bully in Wednesday Wars is kind of sweet. He just roughs up kids on the playground or on their way home. No knives are pulled. No one is beaten to death just for the hell of it. He is a traditional, card-carrying bully, who we know isn't going far in life. He's not a kid from the top of the social hierarchy taking pleasure in tormenting those less fortunate than himself.

I really don't care about using literature as a pulpit. But if some young readers can find escape in The Wednesday Wars, I'm all for it.


"I Realized That That Was The Beginning Of A Story."

It's a Picture Book, a Novel, a Movie in Book Form... is another one of those how-they-done-it articles that I like so much. This one is about Brian Selznick and Hugo Cabret.

By the way, I've been seeing questions raised about Hugo getting the Caldecott this year because of the whole question of what is it? A picture book or a novel? Fortunately, I'm pretty ignorant about picture books, and I don't have strong feelings one way or the other on the subject.

Thanks to child_lit for the link.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Prizes And Failing To Win Them. And Reviews. And... What?

I never actually figured out what The Prize Bigger Even Than The Booker is. I think that title might be metaphorical or something. I also wonder if there isn't a typo in the sub-title "Most literary endeavour ends not in failure, says Robert McCrum," because in the article he says, "...most literary endeavour ends not in prizes, but failure."

However, the author's (presumably this Robert McCrum of the subtitle) contention is that book prizes "play an indispensable role in identifying new writing of consequence." He feels that this is especially true now that there are so many sources of opinion relating to books. A reader can get confused.

He may be right. I don't have an opinion, myself. I tend to read prize-winning books long after the rest of the reading public has forgotten about them, so I sometimes miss the consequential part.

McCrum includes a quote from Samuel Beckett that I liked a lot. "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Fail better. That is absolutely profound. It's probably the best that many of us can ever hope for.

I also was kind of impressed by the banner ad for Gas-X along the top of the page. There may be something profound about that, too.

The link came from artsJournal.