Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ALA Youth Media Awards


Yesterday I got to attend the youth media awards announcements for the American Library Association.  These awards are always announced at the American Library Association's midwinter conference, and this was my first chance to attend.  All weekend I'd been attending book buzz presentations about the new books coming out in 2013, and getting oodles of advanced reader's copies to  see for myself, but on Monday morning it was all about the best of the best in 2012.

The room opened at 7:30 for the 8:00 AM announcements and when we arrived just shortly after 7:30 we were already relegated to the back half of the room. A room that was abuzz with librarians waiting expectantly.  People were hugging old friends and there were smiles and anticipation on every face in the room.  Very few people who know who wins the awards ahead of time.  Most of the committees only make their final decisions over the weekend (although they work on the committee reading and making their cases for and against this book or the other all through the year), and the level of secrecy is incredibly high.  I think that's cool because it really ramps up the excitement for the actual announcements.

The ceremony itself goes fast -it lasts only an hour.  Different emcees do the announcements of honorees and winners.  My favorite emcee was the president of YALSA, a dynamo of a man, Jack Martin took the stage.  He was SO excited, using the term love-bomb to get the crowd roaring and just generally ramping up the ballyhoo, as he called it.  And the crowd was definitely excited, with lots of screaming and shrieking when favorites were announced.  It was so much fun to be part of that event.  Here's a fantastic picture from the YMA Facebook page that captures the whole thing in one instant.  My friend Paige, who's a librarian at Grant High School in Portland, OR, is in the black shirt.  She said of the photo, "As usual, the YMAs had me all agog."

If you missed the announcements yesterday, you can catch up on all the winners and honorees HERE.

I, of course, did not pick the winners, but I am pleased to say that my pick for Caldecott winner (Green) and my pick for Printz winner (Code Name Verity) were both honoree titles and that's better than usual.  Also, just before I left for the awards I had started the Caldecott winner, (The One and Only Ivan), so I think that should count for something! And now, I've got to run - have a ton of reading to do!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Liar and Spy, Rebecca Stead

Earlier in the year there was a lot of buzz about this book as a possible Newbery or even Printz contender.  The author, Rebecca Stead won the Newbery for When You Reach Me a few years ago.  I didn't love that book as much as some other Newbery winners, and I hoped I'd love this book more.

I did enjoy this book, which I listened to on audio, but I don't see it as an award winner.  Which means, of course, it's likely to get some awards next week...We'll see. Actually, I can see this book getting (deservedly) a Schneider Family award or honor. I cannot see it getting the Newbery and definitely not the Printz.  (Famous last words??)

This is the story of Georges and Safer, two boys who have secrets they're trying to cope with.  As an adult reader, predicting their secrets was not very difficult.  I am curious as to whether this would be the same for younger readers. I think younger readers without a lot of life experience would definitely understand there are secrets, but what those secrets are would be more difficult to discern.

Georges has just moved to a new apartment and he meets a boy named Safer there who has a spy club. What kid wouldn't want to join a spy club, right?  I know I would have.  Makes my heart start pounding just to think of doing spy things, but it's an exciting kind of stress.  For Georges, though, it's often just a stressful kind of stress, and he only participates because he thinks Safer is in danger.

Georges also has to deal with bullying at school, a very timely topic.  As is typical with many kids, he doesn't want to trouble his parents about the issues going on at school, so things start to escalate there.  Both the bullying issues at school and Safer and Georges' relationship examine what it means to be friends and the importance of truth telling.

Perhaps my trouble with choosing award books is that I look at them with the lens of a young reader and what I think will be interesting to them. I always want the award books to be books with strong kid appeal.  I think this book's kid appeal is definitely stronger than When You Reach Me, but I just don't see it as having that last bit of oomph.  We'll see if the committee agrees.  Betsy Bird agrees with me, so that's something at least.

Death in the Floating City, Tasha Alexander

I saw this book recommended on a mystery list somewhere, and since I really like Venice and mysteries (and particularly series mysteries), I decided to give this one a try.  The story is actually the seventh in the series, and I think I might have been better off to start with number one just to get the background and then have skipped to this one, but it wasn't 100% necessary.  I just think I'd have preferred it.

Lady Emily and her husband Colin are private investigators, and in this story they've been called on to help Emma, a childhood friend of Emily's.  Friend, however, is a bit of a loose term.  Perhaps acquaintance would be more appropriate. Friend implies some sort of congenial relationship, and these two have never had that.  Nor  do they in this story, but Emma has no one else to turn to.  Emma's husband has been accused of killing his father, and he's disappeared, which does not help his case much.  Emily and her husband come to Venice to try and discover the truth

I read this mystery over the last few weeks and I have't been feeling well, and the pacing of the story was perfect for that.  Some mysteries are super intense and sort of wear a person out while reading them, but this one just moved steadily along.  Perhaps the setting in the 19th century and a woman as one of the main detectives affected that, I'm not sure.  In any case, the story is interesting, but what I really loved were the descriptions of Venice.  I've been to Venice before, and like nearly very visitor to that magnificent city, I was enchanted.  Reading a story set there let me be an armchair traveler while I read, and that was super fun.

If you like historical fiction, mysteries, and Venice, this is a sure winner.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

some winter break books

I read three books over break and listened to a fourth.

The three I read were Wish You Were Eyre by Oregon author Heather Vogel Frederick, The Queen of Katwe, a nonfiction title by Tim Crothers, and Keeping the Castle, by Patrice Kindl. the audiobook I read is an adult psychological thriller by Gillian Flynn called Gone Girl.

 Wish You Were Eyre is the final book in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series which I have loved. I read the first of these books with the first mother-daughter book club I had a WOMS!  I've followed the girls in the series over the years, and as characters in a series often do, they sort of became my friends.   I love how the book club always reads one of the classics and how the author weaves bits from the classic stories into the girls' stories.  I like how these books have a little something for everyone.  One girl is really into fashion, another is really into sports, one's family has lots of money, other girls don't, some girls like reading, some don't.  And I really appreciate that the girls don't always get along perfectly either, because real girls - real people - don't. I'm sad that this is the end of the series, but it's been a fun journey!

The nonfiction book I read, The Queen of Katwe, is actually subtitled, A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming A Grandmaster. It's a fascinating story, although I would not say it's the most well-written piece of nonfiction I've read.  I felt it was a little jumpy.  The story is of a project in Uganda to teach children to play chess - a project which actually started as an experiment because they weren't even sure it would work. 

Phiona, the extraordinary girl, lives in the slums of  Kampala, Uganda.  Here, a group called Sports Outreach started a soccer program.  but many kids weren't playing soccer, so one of the guys thought, hey, maybe I can teach them to play chess.  It was challenging, but he kept at it, and little by little, the children began to play.  Phiona was not one of the original players, but she followed her brother to the center one day and began to learn.  The leader saw her potential and entered her in a competition.  At age ten, she became the Ugandan junior chess champion and then the junior champion for all of Africa.

Since then, she has played in the World Chess Olympiad in Siberia and also just this past fall in turkey.  She is recognized as one of the world's best young chess players!!!  You can read more about Phiona and see some videos of her here.  It's a pretty amazing story.

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl is an Austenesque novel, meaning it's a book written in a similar style to a Jane Austen novel.  Meaning I will of course read it because I love all things Jane Austen.  Except I would not have loved living in Jane Austen's time, because like Althea, it might have meant I would have to look for a husband for money instead of love. 

Althea is a seventeen year-old young woman whose father has died and who has a younger brother who will inherit the house, if they can keep it from falling down or sliding down the hill...Their house, called Crooked Castle by most because of its crazy, hodge-podge design, is in a major state of disrepair, but they've no money to fix it up.  Hence the reason Althea needs a husband with money!  Well, actually, Althea has two wealthy stepsisters, but they're unwilling to give any of their money to repair the house - except in the case of mice and dripping ceilings, of course.  But Althea wouldn't know anything about that...
The story is funny and I love Althea's no-nonsense approach to Mr. Fredericks.  It was fairly predictable from my perspective, although I don't know if it would be in a younger reader's eyes, and in any case, it didn't really make a difference to me.  If you want to interest readers in Jane Austen but they're not quite ready for her, this is a perfect introduction.

The last book, Gone Girl, was my January book club book, and as it is really not appropriate for younger readers, I will just do a very short review here and say that for the first 2/3-3/4 I was in, and then it was all too much. I can see why the reviews are all over the board. Wished I'd developed more sympathy for either of the main characters.

What did you read over winter break?