Friday, February 24, 2006

I'm taking an online young adult literature course during the month of March, from the University of Wisconsin. I'm pretty excited - I haven't taken any lit courses since I graduated from library school in 2000, and all the books being covered in the course have been written from 2000 - the present. There are several on the reading list that I've already read, but enough that I haven't read to make the class worthwhile. And there are no assignments, no papers & no tests - just online discussion.
So, what does this mean for my reading life during the next month, and thus the blog? Well, there are four required books for each week and four supplementary books. Overachiever that I am, my goal is to read them all, but, in truth, I'll read what I can manage, starting with the stuff I haven't already read and the stuff I haven't read in a while. Here's the complete reading list.
I'm starting with Real Time by Pnina Moed Kass. We've had this one in the library for a while, and I've wanted to read it, but - you know. Anyway, it hasn't circulated well, although the one student who did check it out came back and wanted more like it. Not having read it, that was a hard request for me to fill, but now I see what she meant. I thought she just wanted something else (fiction) on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but now I know what she wanted.
She wanted 24. That's what this reminds me of. It really is "real time," minute to minute, with some high action, tension, and great emotion. It's told from so many different points of view that at first I didn't like it. I thought it was going to be like so many novels in verse - I'd be frustrated at the end because I like the story but don't get into it enought to satisfy me. But the more I read, the more I got to know the characters. Even though it's in little segments and narratively jumping all over the place, you connect with the characters. It's the story of a German teen, Tommi, who travels to Israel to find out about his grandfather, a Nazi officer who disappeared during WWII. He's met at the airport by Vera, a Russian teen who has lived at the kibbutz for three years. She's spent that time recovering from the suicide of her boyfriend, and now she is in love with Daniel, a soldier whose family lives on the kibbutz. Baruch, a Holocaust survivor and head gardener of the kibbutz, is nervous about supervising Tommi during his visit, afraid working with this German teen will bring back too many memories.
But all these worries and concerns become irrelevant when Sameh and Omar become involved. Fighting for their country, doing what they think is right for their families, these two Palestinian youths' actions will reach out and touch Tommi, Vera, Daniel & Baruch and leave them terrified and confused, but all the stronger for their terrible experience.

Kass, Pnina Moed. Real Time. New York: Clarion, 2004. ISBN 0618442030. $15.00

What I'm Reading: The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things (another required book for the class - I've read it before, but it's been ages)
On my bookshelf: Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples and Born Confused by Tenuja Desai Hidier (another repeat performance).

Wonder Woman!

I've gotten on a comic kick lately, but I seem to be buying a lot of comics and not actually reading them. My slightly obsessive personality is to blame; I want the whole story, the whole history of the character, and I want to read it all in order. And with some comics, where do you start? Take Wonder Woman, for example. As a kid, I wore my Wonder Woman Under-Roos proudly, watched the Lynda Carter TV show and the Saturday morning Superfriends. But I'm a child of the 70s, I guess - I didn't read the comics. So, with a new found interest in comics, thanks to buying for the library, Wonder Woman seemed like a good place to start my personal collection.
So, enter that obsessive thing. Wonder Woman was created in 1941. She's one of DC's longest-lasting super heros, right up there with Superman and Batman. So where do I, who likes to start at the beginning, actually begin?
I began with buying Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess by Scott Beatty, thinking I'd get some history & background before delving into the actual comics. I started reading it, and found myself very confused. I've looked at books from this Ultimate Guide series before and been impressed, but the books aren't necessarily chronological, and I found my mind desperately trying to organize information that I did not have the knowledge to organize (it's the librarian in me). I realized I started with the wrong book.
Enter Wonder Woman: The Complete History by Les Daniels. Definitely the right book, for me, at least. This is not in comic format; it's actually a history of the creation and evolution of Wonder Woman: who created her and why (which is incredibly intersting), her early popularity, how the story evolved, the whole Crisis on Infinite Earths thing (which, I discovered is what was making the Ultimate Guide so confusing - it was all post-Crisis, and everything I knew about Wonder Woman was pre-Crisis). The Complete History also contains excerpts from comics and tons of photos and illustrations.
So, for an obsessive fan like me, or a new fan with an interest in comic history, The Complete History series is the way to go. Superman and Batman also have their own volumes, so you can become an expert on three of the biggest super heroes ever. Then go to the Ultimate Guides for more info.
As for the comics themselves? I bought the GN Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost on the recommendation of the owner of the local comic book store. After all, I figured he should know, right? He says the Greg Rucka stuff is the best, and, although Rucka doesn't do this one, it's apparently the start of his run.
And left to my own devices, I'd feel forced to start at the beginning and make my way through 60+ years of the Amazon princess...

Beatty, Scott. Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess. New York: DK Publishing, 2003. ISBN 078949616X. $24.99.
Daniels, Les. Wonder Woman: The Complete History. New York: Chronicle Books, 2000. ISBN 0811842339. $18.95.
DeMatteis, J. M. Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost. New York: DC Universe, 2002. ISBN 156389792X. $14.95.

What I'm Reading: Real Time by Pnina Moed Kass
On My Bookshelf: The Earth, My Carolyn Mackler; comics, of course.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in your backpack. Don't try to fake it out with a purse or a carry-on.

Rule #2: You may not bring guidebooks, phrasebooks, or any kind of foreign language aid. And no journals.

Rule #3: You cannot bring extra money or credit/debit cards, traveler's checks, etc. I'll take care of all of that.

Rule #4: No electronic crutches. This means no laptop, no cell phone, no music, and no cameral. You can't call home or communicate with people in the US by Internet or telephone. Postcards and letters are acceptable and encouraged.

Gabby doesn't think she's a very exciting person - her aunt Peg was exciting, and being with her made Gabby more interesting. But Aunt Peg is gone. She's managed to to leave Gabby one last adventure, though. And so Gabby finds herself on a plane to Europe with only one bag and no cash. No cell phone. And no idea what's going to happen when she gets to London.

If only we all had an Aunt Peg! Gabby's off on the adventure of her life, however reluctantly. I think every girl needs a journey of self-exploration like the one Aunt Peg has planned for Gabby. 13 blue envelopes are her only guide; beyond that, she must use her own wits. Usually shy and practical, Gabby must crawl outside her shell if she's to complete the tasks Aunt Peg has set for her.

I love travel stories, and this is a great one. It might be a little hard to believe that Gabby's parents would let her take of on this crazy adventure, but once you get past that, travelling with Gabby is loads of fun. From London to Rome to Paris, Amsterdam, Denmark, Greece - the terrain Gabby covers is amazing, as are the things she discovers about herself on the way.

Johnson, Maureen. 13 Little Blue Envelopes. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0060541415. $15.00

What I'm reading: Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess
On my bookshelf: Who knows?

"She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care has she,
The Lady of Shalott."

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Elaine isn't fond of the Middle Ages, King Arthur, and all that - her parents are professors, and it's thanks to their research on the Middle Ages that they've moved. Her parents are taking a sabbatical, and they've moved close to Washington D.C. so her father can be close to his research. So, Elaine must start her junior year at Avalon High, where she know no one. But it doesn't take her long to meet someone - A. William Wagner, the most popular guy at her new school. She and Will connect right away, even though he's already dating Jenny.

But things aren't what they seem at Avalon High. Elaine has stumbled into an ages old drama being played out between good and evil. Elaine's part in the drama is uncertain, but she may hold the key to the battle.

Meg Cabot has intertwined the classic story of King Arthur into her new novel, adding a fantastical layer to her teen love story. Elaine is a typical Cabot heroine, with spunk, smarts, and attitude, but she's a heroine with a new set of problems. Sure, she wants a guy she seemingly can't have - typical - but what's worse, he seems to be fated to die, betrayed by those he loves and trusts most. Elainee seems fated just to watch events unfold, but that's not Elaine's style.

Cabot, Meg. Avalon High. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0060755867. $16.99.

What I'm Reading: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

On My Bookshelf: Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess

Friday, February 17, 2006

"Brainstorm," I say.
Everyone stops what they are doing to look at me.
"You must create your own fun," I say as I pull the glitter pencils out of my hair and tape them onto my shirt.
Sid removes his headphones and pulls his head back to make the announcement.
"Pencil Day!"
Perla laughs. Kenji digs into his bag and starts looking for pencils
Halfway through the day, everyone has covered themselves with pens or pencils.
Halfway through the day, the tape no longer has the strength to keep the pencils in their place, and they start to drop off my shirt. They are jumping ship. The pencils are bailing.
They might just have the right idea.

Libby is the idea girl. She's the original thinker. She is the Queen of Cool, and everyone follows her lead. But lately, nothing about her seems very original - everything seems boring and pointless. Verging on "meltdown," Libby signs up for an internship at the LA Zoo. She's immediately sorry, but it's too late to back out. Her friends think she's crazy, and Libby's inclined to agree when she's teamed up with Tina, a dwarf, and Sheldon, who never talks - at least, not so you can hear him. They're total dorks - and they don't even know it. Or maybe they just don't care. Because Libby's beginning to realize that everything isn't boring, if you become a doer instead of a talker.

I loved, loved, loved Cecil Castellucci's Boy Proof, and I read her blog regularly & like her quirky way of thinking. Queen of Cool isn't quite as great as Boy Proof, but it's still a good read. Libby and her friends seem like cardboard characters, but that's the point. They are. When Libby begins to change, we begin to see her flesh out, gain depth - but not enough to fully engage the reader. Libby's growing - but why? What is she thinking? She doesn't fully explore any of her new ideas or the things she does. We see her change by her actions, but we're left uncertain of her motives.
However, the characters of Tina and Sheldon are bright spots, and Perla, Kenji and Libby's other friends are fun to hate. Teens will love the Queen of Cool.

Castellucci, Cecil. The Queen of Cool. Candlewick: Cambridge, 2006. ISBN 0763627208. $15.99

What I'm reading: Avalon High by Meg Cabot
On my bookshelf: Ready or Not by Cabot; Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude... by Graham; and some comics - Blue Monday, Sidekicks, Pounded & more.
Elle Girl Magazine is sponsoring Dare to Read, their own book club. The site includes book reviews, info on authors, prizes, and the chance for teens to write their own reviews.

Two great titles included in the reviews: Tanya Lee Stone's A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl, and Laurie Halse Anderson's Prom.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

" The parasite makes sure that I'm like the always-hungry snail, except hungry for sex. I'm constantly aroused, aware of every female in the room, every cell screaming for me to go out and shag someone!
None of which makes me wildly different from most other nineteen-year- old guys, I suppose. Except for one small fact: If I act on my urges, my unlucky lovers become monsters, like Sarah did. And this is not much fun to watch."

Cal hasn't been real lucky in love. Arriving in New York as a freshman in college, he meets Morgan at a bar and spends the night with her. After his night with Morgan, strange things begin to happen - his senses are sharpened, he's super-strong, and he craves meat. Rare meat. All the time.
Cal's night with Morgan has infected him with a parasite that changes most people into vampires - parasite positives, or peeps. The good news is that Cal is a carrier. He carries the parasite, but he doesn't have all the nasty symptoms of being a peep - craving blood, bonding with rats, hating sunlight. He just has the superhuman strength and the supersensitive hearing. The bad news? Any exchange of bodily fluids will pass the disease on to his partner. No sex. No kissing. Ever. His girlfriend, two other girls he dated a few times, and the girl he kissed on New Year's Eve have all gone crazy. They're all peeps. And it's all Cal's fault.
Working for an underground organization that tracks peeps, Cal must begin to search for Morgan, his progenitor. His memories of the night are murky, and his attempts to locate her aren't successful until he meets Lace, a journalism student who lives in Morgan's building. Cal's incredibly attracted to her, so letting her hang around doesn't seem too smart - until he begins to uncover some facts about Morgan that make Lace the only person he can trust.
Peeps is nothing like any vampire book you've ever read. It's creepy, yes. And there's biting. And blood. And even garlic. But the resemblance stops there. It's funny. And dramatic. And you'll know more about parasites than you ever wanted to know by the time you're done.

For another librarian's summary of Peeps, see Dewey's summary in Unshelved.

Westerfeld, Scott. Peeps. Razorbill: New York, 2005. ISBN 159514031x; $16.99.

What I'm reading: Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci (supplanted Meg because I was forced to start reading it while I was waiting for my husband in the bookstore)
On my bookshelf: Avalon High & Ready or Not (Really. I promise.); Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and Other Commandments I Have Broken by Rosemary Graham; some graphic novels & comics

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"It's that same problem I had when I was five: 'There is something wrong with me because I seem to see things other people don't see. Am I crazy, or am I a genius?"
--John Lennon

I've often said that if I ever write a book, it will be a biography written for a young adult audience - of high school age. Bios for them just aren't out there; they are either written for adults, and are 450+ pages long, or they're simple, childish looking series biographies aimed at middle-schoolers. That is one of the things that's so great about John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge - and one of the reasons it won a Printz Honor medal. It is "a photographic biography," with lots of pictures - perfect for a teen audience. It's about 230 pages long - perfect for a teen audience. It has an index and notes that can be used for research purposes - perfect for a teen audience. And it's about John Lennon - what could be more perfect for a teen audience?
But even better, Partridge's bio is entirely readable and extremely interesting. It covers Lennon's life from birth to tragic death, and doesn't shrink away from his prejudices and eccentric, sometimes violent, behavior. According to her source notes, Partridge relied heavily on the writings of John himself when writing the bio, going back to his words whenever she was reaching to uncover the man behind the legend. Also relying on quotes from those who knew John best, such as the aunt who raised him, both his wives, and the other Beatles, Partridge describes John's struggles as a youth, his knowledge that he saw the world differently than most, and his rages against the constraints of society. His anger and his rebellious character come through, as does the incredible impact rock & roll had on his young life.
Beatlemania is covered in fairly short order, the book focusing more on the years before and after. John's relationship with Yoko is given good coverage, as are his troubled years following the breakup of the Beatles.
While the short length of the book prevents detailed coverage of most issues and events, Partridge does a great job of packing in what people most want to know, and the many photos add another layer to the story. This is a great biography for the average teen who wants some background on Lennon for research or for the budding Beatles fan who wants to learn more about the band's most controversial member.

Partridge, Elizabeth. John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth. Viking, New York: 2005. ISBN 0-670-05954-4; $24.99

What I'm Reading: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (yes, really this time)
On my bookshelf: Avalon High and Ready or Not by Meg Cabot

Friday, February 10, 2006

" I began to play. How can I explain what happened next? It wasn't magic. It wasn't a hallucination. I didn't see anything or hear anyone speak or feel anyone else's hands on the sticks. All I know is, it wasn't me that played those drums on that November afternoon. It was Murph. There was simply no other explanation. I couldn't play like that - I didn't know how...I was possessed by the spirit of Liam Murphy."

Rewind by Jan Page is a fun time-travel story with a musical theme. Set in the "estates" or housing projects of Britain, it's the story of Liam Condie, a rather apathetic teen who's only interests are his band and his friends. The band isn't very good, until Liam discovers his parents were also in a band as teens, and Liam is inspired by the "ghost" of his dad's best friend, the drummer, who was killed in a car accident. Murph's death resulted in the break up of the band and the beginning of the downward spiral that has landed his dad on the dole and his mother stuck in a miserable marriage.
Covering one of his parents' songs, it seems like Liam's band, Salamander, might actually have a chance at winning a local battle of the bands. But an accident onstage hits the rewind button, giving Liam the chance to save Murph's life and change the course of his parents' lives - but what will it do to his own?
Reminiscent of Back to the Future, Rewind is pretty predictable, but the characters and details are good enough to keep you reading, even if you're sure how things are going to end up.

What I'm Reading: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
On my Bookshelf: Avalon High and Ready or Not by Meg Cabot

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"The way it looks is not the way it is."

The way it looks is impossible, unimaginable, inexcusable. Keir Sarafian is a good guy. Good guys can't be rapists, right? But that's what Gigi Boudakian, his lifelong love, is calling him. But she's wrong; she just doesn't understand.

Keir's not perfect, but he sees himself as a good guy - despite all the evidence to the contrary. When Keir seriously injures an opponent on the football field, he knows it wasn't his fault. It was a good clean hit. Besides, he shouldn't have even been on the field - he's a kicker, not a cornerback. And it all turned out okay - the guy said it was okay; he forgave Keir, and Keir got a scholarship out of it. And the vandalism? The hazing? It was all in good fun. Besides, he didn't remember doing half that stuff. The guy missed the funny parts when he was video taping; he only caught the bad parts. And Keir had nothing to do with those. He's not even sure that's him on the tape.
Keir Sarafian, narrator of Chris Lynch's Inexcusable, gives me the creeps. He rationalizes things so well that he's almost convincing ; he hides behind his good guy image so he doesn't have to take responsibility for anything. I see a little bit if Keir in the teens I deal with each day when they don't take responsibility for their actions, make excuses for their behavior, or place the blame on others. Being irresponsible often comes with being a teen, but the sense of entitlement I see on a daily basis can be alarming. Even more alarming, there are far too few parents who step up and make their children take responsibility. Like Keir's father, they believe their children are beyond reproach, and, like Keir, they believe the blame must lie elsewhere, with teachers, school administrators or other teens.
Getting down off my soapbox, Inexcusable is a powerful book with a disturbing, unreliable and fascinating narrator. It got to me, and I hope it will get to teens - I hope they will see Keir for what he is, and I hope Keir will help them see more of themselves.

What I'm reading: Rewind by Jan Page (while watching the Grammys)
On my bookshelf: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tanya Lee Stone, author of A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl, did an author chat on YA Author Cafe this evening, so I made a trip to the store to pick up a copy of the book. I read the whole thing while lurking on the chat (it's a novel-in-verse, so it's a quick read). I love the title, since I learned a lot from the bad boys I dated in high school, and I had high hopes for the book. I enjoyed it, but it really left me wanting more. Told from the point of view of three different girls taken in by the Bad Boy, the story concept is great. However, I always feel like novels in verse just skim the top of things, when I want to delve deeper. I wanted a novel about Josie, Nicolette, Aviva and Bad Boy. I wanted more description (although some of the sex scenes are a little descriptive), more... I don't know, just more. But I did love the Judy Blume/Forever references.
Speaking of sex, Stone has a great article in VOYA this month on teen sexuality and YA lit: Now and Forever: The Power of Sex in Young Adult Literature. She talks about some of the new imprints, like S&S's Pulse and Penguin's Razorbill, that are pushing the edge, and about how important it is that we don't shy away from this topic in literature for teens. Just how important is it? Check out Benoit Denizet-Lewis's piece in New York Magazine, Friends, Friends With Benefits, and the Benefits of the Local Mall.
For another interview with Tanya Lee Stone, check out this one she did for Not Your Mother's Book Club.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"When you are Light, day and night have less meaning. The night is not needed for rest - it's merely an annoying darkness for several hours. But a chain of days and nights is the way in which the Quick measure their journeys. This is the story of my journey back through the Quick. I would climb into flesh again for a chain of six days."

Dead narrators have become quite popular since The Lovely Bones, but Helen, the ghost who narrates A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, is one of the most intriguing narrators, dead or alive, I have encountered in some time. Helen has cleaved to a series of hosts for 130 years, a lonely observer in the world, watching from the edge of life, until a set of eyes meets hers. She is seen, and she is no longer alone.
James, like her, is Light - a spirit, but one who has discovered a body empty of its own spirit. He has reentered the world of the Quick in the body of Billy, a teen who has forced his own spirit out of his body with a near fatal overdose. James and Helen's attraction is immediate and intense, and Helen agrees to reenter the mortal world when they find Jenny, a girl whose rigid Christian parents have driven her creative spirit away. Helen enters Jenny's body, and James and Helen begin a Romeo and Juliet romance of passionate love and longing. But their bodies, and their time together, are only borrowed. In their human bodies, Helen and James begin to unravel their own secrets, and discover the secrets of the teens whose bodies they inhabit. A spiritual love story for older teens and adults, A Certain Slant of Light is subtle, mysterious and beautiful.

For a great in-depth review of A Certain Slant of Light, see Elizabeth Hand's review in the Washington Post.

What I'm reading: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

On my bookshelf: ; Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (yeah, I snuck that one in there due to Sunday's edition of Unshelved); Rewind by Jan Page; Avalon High and Ready or Not by Meg Cabot (stay tuned for a Meg marathon)

Jack Grammar would never try to fondle your butt while dancing.
Jack Grammar is a gentleman, owns his own tux, and has superb taste in corsages.
Jack Grammar is looking for a prom date.
Could it be you?

Jack Grammar really wants to go to prom, but, when he finally works up the courage to ask his long-time crush, is turned down flat. With only a week left until the big night, Jack's two best friends take matters into their own hands, posting a personal add in the school's paper to find shy Jack a date.
Jack is angry, embarrassed - then astounded. The responses pour in, and soon Jack is working his way through The List - 24 applicants chosen by his friends whom he must meet in the next seven days before choosing his date. 25, if you count the wild card granted by his friends - one girl of Jack's choosing that isn't on the list.
Jack is the kind of guy you wish you'd dated in high school - smart, sincere, funny and honest. Shy, of course - which might be why you never noticed him. But Jack is center stage the week before Prom; everyone is talking about The List - who's on, who's off, and who's going to make the final cut. A fun, clean read with some laugh-out-loud lines ('"I don't understand your breasts," I said. This was not the kind of sentence I thought I would ever say in my life.'), 24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley is a must read for the Valentine season.

What I'm Reading: A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
On My Nightstand: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch; Rewind by Jan Page (in honor of the Grammy Awards this week), Avalon High by Meg Cabot (just returned by a student - if I want to read it, I need to do it fast!)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

We will be discussing Libba Bray's novel A Great and Terrible Beauty at our book club meeting on Tuesday. I read it some time ago, soon after it came out, and the details are a bit unclear. I didn't want to reread it for our discussion, so I decided to read the sequel, Rebel Angels, instead.
Bray's novels are Victorian fantasies, the story of Gemma Doyle. Raised in India, Gemma is sent to England to boarding school after witnessing her mother's murder. At Spence, she finds a mysterious diary; hears legends of the Order, a group of powerful women with magical ability; and discovers her own ability to transport herself and her friends to the Realms, the magical home of the Order and the source of the magic. But all is not right in the Realms, and Gemma and her friends must discover the identity of the journal's author and the truth behind a tragedy that occurred at Spence years before.
By the end of the first novel, Gemma has solved the mystery, but she has also set the magic free for all those in the Realms to use, and she must bind it so it cannot be misused. To do so, she must find the Temple and begin rebuilding the Order.
Victorian propriety, secret societies and magic weave together to form very intricate tales, and rereading the first novel before reading the second would have been a good idea. Rebel Angels contains a brief summary of A Great and Terrible Beauty, but it contains few details, and I would probably have appreciated it more if I remembered more of the first. When the third book is released, I should take the time to reread the first two. However, I'm reluctant to take the time to do this - Rebel Angels is a long novel, nearly 550 pages, and it is slow at times. The action takes place over only a few days, when the girls are home from school on Christmas holiday, but some scenes seem unnecessary, and some foreshadowing is rather heavy handed. I found myself involved in the book when I picked it up, but not compelled to pick it up often. Some plot lines seemed unnecessary, unless, of course, their relevance is revealed in the final volume. I'm anxious to know what happens to Gemma next - although Rebel Angels included a few hints, and I would recommend these books, despite their flaws. The unique premise of the story is what prompted me to choose it as a title for our book club, and I'm looking forward to Tuesday's discussion.

Currently Reading: 24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley (I'm slipping it to the top of the pile so I can return it to the library on Monday for inclusion in a Valentine's Day book display)
On my nightstand: (still) A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Printz Award

Winner: Looking for Alaska by John Green
Honor Books: Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
John Lennon by Elizabeth Partridge
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson

I know the awards were announced over a week ago, but I actually wrote a post earlier that was lost when our server re-booted itself, and this is the first chance I've had to rewrite. So, here goes with my thought on the Printz winners for 2006.
This year's winner, Looking for Alaska, was actually one of my picks, so I was very excited about this one. As always, there has been much discussion of the winners on the YALSA-BK list serve (the Young Adult Library Services Association, or YALSA, awards the Printz each year), but most seem to agree that Alaska is a deserving winner. Its literary merit is unquestionable, and that is the basis for the award. Some members have issues with the "we are invincible" message they feel Alaska sends, and, of course, many had other favorites that were not mentioned.
Looking for Alaska is the story of "Pudge," who is new to his Alabama boarding school. He falls in with a rather reckless but fun crowd, including his roommate and the beautiful, fascinating, unobtainable Alaska. Author John Green incorporated some of his own experiences at boarding school in the book, and Pudge, like Green, is a collector of last words - he shares the final words of many famous people throughout the story.
For a great photo essay and account of John Green's "John and the Awesome, Wonderful, Super Happy, Very Good Printz Award Day," see his blog .
As for the other winners, I cannot say a lot - yet - because I haven't read them - yet. I was glad to see such a variety: I Am the Messenger is a novel, Black Juice is a collection of short stories, John Lennon is a biography, and A Wreath for Emmett Till is a collection of poems in honor of a teen who was lynched in the south in the 1950s. John Lennon is at home on my "to read" shelf and I am the Messenger has now move much closer to the top of my "to read" list. I was/am completely unfamiliar with Black Juice (I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but it seems to happen with one title each year, and I'm not the only librarian who hasn't heard of this one, judging by the responses on YALSA-BK). As for Emmett Till, I'm familiar with it but decided not to purchase it because I feel there will be little to no interest among my students. However, I might reconsider that decision now and add it to our collection.

What I'm Reading: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty)
On my nightstand: A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb; Inexcusable by Chris Lynch