Friday, February 27, 2009

The Morning News Tournament of Books, 2009

Jennifer told me about the Tournament of Books a few years ago, and every year I watch it more closely. The idea is this:

...take 16 of the most celebrated and highly touted novels of the year, seed them in a March Madness-type bracket, conscript them into a “Battle Royale of Literary Excellence,” and, in honor of David Sedaris’s brother, present the author of the winning book a live rooster.

The contenders have been announced, the judges are ready to go, and you can even download and print out the brackets to fill in your own guesses.

The Tournament begins on Monday, March 9th, and will launch here.

Which book do you think will win?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Newbery Medal, 2009

The Newbery Medal

I have a great fondness for this award, the first book award I ever knew of; I recall as a young adult noticing the Newbery Medal seals on special books. Starting a few years ago, my parents have made it a tradition to give me the Newbery and Caldecott winners for my birthday, which is conveniently in February. They've added some past winners to my collection, too, and hope to see it complete someday.

Here are this year's winner and honor books, with notes:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I'm pretty happy for Gaiman! I've read and enjoyed his Coraline and Stardust, plus a couple of his Sandman comics. I've recently felt in the mood for some more Gaiman, and, why look, here it is.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
I first heard of this book from my friend Susan, who hadn't read it but thought it looked interesting. I looked it up and put it on my TBR list. Now it's moved closer to the top.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
Our library has only one copy of this one. (I bet they'll be ordering more now!) It looks fantastic.

Savvy by Ingrid Law
What a great idea for a story! I want to read this one with Skye. It looks like her kind of book.

After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson is such a prolific writer, and this gives me reason to move her closer to the top of my "must read" list.

Congrats to all of the winners!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Persephone Books: Happy Birthday to Me!

I just received my annual order of Persephone books, and I'm so excited to dig in! But no, let's just gaze at them awhile first, because they are so gorgeous....

Okay, now on to the decriptions of this year's books. (Make sure to admire the lovely, unique endpapers for each of the books when you click on the links.)

~ No. 3: Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple
Every year, I order one starting at the beginning of their list, and as this is my third year, I ordered #3. It's the story of "an ordinary family... struck by disaster when the husband, in a moment of weak, mid-life vanity, runs off with a French girl," and the Spectator calls it "A very good novel indeed about the fragility and also the tenacity of love." I've never read any Dorothy Whipple, and I look forward to this one.

~ No. 16: Saplings by Noel Streatfeild
I should someday read Ballet Shoes by this author. For now, I'm going to try one of her books for adults. This novel is about children being separated from their families during World War II in Britain, something that was necessary in many cases for physical survival, but psychologically had many consequences. In the afterward, Dr. Jeremy Holmes says Streatfeild's "supreme gift was her ability to see the world from a child's perspective" and "she shows that children can remain serene in the midst of terrible events as long as they are handled with love and openness."

~ No. 38: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey
This one sounds like a lot of fun: "A brilliant, bittersweet upstairs-downstairs comedy." (Shena Mackay, The Guardian) It is about a wedding, of course, but perhaps not a cheerful one. The soon-to-be bride knows she is about to make a big mistake.

~ No. 81: Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson
This is one of the newest Persephone publications, and it looks delightful. Miss Buncle is an single woman (hence the "miss") who writes a novel based on the village she lives in. She does this for practical reasons: she needs to earn some money. I can imagine the hijinks that might ensue... Her granddaughter says Stevenson's books are "a soothing balm." Lovely.

And now, the big question: Which one should I read first?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Cybils were announced!

The Cybils: The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards
You can read more about these awards here.

The 2008-9 winners have just been announced. So many great titles here! Several of them are already on my TBR list, and of course I'm adding the rest, plus some titles from the finalists list and past winners/finalists (see sidebar on the site.)

Here are the winners of this year's Cybils, with notes:

Easy Readers:

I Love My New Toy
written by Mo Willems

Around here, we love Mo Willems, and the Elephant and Piggie books have brought us lots of giggles. Felix chose one for his library summer reading program reward. I don't think we've read this one together yet.

Fantasy and Science Fiction:

Middle Grade:
The Graveyard Book
written by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman's book won the Newbery Medal this year. I've enjoyed other Gaiman stuff (Coraline and some Sandman comics, and especially Stardust.) I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

Young Adult:
The Hunger Games
written by Suzanne Collins

I've heard really good things about this one. I'm happy to see it here, and I can't wait to read it.

Fiction Picture Books:

How to Heal a Broken Wing
written and illustrated by Bob Graham

This one is new to me, and it looks lovely. I'll have to try it with Skye and Felix.

Graphic Novels:

Elementary/Middle Grade:
Rapunzel's Revenge
written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale

I just read this one, and then immediately told Skye she should read it, too. We both loved it! So much fun. Shannon Hale is a wonderful writer, and I bet she had a blast writing this with her husband. The illustrations by Nathan Hale (no relation) are fabulous.

Young Adult:
Emiko Superstar (Minx)
written by Mariko Tamaki
illustrated by Steve Rolston

I never would have heard of this one, and I'm going to see if my library has it. I'm glad graphic novels are starting to really be recognized as a legitimate literary form.

Middle-Grade Fiction:

The London Eye Mystery
written by Siobhan Dowd

I doubt I'd have heard of this one if not for these awards. It looks like something I'd really enjoy, too. I'll have to check it out.

Non-Fiction MG/YA:

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
written by Cylin Busby and John Busby

I'm positive I wouldn't have noticed this one but for the Cybils, and now I think I should check it out. I'm not much for crime fiction, but this one seems to be more about family than anything else.

Non-Fiction Picture Books:

Nic Bishop: Frogs
written and illustrated by Nic Bishop

I don't go looking for award winning non-fiction for kids, and now I think, why not? I'll definitely make a point to check out Nic Bishop.


written by Naomi Shihab Nye

I love Naomi Shihab Nye (Nineteen Varieties of Gazelle, Habibi), and I expect I'll love this, too.

Young Adult Fiction:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
written by E Lockhart

This one looks delicious! It was also a Michael L. Printz honor book, and is a contender in the Morning News Tournament of Books. I've got it out from the library now, and plan to read it soon.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Readolutions 2009

1. I will read at least 50 books.
2. I will read some of my shelf-sitters, including Newbery winners, Persephone books, poetry and short stories, parenting books, and something in French.
3. I will read every day with my kids, use my book lists (from Under the Chinaberry Tree, The Read-Aloud Handbook, and Book Crush) to request books for them, and take them to the library regularly.
4. I will keep my reading journal/calendar up-to-date.
5. I will keep a monthly TBR list, and start a list of books I'd love to read someday.
6. I will keep lists for "books purchased/received" and "books lent."
7. I will keep my Amazon wish list updated.
8. I will post on this blog regularly, hopefully at least weekly, and keep my sidebar updated.
9. I will post on friends' blogs.
10. I will participate in BAFAB week at least once this year.
11. I will participate in some reading challenges.
12. I will participate in several book clubs, online (the Reading Circle and maybe Chicklit) and offline (women's book club and mother-daughter book club).
13. I will read all of this year's Reading Circle group reads, and reply to all of the discussion threads.
14. I will post every week on the Reading Circle, and post at least monthly on Chicklit.
15. I will buy fewer books.
16. When I buy books, I will do my best to buy independent/used, or to buy in support of a charity (public library, school, etc.).
17. I will order some Persephone books for my birthday!
18. I will work on organizing my book shelves, and find a new home for some of my books.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My Best of 2008: Young People's Literature

I decided to give young people's literature its own category in my favorites, as I read so much of it this year. It's been wonderful to have two kids that enjoy books and ask me to read with them often. (I did ask Skye to help me put together a list of her top five or ten books this year, but as we looked through her 2008 book list, she couldn't choose. She loved them all!)

I am not going to include picture books here, just books for older readers, middle elementary and up.

Favorite book:

The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963
Christopher Paul Curtis

How do I sum this one up? It's one of those books that makes you laugh a lot, and cry a lot. It's about so many things: what it means to be a family, where home is, racism in America. I was especially impressed with how Curtis explains the "why" of racism. That's the question every kid asks, and a question adults have a hard time answering: Why are people racist? Why do some people have such strong racist feelings that they do horrible things, hurting innocent people, even children? In the book, when the main character asks this tough question, his parents have a difficult time explaining why. It's his older brother that helps him process the sad things he's learned.

Favorite (start to a) series:

The Penderwicks and
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
Jeanne Birdsall

Skye and I read these for our mother-daughter book club. These stories of a family with four girls are reminiscent of classic young people's literature. Jeanne Birdsall was a great reader as a child, and she says in this interview that "the first Penderwicks is really a love letter to the books I read as a child." She lists some of them: "Noel Streatfeild’s books, All of a Kind Family, Edward Eager, E. Nesbit." I love the list at the end of that interview of all the books mentioned by Jane, the biggest reader in the Penderwicks family. My daughter's online nickname here, Skye, comes from her favorite Penderwicks girl. Birdsall plans on three more Penderwicks books, and we look forward to them.

Favorite author discoveries:

Sharon Creech
One of Skye's friends always sings the praises of Sharon Creech when we talk books. In working on a Brownies Try-It badge, they were challenged to read something recommened by the other. Skye and I both read and enjoyed Granny Torrelli Makes Soup and Pleasing the Ghost, and we look forward to more Creech stories.

Ellen Raskin
This author is a re-discovery for me. Skye and I read The Westing Game and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) for her school book club last year. I remember carrying that second one around with me in elementary school, facinated by it. I love Raskin's quirky sense of humor and creative puzzle stories.

Andrew Clements
What a great writer for kids! Frindle was Skye's choice for our first time hosting mother-daughter book club. I've read another of his since (The Landry News) and Skye's read at least two more (The Janitor's Boy and Lunch Money). We don't think you can go wrong with a Clements book. (And how cool is it that Brian Selznick does the illustrations?)

Honorable mention:

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Excellent! I missed this one as a kid, so it was a treat to read it with Skye.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Another pick from our mother-daughter book club. Beautiful writing, beautiful story.
Babymouse books by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
These comics are great! I love that a sister/brother team writes them. Check out Babymouse's neat website.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
How can you not want to read a book with a title and cover art like that? MBS did not disappoint.
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
This is a possible future mother-daughter book club read. Think of the food possibilities for this party! Great story; I want to read more Horvath.