Printz Awards Ceremony
To read an interview with the author click on the first link. To read more about the event check out American Libraries' "The Scoop" with the second link.
by Marcus Sedgewick
This set of stories begins in the near future on a remote island called Blessed located in the far north. Eric Seven has traveled there to do some research. Rumors say that no one ages, and there are no children. He is greeted warmly and feels an instant connection with a woman named Merle. But things go horribly wrong. In the following six stories, slowly receding back through history, the reader realizes that Eric and Merle continually appear in this same remote place and interact in some way, while the history of the island and of themselves unfolds...back to an archaeological dig that uncovers the bones of a man and a child, to an WWII airman shot down over the island, to a painter of the island's legend, to a ghost story of a young woman whose lover is killed, to an exiled Viking returned to claim his children, to the sacrifice of a king to save his people. Each story corresponds with a particular moon that defines the timing of the story. A clever approach, I found myself referring back to the previous stories after discovering each new connection. This would be of interest to those readers who enjoy fantasy and historical fiction and horror, possibly an appeal for those who enjoy the thought of reincarnation as well. There is suggestion of violence left to the reader's imagination, and suspense invades each story. It's dark and suitable for teens grades 8 and up.
Flora & Ulysses
by Kate DiCamillo
This is the Newbery Award Winner for 2014. Flora is a self-proclaimed cynic and avid comic book enthusiast. Ulysses is the unfortunate squirrel sucked into a vacuum. Luckily for the now hairless squirrel, Flora resuscitates him and proclaims that he is transformed into a superhero. At first, Ulysses only knows is that he has thoughts going through his head with the predominant one being "I'm hungry." Soon, though, readers realize that he can also fly and type. He leaves his most important thoughts on typewritten paper, which Flora's neighbor proclaims is poetry. But every superhero must have a arch nemesis, and Ulysses' is Flora's mother, a mystery novelist, who does not like the squirrel touching her typewriter. She schemes to dispose of him in a cruel and cowardly manner that requires the assistance of Flora's father. On her visit with him, Flora appeals to their nostalgic memories of reading The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! together before he left the family. Other curious and entertaining characters appear throughout as Flora tries to save her superhero squirrel using the knowledge learned from the additional comics in the magazine including Terrible Things Can Happen to You! and The Criminal Element. Occasional comics are included in this story which is such an appropriate way to assist with the storytelling, and black and white illustrations are included throughout. Holy bagumba! This is a sweet story of love and friendship recommended for young readers in grades 4-6, but this would also make a good read-aloud for younger children (readers will have to define some of the vocabulary).
Odyssey Awards Celebration
(Kirby Heyborne, left; Jennifer Sommer, right)
And finally I will touch on the event I was waiting for, the Odyssey Awards! This event is traditionally held on Monday afternoon and finishes up the conference for me. And what a way to go out!
I was determined to see Kirby Heyborne receive his award, for his narration of Daniel Kraus' book "Scowler". Why? Well, because when I was on the Odyssey Committee in 2012, we awarded Kirby Heyborne the award for his narration of, get this, Daniel Kraus' book "Rotters". Wow. It seems incredible to me that the same narrator reading the work of the same author would win an Odyssey. Again. And frankly, the committee fell in love with Kirby as soon as we met him in Anaheim, CA. I'll just say this. Especially our committee chair, Liz Hannegan. She and Kirby had this stand up routine going, it seemed, and it led to the most entertaining awards ceremony. Seriously. The most. And Kirby wrote a love song for us librarians. (Click the link below to watch - Liz is the woman at the right-hand end of the table who gives a standing ovation).
Better Nate Than Ever
by Tim Federle
In this debut novel about Nate Foster, the 13-year-old sneaks off from his town just outside Pittsburgh, PA to New York City, after hearing from best friend Libby that auditions are being held for “E.T. The Musical.” They’ve worked out a plan for him to catch a bus there and back in a day so that his parents won’t return from their much needed romantic getaway to find him gone. There is nothing about New York City that Nate doesn’t love, and he feels for once like he fits in. Not like back home where a shrine has practically been built for his athlete brother, and where he is bullied at school. As the clock is ticking, his Aunt Heidi, who incidentally lives in NYC, locates him (thanks to BFF Libby again) at the try-outs and attempts to get him back on a bus heading home before she becomes anymore estranged from Nate’s mother than she already is. What they don’t factor in is that Nate actually gets a call back, and he’s racing off the bus again, knowing that he has just lost the only opportunity to make it home in time without getting caught. But he can’t pass it up. Acting is all he loves. He and Libby have studied and practiced for every acting possibility it seems (she makes him memorize an excuse for traveling on the bus alone which becomes his monologue during auditions, saving the day again), and even have an inside joke using the names of Broadway musical flops as substitutions for swear words. Inevitably, his cover is blown which necessitates the sisters to confront their long-standing family feud. The book is pretty funny while confronting these heavier issues, not to mention skirting around the issue of whether or not Nate is gay. The homosexual theme runs throughout the book and several characters are gay.
I listened to this on audiobook, a 2014Odyssey Honor Award winner, where the author narrates. He’s awesome. This is recommended and maybe even highly recommended for teens 13 and up. It might sneak into the middle grades too, if moms aren’t too hung up on the gay thing (they shouldn’t be, but you know…) As Nate so perfectly states,
My sexuality, by the way, is off-topic and unrelated. I am undecided. I am a freshman at the College of Sexuality and I have undecided my major, and frankly don’t want to declare anything other than “Hey jerks, I’m thirteen, leave me alone. Macaroni and cheese is still my favorite food—how would I know who I want to hook up with?”
I was glad to hear that there is a sequel to this book called, “Five, Six, Seven, Nate!” Readers who enjoy Broadway musicals, humorous stories, or New York City will enjoy reading about Nate.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This is an exceptionally sweet love story of two 16-year-old teens falling in love for the first time. Park is a nerdy, but cute Vietnamese-American who loves comic books and alternative music. Eleanor is the new girl with the mysterious background. They meet on the bus when "Big Red", so named for her red hair and larger, curvy body, tries to find a seat. "Weird Asian Boy" is the only one willing, though reluctantly, to scoot over and make space for her. The story is told from both Park's and Eleanor's points-of-view, which is how the reader learns about Eleanor's troubled life with an abusive step-father. The two never speak to each other, but Park realizes that Eleanor is also reading his comic books as he reads them on their ride to school. He eventually starts to let her take them home to finish the really good ones like "Watchman". He also lets her listen to the cassette tapes of his favorite music. She is appreciative and particularly careful not to damage anything so that he won't stop letting her borrow them. She knew she'd never have access to them otherwise. Little by little they begin a dialogue together, and find out that they have a lot in common. Eventually, Park takes her hand on the bus and sparks fly for both Park and Eleanor. Their relationship deepens to the point of Eleanor sneaking over to Park's house on a daily basis. Park's family embraces her and know the troubled family she comes from, but Eleanor's family knows nothing of Park. Her step-father already makes disgusting accusations about her behavior and more. Their love is tested when Eleanor must suddenly escape her house and move to another state for the safety of her uncle's house. Can they survive this separation? This tender, yet heartbreaking story will immediately suck in readers who enjoy love stories full of innocence, first kisses, and the electricity of touching your love for the first time. Appropriate for readers in grades 9 and up. The audiobook is excellent. I miss Eleanor and Park.
Scowler by Daniel Kraus
This audiobook, narrated by Kirby Heyborne was named the 2014 Odyssey Winner. Each chapter begins with the minutes remaining until impact. We know it literally means the impact of a meteor, but we also know that Ry's abusive father will return at this moment. Marvin was locked away 9 years ago after horrific emotional and physical abuse to his family. Ry dealt with responsibilities no young child should have to deal with, mainly with the help of three dolls, Mr. Furrington, Jesus Christ, and Scowler. Each has a specific personality and Ry depended on them for strength. After a slow recovery, (the passage of time is shown with flashbacks), the family plans to leave their dying farm in Iowa and start fresh in town. But the meteor strikes and their troubles start again, and Ry resurrects his three old friends. But will they be enough to get Ry through this time? Scowler seems especially bloodthirsty and capable of ruining Ry as well as his father. It was so unpredictable that I truly did not know how this would end until I heard the final words. This is an extremely suspenseful and horrific story. One scene at the beginning is particularly grotesque, and others follow. This is recommended for older teens and adults who enjoy horror and suspense. The audio version is excellent. Kirby Heyborne successfully differentiates the multiple characters and creates exceptional mood for the book. Just don't listen to it alone in a farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere.