So a few book awards have already been announced. These are more in my wife’s specialty, though I like to see what happens here and often find myself really admiring the work.
- Winner — Rebecca Stead: When You Reach Me
- Honors — Phillip Hoose: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice; Jacqueline Kelly: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate; Grace Lin: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon; Rodman Philbrick: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
My wife read When You Reach Me a few months ago, and she liked it but doesn’t think it’ll be that accessible to children because the ideas are much more prominent than any story. In fact, for most of the book she kept telling me that she had no idea what the point was. I don’t mind that for me — plotlessness can be a great thing — but I see what my wife means when we’re talking about children reading. The Newberry seems to go back and forth on that line, don’t they. One year they pick a book that parents will want their chilren to read and understand (like this year) and another they will pick a rather substance-less book that the children will enjoy (like last year’s The Graveyard Book). I can see each side: on the one hand, let’s immortalized (as best we can) a book with great ideas we want children to consider, even if they won’t do it until they are much older; on the other had, let’s immortalize a book that children can read and love when they are children.
- Winner — illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney: The Lion and the Mouse
- Honor — illustrated by Marla Frazee and written by Liz Garton Scanlon: All the World; illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski adn written by Joyce Sidman: Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors
Because of its fine illustrations, we’ve had our eyes on The Lion and the Mouse for a while, but we haven’t got it for our boys yet. Maybe soon.
- Winner — Libba Bray: Going Bovine
- Honor — Deborah Heiligman: Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith; Rick Yancey: The Monstrumologist; Adam Rapp: Punkzilla; John Barnes: Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973
The Printz is my wife’s favorite book award. It deals only with young adult literature. With their audience, they seem to succeed where the Newberry fails, meaning they award books that deal with real issues but that do so by approaching the reader. I’ve read two of the nominees: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation:Vol. 1 — The Pox Party (I really need to read Vol. 2, also a Printz finalist, which came out in paperback not too long ago). My wife loved last year’s winner Jellico Road. Also, one of her favorite books of the last year was Northern Light, a YA book that deals with the same case as An American Tragedy.
Has your wife got a blog, Trevor? Hehehe. Or could she write some guest posts? Would love to read her thoughts about certain books etc.
She does not have a blog, kimbofo, which is unfortunate for those seeking good discussions of YA books. Though from time to time I’ve encouraged her to begin one, she has good reasons to stay away. :)
Sherry has an excellent track record in identifying YA books that I would enjoy. And I can also understand why a full blog is not a major priority right now. Maybe you could set up a YA for Adults subsection in the sidebar and she could offer some thumbnail recommendations? The field is so crowded (and there are lots of YA blogs) that I ignore it — but I wouldn’t mind venturing in a couple times a year and she has established excellent credibility.
Notice he didn’t mention the guest posts? You’re not the first to suggest this, but Trevor is very protective of his blog. I’m sure someday I’ll prove myself worthy. :)
As far as a blog goes, it’s still something I think about. I like the idea of it, but I’m turned away because of the quality of books the major bloggers read (and many times the quality of the blogs themselves). The YA literature I’m interested in doesn’t get a large following and if I’m dedicating that much time I’d really want to make it more worthwhile.
Then again, maybe it just needs someone who can more adequately highlight it.
Sherry: There is so much YA literature (much of it junk, I think, but I don’t really know) that yet another blog would be a waste of time. Okay, I agree, occasional posts here are the best option. Sneak your opinion in whenever you can. :-)
I am so pleased that you cover the book awards here – I paid attention to so many last year and really enjoyed it, and have possibly become a bit addicted to them, as it seems it’s been too long since the last one. Roll on Saturday (National Book Critics Circle Finalists)!
The main problem with YA literature is there is no genre breakups. I see the reasoning: we want kids to try a variety of styles to learn to love reading rather than a particular type. But the problem is there is zero distinction between the junk and the gems. I think it works against itself, the first YA book I read was pure trash and I didn’t revisit YA again until college, and it was by accident.
But, on to the awards. I just read Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. It’s actually my fourth book by Bray and while I think she’s very witty and clever, I can’t help feeling like she gets so caught up in her story she sometimes forgets to clearly write. Whenever things start to get exciting and intense, her descriptions become vague and characters are doing things without the reader being told what they are doing. I find myself confused and rereading passages multiple times before I just guess what is happening; only sometimes are my guesses correct.
As far as Going Bovine winning the Printz, I don’t really get it. The story was original and she threw a lot of the givens for YA out the window. For a book, it was fine. For a Printz? I’m very disappointed.
The Printz has always been one of my favorites because the books are well-written, unique (Jellicoe Road is three stories that almost don’t make sense until you put them all together), and deal with the stuff we try to put under the rug. It doesn’t shy away from showing teens life as it is. Even more importantly, it doesn’t turn into some silly moral story either.
I didn’t see that with this year’s pick. I didn’t think, I didn’t even care, about the story. I found it a tedious book of inside-jokes for gamers. I’ve never been so glad to finish a book before.
I can attest to the fact that Mrs. Berrett struggled through this book. Some parts she read me were clever, of course, but I felt sorry for her as she moved through something causing so little joy.
Interesting point about there being no distinction between genres in YA literature, Mrs. Berrett. I know that on one level that is something I find appealing with the group — you can pick up a book that is brilliant and pertinent fantasy or science fiction or realism or surrealism, sometimes by the same author. I wonder if they feel a great deal of freedom that perhaps writers for other audiences don’t feel. I’m sure what I’ve just written is too simplistic, but still . . .
Of course, if that is at all true, you also run into the problem you mentioned above.
YA authors may have freedom in genre, but I think they are more accountable to their readers than other writers. Someone writing in the adult market can target a specific group. YA authors have to try to encompass a generation. Most of the distinction seems to be whether it is targeted to males or females. But even writing toward a sex it’s a hard crowd because it’s so vast.
Stephenie Meyer is undeniably the most successful American YA writer right now, but her work is always being attacked. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but that she’s trying to write to a niche that doesn’t exist. YA is for everyone, her book is not. So she may be raking in sales, but she also faces a lot of criticism from those uninterested in teen romance. Why do they bother? Because her book, at least in the book stores, is marketed as for teens, no distinction beyond that.
Most literary readers (such as yourself) don’t even bother to have opinions on Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts. There isn’t much of a point because they aren’t pretending to care about you. They stay safely in the romance corner and are mostly fine. YA authors don’t have that luxury.