We discussed AMELIA LOST a month ago, just before we announced our shortlist, but it does seem relevant to bring it up now as we’re also discussing HEART AND SOUL. While these two bear easy comparison being the two nonfiction titles on our shortlist, for the purposes of our Mock discussion they really each have to be compared to all of the shortlist titles…and for the purposes of the real discussion, to the whole field of contenders.
Jonathan gave a compelling play by play demonstrating his pitch for AMELIA as the “most distinguished” this year in both plot and character: quite a claim for a nonfiction book! It’s hard to add to his appeal, except to perhaps put a different spin on it. What he shows as plot and character I’d use as demonstrations of “Interpretation of the theme or concept” and “Presentation of information.” Fleming has taken a piece of history, shown the reader clearly all of the records that surround it, and created a story and character out of this in the way that journalists and historians do, by triangulation and interpretation. That she manages to do this with amazing transparency and engagement for her young audience is what makes this “distinguished” in my book.
This book certainly comes on top in our “only as long as it needs to be” discussion. For the amount of story and history, it’s a nice slim nonfiction book, with plenty of illustrations and side material to give space to the main narrative. But here is actually my one main concern with the book. I found the number of departures from the main narrative diluted the effectiveness of the tension that Fleming was trying to build. Those full-spread breakaways especially…which were really interesting in their own right…started to feel like commercial breaks in a sitcom. Did anyone else feel this way? This is not enough to knock the book out of the running for me, but could be something that jostles it from one rank to another as I compare it across our shortlist.
And having written all this, I find myself thinking that AMELIA and HEART might be two of the most disimilar books on our list, despite their occupying the same genre. Both of them are dealing with legend, but with different intentions. Fleming has gone into great detail to bring back actual voices from the past surrounding a particular event and person, to try to recreate what actually happened. Nelson has taken a broad survey of history and tried to recreate a particular voice to tell it from…trying, perhaps, to recreate that voice.