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Battle of the Books

Why We Picked What We Did

AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming . . . Four starred reviews, three best of the year lists.  One of the best nonfiction books of the year and arguably the best book not to pick up some kind of award this past year which makes me want to root for it here all the more.

ANYA’S GHOST by Vera Brosgol . . . Five starred reviews, five best of the year lists.  Not just one of the best graphic novels of the year, but one of the best young adult novels, period.  The character development of the ghost is a particular strength.

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys . . . Four starred reviews, four best of the year lists, Morris Award finalist.  Lyrical writing and powerful subject combine to make this an easy choice for our list.  Break out the Kleenex!

BOOTLEG by Karen Blumenthal . . . Four starred reviews, three best of the year lists, Nonfiction Award finalist.  Blumenthal manages to distill a complex social movement into an intellectual but readable narrative full of visual and textual information.  The best young adult nonfiction book of the year.

THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright . . . Three starred reviews, three best of the year lists, ALSC Notable Children’s Book.  An animal fantasy with literary allusions.  This was one of our favorite Newbery sleepers.  Was it one of yours?

CHIME by Franny Billingsley . . . Six starred reviews, five best of the year lists, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, National Book Award finalist.  A nice mix of fantasy, horror, and romance with some great writing.  Acclaimed by critics and fans alike as one of the very best young adult novels of the year.

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor . . . Five starred reviews, four best of the year list.  Personally, this is my favorite novel of the year (although LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM comes in a close second) and I am completely blind to whatever faults it may have.

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos . . . Three starred reviews, three best of the year lists, Scott O’Dell Award, Newbery Medal.  Can this book escape the first round?  MOON OVER MANIFEST didn’t make our field last year, but THE GRAVEYARD BOOK and WHEN YOU REACH ME bowed out without much of a fight.

DRAWING FROM MEMORY by Allen Say . . . Five starred reviews, four best of the year lists, Sibert Honor.  A wonderful memoir with an elegantly understated text, a range of illustration techniques, and delicious interplay between the two.  The best memoir of the year–and a great nonfiction book for younger readers.

THE GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING by Uma Krishnaswami . . . Two starred reviews.  Charming coincidences abound in this feel-good story.  Probably our biggest surprise, although it is not entirely unfamilar to those of who followed Heavy Medal in the fall.

HEART AND SOUL by Kadir Nelson . . . Five starred reviews, five best of the year lists, Coretta Scott King Award.  American history told in the voice of a grandmotherly African American narrator.  Yet another visual/textual feast in the nonfiction field.

INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai . . . Four starred reviews, four best of the year lists, National Book Award, Newbery Honor.  We’ve ignored the National Book Award more often (WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, MOCKINGBIRD) than not (CLAUDETTE COLVIN).  It’ll be interesting to see how this one fares: it’s arguably the most decorated novel of the year.

LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM by Mal Peet . . . Four starred review lists, three best of the year lists.  The best crossover novel of the year: great for adults and young adults alike.  I got to blurb this one!  Did you all see it?

A MONSTER CALLS  by Patrick Ness . . . Four starred reviews, four best of the year lists.  Despite the wonderful Chaos Walking trilogy to his credit, this was kind of a breakout book for Ness.

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt . . . Three starred reviews, three best of the year lists, National Book Award finalist, Odyssey Honor audiobook.  One of the most beloved novels of the year, but one that has also sharply divided readers, too.

WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick . . . Four starred reviews, four best of the year lists, Schneider Family Book Award.  The follow up to HUGO CABRET.   Award committees may not have known what to do with it, but young readers certainly do.

What did we get right?  What did we get wrong?  Have at it!

–Commentator Jonathan Hunt

 

Comments

  1. I especially like the inclusion of the books where the pictures are as (or almost as) important as the words: Amelia Lost, Anya’s Ghost, Bootleg, Drawing from Memory, Heart and Soul, and Wonderstruck (maybe a little bit for A Monster Calls). Some of these books are more distinguished by the combination of words and pictures than text alone or pictures alone. In this tournament, they can do battle as an entire package. Good choices!

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