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Battle of the Books 2014
It’s that time of year again!
I’m a big fan of the Battle of the Books, because, well, it’s fun.
A quick explanation for those new to SLJ BoB: Sixteen books are selected. Judges from the children’s/young adult publishing world are given two books to read. They select a winner; those winners advance to a new judge; and so on, until there is one winner. Past brackets and judges and results are at the SLJ BoB website.
The rounds — and decisions — start March 10. More on that in a later post!
What do you think of the list? What would you have liked to see here? What were you surprised about?
ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME by Julie Berry
THE ANIMAL BOOK by Steve Jenkins
BOXERS AND SAINTS by Gene Yang. From my review: “Why Boxers and Saints? Why not just interweave these as two stories? Why not make it one volume? To make this part of one story — telling a few pages of Bao, a few pages of Vibiana — would, I think, minimize the importance of both. Bao deserves his own book; so, too, does Vibiana; and this way, they both have it. Truth to tell, I think Vibiana’s story would not be as strong if it were interspersed with Bao’s. It turns out, it’s not just Bao’s and Vibiana’s characters that meet: other people show up in both books, and offer different perspectives about what is or isn’t happening. But isn’t that history? Things that change depend upon perspective? One person’s hero is another’s murderer? What Yang accomplishes here, what is so terrific, is he manages to have the reader by sympathetic to both Bao’s and Vibiana’s beliefs. Yes, Bao — and other Chinese — are subject to humiliations and abuse because of the foreigners, and because of Christian missionaries. Yet switch to the missionaries and to the Chinese Christians and we see people asked, simply, to decide between life and faith.“
A CORNER OF WHITE by Jaclyn Moriarty
DOLL BONES by Holly Black. From my review: “A story about growing up and, maybe, growing apart, and the intense, physical sense of loss that brings. . . . Growing up – what Doll Bones is really about is growing up and growing apart. I adored the game the three played, and I got so mad at Zach’s father for trying to stop his son from playing, and at the same time, I read about the game and the play-acting and knew that what Poppy is fighting is true, no matter what: that they are outgrowing the game. That some of them may be outgrowing it faster than others. That children grow and change and it happens. The ghost that will haunt Zach and Poppy and Alice will not be the ghost of a long dead child, but rather the ghost of their childhood and their games, even if some things (friendships, creativity) will survive. It is also the games, and all they learned pretending, that makes them able to go on a real adventure, and that, also, is growing up, taking the skills practiced in games and doing it for real.“
ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell. From my review: “A wonderful, enchanting story of two sixteen-year-olds falling in love. When Eleanor and Park’s hands touch for the first time — when they realize that what they feel is reciprocated — as they try to work out their feelings for each other against a harsh background — oh, all the highs and lows and first love.”
FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal. From my review: “To begin with, the ghost is Jacob Grimm, of the Brothers Grimm. It is Jacob telling this story: “What follows is the strange and fateful tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. The boy possessed uncommon qualities, the girl was winsome and daring, and the ancient ghost . . . well, let it only be said that his intentions were good.” Because it is Jacob, and because it is a tale told after, the tone and style are distinct, original, and infuses the whole tale. In some ways, I was reminded of Bartimaeus, except the ghost Jacob is constantly concerned with the well-being of Jeremy; but, like Bartimaeus, Jacob has a bit of an ego about it. He is, after all, Jacob Grimm.”
FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo
HOKEY POKEY by Jerry Spinelli
MARCH BOOK ONE by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick. From my review: “Always, there is an Eric and a Merle; a hare and a loss; and the island of Blessed. These are the constants. What changes in the seven stories of Midwinterblood is the time, starting in the future, 2073, and going back in time again and again until the seventh story set in a time so far past it has no date. What changes are who, exactly, Eric and Merle are; and how they connect or don’t. On what is lost. And always there is the hare. What is happening? What is going on Blessed?“
P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia
ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein. From my review: “Rose Under Fire is primarily told by Rose herself. First, in some journal entries from the summer of 1944. Then, there is a handful of correspondence from others that show that Rose is missing, presumed dead. Next, entries beginning in April 1945, with Rose in Paris, having escaped Ravensbruck. The jacket copy tells that Rose is sent to Ravensbruck – no spoiler there – and Rose Under Fire shows how Rose ended up in the concentration camp, what happened to her there, how she survived — and what she does to put her life together after. Rose is eighteen, young, and prisoned in a place where she doesn’t even really know the language. . . . Probably, the last important thing to know about Rose and how she survives: she’s lucky. Rose is lucky, because she makes friends and connections that will help her survive. . . . There is also harshness and cruelty, blood and death, mud and hunger, fear and desperation. For Rose and the others there are two types of survival: physical survival and mental survival. What does it mean, to be in a place like Ravensbruck? What does it mean, to survive Ravensbruck? To live, after?”
THE THING ABOUT LUCK by Cynthia Kadohata. From my review: “What a perfect middle grade book. Summer, 12, is a sympathetic heroine. When she got annoyed and frustrated with her younger brother and grandparents, I was right there with her. When she was embarrassing herself in front of her crush, I blushed for her. When she figured out a way to help her family, I cheered. I also love how wonderfully balanced The Thing About Luck is, perfectly balanced as mirror and window. Summer is such a typical twelve year old, that readers will be able to identify with her. What may not be so typical? Her old-fashioned grandparents. Her grandmother, who hides her feelings with a brusque exterior. Her younger brother, whose anger issues shape how the family interacts with him. Her parents leaving for so long. And, of course, working the harvest. With the assistance of Julia Kuo’s illustrations, the whole process of “harvesting” a farm is explained. This is not an easy or simple job. It takes work and coordination. Anyone reading this book is going to look at their loaf of bread differently. And they may also think, “yes, I could run that combine…” because, just like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Kadohata shares tons of details and explanations of why and how a harvest works.”
TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP by Kathi Appelt. From my review: “What really won me over was the plotting. While the main stories are those of Bingo, J’miah, and Chap, the other characters and their stories are also fully fleshed out. And — eventually — all those various threads come together in one momentous event. When I went back to the start and began rereading, I was delighted to see how some of that was foreshadowed. This is a book I would love to mark up with highlighters and sticky notes, to be able to get a firmer understanding of the genius behind it. It was delightful to see how an event in Bingo’s story overlapped with Chap’s. One example, without being spoilery: as a young man, Audie spent a lot of time in the swamp. He loved the wildlife, taking photos and drawing pictures. He was especially intrigued by the maybe-extinct ivory bill woodpecker. Due to a very bad storm, Audie’s car was lost within the swamp, along with his photos.Guess what is the home of Bingo and J’miah? If you guessed the car, you’d be right.”
WHAT THE HEART KNOWS by Joyce Sidman
Filed under: Battle of the Books
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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