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My Cybils Nominees

4 Jan

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I was thrilled the first time one of my Cybils nominees made it to the finalists list. This year, I had five nominees make it to the second round of judging.

In the Easy Reader category – one of my favorite books of the year:
Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin.

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In the Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels category:
The Cardboard Kingdom  by Chad Sell

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In the Junior High Nonfiction category:
Spooked: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America  by Gail Jarrow

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In the Senior High Nonfiction category:
Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling

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In the Young Adult Fiction category – one of my favorite YA books of the year:
Darius the Great is Not Okay  by Adib Khorram

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Cybils Reading, Part 2

3 Jan

Today, I would like to introduce the Senior High Nonfiction titles I’ll be reading over ht next six weeks.

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Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend
by Karen Blumenthal
Viking Books for Young Teaders

Bonnie and Clyde became legends of the outlaw world. Even today their names are known and used–Blumenthal does an excellent job of giving as clear a picture as possible of what is known (or thought to be known) about Clyde and Bonnie and what led them to become outlaws. After reading about the shocking number of people they killed it’s understandable why these two became so famous, but it’s a sad commentary on American society is the fact that these two are still so famous yet their victims have been all but forgotten.

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults)
by Bryan Stevenson
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Based on his own experiences as a nonprofit lawyer defending people whom others have tossed aside and/or tried to forget about, Stevenson offers readers an in-depth look at our all-too-often dysfunctional and biased justice system. His flowing narrative allows us to get to know the individual clients, which drives home the often life-or-death nature of their various legal battles. This is a powerful, impactful, and enlightening book that has the power to transform the way this country thinks about justice, mercy, and compassion.

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
by John Hendrix
Amulet

A heavily illustrated biography of German theologian and resistance figure Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Hendrix’s almost-graphic novel makes excellent use of color, portraying Bonhoeffer and his allies in blue, and Hitler and the Nazis in red, and the visuals add to the dizzying and terrifying changes in Germany as Hitler’s power grows. A fitting and appealing way to tell the story of a man willing to die for what is right.

The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century (Scholastic Focus)
by Neal Bascomb
Arthur A Levine

Neal Bascomb tell the compelling tale of a group of World War I prisoners who plotted and executed an almost unbelievable escape from a German prison camp. The daring individuals who came together to set this escape into motion are briefly described along with their backgrounds, but the focus is on the circumstances that led up to the escape, the escape itself, and the aftermath. The book reads like a thriller, with near misses, plenty of setbacks, and failures detailed along the way. A fabulously told story that proves the adage: truth is stranger than fiction.

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
by Winifred Conkling
Algonquin Young Readers
Nominated by: Me!

Spanning almost 100 years, this book takes an unflinching and comprehensive look at the fight for (and against) women’s suffrage in the United States. Reading it evokes a wide and ever-changing range of emotions: outrage, shame, shock, awe, empowerment, and, ultimately, hope. Never once, however, does it evoke boredom. The compelling narrative, primary source material, photography, and rich backmatter make this book highly recommended reading for all genders.

We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide
by Carol Anderson
Bloomsbury YA

A sobering look at how the US’s laws and court decisions have systematically disenfranchised African-Americans. Bolden’s Young Reader’s Edition of Anderson’s adult title White Rage focuses not just on landmark court cases but also the smaller moments, putting them into the broader American context. It excels at making complicated legal and judicial proceedings clear and easy-to-understand, showing how these issues are still current, and not just stains on our past.

We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists
edited by  Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner
Crown Books for Young Readers

Students in the newspaper and TV broadcasting classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida write about the shooting and the aftermath, from putting out a memorial issue shortly after the tragic events to covering the March for our Lives. Along the way, they deal with their own feelings about the shooting and wrestle with how to cover a story when they’re part of it. A moving and important collection of teen voices.

The 2016 Cybils Awards

15 Feb

Well my term as a Round 2 Audiobooks judge for the 2016 Cybils Award is over. It was great fun doing something new, and listening to Audiobooks is a different way. The award winners were announced yesterday on the Cybils blog. But I wan to tell you about our winner and my nominee that won.

As a committee, we chose The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, for the Audiobooks award.

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Read by Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, Jonathan Cowley, Kimberly Farr, Adam Gidwitz, Ann Marie Lee, Bruce Mann, John H. Mayer, and Arthur Morey.
Listening Library

Nominated by: Katy Kramp

In a 13th century French inn, travelers including a nun, troubadour, and brewer, exchange stories of their encounters with three miraculous children who are set to be brought before the king for treason. Jeanne is a peasant girl who has visions; William, a teenage monk with incredible strength; and Jacob, a Jewish boy who has healing powers. They are accompanied in their adventures by Gwenforte, Jeanne’s faithful greyhound, who has returned from the dead.

Using a style reminiscent of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the oral story telling traditions of the past,The Inquisitor’s Tale is narrated by a full cast of characters, each of whom adds a new layer to the story, building to a satisfying conclusion. The variety of voices and accents makes the unfamiliar setting come to life for middle grade readers, who will also appreciate the slightly off-color humor, a dragon quest, and courage of the young heroes. Along the way, listeners get to know the three children and the multiple narrators, one of whom is the author, Adam Gidwitz.

The book I nominated in the poetry category, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan, was that category winner! This is the first time one of my nominees has won, so I am rather excited about this award.

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When this school year ends,
I will have spent
one thousand days
in this building.
I want a thousand more
so I’ll never have to say
goodbye to friends.

From “First Day” by Rachel Chieko Stein

Eighteen narrators, from diverse backgrounds and experiences, tell the story of their final year at elementary school before moving up to middle school.  Their final year also corresponds to the last year of Emerson Elementary itself. The school is scheduled to be demolished to build a supermarket in their food insecure neighborhood.

The fifth grade has been asked by their teacher, Ms. Hill, to write poems for a time capsule to be incorporated into the new building project. The poems in various forms reveal the distinctly personal stories of each student and the classroom dynamics. As the year unfolds, students find their voices by organizing and protesting the demolition of their beloved school.

Of all the candidates for this year’s award for poetry, the committee found The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary to be the most appealing in its diversity, its capturing of the emotional lives of children on the brink of adolescence, and its poetic acrobatics.  Laura Shovan’s writing is masterful.  Readers will find themselves reflected in the experiences of the fifth graders.  A thumbnail illustration of each character accompanies the poem helping the reader further identify the character.  An introduction to poetry and poetic forms at the end completes the package.

Visit the Cybils blog to see the  annotated list of winners.

 

 

 

 

 

My One Little Word for 2017

3 Jan

For me, most of 2016 was excellent. Last week I reflected that I was ready to emerge from the cocoon of contentment. I had an idea for my 2017 OLW, but I needed THE WORD. As I was working though my new physic routine, it came to me:

stretch

Some of my exercises are to strengthen muscles, but others are meant to stretch parts of me that have atrophied. I am supposed stretch far enough that I feel it, but not so far that I re-injure or cause new damage. And that is precisely what I want to do.

As an introvert, it can be uncomfortable to stretch beyond my comfort zone. But I rarely regret doing so. And the buoyed confidence that results is empowering. I have some events coming that will stretch me:

I am a Cybils Audiobook judge for the first time. I know how to evaluate text and I know what I like in audiobooks. I get to learn how to blend these skills.

In three weeks I will go to the ALA conference in Atlanta and begin my term on the 2018 Sibert Informational Book Award.  My experience on the Morris Committee was excellent and a good introduction to ALA book award committees. This committee will require more work and more meetings, but I am excited to begin.

As I filled out my 2017 calendar earlier this week, I could see the  year is laid out before me. I want to meet  whatever challenges and opportunities the year brings with a cheerful and eager heart.

Books to kick off 2017

1 Jan

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I mentioned a while back that I was a Round 2 Audiobook judge for the Cybils awards. Well, round 2 starts today. The finalists have been announced and now I have to start listening to these books. I’ve never judged audiobooks before and we will use different criteria from what I have used before on other panels. The books I will be listening to over the next few weeks are below. You can see the full list of finalists on the Cybils’ Blog.

2016 Finalists: Audiobooks

Out of Abaton, Book 1: The Wooden Boy by John Claude Bemis

Oasis Audio

This surprising and original retelling of Pinocchio takes place in a magical steampunk version of 15th century Italy. The title character is an “automa,” a wooden robot powered by alchemy. He seeks to be reunited with Geppetto & the musical cricket Maestro as they all race to save Prestor John, ruler of the Magical Kingdom of Abaton, from the wicked Doge of Venice. Pinocchio’s discoveries about family, friendship, and free will are deftly woven in with episodes of high adventure. The audiobook is truly a movie for your mind, with a full sound track that includes music and sound effects.

Raymie Nightingale  by Kate DiCamillo                                                                         Listening Library

Raymie Nightingale has one goal, to win the 1975 Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Her father left town with the local dental hygienist and Raymie’s plan is for him to read about her win in the paper and to come home to her. While preparing for the competition, she befriends Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski as they all take baton twirling lessons from Ida Nee, the town expert. The Three Rancheros, as they call themselves, help each other to solve the problems they are facing. While Raymie wants to win back her father, Beverly is determined to sabotage the pageant and Louisiana hopes to get her cat Archie back. These underlying motivations lead to some unlikely and amusing adventures for the quirky friends.

Lamia effectively conveys the emotions and personality of three distinctly different characters; single-minded, yet sensitive Raymie, ethereal and swooning Louisiana, and the tough and ardent Beverly. Lamia’s expert storytelling brings this this poignant tale of love and loss to life.

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The Best Man  by Richard Peck                                                                                                                          Listening Library

A classic Peck tale, this is the story of Archer and his grandfather, uncle, and teacher. Told through his years as a fourth, fifth, and sixth grade student, we see the influence these individuals and others have had on his life during this bildungsroman story. Crouch strikes a balance between Archer aging through the grades, bring a sense of wisdom to the grandfather, and a general relatability to all the characters portrayed. Balancing both humor and touching moments, this audiobook is a fit for families and middle graders alike.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or the Three magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz           Listening Library

On a dark night in 1242, a group of travelers gathers in an inn in France to exchange stories of three remarkable children: Jacob, Jeanne, and William. With flavors of The Canterbury Tales, each tale teller adds a unique slant to the collection, slowly building on each others’ version to build a complete picture. This is a book that’s perfectly done as a full cast production, as each narrator gives a spin to their section that makes the characters come to life. With plenty of topics that middle grade readers will relate to today, this is a historical book with just the right amount of humor and magical realism to give it a wide audience appeal.

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin                                                                                         Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Traditional Chinese tales are interwoven with an adventure story in this book that follows the pattern of Lin’s award-winning books Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. There are some characters in common with the earlier two books, but readers stepping in for the first time won’t feel out of place. Young Pinmei has grown up with her grandmother, the Storyteller, on a remote mountain. But one year when the winter has gone on far longer than it should, her grandmother is kidnapped by a threatening stranger Pinmei can tell is only disguised as a common soldier. She and Yishan, the boy who lives alone up the mountain, set out to rescue her. Kim Mai Guest’s narration portrays Pinmei’s journey to confidence, as well as the full cast of characters. The audio format highlights the interconnected details and the poetic language in this book that’s destined to be a classic.

The 2015 Cybils WINNERS!

14 Feb

How appropriate that the CYBILs Awards are announced today, Valentine’s Day. The CYBIls are a work of love. You have to love books and the process. It starts late in October with people nominating titles for consideration. Later, a group of people reads the nominees to come up with a list of finalists. Finally, other groups read the finalists and select a winner.

I’ve been honored two years in a row to be a round 2 YA nonfiction judge. Our discussion this year was fantastic and it took a number of votes to end up with a winner. And here is what we chose.

Most Dangerous

Using historical data and interviews, Sheinkin sets a vivid, you-are-there scene, allowing readers to see Daniel Ellsberg move from enthusiastic Department of Defense political analyst to anti-war activist as he realizes that the President would continue sending American soldiers into this unwinnable war. Although Ellsberg is the title character, Most Dangerous is much more than a biography. It covers nearly three decades of US defense and political history, giving readers a front-row seat into the complexity of national security and decision-making.

Compelling, thought-provoking and timeless, Most Dangerous delivers readers not only an historical account of a time period in our history often confusing, but offers readers a critical eye towards the future as well.

Here are a few of the winners in other categories:

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To find out more about these and other CYBILs winners, check out the complete announcement here. I bet you will find something new and excellent to read. I know I will be picking up a few of them.

What I’m Reading Now…mostly

21 Jan

Although I’ve been free range reading a bit in these post Morris Committee days, I still have some required reading.

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I am a round 2 judge in the CYBILS YA Nonfiction category. Fortunately, as a round 2 judge I only have to read the finalists the round 1 judges selected. And these are what I am (mostly) reading these days.

Unknown-1I Will Always Write Back: How One letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Symphony for the CitySymphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson

UnknownTommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal

Unknown-2Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson

Unknown-4Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long

Unknown-3Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World by Kathy Lowinger

Most DangerousMost Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

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