Tag Archives: The William C. Morris YA Debut Award

Morris finalist #3

8 Jan

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This weekend, I read my third Morris Award nominee – Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I can see why it was nominated and it pairs nicely with The Hate You Give, giving a different perspective on the same subject. Interestingly, both books, the main characters go to a predominantly white private school and have significant others of another race.

I felt that it took me a while to get into Dear Martin,  and it was a bit didactic in places, but, by the middle of the book, I was hooked.

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Publisher’s Summary: Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

 

 

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Small town debut

16 May

Last year was taken up with debut YA novels I couldn’t write about so I am excited to get write about Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King.  I wonder what this year’s Morris Committee thinks of this one.

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Publisher’s Summary: Dillard Early Jr., Travis Bohannon, and Lydia Blankenship are three friends who have one thing in common: none of them fit the mold in tiny Forrestville, Tennessee. Dill, a talented musician, grew up in a Pentecostal snakehandling church, playing in the praise band. During his freshman year, his father went to prison for a heinous crime, leaving Dill and his mother impoverished.

Travis is a gentle giant who works at his family’s lumberyard and is obsessed with a Game of Throneslike fantasy series, much to his abusive, alcoholic father’s displeasure.

Lydia comes from a loving upper-middle-class family and runs a popular fashion blog that’s part Tavi Gevinson, part Angela Chase, and part Dolly Parton. She’s actively plotting her escape from rural Tennessee for bigger and better things, to capitalize on her Internet fame. This will mean leaving behind Dill—whose feelings for her run deep.

But that’s not Dill’s only problem. He has a cursed name. His grandfather, Dillard Early, became consumed with slaughtering snakes in grief and vengeance after one killed his daughter. He wore their skins pinned to his clothes during his descent into darkness. The whispering and staring locals called him “the Serpent King” before he committed suicide by poison. Dill’s father, also named Dillard Early, was the pastor of Dill’s church, whose parishioners handled serpents and drank poison as signs of faith.

Caught between his mother’s pulling him to drop out of school to help pay off the family debts and Lydia’s pushing him to go to college to escape Forrestville’s whispers and stares, Dill is quickly approaching a reckoning. One that will force him to confront the legacy of darkness—serpents and poison and self-destruction—that is his inheritance.

There are some weaknesses, predictability and some unrealistic elements you might expect in a debut novel, but overall, they are flaws I can live with. It is sad and funny and captures the ups and downs of living life in the goldfish bowl of a small town.

 

 

Mid-August Morris Update

17 Aug

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been on a reading blitz to read as many Morris eligible books as I can before school starts. Although school doesn’t begin officially until September 8th, I’ve already been back a few days. This week, I have a 4 day writing workshop with the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. Staff have to be back on August 30th for Inservice week and I will probably go in to unpack boxes and begin setting up my new classroom the week in between.

So, is my current Morris status.

I have read 50 books. Each eligible book needs two readers, so I haven’t read everything on out master list. My piles have become even more organized!

Here are the stacks of books we have yet to discuss. The tallest pile on the left are the books I have read. The other two piles are books other people have read, or have committed to reading.

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Th two out from are still in need of at least one more reader. That pile used to be bigger, but we are all hunkering down to get as much read as we can.

In addition to the books on the list, all committee members must read all books, that have been nominated. I have read a number of these but still have a few more to go.

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The pile on the left is actually 2 stacks: nominees I’ve read are behind, nominees I still need to read are in front. (I deliberately tried to keep the titles in this photo illegible) The pile to the right are books I’ve signed up to read but haven’t yet. That is down to six. Our next online meeting is scheduled for August 31st and I hope to have most of these six read, especially the ones for which I am the second reader. That will give us more titles to discuss.

The master list is a work in progress. New titles get added as we become aware of them, so my stacks and piles are also in a continuous state of flux. All in all it is rather exciting.

Keeping Secrets #SOL15

11 Mar

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I’m pretty good at keeping secrets. But this one is hard.

I am on the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award Committee, which selects ” a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature”. I am honored and thrilled to be doing it. But I can’t share much of my joy.

I can’t tell you what I’ve read, though I can tell you I’ve read 6 books so far.

I can’t tell you what I thought of those books.

I can’t tell you which book I’m reading now.

I can’t tell you the titles of books publishers have sent me.

And I have to keep not telling you until December, when the committee announces the five finalists we’ve selected.

Until January 11, 2016 when the committee’s decision is announced along with the Newbery and Caldecott Awards.

I have to keep it all top secret.

It is hard.

Jone Rush MacCulloch

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