2012 Youth Media Awards Madness

I had the fortune to actually attend the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards (where they announce such awesome book awards as the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz) in Dallas, TX, this Monday. This event is like the Super Bowl for writers, publishers, and librarians, and it was so wonderful to be in a huge room full of people totally invested in recognizing the power of stories to influence lives. Every time a book was announced, whether it be a winner or an honor book, people cheered, and clapped, and whistled, and called out stuff like “Yeah!”, and I felt like I was at a sporting event or a concert, but for BOOKS. It may make be a big book nerd, but it was super fun. The full list of awards announced are here at the ALA web site but below I want to highlight the Michael L. Printz award for best teen fiction and the William C. Morris award for best teen debut fiction.

This has never happened before, as far as I know, but the same amazing book won both of these big awards, and it’s one I recently highlighted on my Top Books for 2011. Here’s what I recently wrote about it: Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley, is a strange one, but its strangeness is why I love it so. This literary novel tells intertwining stories of people searching for meaning and redemption in a messed up world. Cullen Witter lives in a tiny Arkansas town that is experiencing a revival after a birdwatcher claims to have seen a woodpecker long thought to be extinct. But while the townspeople are obsessed with searching for this mythical bird, Cullen is desperately searching for his missing younger brother, who disappeared at the same time. Meanwhile, Benton Sage, a missionary traveling in Africa, becomes disillusioned with his calling and sets up a chain reaction of events that dovetails perfectly with Cullen’s story. This excellent debut novel is both funny and meaningful. I urge anyone looking for something different to give it a try.

Four other books were named as Printz honors:

Why We Broke Up, written by Daniel Handler
The Returning, written by Christine Hinwood
Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey
The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater

Also, four other books were Morris honors:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, written by Rae Carson
Paper Covers Rock, written by Jenny Hubbard
Under the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Between Shades of Gray, written by Ruta Sepetys

All of these books are available at our library, so read some award winners today!

Some more excellent places to look for good, new reads:

ALA’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults
ALA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten List
ALA”s Alex Awards (best adult fiction for teen readers)

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The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

graveyard_bookAuthor: Neil Gaiman; Illustrator: Dave McKean
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2008
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Pages: 320
Call number: Y Gaiman; J Gaiman

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife . . . .

So begins Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which won the 2009 Newbery Medal just a few days ago. The book opens with the off-page but still disturbing murder of an entire family by an assassin we know as the man Jack. The only survivor is a toddler who, not understanding what’s happening elsewhere in the house, leaves by the open front door and wanders into a nearby graveyard. There, the ghosts hold a meeting to decide what to do with this foundling, and the boy is eventually adopted by the ghost couple, Mr. and Mrs. Owens. Because noone knows his name, he’s called Nobody — Nobody Owens, Bod for short. Silas, a member of the graveyard who is neither living nor dead (I’m sure you can figure out what that means), is appointed Bod’s guardian, however, and brings him food and books and tries his best to teach him about the world. As Bod grows up, he learns many secrets of the ghosts, but he eventually begins to see the attraction of life with the living on the other side of the fence surrounding the graveyard, including going to school and having friends his own age. The problem is, the man Jack is still looking for Bod, and only in the graveyard is Bod safe.

This is one of the best books I read in 2008, and one I’d recommend to anyone who will listen, from kids to teens to adults. It’s macabre, touching, quirky, and sad; it has depth and humor in equal measure; and there’s a quiet tone to the writing that suits its main character very well. Bod grows from a toddler to a teenager over the course of the story, and a lot of his frustrations are what you woud expect, despite his unusual upbringing: feeling penned in, feeling misunderstood, rebelling against his caretakers, wanting to explore past the safety of home. Bod’s life in the graveyard is never dull. The ghosts are all unique and interesting and sometimes quite funny, and Silas makes for a stern but caring protector (and one who is quite dangerous when he chooses to be). Bod gets in to plenty of trouble in his explorations and comes across many dangerous areas (such as an underground world full of ghouls, accessible by a gate hidden in a grave; and the mysterious Sleer, lying in wait in the barrow beneath a hill), all of which prepare him for his inevitable confrontation with Every Man Jack.

And if you’d like to hear Neil Gaiman’s most excellent reading of his novel, check out Gaiman’s official site, where he has video of himself reading each chapter from his nine-city book tour. I don’t know how long the videos will be up, so go watch as soon as you can!

*Want to see your own book reviews published on this blog? Want to win prizes for writing book reviews? Go here to see how!

2009 Book Award Winners

The American Library Association announced the 2009 winners for many of their awards, including the Newbery Medal for books for youth and the Michal L. Printz Award for books for teens. Here are the winners and honor books for some of these awards.

Newbery Medal:
Winner: The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Honors: The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt; The Surrender Tree: Poems for Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, by Margarita Engle; Savvy, by Ingrid Law; and After Tupoc and D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson

Printz Award (for a book written for teens):
Winner: Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta
Honors: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Vol. 2, by MT Anderson; Nation, by Terry Pratchett; Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan; and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart

Morris Award (a new award for a debut novel from first-time author writing for teens:
Winner: A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

All of these books are available in either the children’s or teen’s section of the library, with the exception of Tender Morsels, which will be ordered in February.

Anyone read any of these books yet? What did you think? I will be posting my review of The Graveyard Book later in the week, but I’d love to hear more thoughts on these titles. Happy reading!