Just as it took me WAY too long to get around to listening to this audiobook, it has taken me WAY too long to post my review… Not cool, Chrissie. Not cool! (Especially since it won a Printz Honor and that should have been excuse enough to post about it.) I need to do something about my back log of books to be reviewed, and some of my readers are on February break this week, so I need to get down to business and start pumping out some extra book reviews. Enjoy!
Eleanor & Park takes place in 1986, so it is technically “historical fiction” to the teens I serve today… I mean, they weren’t even BORN yet! (Wow, that makes me feel old!) Though it was fun to reminisce about big hair, bold makeup, “Walkman” tape players, and phones on a cord, this story was not a fluffy look back on the 80s. It was a touching story about how one person can make all the difference when the whole world seems to be against you. About how halting conversations about shared interests, like comic books and music, can open the door to friendship. And about how a barely-there friendship can blossom and turn into love. Park’s family is “Leave it to Beaver” perfect, and he is relatively popular at school. Eleanor’s home life is horrid and the kids at school take great pleasure in bullying her about her clothes, weight, and unruly red hair. And yet, Park can’t help himself. He doesn’t care what everyone else thinks about “his” Eleanor. He only knows he will do whatever it takes to try and make her happy.
To be completely honest, there was only one thing I didn’t like about this book… It ended! Seriously, though, I *really* hope that the ending was not just a “form your own opinion about what happened” thing but, instead, left it open for a sequel. A girl can hope, right?!? ;-)
I absolutely LOVED Code Name Verity, so I had a feeling that I would enjoy this book too. Enjoy feels like a wrong word to use, though, considering all the terrible things that happen. The story is narrated by young Rose Justice, an American ATA pilot who got lost, landed in the wrong airfield, and ended up a Nazi prisoner in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Though there was so much more to the Holocaust than Rose ever could have seen or experienced in her abbreviated stay in the one small portion of that one particular women’s camp, the horrors still added up rather quickly. I was especially sickened to hear the details behind the medical experiments that were done on the “Ravensbrück Rabbits.” I think readers who haven’t yet learned about the Nazi doctors and the Nuremburg Trials may find these details especially disturbing, since I found it hard to listen to even though I already knew a lot of what had been done. Despite the darkness she revealed, though, I found it heartening that Wein managed to shine a spotlight on the friendship, generosity, and hope that helped so many people survive against the odds.
It’s evident that Elizabeth Wein was very thorough in her research, and the author’s note at the end of the story was a lovely added bonus. I especially liked hearing about how Wein’s stay at European Summer School at the Ravensbrück Memorial site affected her. (You can read journal entries about this stay on her website — http://www.elizabethwein.com/my-visit-ravensbr%C3%BCck-august-2012.) There were only two things that I honestly didn’t like about listening to the audiobook. One was that I had to pull over to cry a couple of times. (That happened with Code Name Verity, too, so I came into the story expecting it would happen again.) The other was when the narrator jarred me out of the story by saying “skuh-lee-tle” as she described the survivors of the concentration camps. I re-played that sentence probably 4 or 5 times before I realized she had mispronounced the word “skeletal”… All of Wein’s tireless research to get the story right, and everyone involved in the audiobook production missed this egregious mispronunciation — and not just once, but twice! /sigh
This has got to be one of the funniest audiobooks I have ever listened to. Seriously! Adam Rex wrote a hilarious story and Bahni Turpin’s narration was absolutely fantastic. It’s no wonder this book received the Odyssey Award! My son and I listened to it together, and we loved it so much that we harassed my husband until he agreed to listen to it too. Even though it’s been more than a month since we all finished listening, we keep talking to each other like the Boov (alien) named J. Lo — and it’s gone on long enough that even my 3-year-old has started to talk like a Boov! I’m pretty sure it won’t matter how many times I hear it; I will always laugh when I hear my son shout, “SHOOT FORTH THE LASERS … FROM MY EYEBALLS!” Priceless family bonding.
You may be wondering, “What’s this story about?” Well… When an alien race [the Boov] took over Earth and claimed it as their own planet, they renamed Christmas as Smekday and forced all the humans in North America to relocate to Florida. Later, after the Boov were vanquished, students across the US were given the chance to explain the true meaning of Smekday in an essay. This story is Gratuity “Tip” Tucci’s story/essay.
P.S. Random House has an excerpt on their website if you want to check it out for yourself — http://www.randomhouse.com/book/202129/the-true-meaning-of-smekday-by-adam-rex
I hate to admit that it took me so many years to actually read this book. It would have made sense for me to read it after hearing rave reviews from kids and adults alike. It would have made sense to read it when it was turned into a Broadway hit, or later when it was turned into a hit movie… but what finally made me get the audiobook and listen to this story was the opportunity to meet Michael Morpurgo when he presented the 2013 Arbuthnot Lecture. Since I am the Vice President of the Youth Services Section (YSS) of NYLA, I had the opportunity to sit in the VIP section of the chapel and then to sit at the head table with Michael during the YSS Spring Conference Luncheon last week — I *had* to read this book if I wasn’t going to feel like an idiot! Needless to say, I loved the story AND the lecture. And, fortunately, I can tell you that Michael Morpurgo is a very friendly, down-to-Earth man who had no problem posing for a picture with a geeked-out Tween & Teen Librarian.
15-year-old Evie Spooner is a bit awkward and wishes she could grow up a little bit a lot faster. She wishes she could be more like her mom, Beverly, whom she sees as a beautiful (albeit over-protective) mother and housewife who is capable of making practically anything look elegant. Being a housewife is more of a recent thing for Beverly, though. During WWII, Beverly had to work in a local department store to help support her family, but her husband/Evie’s step-father is back from the war and is able to take care of his family again. Joe’s appliance stores are doing really well, and he is happy to be back home in Queens, but the sudden appearance of a war buddy [Peter Coleridge] gets Joe acting strangely. Apropos of nothing, he decides to take Evie and Beverly to Palm Beach. The town is mostly shut down because they’re there during the wrong season, but they manage to find a room at Le Mirage — where they end up meeting a glamorous couple, Mr. and Mrs. Grayson [also from New York City]. Secrets slowly unfold, as Evie sees and hears things she shouldn’t… But, by the time Evie figures out what’s going on, she is already caught in the middle of a web of lies. This is a great mystery, especially for people who enjoy historical fiction.
There are a host of book awards that are given out by the ALA every year, but I am only posting three categories on my blog. Why? Partially to help them get more web traffic on their own website [http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/presskits/youthmediaawards/alayouthmediaawards] and partially to make things easier on myself… but mostly because the three that I am posting are the three that I was most curious to hear about this year. I certainly appreciate that all of the awards are important, but I am posting about the William C. Morris YA Debut Award (which honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature), the Odyssey Award (for excellence in audiobook production), and the Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in literature written for young adults). Makes sense based on what I review, right?
2013 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Winner
by Rachel Hartman
2013 Odyssey Award Winner
The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green, read by Kate Rudd
2013 Michael L. Printz Award
by Nick Lake
2013 Michael L. Printz Honor Books
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna
And that means a few things:
- The Teens’ Top Ten list has been announced.
- I will be posting a book review a day, today through Saturday.
- Our library will be hosting it’s 5th Annual TRW Lock-In — with a Hunger Games theme!
Happy Teen Read Week!
There have been a couple of occasions when I read a book after it won an award and found myself feeling a little let down. I expected too much and didn’t see why the award committee picked that book over all of the others I had loved in the previous year. That is very definitely NOT the case with Ship Breaker! I loved every minute of this book and my only complaint was that I didn’t have the time to read it from cover-to-cover in one sitting. This action-filled adventure has well-developed characters, provides plausible (if frightening) outcomes for current global issues, and leaves readers begging for a sequel.
The world has run out of oil and global warming has melted the polar ice caps; this is certainly not the world as we know it. Most people live in poverty and take whatever work they can find, no matter how dangerous, just so they can continue to survive. Nailer has found work with a “light crew,” which means wriggling through the duct work of beached tanker ships along the Gulf Coast to scavenge for scrap metals, like copper wiring and fixtures. As long as he makes quota, and doesn’t get too big to fit through the ducts, he can stay on the light crew. Nailer does his best to avoid his alcoholic/druggie father as much as possible, but still begs Sadna (his best friend Pima’s mother) to save his dad as a violent hurricane blows through town. After the storm, Nailer and Pima cannot find their parents but manage to stumble upon a shipwrecked clipper ship. The ship has enough scavenge to make them both filthy rich, but there’s one problem — the “swank” girl trapped inside. Do they kill her to keep their claim on the ship, or do they rescue her and add to their burden? Anyone who picks up this book is in for one heck of a ride!
The American Library Association (ALA) announced the winner of the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award today. Named for a long time Kansas YA Librarian, the Printz Award honors the best books for young adult readers. The committee defines young adult as ages 12-18 and looks for books that meet literary excellence and were published between January 1 and December 31 of the preceding year. All forms of writing including fiction and nonfiction are accepted.
This year’s winner is Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Since I have not read this book, I will have to get myself on the wait list so I can read it and find out why it won! The committee also chose four “honor” books:
- Stolen by Lucy Christopher
- Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
- Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
- Nothing by Janne Teller [click the title to see my review]
Congratulations to all the winners and Happy Reading to all of you!
Ok… Bad librarian confession coming up. I sometimes shy away from the Newbery Award winners because, while the award committee is recognizing the books’ literary merit, many kids don’t clamor for them. I only picked up this audiobook because the one I had requested was not here yet, the one I was listening to was over, and I had already listened to most of the other ones that were checked in… But I really LOVED it! I know, I know. Librarians are supposed to know better than to judge a book by its cover or any other silliness like that, but historical fiction never used to be my thing either. Until now!
Sixteen-year-old orphan Hattie Inez Brooks has been bounced from one family member to another for so long that she calls herself “Hattie Here-and-There.” She does the best she can to get by without feeling like she is too much of a burden, but some family members have been less than loving toward her, and she is just looking forward to a time when she can find a place that really feels like a home of her own. When her Uncle Chester (her mother’s brother) passes away, he leaves her with a Montana homestead claim — giving her the chance of a lifetime! As long as she can “prove up” on the claim, it will become her own. Proving up, nevertheless, is an amazingly difficult task. She will need to put up miles of fencing and plant/grow/harvest 40 acres of crops in less than a year — all the while living in a small shack which barely protects her from the elements.
This is not just a story about homesteading and survival, though. It’s a story about what it was like for the Americans “at home” during World War I. It’s a story about the true meaning of friendship. And, it’s a story about how a person’s definition of “home” doesn’t necessarily have to mean a particular house or town. Inspired by the life of an actual homesteader named Hattie Inez Brooks Wright [Kirby Larson's grandmother], this story runs the gamut from hilarious, to depressing, to aggravating, and back to heart-warming. It is rare for a book to latch right on to my heart as quickly as this book did, and I only hope that my admission of guilt will help a few more people to look beyond their own reading prejudices to find some amazing books they may have missed.