Friday, January 25, 2019

It's book award season!!!

The winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced on Monday morning at 8 am PT (11 am here in NC). Here's the link if you would like to watch in real time on Monday:

Therefore, I am taking a break from my best of list to post about the Newbery and Printz groups that I ran this year and make my own predictions.

Mock Newbery

This was the second year that I facilitated a Mock Newbery group for my public library. Some members were new and some participated last year, so it was a good mix of experience and new ideas. The group met for our final discussion on December 12. Below is the list we discussed.

  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
  • Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin
  • Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
  • Blended by Sharon Draper
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
  • Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes
  • Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable
  • The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
After two hours of discussion and voting, consensus was reached. The group picked Ghost Boys as their winner, with Baby Monkey, Private Eye, Blended, Front Desk and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl as their honor books.

My Newbery Picks and Predictions

Personally, I would pick either The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson or The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I think Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell, et. al., Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka, Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, and The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang would be excellent honor books.

As for what is likely to be picked, popular choices online seem to be Front Desk, Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier, The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis and Snow Lane by Josie Angelini. 

What will the committee pick? Who knows?! There are a ton of good choices this year and no end to opinions. Chances are good that the Real Committee will have a tough time reaching consensus and the winner may be safer than we would like. Or maybe they will go way out and pick a graphic novel or horror book or older reader book. We'll know soon enough.

I am a bit tired of hearing the argument against older books like Hey, Kiddo and The Poet X. This comes up every year. Many want the overlap between Printz and Newbery to be removed, but the Newbery is almost 100 years old and many of the early winners were on the older reader end of the spectrum, so maybe we should just get over it.

Mock Printz

This was the first year for my teen Mock Printz group. Some had a hard time getting a lot of reading done as well as their studies, but they tried really hard and did a decent job of it.  We met on December 13 and discussed these books:
  • After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay
  • As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
  • The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
  • Fatal Throne by Candace Fleming, et. al.
  • Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
  • Mary's Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge
  • Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
After two hours of discussion (and some tooth pulling to get them to talk), consensus was reached. The group picked Love, Hate & Other Filters. Their honor books were The Astonishing Color of After, Fatal Throne and Picture Us in the Light.

My Printz Picks and Predictions

33294200My pick for Printz is The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This book blew me away both as a print book and an audio. If it doesn't win a few awards, I will be very surprised. My honor books would be Hey, KiddoDread NationDarius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake and The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee.

Likely to be picked are The Poet X, Hey, Kiddo, and The Astonishing Color of After. Online favorites include these three, plus A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi, Mary's Monster and The Prince and the Dressmaker.

Other Awards

Since I was on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee a few years ago, I love to predict that award, too. I'm sure they will pick Hey, Kiddo, The Prince and the Dressmaker, Be Prepared and Cardboard Kingdom for the top ten. I also expect Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Unwanted by Don Brown will make an appearance. If I were still on the committee, I would add Crush by Svetlana Chmakova, Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks and Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu.

For Geisel, I would choose Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi, with honors for Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake by Jeff Mack and See Zip Zap by David Milgrim. 

For Caldecott, I'm hoping for either Dreamers by Yuyi Morales or Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat to win. I would also be happy with Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan brothers, or Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace and Brian Collier won. It would be truly hilarious if The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee took the award.

As for the rest, I'm happy to wait and see....and then read them all!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Jenn's Picks of 2018 - Teen Edition

Now for my favorite--Teens! Had a hard time narrowing it down, so there's a lot of them.



Moving and shocking. Based on a true story. Verse style works well with topic. Possible Printz or Morris winner.


Every new king must defeat a dragon and bring home a princess to marry. But is that what really happens? I spent most of this book angry and upset, but oh, that ending!


Darius feels very removed from his Persian heritage, from his father and from life in general. When his grandfather gets sick, the whole family travels to Iran, where Darius makes his first true friend. So much history and geography of Iran is easily smushed into a book about identity, depression, friendship, fathers and sons, and even a bit of searching for your sexuality.


It is well-written, action-packed and so timely (even though it is set during the Reconstruction). Jane is the heroine we need and deserve right now. And the snark and social commentary are on point. But Jane isn't the only awesome character. You are going to love her friends Katherine and Red Jack, too. Not so sure about Gideon or Redfern, but even minor characters like Lilly and Nessie are so well-drawn you will feel like you have met them before. And the action scenes are just the right amount of gore and fight. The flashbacks and info given through letters reveals just enough backstory at just the right times.


Henry VIII's wives tell their own stories. This is one of those books that adults might like better than teens. But for the right teen, it will be catnip.


This was a very hard book to read and it should be. How do you deal with a rape when the rapist is your twin and the survivor is one of your very best friends? And your parents and most other friends totally believe your brother without even hearing the rest of the story? The emotions and behaviors in this book are very appropriate to the age group and situations, quite realistic and believable. We needed this book.


There are a lot of things that I really love about this book--and a few things not so much. First of all the dark and creepy mood sneaks up on you. While the story is slow to start, that fits the suspenseful feel of the plot and the way Alice knows so little of her own story. The twists that happen near the middle and end are surprising but not completely unexpected if you look back. I was reminded not only of Grimm's, but also of The Neverending Story, Ellen Datlow's fairy tale collections/retellings, Robin McKinley, Holly Black and Neil Gaiman. Plus all the fairy tales ever. So, if you like your fairytales dark, here's one you will enjoy.


This is a sequel to The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue from 2017, but it is even better. Felicity's voice rings so true and her friends, enemies and even frenemies are fully developed and interesting on their own. And the magical element couldn't possibly be cuter. Oh, and petticoats and piracy are both important to the story.


I could hear Xiomara sharing her poems as I read. I have known this teen; I have worked with this teen; I have been this teen. I was especially struck by the issues of guilt and body consciousness that she is dealing with because of her parents and the church. Many girls (and some boys) carry this inside of them. I love how she found her voice and her place beyond and within her own body.


Love, love, love this. Pierce has returned to her original writing style and sensibilities in a way that makes me very happy. Arram's experiences mirror Alanna's in some ways, but he is a quite different person and is written as such. It was worth the long wait. Can't wait for the next one.


This is a road trip book and it ambles, so if you are looking for a fast-paced adventure, this is not the one. However, it ambles with extreme purpose. Tess needs that amble and, for the most part, you as the reader do, too.  It is a book about the damage our families and society can cause. It is about rape culture. It is about healing at your own speed and accepting who you are, who your family members are, and learning to accept the world when you must and change it when you can.


A mystery across two timelines involving kidnapping, murder and bootlegging, as well as two teen girl sleuths. The stories weave together nicely, and while I figured out one of the big reveals at the end, I haven't solved the big mystery and did not solve one of the smaller mysteries before the end.


Fun romance for those who love Sarah Dessen and Jaclyn Moriarty with a diverse cast and some good comedic moments.



Serious yet funny story of one immigrant teen's experience working her way through the system, as well as discovering what it means to her to "become American."


An impressive variety of first-hand accounts makes this a stand-out in war history, esp. for a war that was so misrepresented and divisive for America. Great timing since we might be headed for another.


Moving free verse, illustrated biography of a woman who made a huge difference to science fiction, though her own life was afflicted and abusive.


Nye's poems address and resonate in today's busy and confusing climate. Read them and you will remember what (or discover) some of what life can be without all the noise.

Graphic Novels


Cute, entertaining and very, very realistic. If you like Giant Days, this is the boy flip side.


An amazing book about how addiction effects children and family. I like how honest Krosoczka is and how he portrays the child's view of their family and situation, slowly revealing what is really going on. This is a dark story but it is also a loving and hopeful one.


Incredibly cute and fun new series about a world pretty similar to ours, except it has magical creatures living in it. Julie is a werewolf coffee barista with a new girlfriend and a best friend who has somehow been transformed into a regular human. Can she and all her friends figure out what is going on? Or will something dreadful happen?


Chase manages to bring Gert back, but everyone has grown up and apart. Can they get back together and get along?


Emotionally fulfilling and graphically stunning. I really enjoyed this quiet story about grief, fear, and friendship.

Next up, Adult books!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Jenn's Picks of 2018 - Middle Grade Edition

There were some pretty great books for Middle Graders in 2018, especially comics!

Chapter Books


When students asked Rick Riordan to write a book about Hindu/Indian culture, he absolutely did the right thing and found an #ownvoices author to do it instead. Not only that Chokshi flipped the genders on the Pandava "brothers" and made a romping adventure story that any kid could enjoy.


Set in the '90s but still very relevant today, Front Desk tackles racism, immigration, prejudice and the cycle of poverty in what is ultimately a very upbeat story.


A thoughtful book about a tough and timely topic. Well-balanced and not about placing blame, but focuses on how to fix the terrible problem of police violence against children (and adults) of color.


Okay, I don't know about the rest of you, but this is my pick for Newbery this year. It will take a lot to beat this one for me. It's an awesome mystery, a great friendship and identity story, and a decisive critique of racism in America, all written at an appropriate level for its intended audience. Can't tell you much because I don't want to ruin the mystery, but trust me you NEED to read this one.


This book was everything I hoped that it would be. Nice, solid middle grade horror book with real heart and a strong message about friendship, family and grief. 



Unbelievably luscious and intricate illustrations accompany detailed and fascinating information about nature.


Beautifully illustrated book full of real African proverbs.


Another "Scientists in the Field" book full of information about an animal we thought we knew and the amazing scientists who work every day to really document their ways.


Fascinating true story of how Monopoly was invented by and stolen from a brilliant woman.


Really interesting book about one of the first and most famous instances of "fake news" in American history. I loved all the quotes from listener letters; they read like modern-day tweets.



I really enjoyed this book. I liked the pacing of how the author told Barnes's story. I learned so much. I had seen Barnes's work before but did not know the story of the artist; it is incredibly inspirational! And I think Collier made the absolute right choice not to try to make the art in the book look like the artist's. Barnes's style needs no explanation or adaptation. I had to immediately get online and look up the works mentioned but not pictured in the book. To me, this means the book does its job amazingly well. Please check this one out!


Interesting biography of a little-known musician. Lovely graphite illustrations ride the line between realistic and dreamy.


Covering the last few months of King's life, the Pinkneys have constructed a lyrical and beautifully illustrated testament to King's importance in American life and a call to continue the mission in today's chaotic world.


Neat book about the first ship and men to go truly deep into the ocean. Lots of good information and lovely illustrations.


Awesome book about a little known part of Robinson's life. Great information, gorgeous illustrations, and age appropriate details makes this a perfect book for today's climate.

Graphic Novels


Vera doesn't fit in with her classmates who are well-off and very white/American. Her mom is a Russian immigrant raising 3 kids on her own. So when she hears about Russian camp, she finally thinks she has found a place where she will fit in. But, as someone who both went to camp and worked at one, I know that camp is far more complex than that and Vera discovers that people are people no matter where you are. Ultimately, she figures out some things about herself and about others and learns how to be a good friend in order to make some. Good read-alike for Raina Telegemeier and Shannon Hale.


A fun book about a group of kids who spend the summer building and acting out their fantasy world in cardboard. Inclusive, non-stereotypical, while still incredibly real. Everyone should check this one out.


Funny beginning chapter book and comic book as well. Chick is pretty ridiculous and Fox is extremely patient.


Tale of two sloth friends: one who wants to explore and the other who prefers to stay home. In the end they both learn to see the other's perspective. The teens in my Mock Newbery adored it.


Love it! Especially the end fashion show. Such a sweet story about accepting your identity and finding your calling.


Great story with a wide variety of people and a three-headed kitty. What more could you want?

That's my MG list! Next time, teens.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Jenn's Picks of 2018 - Young Child Edition

Whew, it's that time again. Ready for a list of the best books I read in 2018? Here we go!

Board Books


Boynton has done it again. This is a must-read-aloud asap!


Nice book with photos of musical instruments and onomatopoeia of the sounds they make.



A picture book telling of the author's journey from Mexico to the US with her young son. Morales's message is both timely and timeless, and the gorgeous artwork pulls you in and fills you with hope.


A boy and his grandfather connect through their love of art and storytelling even though they don't speak the same language. The contrasting styles still manage to craft a vibrant and fun-filled story.


I might be a bit predisposed to love this one, but it is still kind of great. Very tongue-in-cheek, it really reminds me of the anime Read Or Die for the young ones.


A beautiful story about grief and love and how we deal with the sad things that happen with to us. In this, and many cases, stories are what bring us through.


Julián wants to be a mermaid and his grandmother helps him do so. She dresses up, too, and they join a whole group of mermaids. A lovely book about inclusion and acceptance.


A young girl plays with her mommy's headscarves and explains what they mean to her. The luscious colors and well-written story make this a highly accessible book for any age.


Alice declares herself king of the snow day and writes and illustrates a book all about her adventures in her kingdom.


A very creepy story about a boy on his way to visit his grandmother and the strange bus he "accidentally" boards. The ending is funny and unexpected.


A young dancer hesitates outside an audition hall, when her shadow springs to life, leading her through the city in a dance of confidence.


A dinosaur's first day of school has some expected and unexpected issues with appropriate classroom behavior. Both funny and useful.


I think we all know what this book is REALLY about. But it is also an awesome story about facing the unexpected and confronting our prejudices.


Lovely message about trying and how we learn even when we don't succeed. I love the small "before" pictures followed by the full page spread of after on the next page. The few double page spreads at the end are especially effective and moving.


A deceptively simple book about inclusion.

Beginning Readers


Baby Monkey solves a series of mysteries, but only after he has a snack, looks at the clues and puts on his pants.


Mr. Monkey makes a huge mess trying to bake a banana cake for a contest!


Yasmin has a series of everyday adventures in this beginning chapter book. She is creative and outgoing and highly relatable.


The Giggle Gang returns to solve the mystery of Dog's missing toothbrush. But do they even know what a toothbrush looks like?


Fun, and funny, beginning reader using sight words and word families in a way that makes sense with the story.

So what were your favorites?

It's book award season!!!

The winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced on Monday morning at 8 am PT (11 am here in NC). Here's the link if you woul...