Category Archives: Book Discussion

Mock Newbery 2012 Discussion

Five Ocean County Librarians and one retired OCL Librarian met to determine our Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott titles. Here are some snippets of the confabulation.

Priscilla commented, “When I’m reading, I’m thinking what will the committee vote for versus what will I vote for.” I took the moment to remind folks this is our opportunity to decide what we would select if we were the committee. Still, I understood where she was coming from.

Regarding Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt, what makes it distinguished? Kristen answered immediately: “Its characters.” Does it tie itself up too neatly? Kristen said, “It needs to tie up neatly with all the over-the-top stuff, though some of that stuff might have been needless…. But it ends with a sense that we’re okay for now but not necessarily forever.” That’s what made it okay in Okay For Now.”

Then we mused on how willing we are to suspend disbelief when reading a children’s book. Did the ending in Okay For Now seem too implausible? Does it even matter? Kristen, who will attend the 2012 ALSC Morris seminar at ALA mid-winter, shared an article that stressed the importance of looking at a book’s strengths within its genre and evaluating it on those strengths, not its weaknesses. What does it contribute to that genre? (Which means more support for Okay For Now from my perspective!) Interesting.

So what about the Audubon art? Does it serve the message? Priscilla was skeptical. My arguments: the art resonates with Doug. He’s illiterate. Learning through pictures isn’t threatening. “But why the lessons?” Priscilla countered. First, Doug wouldn’t talk about the pictures to begin with. He learns because the Librarian leaves some paper and a pencil by the prints. So Doug wants to learn. And when have you known a Librarian to pass up the opportunity to impart a lesson? It’s in my (our?) nature to teach! Kristen added, ” It gave him something to be successful at.” Elise chimed in, “He’s getting acknowledge and support from an adult.”

Amanda pointed out, “The children in each of these books (meaning Dead End in Norvelt, Okay for Now, and Hound Dog True) are learning something. Mattie is learning to trust. Doug is learning about art. Jack is learning about writing. Priscilla argued learning to write in Dead End was more important than Doug learning art in Okay For Now.

Kristen predicts A Monster Calls will win saying, “It doesn’t do character as well as Okay for Now but it does plot and language better.” Elise wanted Okay For Now to be tighter, more spare. She though Norvelt was streamlined and macabre but very funny.

What do we do with Wonderstruck? Even if it is included in the Newbery committee’s discussion, we did not think the text strong enough to contend with our other titles.

We’re all very sad The Girl Who Circumnavigated the World is ineligible.

And finally, we voted.

After the first round, we had four clear frontrunners. A second round of voting showed a clear favorite with a majority of #1 votes. Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt is our 2012 Mock Newbery winner.

Our three honor books are much loved reads. With the strongest showing of the three, Hound Dog True by Linda Urban (it also received a first place vote in the final round) is our first honor book. With an equal number of points, we added Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (which also received one first place vote in the final round) and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Our Caldecott winner was Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell!

Overall it was a tight race. We selected three honor books. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen was a tight tight second place. It had equally as many first place votes as Me… Jane. Coming in on their heels were Grandapa Green by Lane Smith and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.

KidLit Meeting: Road to the 2012 Newbery

Last night, huddled around several bottles of chilled white wine, crisp salad, and buttered bread, a group of Children’s Librarian’s staved off the heat while discussing 2012 Newbery contenders Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt and Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm.

Both authors have been acknowledged by previous Newbery committees. Gary Schmidt wrote Newbery Honor books Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005) and The Wednesday Wars (2008). Jennifer L. Holm wrote Newbery Honor books A Penny from Heaven (2007) and Turtle in Paradise (2011).

We had a lot to say about Mr. Schmidt’s amazing Okay for Now. Where to start?! THIS POST IS FULL OF SPOILERS!

We talked about Doug as the narrator and his relationship to the reader. From the first, Doug is on the defensive.

Joe Pepitone once gave me his New York Yankess baseball cap.
I’m not lying.
He gave it to me. To me, Doug Swieteck. To me (p 1).

Doug will often insist he’s not lying when he tells us about something good that has happened. He doesn’t trust the reader so he questions and entreats. “Figure out why (p 110).” He repeats other phrases, mirroring his father in that habit, and sometimes repeating his father’s expressions. “You see how things never go right when you’re feeling good” (p 63)? He’s suspicious. Do we really care what’s happening to him? Are we paying him any attention? How closely?

By the way, in case you weren’t paying attention or something, did you catch what Mr. Powell called me? “Young Artist.” I bet you missed that (p 75).

Like it’s no big deal if we weren’t paying attention – why would Doug care – but… just so you know, Mr. Powell called him a young artist. You know how that feels? Continue reading KidLit Meeting: Road to the 2012 Newbery

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (2010)

His head, when he removed his fur hat, was shaven to his scalp. His skull was disturbing shape, flat at the back, his ears too small. It was not a face stroked into creation by God’s loving hand, but battered into shape by the Devil’s hammer (p 34).

It is a frigid evening in 1910 when fourteen-year-old Sid  discovers his father’s frozen body on the Arctic ice. Sid is baffled by his Einar’s death. After all, it was Einar who warned Sid not to take the shorter, more dangerous route across the ice. So why was his father in such a hurry that he recklessly approached home over weak ice?

Sid’s older sister Anna, and their step-mother, Nadya, leave for the village to get help. Sid must stay with his father’s body. Then a man with a revolver appears at the door. Wolff wants something from Einar. Finding the man dead, he makes demands of Sid, demands Sid can’t possibly fulfill. And Sid has a revolver of his own.

As the story unfolds, we travel back ten years to Nome where Einar and Wolff meet. Theirs is a story of gold, greed, alliances and betrayal. For the last ten years Wolff has hunted for Einar. He will not let death cheat him of his prize.

Revolver is a dense story, tightly woven and sparse in its telling but perfectly told, like the Colt Einar admires so greatly. I know the folks at Oops… Wrong Cookie included Revolver in their mock Printz awards, but condemned the epilogue. Personally,  I could’ve done without it (I admit, I loved the image of Wolff trapped in the snow and Sid’s parting words)  but I did want to know how Einar had cheated the gold miners and where he hid the gold. Of course, not knowing would have only added to the tension I felt at finishing the book proper.

Revolver is a 2011 Printz Honor book. Also by Marcus Sedgwick: My Sword Hand is Singing.

Read other reviews: A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy,  Oops… Wrong Cookie


The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey (2010)

I want to show you something. There is no name for it; it has no human symbol. It is old and its memory is long. It knew the world before we named it.
It knows everything. It knows me and it knows you.
And I will show it to you.
I will show you (p 4-5).

Will Henry once again narrates a thrilling tale abound with monsters, those that hunt us and those we harbor. Hard on the heels of Will Henry’s encounter with the Anthropophagi, an attractive woman requests the doctor’s aid in recovering her missing husband, John. It is clear from this first interview there is a history between the Dr. Warthrop and this siren, Muriel, whose call the doctor cannot ignore, though he denies her at first.

The real story is that of Warthrop, Muriel, and John. It unfolds against a backdrop of horror, as John returns a changed man.

It has a dozen names in a dozen lands, and it is older than the hills, Will Henry. It feeds, and the more it feeds, the hungrier it becomes. It starves even as it gorges. It is the hunger that cannot be satisfied. In the Algonquin tongue its name literally means ‘the one who devours mankind’ (p 53-54).

The Curse of the Wendigo is every bit as impressive as its predecessor, a Printz honor award winner. The characterization is so impressive. Add to that the chilling but realistic style of storytelling acting metaphorically to raise questions about the darker side of humanity and it is a gripping saga whose final installment I eagerly anticipate reading.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is Will Henry refering to when he writes “God’s temple” on page 4? Why do you think he chose this turn of phrase?
  2. On page 148, what is Will Henry saying about his service with the doctor? What do you make of this?
  3. The Monstrumologist comments that “routine is a kind of death” (p 274). Do you agree? Does this apply to Will Henry?
  4. Why do you think Will Henry is so committed to the Monstrumologist? How do other characters define their relationship? How does he characterize his relationship?
  5. What is the curse of the Wendigo? Is it an actual monster, as Von Helrung asserts, or do you subscribe to Dr. Pellinore Warthop’s explanations? How do you explain John’s behavior? Why do you think Yancy leaves room for ambiguity?


culvert (prologue xvii), metronomic, discordant, offal (p 4), despotic (p 5), colloquium (p 6), scintilla  (p 7), tripe, disquisition (p 8), ceresin (p 13), profundity (p 15), sobriquet (p 22), obsequious (p 28), fecund (p 35), philocome (p 39), recalcitrance (p 41), convivial (p 49), umbrage (p 73), deputation (p 82), trammeled (p 106), rapacious (p 122), animus (p 127), suppurating (p 147), tonsured (p 152), contagion (p 185), sycophant (p 187), obsequiousness, malodorous (p 192), dolorous (p 194, 342), lugubriously (p 211), punctilious, quaintrelle, truncheon (p 212), inchoate (p 247), patina, archeronian (p 248), terminus (p 276), alacrity (p 232), proboscis (p 315), malefic (p 316), allegiant (p 340), presaged (p 367), tenebrous (p 401)

Top 100 Young Adult (Teen) Novels

Well, here it is; the ultimate in hubris. I’ve gripped enough about the results of Persnickety’s poll results. I’m going to put myself out there and offer up my own top 100 young adult titles.

There’s no formal polling system, though I consulted several other Librarians. These are basically what I consider essential YA reading :) I do not pull out individual books in a series. If it’s a good series, you should read all the books! I also include the author’s country of origin (if it’s not the US) and other special notes after the title.

I didn’t fret too much over the order but the ‘best’ are listed first.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Britian)
  4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (Britian)
  5. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  6. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Volume 1: The Pox Party and Volume 2: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson
  7. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  8. Chains and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
  9. The Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo by Richard Yancy
  10. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  11. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud (Britian)
  12. Sabriel and Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix (Australia)
  13. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Indian)
  14. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
  15. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  16. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  17. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  18. The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan
  19. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  20. I am the Messenger by Mark Zusak (Australia)
  21. American Born Chinese by Gene Leun Yang [ Graphic Novel ]
  22. The Book Thief by Mark Zusak (Australia)
  23. A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly (Britian)
  24. Locomotion and Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
  25. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Continue reading Top 100 Young Adult (Teen) Novels

Young Adult Books for Adult Readers

Two factors have turned adult readers on to children’s and young adult literature in the past few years. First, books like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games have spawned obsessed fandoms of kids and adults alike. Add to this popular adult authors like Sherman Alexie, James Patterson, and Joyce Carol Oates crossing over to Young Adult and it equals a lot of adult readers, male and female.

With Pamela Paul’s blessing (NYTime essay “The Kid’s Books Are Alright“), there are many other excellent Young Adult books to recommend to adults:

  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy (another adult/YA author)
  • Graceling by Kristen Cashore
  • Fire by Kristen Cashore
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melinda Marchetta
  • Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
  • Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  • Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (especially the later books in this series)
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • Teach Me by R.A. Nelson
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Can you list any other YA books that have gone over well with your adult friends? My sister (26 years) really liked North of Beautiful by Justina Hadley but I don’t think of that as having a lot of adult appeal. Then again…

Some YA books even enjoy adult releases, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

All this wonderful literature aside, I was pretty dismayed at the Top 100 YA Novels poll results over at Persnickety Snark.

Did we miss any Sarah Dessen books? Shiver? Really? I practically gagged over A Great and Terrible Beauty, Hush, Hush, Evernight, and Beautiful Creatures. It really made me wonder how many people were contributing to this poll and are they all desperate discontent females?

I believe Fuse #8’s Children’s Chapter Book Poll was more representative of the best under its domain, Children’s Literature. Feel free to disagree.

In Which I Get a Grade of…

Here is the complete results of Fuse #8’s poll from #100 to #1. Those in yellow are titles I’ve read. I’m giving myself a D grade. I have a lot of catching up to do.

100. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967)

99. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (1980)

98. Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston (1954)

97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (2006)

96. The Witches by Roald Dahl (1983)

95. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (1950)

94. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (1930)

93. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1935)

92. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)

91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (1978)

90. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (1985)

Continue reading In Which I Get a Grade of…

Fuse #8’s Top 100 Children’s Chapter Book Poll

 A Wrinkle in Time takes the #2 spot!

This is the list I submitted:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (#3)
  2. Matilda by Roald Dahl (#18)
  3. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (#17)
  4. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (#48)
  5. The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (#22)
  6. The Giver by Lois Lowry (#7)
  7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (# 2)
  8. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (#81)
  9. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by John Selznick (#52)
  10. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

OCL’s 2010 Mock Newbery Award Winner

And the winner of the Ocean County’s 2010 Mock Newbery Award is:

We unanimously agreed Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was the most distinguished book of the year. Timeless, seamless, perfect; it was decided in a few minutes. What, then, was the purpose of an honor book. Is it a consolation prize when the vote is too close? Is it a category unto itself? We decided there were three books we could not walk away without honoring because they are distinguished.

Honor Books:

You might notice the absence of When You Reach Me. While the book did not make our list, it was the most talked about book. We intend to have another meeting after the winners are announced. If Stead’s book is among them, we will reread, meet again, and continue our discussion. I will then post more of our thoughts. If it does not win an award, we’re going to drop it and congratulate ourselves on a good decision! We all, of course, enjoyed the book and thought it well written.

Others have held mock Newbery award meetings. Here are their winners:

ACPL Students
WINNER: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
HONOR:  Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

ASPL Librarians
WINNER: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
HONORS: Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson,  Crossing Stones by Helen Frost

Bank Street School 5th and 6th Grade Students)
WINNER: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
HONORS: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

WINNER: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
HONORS: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker

Johnson County Public Library Librarians
WINNER:  When you Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
HONORS: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

Levittown Public Library Librarians
WINNER: All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg
HONORS: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, When you Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Maricopa County Public Library Librarians
WINNER: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
HONOR: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, When you Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Northport – East Northport Public Library Librarians
WINNER: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
HONORS: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Rhode Island Public Library Librarians
WINNER: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
HONORS: Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Ocean County Library’s Mock Newbery List

The date and time are yet to be determined (possibly January 3, 9 or 10), but we will be meeting to discuss possible Newbery winners! It has been a great year for children’s literature so don’t be daunted by the list. These books are excellent.

If you are in the Ocean County Area and want to join us, let me know! This is the first year we are including Non-Fiction picks :)

The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggot (review)
All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg (review)
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane (review)
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (review)
The Problem with the Puddles by Kate Feiffer (review)
The Dream Stealer by Dis Fleishman (Pictures by Peter Sis)
Brooklyn Nine: a Novel in Nine Innings by Alan Gatz
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (review)
Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino (review)
The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson
A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick (review)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (review)
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Tate (review)

The Great and Only Barnum by Candice Fleming
Traveling the Freedom Road by Linda Barrett Osborne
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone