Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award

Walden Award announced.  And it was just yesterday (or sometime earlier this week) that I was thinking that My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park hadn’t gotten enough attention.

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Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Deadline by Chris Crutcher
galley from BEA
due out September 2007 from HarperTeen

I’m a little ashamed to admit this is the first book I’ve ever read by Crutcher. He’ll be bumped up on the list of authorss I need to read now.
Deadline is the tale of Ben Wolf, a just turned 18-year-old who’s also just found out he has a very aggressive and terminal blood disease. You’ll be lucky to have a year. His doctor says something to that effect and Ben decides he’s going to make that year count. No treatment, and no coddling. So, without telling anyone he sets out to squeeze a lifetime’s worth of living in to one year.

This could have been an extremely depressing, frustrating and infuriating book, but somehow Crutcher manages to avoid all that. It is sad and thought-provoking, and yes, even funny. I could see the beauty and bravery in Ben’s decision, but also the cowardice. I can respect Ben’s decision, but I know I’d never make the same. Most likely, this is a book for older readers. It’s really great for anyone struggling with issues of mortality.

Ben’s story reminded me how grown up I felt at 18, too. Also, of a schoolmate of mine who made the same decision. I never could understand why, but now I kind of get it.

A note on the cover:
Though interesting (I love the bright colors) the cover never quite grabbed me. Just now searching for a picture, and seeing it online, I felt that sense of unease, of the world being turned upside down. That’s probably exactly what I’m supposed to feel.

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List


Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

ARC from BEA
Due: August 28, 2007 from Knopf Books for Young Readers

Naomi and Ely, Ely and Naomi. I expected assumed that the narrative would be similar to that of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, in that Naomi and Ely would take turns telling their story every chapter. Well, you know what they say about assumptions. Yes, Naomi and Ely do narrate the majority of the book, but we also get treated to narration from at least six other characters. This threw me for a loop. Some of it I quite dug.

(Now I’m remembering my days of senior English, studying Hamlet and how you could really only know a character by what he/she says when no one else is around, or by what somebody else says when that character isn’t present. It’s like that, probably.)

Naomi and Ely is a rebus story for teens. The pictures and symbols were unexpected at first and occasionally hard to interpret. It is a pretty cool concept and I hope that between the galley stage and the actual published book the graphics will get cleaned up.

Ok, enough with the format, onto the actual plot – at least what I feel I can reveal without spoilers. So, Naomi loves Ely and Ely loves Naomi, only not in the same way, because Ely really loves boys. (Trust me, the back of the book sums it up better than this.) To save their friendship, insuring they will not fight over boys, they have created a No Kiss List, which is constantly under revision. As that’s just the start of the story, we know it can’t go well from there. Snarky, banter flying left and right, full of pop-culture references, and relevant, Naomi and Ely is a little sloppier than Cohn and Levithan’s first collaboration. Still, a fun ride, with a satisfying ending.

Particular bits I got a kick out of, without getting spoilery:
1. mention of Buffy
2. inclusion of a song from the Buffy musical on a playlist – the song that is my default ringtone
3. debate over Dawson/Joey, Pacey/Joey – I loved it, but doubt that any of today’s teen will really care. Perhaps they won’t even know those characters.
4. reference to Nick and Norah

Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan

Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan

This new book is a wonderful addition to any infant, toddler or preschool collection. Repetitive sounds and rhymes tale the tale of chicks and other creatures one sunny (then rainy day). It begins, “chicky, chicky, chook, chook, chick, chick, chick”. The rhythm begs to be shared as a read aloud.

The artwork has the playfulness of Ed Emberley’s fingerprints, but are more dimensional and feel more grounded. Each page is created on a paper bag brown background in bright contrasting colors. The chicks are wispy and soft. (Except when they’re bedraggled and wet.) The roosters are bright and bold, the bees are full of energy and the cats are just as mischievous and cuddly as cats should be.

Easy Readers

Now, I’m not a fan of easy readers, beginning readers, whatever you call them. All too often the text doesn’t make any sense, nor does it match the images, a big no-no in helping beginning readers. So, when I got a couple of advance copies of some new easy readers I wasn’t too thrilled. But I took a closer look and what’s this? Easy readers by Mo Willems!


These books are fantastic! No less than you would expect from the author/illustrator of the pigeon books and Knuffle Bunny and Leonardo the Terrible Monster (all on my favorites list). The text and the pictures work in harmony. The repetitive text which I find annoying in other easy readers works here (perhaps because the illustrations are so good). I wish there was more to say about the wonderfulness of these books. Oh wait, there is. The endpapers. As I don’t have copies sitting in front of me as I type the fine details are lost, but trust me, these are good books.

I will most definitely be giving these to the youngest niece who will be starting kindergarten this fall.

Hero

Hero by Perry Moore
This is a galley I’ve really been looking forward to.

What could be more fun that a world filled with super heroes? Except your dad used to be one and now hates the whole “league”. So you have to keep your new powers from him. Plus he doesn’t like homosexuals, so one more thing you have to hide. Let’s just say that Thom, our main character, isn’t having such an easy life right now. Not to mention his mother has disappeared, he’s been kicked off the basketball team and some body’s following him.

What I liked:
The cover kicks ass. It’s a simple white with a black eye mask filling the center. The title is below in a rainbow, but not an obvious one. I could go on and on about masks and all the different types of masks (literal and metaphorical) people wear in this book.

The different levels (and ages) of superheroes and the bizarre abilities some of them posses. One man has the ability to make anyone he comes in contact with get ill, and he can pick the disease!

This book probably suffered from my expectations a fair bit. It felt disjointed and characterization was inconsistent. That said, I love the world that Moore has created.

Drowning in Books and Loving It

Hi, I have a book problem, as in I have too many. Whew! I feel better just for admitting it. I’ve been working on this problem for several months now and have actually been somewhat successful in curtailing my acquisition of books. The only books I’m allowing myself to purchase this year are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and anything by Brian K. Vaughan. And I’ve been sticking to this, except for the books I needed to read for NYPL Bookfest. Even better, I’ve actually removed books from my shelves – some sold at used book stores, some given away to teens at the library.

But purchasing books is only part of the problem. My real weakness is free books. Advance reader copies, galleys, promos, freebies . . . whatever you want to call them. I’ve been lucky enough to attend several conferences over the past few years and at each I’ve picked up as many books as I can possibly carry, sometimes more, and I always regret it when I’m trying to schlep my suitcase through the airport, but I can’t stop. On top of that, every time my dad goes to a conference he brings me back books. Admittedly there are a number of duds, but once in a while you get a gem, like Twilight by Stephenie Meyer*. This causes a problem. There’s never room for the glut of books to squeeze into my bookshelves. So tomes are double shelved and stacked every which way, until I don’t know what I own. (I recently rearranged everything from genre to alphabetic in an attempt to combat this confusion. It’s not helped much.)

Things might be manageable if that were the sum of the problem. Unfortunately, on top of the books I’ve paid for and the books I’ve picked up at conferences, I have library books on every surface in my apartment. My eyes are too large for my literary stomach. As I desperately try and keep up with the list of books and authors I’m familiar with the stacks only grow.

So why am I thinking about this now? Books are heavy. I’ve moved four times in four years, and am contemplating a fifth. (Never fear, this one would be as permanent as any move you make in your late 20s can be.) Also, I’m lucky enough to be going to ALA Annual Conference this summer and know I will be unable to resist loading myself with books. Even worse, this year I’ll be driving. No having to schlep books through airports this time, which means no limits. Oh well, at least ALA is after my proposed move date. Bring on the books.

*New Moon got a mention on the Colbert Report last night. Yay!