Saturday, January 30, 2010

January Carnival of Children's Lit

The January, 2010 Carnival of Children's Literature is up at Jenny's Wonderland of Books. The theme is "Winter Wonderland," but not all posts relate to the theme. It looks like an interesting bunch of posts. Personally, I think I'm going to have to check out the "Secret of the Puking Penguins" book; it sounds fascinating! Thanks to Jenny for all her hard work putting this together!

If you aren't familiar with blog carnivals, they're a monthly roundup of posts that generally rotates from blog to blog. It's a great way to see what people have been posting about recently, learn about new books, and find great new blogs to follow. Anastasia Suen has a great page with information about the Carnival of Children's Literature, including the 2010 schedule. The February Carnival will be hosted at Whispers of Dawn.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Marian, Madame Librarian

My son is currently performing in the Children's Theatre of Annapolis production of the Meredith Wilson musical The Music Man, and Nick and I are working tech for the show. Today, we did two school shows; several schools brought students in on busses to see the show. As the curtain opened on the library scene for the song, "Marian the Librarian," it occurred to me that although the musical was written in the 1950s, and set in 1912, the set would be instantly recognizable to the kids in the audience as a library. The shelves with books, the checkout desk, the tables for reading: all these things look pretty much like a library today, with only the notable absence of computers and videos as the primary difference. (Although the sets were created by modern people, who may have brought 2009/2010 sensibility to their creation, presumably they were created with an eye towards authenticity.)

That then started me thinking, will kids 20 years from now be able to recognize it as a library as easily? What will a library look like 20 years from now? Will it even have shelves of books? (I personally think it will, although if current trends are any indication, the section of the library devoted to shelves of books may shrink).

Will it have a checkout desk? It actually may not. My library already has self-checkout, and my grocery store allows me to pick up a scanner at the entry and scan and bag my groceries as I move through the store. It's not hard to imagine that in 20 years, or even much less, libraries will have some kind of auto-checkout that will take place when you walk out the door, using RFID codes in the books and in your library card.

Will the library of the future have tables and chairs for sitting? I think it probably will. I like to think that the library of the future will still be a gathering place and a study place and a research place, and maybe even a reading place, all of which are activities that encourage the use of tables and chairs.

What about you? What do you think the library of the future will look like?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cybils 2009 Finalists: Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction

I served on the Cybils Round 1 panel for young adult fantasy and science fiction. We had 134 books nominated for the young adult half of the category alone, and the majority of them were excellent books. My committee had a hard time narrowing it down to only 7 finalists, but in the end, I think we have a great shortlist:

by Pam Bachorz
Egmont USA
Nominated by: Chelsea Campbell

Oscar Banks has fooled the town of Candor, Florida, into thinking he's the perfect son.  Even his father, the town's founder, believes that the subliminal messages he invented and that are carried by ever-present music, have brainwashed Oscar into becoming one more "good kid" among many. Oscar, though, knows about the messages and has trained himself to resist.

First-time author Pam Bachorz has created a book that perfectly snares what every teen both fears -- to lose his/her identity and be part of the bland crowd.  Oscar may be selfish, but his motivations are sincere and natural based on the tragedies that have happened to his family.  Good science-fiction for young adults is scarce--SF is more than spaceships and lasers, it is how technology could be used to help or harm humanity--and Barchorz's book will linger long in the minds of readers.  They'll wonder what they would do if they ever found themselves in Candor.
--Steve Berman

Demon's Lexicon, The
by Sarah Rees Brennan
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Nick Jessee

Brothers Nick and Alan have been living on the run for years, hunted by magicians trying to take back their mother.  But while the brothers'relationship is front and center, the story truly belongs to Nick, the ultimate bad boy barely managed his whole life by his nicer brother. Nick should be unsympathetic, but instead Sarah Rees Brennan manages to make his lack of self-awareness achingly riveting.  And in doing so she gives us one of the most memorable, fully realized characters in YA contemporary fantasy--and then she surrounds him with a slew of other memorable characters in an equally intriguing and unforgettable world. The jury simply couldn't put this book down, not until we reached its satisfying and surprising ending.  A thrilling read--this debut novel goes off like fireworks.
--Gwenda Bond

Dust of 100 Dogs, The
by A.S. King
Nominated by: Lisa McMann

It starts with the death of Emer Morrisey, famed female pirate, who is cursed to live the life of 100 dogs.  When Emer is reborn as Saffron Adams, completely aware of her past lives, all Saffron can think is how fast she can get to Jamaica to rightfully reclaim her buried treasure. Dust is a novel that interweaves not one but three storylines that work to create one amazing story.  King's ability to tell a story in three distinctive and controversial voices is what truly makes Dust a novel that will push the boundaries of what YA fiction can accomplish. 
--Samantha Wheat

by Kristin Cashore
Nominated by: Jenny Moss

Fire is a human monster and the last of her kind. With the ability to control the minds of those around them, monsters inspire an uncomfortable (at times deadly) mixture of fear, hatred, and absolute longing in the people of the Dells. When her service is requested on behalf of the young King Nash, Fire is thrust into a mounting war and forced to reconcile her questionable abilities with her own demanding conscience.  A first-rate high fantasy, Fire is at once subtle,thoughtful and throbbing with genuine emotion.  The novel is peopled with a breathtakingly real cast of characters who wrestle with the thorny issues of gender, power, race, friendship, violence and family.  Kristin Cashore’s gorgeous, understated writing weaves a complex, vivid world around them and the reader, making Fire an intensely gripping and nuanced read and one of the year’s finest.
--Angie Thompson

Lips Touch
by Laini Taylor
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Jolie Stekly

In Lips Touch, Laini Taylor takes on that most daunting of tasks--reinventing the fairy tale--and succeeds brilliantly. Each story feels like a fresh new tale, and yet still holds the timeless haunting enchantment and wonder of all the best fairy tales.  Every story is a self-contained gem, and centers around the danger, power and wonder of that most magical moment--the kiss.  These stories are complemented by Jim Di Bartolo’s luminous art, adding another vivid dimension to the magic of the book.  In Goblin Fruit, Kizzy is so consumed by longingthat she is drawn into a kiss whose price may be more than she can afford to pay.  In Spicy Little Curses Such as These, Anamique, cursed at birth to kill with the sound of her voice, must decide if love is worth risking everything for.  And in Hatchling, Esme learns the shocking secret of her mother’s past and her own true identity. Taylor’s language is beautiful, lush and rich, and demands to be read slowly so that every word can be savored.  Lips Touch is like goblinfruit, tantalizing and delicious, each taste leaving the reader desperately hungry for more.

Sacred Scars (A Resurrection of Magic, Book 2)
by Kathleen Duey
Nominated by: Jenn R

As with its predecessor, Skin Hunger, Sacred Scars tells two stories,separated by many years and yet linked together.  The story of the founding of the Limori Academy of magic--and a tragic yet resilient young woman named Sadima--connects in surprising ways with the parallel story of Hahp and his fellow students at the Academy generations later.  The attention to detail is amazing, and the characters real and poignant.  Sacred Scars is deep, dark and intense,and immersive in a way that lingers in the mind long after turning the final page.
--Sheila Ruth

Tiger Moon
by Antonia Michaelis
Nominated by: Carolyn Dooman

Set in the 1900’s, Tiger Moon is a lyrical South Asian fairytale which invites readers to a front row seat with a masterful storyteller.Colonial history, Hindu religion and mythology all play their part in this sweeping tale narrated by Raka, a new bride who is waiting for her execution at the hands of her husband.  Like the Arabian Nights tales, Raka’s sweeping epic is told to pass the time, and includes elements of the fantastic and the realistic, relying on a talking tiger, a 16-year-old thief "with a conscience" and the kidnapped daughter of the god, Krishna, to explore themes of fate, change and free will.  Translated from German, and described as both "playful" and "magical" by our panelists, Tiger Moon offers readers a chance to indulge in the richness of a different culture and go beyond the boundaries of the ordinary.
--Tanita S. Davis

See the finalists in all the categories on the Cybils site.

A big thank you to my fellow committee members. I had a blast serving on the committee with you, discussing everything from teen appeal to inclusiveness, and arguing the merits of our favorite books. We mostly avoided the bloodbath that we'd feared, but I think we needed an arena to hash out the Girl in the Arena discussions alone. You are a terrific, intelligent, fun group of people, and I hope that we can all get together in a café sometime and chat about books and life!

These were the committee members for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction:
Steve Berman, Guys Lit Wire
Gwenda Bond, Shaken & Stirred
Tanita S. Davis, Finding Wonderland
Nettle, The Muse, Amused
Sheila Ruth (that's me)
Angie Thompson, Angieville
Samantha Wheat, Twisted Quill

Now the books are in the hands of the Round 2 panelists, who have the difficult job of choosing a winner in each category. Winners will be announced on February 14 and will be posted on the Cybils blog.

Cybils Finalists: Middle-Grade Fantasy & Science Fiction

I'm probably the last person to post these, but in case you missed them, here's the fabulous list of Middle-Grade finalists in the Fantasy & Science Fiction category:

11 Birthdays
by Wendy Mass
Nominated by: Maggi Idzikowski

Amanda's 11th birthday is the worst ever, and when she wakes up the next morning, she discovers that she and her ex-friend Leo are doomed to repeat the same day over and over--and over!  Amanda and Leo's attempts to live the day the "right" way to break the spell are funny, entertaining, and absolutely believable, whether they are ditching school or auditioning for a rock band.  This is a deliciously fresh look at how making small changes in your life--or even in one day--can have big consequences, both ordinary and magical.
--Eva Mitnick

Dreamdark: Silksinger (Faeries of Dreamdark)
by Laini Taylor
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Melissa

The Dreamdark series, by National Book Award nominee Laini Taylor, opens a window on a world of fierce winged faeries determined to restore their race to its former glory.  In Silksinger, Maggie Windwitch, Whisper Silksinger and their motley allies are driven to reach beyond their abilities to guard the sleeping Djinn Azazel from a host of conniving characters and gruesome devils.  On panoramic display in Silksinger are Taylor’s gifts for rich language and imagery, suspenseful plotting, and intricate world-building.  Even as readers thrill with vertigo while flying alongside Maggie and her crow brothers, they will feel secure in this master storyteller’s hands.
--Brian Jung

Farwalker's Quest, The
by Joni Sensel
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Joan Stradling

Ariel finds a telling dart, an artifact that hasn't been in use for hundreds of years and carries a message that only a specific recipient can read.  That sends her on an adventure to see who could have sent such a message and why this messaging system has started back up.  Farwalker's Quest takes readers on a journey that is filled with many thoroughly developed characters.  Joni Sensel weaves an enchanting story that is easily remembered by readers long after the story is done.
--Cindy Hannikman

Odd and the Frost Giants
by Neil Gaiman
Nominated by: Susan the Librarian Pirate

In a village in ancient Norway, winter isn’t ending, and when Odd--a fatherless boy with an injured leg and an infuriating smile--encounters a fox, a bear, and an eagle in the forest, he finds out why.  The animals are gods exiled from the city of Asgard by a Frost Giant, and Odd takes on the task of defeating him.  How he does so is surprising and satisfying, one of many lasting pleasures in this short novel by Neil Gaiman.  We loved the inventive use of Norse mythology, the humorous bickering of the gods trapped in their animal forms, and, of course, cheerful and clever Odd himself.  It’s a story beautifully told (and illustrated, by Brett Helquist), perfect for reading alone or reading aloud: quite simply, it shines.
--Anamaria Anderson

Prince of Fenway Park, The
by Julianna Baggott
Nominated by: Doret

When 12-year-old Oscar Egg discovers his dad's secret life as a half-human, half-fairy living a magical existence under Fenway Park, he decides it's his duty to break the spell that has cursed the baseball stadium.  He gets a little help from Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, among others.  The secret and seedy underbelly of Fenway Park, with all its magical creatures wearing Red Sox caps, has a compelling atmosphere that pulls readers right into the story and has them rooting for Oscar and the Red Sox.  Not just for baseball fans, this fantasy combines Pookas, hot dogs, Banshees, and home-runs into an exciting and unusual adventure for all readers.
--Eva Mitnick

Serial Garden, The: The Complete Armitage Family Stories (Junior Library Guild Selection)
by Joan Aiken
Big Mouth House
Nominated by: Charlotte

The Serial Garden is a collection of twenty-four stories about the magical adventures of two very likable English children, Mark and Harriet Armitage. The stories are a brilliant mix of the ordinary and the fantastical--in the world of the Armitage family, the mundane concerns of English village life are mixed seamlessly with witches, druids, unicorns, enchanted gardens, and much, much more.  At times hilariously funny, at times surprisingly poignant, this book is perfect for any child or grown-up looking for delightfully extraordinary fantasy.  Aiken was a tremendously creative writer, and these stories are some of her most imaginative and skillful writing.
--Charlotte Taylor

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown
Nominated by: EM

Prompted by her father’s fantastical stories and by an encounter with a talking goldfish, Minli sets off on a quixotic search for the Never Ending Mountain where she will ask the Old Man on the Moon to change her parents’ dreary lives.  Woven into Minli’s journey are evocative folktales, each which could stand perfectly well on its own, but which beautifully resonate when brought together within Minli’s quest.  Simply told, yet intricately developed, Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is finally a story about believing in stories and how that belief can alter ones fate.
--Brian Jung

Congratulations to the authors, illustrators, and publishers of the finalists, and a huge thank you to the dedicated panelists, who worked so hard reading & discussing the nominated books, and making the difficult choices to select this group of finalists:

Anamaria Anderson, bookstogether
Cindy Hannikman, Fantasy Book Critic
Brian Jung, Critique de Mr. Chompchomp
Eva Mitnick, Eva's Book Addiction
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

A Peep

I'm sorry that you didn't hear so much as a peep from me in December. Between the intense reading as a panelist for the Cybils - I read 48 of the 134 nominees in the Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction category - and some unexpected personal issues that took up a lot of time, I just didn't have any extra time, and this blog is one of the things that fell by the wayside. I hope that things are getting back to normal (although I'm currently fighting a cold), so here's a peep from me, and I hope to be back to posting more frequently. I have a lot of Cybils books that I want to review, but time will tell how many I actually get posted.