Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 Colorado Children's Book Awards

I frequently complain that the Newbery Award is often given to a book that a child would not willingly read. That’s why I like the Colorado Children’s Book Awards. The books are nominated by children and the winner is selected by children. This year my students will once again participate in the voting.

The 2009 Nominees are:

Junior Books
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Gossamer by Lois Lowry
Heat by Mike Lupica
Homework Machine by Dan Gutman
May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson
No Talking by Andrew Clements
Peak by Roland Smith
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Picture Books
Bad Dog, Marley! by John Grogan
Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O'Connor
Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont
Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend
Poor Puppy by Nick Bruel
Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett

Of the 20 books I’ve read all but Peak by Smith. I hope to have a chance to read it before the students vote. I’m almost glad I can’t vote. The only Junior Book I didn’t like was May Bird and the Ever After. I really had to force myself to finish the book. Not only was it confusing, it was a very slow read and somewhat scary for elementary students. The whole time I was reading it, I kept asking myself what child would read this book, much less the other books in the series. (Yes, it’s a series and the first book ends rather abruptly.) Then I reminded myself, that enough Colorado students liked the book enough to get it nominated. What do I know? If pressed to pick one of the Junior Books, I would most likely go with Clementine or No Talking – maybe The Homework Machine. However, based on my students’ reactions, I’m guessing that Diary of a Wimpy Kid will come out on top.
As for the picture books, I love the illustrations in Jan Brett’s Three Snow Bears and Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy. I’ll let you know what my students think.

In a couple of weeks, ALA will announce the Newbery and Caldecott Winners. I do not even have a clue about which book might be awarded the Newbery, but I’m hoping Kevin Henkes’ Old Bear will take home the Caldecott.

What books do you consider award winners?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Inkheart Series

Inkheart, Inkspell, Inkdeath - all by Cornelia Funke

I love this series, though my relationship with it has been rather frustrating. I must admit when I first read Inkheart I was a little taken aback by how violent some of the characters were. I thought it was a little much for a children’s book. Obviously, this was before my time as a teen librarian and I was still thinking of the young innocent books written by Beverly Cleary. When Inkspell was released, I was thrilled – until I got to the end and realized that story still wasn’t finished. Somehow, I had missed that it was a trilogy. You would think knowing there was more to the story would have made such a bookworm as myself very happy. It just caught me by surprise. Then the American release of the final book, Inkdeath, was delayed and I seriously considered learning how to read German just so I could continue the story.

This is one of those stories that reaches out and pulls the reader in . . .

Actually, that’s just what happens in the story. Characters are read into and out of the story. In light of that you might not want to listen to the book on audio. Just imagine driving down the street listening to the story and all of a sudden in you are literally in a different world and who knows what happens to your car. What a talent to have – to have a voice that carries people away to other worlds. Still, my dream is to have the gift of weaving the tale that creates that world. Ok, I won’t start getting maudlin about my unrealized dreams of being a writer.

This series has everything that children and young adults enjoy in a fantasy: magical creatures, rogues with a heart of gold; good versus evil and plenty of adventure.

It takes a while to get into the final installment in this series. But it's worth it. What I like is that Funke did not take the easy way to get to the ending. And though I've never been talented enough to write a book (at least not since the 8th grade – yeah we’re back to that dream again), I think many authors must have the same challenge that Fenoglio experiences - a story that keeps trying to take over its own destiny. It’s that uncertainty about where the story is headed that keeps the reader on the edge of the seat. You’re hopeful about the ending, but you’re never quite sure. I won’t tell you – you have to read it for yourself.

And yes, the movie version of Inkheart will be released on January 23rd. Though I’ll probably regret it, I plan to be there in the theater with hundreds of eager young readers. I can’t help it. I want to see how my mind movie compares to the Hollywood version.