Thursday, December 18, 2008

Final lists for Mock Awards available

Reposted from my blog:

The BCCLS Youth Services Committee has been very hard at work this year, reading and making lists of the books they deem most worthy of appearing in the finals for our Mock Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz Awards. The lists are final and available to all in several places.

First, you can see our flyer for the event (all are welcome!), which lists all of our favorites.

Second, you can visit BCCLSVisor, where the lists appear individually.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Caldecott contenders for 2009

I noticed that Richie Partington has posted his "Best of 2008" picks. His list includes several picture books, and because Richie is serving on the 2009 Caldecott, I would say that his picture book selections are ones to check out.

The BCCLS Mock Caldecott shortlist is here.

Archives of Mock Awards chats available

For those who were unable to attend our three online Mock Awards chats, don't worry! You can read the chat transcripts here: BCCLS 2009 Mock Awards Chats, November 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mock Awards chats November 12, 13, 14

This week and next, we're hosting the BCCLS Mock Awards online chats. Everyone is invited to attend regardless of whether you work in a BCCLS library.

November 12 (Wednesday) is the Mock Caldecott chat at 11 a.m. To see the committee's current favorites for the Mock Caldecott, go to

November 13 (Thursday) is the Mock Newbery chat, also at 11 a.m. To see the
committee's current favorites for the Mock Newbery, go to

November 18 (Tuesday) is the Mock Printz chat at...yes, 11 a.m.! To see the committee's current favorites for the Mock Printz, go to

To enter the chat, just go to when the chat you want to attend is scheduled.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mock Printz: Eon, Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Title:Eon, Dragoneye Reborn
Author:Alison Goodman
Starred Review: PW,9/29/08
Eon was the weakest candidate to be chosen as a dragoneye, mostly because of her lameness. However, the gambling rings who set the odds at 1000:1 would have given her far worse odds especially had they known she was a girl, not a boy. But chosen she is, in a twist of fate, by the Mirror Dragon, absent from the competition for 500 years. This dramatic and unexpected outcome shifts the entire power structure of their world. So begins the intricate and clever fantasy dealing with gender identity, sexuality, in addition to palace intrigue, magical dragons and adventures galore. This is a long book that I wished would never end and I am impatiently waiting for the sequel. Sharyn November said that Penguin intends to publish it with a big splash. This book needs little help. It was one of my favorites and I think it will be a big hit.

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mock Printz: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper towns by John Green
ISBN: 9780525478188

Plot: The book opens as nine year old Quentin and Margo Roth Spiegelman (one of those names you say all in one breath) find a dead body in the park. Then jumps to senior year of high school, where Quentin, now called Q, is still enthralled by Margo Roth Spiegelman, who has become one of the 'in' crowd. She dates the right guy, hangs out with the right people, and doesn't speak to Q, though he suspects that she's the one who keeps the bullies from leaning too hard on him and his band geek friends. Then one night about a month before graduation Margo show up outside Q's window and leads him on a night full of pranks before disappearing and leaving only a few mysterious clues, an upset best friend, and angry parents who seem just as happy she's gone.
Q with the help of his two best friends and Margo's best friend follow the clues a bit farther than Margo expected and skip graduation for a wild road trip from central FL to central NY state in just a little over a day.

Thoughts: I wasn't a huge fan of Green's before reading this. I admired what he did in Katherine's and in Looking for Alaska, but they were by no means favorites of mine. I've read reviews and comments where readers (both professional and teen) ask why Green keeps writing books about the 'ideal' girl who teaches the boy something and if all the books aren't just rifts on the same story. I don't get how they can say that after reading _Paper towns_ though. I would argue that Margo doesn't teach Q a thing. Oh, yeah she takes him out and gets him to loosen up on their night of pranks and he feel drawn to the clues she left, but he learns so much more once she's gone. He learns it from the journey, from looking into the clue, from the process of learning that the Margo he saw wasn't real. Ultimately, he learns about himself from himself and his friends NOT Margo. And Margo, as little as you see her, learns from Quentin. The reader doesn't find this out until the end of the novel, but Margo learns that the person she thought of as weak and cowardly, was probably the bravest and most daring person she never knew.
This novel is at turns serious and thoughtful and at others it's hilariously funny. In the end, these two teenagers learn that the people who were the corner stone of their lives and definitions of themselves are real people and had very little in common with who they thought they were.

Review by Latricia Markle

Mock Printz: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3931-0
Candlewick Press

Todd Hewitt is the last boy is Prentisstown. All the men in Prentisstown can hear the thoughts of other men and animals. These thoughts are called Noise. As Todd nears his 13th birthday, he learns that even when you can hear other men's thoughts that there can be secrets. His adopted fathers send him running for his life from power-hungry Prentiss and his men. Once he's on the run, Todd finds the first girl he's ever seen, Viola. Viola crashed in a nearby swamp and join Todd on the run from the men of Prentisstown. On their travels Todd learns that everything he knew was a lie and now he and Viola are racing to warn the new settlers of the dangers that lurk on New World.

If your looking for a fantasy where the main character speaks with intelligent animals and good always wins, don't look here! Ness begins the book by slapping the reader in the face with the reality of hearing a dog talk and that's about the nicest reality check you get. That's not to say there are not good people or good moments in this book, but it is stark cold reality with no punches held back. The reality is not ours obviously, but it sucks the reader in and doesn't let go.
When Viola enters the story, she is the first silence that Todd has ever known. To extend that to the readers, she doesn't speak and so she remains as silent a blank to the read as she does to Todd. As Todd slowly gets used to reading her face and body language, she slowly begins to speak more opening herself as slowly to the reader as she does to Todd. Ness, also, strategically keeps ideas and images which Todd doesn't want to believe from the reader so that even in a first person narrative there are secrets as there were secrets even though everyone could read other's Noise. At times this drove me nuts, because I wanted him to give up the good and let the 'sad history' of Prentisstown out into the light, but overall that's a minor quibble with a very well written opening to what I'm guessing will be a trilogy and an excellent coming of age story.

Review by Latricia Markle

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mock Printz: The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Title: The Boy Who Dared
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-439-68013-4
Starred review in: PW, nominated to BBYA

From my blog:

Helmuth Guddat Huebneris eight years old when Hitler comes to power, but even at eight Helmuth can see that not everything Hitler does is really in the best interests of Germany. Hitler may talk about protecting Germans, but Helmuth knows he is losing freedoms and being told what to think about non-Germans. He fights with his mother's boyfriend, a Nazi who believes that Hitler is in the right. He also defies his teachers, who want him to write pro-Nazi school papers. Because of his views on humanity and equality, Helmuth is encouraged to stay silent. But as we know, quiet people don't have books written about their lives. Using information he hears from the BBC on a black-market radio, Helmuth begins distributing flyers that speak against the Nazi party and its propaganda. He is eventually caught by the Nazis and put on trial. Even with the knowledge that he is facing imprisonment, maybe execution, Helmuth refuses to stay silent or allow others to take his punishment.

The book is... a fast yet thought-provoking read, and I am always supportive of books that show young readers why defiance in an oppressive time (WWII or not) is never as easy as it looks. Bartoletti keeps the focus on Helmuth tight and shows the reader German history really well without going off into history data-dumping tangents. We see the struggle Helmuth must fight between speaking for what he believes is right and the knowledge that doing so could get him sent to prison, or worse. Bartoletti makes us understand why even those who did not believe in the Nazi ideals joined the party and fought in the war.

With all this, do I think it's a Printz book? As much as I liked it, I'm leaning toward no. I would definitely buy it for my library, booktalk it, and perhaps even use it in a book discussion group. It's nominated to BBYA and is quite deserving of a spot on that list. I just don't think that it terms of "literary" it's in the same field as some of my other favorites.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mock Printz: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Title: Pretty Monsters
Author: Kelly Link
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 9780670010905
Starred review in: Kirkus, Booklist, PW

I'm not big into speculative fiction but I do love short stories and this book and Kelly Link herself are getting tons of buzz, deservedly so. This is Link's first all-YA collection. Each of the stories focus on a teenager in an offbeat situation. The opening story, "The Wrong Grave," is about a boy who wants to dig up his girlfriend because he buried some of his poetry with her and he wants it back. Being in fandom, I also enjoyed "Magic for Beginners," where a group of teens form a bond around a TV show. These stories are definitely a step off reality, but that's what makes them stand out. The language in the stories is simple yet elegant. Many of the stories are in first-person but feel as though they're in third, a technique I find fascinating because it makes me question my belief that all first-person narrators are inherently unreliable.

I definitely feel that this book is high on the "literary quality" scale, and it's one I'd fight for at the Mock Printz.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mock Printz: How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

Title: How to Build a House
Author: Dana Reinhardt
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books, 2008
ISBN: 9780375844539
Starred Review: SLJ, PW

The family seventeen year-old Harper Evan’s been a part of since age 6, fractures when her father and stepmother, Jane, divorce. Formerly close (currently angry) ex-stepsister Tess hasn’t only left their shared bedroom- she’s left Harper's life. The limited interaction between them is on Tess’ terms. Half-brother Cole lives with Jane and visits the glum, emptier Harper house for weekends with Dad, Harper and the family dog. To hide from the pain and feelings of abandonment, Harper sleeps with childhood best friend, the geek-to-sheik and apathetic (unless someone else is interested), Gabriel. Their relationship deteriorates further. Harper knowingly tries to escape LA, these situations and her metaphorically broken home by volunteering to spend her summer in Tennessee, rebuilding the home of a family who’d lost theirs to a devastating tornado. With no prior building experience and under the leadership of Zen-like Linus, Harper learns the power of the circular saw. Living out of a motel with a group of other altruistic teens from all over the country means new friendships (some probably more lasting than others). Their shared experiences being part of the volunteer program and the fun they have flouting some of the rules proves good for Harper. Romance blossoms with southern sweetheart and Bailey local, Teddy. His love and affection also helps Harper heal her house while she’s hammering shingles and putting the finishing touches on his new one.

The combination of physically repairing an actual brick and mortar home and healing the home people build in the lives of those they love worked as a nice plot device. Harper can be a bit preachy and a stickler for the rules (not necessarily bad mind you) but she's also witty and wounded and a real protagonist. Her voice is genuine and honest. Reinhardt successfully alternates between Harper's "Home" (the past in Los Angeles) and "Here" (present in Bailey, TN) and doesn't reveal too much too soon. The complicated relationship Harper finds herself in with the new hostile Tess, the bittersweet one she has with Teddy (is this just a summer fling?) and even the confusing, undefined (and aggravating) one she has with Gabriel are realistic as well. The premise of volunteering and rebuilding after a disaster is timely and relevant and the issues Harper thinks about (i.e. Global Warming) are never far from most of our minds these days. All and all, I thought this was a good book and reccommend people purchase a copy for their libraries. Do I think it could bump anything on our current "favorites" list--possibly. But there are others I'd root for more.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mock Printz: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-439-02348-1

Publication date set for October, 2008

From my blog:

The plot: In the ruins of a place that used to be called North America, the country of Panem has emerged. Panem consists of a Capitol and twelve districts, each with a different economical focus. At one time, there was a thirteenth district, but it was destroyed by the Panem government when its people tried to rebel. Seventy-four years ago, the Capitol began the Hunger Games, in which one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen from each district, called tributes, are sent to the Capitol each year to compete in a fight to the death. The winner's district receives food, which is in scarce supply in many of the districts, and money and great honor.

The protagonist, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, took over the role of family provider when her father died in a mine explosion. She and her mother and younger sister, the delicate and sensitive Prim, live on the Seam, a poor area of District 12. When the book opens, it is reaping day, the day the tributes from each district are chosen. In some districts, being chosen on reaping day is an honor, but not in District 12, which has only had two Hunger Games winners in 74 years. When Prim is chosen, Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

Katniss is sure her participation in the Hunger Games is a death sentence. After all, there are tributes from other, richer districts that have been trained all their lives for these games. She's one of the smallest competitors, the least educated, the poorest, the hungriest. But she's also got a few things the other competitors don't.

Why you'll love it: Not a single word is wasted in this book. Although Collins could easily have gone on at length about the state of Panem, the outdoor arena, and Katniss's home, she doesn't. She gives us just enough to work with. The readers know the setting is dystopian, even dire, without being drowned in details of the horror. Katniss has a bitter edge to her and is always sympathetic if not always likable. There's a well-paced romance storyline as well, and everyone I know who's read this book is excited to know where it's going in book 2. (The Hunger Games is the opening of a trilogy.) Even better? The ending leads us to believe that book 2 could go anywhere. It could pick up where book 1 left off, or take place 10 years in the future, or be told from a different character's perspective. Katniss's world is so wide, but Collins uses first-person narration very, very well so we only get to see what matters in Katniss's immediate moments. The possibilities are near endless. By using just the right descriptors, Collins puts you right into the Games, complete with evil politicking and near-death experiences for Katniss. It is frightening on so many levels, and just as brilliant.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mock Printz: Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Author:Margaret Peterson Haddix
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Three teens, one Jewish, one Italian and one wealthy, all meet each other during a strike at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Yetta speaks Yiddish, Bella speaks only Italian and Jane doesn't know how to do her own hair because servants do it for her. It is 1910 and these young women are living when all women are just property with no legal rights. As a reader, you get to know their stories-- Yetta who left her parent behind in Russia, Belaa, who can't read or write and does not know that her family all died back in Italy and then there is Jane, who had the saddest story since her mother died and her father is mainly interested in his business. Their lives intersect in this one period of time and the fire ultimately ties them together permanently. I loved this book !!! The characters are so enjoyable and the book was great. There are some brief historical notes in the back about the union, the fire and the suffragette movement. It was very touching and memorable.

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Mock Printz: Madapple by Christina Meldrum

Title: Madapple
Author:Christina Meldrum
Madapple is strange and exotic, perhaps a little too strange and exotic. Aslaug lives a highly isolated life with her mom, a fundamentalist and herbologist. Aslaug is home-schooled, spending all of her time with her mother. When her mother unexpectedly dies, Aslaug is exposed to society when she is accused of poisoning her mother. When authorities perform the autopsy, they learn the woman had cancer. That first brush with the law sets up the main suspense of the book. Aslaug searches for her father, even though her mom claims it was a virgin birth. Aslaug discovers her real family composed of two cousins and an aunt/pastor. From them she learns more of her origins. Eventually she gets pregnant herself by her cousin and "herbs" snuck into her food. The dream-like quality of the time with her cousin makes her think that her pregnancy is virginal also. Eventually she is accused of killing her other cousin and aunt. To cite the occurrences in this book sound very far-fetched but the book is written so well and paced so beautifully that it is captivating. The structure of the book is alternating chapters between the murder trial and the story behind it. This framework makes it very suspenseful and the writing itself is good. Ultimately the book is about incest and drugs and sets up a conflict between religion/mythology and then plays around with different realities. Who knew all this could exist in a Young Adult novel. Although I enjoyed the book while reading it, the values are odd, the content is peculiar....There is a lot of Danish mythology...

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mock Caldecott: Notes from the committee

The Mock Caldecott committee is reading a ton of picture books. Here are some notes on what they've read:

Tadpole Rex
by Kurt Cyrus (9780152059903) is the book we all thought was truly remarkable. The illustrations seem to vibrate and want to jump off the page. Cyrus uses scratch board and digital colorization so well the claws look like they could leave a mark. Unique and exciting.

We Are the Ship
by Kadir Nelson (9780786808328). The vivid illustrations are from oil paintings done by the author. You can feel the respect and admiration he feels for his subject and lets their strength and dignity shine through his art.

Scoot! by Cathryn Falwell (9780061288821). The lives and adventures of "six silent turtles" is brought vividly to life by the use of paper collages. The blues and greens capture the lush world the creatures inhabit and there is a "Printing Textures" page for readers with information on creating different effects by the use of found things such as bubble wrap or a broccoli flower. Very lively and fun use of collage. Illustrated by the author.

Wave by Suzy Lee (9780811859240). This is a wordless picture book, illustrated by the author in charcoal and acrylics. There are only two characters, the ocean and the little girl and very few colors but all the playfulness and excitement of a child's first encounter with the ocean is evident.

I'm Bad! by Kate McMullan, illustrations by Jim McMullan (9780061229718). This is by far the book that had the whole group saying "I love this book." The review in SLJ calls it a "wonderfully illustrated psychedelic spread" and it is. The greens, oranges and violets are as bold and vibrant as the T-rex himself.

Mock Printz:Bewitching Season

Title: Bewitching Season
Author: Marissa Doyle
Publisher: Holt, 2008
Starred Reviews:Booklist, Kirkus
This historical fiction taking place in 1837 London involves twin sisters who are about to make their debut with the queen. Just when they arrive in London for the beginning of the social season, their governess is kidnapped. Add to this mystery that the girls have magical powers and the kidnapped governess is their magical mentor. As the twins become the toast of the town and fall in and out of love, their suitors, families, the governess' family all become enmeshed with a plot to overthrow a young Princess Victoria. The book is fun with good characters you care about and a storyline that crosses genres. Unfortunately, the book got a bit overlong for me and I wish she had a better editor. The end leaves it obvious that a sequel is following. Even though it has gotten two stars and I did like it, I would not consider it a top contender for the Printz.

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mock Printz: Night Road by A.M. Jenkins

Title: Night Road
Author: A.M. Jenkins
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 978006054605
YALSA Best Books Nomination 2009

Cole isn’t a vampire. He and others just like him prefer the term “heme”, short for hemovore. At the start of Night Road, Cole is summoned to The Building, the New York headquarters of The Colony (organized heme community). A building with covered windows, company and conversation not to mention a willing supply of omnis (that would be us humans) offering veins, arteries and anything else the hemes desire. Reluctant to be there but unable to shrug off his friend Johnny’s request, Cole reunites with faces of old. When a new heme, an “accident” named Gordon, takes a bit too much from an omni, Cole learns the reason of his visit. Johnny, who runs the building (possibly the Colony) needs his help. Gordon must learn the heme basics, separate lore from reality and realize the responsibilies and limitations. A painful lesson Cole thought he’d learned himself a long long time ago. One tied to what’s housed in the Building’s fifth floor and the reason why Cole prefers life on the lonely road to the lazy, spoiled, slightly crowded atmosphere of the Building. Cole and his friend, the ever optimistic and kind, Sandor (responsible for turning Gordon) will take the young newbie on the road. The idea being Gordon will have the benefit of Sandor’s warm heart and Cole’s cool head. A string of motels, bars, battles of will, heme lessons on feeding techniques, avoiding sunlight, strays, immortality and personal experiences make this road trip a little flip-side Supernatural (Dean & Sam) and a little Kerouac (Dean and Sal). Cole might have started out as the teacher but by book’s end he learns just as much from his student as Gordon learns from him.

Admittedly, I’m a big vampire-novel fan girl. That said, I can be particular about the genre. This book passed muster. The noir-ish tone. The clear pictured settings of the seedy motels. All of that worked for me. What heme lore Jenkins’ imparts also gels nicely. But the strongest element is characterization; especially Cole and Gordon, be it as individuals or when they interact on the road. Gordon moves from petulant frat boy and spoiled heme to a more responsible, controlled one. Cole, who’s closed himself off from nearly everyone, reluctantly allows a new connection, loses some of his own footing for the first time in a while. Teaching Gordon is a sort of positive penance for Cole for a past mistake and Cole is able to work through issues he’s been harboring for over a century. Gordon is overtly vulnerable. Cole just hides it better.
The pace of Jenkins’ revelations is teasing and bubbles to the surface in a way that gives readers hints but taunts Cole like submerged memories.
All in all Jenkins doesn’t disappoint and people who appreciate her other supernatural tales (Repossessed and Beating Heart) will enjoy her very human hemes. I’m hoping for more from this traveling trio.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mock Printz (or Newbery): Savvy by Ingrid Law

Title: Savvy
Author: Ingrid Law
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780803733060
Review: PW

Plot: A savvy is a special gift that every member of Mibs (Mississippi) Beaumont's family gets on their 13th birthday. Everyone except Poppa, of course, because he married into the family. One of her brothers and control electricity and another can cause rain and wind to blow when he gets upset. This is why Mibs will be home schooled after her thirteenth birthday and Mibs is looking forward to it. She can't wait to have a great birthday with her perfect mother (her savvy is doing everything perfectly) and family, but a bad accident puts her beloved Poppa in the hospital the day before her birthday. Mibs is positive her savvy will be something that can help her Poppa. She believes so strongly that on her birthday she skips out of the party the preacher's wife organized for her and stows away on a bible seller's bus to get to her Poppa. One of her brother's and the preacher's children end up stowed away on the bus with her. In some fairly unbelievable plotting (but hey if you'll believe in savvys why not in weak adults), the kids convince the bus driver to keep them on the bus and not report back to either set of parents. It's a wild ride that covers almost two whole days because the driver can't miss any more appointments selling bibles, pink bibles. The ride includes: rescuing a waitress with a dead car, a confrontation with her nasty manager, seeing a passed out homeless man, a fake call home, an almost arrest by state troopers, and some secrets revealed...including Poppa does have a savvy of his very own.

A really cute fantasy that is perfect for the tween age. The main character is part of a family where all the members (except Poppa) has a savvy (a special gift for doing something special) – it should be noted that while many would call these talents magic, the author makes a point of the grandfather expressing that the family does not consider them magic or particularly different from 'regular' people. At it's heart, this book is about a girl finding something special in herself and confronting the fact that her parents are real people and invincible or perfect. Some of the dialect in the book grated on me a bit and a boy named Fish (no mention that it was a nickname) made me twitch, but the story held my interest and the ending satisfied me. A balance of happy ever after and reality. Some of the plotting may have stretch believability to the limit, but that is a small complaint about a really good story.

Mock Printz: The Fold by An Na

Title: The Fold
Author: An Na
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0-399-24276-2

A Korean American teen, Joyce, is offered plastic surgery on her eyes by an Aunt who has come into some lottery money. Joyce has always been the plain sister and is tempted by the surgery which would give her eyes 'the fold'. Joyce debates the idea of getting the surgery with her best friend, Sam (a boy who lives in her apartment building who struggles with severe acne), and her older sister who has always been the pretty and smart one.
Joyce's aunt railroads her a bit and makes appointments with a plastic surgeon before Joyce has made up her mind. Her sister thinks she's insane to even consider it, her best friend thinks that she is insane NOT to do it, and Sam won't weigh in - but it's clear he's been crushing on Joyce. At the surgeon's office, Joyce gets some much needed impartial information and gets to see what a difference the surgery will make. The doctor glues her eyelids into place as they would look after the surgery.
The normal teen dramas happen: Joyce's new eyes are a hit and she's rocketed to the in crowd for an afternoon at the beach and her best friend feels left out, she disses Sam, realizes that the 'in' group isn't all it's cracked up to be, learns there is more to her sister than pretty, and eventually makes up with her friend and Sam and her sister.

Even now after at least a week of thinking about this book I am still unsure of it. There are times in this book that the stereotypes drove me nuts. But as soon as I was about to be truly fed up, Na would lift the curtain and give a peek behind the curtain. Whether it was the pretty and perfect sister who was studying to be a doctor (though it sounded from the text more like a therapist than a doctor), who was hiding the fact that she was 'in love' with her best friend and that she was afraid to come out of the close because she would embarrass the family, or the bossy aunt who everyone thinks is addicted to plastic surgery because she's vain and has had many American husbands, who reveals to Joyce what happened when her first husband brought her to America and how she was treated. The biggest twist was at the end....

SPOILER - for any who care

Joyce decides at the very last second not to do the surgery, but she keeps the glue the doctor gives her because sometimes she might want an adventure. She asks her aunt to give the money to her friend to help her get clear braces instead of regular metal ones. So does substance win over beauty? A very intriguing book which will definitely get readers talking about issues of beauty, family, stereotypes, and lots more.

Mock Printz: Wake

Title: Wake
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4169-5357-9
Review - Nominated for BBYA 2009

Plot: Ever since she was eight years old, high school student Janie Hannagan has been uncontrollably drawn into other people's dreams, but it is not until she befriends an elderly nursing home patient and becomes involved with an enigmatic fellow-student that she discovers her true power. Working in the nursing home is a way for Janie to save for college, but sometimes it's torture when the residents pull her into dreams of wartime and it's getting worse. School isn't any better, when classmates regularly nod off in class or in study hall and drag Janie with them. You see Janie can't escape the dreams and when she's dragged in she often passes out or appears to be having a seizure. After one incident at work, she's forced to go to a doctor and he begs her not to drive. She, of course, ignores him and buys a car. On the way home one night, she's dragged into a boy's nightmare and in time she find out it's the cute skater guy who came to her rescue the spring before. As he and Janie become friends and more the lies and complications mount until it climaxes in an unbelievable, but happy ending for the main characters.

This book was much deeper than I thought it was going to be. Not mentioned in the cover flap info is the alcoholic mother (Janie's), the dead brother (her best friend's), the abusive father (the boy's) and the drug dealing at parties. It mixes fantasy, teen romance, and police drama complete with rich bad girls and teen drama. Sex is talked about but there is nothing explicit and while some of the secrets and consistences just seem too unreal the story was a much better read than anticipated. From the ending of this book, I'm betting that it's the start of a series.

Another book that I doubt will remain on my list for Printz conteder through the whole year, but it has a place for now. And it might suprise me again.

Mock Printz: Lock and Key by Dessen

Title: Lock and Key
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking, 2008

Plot: Ruby is 'rescued' from living by herself after her mother takes off. At first Ruby resents being told she can't live on her own and believes that she doesn't need anyone, especially not the sister who left for school 10 yrs ago and didn't want Ruby or her mom in her life anymore. But with time Ruby comes to realize that not everything in the past is what she thought it was and that having ties to people who care about you isn't the worst thing in the world. Just about when she's figuring this our she discovers one of her new found friends has a dangerous secret. Ruby has to decide if she wants to get involved or stay separate.

In this coming of age story, Ruby doesn't have to battle to survive in the wilderness or confront a horrible secret in her part, her coming of age is much quieter. Ruby has to admit at least to herself that she DID need rescuing and that her mother had lied to her about many different things. Her moment of truth is when she decides to get involved in other people's lives, but this doesn't happen in one crystal clear shining moment. It happens slowly as different people in her life begin to matter to her. It also isn't smooth sailing, Ruby makes mistakes though the one time her sister and brother-in-law tell her she has to deal with the consequences it doesn't really happen. They ground her and put on restrictions, however as the story continues she doesn't seem all that restricted. She still hangs with her friends and going with her friend/romantic interest while he runs errands for his father's business. So I'm not sure you can say she lives with the consequences of her mistakes.
Overall, I really liked the book with just a few minor points that I thought wrapped up too easily.

Mock Printz (or Newbery?): Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff

Title: eleven
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Publisher: Random House, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-385-73069-3
Star - Nominated for BBYA 2009

It's Sam's eleventh birthday and for some reason he's afraid of eleven. Sam lives with his grandfather above their woodworking shop in a large building which also houses a deli and restaurant both owned by friends of his grandfather. Together the residents of the building have formed a small family. At the start of the story Sam finds an odd locked chest in the attic when he goes searching for his birthday presents. Sticking out of the chest is an old newspaper article with the word missing and a picture of Sam, but the problem is that Sam has trouble reading and can't figure out the rest of the article. A new girl at school and a great teacher, who understands that different kids have different talents, enable Sam to get help. The new girl - Caroline- becomes Sam's best friend and together they work on a school project and solve the mystery of Sam's article.

This book was nominated for best books for teens, but I think it firmly belongs in the younger section. The main characters are just turning eleven and though the mystery starts as interesting, it pretty quickly dissolves into something that could have been solved if either of the kids had thought to say, "Hey, lets ask any one of the adults involved what happened."
I liked the fact that the teachers in the story were good teachers and that Sam's reading problems were written about without tossing out a name or label (dyslexia - usually) and then dismissed as easily overcome, but that's probably the most interesting and worthy thing in the book. It was a good story and a pleasant mystery for kids who don't like anything too scary, but for your die hard mystery fans? They will be disappointed with such an easy non-mystery ending I think.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Title: Sunrise Over Fallujah
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Publisher: Scholastic, 2008
ISBN: 9780439916240
Starred Review: SLJ

The Plot:
After 9/11, Robin "Birdy" Perry disregards his father's wishes to go to college, instead he leaves Harlem and enters service. Birdy has never been in a foreign conflict, but his Uncle Richie has. While Uncle Richie rarely talks about his own experiences to Birdy, Birdy begins to write letters to his uncle to tell him about his experiences in Iraq. The experiences Birdy shares with his unit (and soon friends) escalates from light civil affairs to a full out military operation. The novel concludes with Birdy finally understanding the meaning of "war" and why Uncle Richie was unable to talk about it.

Sunrise Over Fallujah drags you in with its believable dialogue and haunting commentary on the war in Iraq. Myers' characters were wonderfully developed allowing readers to become emotionally attached; whether it be to Birdy, the caring doctor Captain Miller, or bluesy Jonesy. Myers really tried to understand the emotions of a soldier. His characterization of Birdy isn't just a soldier who gets picked for duty, this is a young man who wanted to protect and serve his country, but along the way he grows in his opinions and the reader gets to follow his journey.

I also think Myers' does a wonderful job at bringing a parallel between Robin and his Uncle Richie (who readers will know from the Vietnam War novel, Fallen Angels). Not only does it illustrate a bond in military service, but how regardless of time and era, war leaves a mark.

I enjoyed the book and appreciated its commentary, however I would not say this is in my top three of Prinz selections. My main problem is that Robin is overshadowed by the intense plot and the cast of characters. However this novel is still a moving read and a wonderful look into a very current and realistic issue.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mock Printz: Dingo by Charles de Lint

Title: Dingo
Author: Charles de Lint
Publisher: Firebird
ISBN: 978-0-14-240816-2
Starred Review: Publishers' Weekly
Dingo is an enjoyable, quick read fantasy. Miguel falls in love with a twin sister with amazing abilities to shape-sift into a dingo. The twin meets him when she inadvertently walks into his father's comic book collectible shop. The plot thickens when Miguel starts having dreams of a man who is trapped in a tree and threatens Miguel to bring the girl/dingo to him. This story has a nice father son relationship as well as the traditional bad kid in town who turns out to be not so bad in the end. This is a good read and worth having in a collection but I highly doubt it will be a Printz contender.

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Mock Printz: Spellspam by Alma Alexander

Title: Spellspam
Author: Alma Alexander
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-083958-1
Starred Reviews: Kliatt, March 2008
This fantasy is excellent and my very favorite so far this year... The world is well-thought out, the premise of using the computer as a venue for an alternate world is cleverly pursued and the characters are interestingly developed since Gift of the Unmage, the first book in the Worldweavers series. This second book stands beautifully on its own. Alma Alexander creates a world where spellspam is a play on the word "spell". Some malicious person is sending magic or "spells" through e-mail. Once again Thea, an underestimated seventh child of two seven children displays remarkably original talents as she puzzles out the solutions for her changing world. Dare I say it but this book does remind me of Harry Potter. Thea attends a school for kids who have no magic talents, and with her four other friends, she confronts the mysterious and sometimes playful problems. Because the magic is changing, the adults do not have the answers here. Unlike Harry Potter, it is not so strictly black and white. Thea feels compassion for the villain who turns out to be a literal lost soul. This is a highly imaginative story and I really loved it. Read it and see what you think. Thumbs up and three cheers for Alma Alexander!

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Mock Printz: My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park

Title: My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park
Author: Steve Kluger
Publisher: Dial Books, 2008
ISBN: 9780803732278
Starred Review: SLJ

In this fun romantic comedy, three Brookline (MA) teens share heartwarming, trying and completely hilarious experiences centering on a year in their high school lives. Disarming Anthony Conigliaro “TC” Keller is a big fan of baseball and of the quick-witted new girl Ale’ Perez (a former-diplomat’s daughter seemingly immune to TC’s charms). TC’s incandescent “brother” Augie Hwong comes to the realization he’s gay after falling for classmate Andy, meanwhile supportive family and friends knew before Augie did. The Keller and Hwong clans have merged into a dynamic and loving family where readers will clamor for a seat at their Thanksgiving table. In alternating chapters, the three protagonists tell their story through emails, IMs, homework essay entries, memos and letters (written to TC’s deceased mother, various musical divas and Jacqueline Kennedy). Thrown in the mix are emails to/from/between the adults in their lives, sports articles, playbills and the occasional scathing theater review by Augie’s mother. In the course of this freshman “most excellent” year the teens risk their hearts, make lasting friendships, play ball, face fears, build obscenely large school projects, take the stage, adopt others into their hearts (and homes), realize who they are and what they want, crash Broadway to meet Julie Andrews and (wielding impressive political astuteness) bring baseball back to the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Most Excellent Year is one of those books that left me grinning. The characters, whether main or supporting, are people I wish I knew. The protagonists are bright teens with big hearts and strong loyalties. Apart from having each other, their humor, wit and sometimes surprising maturity all come in handy when they’re faced with heartache, insecurities and other obstacles. I liked Ale’s reluctance to fall into TC’s arms, her gradual realization he was decent guy and they could learn from each other. I also liked how Augie’s coming out was one thing that wasn’t made into a production (and Augie is big on productions). Augie and his family/friends knew the score. They were wondering if his being gay was something that needed to be “announced” (like with some formal decorative card). Or in this more accepting climate and in their supportive homes, if it was about as necessary as TC announcing he was straight and in love with Ale’. Some readers might lose patience with the multi-format narration but most people, teens included, get info from so many different mediums in a single day it might actual draw reluctant readers in. While, admittedly, there are definite elements (i.e. Hucky and Mary Poppins) of the unreal and the “you’re kidding”, it’s all part of the fun. And this book is fun. Besides, what’s wrong in believing in that human-brand magic of friendship and love? Something that doesn’t require a wand, just some trust and well meaning.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mock Printz: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Title: Little Brother
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tor
ISBN: 9780765319852
Starred review in: PW

From my blog:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is the story of Marcus, aka w1n5t0n, who's more or less your average high school geek. He lives in a slightly futuristic San Francisco and loves RPGs, history, hacking his school-issued laptop, and subverting his high school's surveillance systems. His hacking is all in good fun until the day the Bay Bridge is bombed and thousands of people are killed. While trying to flag down some help for his friend Darryl, who is stabbed in the melee that follows the bombing, Marcus is taken into custody and treated as a terrorist. He is released after a few days, but he has no idea what's happened to Darryl. His experience with Homeland Security leads him to put his hacking skills to work on the XNet, an underground network of progressive-thinking geeks who use their modified XBoxes to communicate out of the reach of Homeland Security. San Francisco is now a police state, and Marcus won't stand for it. Working with his fellow hackers (and a cute girl), he is determined to fight for citizens' freedom and find Darryl. With increased paranoia, scary reports on the TV, and a new history teacher who believes in suspending the Bill of Rights, Marcus knows he has to put his net popularity and technical skills towards promoting freedom and liberty for all. Too bad Homeland Security sees him as a threat.

I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love love it. First, the good. Marcus is a great character, full of passion, style and smarts. He's got a great voice, both self-assured and vulnerable that way teens can be. Marcus never makes apologies for being smart and always does what he believe will do the most good, even if he can't see the long-term consequences. The reader gets a strong sense of the setting and also the sense that Doctorow really loves San Francisco. The ending is tied up nicely but doesn't feel rushed or contrived. There's a ton of food for thought regarding security, terrorism, and civil liberties, and it's clear what side Doctorow falls on, but I didn't feel bashed over the head with messages, either.

What I thought needed work was the pacing. There's lots of action and adventure, sure to appeal to the more grown up Alex Rider fan. The problem was that the book can alternately move much too fast or much too slow. Marcus often stops to explain complicated math and technology to the reader. Doctorow does a great job of breaking this down. Believe me, I can barely add and subtract so I'm always appreciative of well-explained complex mathematics. The problem is, the story has to stop for a minute in order for Marcus to explain this technology. Problem is, there's really no way to get them in without disrupting the story. So, great story overall, just needed some editing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mock Printz: The House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Title: The House of Djinn
Author: Suzanne Fisher Staples
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0-374-39936-8
Starred Review in: Publishers' Weekly
Shabanu, who you may remember from her earlier books, Shabanu and Haveli, is now a mother of a teenage girl herself but she is in "hiding". Her daughter, Mumtaz, thinks her mother is dead and is being raised by her paternal grandfather and uncle. This book tells the story of Mumtaz and Jameel, two teens whose destinies intersect. Jameel is the son of yet another uncle who lives in San Francisco and spends his summers with Mumtaz in the family compound. This large extended family is not your ordinary family. The grandfather is a wealthy, powerful Amirzai tribal leader and the huge family house is haunted by the djinn. When the grandfather dies, the whole family goes into tumult and these two teens are thrown into the thick of a fight for power. This book takes place in the capital, Lahore, and evokes all the sounds and sights of Pakistan. Even more so, the characters are so strongly depicted that you get a wonderful sense of the life there for the teenagers and the entire family. Jameel who does live in the USA is caught between the two worlds and he struggles with those differences. As Mumtaz learns of her mother's pretense at death, she comes to appreciate why it was a necessity to save her own life. As this story unfolds, there is great suspense and excitement and the characters are people not easily forgotten. The book stands on its own even if you have never heard of the earlier books although one might like this one so much that you would go back and read them.

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mock Printz: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN: 978-0-7868-3818-9
Starred review in: Kirkus, PW, nominated to BBYA

This is my favorite for the Mock Printz to date. From my blog:

The Plot: All her life, Frankie Landau-Banks has been labeled as someone to be protected, her family's Bunny Rabbit, someone who is in need of sage advice and wise words. She's sick of it. Frankie, ace debater and ultimate Frisbee enthusiast, wants people to see her for her greatest talent, which is manipulating people (not in a bad way). She has a keen eye for social structure and an analytical mind, and she uses these talents to infiltrate an all-boys secret society at her school, of which her boyfriend Matthew is a member. Assuming the identity of the society's leader, Alpha, she gets the boys to pull some amazing stunts. In four months Frankie goes from unknown to girlfriend of the popular guy to secret campus puppet master to simultaneously revered and reviled by her classmates.

Why you'll love it: Like Frankie, there is much to this book beneath the surface. At first glance, it's a book about a girl, tired of being pigeonholed as sweet and innocent, who masterminds one of the unsweetest, uninnocentest series of pranks her prestigious boarding school has ever seen. One way to see it would be that it's a book about breaking from the shell of expectations that everyone else has built around you. The reader knows from the beginning that Frankie is dissatisfied with the way people see her and she wants to make herself noticed for being something other than Zada Landau-Banks's little sister. The way I see it, it's a book about belonging. Matthew's way of belonging is to not rock the boat too much with his friends. Alpha's way of belonging is to draw everyone to him with his supreme confidence and irreverence. Frankie does what she does because she needs to belong and needs to be recognized as a leader in the groups to which she belongs. The book has a very Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler feeling to it, in which an outside narrator with wisdom and omniscience tells the story of Frankie's social journey. The use of point of view can usually make or break a book for me, and just like I hold up Invisible and Inexcusable as examples of how to use first person, I will be holding this book up as an example of how to use third person. The peripheral characters are both fantastic and completely believable. Lockhart's use of both esoteric and witty-yet-confused teenage language gives the book a refined edge. This is a definite candidate for this year's Printz and I hope the committee doesn't overlook it.

Mock Printz: Bret McCarthy: Work in Progress

Title: Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress
Author: Maria Padin
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-375-84675-5
*Star Review in PW*

The Plot:
Brett McCarthy is a fairly normal eighth-grader. She's on the soccer team (and the basketball team) with two close friends and 'the intruder'. Life is going along fine until the prank. A fouled phone prank turns Brett's comfortable life upside down. Suddenly everyone at school hates her (at least SHE thinks so), she's got a permanent lunch date with the principal, and somethings up with her Nonna that no one wants to explain to her. Brett works her way through losing a close friendship, finding new friends, and her Nonna's sickness as well as 8th grade.

Thoughts - including some spoilers!
This book wasn't bad....and when a commentary starts like that you know it's never good! Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress was a decent book. While there were a great many young YA/girl book cliches here, there was also some warm and funny characters which many readers will connect with. One of the cliche elements was a best friend that is growing away from the main character. This often happens in books, because it happens in real life! What I hate is that the friend who chooses the cheerleaders/popular crowd/etc is usually written as a mean, hateful, or snobby character and a lousy friend. Padian takes the cliche and adds something to it. Brett is the one who is not the best friend, but then what 8th grade girl is? Even at the end of the book, the girls are still not friends, but they do reconnect and Diane stands up for her choices. I liked that, just wish that Diane was more of a real character in the beginning of the book.
Another cliche is the sick mother/grandmother/close relative of choice. In this, Padian didn't do so well in my opinion. I loved Nonna as a character. She was great and interesting and fun. I liked her birthday party and the lighthouse, but as soon as doctor visits were mentioned I knew she was doomed. Worse, I didn't see Brett dealing with it. It was like, I'm going to ignore it and just deal day to day then poof, Nonna's accepted she's dying and so I'll accept it too. The parents seemed to do more grieving and dealing with the issue than Brett did.
I applaud the author for resisting the cliche of having the girl realise that her geeky long time male friend is really cute and the perfect boyfriend. Even though I loved Michael and rejoiced when he stood up and told Brett how much her casual teasing about being a nerd, geek, or Einstein bothered him, I would have booed if they had coupled off in the end. I thought it was great when Brett stood up for not only him but all of the gifted students and it was equally great when he came to her rescue at the climax, but it was nice to see a time when a boy and a girl can be friends with out thinking they are 'in love'.

So in the end, this is a book I will give my tween readers who want a taste of those teen book. Where the drama here is phone pranks and the most violence that happens is a punch in the nose. It's a bit melodramatic for me, but I know many who will adore it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mock Printz: Good Enough

Title: Good Enough
Author: Paula Yoo
Publisher: HarperTeen: HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780060790851
*Currently BBYA 2009 Nominated Title*

High school senior and talented violinist Patti Yoon works hard to achieve her goals and make her parents proud as a P.K.D (Perfect Korean Daughter). Someone who doesn’t settle for second place. A polite and modest existence as non-boat-rocker is something they can subtly brag about at church with all the other competing parents. But the pressure builds and boilers over when Patti makes assistant concertmaster for the All-State Orchestra thanks to some tricky Mendelssohn and distracting Cute Trumpet Guy. Then Patti doesn’t reach the desired 2300 SAT score which causes her parents to panic that her HARVARDYALEPRINCETON career could end before it’s even begun. Between SAT prep tests, violin practice, AP classes, jamming with/crushing on new kid Ben Wheeler (a.k.a Cute Trumpet Guy), dealing with the racist remarks of peers and adults, Youth Group high jinx, teenage subterfuge, parental expectations---Patti takes a stand on her future. One that will make Patti happy without sacrificing who she is and what she loves, like her music.

Apart from Patti being a relatable protagonist{ a teen feeling the pressure of expectations (outside and her own) and risking her heart}-- Patti is a great narrator with a wonderful sense of humor. Ben’s brief but influential appearance in her life has normally obedient Patti taking some risks and reconsidering her priorities and her reasoning. He’s not perfect. They’re not meant to be. But for a while, they’re in sync and he’s a great friend, if not love, for her. The Youth Group cohorts are an amusing, believable combination of competition and support. As Patti changes, she realizes new things about her friends and her peers (even those she doesn’t like). She finds some commonality but thankfully the book conclusion isn't so trite that Patti ends up friends with everyone. Patti’s parents weren’t portrayed as evil incarnate. They pressured and expected (not exactly unique to fictional parents) but they also stuck by Patti and let her ultimately decide, having her best interests at heart. Good Enough is all about expanding possibilities and stepping outside the box and it’s almost always a good time to see how a character handles change and rebellion.

The foot notes, the Korean recipes with Spam, Patti’s lists and “real-life” SAT questions are fun additions. It’s not a tough book to get through. Finished it in a day. Because, like everyone else, I cared about Patti’s future and the book isn’t written to lag (a plus for the reluctant). The ending has a neatly tied resolution in some ways but not in others. A happy medium with a hopeful

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mock Printz 2009: You Know Where to Find Me

Author: Cohn, Rachel
Title: You Know Where to Find Me
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Starred Reviews: Publishers' Weekly
The story of a teenager coping with the suicide of her cousin/sister is grueling, difficult and yet uplifting by the end. Miles, the fat, rebellious, outsider is the one left behind in this pair of girls raised as sisters. Her mourning process is profound and her deep isolation is revealed in a subtle, sophisticated way. Her climb out and surfacing back to life makes for a fine, realistic book, well worth reading. The adults show up very well as do the teens but there is nothing romantic or sentimental here, just down to earth, honest sadness.
Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mock Printz: After Tupac and D Foster

Title: After Tupac and D Foster
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
ISBN: 9780399246548
Starred Review: PW

Plot: Set in Queens in the mid 90’s, After Tupac and D Foster is the story of three girls--“Three the Hard Way”. It’s a moment in time when the nameless narrator and her childhood best friend, Neeka, meet D Foster. A mysterious, slightly older girl, whose latest foster mother lets her “roam” so long as D meets curfew. A freedom the narrator and Neeka have never known under the watchful eyes of their mothers, restricted by the geography of the block they live on. The girls bond over their mutual love of Tupac Shakur and his music. D especially, feels a connection to him. Over a two year period D becomes a fixture on the block and in the girls’ lives just as Tupac is a fixture in the media and therefore their radar.

Thoughts: Reading this, D seems to sort of personify that subtle beginning of adolescent rebellion, at least for those of us who were younger teens still listening to our parents. What most readers could probably relate to is best friends feeling the trial of sharing each other with a new friend and the narrator’s pang of jealousy over JayJones’ interest in D. Or the feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibilities like Neeka helping care for her siblings. Each girl’s got something to make her stand out. Neeka’s got that strong voice, even if it borrows her mother’s words. The narrator is defined by her college-bound, bookish intelligence, which she proudly flaunts by dropping those vocab words. D could be relegated to ‘unforthcoming beautiful girl with a past who stirs things up’ but there’s depth to her and maturity. Even when she’s as gone as Tupac is to Neeka and the narrator…you get the feeling she’ll be alright. So the ending has that bitter-sweetness of gaining and losing a friend. I think everyone’s got a lost friend they wonder about when they hear a certain song or visit a certain place. As good as the book is-- I don’t know if it's got a wide audience with present day teens. If they will find it as easy to relate to, in the same way the girls did to Tupac. Time wise, I can remember being in my early teens in those mid 90’s. Cassettes, walkmans, bootlegs. But I didn’t actively listen to Tupac outside of what was on the radio and some of music mentioned was lost on me. Unless readers are already familiar with Tupac, I think that touchstone probably won’t work as well for them as it does for the narrator.

Mock Printz: Sweethearts

Title: Sweethearts
Athor: Sarah Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown.
ISBN: 978-0-316-01455-7
Starred Review: PW and Booklist

Plot: Jenna used to be the over weight and unpopular girl in school. She had just one friend, Cameron, a boy who had a troubled home life. When Cameron disappears in third grade, kids at school tell Jennifer that he died. Her single mother allows her to believe this and soon after thier life changes. Jennifer works hard to lose weight and get healthy, her mom marries and they move to a better part of town which means a new school for Jennifer. Jennifer changes her name to Jenna and makes a life as one of the popular girls (or at least one with friends). Now 17, Jenna is confronted with the truth when Cameron returns.

My thoughts: I never thought I'd be one of those people whining “But what about the happily ever after ending!?”, but I am on this book. I thought Zarr did a great job of dribbling out the details of Jenna's 9th birthday and it created an erie feeling at the start of the book that worked well. I liked the subtle hints of Ethan's possessive/controling personality before Cameron even entered the picture and I loved the fact that the blonde bombshell of a friend was the one who showed herself to be more insightful and true friend to Jenna. I disliked the fact that we didn't see Jenna actually tell her friends about her past. Maybe not all of it, but I would have liked to see her confide in at least one of them. Cameron leaving broke my heart and I hated that the mom was right and they they would probably feel like that had unfinished business until the day they died. In the end, I wanted her to make that trip across country and see him. I wanted her to find a way that worked for them to be together, but life isn't that easy or simple. Overall a good book, much better than I anticipated, but still not great. If I were the reviewer, I doubt I would have starred it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mock Printz: Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne

Title: Absolute Brightness
Author: James Lecesne
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN: 9780061256271
Starred review in: Kliatt, PW

Copied from my blog:

The plot: In Neptune, New Jersey, Phoebe Hertle's quiet, literary, relatively normal life is shaken up by the arrival of her flamboyant cousin Leonard. Leonard is anything but normal and for some time, Phoebe can't stand to be around him. Leonard's comfort in himself, however, inspires the women of the town of Neptune to be their more stylish selves. Phoebe gets used to Leonard's colorful ways until the day he disappears. Weeks later his body is found in a nearby lake, and Neptune's biggest murder mystery unfolds.

Why the book didn't work: It's too long. I know that sounds like a stupid reason for the book's failures, but that's the short of it. There are so many plotlines that get tangled and ultimately forgotten that the story as a whole is unsatisfying at the end. The language is monotonous and stilted and Phoebe seems so dispassionate, so distanced from herself and the situations around her that the reader has a difficult time caring about her or anyone else in her life. The author is trying to squeeze in too many lessons about tolerance and yes, it is possible to feel squeezed in a 400+ page book. Better editing and pacing, and snipping of a few plotlines, could have improved this book a lot.

Sometimes it's the small details that are the most bothersome, so to me this was the most badly memorable moment of the book.

Page 210: When someone saw Dad pumping gas into Chrissie's Honda Civic down at the Mobil station on Division Street, Mom held to the idea that her husband was just being a Good Samaritan.

Because everyone who lives here can't pump your own gas in New Jersey. (And no, Phoebe's dad does not work at a gas station.)

The other thing I found odd were the blurbs on the back of the book from Eve Ensler, Michael Cunningham, Armistead Maupin, and Duncan Sheik. All brilliant minds in their own right, yes, but none of them are known for writing books/plays/movies aimed at a YA audience. I wonder why these particular people were asked to blurb the book.


Clearly, I disagree with PW. But who else has read this. Any thoughts?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mock Printz: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Title: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary Pearson
Publisher: Holt
ISBN: 978-0805076684
Starred review in: PW

Copied from my blog:

Mary Pearson is a terrific writer, so I was very excited when I opened a package from Holt and saw an advance of her new book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox. If you've read her previous YA novel, A Room on Lorelei Street, expect something very different. Jenna Fox is just as good in terms of quality, but it's got a much different tone

Because this book won't be out until April 2008, now is a good time to stop reading if you don't want to be even remotely spoiled.

The plot: A long time from now in a state far far away (California), seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox awakens from a year-long coma. What she can't figure out is why she has a phenomenal grasp of everyone's history except her own. She knows the entire text of Walden but doesn't remember that she always called her grandmother Nana, not Lily. Her mother is reluctant to let her go to school or drive, and she never sees her father anymore; he still lives in Boston. When she is allowed to go to school, it's to a local charter where all of her classmates have something wrong with them. When she tries to log onto the Net to find out the details of the car accident that took a year of her life, her access to the information is denied. There's a hidden key in her mother's mattress to a closet, and that closet contains a secret Jenna is desperately trying to crack. Eventually, her mother and father do tell her the truth about her missing year. Or at least, they tell her most of the truth. The rest...she remembers.

Why you'll love it: There's always lots of talk about the theme of identity in YA lit, and here Pearson has taken it to its furthest extreme. Jenna has to figure out who she is with no memory of who she used to be. She's surrounded by people who tell her half-truths and she gets the feeling she's an inconvenience to them. Pearson has built an amazing futuristic world where science may be quite different from what we know now but the basic human condition, that we want to know ourselves and be loved by others, has stayed very much the same. The line on the front cover asks "How far would you go to save someone you loved?" I think the real question here is, "How far would you go to save yourself?" (Of course, the question of how far you'd go to save the one you love is one that drives the book, but I think the other one is far more overreaching.) This is a creepy, creepy book along some of the same the lines of David Lubar's True Talents and Nancy Werlin's Double Helix. It also reminded me of Airhead by Meg Cabot, which I'll review at a later date.

Review by: Carlie, BCCLS

Friday, January 04, 2008

Results of the 2008 Mock Awards

This year's Mock Awards were lots of fun, with provocative and informative discussions. Thanks to all those who attended. The winning and honor books were selected as follows:

Mock Caldecott:
Winner:  The Wizard by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Brandon Dorman

Honors: When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David
Small ; Casey Back at Bat by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou
Fancher ; I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry ; Knuffle Bunny Too: A
Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems.

Mock Newbery:

Winner: Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Honors: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis ; The Wednesday Wars by
Gary D. Schmidt

Mock Printz:

Winner: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Honors: Before I Die by Jenny Downham ; Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Many thanks to those who made this program so successful. Keep an eye on this blog as we move into 2009!