If you are anything like us, you are eagerly anticipating the ALA Youth Media Awards on January 23rd. It’s like the Oscars for librarians, and the Collection Development department at Mackin has definitely been buzzing about their favorite books of the year! I chose to highlight the Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and—my favorite—the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Be sure to tune in next week when Mindy and Lindsey highlight their predictions for the Caldecott, Newbery, and many more! Also, feel free to share with us what you think of our choices as well as what your favorites are!
Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production
Beauty Queens written and narrated by Libba Bray. 2011.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a plane full of Beauty Queens crashed onto an (almost) deserted island? You’re in luck! Prepare yourself for a clever tale of girl power and sarcastic spoofs on pop culture. As I said in a previous post, I really enjoyed how Libba Bray used theatricality by changing accents and pitch with such ease between characters. Listeners will definitely forget there is only one narrator. My favorite character of all (because of how she was portrayed) was Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins (yes, that’s all one name). Bray gives this gun-carrying homecoming queen a fantastic drawl that will leave you in stitches! Don’t miss this one, you won’t regret it!
Liesl & Po written by Lauren Oliver, narrated by Jim Dale. 2011.
Children and adults will love this fairy-tale-esque story that centers around three characters. First we have Liesl, a lonely girl who is mourning the death of her father while she is trapped in an attic. Her loneliness is eased when a ghost named Po shows up with his pet, Bundle. Then there is Will, a boy that runs errands for his boss, the Alchemist. How will these three character’s lives collide? You will have to read (or listen) to find out. Once again, Jim Dale does an amazing job of narrating, and he pulls it off as if he is reading a dark bedtime story to the listener. Watch for Dale’s terrific old-lady sneezes and adorable animal noises! They are quite the treat! Lovers of Roald Dahl will especially enjoy this savvy cracked fairy-tale.
Goliath written by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming. 2011.
Fans of the Leviathan series will enjoy this third and epic final chapter. Alex and Deryn are still aboard Leviathan struggling with their problems. Alex’s parents are dead, he’s the heir to Austria’s throne, and he’s struggling to make sense of things. Deryn has a huge crush on Alex, and she’s a girl disguised as a boy (if found out, she would be guilty of treason and kicked off Leviathan). If Alex and Deryn don’t have enough troubles already, they reach a new level when a new passenger comes aboard—Mr. Nikola Tesla. Alan Cumming is a remarkable talent and has done a wonderful job narrating the whole Leviathan series. He is quite proficient at alternating between Alek’s German accent and Deryn’s Scottish brogue. Listeners will especially enjoy the Transylvanian sing-song voice for Mr. Nikola Tesla. Cumming provides a witty reminder that the adventures in the Leviathan series are extraordinary, and that the listener should just hang on for the ride!
Coretta Scott King Book Awards
Underground by Shane W. Evans
Shane Evans presents a powerful look at the Underground Railroad – The road to freedom. With its few words, “The darkness. / The escape. / We are quiet. / The fear . . . / We run. / We crawl”, this picture book relies more on commanding images to acquaint young readers with the risks that families took to escape slavery. It also captures the pride they experienced upon first reaching freedom. You will be entranced by the author’s night-time collages as they highlight the fearful eyes of the fugitives and the bright stars above on every page. A brief author’s note provides more information about the Underground Railroad, which parents and teachers can use to teach about the history of slavery.
A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2011.
This impressive retelling of the 1938 boxing rematch between America’s Joe Louis and Germany’s Max Schmeling will leave readers wanting more picture books from the talented team of de la Peña and Nelson. Kids will appreciate the directness of de la Peña’s free-verse as well as the insistence of Nelson’s paintings. A Nation’s Hope is the sort of book that will have readers wanting more information about historical events and figures. This interest can lead to discussions about racism, tolerance, and good sportsmanship. An amazing story you do not want to miss!
These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. 2011.
You will not want to miss this moving picture book that combines the poignant story of a grandfather’s relationship with his grandson, and an unknown piece of the civil rights movement. Mason explains in an author’s note that during the 1950′s and 1960′s, African American workers at bakery factories were allowed to do all sorts of maintenance type work—but they were not allowed to work as bread dough mixers or handlers. This was “because the bosses said/white people would not want to eat bread/touched by these hands.” It is so sad to think that these events actually happened, but they did. This inspirational story will be enjoyed by readers, along with the touching photo-quality illustrations.
Bird in a Box by Andrea Pinkney, illustrated by Sean Qualls. 2011.
Heart and Soul : The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2011.
Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. 2011.
I have mentioned this title in a previous post, but I just had to include it in this category. I really enjoyed this tale of an angst-ridden, curvy teenage girl who desperately tries to abandon her Russian heritage in order to become accepted at school. Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, she falls down a well. This is where she meets a ghost named Emily. Will Emily be the answer to all of her problems? Don’t miss this amazing graphic novel, which has hints of Coraline, Persepolis, and American Born Chinese.
Chime by Franny Billingsley. 2011.
This is one title that has been buzzed about ever since it was published (so of course I had to include it). After the death of her stepmother, Briony develops a repulsion for herself, a strong need to protect her mentally disabled sister, and a fear of the secret she knows she can never reveal. What is Briony’s secret? She’s a witch in a Victorian-era society that believes witches are guilty of all wrongs, and therefore should be hanged. When she meets a boy named Eldric, she learns that she’s not the only one keeping secrets. The haunting and unforgettable tone that Billingsley weaves into lyrical prose is amazing. Paranormal fans will love this wonderfully written tale of growth, loss, and romance.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. 2011.
Tracey already mentioned this one in a previous post, but I had to include it!
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. 2011.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. 2011.
A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay. 2011.