Here's a brief look at my recent reads. No duds lately, thank goodness!
Breaking Stalin's Nose
One of the recent Newbery Honor books! I returned it the day it was named an Honor book (last Monday). There's usually a big surprise in the naming of the medal and honor books, and this was it. Not too many people predicted this one. Roger Sutton at The Horn Book was an early champion; I saw it listed in The Horn Book's Fanfare list (its end of the year list); based on his recommendation and the fact that it depicts a time period rarely covered in children's literature, I ordered it. It's a short novel (148 pages), but a very memorable read. 10 year old Sasha is eagerly anticipating joining the Young Pioneers, which is the youth movement of the Communist Party in Russia. His father, a loyal devotee of Stalin, is unexpectedly arrested, throwing Sasha's world in chaos. Although it takes place over just two days, Eugen Velchin artfully expresses the dichotomy between what Sasha has been indoctrinated into believing and the reality of the Stalinist era.
Under the Mesquite
This was the second award winning title that I finished right before the ALA Youth Media Awards. The winner of the Pura Belpre award (author division) and Morris finalist (for a distinguished debut novel) is a movingly told tale of a young Mexican-American girl dealing with her mother's cancer diagnosis. I'm usually wary of novels in verse, but Guadalupe Garcia McCall makes it work; having Lupita be an aspiring poet definitely works in its favor. Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout the book; luckily, there's an extensive glossary (with pronunciation) for those unfamiliar with the language (you can guess the context of the word/phrase without having to consult the glossary).
Elizabeth the Queen
And finally, a bright and shiny 2012 book! 2012 marks the diamond jubilee (60 years) of Elizabeth II's reign. This is the first of probably many biographies and commemorations published this year. Those looking for a juicy read will be disappointed; although Sally Bedell Smith certainly chronicles the more tabloid-y aspects of Elizabeth II's life concerning her children, their spouses,and other relatives, this is quite a serious biography, going into great detail about her relationships with the prime ministers who have governed Britain throughout her reign.
Next up: The Fault in Our Stars, a 2012 book by Printz medalist John Green, which is getting a ton of buzz and attention. I know we have patrons waiting for it, so I'll finish it quickly.