Saturday, May 30, 2015

Halfway Mark: Reading Through the Year

Can you believe it's nearly June? Summer reading is approaching, which means that youth services librarians across the country are gearing up for a hectic summer of programs. We are no exception at Fauquier County; if you are a resident (or one of our friends in neighboring counties), keep a look out for the schedule of events to be posted very soon!

June also means that the awards committees for the Newbery, Caldecott, and other Youth Media Awards meet in person (at the American Library Association conference) to discuss their readings and criticisms for potential 2016 winners (January 11 is the big day!). They will communicate privately throughout the year and have their final intense face-to-face meetings in early January. Award committee meetings are held behind closed doors and they do not release nomination lists. However, that doesn't stop children's/YA literature fans from speculating about potential winners! As it is only June, and the Fall 2015 books have not been published, it's way too early for us commoners to speculate on the entire year (I'm assuming that committee members have received many, if not most, Fall 2015 books by now). 

I blogged about a few of my favorites (so far) for 2015 on the Association for Library Services to Children's blog; those posts have a certain length, posting style, and audience (children's/youth services librarians and administrators) that differs from this blog, so I wanted to expand upon my favorites reads (so far!) for 2015. (I have a LOT left to read before the Fall 2015 books arrive!)

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich was one of my favorite reads for March; it still has one of the best (and most unexpected) endings you will read in a picture book this year. Guaranteed. 

I reviewed The Detective's Assistant for School Library Journal several months before it was released; I can't discuss reviewed books before the review appears, which makes it hard when I think a book is fantastic. As I wrote on the ALSC blog, historical fiction can often be rather sobering and serious; the amount of funny historical fiction is small.  The Detective's Assistant, based on America's first female detective, is a madcap romp full of humor, heart, and humanity.

Earmuffs for Everyone!: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs  has received five individual starred reviews, which is incredible! Meghan McCarthy doesn't just relate the story of Chester Greenwood; readers learn about patents, and how several people might have the same idea for an invention before it finally gets patented.

When people comment on the number of books I read, I shrug and smile. What they usually don't know is that I have low patience for very long books. When the "best books" lists come out at the end of the year, I get mad at myself because they inevitably include all the brilliantly reviewed books with "rich language" and "epic fantasy" story lines (if I like a fantasy novel, it's a big deal, because having 450-500 pages in them is not unusual) that I've avoided throughout the year.  I deeply empathize with reluctant readers, because I know what it's like to be required to read something that seems intimidating and overwhelming (I have to read outside of my interest and comfort zone in order to effectively do my job). So when Echo came out, with its amazing reviews about a harmonica that links three children with its "fairy tale" like atmosphere, and its 585 pages, I balked. I checked it out and had to return it at the end of the three week period because I didn't even open it. It's already being touted as a strong contender for the Newbery, so I tried it again. I adore Pam Munoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising, so it's not like I was unfamiliar with her work.

I read it in two days. I rarely even read a shorter book in two days.

This book is heartbreaking and joyous. It is powerful and profoundly sad in some parts (it takes place in both Germany and the United States during the 1930s-50s), but the ending is glorious, I will promise you that. I've found my Newbery hopeful for 2016, and it's going to be hard to find something as deeply moving and unforgettable as this one.

I love finding terrific nonfiction read alouds for elementary school kids, so I was delighted when Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution turned out to be a fascinating read aloud about an unknown figure in the American Revolution. I will definitely use this for our Celebrate America program on July 3.

All the Bright Places received a great deal of attention and praise when it was released, but I feel that I Was Here (which also received a ton of attention and praise; it is a Gayle Forman novel!) is a stronger and more realistic depiction of survivors left behind in the wake of suicide. After her best friend commits suicide, eighteen year old Cody retraces her steps to hopefully find answers.

Deborah Underwood consistently creates unique and fun picture books; Interstellar Cinderella is her latest (look for Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat very soon!) This is obviously the story of Cinderella, with significant twists (instead of meeting the prince at the ball, she fixes his spaceship). Very funny, and it puts a modern twist on Cinderella without being preachy.

Little Bird Takes a Bath is sweet and charming without being saccharine; this little bird is on a mission to find the perfect puddle in New York City. This is a darling read aloud for anytime, and perfect for a "nature in the city" theme.

My Pen is a gorgeous tribute to the power of the pen; I expect to see this bandied about for Caldecott on many blogs and Goodreads groups.

With the advent of El Deafo receiving the Newbery Honor (and receiving thumbs up from both children and adults), I'm expecting that middle grade graphic novels will become even more popular. Roller Girl is a must read for El Deafo fans or Smile fans. Astrid and Nicole have been best friends since they were little; as it happens frequently in middle school, their interests diverge. Nicole has always been more traditionally "girly" than Astrid; when Nicole decides to sign up for ballet camp instead of roller derby camp (and befriends one of the mean girls at school), it causes complications in their friendship.  When you've had the same best friend for as long as you can remember, it's a difficult learning experience to let that go and to find new friends; Astrid's journey will be an authentic read for readers who have experienced that or for middle school readers who don't fit into the traditional world of ballet, makeup, and boys.  It's an insanely fun and moving read, and a great peek into roller derby!  It's received 5 individual starred reviews, and worth every one.

X: A Novel is an honest, raw, and engrossing fictionalization of Malcolm X's adolescence and young adulthood; if you need historical fiction for a mature teen (especially for reluctant readers), consider this one.

We've ordered a bunch of new children's/YA books recently; check out back issues of Wowbrary for more details!

Calendar and information about our summer reading program is now available. We are looking forward to an awesome summer!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

No comments: