Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Awards, Apocalypses, and a Personal Challenge

So far in 2014, between federal holidays and 'snowtastrophes,' it hardly seems like we've had school at all.  The headmaster promises that we'll have a 5-day school week soon, but who knows when?? Not this week (hooray for winter break!!!).

At its mid-winter meeting, the American Library Association announced its latest slew of book awards for children and young adults, so even though I haven't been writing weekly blog posts, I've been hard at work. 

The two awards lists most valuable to Paideia junior high and high school readers are the Printz Award (one winner plus honor books) and the Alex Awards (a list of 10 titles).  You may recall my chagrin last fall when the National Book Awards announced its long-list of nominees for 2013 and I had barely heard of any of them.  Well, fast forward to deja vu all over again.  Of the ten Alex books and five Printz books, I'd heard of only two (Lexicon and Eleanor & Park), and only had one in the collection (Eleanor & Park - but at least I had read it and loved it). Oh, the shame.  I did feel a bit better upon discovering that neither the Atlanta-Fulton County nor the DeKalb Country public library systems had all 10 titles, and one wasn't in either system at all.

Enter the personal challenge: in 2014, I am going to read all 10 Alex books, and at least the Printz winner, and report back here in the blog.   Five years ago this challenge didn't go so well -- I hit #4 and wondered who in the world thought this book needed to be written, and I disliked #5 so much I didn't even skim to the end. And then I gave up.  2014 is off to a better start, with two down and 9 to go, and I'm feeling very optimistic that it's a good crop this year.

2014 Alex Awards 
(given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of ALA)
~ The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.
Links go to a book's entry in the Paideia Library online catalog, if we have it.
  • Lexicon: A Novel  by Max Barry.  The latest utterly plausible dystopian thriller from this Australian author, and my first challenge choice.  I listened to the audiobook from Atlanta-Fulton public library (an excellent production).  I've been a Max Barry fan since 2003's Jennifer Government.
  • Help for the Haunted by John Searles.   Sylvie survived the night her ghost-hunting parents were murdered, and figures out who they really were and what really happened.  The second challenge choice, finished.
  • In progress  The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu.  A couch potato becomes host to an ancient alien who's partnered with world makers and breakers through history. I've got this on my iPad, and am reading it now.  
  • Brewster by Mark Slouka. Friends Ray and Jon plot an escape from their dead-end town and dysfunctional families.
  • The Death of Bees  by Lisa O’Donnell.  Two Scottish sisters with dead parents buried in the back yard.
  • Golden Boy by  Abigail Tartellin. The life and struggles of a seemingly successful intersex "golden boy."  Novels exploring mismatched physical and emotional identities seem to be in vogue lately -- I know at least a couple of teens who would have been relieved to see themselves in these pages.  The 2014 Stonewall young adult winner, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, centers on a F-to-M transgender teen.
  • Mother, Mother  by Koren Zailckas.  A novel about a dysfunctional family and a mom with serious control issues.  I'm not super-excited about this one (sounds scary), but we'll see.
  • Relish by Lucy Knisley.  A graphic novel memoir with recipes.

2014 Printz Award
The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.
  • Midwinterblood   by Marcus Sedgewick.  "Doomed love circles back through the centuries in a series of seven intricately plotted, interlocking stories set on a mysterious, isolated island." I have not been able to sell Marcus Sedgewick (we have two or three novels) to Paideia readers.   He's definitely not a cookie-cutter writer, on the dark, Gothic-y side of paranormal, and I'm a bit skeptical. But I'll read it, and let you know.
Find out more about all five of the 2014 Printz award and honor books at ('s book blog).

My goals for Thursday and Friday's Winter Break? Clear and re-home the redundant dining room table, and READ!

 Have you read any of these 15 books yet?  Which one sounds best to you?  Comment below!

Friday, February 21, 2014

High School Reading Club:
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Snippets and ideas for this afternoon's high school reading club meeting.

If you've read Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, this may sound very familiar:

SEATTLE — Maria Semple made an instant, jarring discovery when she moved with her boyfriend and daughter from Los Angeles to Seattle, a city whose Patagonia-clad inhabitants like to talk about bicycling, the environment and the eternally dull question (in her opinion) of whether it might rain.

“It’s just not a funny place,” said Ms. Semple, a novelist and veteran comedy writer who worked on the television shows “Arrested Development” and “Mad About You.” “I was in a miserable mind frame, and I found that I was driving around and all I was thinking about were funny things about how awful Seattle was. I would do these riffs in my head and I would polish them in my head. It was poisonous and self-pitying.” New York Times, 8/15/12

How is the author like Bernadette?  
How might all the characters reflect different aspects of Maria Semple?

"Indeed, Semple's greatest strength is the courage to stock her book with characters who are, upon first glance, largely unsympathetic and then gently peel them until they become, if not entirely likable, then at least recognizably and even endearingly human."  L.A.Times, 1/1/2009
Do you like Bernadette, or Elgie, or Soo-Lin or Audrey at first?  Do you ever like them?

Maria Semple pitches her book ("it's about . . .")

The UK trailer

Short interview with Maria Semple


Pages from Maria Semple's website

About Maria Semple
Dig It, Baby - The Story of Bernadette
Extras - Links to articles,  reviews, trailers and general wacky stuff


And more
New York Times review
Entertainment Weekly interview