Reading Young discussion

Mock Newbery Book I Recommend

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message 1: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments Hi there. I am a Youth Services Librarian. As of late I have been reading books that many libraries think might win the Newbery this year. May I recommend a few that I thought were EXCELLENT!

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
My FAVORITE, though sad extremely illuminating. Was a finalist for the National Book Awards this year. "Lyrical" writing that draws pretty pictures in your head. Just enough words. Four intertwined stories that are metaphors connected to one another. Gripping, moving, heartbreaking, life is okay to cry once in a while.

Grow by Juanita Havill-a Novel in Verse, wonderful, short, light in places and heavy in others, a younger person's read.

Seer of Shadows by Avi-spooky! You will be transported back in time to late 1800's New York City and you will learn a lot about photography at that time plus ghosts.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-would not recommend for an award but it is a great adventure book. It is eerie and a little disturbing-a forced battle to the death of teens with a surprising end. Beginning of a series.


message 2: by Sheila (last edited Feb 25, 2009 03:52AM) (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments I agree on The Underneath. It's a beautiful book, and I think it's a strong Newbery contender. I loved The Hunger Games too, but don't think that it's the type of book likely to garner a Newbery. I haven't read the others you mention.

message 3: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments Hi there, Sheila. You should write to Kathi Appelt and tell her you loved her book. She is an extremely personable author and will write you back. Her e-mail adress is:

The Underneath made me believe in reading sad books again. It was worth it. I am now reading "Masterpiece", which was actually a recommendation of Kathi's. It is lots of fun-a beetle, a boy, and a stolen Drurer painting.

Did you read Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson? I am waiting for it. If you liked The Underneath, you should get your hands on My Father's Summers, Kathi's memoir.

Take care,

message 4: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments Thanks. I've been corresponding with Kathi on Facebook, and you're right, she's really nice. She's actually going to be doing an author chat next month on my Wands and Worlds young adult community. The members are really excited about it. I haven't read Chains yet, but have heard a lot about it. I've heard about Masterpiece, too, and it sounds fun. So many books, so little time!

message 5: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments Are you one of Kathi's librarian friends?!

She is going to be doing something similar with my teens...talking to them via webcam.

It is a small world. Kathi is beyond nice. She is really something special.


message 6: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments No, I haven't met Kathi in person. Just connected with her online through the extended network of people. It is indeed a small world.

message 7: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments Well, Kathi is very personable online and I know she has a network of librarian friends.

If you are a librarian, I would love it if you could jot me an e-mail at work explaining what your "author talk" sessions are like and what other authors you have had.

Thanks, Sheila!


message 8: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments No, I'm not a librarian. Sorry for the confusion! I have an online community for young SF/F readers at and one of the things we do there is author chats. It's a text chat room, but with moderation features that lets us manage it so the author doesn't have to try to keep up with the rapidly scrolling text.

message 9: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments How interesting! I will put a link to your site on my teen blog-

So, do you get many authors to "chat"? That is just great. I will check it out. And link it.

message 10: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments I LOVE your site. Howe terrific. A librarian's dream-getting a bunch of teens excited about books. What motivated you to get this going? Is your career book related or do you just like to share good books?

message 11: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments Before you link it, you should probably know that there is an $8 per year membership fee for membership in the community. So you may or may not want to link to it, depending on your policy. We've had a number of authors, including Erin Hunter (all 4 of them) several times. (We have a lot of Warriors fans). You can see the complete list here:

message 12: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments This has been fun, but I think we've kind of hijacked your discussion of great books from 2008, so maybe we should take this to private messages if you want to continue the discussion.

message 13: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments Agreed-why I gave my e-mail adress.

message 14: by Michelle (new)

Michelle (michelle42) | 1 comments I am glad to hear that Hunger games is being mentioned for the Newbery. Hunger Games is one of my favorite books of 2008, and it is also a book that young readers can really get into. I have been disappointed the last few years with the Newbery winners. They seem to be books that will be more appreciated by adults than children.

message 15: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments Yes, that is true. I did not think Hunger Games should be a Newbery contender initially as it seems like just a fast paced action thriller without deep character development. However, after reading the other books out there this year, I feel it is one of the better ones for sure.

message 16: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments I loved the Hunger Games, too, but I'm not sure I agree that it should be a Newbery contender. A book can be great for different reasons; there are books that are great reads, and books that are great literature, and sometimes there are books that are both. I think that both are important, especially when we're talking about books for children and teens. It's important for there to be highly readable, entertaining books with a lot of kid appeal that kids will want to read. But it's also important for kids to be exposed to great literature. Great literature is hopefully also a great read, but sometimes it takes a little more work to enjoy it. It's like the difference between dessert and fruits and vegetables. I love chocolate, but I also love bananas and broccoli.

When looking at an award, you have to consider the criteria and what an award was designed to recognize. In the case of the Newbery, it awards books that are a"distinguished contribution to American literature." Distinguished is defined as:

* marked by eminence and distinction: noted for significant achievement
* marked by excellence in quality
* marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence
* individually distinct

(From the ALSC web site)

Now, all of these are sufficiently vague that you could make the argument that The Hunger Games meets these criteria. However, in my opinion, it's not any more distinct than hundreds of other great dystopian novels that I've read over the years. It provides a great story and social commentary, which is exactly what this type of novel usually does. I also think that The Hunger Games probably doesn't have lasting value; in five years, or ten years, or twenty years, the story may still be great, but the social aspects won't be as interesting anymore.

Something like The Underneath, on the other hand, is distinct and I think does provide a distinguished contribution. It's distinct in its language and its structure and its combination of elements. It's definitely marked by excellence and eminence. And I think that the themes are timeless; twenty years from now it will be just as readable as today.

Please note that I am NOT putting down The Hunger Games. I think that it's one of the best books of the year, and well deserving of an award. I just don't think that the Newbery is the right award for it. It is a finalist for the Cybils award ( and I wasn't at all surprised to see it there, where "kid appeal" is one of the primary criteria. In fact, the primary reason that the Cybils was created was to recognize books that are both well-written and have kid appeal.

The Newbery has been criticized recently for not recognizing the books that kids most want to read. However, I think that's a facile argument. The Newbery was never intended (I think) to recognize those types of books. It was intended to recognize good literature, and if we stop recognizing good literature, then publishers will stop publishing good literature, and kids will no longer have a choice what to read. Dessert will be the only thing on the menu. I think that it's important to have both.

message 17: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments What a wonderful little article you have here. Truly. I could not agree with you more on everything you said. For another terrific dystopian read, check out Clare Dunkle's "Sky Inside". Clare's website is great also. And she is working on a sequel to Sky. Her Hollow Kingdom Trilogy is amazing also. She did win an award for the first in the series. And, no, not a Newbery. Any reading recommendations you have?

message 18: by Sheila (new)

Sheila Ruth (sheilaruth) | 9 comments Thanks, Laini/Flinkybits. I haven't read Clare Dunkle, but I do like dystopian lit, so I'll have to check it out! I'm always at a loss when people ask for reading recommendations, because I have too many! I should say, how long do you have? LOL. One book that I read recently that was wonderful was Nation, by Terry Pratchett. I highly recommend it!

message 19: by Flinkybits (new)

Flinkybits | 10 comments That is on my after Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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