Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So you know Zoe Trope? Who published Please Don't Kill the Freshman when she was still in high school? She's in library school now! And she blogs about it sometimes!

And this picture illustrating her post "what do you learn in library school, anyway?" is cracking me up because it is just so stupid and true. I had these same photocopies! And I'm really grateful for them, because it used to be pretty hard for me to understand that sometimes information-seeking behavior leads to success and other times to failure, and that information use can cause either satisfaction or non-satisfaction, depending. These handouts cleared things right up. And let me tell you, I use this knowledge every single day in my fulfilling career.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Here is the beginning of a discussion about Headlong, by Kathe Koja on the New Yorker website:

LIGAYA MISHAN: Did you have certain expectations of “Headlong,” given the Y.A. label? Did it confound or surpass those expectations—or prove them right?

MACY HALFORD: The book totally surpassed my expectations. I tend to think of young-adult fiction as sort of facile—a straightforward style, uncomplicated themes and morals—but this had a complexity, an ambiguity, that surprised me... It fit my expectations in terms of length and enjoyableness, though: I assume that anything branded “young adult” needs to have a plotline that captures a teen’s attention, and also needs to be not too long or challenging.
Facile, uncomplicated, short and not challenging. Got it. (Is there anything more tiresome than reading a review of YA lit written by someone who apparently doesn't read much of it, and therefore is startled to find that they've read, like, an actual good book, and then spends half the article debating the definition of YA and the YA audience?)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Washington Post's Best Kids Books

And the Washington Post's best-of is out, conveniently pre-sorted by age. Some very familiar titles on the teen list:

After Tupac and D Foster, Jacqueline Woodson
The Book of Jude, Kimberley Heuston
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
Nation, Terry Pratchett
My Most Excellent Year, Steve Kluger

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend bathtub reading

I'm someone who reads a lot, but also someone who can only read when there's nothing else to do. Which means I do almost all of my reading on the subway, and on the weekends in the bathtub. I take long long baths. Often on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee. But on this Sunday morning I was already well-caffeinated, but hadn't yet eaten breakfast and had the great idea to take a snack (a sack of Turkish pistachios) into the tub with me along with my book (Fly on the Wall, by E. Lockhart.) The book was chosen because I hadn't yet read anything by Lockhart other than her excellent NBA-nominated The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and had checked out several others from the library on Saturday, and also because it was slim and of a one-bath size. The pistachios were a poorer choice. Delicious, but distracting what with all the shell removal, plus little bits kept falling into the water despite my best efforts, and when it was all over I had to drain the tub and take a shower to get the flakes of pistachio skin out of my hair. Quite gross. So. I probably won't be eating in the tub again anytime soon, but I will definitely be reading more Lockhart.

Fly on the Wall is about a girl, a comic book artist, who goes to a New York City high school for the arts, feels blah and ordinary and almost friendless among all the other artsy alterna-kids, and is confused by boys' behavior, and then temporarily becomes – literally – a fly on the wall in the boys' locker room. Where she secretly and anonymously gets to see lots of body hair and penises, develops a male-butt rating scale of A+ to F, and hears lots of conversations and discovers the boys' relationships when girls aren't around, their insecurities, bravado and sometimes meanness. Their humanness basically. (Plus she discovers that their locker room is twice the size of the girls' and calls the principal out on Title IX and gets it fixed. Which is totally awesome.) It's a pretty smart book. And funny.

See also: Lady: My Life as a Bitch, by the amazing Melvin Burgess for a more Kafka-esque version of teen girl shapeshifting, and Fade by Robert Cormier (one of my all-time favorite books) for a gorgeously ugly take on what can be seen and done when you're invisible to those around you.

Favorite Children's Books of 2008

"2008 was a year of dark thoughts — although very good reading — in young adult books." The LA Times highlights four YA books in its brief best-of piece:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, and Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I am such a snob

I find myself faced with a dilemma. I've just discovered a book award that is perfectly legitimate, and has a young adult category, but I absolutely do not want to start tracking it: It's the Rita Award for Best Young Adult Romance, awarded by the Romance Writers of America.

There's nothing wrong with genre awards of course, and every genre has it's own standards that may or may not be the same as the standards of the more high-brow literary awards. In this case, the judging guidelines seem astonishingly simple: "In this category, the love story is an important element of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic." Fair enough I suppose, but oh my god, in 1992 the Rita went to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep by Lurlene McDaniel (!). Yes, Lurlene McDaniel, author of many, many tearjerkers about disease-ridden kids with titles such as Too Young to Die, Six Months to Live, Don't Die My Love. And so on.

Now, when I was an actual pre-adolescent I devoured her books, sobbing my way through them. They were almost as great as Sweet Valley High. The leukemia-stricken girl who goes to cancer camp and eventually goes into remission but her best cancer friend dies? Heartbreaking! The girl who collapses due to diabetic shock at school and is caught by the beautiful boy who later falls in love with her in the hospital? Swoon-inducing! I read and re-read them all, and diagnosed myself with many diseases. But, come on. Do I have to include this sort of thing in my comprehensive database of award-winning literature?

Well, yes. I guess I do if comprehensiveness is my goal. So that's that. I'll get to work on it, and on the positive side, this year's winner is the quite respectable Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finally, National Book has uploaded video from the awards ceremony last month. Daniel Handler ("Lemony Snicket") presented the award for young people's literature, and I'm such a sap that even though I knew who won and even though I don't really approve, I still got a tiny bit choked up when Judy's name was called. Here's the video of her lovely acceptance speech:

Judy Blundell's 2008 National Book Award Ceremony Acceptance Speech from National Book Foundation on Vimeo

Horn Book Fanfare

Horn Books has released their Best Books of 2008 list. Here are the five YA books on the fiction list:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, M.T. Anderson
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
Nation, Terry Pratchett

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let the Right One In

If you're like me and you've read all the Twilight books because it seemed like you had to since YA's your thing and all and you have to be in the know, and you started out thinking they were more or less ok—frivolous but page-turny and all in good fun—but then you got offended at the effed-up, borderline-abusive relationships in book three and were disgusted by book four and you can't quite believe how many thousands of pages of reading time you spent on them and by now you wish you never had to think about them again but you can't escape all the movie hype, and wish there were an alternative—like a real vampire film you could go to instead?

Just go see this. Now now now. It's still got kids involved in intense relationships, but it also has some seriously beautiful blood. Plus hunger and shame and terrible choices. The scene in the swimming pool alone is worth the price of the ticket.

Multi-award-winning writer Justine Larbalestier likes it too: "Let the Right One In is a Swedish vampire movie set in the early 1980s. It’s also one of the best genre movies I’ve seen in years—scrap that—it’s one of the best movies—no modifier needed—that I’ve seen in years. You all need to go see it. Not least because every time I think there’s nothing new that can be done with vampires, someone does something new and fabulous."