Thursday, April 10, 2014

Look, listen - and read

After a busy day at work or at home, do you have the energy to hold a book and keep your eyes open at the same time? If we tend to regard reading with our eyes as the more serious and highbrow way to take in information (see second link below), what do we do if we are thirsting for some intellectual stimulation, but are just too tired to do anything about it?

Fortunately, a number of cultural critics are throwing the exhausted multitudes a lifeline: they insist that intellectual engagement is not entirely dependent on the perusal of literary tomes these days.

To wit:

The shows in our present "Golden Age" of TV may actually be our new novels

Audiobooks allow us to appreciate the role of story in contemporary fiction

Series fiction deserves some respect

So visit the library, grab a "new novel" on DVD, a compelling story in audio, even a print page-turner or two, and feel free to enjoy: it's brain food!

mhd




Thursday, February 20, 2014

The medals have been awarded!


No, all you Olympics fans, not for flips, twirls, or crossing the finish line first, but for the most distinguished children's literature of 2013.

The Caldecott Medal, for the year's best picture book, was given to Brian Floca for LOCOMOTIVE. This was an unusual, but obvious, choice.  Unusual, in that it was only the 7th time in 76 years that a nonfiction book won the prize, but obvious, since LOCOMOTIVE has been showered with acclaim since it was published. (Even I predicted it would win.) Children and their parents will find this beautiful book to be an enthralling introduction to the history of the American railroad.

The Newbery Award committee's selection for best children's novel was unexpected, but nevertheless a very popular decision.  Kate DiCamillo received her second Newbery, for FLORA AND ULYSSES: THE ILLUMINATED ADVENTURES. Flora and her two new friends - Ulysses, a squirrel (with superpowers) and the "blind" William Spiver - race around town getting in and out of trouble, and delighting readers with their wacky antics at all times. Most adults thought this book was just too much fun to win a "most distinguished" prize, but I'm glad to say we were wrong!

The Michael L. Printz Award for the best book written for young adults was a surprise as well, but this one not as welcome. It was won by Marcus Sedgwick, the author of many well-received young adult novels, for his book MIDWINTERBLOOD. Set on a vaguely Scandinavian island, MIDWINTERBLOOD is a collection of seven stories, loosely connected by the two characters Eric and Merle, whose identities in each tale are different in everything but name.  The stories go back in time, concluding with the religious sacrifice of one of the two protagonists.  The successive characters and plots were, in my opinion, so diffuse that it was hard to do more than admire the style of the book. But whether I liked it or loved it, I wonder - as have many other readers - why this is considered a young adult novel, as it has almost no characters or themes related to teens.  A literary conundrum, or just a publisher's business decision? Read it and let me know what you think.

This year’s awards made it clearer than ever that the decisions of literary prize committees are difficult to predict. But lucky us, we now have a staff member who can provide some insight into the decision-making process. My colleague Allison Murphy is in her second year of service on the Connecticut Nutmeg Awards intermediate-level committee. For the second year in a row, she will read 150+ books appropriate for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, and meet regularly with 14 other committee members to produce a list of ten titles; young Connecticut readers can then read them and vote for their favorite. Lots of work but very satisfying, Allison says. (And I reply, when do you find time to sleep??)

Last but not least, here is Allison’s and my 2013 favorites list.

mhd

Friday, January 24, 2014

Just a few days....


......until the prestigious 2014 American Library Association book awards for young people are announced.

With justifiable trepidation (we are usually wrong!), Allison and I offer our predictions for the winners.

For the Caldecott "most distinguished" picture book award, Allison thinks that the wordless JOURNEY by Aaron Becker will get the nod; I lean more toward the nonfiction LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca. We both would be delighted (but stunned) if the popular favorite THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, won. I smile every time SOPHIE'S SQUASH, written by Pat Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, comes to mind (and I giggle at the sight of NINO WRESTLES THE WORLD by Yuyi Morales!). And of course, there's my annual shout-out to Steve Jenkins; this year it's for his spectacular compilation THE ANIMAL BOOK.

Allison and I diverge on the most likely Newbery "most distinguished" children's literature prize. She's rooting for the poetry collection WHAT THE HEART KNOWS by Joyce Sidman, and the novels COUNTING BY 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan, THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu, and P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Garcia-Williams. While I loved P.S. BE ELEVEN as well, I am a major fan of DOLL BONES by Holly Black, and would be happy if the sweet THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes gets some recognition; JINX by Sage Blackwood was a delightful read.

The Printz award for the best teen/young adult book often comes as a surprise. But maybe the popular FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal will win; Allison and I both think it should. (McNeal's book is also being touted for the Newbery.) Allison also likes the chances of FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by adult author Matthew Quick in his debut novel for teens; I would add THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by the double-threat author Holly Black. And speaking of double threats....Rainbow Rowell has two teen novels strongly in the running for the Printz: ELEANOR AND PARK and FANGIRL. Last but certainly not least, I would love to see Melina Marchetta's QUINTANA OF CHARYN, the third in her fabulous fantasy trilogy, THE LUMATERE CHRONICLES, win.

Have we called them right? We'll see, in just a few days.....

mhd

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year's resolution you'll enjoy (We promise.)


You know, New Year's seems to be one of our more burdensome holidays. First, there's a good chance you woke up this morning with a headache.  Then the focus of the day is getting started on those annoying self-improvement pledges - more exercise! less snacking! What's there to celebrate?

Well, we've got a resolution for you that has a high probability of success - and satisfaction, too. Why don't you aim to read a book a month? Keep yourself entertained or informed with the latest in good reading.  To start you off, we've got plenty of  "best" and "notable" books for you to choose from.

NEW YORK TIMES 10 Best Books  and 100 Notable Books of 2013


LIBRARY JOURNAL Best Books 2013: Top Ten as well as Best Books in 10 different nonfiction categories  


KIRKUS REVIEWS  Best Fiction Books of 2013 and Best Nonfiction Books of 2013

NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS 2013 winners 

So put your feet up, your reading glasses on and start the new year right! 


Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall Pileup


What’s piling up faster – the leaves on your lawn or the lists of award-worthy books that deserve your attention? We librarians would say, “great books, of course!”  Here are some of the latest lists.

The 2013 Man Booker Prize has just been awarded, to THE LUMINARIES by Australian author Eleanor Catton. (A coincidence that it was the book with the most pages…?). The longlist and shortlist are shown here.

The National Book Award longlists and shortlists ("finalists")  have been posted here; the winners will be announced on November 20.

The Mystery Writers  of America have presented their 2013 Edgar Awards in five different categories. The winners and nominees are noted here.

Here are the 2013 RITA Awards given by the Romance Writers of America.

The UK Orange Prize for Fiction is now known as the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and has a wonderful new website (listing this year's winner, plus the shortlist and longlist authors).

Here are the 2013 PEN Literary Awards.

And it’s a special pleasure to acknowledge the 2013 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Canadian short story writer Alice Munro. The library has many of her wonderful story collections.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer reading: the BEST kids' books ever?

Each summer NPR organizes a listener's poll on a particular literary genre. This summer it's the "Ultimate Kids' Bookshelf - a collection of 100 titles every 9-to-14-year-old should read". The results have just been published (8/5), and it's a truly wonderful list ; take a look.

A few years ago the New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof, who wanted to encourage summer reading, wrote a column about what he considered the best children's books ever. Surprisingly, his article prompted one of the largest groups of reader comments that the Times ever published. They were a stirring testimonial to the important place that books hold in many people's lives.

Let's hope this year's summer reading adds at least one new favorite to your list!

mhd

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Keep calm and read on

Every so often, I am startled by the ubiquity of Brits in contemporary American culture.  For instance, it seems that everywhere you look onscreen, there is a British actor providing the definitive interpretation of an American archetype: Henry Cavill - Superman. Carey Mulligan - Daisy Buchanan. Damien Lewis -  Nicholas Brody of Homeland and Richard Winters in Band of Brothers.  Dominic West - Jimmy McNulty in The Wire.

And that influence continues apace, as American literary organizations begin to model their award structure on the British. The typical UK literary jury has long been a mixed bag: an actor here, a bookseller there, an author or two or three, perhaps a literary critic to add spice. They typically choose a longlist of 15+ books, a shortlist of 5+ books, and a winner.  This makes for a lot of attention to lots of books. Readers love it.

The U.S. literary community, eager to promote books as well as bolster literary quality, is coming around to this expansive British approach. The venerable National Book Award Foundation is expanding its jury membership and instituting a longlist and shortlist. We'll have to wait until September for their choices.  The newly-instituted American Library Association Andrew Carnegie Medals for Fiction and Nonfiction takes its longlist quite seriously (50 titles!), but is ruthless about winnowing it down to a very modest shortlist (3 titles in each category). The ALA award announcement is on June 30.

As we wait, we can review the work of the jury for the Women's Prize for Fiction, which has announced its longlist and its shortlist , and will let us know on June 5 which book published in 2012 was the best example of "excellence, originality, and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world".

Enjoy!

mhd