Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Judge Julius Lester’s decision at the SLJ BoB website, you might not want to read on, because I read it and I know the winner…it’s Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan!
If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can click the picture to take you to Amazon and take a look inside or you can go find it at your local library or bookstore and read it. It does not take long to read at all–I read it in an afternoon, and I spent probably as much time reading it as looking at the artwork. In the library world, this book is causing much pain and suffering because librarians don’t quite know where to put it. In my library, it was shelved in juvenile fiction. Some places put it with their graphic novels, or shorts stories. Really, it could fit any of those places.
But what is it about, you ask? Lester says that the first sentence drew him in: “When I was a kid, there was a big water buffalo living in the vacant lot at the end of our street, the one with the grass no one ever mowed.” The illustration that accompanies this is another one I just want to hang on my wall and stare at forever. And it actually gives depth to the story. The illustrations truly are important–they give the stories the feel of urban legends, only these are suburban legends, a concept I find hilarious, especially as I just moved back to the ‘burbs and am waiting for a water buffalo to move in down the block. That being said, this book was not the book for me. It just didn’t have quite enough substance to be my favorite book, though I could see introducing it to teens and tweens in the library. Also, using it in class or for writing workshops. It’s fantastic, digestible, inspiring short stories.
Which brings me to When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, a book I was lucky enough to be “forced” to read last semester. I had actually heard so many good things I bought this book, something I rarely do. Let me tell you: it was worth it. Somehow, this book manages to combine historical fiction, time travel and smart girly-ness all into one book. The time travel puts off some people, Julius Lester included. But not me. I’m a time travel kind of girl, so long as it’s well-used. And if you haven’t read it, I feel kind of bad for telling you about the time travel but because it took me by surprise. This is not a book you expect to turn any kind of sci-fi, which is why I thought it would win over non-sci-fi fans. It may! Just not in this competition.
Though I am saddened by When You Reach Me‘s loss today, it does already have a Newbery medal so I can’t really complain. Plus, Julius Lester reminds us all that reading is subjective, an obvious point, maybe, but one that bears repeating and remembering during this exciting but addictive Battle of the Books.