SLJ BotB 2014: The Contenders

5 02 2014

It’s my favorite time of year!  That time when great books are read by authors and then have to face off in School Library Journal’s Battle of the (Kids’) Books!  The list of contenders always inspires me to read some books I’ve been meaning to get to.  And then you get to read hilarious, touching and sometimes totally absurd posts by the authors who are lucky enough to judge this competition.  Really, it doesn’t get any better for bookworms than this.  (For bookworms who prefer adult books, I recommend the Tournament of Books. Same idea, different audience.)

It’s always good to see great books from the past year that I’ve actually read on the list.  Books I’ve read in bold:


THE ANIMAL BOOK by Steve Jenkins


A CORNER OF WHITE by Jaclyn Moriarty

DOLL BONES by Holly Black

ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal

FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo

HOKEY POKEY by Jerry Spinelli

MARCH BOOK ONE by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick

P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein

THE THING ABOUT LUCK by Cynthia Kadohata



I’ve read half the list this year which is about average.  Which means I have…some amount of months to read the rest?  It starts some time in March to parallel March Madness but I’m not sure when this year.  I guess I had better start reading!  Lucky for me, my hold on All The Truth That’s In Me just came through.


SLJ BotB Commentary…Better Late Than Never

31 03 2012

New promise for the blog–no more promises!  Life often gets in the way of typing over here.

I haven’t even had a chance to catch up with the battles at School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books until this morning and boy, were there some tough ones.  E. Lockhart, possibly my favorite YA author, judged Daughter of Smoke and Bone against Chime.  She didn’t love Karou like I loved Karou.  She picked Chime which means only one thing: now I have to read it.  Chime has been a much-discussed book among librarians.  It is equally loved and hated by my wonderful librarian friends and colleagues.  But it beat the book I was pulling for and if E. Lockhart says it’s better than a book I love, I should definitely find out.  Add it to my always growing to-read pile…

The final match-up, with our undead poll winner Okay for Now up against Between Shades of Gray and Life: An Exploded Diagram .  I am shocked to find that I have read two of these books!  The first two, and judging from the, well, judging, neither of them is as sophisticated as Mal Peet’s lengthy tome.  The ones I read are fairly slim books.  Okay for Now has spare narration that makes you think about what Doug is saying.  Between Shades of Gray is Lina’s straight forward tale of the horrors she experiences, and her description of the pictures she draws to keep herself going.  And that’s where I have to fault this book.  I know that not all books have to be illustrated but I wanted so badly to see Lina’s drawings, just a few. I know the author may not be an artist but that’s why illustrators exist.  With illustrations, this book might have held more power for me.  I think it is important, well-written and a fairly easy read about a hard topic.  But it doesn’t shine for me.

It seems to me that the battle is between Between Shades of Gray and Life: An Exploded Diagram.  Since I can’t judge a book I haven’t read, I’ll just have to blindly root for Okay for Now.  That being said, I have read the judges’ commentary on the book and it says something that the possible (and in my mind likely) winner of SLJ BoB is thought to be not particularly appealing to YA readers.  At a time when the readership of YA is expanding, I find this to be an interesting development.  I wonder what other books will be published under the YA flag this year.


SLJ BotB Overview

10 03 2012

Okay, if you want to hear about what School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books is about, go to their website.  They’ll tell you what it is.  I am here to tell you what I think of their selections.  But before I can do that, let’s see what I’ve read this year.  And the nominees are…
(books I’ve read in bold)

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming
Anya’s Ghost
 by Vera Brosgol
Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
Bootleg by Karen Blumenthal
The Chesire Cheese Cat
by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
 by Laini Taylor
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos 
Drawing from Memory by Allen Say
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanha Lai
Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Okay for Now by Gary
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

I’ve read exactly half of the books and I liked all of them.  There’s only one book on this list I hadn’t heard of until I saw it: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.  What?!  A Bollywood-inspired tale!  No wonder I’ve never heard of it says the girl who has never seen a Bollywood film.  Yup, it’s true.  Too busy reading YA.

If you’re reading this when I post it, you have approximately 1.5 more days to vote in the Undead Poll so it only makes sense that I tell you which books you should consider voting for.  Anya’s Ghost was my pick.  Devoted blog readers know how much I love graphic novels and this one is spot-on.  It scared the crap out of me.  The art was creepy and accessible and added to the mood of the story.  And it told the story.  I loved it.

But if I had to choose another favorite, it would be a close call between Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Dead End in Norvelt.  And possibly A Monster Calls.  How do you judge such fantastic and varied literary talent? One has angels and death and war–but mostly just a teenage girl finding out her true roots.  The next has death in its title and a pretty solid murder mystery.  And the last, well, it has an epic battle with a monster and…cancer.  All incredibly written, poignant, smart, absorbing reads.

Possibly the best part of SLJ BotB is that no judge is told how to judge.  There’s no rubrics.  There’s no scoresheet.  That means on Friday, March 16, when Sara Zarr judges two of my favorites, (the “D” books), there is no guarantee of who she’ll pick.  Will she go for the strength of the world that Laini Taylor created or the incredible recreation of a time period by Jack Gantos?  I can’t fault her for either.  But stay tuned!  I will be shedding a tear for one of the two.  But secretly, I think I’m rooting for:

Where’s Alexa?

9 03 2012

It has been an incredibly long time since I last posted on this blog.  In my last post, I was in the middle of my self-imposed summer reading.  That deadline was extended until I got a full-time job and…surprise!  I did!  Which is why I quit posting and reading.  Oops.  Sometimes life gets in the way, right?

So where am I now?  I am in the Chicago Tribune giving preschoolers a lesson in finance.  I am in Chicago working for an incredible library system doing something I never expected.  I am a storytime factory.  Most days, I get up and I go to a school and sing, read and play with preschoolers I’ll only meet 3 times.  I read some really fantastic books (like Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine and Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems).  Kids say ridiculous things about money.  It’s wonderful, but it is also exhausting.

I am lucky because I still get to read lots of fancy new YA books and I get to share those thoughts with some of my YA crazy colleagues.  But I miss putting up my own thoughts online and sending them out onto the Internet all by themselves.  Also, it’s my favorite time of year: time for School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books!

SLJ BotB is a time to geek out on children’s and YA lit.  It’s my time.  Come back tomorrow for more!  Because tonight, I am taking the night off from everything except my bowl of pasta, my glass of wine and posting about the best bracket-ed competition in March.

SLJ Battle of the Books–2011 Contenders Announced!

24 01 2011

My favorite list of the year is here!  School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books might be one of my favorite book related activities of the year, beating out even hearing the Printz awards because that is not as much fun as reading, predicting and posting along with the Battle of the Books.  March Madness for kid lit lovers!

So here’s my problem this year:  I haven’t even read 50% of this list!  Eep!  And February is such a short month.  Titles I’ve read are noted in bold:

  2. THE CARDTURNER by Louis Sachar
  3. A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner
  4. COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles
  5. THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan
  6. THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BARBIE by Tanya Lee Stone
  8. KEEPER by Kathi Appelt
  9. THE ODYSSEY by Gareth Hinds
  10. ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia
  11. THE RING OF SOLOMON by Jonathan Stroud
  12. SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
  13. A TALE DARK AND GRIMM by Adam Gidwitz
  14. THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
  15. TRASH by Andy Mulligan
  16. WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan

My pick right now(out of the 6 I’ve read)?  There’s two:

  • The book I want to win: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.  I have recommended that book to everyone in the appropriate age range and all children’s/teen librarians/lit freaks.  It is awesome..
  • The book I think will win: Countdown by Deborah Wiles.  Everyone loves the documentary novel format, especially author, who judge this lovely event.

Of course, I’ll have to update my picks as I get reading, which I had better do…now!  I have books to read for class and work.  Though I’m sure all of the titles on this list will be a pleasure.  And I’m somehow still excited for the official announcement of brackets and judges.