Saturday, March 30, 2013

RICBA Nominees 2014

I will be adding to the list as I make my way through the nominees ... favorites closest to the top.

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I loved it. Not sure if kids will appreciate its somber tone, but I sure did. Killer comments close out many of the tiny chapters: "Old age is a powerful disguise." ... "I always tell the truth although I sometimes confuse the facts."

Actually, now that I think about it, it's almost like a novel in verse, even though it's written as prose. Applegate's writing is a hell of a lot more poetic than so many of those "verse" novels out there that just seem to have returns sprinkled randomly through sentences.

And it's based on a true story.

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Well-crafted story that sucked me in immediately - a page-turner with a twist that I appreciated. Kind of annoyed that it's already set up to be a trilogy, though. I hope Nielsen continues to write well and doesn't phone it in by the end.

Speaking of trilogies and similar plotlines, I wonder if I could push "Westmark" to my students.

Three Times LuckyThree Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Convoluted mystery set in a small town with kooky residents, written with fantastically vivid language. Examples:

- "I wouldn't say stole, but I did borrow it pretty strong." (later referred to as a "surprise borrowing")

- "The cafe relaxed."

- "I hear whispers the way a knife-thrower's assistant hears knives."

- Rumors "swirl like ink around an octopus."

- He looked "like time had grabbed his face with both hands"

- "My earth found its axis and my starts found their sky."

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I completely second Brandi Rae's review, and rather than trying to paraphrase, she said I could just use it for mine:

"For the most part I really enjoyed this. Auggie was born with many extreme facial deformities. After extensive surgeries, he is starting 5th grade; attending a public school for the first time. This was thoughtful, funny, touching ... the rotating points of view were varied enough that upper elementary would like it as well as lower middle school (good 5-7 book). There were some flaws (I did find the ending ridiculous). But overall, a good book ...."

The Templeton Twins Have an IdeaThe Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found the meta-narration, vocabulary/idiom explanations, and ludicrous "review" questions to be delightful! And how could I not like a book that introduces kids to cryptic crossword puzzles? Not sure if I should read it aloud, or if the asides would only work when written. Will definitely promote it, though.

Double Dog DareDouble Dog Dare by Lisa Graff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this one. Convincing kid perspectives, humor, pathos.

The Year of the BookThe Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet depiction of a bookish girl experiencing growing pains, including a friendship crisis and an "embarrassing mom." Would be interesting to see if students made the inferences to figure out what's happening at Laura's house before it's spelled out. I have read almost every book Anna refers to ... will have to put "My Louisiana Sky" on the list.

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of BatmanBill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holy introduction to intellectual property rights, Batman! I will definitely be using this book as a springboard for lessons.

Liar & SpyLiar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An engaging read, but at the end I felt let down. Other reviewers have stated that feeling manipulated fits in with the overall theme. And I guess I should have thought a little more about some of the things that made me say "What?" Anyways, good parts included smile therapy, big picture v. dots, and spelling reform via Bob javascript:void(0);Edwards Who Draws. And I always did find the taste bud map suspect.

Dogs on Duty: Soldiers' Best Friends on the Battlefield and BeyondDogs on Duty: Soldiers' Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Solid introduction to the concept of dogs as military assets, including historical context and individual profiles. Accessible and interesting. I may need to get two copies, since my students love both dogs and war books. Design note: the red and blue pages denote patriotism, but make it kind of hard to read the black text.

Brother from a BoxBrother from a Box by Evan Kuhlman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fairly fast-paced tale of a boy and his new brother ... who happens to be a robot from France. Trying to get him to fit in at school provides plenty of fish-out-of-water episodes. However, the spy/kidnapping aspect seemed a little rushed, and I'm not sure I buy the resolution. But it's good enough to add to the collection; I know kids will read it.

Nic Bishop SnakesNic Bishop Snakes by Nic Bishop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bit all over the place, but amazing photographs and lots of interesting facts. I am sure my kids will love it.

The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin PlanThe Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan by Maxwell Eaton III
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very cute ... I felt like I was watching a silly cartoon. The sound effects are the best: Flarp! Boosk!

True (. . . Sort Of)True by Katherine Hannigan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The pros: Delly not meaning to get in trouble (sometimes as a teacher I need reminders that my more ... challenging ... kids have the best of intentions), her made-up words, her family dynamics.

The cons: The entire "development" and "resolution" of Ferris' problems. I didn't get it, I didn't buy it.

During the first half of this book, I was thinking 5 stars. The second half brought it down to these 3. Saved from a 2 only because I liked the first half so much.

King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel PaigeKing of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige by Wes Tooke
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I liked it ok. Good introduction to segregation and the Depression for students who might not be familiar with the time period. Lots of baseball will inspire them to learn more about Satchel Paige. Given that so many kids are asking for Jackie Robinson books because of the "42" trailers, I will definitely add to the collection.

The Whole Story of Half a GirlThe Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm almost halfway through the RICBA list, and this is the first title I've read that I think I won't be buying for my libraries. I just don't think it's going to appeal to my kids. It didn't really appeal to me ... I skipped it on the Mock Newbery list last year.

I will keep it in mind for students going through identity crises. Although I don't think it really offers much counsel.

One interaction that struck me: when Sonia describes her old school to Alisha, whose reaction is "That's not real. It can't be real." Oh, for a flexible schedule and a computer lab ... although I suppose these days I should be wishing for a makerspace.

Barnum's Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the WorldBarnum's Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I realize that picture book biographies are constrained by a certain number of pages, but I feel like this one was very uneven in terms of summarizing swathes of time (journey and shipwreck) v. including little details (picking up some leaves). As I read, I had questions that I wish had been answered in an author's note:

- When did people start studying fossils?
- Where were the first dinosaur bones discovered?
- Why was natural history such a big deal at this time in history?
- Why did it take seven years to clean and mount the T. rex?

I did enjoy the illustrations, which gave the book a swashbuckling feel.

Jake and LilyJake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Some of Spinelli's works are masterpieces that trigger shattering sobs and make you ache for the characters. This is not one of them. Which is not to say that it's hilarious and makes you cheer for the characters either. Instead, it's just blah. I think the only emotion elicited was pride in having managed to finish in one sitting so I wouldn't have to pick it up again.

The concept of alternating narrators intrigued me at the beginning, but I didn't get a sense of what were supposed to be vastly different personalities. And the sage Poppy was a little much.

Not sure if I will buy or not. The goober bullying stuff is an important message, but I'd rather it delivered in a better package. I can't see my kids really sticking with this one.

Tuesdays at the Castle (Castle Glower #1)Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If I'm going to read about a takeover plot, I'll take The False Prince, thank you. Made it through the first several chapters and decided that April vacation is too short to spend it reading any more books that I don't love.

UngiftedUngifted by Gordon Korman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The more I read, the less I liked. What could have been an interesting book was flat and full of stereotypes. Every gifted kid was a misfit? Really? And nearly everyone at the academy regarded Donovan as the second coming? Because he named the robot and could use a joystick? Ooooh, how NORMAL. Korman didn't bother giving the alternating voices much voice, either. I can't justify spending library money on this dreck.

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