Tuesday, December 24, 2013

RI Mock Newbery 2014 - Voting List

(I will be adding to this post as I make it through the list ... favorites at the top)

Better Nate Than EverBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved Nate, I loved the silliness, I loved the rollercoaster plot, I loved the ending phone call (spoiler: there's a sequel in the works). The absolute perfect book for all the misfits who want to make it to Broadway. As well as anyone who enjoys middle-grade fiction. I laughed out loud so many times, I am now following Tim Federle on Twitter.

My one reservation re: buying for school is the use of the word "fag" (and variations thereof). I feel like it's reaching the forbidden status of the R and N words - even if it's only used by jerkface characters. In fact, a Google search on the topic just brought up articles about a UFC fighter named Nate who got suspended for using the word. Any advice from other school librarians?

View all my reviews PaperboyPaperboy by Vince Vawter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had thought I was sick of coming-of-age novels, but then I read this one. SO GOOD. Reduced me to tears several times. The narrator wants so desperately to understand everything and to be understood. He types up a list of questions for Mr. Spiro (p.66):

1. Why do most grown-ups treat me like I'm not a real human being?
2. When does a kid become a grown-up?
3. What can I do to be smart like you?

Killed me. As did "So both of us ended up doing something we didn't really want to do so we could make the other feel good."(p. 212)

I feel like there were no wasted words or actions in the book. Perhaps a vestige of Vawter's newspaper days? RIYL Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt.

Far Far AwayFar Far Away by Tom McNeal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not entirely sold on the singing, but other than that, what a great way to do Grimm.


 The Water CastleThe Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blakemore pulled me in right from the start, and I ended up reading this all in one day. I liked the way she weaves in the stories of the race to reach the North Pole as well as mentioning the work of some of the scientists of that time (like poor Tesla). And I LOVED the thought that maybe what we consider to be magic is just science that hasn't been discovered yet. A classroom teacher could create an entire interdisciplinary unit or three using the novel as a jumping-off point.

I do have to say that I was surprised at how abruptly it ended. As I was nearing the last several pages, I kept wondering how all the loose ends would be tied up. They weren't. Not sure if this is for mysteriousness/discussion purposes or as a lead-in to a sequel.

LocomotiveLocomotive by Brian Floca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I initially read this book as a potential Mock Caldecott readaloud and crossed it off the list immediately for being too long; I generally try to read two or three titles per 30-minute class. But then it showed up on the RI Mock Newbery list, so I decided to give it another try. And I'm so glad I did.

Through his artwork, Floca manages to make you feel like you're on a train while feeding you bits of incredibly interesting information. Running a steam engine without wrecking the train and/or killing anyone was really hard work!

The Year of Billy MillerThe Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I loved most about this book is that Billy is so normal, and his stressors are so mundane. Unless, of course, you are in second grade and have a hint of generalized anxiety disorder.

Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I laughed, I cried, I adored this book ... until about the final quarter when it got a little too philosophical and then got a little too far-fetched. Really, Pattie? After just a couple of months you are ready to go into a joint custody relationship with someone? Who happened to win $20,000? To go with your secret fortune that was stashed away while your kids had to sleep on the floor of a garage? What?!?

I did really love Willow, though, and her observations about other people as she strove to understand them. The first 200 pages were delightful, if also tragic and stressful.

One Came HomeOne Came Home by Amy Timberlake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars if that were an option. The writing is glorious. The plot is mostly linear, with some confusing flashbacks. The very end seemed unnecessary. I will definitely consider purchasing for some of my kids who request "adventure" books.

P.S. Be ElevenP.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you haven't read One Crazy Summer, you may be very confused at the beginning of this book. But stick with it if you like coming-of-age novels with likeable main characters.

As the oldest of three girls whose mom left years ago, Delphine parentifies herself and is shocked when her dad's girlfriend calls her (in Delphine's mind) an "oppressor" of her sisters. She so wants to be grown up, but in a series of letters, her mother keeps telling her to "Be eleven."

Which she is when screaming over the Jackson Five or pouting over the dorky clothes her grandmother (Big Ma) buys her. But not when she is struggling with questions of identity and realizations about the adults in her life.

Doll BonesDoll Bones by Holly Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So this is more of a feelings novel, about putting away childish things and navigating changing relationships, than a scary adventure book. Not that there isn't adventure - bus rides and piracy and breakins - or scariness - creepy doll that may or may not be a dead girl. But it wasn't what I expected.

Black writes well; the prose pulled me along effortlessly (as opposed to a couple of other books I started this week). And the plot has a mix of elements that my kids will like. So I will plan to add to the collection when I can. But I will also be on the lookout for a cheap copy of "A Drowned Maiden's Hair" by Laura Amy Schlitz for those who prefer more Gothic, less realistic (and fewer cell phones).

p. 75: "He wondered whether growing up was learning that most stories turned out to be lies."

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your AssYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the kind of book that should be required reading in middle and high school, not doorstop "classics." Not that I don't personally like Dickens and poor old Tess of the D'Urbervilles. But if you want to get kids thinking about characters' motives - not to mention their own when it comes to the social horrors of adolescence - and participating in a discussion, then you need to assign relevant plots with easily readable prose.

Really hope the title doesn't lead to school library censorship attempts.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man SwampThe True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I resisted this for a while because of the premise ... talking raccoons? And a swamp creature? Really? However, fellow librarians talked it up at our October meeting, and it's on our list of finalists, so I gave it another try. It helped that Lyle Lovett read it to me.

All in all, a mildly entertaining tale reminiscent of Carl Hiassen's books but with some fantasy thrown in. It was ok. Not sure I'd be able to get anyone to read it, though, with the exception of one preschooler (if when he hits 3rd grade he is still obsessed with raccoons).

Zebra ForestZebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Zzzzzzzz. Well written, but not much happens besides reading "Treasure Island" a bunch of times. I am most sympathetic with Rew.

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Vanderpool's writing is great, but as the chapters unfolded, it couldn't save the plot from becoming COMPLETELY ANNOYING. I really didn't like the Pi story, and I really really didn't like the way it had parallels during the trek through the woods. Glad to be done.

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