November 20, 2017

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Five Finalists Announced for the 2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

2015 NBA_socialmedia_FinalistThe National Book Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. From a longlist of 10 titles, previously announced on September 14, five books were selected. The winners of the 66th annual National Books Awards will be presented at a November 18 ceremony in New York City.

The finalists in the Young People’s Literature category are:

JellyfishAli Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

SLJ‘s starred review

Benjamin, Ali. The Thing About Jellyfish. 352p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.ISBN 9780316380867. LC 2014044025.

Gr 4-7–Suzy’s best friend, Franny Jackson, was a strong swimmer. There is no way she could have drowned, at least in Suzy’s mind. Suzy’s determined search for a different explanation for her friend’s death leads her to believe that Franny was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish. Having nothing but time, since she has no other friends and has decided to stop talking, Suzy sets out to prove her theory. This multilayered novel takes readers on several concurrent emotional journeys. Benjamin skillfully blends time and narrative to slowly reveal truths about Suzy: first and foremost that their friendship was over long before Franny’s death. The girl she had once thought was her best friend decided it was time for a middle school social upgrade, choosing popularity over her awkward childhood pal. Suzy’s decision to seek revenge and remind Franny of their bond backfires, destroying what was left of their relationship. Consequently, Franny’s death is the impetus for the protagonist’s mission of personal reconciliation for the guilt and regret she feels over their falling out. Suzy’s fierce intelligence, compounded by her painful transition into adolescence, makes her a sympathetic and compelling character. Benjamin’s sense of timing and delivery is extraordinary, as she blends the visceral experiences of Suzy’s journey with an internal dialogue that is authentic and poignant. Though Suzy herself is oddly unique in her self-imposed social ineptitude and singular focus, the politics of friendships and changing values of young teens will resonate with readers. Benjamin’s inverse approach to tragedy, placing the death at the beginning of the novel and storytelling through the grieving process, transcends the trope, as the story triumphs in the affecting realities of emotional response and resilience. VERDICT Strong readers of middle grade realistic fiction will fully immerse themselves in this superbly written, heartfelt novel.–Juliet Morefield, Multnomah County Library, OR

#SVYALit Project: Bone Gap and Survivor Stories, a guest post by author Laura RubyLaura Ruby, Bone Gap
Balzer + Bray, a division of HarperCollins Children’s Books

SLJ‘s review

Ruby, Laura. Bone Gap. 368p. HarperCollins/
Balzer & Bray. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062317605; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062317636.
Gr 10 Up–It is a rare book that sits comfortably on the shelf with the works of Twain, McCullers, Conroy, Stephen King, and D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths—rarer still that a novel combines elements of these authors together. Bone Gap does just this, to superb effect. We start with a boy named Finn and his brother, Sean. Sean is the classic hero: strong, silent, great at everything he does. Finn is a pretty boy whose otherworldly goofiness has earned him the nicknames Spaceman, Sidetrack, and Moonface. Along comes Rosza, a beautiful and damaged young woman, fleeing from some unknown evil. When she disappears, only Finn witnesses her abduction and he is unable to describe her captor. He is also unsure whether she left by force or choice. The author defies readers’ expectations at every turn. In this world, the evidence of one’s senses counts for little; appearances, even less. Heroism isn’t born of muscle, competence, and desire, but of the ability to look beyond the surface and embrace otherworldliness and kindred spirits. Sex happens, but almost incidentally. Evil happens, embodied in a timeless, nameless horror that survives on the mere idea of beauty. A powerful novel.–Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME

#SVYALit Project: Bone Gap and Survivor Stories, a guest post by author Laura Ruby — @TLT16 Teen Librarian Toolbox http://ow.ly/S9TIi

Fuse #8 TV: Laura Ruby via YouTube http://ow.ly/TnTfI

mostdangerousSteve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
Roaring Brook Press

SLJ‘s starred review

SHEINKIN, Steve. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. 384p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781596439528.

Gr 7 Up–In this thoroughly researched, thoughtfully produced, and beautifully written book, Sheinkin delves into the life of Daniel Ellsberg, former Pentagon consultant and a self-described “cold warrior,” who gradually made an about-face with regard to America’s presence in Vietnam. Ellsberg famously leaked the Pentagon Papers, a lengthy document written by military insiders about the Vietnam War, to various members of the press in 1971. He was quickly labeled an enemy of the state and a traitor to his country, aka the most dangerous man in America. With access to many of the key players in this real-life drama, as well as mountains of source material, Sheinkin builds a narrative that is at once accessible and suspenseful, with revelations and details coming at just the right moments. In Sheinkin’s careful hands, Ellsberg and others, including Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Robert McNamara, are fully realized characters with strengths, flaws, and motivations that grow ever more clear as the story unfolds. Direct quotes, primary source documents, and archival photographs are peppered throughout, supplementing and complementing the text. Meticulous source notes indicate the level of research and time that the author has put into this particular work. With the news filled with stories about Edward Snowden and the NSA, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and privacy rights and government overreach, this brilliant work about an extraordinary whistle-blower taking a stand should be on everyone’s reading list. VERDICT A timely and extraordinary addition to every library.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

shusterman_Challenger DeepNeal Shusterman, Challenger Deep
HarperCollins Children’s Books

SLJ‘s starred review

Shusterman, Neal. Challenger Deep. illus. by Brendan Shusterman. 320p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061134111.

Gr 9 Up–Caden Bosch lives in two worlds. One is his real life with his family, his friends, and high school. There he is paranoid for no reason, thinks people are trying to kill him, and demonstrates obsessive compulsive behaviors. In his other world, he’s part of the crew for a pirate captain on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest trench. There he’s paranoid, wary of the mercurial captain and his mutinous parrot, and tries hard to interpret the mutterings of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden’s fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Shusterman’s latest novel gives readers a look at teen mental illness from inside the mind of Caden Bosch. He is a credible and sympathetic character, and his retreat into his own flawed mind is fascinating, full of riddles and surrealism. Shusterman based the novel on his son’s mental illness, and Brendan’s input regarding his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and psychiatric care makes the novel ring true. Teens, especially fans of the author’s other novels, will enjoy this book. VERDICT This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion.–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL

2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Winners http://ow.ly/S9Uop

nimonaNoelle Stevenson, Nimona
HarperTeen/HarperCollins Children’s Books

SLJ‘s starred review

Stevenson, Noelle. Nimona. illus. by Noelle Stevenson. 272p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062278234; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780062278227.

Gr 7 Up –This celebrated webcomic, a mash-up of medieval culture with modern science and technology, is now available in print. Lord Ballister Blackheart, a knight, has assumed the role of a supervillain in order to expose the nefarious schemes of the kingdom’s front organization, The Institute of Law Enforcement. The kingdom’s champion is Lord Blackheart’s nemesis and former best friend, Sir Ambrose Goldenloin. Blackheart’s prickly relationship with Goldenloin further explores the limits of their friendship. Enter the title character, a brash young shapeshifter who doggedly follows Ballister until he agrees to take her on as a sidekick. Nimona’s skills as a shapeshifter up the ante in the ongoing rivalry between Ambrose and Ballister. Despite her anger management issues, the teen becomes Ballister’s invaluable ally and together they form an alliance of mutual trust and dependence. Action scenes dominate as Nimona shifts with Hulk-like ferocity from frightful creatures such as a fire-breathing dragon to a docile cat or a timid child. Dialogue is fresh and witty with an abundance of clever lines. A complementary color palette of Blackheart’s muddy browns contrasts with Goldenloin’s fresh transparent yellow-greens. Both color schemes highlight Nimona’s intense reds. Readers will note subtle visual differences in webcomic images. The print edition includes an exclusive epilogue not available online. At its core, Nimona is a story of rescue. Each of the main characters rescue allies, friendships, the Kingdom, and ultimately, themselves. VERDICT A vibrant solo work from “Lumberjanes” (Boom!) cocreator.–Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Girl Power to the Max: SLJ Chats with the Creators of the “Lumberjanes” Comics http://ow.ly/S9UsZ

Book Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson — @TLT16 Teen Librarian Toolbox http://ow.ly/S9UEq

On the morning of November 17, the National Book Awards Teen Press Conference will take place at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Jacqueline Woodson, the 2014 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature, will host the event at which invited students will have the opportunity to interview the five Finalists for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.

The awards which will be streamed live on the Foundation’s website, www.nationalbook.org. Publishers submitted a total of 294 books for consideration in the Young People’s Literature category this year.

 

 

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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