I finished the last of the twelve Mark Twain Award nominees on Friday, and now I'm left to decide which I think are the best. I'm excited to discuss this topic with kids at my library--they always seem up for a Mark Twain Award discussion. Have I mentioned what a great job I have? Below are my synopses of the final four books.
The Secret of Zoom by Lynn Jonell -- Christina lives with her scientist father in a mansion on the grounds of a mysterious science laboratory. Christina is not allowed out--not even for school--"for her own safety," says her father. Christina knows that some sort of accident at the lab claimed her mother's life, but she still wishes she could get out of the confines of her home and explore. When she befriends a boy who has escaped from the harsh, local orphanage, however, she starts to see that an adventure, although what she wanted, really is as dangerous as she was led to believe.
Storm Chaser by Chris Platt -- Thirteen-year-old Jessie lives with her family on their working cattle and horse ranch. After a fire claims their barn and destroys their supplies for winter, Jessie's family decides to open the ranch to summer vacationers for the first time to bring in extra income. Suddenly Jessie finds herself trying to prove she can train one of the new horses at the ranch while attempting to navigate the challenges that come with playing hostess to folks unused to ranch life.
Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford -- Young Newt Newman has always felt invisible. His older brother Chris has always been the star of the show at school and on the football field, and Newt has generally been content to blend in. When Chris is left in a coma after The Big Game, however, Newt feels that even his family has forgotten he exists. After a successful Halloween as a self-made superhero called Captain Nobody, Newt finds that he doesn't want to shed his uniform and mask. As Captain Nobody, he gets noticed; he rights wrongs; and he starts to realize his strengths in his family and community. Now if only he could help his brother...
Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor -- Ivy June moved in with her grandparents after her parents' house nearby became too crowded with children. Her family lives in Appalachian Kentucky mining country, and they have the struggles and relative poverty to show for it. When Ivy June is selected for an exchange program that will take her to Lexington for two weeks, not everyone is thrilled that she'll get a taste of a "better life" than she was born into. But Ivy June finds she and her exchange partner, Catherine, really aren't that much different. Through the course of their program, both experience prejudice, family trauma, and severe self-reflection, but their new and unlikely friendship helps them to overcome.