On Monday morning, the American Library Association announced the 2012 recipients of their diverse Youth Media Awards. Among the most well-known awards are the Newbery Medal, awarded yearly for the best fiction book for children, and the Printz Award, an annual award for excellence in young adult literature. Within moments of both awards being announced, I had placed my holds on the winners with the intent to pick them up at work. These great books are what I've been reading this week.
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, an extraordinary and hilarious children's fiction writer, is a refreshingly funny story with a relatable male protagonist--a set up that doesn't always happen with Newbery Winners. Young Jack has just begun his summer vacation, but he has already managed to find himself grounded for the entirety of his time off of school. The only respite from his house arrest is the home of an elderly neighbor, Miss Volker. Miss Volker is the town's medical examiner, appointed by Eleanor Roosevelt herself, and her arthritis necessitates that she have Jack help her write the obituaries for the residents of Norvelt who die. It seems a lot of old ladies are dying this particular summer--is something amiss? Jack has this and other strange, small-town oddities to keep his nosebleed-prone self occupied, and amidst all of the hilarity--melting hands, for example--he just might mature a bit.
I'm only about halfway through Where Things Come Back, written by new author John Corey Whaley, but the young adult novel already has the makings of a impactful classic. The book has storylines following two sets of characters (at least, that's the case so far), and already these incredibly relatable characters--again male--are dealing with a sibling's disappearance, sightings of a woodpecker though extinct, and apocryphal spirituality. I really have no idea where this book is going, and I love that unknown. The plot isn't sensational or quick-paced--it feels like a conversation with these characters, like I really have been given the opportunity to get to know them. I've excited to finish the novel these weekend and fully see what earned it such prestigious awards.
Also read this week: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens is the first book in the intended trilogy of The Books of Beginning, a fantasy series following three siblings as they learn the truth behind their parents' mysterious disappearance ten years ago. In this first book, the siblings learn that magic is real and that the oldest among them, Kate, can move through time, but they also discover that someone sinister lurks in the background wanting to harness the powers of the three Books of Beginning. The forthcoming second and third books in the trilogy are expected to focus on the brother and younger sister respectively, as each sibling identifies with a particular book and its powers. A fun read, and I'm told it's an even more fun audiobook listen.