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YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge check-in #5

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!

It’s only been about a month since my last check-in post, and I feel pretty good about my progress so far, despite the fact that I haven’t finished all the titles on either list. I started with S.D. Crockett’s After the Snow and Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. Since then I’ve also finished The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I loved the Montana setting of Miseducation and all the little details that grounded the story and the characters, especially Cameron herself, but I wasn’t quite in the mood for this book when it showed up at the library so I’m not sure I gave it an entirely fair shake. Seraphina was a better fit for my mood, a unique take on a familiar fantasy stalwart (dragons) featuring — as many have pointed out — a fresh and fully-realized world full of intrigue and complexity.  I’ll definitely be looking for the sequel.

Copy of TitanicSince my progression through this challenge is dictated by what shows up on the hold shelf at my library, I’m a little behind on nonfiction, but I’m currently halfway through Deborah Hopkinson‘s Titanic: Voices From the Disaster which I have surprised myself by really enjoying. I’ve kind of avoided all things Titanic in the past, partly because it’s a sad story with an ending I’m pretty sure isn’t going to get any better and partly because I was severely traumatized by watching the movie The Black Stallion when I was young and any kind of shipwreck/drowning/disaster at sea makes me hyperventilate. (Okay, not really, but I do avoid drowning scenes; the beginning of The Black Stallion is harsh!) And no, I haven’t seen the Titanic movie — sorry Kate and Leo. Anyway, I include this somewhat embarrassing personal information so you’ll know that when I say I’m loving Titanic: Voices From the Disaster, that’s no small thing. I’m impressed, Deborah Hopkinson!

Next up on the nonfiction list, Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal, which is waiting for me as I type. I’m excited to learn more about the man who sort of rules my life (again, not really, but I do love my iPhone!)

Copy of WonderShowIn addition to disasters at sea, I’m also not a huge fan of circuses and freakshow-style carnivals, but Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby turned up next on the hold shelf, and it’s proving to be another pleasant surprise. I’m not very far along, but I’m already intrigued by Portia and the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls and her missing father and I can tell it’s going to be a good time, despite my weird hang-ups. Seriously, I’m like the poster child for reading challenges — this is why you should read outside not just your comfort zone, but your immediate interests as well. A great book can apparently overcome even the most deep-seated and long-lasting prejudices. (For example, I saw The Black Stallion in the theater when it first came out, which means I was 8, which was many, many years ago. I’ve been avoiding shipwrecks ever since, but here I am thoroughly enjoying a book about the most famous shipwreck of all!)

So, that’s where I’m at with this challenge. Three of five Morris Award finalists read (and number four moving along nicely) and one and a half Nonfiction Award finalists down. I don’t know if I’ll make it through all of them by the deadline, but given how great the experience has been so far, I’ll certainly finish the challenge one way or another. What about you?

— Julie Bartel, currently reading Wonder Show, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, and Life on the Border (edited by Terri Windling), because short stories are a great palette cleanser, and besides, she was in the mood

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Julie Bartel

Julie is a writer and librarian living in Salt Lake City, UT.


  1. Kim Kim

    I finished both Seraphina (4/5) and Wonder Show (4/5) to complete the Morris reading challenge this week! Now it’s time to focus on just the nonfiction. I’m still reading Bomb and will probably start on another book this week.

  2. Julie, I don’t normally post on blogs but I am so delighted that the YALSA Nonfiction Award has this challenge, and I am so looking forward to the reception at ALA Midwinter on Jan 28 as it is within driving distance for me.

    I just had to write to share an anecdote related to the Titanic movie. You mention that you never saw it.

    Last spring at a school visit, a 2nd grader raised her hand and asked, “Is your book based on the movie?”



  3. Shanna Shanna

    I finished Titanic this week and loved it – I thought the personal stories in it were so heartwrenching. At one point I almost cried. Now I’m starting Bomb. So I have three nonfiction done, and two fiction done with one still in progress. Woohoo!

  4. I finished Steve Jobs: The Man who Thought Different (3/5) this week to complete the non-fiction list. I’ll have to see if I can get through the Morris nominees in the next few weeks, but I have a lot of new stuff at school that I want to get through.

    Thanks, again, for this challenge. I love it! Even when I don’t like the book that much, it’s a great way to extend my reading comfort zone.

  5. I have finished all the books (and submitted the form) for the Morris Award. I have one book left to read (Titanic) for the Nonfiction award and am waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
    Slowly (very slowly!) I am trying to review each of the books on my blog.

  6. Adrienne Gillespie Adrienne Gillespie

    I finish BOMB over the weekend. When reading YA non-fiction, I find it amazing to see what I already know and what I don’t. I liked how this book explained nuclear physics in simple terms. If only my high school physics teacher had been able to do that!

    Now, all I have left is Steve Jobs.

  7. Morris: 3/5
    Finished “After the Snow” this week. While the concept was fun, and seems like it might be popular, I did not like it. The narrative voice annoyed me, plus the plot seemed to jump or stall. I found Willo to be inconsistent- one moment completely worried and needing to escape, the next ready to settle down for the winter.

    I still need to read the “Miseducation of Cameron Post” and “Love and other Perishable Items”

    Nonfiction: 3/5
    Read “We’ve got a Job” this week, and it was alright and good, but not necessarily fantastic. Again, the narration seemed choppy and inconsistent to me.

    I still need to read “Steve Jobs” and I’ve about half-way through the “Bomb” book. That is proving interesting!

    Please read full reviews of all the nominees on my blog at

  8. Sara Ray Sara Ray

    I am still stuck in the middle of Bomb and just have Moonbird to go. Hope I can make it in 2 weeks!

  9. Marcia Stiller Marcia Stiller

    Finished all Morsis Finalist except “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”, which has not yet arrived to the Holds Location for me.

  10. Erica Christianson Erica Christianson

    Finished the last Morris book yesterday and filled out the form. Still conflicted about which one is my favorite. My top three in no particular order:
    “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”
    “Wonder Show”
    “Love and Other Perishable Items”

  11. Checking in late this week. I finished Love and Other Perishable Items. It got better as I got further along. I found the literature and feminism discussions interesting. That really added some substance that took this book beyond the usual teenage angsty romance. Still, I’m not sure how popular it will be with teens. I’ve definitely got mixed feelings about this one.

    I just finished After the Snow today. Yes, I know, that’s for Check In #6. I was looking forward to this book because I usually enjoy post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories. The story itself was interesting. But it felt a little flat to me. My biggest complaint was the way the narrator spoke. The awkward grammar really drove me crazy – speaking about the past in the present tense. It made him sound stupid. It felt awkward and jarring to me.

    Getting ready to start my last book for the challenge – The Miseducation of Cameron Post. So far Seraphina is definitely my favorite. I’m trying to force myself to complete the challenge before going back to re-read Seraphina. Not sure I’ll be able to restrain myself.

  12. I finished The miseducation of Cameron Post. So far this has been my favorite of the Morris books, I still have two to go, but I really loved Cameron Post. I’m in the middle of listening to Seraphina and am enjoying it as well.

    I am almost finished reading Bomb. It’s really interesting! I love all the information about spies and the things that you don’t normally get to read about during WWII.

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