Thinking about some the most memorable YA books I’ve read over the years, I notice there is a heavy Oz slant. To name a few of the stand-out titles:
Finnikin of the Rock – Melina Marchetta
The first in a series dubbed the Lumatere chronicles, this fantasy powerhouse can stand alone. We begin with young Finnikin who hales from Lumatere, a once-great kingdom which been overtaken by usurpers and cursed for the past decade making it impossible to enter or leave. Exiled Finnikin explores bordering kingdoms in search of a way to break the curse- and he finds Evanjalin, a mysterious young woman with the unique ability to â€œwalk the dreamsâ€ of others and she hints that Lumatere’s true heir is alive after all.
It was a challenge for me to narrow down one favorite by Marchetta. I loved 2009 Printz Award Winner Jellicoe Road, Froi of the Exiles (I special ordered a copy from Australia after finishing Finnikin because I couldn’t wait for the US version to be published), Quintana of Charyn, Saving Francesca (Best Book for Young Adults 2005) , and basically everything she has ever written.
I am the Messenger– Markus Zusak (Best Book for Young Adults 2006, Printz Honor 2006)
19 year old taxi driver Ed has been coasting through life with no real sense of purpose– until the day he stops a bank robber and begins to receive mysterious messages in the mail sent on playing cards. This sets Ed off in a series of interconnecting stories which eventually lead him to self-realization. Zusak’s tale is adventurous, enjoyable, sometimes comical, and ultimately unforgettable.
Zusak (2014 Edwards Award Winner) is best known for The Book Thief (Best Book for Young Adults 2007, Printz Honor 2007) which was originally published in Australia as an adult title. The Wolfe Brothers Trilogy is wonderful as well. Continue reading Awesome Australian Authors
The Margaret A. Edwards Award, sponsored by School Library Journal, is presented annually to an author whose works are deemed “a significant and long lasting contribution to young adult literature.” Previous winners include Lois Lowry (2007), Chris Crutcher (2000) and Gary Paulsen (1997). On June 28th, at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, YALSA presented the 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award to Markus Zusak specifically for his novels The Book Thief, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger.
I was really excited about this year’s presentation for two reasons: 1. I Am the Messenger is one of the best books I have ever read and 2. the ceremony was being held on my birthday. There was also an extra added bonus- I’m a native Las Vegan, so I didn’t have to travel to ALA this year. Instead, it came to me!
The Edwards Award ceremony was a brunch this year instead of the traditional lunch, which appealed to me because I’m a big fan of breakfast at any time. When I arrived at the Las Vegas Hotel there were already people in line waiting to get in and the ballroom was all set up and ready for us. In addition to coffee, quiche and other sundries attendees also received copies of two of Markus Zusak’s books. The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger, and reading group guides for both books. Attendees eagerly anticipated the presentation of the award and the acceptance speech and chatted throughout brunch until the presentation started.
For those of you who may not know, Markus Zusak hails from Sydney, Australia, so he came from the other side of the world to accept this award (and he has a lovely accent.) He listed Chris Crutcher, Gary Paulsen and Lois Lowry as heroes, and expressed some awe at being given an award that they had all previously won. After putting aside his speech and telling us he was going to keep it for reference, he told us that his writing career started in the backyard where he grew up, and shared some of the hijinks he and his siblings would get into, including setting up a tennis court in the house, boxing with one glove, and finding new ways of getting his mother to swear, like ruining her garden playing football (or soccer, for those of us who live here in the U.S.), because when she swore in her non-Australian accent it was hilarious. Continue reading ALA Annual 2014: The Margaret A. Edwards Award Brunch
Presidents’ Day celebrates the births of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, arguably the United States of America’s greatest presidents.
Abraham Lincoln came from poverty and rose to lead the country through the greatest trouble a nation can have: a civil war. Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1809, and was basically self educated. A voracious reader, he grew up to become a lawyer and an Illinois congressman before being elected US President in 1860. Perhaps his greatest legacy is abolishing slavery in the United States and this was foreshadowed early in his life: when he was a child, his family moved twice to get out of pro-slavery areas, and as a representative on both the state and national levels, Lincoln spoke out and voted against slavery consistently.
According to David Herbert Donald’s 1996 biography Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln read and reread such books as The Bible, Aesop’s Fables, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, and Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. Taking a leap of imagination, and asking the spirit of President Lincoln for forgiveness for my temerity, I would like to suggest half a dozen YA books that the sixteenth president might very much enjoy today.
Let us begin with the obvious, shall we? Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage is required reading for many middle and high school students in the US, and for a good reason. Though written in 1895 by a man who never fought in a war, the novel is hailed for its realism and honesty about battles, bravery, and coming of age. Soldiers today praise its portrayal of life in the field. Mr. Lincoln might very well enjoy reading such a well-written and well-regarded book about â€œhisâ€ war.
And now for something that is perhaps not obvious at all. The 2007 Printz Award winning American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang might grab Mr. Lincoln’s attention with it’s gorgeous illustrations and quiet palette; but its themes of race, identity, and self acceptance, along with its intelligent humor might very well keep the president reading. With his anti-slavery stance, Lincoln was most assuredly focused on race and identity, and the fact that he was a self-made man with a good sense of humor leads me to think he’d enjoy those aspects of the book as well. Continue reading WWAR? (What Would Abe Read?)