Monday, January 27, 2014

Sometimes Books Change You. Sometimes Those Are Award Books. Maybe You Should Check One Out.

Well, hullo! Let's start the usual way, shall we?

Three books I'm excited the kids section got in (I'm cheating a little on the last two weeks part of this):

1. Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
This book (one of last year's Morris finalists, for the record) reminded me of how awkward crushes are. That of-course-I-will-love-you-forever sort of crushes are the worst. But I loved every second of it, even when I was cringing about how uncomfortably real it was.

2. No Bears by Meg McKinlay
I saw this book and fell instantly in love. I might just really like books with kids who are staunchly against something. I mean, there are a lot of bears in kids books. What's up with the bears? Also, the clear exasperation of the bear delights me.

3. Aphrodite by George O'Connor
This is such an awesome series of graphic novels about the Greek gods. They're smart and well done. Kids seem to love them which is even cooler.

Every once in a while a book comes along and sort of changes you without you realizing it. I know, this might be the most sentimental sounding nonsense I've ever written here, but it's true (and if you don't like it you might want to stop because the whole post is going to be like this). You can read a book and love it and obsess over it but it doesn't necessarily change anything for you. You have a new appreciation for books or writing or what words can do but it doesn't mean that something in your life has changed.

I know this, I am incredibly prone to obsessions. Some of them have made an impact on me (I, like the masses, admit that Harry Potter has had a great impact on my life) and others have been a really crazy obsession for a few years and then might fade away a little. I still like the books but I don't see things differently.

Harry Potter is so large and how it has influenced me has been so noticeable, to myself and to people who've known me a long time. But there are other books, quieter ones, that not everyone has heard of that just seem to alter some part of you in a potentially subtle way.

An important one of these for me was John Corey Whaley's Where Things Come Back. In this book a 17 year old boy's brother goes missing in this tiny town in Arkansas. At the same time a supposedly extinct woodpecker may have made an appearance in the same town. This is a carefully wrought and plotted book. It has such a wonderful way of showing how interconnected everything is and how things that change your entire life might not have any bearing on the world outside of yourself.

And that's exactly how this book has changed me. I have sisters and things have happened that have left me wondering what would happen if something did happen to one of them. That's normal (I think). But it's always been fairly short-term, the immediate aftermath of whatever tragedy. This book made me stop and think about the long-term. What would life really be like after that? Months after it happened, when other people have been able to put it out of their minds. How would I pick up the pieces after something like that? There's one passage in particular that hit me really hard (I won't tell you which one).

After that I started getting along a lot better with one of my sisters. I can't say it was only the book but I can say that it was part of it, probably a big part. I didn't notice right away. When I did notice I thought about it and had the same sort pang that the book gave me.

I ran around for ages afterward (I still kind of am) practically throwing it at people. I remember meeting someone who had read it and them saying something along the lines of "Oh, someone who actually liked that one." I was startled, I didn't just like it and how could they not (I was especially startled when I found out they had siblings)? Other people I know have loved it. I've even had more than one tell me if I was 17 and a boy I would be its protagonist, Cullen Witter (I have mixed feelings about that, though I lean toward delighted).

Some books are just like that. They don't come crashing into your life they slip in and alter you in some little way that changes how you see something. But they don't do that for everyone (which I kind of think makes them that much more awesome because it's like a book written for you) and it might be a book you never expected. Where Things Come Back isn't generally the kind of book I'd normally pick up but I heard good things about it so I sought it out. Then it won both the Printz and the Morris awards in 2012.

Which is why I wanted to talk about it now. This morning the Morris, Printz, Caldecott, Newbery (and a whole ton of other) winners will be announced (it started at 8 so I'm not sure how far they've gotten by now). I recommend checking at least one of them out (and not just the Caldecott even though it will be the easiest). Maybe you'll like it, maybe it will find some way to change you. Maybe you won't like it (last year's Printz winner, In Darkness, was interesting but I wasn't really a huge fan), if that's the case you can at least say you read a book with a medal if someone asks (some people put a lot of stock in these things).

At least give one 100 pages (the odds are good the Caldecott won't be that long so that one doesn't count, but you should still read that one too. It won't take very long).

Check one of them out, or even one of the past winners (Looking For Alaska won the Printz, for the record). Some of them might be hard to get a hold of for a little while which will give you some time to think about which one sounds the coolest. There will be three kids booksellers running around who will be able to tell you something about, at least, a couple of them.

Anyway, stop reading my rant and go check out the winners (they'll be here).


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