Cindy & Lynn’s 2019 Book Awards

Cindy and Lynn: Here we are announcing our special brand of awards for 2019’s youth publications! We’re not talking about Newbery, Caldecott, or Printz Awards; we’ll leave those to the official committees. We’re off to Philadelphia this week for the 2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting and we can’t wait to learn who the big winners are, but in the meantime, here are the 2019 Bookends Awards. Envelopes, please! Previous editions of our awards and best of the year lists are archived here.

Cindy’s Awards:

The Kindred Spirit Award:

Sweety by Andrea Zuill (Schwartz & Wade, 2019)

This retainer-wearing naked mole-rat and her unique personality won my heart. This is my favorite picture book of 2019, a year of fabulous picture books.

There’s More Room for Award Stickers Award:

Image result for patron saints of nothing

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Kokila, 2019)

A powerful and eye-opening story set mostly in the Philippines that I want everyone to read.

The Book That Reminded Me That Listening and Practical Experience Can Be a Better Teacher Than Book Learnin’:

Panthera Tigris by Sylvain Alzial, illustrated by Hélène Rajcak (Eerdmans, 2019)

A scholar has researched everything about Bengal Tigers, but when he doesn’t listen to his guide he gets some “informative” personal experience in the Indian jungle.

The Book That Proves That Not Every Music-Related Picture Book Has to Feature JAZZ:

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The Roots of Rap by Carol Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Little Bee, 2019)

Yes. YES. This book is informative, gorgeous, and pulsing with beat.

The Book That Reminded Me of My Own Limited Basketball Ability:

Nikki on the Line

Nikki on the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts (Little, Brown, 2019)

Female sports novels are hard to come by and even harder to find with such good basketball action from the grueling practices to the drama on and off the court. I’m eager for more from this author.

I Didn’t Read the Jacket Blurb So I Didn’t See It Coming Award:

The Line Tender

The Line Tender by Kate Allen (Dutton, 2019)

I’m still verklempt. Count this as a SOB! on my “Sniff, Weep, Sob!” Meter but this heartbreaker is in my top 3 books of the year and it has my favorite cover of the year.

You Can Read to Me Forever Award:

The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Book 2) by Philip Pullman (Knopf/Listening Library, 2019)

I listen to a lot of audiobooks on my driving commute, but this was my favorite of the year. With Pullman’s stellar storytelling and Michael Sheen’s narration, I never wanted to stop driving.

Favorite Bird Book From the Year I Became Obsessed with Birding:

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Owling by Mark Wilson (Workman, 2019)

I read a lot of youth bird books this year and there were some great ones, like these, and this one, but I learned so much about owls from Mark Wilson giving this one a feather’s thickness lead over the others.

Lynn’s Awards:

The NOW I Finally Get It Historical Event Award:

Bringing Down a President: The Watergate Scandal by Andrea Balis and Elizabeth Levy (Roaring Brook, 2019)

Even though I lived through this, I was still somewhat confused about what happened when until I read this stellar nonfiction account of the Watergate Scandal. NOW I get it!

The Book That Most Made Me Feel Like a Broken-Hearted Teenager Once Again:

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki (First Second, 2019)

It has been a loooong time since I was a teen but Tamaki absolutely stabbed me in the heart with this book, bringing back the emotions as if they were brand new. Sob!

The Book That Made Me Hungry Every Time I Read it!:

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperCollins, 2019)

Acevedo’s writing about food and cooking was so mouth-watering that I was hungry the whole time I read it. Well, her writing was actually evocative about everything in this delicious story.

The Book I Had to Fight My Teen Grandsons For:

The Toll by Neal Shusterman (S&S, 2019)

Let me remind readers that there are TWO of them and they BOTH read it before I got to. Is that grandmotherly sacrifice or what?

The Book That Helped Me Understand Cricket — At Least for a Minute or Two:

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion, 2019)

I really understood cricket while I was reading this  – maybe, sort of, I think so anyway. Well, even if I’ve forgotten it all, I still loved this book!

The Book that Drove Me to Check My House for Bugs:

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer (S&S/Atheneum, 2019)

This fascinating story based on Romanian history had me checking for bugs—the listening variety—under every surface! Yikes! Young readers need to know this history!

The Book that Nailed the Joy of a First Seaside Vacation:

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker (Penguin/Viking, 2019)

There is so much that is stellar in this debut book but Tucker’s descriptions of a first experience at the sea during a Long Island vacation made me feel as if I was walking barefoot in the surf for the first time too.

The Book That Surprised Me the Most:

Let ‘Er Buck: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Carolrhoda, 2019)

I’d been on a waitlist for this book for so long that I had forgotten all about it. When it came, it knocked my socks off! WOW, just WOW! Brilliant in every way! Text, illustrations, back matter, and research are all superb!

The Book that Cracks Me Up Just Thinking About It:

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris (Little, Brown, 2019)

‘Nuff said. This hilarious book just cracks me up every time!

 

Conference Exhibit Hall Manners, or, Greed in the Aisles

Cindy and Lynn: Exhibit halls full of new books and publisher events make attendees giddy but they can strain the patience and goodwill of even the most generous publisher marketing rep. We’ve been regularly attending ALA’s Midwinter Meetings and Annual Conferences and a few Book Expo events since 2000 and we’ve seen some ugly behavior. In Seattle at Midwinter, this exchange was overheard as an attendee tried to take a hardcover book from a publisher’s booth display:

Attendee: Oh, my Grandson will love this book.

Publisher Rep: That is our only display copy, but it’s published now, and available for purchase at bookstores and online.

Attendee: Why would I buy a copy when I can get one here for free?

The reps have heard it all, we’re sure, but we were astonished. So here are a few tips. They probably won’t be seen by the right people, but you can help spread the word if you know someone who needs a dose of Miss Manners for Library Conferences.

  1. Advance Reader Copies (arcs) cost more to produce than a finished hardcover book. It’s a privilege to get one, and if you do, you should commit to reading it and promoting it if you find it worthy.
  2. The one who picks up the most arcs does not win. And taking handfuls of the same arc, not cool at all.
  3. Exhibit Hall guidelines prohibit wheeled carts. Leave them at home. Strollers and scooters are allowed as long as they are in use at all times (we don’t believe that means “in use” to haul your books and conference swag!)
  4. The Publisher booths should not be treated like the Hunger Games Cornucopia, although it would be fair to let the reps pick off the attendees who behave badly.

We’re sure you’ve experienced similar acts of greed and ill manners. Leave us a comment with the worst exhibit hall behavior you’ve seen. If you’re a publisher and want to remain anonymous, feel free to email one of us and we’ll add your story to the post while protecting the innocent. And, tune in after ALA for a follow-up post about what you can and cannot do with those treasured arcs you nabbed.

Stump the Librarian! A Student Challenge

Cindy: Each fall I start the school year by challenging my students at orientation to play “Stump the Librarian.” I tell them that I know that not everyone likes to read as much as I do, but that I can help them to find at least one item in the library that they will like. They are encouraged to come to me during the first few weeks of school and say “I dare you to find me a book I will like.” They love hearing that I’ve never been stumped and think that they will be the one. I love that I’ve eliminated a few barriers to getting them to talk to me about books, and, so far, my record stands. I am nothing if not persistent!

One of my 6th grade ELA teachers embraced this challenge fully with her students and a few years ago ordered a stamp that reads “Stump the Librarian.” She got tired of writing the phrase on library passes as she sends them to challenge me all year long. I love when a kid shows up with that stamped note. She is retiring next week and bequeathed the stamp to me. I will remember Mrs. Mac and her passion for building readers among her students, especially those who didn’t think they liked reading. She will be missed.

And then there was the student who showed up years ago asking to play “STOMP the Librarian.” I set him straight pronto! HAHAHAHA!

A New Home for Bookends Blog

After 10 years of blogging for Booklist Online, we are moving the Bookends blog to this new home. We’re happy you’ve found us and hope you will continue to read our book reviews of children’s and teen literature drawing on well over a half-century of combined experience in the field.

Cindy Dobrez is currently a middle school librarian in Holland, Michigan, serving 1600 students in two large buildings. She has reviewed for School Library Journal, Voice of Youth Advocates, the Chicago Tribune and Booklist in over three decades of work as a public and school librarian.

Lynn Rutan is a retired middle school librarian and past reviewer for VOYA and Booklist, and past editor of The Media Spectrum, the journal of our Michigan Association for Media in Education.

Both Cindy and Lynn and have served on or chaired numerous book award committees for the American Library Association, including the Newbery, Printz, Sibert, BBYA, and Margaret A. Edwards awards. We have both chaired the L.A. Times Book Award YA Jury as well. We bring years of youth literature knowledge, experience working in school libraries, and a love of the literature to our reviews.

Bookends Blog includes solo posts but most often features both Cindy and Lynn’s critique of a single book. We usually feature books we recommend…but an occasional rant is to be expected. Look here too for display ideas, cover trends, author interviews, and our own annual eccentric book awards—fun things book and library related.

Two heads are better than one! Thanks for reading Bookends!