Friday, March 23, 2012

Battle of the Kids Books - A Spectator's Commentary, Week 2

Judge: Barbara O'Connor
Review Excerpt from The Grand Plan to Fix Everything: "So there you have it. Fascinating and unique subject. Indefinable genre. Sometimes lyrical. Sometimes campy. A Bollywood movie theme woven through ribbons of unbelievable coincidences culminating in an all-star cast of a scene worthy of the best fillum."
Review Excerpt from Drawing from Memory: "I don't feel as if I read it at all. I feel as if I experienced it...And the experience felt personal, intimate, and casual, as if Say might whip out a napkin and draw a sketch while talking, or pull out a few paintings tucked lovingly in a box from long ago."
Comments: It was amazing - the change in the tone of the review from one book to another. I knew who was going to win before I even reached the bottom. Though O'Connor gives The Grand Plan to Fix Everything a favorable review, it really does seem as though she feels rather 'meh' about it. It's incredibly apparent (to me, anyway) once you hit her review for Drawing from Memory - a book you can immediately tell she loved completely. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Drawing from Memory. 

Judge: Sarah Weeks
Review Excerpt from Heart and Soul: This book is a history not only of the Afican-American experience in our country, but of Mr. Nelson's family. Though [the] characters are not actually based on members of Mr. Nelson's family, we are told that the book was inspired by stories the author's relatives passed along to him. Aside from the masterful artwork, what sets this book apart from the traditional history books is the voice of the narrator whose folksy tone is woven throughout the text."
Review Excerpt from Inside Out & Back Again: "The choices the author makes as to which moments in this difficult journey to show, demonstrates what a truly gifted writer she is. Every word and every image is there for a reason."
Comments: When I saw that Inside Out & Back Again was going up against Kadir Nelson, I panicked. Mr. Nelson is an award-winning picture book author, and deservedly so! Still, I loved Inside Out and I desperately wanted it to win.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Purchase Now from Amazon: Inside Out and Back Again

Judge: Lauren Myracle
Review Excerpt from A Monster Calls: "...Damn if Patrick Ness didn't surprise me in the end with how he pulled everything togheter. Huge weepy kudos for that, as the book's conclusion turned me inside-out, which - frankly- is exactly what I was hoping it would do."
Review Excerpt from Life: An Exploded Diagram: "I did not predict that Life would suck me in as hard and fast and with such slurpy ferocity as it did, especially not on the tail of Monster. and yet, it did. It blew me away in large part because of its characters (beautiful and quirky), its scope (epic), and its humor (both broad and sophisticated), but most of all because of the novel's tight, vibrant, crackling language."
Comments: Both of these sound fantastic! I'm sure this had to be a really hard pick for Lauren Myracle - it certainly sounds like it was. I've read more books than most people do in their lifetime, and so - I'm a sucker for the distinctly unique. The very well written. Both of these seem to be exactly that. So, I'm down.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Life: An Exploded Diagram
Purchase Now from Amazon: A Monster Calls

Judge: Jeff Kinney
Review Excerpt from Okay For Now: "Fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck's voice rings clear as a bell, and by the third page, I felt like I knew him. In some ways, Doug is your typical middle schooler. He can be sarcastic and he puts up a tough front for his peers and teachers, but it's easy to see through these defense mechanisms to the basic goodness right below the surface. It's Doug's vulnerability that makes him the most appealing."
Review Excerpt from Wonderstruck: "Wonderstruck is told in simple prose and charcoal drawings, but its emotional impact is visceral. It's not often that I'm moved by a book... that's what movies are for, after all... but Selznick has created a new medium and mastered it all at once. His book, in a word: "Wondrous.""

Comments: I just adore Jeff Kinney. Please, please go to the SLJ blog and read his full review. He writes so well... I wanted to quote the entire review. Anyway, I read and loved Wonderstruck so I was gunning for it to win. I even voted for it to come back in the Undead Round - I'm desperate for it to never go away. But Okay for Now sounds amazing as well. I'll have to add it to my ever-growing list.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Okay for Now
Purchase Now from Amazon: Wonderstruck

Round Two! 

Judge: Marc Aaronson
Review Excerpt from Between Shades of Gray: "... a novel, based on considerable research, which adds an important and tragic true story to the shelves of literature for young readers. Its power comes from bringing to light what has too long been hidden: Stalin's use of the gulag to crush the artistic and intellectual flower of Lithuania."
Review Excerpt from Amelia Lost: "...makes use of an innovative narrative structure more conventionally employed in fiction to retell the familiar story of the adventurous life and mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
Comments: An interesting round because, as Marc notes - "We have fiction whose largest claim is nonfiction, and nonfiction whose power comes from its resemblance to fiction." Wow, it's getting harder to comment in Round Two! I've already noted that I want to read both of these books. They sound fantastic. And Marc Aaronson's review makes them seem all that much better. Even without reading, I harbored a secret desire for Between Shades of Gray. I'm going to have to buy/borrow that one and read it sooner rather than later. It sounds like the kind of book that can put all other books to shame.
Want to know the winner? Visit the SLJ Battle blog to read the full review and feedback from the Commentor, kid reviewers and other readers!

Purchase Now from Amazon: Between Shades of Gray
Purchase Now from Amazon: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

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