NPR Wants Your YA Favorites

NPR wants your picks for the best YA novels ever. You can share your top five in their comments (make sure to read the rules first). It’s awesome to read through everyone else’s choices as well. So far mine are:

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Of course then I start thinking about all the awesome YA books and want to fit them all in, but I think I have a good representation of style, tone, and publication date, too. Runners up include: Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Note: I tried to focus on titles that are currently categorized as YA novels. So even though To Kill a Mockingbird is basically YA and usually read in middle/high school, it’s still commonly stacked in the adult section so I had to leave that one out. But I did lean toward the MG novels, because I figure the line can blur so easily.

Share your favorites here at at NPR’s post!

April Is the Most Poetical Month

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
–T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

April may be cruel, but it’s also National Poetry Month. Over at the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance, they share some suggestions and resources for helping young readers learn about and love poetry. My favorite tip: “Put poetry in an unexpected place…perhaps the bathroom mirror?” I think it’s easy to resist poetry it’s held up as somehow sacred and, as a result, it becomes an “other.” Poetry can be part of our everyday lives, while you brush your teeth or make breakfast.

In the spirit of sharing poetry, here’s one of my favorite poems: Monet Refuses the Operation by Lisel Mueller. The ending gives me chills.

Feel free to share your favorite poems in the comments!

(image: Grolier Poetry Book Shop by afagen)

Novels I’d Like to Call My Own

Although it’s not Friday anymore (sigh), I still love the idea of last week’s Friday Fives by Paper Hangover: What are the five novels you wish you had written? It’s a tough one! There’s a big difference between enjoying or loving a novel and wishing you could call it your own. I’m sure I could add several to this list, but my five wish-novels are:

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
The first book to really make me think. The writing is fantastic, the characters are engaging, and the plot unfolds in a terrifying but realistic manner. Lowry has dozens of wish-worthy novels, but this one tugs at my heart in a very special way.

2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
I almost claimed the whole series but figured I’d better stick to one novel instead. The first in the His Dark Materials series is gorgeously written and compelling, and main character Lyra is one of my favorites.

3. The Commitments by Roddy Doyle
Doyle’s novels all have a wonderful lyricism and vibrancy. I think it’s almost impossible to incorporate music well into a novel (usually the lyrics or descriptions of music fall flat), but Doyle really gets the vibe of soul music. The movie is awesome, too.

4. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
Even though it’s full of whimsy, when I first read this I thought “Yes, this is exactly what it feels like.” Moriarty handles everything well, from having crushes to losing/gaining friends to family drama, while still maintaining an enormous sense of humor.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A novel that truly stands the test of time. It’s a beautiful look into small-town life, the first encounters with violence and chaos, and how there are still people who refuse to back down to prejudice and hate.

You can check out other people’s lists over at Paper Hangover’s post. I found the challenge through Reading on the F Train–great choices there, too! Feel free to blog about your own choices, or share them in the comments.

Guten Tag, Liebsters!

In college, my roommate took a semester of German just for fun. She’d come home and teach me phrases she’d learned. I’m not great with languages, so all I could remember was “Guten tag!” which we would say cheerfully as one of us entered/left the room.

But now I know another German word: Liebster, meaning “dearest.” Why? Because Lisa of Writer’s Block Party so kindly nominated me for the Liebster Blog award. Thanks Lisa!

The Liebster is designed to encourage bloggers who are new or don’t have a huge following, which I think is awesome. There are a lot of lovely bloggers out there, so let’s get them followed! Some Liebster rules:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog. Check. Lisa, you rock!

2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you. Also check.

3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.  Check #3.

4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed. (some say just 3 or more blogs of less than 200 followers each). Man, 200 followers? You have to be a celebrity for that, right? Honestly, I have no idea how many followers these blogs have, but I’m trying to avoid some of the huge ones. If you guys all have 1,000+ followers or have gotten book deals based on your blogs, just pass along the love to smaller blogs.

5. Let them know they have been chosen, by leaving a comment at their blog. 

Onto the blogs! In no particular order:

Lots of wonderful thoughts on reading and writing by a librarian/bookseller. (Who better to get book recs from?) Add in some Sherlock clips and I’m sold.

Lollygag Blog
 A Chicago playwright/nanny/awesome-er shares the hilarity and joy of everyday experiences and challenges.

Looks and Books
Jill combines the best of literature with a sharp fashion sense. I love her outfits based on characters/covers. It makes me want to dress up everyday.

Girl Meets Formosa
Kim went to Taiwan to do research for a book about her family. Lots of great info on living abroad, finding family/self, and the writing process.

Emily Kaye Lazzaro
Emily is a playwright and is so funny that I have to hold back from commenting on her blog because otherwise I might look like a blog-stalker.

Please check out all of the above blogs. They’re awesome and written by fantastic people. And keep spreading the blogger love, no matter how many followers you have.


Got It Covered

Is there a less apt proverb than “don’t judge a book by its cover?” I love judging covers! And LibriCritic has rounded up some of this year’s best covers in both mainstream adult and young adult. Lots of great choices in both categories. A couple of others I would add (based solely on cover design):

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

Winter Town by Stephen Emond

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

It’s fun to play “judge the cover,” but design is also really important to a book. I didn’t dig The Hunger Games cover design at first and it languished on my shelf for a couple months before I picked it up (and was instantly hooked). More credit to cover designers, I say. It’s a hard job!

What are your favorite 2011 covers?

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Reader

One reason I love children’s/YA lit is because those are books that stay in your heart forever. Even if you read a book that strikes you as an adult, it’s a very different feeling than falling in love with a book as a child. I remember feeling as if I truly owned books when I was young. I assumed that any book I read was new because I had only just stumbled across it. (To my surprise, A Wrinkle in Time didn’t get published in 1995.)

Of course I loved The Story Siren’s list of Top Ten Childhood Faves. I don’t have ten and my choices aren’t necessarily the best of children’s literature, but they’re books I devoured. In no particular order:

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
Two cousins, an evil governess, a boy who lives in the woods, and wolves stalking in the snow? Sign me up. I don’t remember why I picked this out of the library–I didn’t know anything about it beforehand–but I must have checked it out a dozen times after. Sometimes when I’m on a train in winter, I still think of Sylvia going to live with her cousin.

The Farthest-Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks
Banks is probably better known for The Indian in the Cupboard, but I fell in love with the classic fairy tale style. Dakin has three goals: to travel to the Farthest Away Mountain, to meet a gargoyle, and to marry a prince. Her solid determination struck me and I happily journeyed with her.

Witch’s Sister by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Technically, I was obsessed with the whole series, but I figured I’d just list the first book. Naylor has written dozens of amazing books, but the creepiness of the witch series got me. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to reading actual horror novels. Protagonist Lynn is convinced that her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Tuggle, is a witch. And Mrs. Tuggle keeps getting closer to members of Lynn’s family, usually to terrifying results.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
When I found out they were making a movie version, I was incensed. How could they make a movie without consulting me first? The movie was great, too, but I was so protective of the book. Obviously a classic, and I did dramatic reenactments in my room of Sara Crewe’s trials.

The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau by Jacques Cousteau
Technically, I don’t remember reading these (my first memories of them are from when I was about 3), but I loved looking at all the pictures. Porpoises, octopi, sea urchins: how is the ocean so cool? We had four or five of the twenty-one volumes, and I can’t even remember which ones exactly, but I remember opening all of them and sitting in the middle of the collection and enjoying all the ocean wonder. Even though I love fiction, I think it’s great to give kids nonfiction titles as well. They’re so naturally curious about the world, and books are a fantastic way to explore.

What are some of your childhood favorites?