The Peanut Gallery Awakens
Good afternoon, sweet ones! Well it’s taken some time but I finally have time now to take a look at what’s been going on over at The Battle of the (Kids’) Books. Lessee here. I’ll just pop over and see what you guys have been . . . .
HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL, BATMAN!!!!
Criminently, people! I turn away for two measly weeks and look at the troubles you’ve gotten yourself into. Man o’ geez, this is going to take some untangling.
All right. So let’s start from the beginning. I have my delicious container of planters peanuts open and I’m dipping into it frequently (thereby rendering my fingers oily, salty, and my computer keyboard slick and delicious, which is the natural state of every good laptop, so no worries there).
Round #1, Match #1: Pitted Octavian Nothing vs. Ways to Live Forever
Judge: Horn Book editor, Roger Sutton
Winner: Octavian Nothing
Also known as the "well, duh" round. If Roger Sutton had suddenly been bopped over the head by the Opposite Fairy and was unable to say anything but the reverse of his true intent THEN I would be surprised by this choice. I mean, seriously. Octavian Nothing = Big serious book about big serious things. Ways to Live Forever = Fun book about death. To be honest, I personally might have gone with the latter, but that’s only because I personally haven’t read the former (to YA for my blood). So yawn to the yawn, people. Nothing more to see here.
Round #1, Match #2: Pitted The Graveyard Book vs. The Trouble Begins at 8
Judge: Jon Scieszka
Winner: The Trouble Begins at 8
This one woke people up a bit! Particularly those folks who had bet cold hard cash that The Graveyard Book would make it all the way (sorry, Laura). But consider who you’re dealing with here. Mr. Scieszka is a yukster with a fine appreciation for a funny book. Gaiman can be funny, sure he can. He’s got all kinds of urbane British bon mots floating about his noggin. But The Graveyard Book was what it was. A good old-fashioned fantasy. The Trouble Begins at 8, on the other hand, was doing this crazy dance of language and history, and it was funny to boot. Now Scieszka’s the kind of guy you look at sharply when you see a spitball flying (I was at that Eric Carle Museum Honor dinner, Jon, and I know everyone said it was Tony DiTerlizzi throwing those things but I still harbor my doubts). So this isn’t the biggest surprise in the world either. The Scieszka man also likes to shake things up and shook up were the masses. Moving on.
Phew! That was a close one. Man, I love me my Betsy Partridge (it’s like she has my name, but got a little more specific on the species) but that’s a non-fiction (sorry, informational) woman if ever I met one. On the other hand, it wasn’t like Chains didn’t get completely and utterly passed over in the Newbery arena this year. I’m a bitter over that. And Chains is chock full of facts. They had something like three different people going over that book with a fine tooth comb, trying to determine if there was any detail that wasn’t historically accurate. And yes yes. I’m sure Washington at Valley Forge is very nice. But with the way that popular books have been dropping left and right, I was scared to death this round would end badly. Phew!
Round #1, Match #4: Here Lies Arthur vs. Tender Morsels
Judge: Meg Rosoff
Winner: Tender Morsels
Zzzzzzzzzzzz. . . .*snuck* Wha? Oh. Yeah. Great. Zzzzzzzzz
Apparently the folks at Battle of the (Kids’) Books hate Rachel Cohn. That’s all that I can figure since why else would you do this to the poor woman? It’s like someone sat down and said, "Who should we give the worst job in this thing? I know! Rachel Cohn!" So here she is, and she has to decide against a Kadir Nelson, and the best feminist piece of YA fiction ever written. She goes with the Nelson, which I understand but here’s the thing. While my head would have chosen We Are the Ship, my heart would have gone with Frankie. I read We Are the Ship and was awed. I read Frankie and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. So which would you choose in the end?
Geez, those guys should buy Rachel some flowers or SOMETHING for that.
Mmmm. Freshly roasted porcupine. Just the way mama always used to make it. Yum!
Oh, come ON, people! She friggin’ wrote a blurb for Graceling, like a year ago! Look, I love Tammy Pierce. I do! And she even says at the beginning "Before I begin, I should issue a general caveat: I read Graceling last year, when it was in manuscript form, and liked it so much that I recommended it to fans on my live journal, as well as to librarians and other writers at conferences. I did inform School Library Journal of this, but I was positive I could read The Underneath with an open mind." So it’s not like she’s hiding anything, but when I saw the brackets right at the start I did think to myself, "Uh… didn’t she, like, BLURB Graceling?" She’s a fantasy writer, people. She’s going to appreciate a fantasy as gripping as Graceling, obviously. And my poor little Underneath kinda sorta is a fantasy, but not in the same way. Waaahh!!! Me no like.
Round #1, Match #8: The Lincolns Vs. Nation
Judge: Ann Brashares
Winner: The Lincolns
I swear to you, if The Lincolns wins this thing (and it might) I am going to have to figure out what exactly is going on here. Clearly Mary Todd’s been working this thing from the inside. The woman was always smarter than people gave her credit for. Poor little, Nation. It’s okay. At least they’re turning you into a musical.
Round #2, Match #1: The Trouble Begins at 8 vs. Octavian Nothing
Judge: Tim Wynne-Jones
Winner: Octavian Nothing
What? You didn’t think the Mark Twin bio had a snowball’s chance at a barbecue, did you? Humor’s all well and good but when the Oscars roll around every year is it the funny stuff that gets the awards? No way, dude. It’s the lofty loftiness. So no surprises here. It’s the NEXT Round where things will start to get interesting . . .
Round #2, Match #2: Chains vs. Tender Morsels
Judge: Coe Booth
. . . . because we’re going to be dealing with Octavian finally having someone serious to bite into. And do you realize what this means? It means that I am FINALLY going to get my Anderson Vs. Anderson match-up! For about a year I’ve hoped to see a panel debate between Laure Halse Anderson and M.T. Anderson about slavery during the Revolutionary War. Anderson V. Anderson on the single topic they BOTH have been writing about. It’ll probably never happen but this will provide the next best thing. Now the only question is, where will judge Linda Sue Park go with this one? Survey says she goes with Chains because Chains is awesome. But I’ve been known to be wrong.
And so Coe goes for Chains over the gang rape book. That’s what I originally wrote, but a smart reader pointed out to me (and you can see this in the comments) that distilling a book this complex into one aspect is the equivalent of calling Chains "the flogging book" or "the mutilation book". And you know what? She’s completely right. I don’t read a lot of YA and so when I hear about gang rape in a book my instinct is get all fussy about it. So I apologize. Tender Morsels is much more than a single scene. My apologizes to it for being so flippant with my remarks.
Round #2, Match #3: We Are the Ship vs. The Hunger Games
Judge: John Green
Winner: Hunger Games
I should probably be more upset about this, but since I’ve decided that Hunger Games is going to make it all the way, I’m not. About this time the commentators started speculating on whether or not this would come down to Katniss vs. Katsa . . . .
Round #2, Match #4: Graceling vs. The Lincolns
Judge: Nancy Werlin
Winner: The Lincolns
. . . . and were sadly disappointed to see THAT little possibility evaporate. A fantasy book destroyed by non-fiction BY a fantasy author? That’s gotta burn! Personally, I think The Lincolns may yet make it to the final round. See that next judge there? That’s Mr. Chris Crutcher. Funny dude. I could see him deciding over Hunger Games, but he also has a keen sense of YA. Could break either way.
Final prediction? Linda Sue will go with Chains (since no one can argue that it’s any less researched that Octavian, though there will be some hair pulling, no doubt). Then Crutcher caves and goes with Hunger Games. That means that Lois Lowry has to choose between Chains and Hunger Games and in the end, in spite of the fact that there will be people who say that she only chose it because she wrote a similar dystopian novel, Chains will once again lose at the last minute and Hunger Games takes home the gold.
I’d write more but the sheer amount of salt and oil from the peanuts that has worked its way between the keyboard keys is rendering my messages both tasty and garbled. If I keep on at this rate I’ll suddenly find my fingers writing messages like "I think The Lincolns will make a surprise win in the end", and we wouldn’t want that would we? I mean, we might. The Lincolns is pretty awesome. Till next week!
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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