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Nonfiction and Morris Award shortlists

December 6, 2010

Here are your YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalists:

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing
By Ann Angel, published by Amulet/Abrams
Janis Joplin, a true “fish out of water” in Port Arthur, TX, follows her own path to become an icon of American music in her short, tragic life.

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
By Susan Campbell Bartoletti, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Bartoletti provides readers with an in-depth look at the formation of the KKK and its subsequent evolution into a violent organization. With primary source material, she details the horrific history of the Ku Klux Klan and the people who fell victim to its reign of terror.

Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement
By Rick Bowers, published by National Geographic Society
In 1958, the state of Mississippi began an undercover operation, The Sovereignty Commission, to spy on and potentially squelch the Civil Rights movement. Bowers’ expose of this unknown organization reveals the extent to which some were willing to go to see segregation remain the law of the state.

The Dark Game: True Spy Stories
By Paul Janeczko, published by Candlewick Press
This compilation of different spies carries readers from the Revolutionary War through the infamous Cold War era. Delve into stories about the Choctaw Code Talkers of WWI, Soviet moles, Mata Hari and more as you uncover just how they changed the course of history.

Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates
By Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw, published by Charlesbridge
Through fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and scientific debate, the bones of Turkana Boy, Lapede Child, Kennewick Man and Iceman are used to tell the fascinating stories of four member of the human family tree. Maps, photographs, and news headlines add to our understanding of archeology’s cutting edge science.

And the William C. Morris YA Debut Award finalists:

By Eishes Chayil, published by Walker Publishing Company, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.
Growing up in her insular Chassidic Jewish community has always made Gittel feel secure and given her a sense of belonging. But when her best friend, Devory, hangs herself after being sexually abused, her faith in the group is challenged and only gradually does she find ways to express her desire for the community to deal with the issue.

Guardian of the Dead
By Karen Healey, published by Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just trying to make it through her last year of high school, but a chance interaction with the school’s weirdo, Mark Nolan, puts her on a very different path filled with Maori legends come to life.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
By Lish McBride, published by Henry Holt
Sam thinks his life working in a fast food restaurant is awful. But when he’s confronted by a powerful necromancer, he learns that everything he thought was true about his life — isn’t.

Crossing the Tracks
By Barbara Stuber, published by Margaret McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
In the 1920s, Iris’ emotionally distant father sends her to rural Missouri to act as a companion to an elderly woman while he heads to Kansas City with his fiance. Iris’ mother died when she was five, and it takes her some time to learn to care for Mrs. Nesbitt and see her own future with optimism.

The Freak Observer
By Blythe Woolston, published by Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group
Loa, a strong, intelligent, hardworking sixteen-year-old experiences a year of loss: the death of her sister who was born with a genetic disorder, her lifelong friend who was killed in an accident, her best friend who has gone to Europe, and even her dog. While trying to take care of her family and make it through school she ponders the laws of physics and tries to understand what can never make sense.

So, ummm, at this point, I’ve been so surprised by the above two shortlists, I’m not sure I should make any Printz predictions.

I’ve only read two of the Nonfiction finalists, Spies of Mississippi (I rather agree with Colleen’s take) and They Called Themselves the KKK (an amazing, though intense, read. I had to put it down several times before I was able to finish it because it is emotionally overwhelming.).

As for the Morris finalists, I’ve read three of them so far. The Freak Observer was, I think, a little too edgy for my taste, and I got a bit confused by the timeline—or the chronology of the narrative, at any rate—in the ARC I read. Although I did really appreciate the fact that it’s set in Montana (? I think?) and Loa’s family is poor. I started off really enjoying Guardian of the Dead, but struggled with the last third of it when I thought it became overly complicated and *spoiler?* The Sweet Far Thing-ish *end possible spoiler*. But you really should read Doret’s interview with Karen Healey from earlier this year. Crossing the Tracks is, in my opinion, the best of the three finalists I’ve read. Still—and this has nothing to do with the book in terms of the Morris Award—I have a hard time working up a lot of enthusiasm over it because Crossing the Tracks is SO similar to Nancy Crocker’s Billie Standish Was Here (historical Southern setting about a girl with neglectful, disinterested parent[s] and her transformational friendship with an elderly woman) that I can’t help but compare the two and think Billie Standish did it better.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2010 4:32 am

    Well, you know how I feel about Printz predictions. 🙂
    I requested several of the Morris finalists from the library, so I guess I’ll see what I think. There were a lot of strong debuts this year, so I’m sure it was a tough decision.

    • December 7, 2010 10:37 am

      Oh, I definitely agree that there were so many strong debuts to make a decision extremely difficult. And it is refreshing to see a lot of less buzzy books on both shortlists, but now I also feel like, whatever prediction mojo I had working a couple of years ago has disappeared. Oh well.

  2. December 7, 2010 3:01 pm

    I’ve read the first three Nonfiction finalists. I would be very surprised is They Called Themselves the kkk, didn’t win.

    I just read Hold Me Closer, Necoromancer – Loved it. –

    When I finished, Hold Me Closer, I was slighlty miffed I haven’t seen more blogger reviews of it. In the time of much more of the same YA fantasy, all original stories deserve a little love. I am simply tired of seeing unoriginal stores get hyped to and then be underwhelmed by them.

    And it’s very nice to see less talked about books on the shortlists.

    The only of Morris Finalist I have any interest in checking out right now is Hush. Though I will have my fingers crossed for Guardian of the Dead, which didn’t read me of the spoiler. And I Loved the spolier.

    There is a lot of strong YA this year. Its going to make Printz predictions very difficult.

    • December 7, 2010 8:40 pm

      I’ve got Hold Me Closer, Necromancer on hold right now, and have an ARC of Hush, so hopefully I can read them soon. Glad to hear you enjoyed the former and that it’s not more of the same old, same old. Makes me that much more excited to read it!

    • December 27, 2010 2:11 pm

      Doret, I finished Hold Me Closer, Necromancer over the weekend (am writing my review of it right now) and completely agree about the lack of blogger reviews. Hopefully it making the Morris shortlist changes this. I don’t know if it’ll win the Morris (I still haven’t read Hush yet; the ARC is at work and I’m on vacation this week), but it’s the finalist I enjoyed the most. For however much enjoyment by a non-committee member counts, anyway.

  3. December 13, 2010 10:48 am

    I haven’t read Billie Standish Was Here but I just finished Crossing the Tracks and absolutely loved it (a review is going up tomorrow on my blog). I’m guessing it won’t win the Morris Award since it doesn’t seem like a book that will become a ‘must-read’ among teens and it isn’t full of the snark which my quick peek into Hold Me Closer, Necromancer appears to be full of.

    • December 27, 2010 2:14 pm

      Yeah, I think Hold Me Closer, Necromancer has the most immediate teen appeal. Meaning that I don’t think you’d have to sell it the way/as much as the other finalists.

      re: Crossing the Tracks, I liked it, but I probably would have liked it a lot more if I hadn’t read Billie Standish Was Here first.


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