Thursday, March 18, 2010

BoB Bracket leader board and second half preview

Four matches in the books and the best of the eight books is still alive (thank you Ms. Frost!!!) so I'm happy. Only four contestants are still perfect and nine have yet to earn a point. Here's the leader board:

  • batgirl2004 4
  • LaughingAlegra 4
  • akalkowski 4
  • maggie 4
  • hmlibrarian 3
  • Genevieve 3
  • Scope Notes 3
  • Agent J 3
  • Mmmarci 3
  • Mr. Mendez 3
  • March Madness 3
  • MelodyP 3
  • Carolyn 3

The top half of the bracket featured 4 close matches which the Battle of the Books Bracket Contest participants were relatively split. The bottom half of the bracket however features 4 matches for which a consensus was much more pronounced. Below is a preview of rounds 5-8.

Round 5 - Gary Schmidt judging Marcelo in the Real World v. Marching for Freedom

Apples vs. Oranges here. The most heralded young adult novel of 2009 is up against Elizabeth Partridge's children's eye view of one powerful moment in the civil rights movement. You have to feel for Judge Schmidt's dilemma. Two equally outstanding titles, each trying to do two very different things. The bracket challengers appeared to have no trouble with this match up. 79% chose Marcelo over Marching, the biggest landslide of the contest. Unfortunately, so far the judges have yet to agree with the majority of the voters.

In each of the previous decisions the judges have chosen the title least like their own work. Is it that authors can more easily see the flaws in works that have more in common with their own genres or formats. In round 1, Jim Murphy went against Claudette a large format nonfiction not unlike his own titles (in appearance at least). In round 2 Nancy Farmer went against the sci-fi/fantasy title and instead advanced the character driven middle grade novel. In round 3, Fleming chose the fantasy over the nonfiction and today Judge Frost went with the long fantasy over the allegedly more lyrical grouping of short stories (this one is a pit of a stretch on my part but Lips Touch seems more poetic than Lost Conspiracy, right?).

So if this strange trend continues, might we see a big upset and Judge Schmidt going with fellow Printz Honoree Partridge over Printz robbed Stork?

I really liked both these books and don't have a single negative thing to say about either (which is unusual for me). I devoured Marcelo and have since recommended it to a number of non kidlit reading friends. Marching for Freedom was a wonderful surprise. I thought the pictures were unbelievable and the writing perfectly unobtrusive. Living in Atlanta, I drive down Hosea Williams Drive and on the Ralph Abernathy Freeway; I had a vague idea of who these leaders and am grateful to Partridge for writing an accessible account of the sacrifices they made and the charge they led.

My guess is Marcelo but would be happy either way.

Round 6 - Cynthia Kadohata judging Peace, Locomotion v. A Season of Gifts

Two wonderful books that got lost in the shuffle around awards time. I am happy to see these two titles matched up with each other, ensuring at least one of these overlooked titles will get at least one more round of attention.

The contestants in the bracket challenge went with Peace, Locomotion almost 2 to 1 but only 10 people had either Peace or Season moving on past the next round and no one had either title winning the whole thing.

I read Peace, Locomotion during a full on Woodson binge last fall and thought it was was as impressed with her newest as much as I was with all the rest which is to say very impressed. It seems unfair that prolific authors must continually outdo themselves to receive more recognition. Shouldn't maintaining an absurdly high level of excellence be recognized? Peace, Locomotion was the equal to Woodson's previously awarded works, and much better than Homer P. Figg, yet was overlooked all year long (other than some starred reviews).

Its interesting that Woodson was matched up with Peck whose title was equally ignored during award season, possibly for the same reasons. I read Season of Gifts this summer and enjoyed it as much as the previous Grandma Dowel books, which is to say "A lot". I laughed while reading Season of Gifts and I don't know how many other titles in this year's battle you can say that about.

I don't know much about Judge Kadohata other than she proved her ability to make me reach for the tissues while reading Kira-Kira. I can't wait to read her decision and hope that it entices readers to pick up both worthy books.

Match 7 - Anita Silvey judging The Storm in the Barn v. Sweethearts of Rhythm

The contestants leaned heavily towards Phelan's The Storm in the Barn here. 39 contestants picked Storm and only 13 went with Sweethearts.

Anita Silvey is a children's literature authority of the highest order. I love that she is dealt to very untraditional titles to judge. Sweethearts of Rhythm and The Storm in the Barn are both beautiful books. Pinkney's work here is just as strong is it always is (its really as great as The Lion and the Mouse) and probably should have pulled the Caldecot version of a Konigsburg (can Konigsburg be a verb?) this year and taken Medal and Honor.
Honestly Marilyn Nelson's verse was beyond me. Not enough of a narrative to keep me going but I kept turning the pages to see what Pinkney would do next. I'm sure Silvey is much more capable of appreciating the poetry.

When I saw this trailer for The Storm in the Barn I immediately ran out to get my hands on the book. It delivered just what the trailer suggest. It's a great story well told and beautifully drawn. This is probably my fourth favorite book in battle. That said it wasn't even the best graphic novel of the year (Stitches duh!) so don't feel like it should be the battle champion.

I'm hoping The Storm in the Barn advances because I'm interested to see how Judge Shannon Hale's judgment is affected by her recent delve into the world of graphic novels. Though if the first four matches of this round are any indication this might not favor Storm's chances in to make round 3.

Match 8 - Julius Lester judging Tales from Outer Suburbia v. When You Reach Me

(disclaimer: I have no vested interest in WYRM other than complete and total admiration for the book)

Judge Lester don't screw this up! I am so looking forward to hearing both Walter Dean Myers and Katherine Paterson's reasons for choosing When You Reach Me so don't rob us of that. The best part of last year's battle was M.T. Anderson's comment* where he shared his thoughts about The Hunger Games. I'm really looking forward to hearing what Frances Hardinge thinks about When You Reach Me, so please please Mr. Lester don't mess this up!

39 of the 52 of the bracket contenders (75%) picked When You Reach Me to advance on to round 2. Eleven picked it to be crowned the champion which is one more than Marcelo, making When You Reach Me the favorite!

In Fuse#8's top 100 children's novels poll, When You Reach Me came in at an astonishing 39th place with 24 voters placing it in their top ten! Obviously When You Reach Me doesn't need any more attention, but thankfully that isn't the point of the battle. If the judges are serious about finding the best book of 2009 they need look no further.

This is a perfect book that rewards multiple rereads. I hope Lester was able to go through WYRM at least four times (Tales could easily be given an equal number of reads). Have you seen the cover for the Australian edition? Text Publishing (Melbourne, Australia) took Sophie Blackall's cover imagery and made it even more beautiful. They also alternated the small key, bread bag and shoe drawings on each chapter. (see pictures below).

I wonder if Random House will use this for the US paperback

The Spine:

All the chapter pages alternate between these three images.

I ordered this from Australia a few weeks ago and it arrived earlier this week. When I opened it up I was so happy to see quotations from both Fuse#8 and Monica's reviews make it into the book. They were early champions of the title and the reason I bought it on its first day of publication.

Tales from Outer Suburbia was a good book but I wonder if its uniqueness and form are being praised more than its story. Its got some nice stories. I did enjoy the crazy wedding scavenger hut, but on the whole I found book uneven and not consistently compelling. This one shouldn't be close. Judge Lester please do the right thing.

After rounds 6 and 8 I will post updated leader boards. But until then it's basketball time...Let's go 'Cuse!

*sadly it appears that MT Anderson's consolatory comments on last year's battle of the books blog were lost in the migration to the new Battle of the Books website. Fortunately I sent a fragment of the comments in an email to my brother. You can find it below if you're so inclined

....he reason I think this book deserves the attention it's getting -- beyond the pacing, beyond the pleasing dissonance of the unresolved love triangle (very delicately done, for a book that wades in so much gore) -- is that in it, a central and real and deeply troubling question -- to what extent is compassion merely a weakness -- and kindness merely an evolutionary flaw? -- that question is played out quite directly through the action, embodied directly in the plot in scene after scene. We deeply care about Katniss in part because we deeply want some shred of what we think of as humanity to survive. When I read it, I thought that it was remarkable that Ms. Collins took this terrifying question and really explored it. She didn't back out or soften the investigation. This book deserves its laurels....


Monica Edinger said...

As half the Battle Commander, my lips are sealed, but as the owner of Educating Alice --- thank you so much for letting me know that my quote is being used for the Australian edition of WYRM. Too cool!

The Brain Lair (KB) said...

I love your speculation on why the judges are making their choices and it makes sense sort of... That still doesn't soften the blows of my losing bracket picks...