Thursday, March 17, 2011

School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books Round One Preview (part 2)

We are 4 matches into this year’s Battle of the Kids’ Books and the excitement and upsets are already in full swing.

So far we’ve seen The Cardturner, Countdown, The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie and Keeper advance into the second round. Below I’ll preview the remaining four more matches in round 1 as well as add some thoughts on the results.

Match 5 Karen Hesse judging The Odyssey vs. One Crazy Summer

Karen Hesse must decide between a book practically every award committee honored in someway and a stunningly beautiful retelling of one of the world’s “the greatest stories.” Good luck Ms. Hesse.

Of the 47 contest participants 96% guessed that Hesse would follow the lead of the National Book Award Committee, the Scott O’Dell Committee, the Coretta Scott King Committee and the Newbery Committee by recognizing One Crazy Summer’s brilliance. I can’t help but wonder if Hesse will throw a wrench into almost everyone’s bracket like when Julius Lester chose against When You Reach Me last year or when Jon Scieszka eliminated The Graveyard Book in the first Battle of the Kids’ Books. With this in mind I would not be surprised to see Hesse go with the underdog selection.

A whopping 29 bracket challengers picked One Crazy Summer to win it’s first three matches and advance to the final match, five more think it will return from the dead and 18 believe the book has what it takes to win the whole contest. Judge Hesse can ruin a bunch of brackets tomorrow morning. She can at the same time make one Gareth Hinds very very happy. So there’s that.

Match 2 Adam Rex judging Sugar Changed the World vs. The Ring of Solomon

Adam Rex is one funny guy. What ever his decision I’m counting on it being delivered in a hilarious manner.

Could these books be any more different? Forget comparing apples and oranges. This one is like comparing artichokes and wildebeests. I’m at a total loss to see how Rex can make his decision. Personally, I was fasinated by what I learned reading Sugar Changed the World but the writing itself did not leave me feeling awestruck in the way I want great nonfiction to hit me (at least not in the way my favorite nonfiction titles We Are the Ship, American Plague, or Story of Mankind impressed me). As for Jonathan Stoud’s Ring of Solomon, I must admit that I haven’t finished it yet. I only just got it from a local library last week and it isn’t what I would call a ‘quick read’ I’ve been forcing myself to read a few chapters every night but so far the story has not become the page turner I want my fantasy fiction to be. Maybe if I was previously familiar with Bartimaeus I would be more interested but so far it’s a meh.

Rex might instantly have sided with the often humorous djinni in which case it might very well advance. The participants in the bracket challenge favored The Ring of Solomon 30 to 17 so I’m guessing Rex picks Sugar Changed the World no sense betting against contrarian judges yet.

Match 3 R.L. Stine judging A Tale Dark and Grimm vs. They Called Themselves the K.K.K.

First off, RL STINE!!!!!!!!! How cool is that! I was in fifth grade when the Goosebumps books swept across the nation and I vividly remember reading them all day long while my fifth grade teachers rattled on about whatever they were attempting to teach. A couple classmates and I would actually have contests where we would all start the same Goosebumps book right as the morning announcements ended and race to see who could finish it first (and not get caught not listening or doing whatever mindless work our teacher expected us to be doing). After lunch we would do it again with another Goosebumps title. We must have read the entire set in the span of a month. [At my most rebellious I was reading in school. Kind of sad actually.]

Anyway back to matchup. Stine gets to judge between to frightening books. One frightening in a humorous way not too unlike Stine’s own sense of humor and one a nonfiction tale that will likely give more real nightmares than all of Stine’s books put together.

For me, A Tale Dark and Grimm started off great and soon got a little hokey. The whole battle with the dragon didn't work for me. It all seemed silly compared to what had come before. To be honest I would have liked it a lot more if it was two or three chapters shorter. They Called Themselves the K.K.K. on the other hand could have been much longer. I was both frightened and fascinated by the information presented and wished it had kept going.

This is the match up that jumped out at me when the judges were revealed and for some reason I felt very strongly that Stine would go with team nonfiction. The fact that two-thirds of the bracketers went with A Tale Dark and Grimm only further cements my hunch that team nonfiction will actually get a win that I can support. (cue Jonathan Hunt's shock.)

Match 4 Mitali Perkins judging Trash vs. Will Grayson, Will Grayson

This match was the closest decision from the bracket challenge participants. Twenty-four people picked Will Grayson, Will Grayson and twenty-three chose Trash. Right away I'll say that Trash is one of my favorite books in this years competition and WG,WG is without a doubt my least favorite. I don't read to much YA because most teenage characters, like most teenagers I'd guess, annoy me to no end. They are usually written to be so self centered, so prone to stupidity, and so prone to romance that I just want to throw the books across the room and pick up a nice middle grade fiction book where the characters problems are external and don't have to involve their "feelings". I find that the YA fiction that I do enjoy feature teens in extraordinary circumstances or involve really smart teens. For example, my favorite recent YA include: Looking for Alaska (wicked smart teens), The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks (wicked smart teens), Octavian Nothing I & II (wicked smart teen in an extraordinary circumstance), Bruiser (extraordinary circumstance), and Skelling (extraordinary circumstance). Reading slice of life tales about ordinary kids (and especially upper class privileged kids) makes me want to vomit.

So while I typically enjoy John Green, WG,WG was for me an excruciatingly painful read. I wanted to quit after chapter two and kept wanting to quit more and more each and every chapter going forward. Trash on the other hand was really freaking awesome. I read the whole thing in one or two sittings and thought it was put together brilliantly. I just wish it were up against Ship Breaker instead of WG,WG.

I'm going to guess that Judge Perkins will go with Will Grayson, Will Grayson because why upset two peers (one with an incredibly loyal online following and the other an important editor) when you can upset one peer instead.

Here's an update on how the contestants are fairing after four matches.

2 participants are a perfect four for four so far.
2 participants are a 0 for four.
16 people got three correct.
20 people got half correct.
7 people are hanging in there with one correct guess.

A full leader board will be posted after the completion of all round one matches.

1 comment:

Doret said...

I was doing so good until today, Blah.