The Pulitzer Prize is an annual awards given to excellence in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition and are administered by Columbia University in New York City. The 2013 awards were announced yesterday. For books, the following awards were given.
Ambitious and inventive, this novel is set in an orphanage in North Korea. Protagonist Pak Jun Do is forced to become a fighting tunnel expert and a kidnapper before he takes his fate into his own hands. Johnson is able to tell the tale of touching humanity set within the backdrop of a brutal regime.
Pete the Cat has been a cool cat fixture in children's literature for a couple of years now. He first appeared on the picturebook scene in 2010 with Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, followed by Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes in 2011. Each story features Pete singing a little ditty, which you can listen to and download for free through the publisher's website. (You can also watch a short video of each Pete the Cat through the website, too.)
In 2012, Pete managed to save Christmas -- and sing about his four groovy buttons. And 2013 has already proved to be an impressive year for Pete as he launches a beginner reader series and earns a Geisel Honor Award. Pete was charming as Santa's substitute, but it was Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons that earned kudos from the Association for Library Services to Children, which cited it as one of three Honor Books for the 2013 Geisel Award. Named for the great Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), the Geisel Award is presented annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States.
Up, Tall and High! a cleverly designed lift-the-flap book was the 2013 Geisel Award winner. This humorous story, with limited text and an interactive format will certainly appeal to beginning readers. And the other Geisel Honor books are both delightful. But while Pete The Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons is notable for its accessible vocabulary, repetition of phrase, and rhymes which serve beginner readers so well -- it also did an outstanding job of incorporating simple math into the story. As (spoiler alert!) Pete's buttons pop off his favorite shirt one by one, large numbers appear at the bottom of the page, showing that 4-1=3. And later, 3-1=2, and so on...
My newly 5-year old daughter and I had great fun with this story talking about numbers and math, as well as the definition of groovy. And giggles abounded as we discovered that in the end, Pete is left with one button after all. Can you guess what type of button he still had?
I love making lists, reading lists and cross referencing lists. I especially love December when many journals publish their year-end best-of lists. The New York Times has a top ten list, as does Publisher's Weekly and Amazon's Editors chose 20 books that they considered the best for 2012. The only book to make it to all three lists? Bringing up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. This is the follow up novel to Wolf Hall, about Thomas Cromwell and Henry the VII. Both books won the Man Booker Prize and a third book is in the works.
Other than Mantel's struck-it-gold novel, there isn't a whole lot of other crossover. Publisher's Weekly and the New York Times both list Building Stories by Chris Ware. This graphic novel is really an unusual collection of printed material, collected in a large box, which shares the stories of the residents of one building. Tackling a wide range of themes, the New York Times calls it "simultaneously playful and profound".
Warning! Don't look for these books in the Young Adult section! These are "Adult Books," written for adults. Teens beware!
Ok, now that I've got your attention, let me also say that these books are just great for teens. So great, in fact, that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) made an award just for them, and named them after a famous Baltimore librarian - sort of. Her name was Margaret A. Edwards, but her friends called her Alex, and that's where we get the Alex Awards. The 2012 Alex Awards feature ten books written for adults, but with special appeal to teens.
Heart of a samurai : based on the true story of Manjiro Nakahama
"An action packed historical novel set on the high seas!" claims the book jacket for Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus. Normally these aren't quite the descriptors I am looking for in a good book, but this Young Adult novel has amazing visual appeal and lying underneath the "high seas adventure" is a true heart of gold.
Preus tells a fictional account of a true story: Manjiro, a young man from a small fishing village, becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in America. Japan at the time had closed borders and a deep distrust for anything foreign. When Manjiro is rescued with his friends after being shipwrecked on an island by an American whaling ship, his life is changed forever. Captain Whitfield sees that Manjiro is a quick study, both in language and sailing and takes him under his wing. The more Manjiro sees outside Japan, the more he wants to learn and explore eventually ending up attending school in New Bedford, Massachusetts living with the Whitfields.
June is generally recognized as LGBT Pride Month. In honor of this, the Lambda Awards were announced last week for excellence in LGBT literature. A long list of winners in a wide variety of categories can be found on their website.
The winner in the LGBT Children's/Young Adult category is Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright. This novel is about high school student Carlos Duarte who is juggling a job at the Macy's makeup counter, a jealous boss, his sister's abusive boyfriend, and a difficult crush. Booklist's review of Wright's novel remarks that "there's a whole lot going on in Wright's novel, but it's handled deftly and, for the most part, believably. Best of all, Carlos is not completely defined by his homosexuality. It is an important part of him, yes, but so are his ambition, his concern for his sister, and his capacity for friendship."
Grace Brown, a 20 year old skirt factory employee, was murdered in 1906 just outside an Adirondack mountain resort by Chester Gillette. Gillette was arrested soon after Grace's body was recovered in a lake and he was later executed in a New York prison.
This gruesome true story serves as part of the backdrop for the very non-gruesome and excellent young adult novel, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. The main character, Mattie Gokey, receives a bundle of letters from a guest at the resort and makes a promise to burn them. But when Grace's body is later pulled out of the lake, Mattie becomes unsure what the right thing to do. Maybe the letters hold answers?
Mattie is also torn between her duty to her family and her dream of going to college. Her family lives in a rural area and they work extra hard making a living off of the land, made especially difficult since her mother has passed away and there are three younger girls to look after.
The Edgar Awards are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America and are often considered the most prestigious awards for the mystery genre. This year's awards were presented this week and the winners include:
Investigating a serial carjacker whose actual targets are young children in back seats, Jack Caffery teams up once again with police diver Sergeant Flea Marley, whose life is endangered by a discovery in an abandoned, half-submerged tunnel.
Celia Scott and her family move back to her husband's hometown in Kansas, where his sister died under mysterious circumstances twenty years before, and where Celia and two of her children struggle to adjust--especially when a local girl disappears.
In 1919, the McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry located in Evesden-a shining metropolis, the best that the world has to offer. But then eleven union men are butchered by hand in the blink of an eye. Now, one man, Cyril Hayes, must fix this and uncover the dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton.
The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded this week with the announcement that there will not be a fiction winner for 2012. This isn't the first time that there was no prize, but the announcement still comes as sort of a shock. Three finalists had already been announced, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, and The Pale King by the late David Foster Wallace.
While Sig Gissler, an administrator for the Pulitzer Prize awards says "it is not a statement about fiction in general -- just a statement about the process", Ann Patchett disagrees. Patchett who is an author, reader and book store owner wrote an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing the lack of award. She argues that there were actually many deserving books this year and the excitement created for both readers and sellers of books is something that is desirable and necessary.
When Tinkers won the Pulitzer Prize, I put it on my to-read list where it lingered for two years. I had a hard time summoning enthusiasm after reading the description every time I went looking for a book. A few months ago, I deleted it off my to-read list acknowledging that I would probably never read it. Last week I thought I would give it another shot and now I wonder why I waited so long. Paul Harding's first novel sucked me in right from the hallucinatory beginning and I didn't want it to end. The banalities are such: George is dying and reflective on his life, family and career. The narrative alternates to a time when George is very young and focuses on his father, a man who ends up being unfairly defined by his grand mal seizures. In between these paragraphs, there are excerpts from the fictional book called The Reasonable Horologist and other shorter paragraphs that seem nonsensical at first, but end up working at the end. Time and memories are the main theme and this book has a rural New England setting.