Miss Megan’s Five Star Favorites, Part II

I love middle grade, but more often than not I find myself gravitating to the Young Adult section. There are just such fantastic choices available over there these days! Here are some of my all-time favorites.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryPenguin; 4.99; Ages 10-adult

Opening line: “Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place.”

For fans of: Daddy Long Legs; Betsy-Tacy

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine MarshHyperion; 16.99; Ages 12-adult

Opening line: “Being a court dwarf is no easy task. I know because I failed at it.”

For fans of: The Astonishing Life of Octavian NothingDavid Copperfield

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinHyperion; 16.99; Ages 14-adult

Opening line:  “I AM A COWARD I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.”

For fans of: I Capture the Castle; Flygirl

Chime by Franny BillingsleyPenguin; 8.99; Ages 14-adult

Opening line: “I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.”

For fans of: The DivinersFinnikin of the Rock 

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakKnopf (Random House); 12.99; Ages 14-adult

Opening line: “First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.”

For fans of: Milkweed; I Am the Messenger

I Capture the Castle by Dodie SmithSt. Martin’s; 14.99; Ages 14-adult

Opening line: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

For fans of: A Brief History of MontmarayJane Austen

We try to always have copies of these books on our shelves! Come by and check them out sometime!

Read on, readers!

Miss Megan


And the Award Goes To…

Earlier this morning, the American Library Association announced the Youth Media Awards. We selected our picks for Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz a couple of weeks ago, and now the committees have spoken! Behold.

indarkness (3)Michael L. Printz Award

Winner: In Darkness, Nick Lake, Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books

Honors: Aristotle and Dante Discover the UniverseBenjamin Alire Saenz, Simon and Schuster; Code Name VerityElizabeth Wein, Hyperion Books (staff pick & Megan’s pick); DodgerTerry Pratchett, HarperCollins; The White BicycleBeverley Brenna, Red Deer Press

ThisIsNotMyHat_thumbCaldecott Medal

Winner: This Is Not My HatJon Klassen, Candlewick Press (staff pick & Megan’s pick)

Honors: Creepy CarrotsAaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown, Simon and Schuster; Extra YarnMac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen, Balzer & Bray/Harperteen (staff pick & Megan’s pick); Green, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Roaring Brook Press; One Cool FriendToni Buzzeo, illus. by David Small, Dial Books; Sleep Like a TigerMary Logue, illus. by Pamela Zagarenski, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

9780061992254Newbery Medal

Winner: The One and Only IvanKatherine Applegate, Harper (Megan’s pick)

Honors: BombSteve Sheinkin, Flash Point (Roaring Brook Press); Splendors and GloomsLaura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick Press (staff pick & Megan’s pick); Three Times LuckySheila Turnage, Dial Books for Young Readers (staff pick & Megan’s pick)

Stop by the store and check out these wonderful titles for yourself! Give us a call to check availability–we’ve got a bunch of award darlings on order just for you!

Miss Megan’s Newbery Picks

Newbery choices are tough. There are so many great books to choose from, so many rules and various criteria to consider, so many helpful opinions to process. But, in the end, I have to stick with the books that have left the greatest impression on me this year.

True, the Newbery committee doesn’t always pick the same titles I do, but I really think they should. Fingers crossed for 2013!

13531021Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-16

I’m rooting for this book so hard! Code Name Verity is my favorite book of the year, but this one’s a close second. Baltimore librarian and previous Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz dazzles with lush descriptions, hilarious dialogue, and an utterly engrossing setting. I didn’t want this book to end. Brilliantly done.

Liar-and-SpyLiar and Spy by Rebecca Stead; Random House; 15.99; Ages 9-13

A classic mystery in so many ways, but it feels fresh. And disagree if you like, but I prefer this title to Stead’s previous Newbery medal winner, When You Reach Me. The plot flows effortlessly, the characters are endearing and engaging, and the storyline has layers of poignancy and emotion that are handled with just the right amount of restraint. A strong contender for the medal!

jeppJepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine MarshHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 14-adult

The rules for the Newbery dictate that books written for readers up to the age of fourteen can be considered. In that case, Jepp has to be part of the discussion. The title character’s voice was one of the strongest I’ve read this year, and Marsh’s ability to make period fiction feel both historically accurate and fresh for a modern reader is commendable. This one’s a wild card for me, as it’s also a strong choice for the Printz Award, which recognizes achievement in young adult literature.

GypsyMothCover-231x350Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker; Balzer & Bray/Harperteen (HarperCollins); 15.99; Ages 9-12

Pennypacker weaves a story that packs a hefty emotional punch without feeling manipulative or forced. She handles an often overused theme in middle grade fiction—the “unlikely friendship”—in a way that is natural and engaging. I couldn’t get this novel out of my head after I read it. I still can’t! Gypsy Moths is a Newbery dark horse that I’d like to see get some (much deserved) recognition.

9780061992254The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Harper; 16.99; Ages 8-12

A moving story of a silverback gorilla’s quest to find a better life for the baby elephant that arrives at his dilapidated zoo. Applegate handles the themes of conservancy and animal welfare with a deft hand, and it is to her credit that she writes both her animal and human characters without judgment. Even the “bad guy,” we discover, has a tender side. What could have been a heavy handed sermon is, instead, a lovely exercise in control.

556133_292317964185422_272218639528688_667024_412677593_nThree Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; Dial Books for Young Readers; 16.99; Ages 9-12

Like Liar and Spy, this is a mystery that’s more than just a formula. Hilarious prose and a small town full of wonderfully zany folk make this one of the most entertaining middle grade picks this year. The Newbery committee doesn’t always go for humor, but I think they should give it a go this time around. Turnage’s story is utterly fantastic.

Others to watch: Wonder, The Lions of Little Rock, The Great Unexpected

What are your picks for Newbery? Comment and let me know which titles I missed!

Miss Megan’s Printz Picks

The Michael L. Printz Award honors achievement in young adult literature. Since this is probably my favorite age group to read, I’ve had to make some decisions about which books I loved because they appealed to my particular taste, and which ones could be destined for award greatness.

Those few, those happy few, are…

codenameverityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 13-adult

My favorite book of the year, hands down. I can’t rave about this title enough—it’s as close to perfect as any novel I’ve read in recent memory. Yes, there are a couple of minor flaws, but they’re nit-picky and unimportant and I don’t care. For sheer plot intricacy alone, Elizabeth Wein deserves recognition. For compelling characters that made me chortle with laughter one minute and weep (weep!) the next, I say give her the Printz. Give her the Printz right now.

9781419701764_zoomMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsAmulet Books (Abrams); 16.95; Ages 14-adult

I love The Fault in Our StarsI really do. It deserves the scads of acclaim it has received. But what Earl has that I believe TFIOS lacks is a certain level of character credibility. Greg, Earl, and Rachel feel like teens I might actually meet, while Hazel and Augustus can only exist in the magical world of literature. Andrews is startlingly funny, and his conceit of writing various portions of the story in the format of a screenplay is brilliant. Absolutely deserving of an honor.

Brides-of-Rollrock-IslandThe Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo LanaganKnopf Books for Young Readers (Random House); 17.99; Ages 14-adult

Lanagan walks the fine line between fascination and repulsion with breathtaking precision. There’s an incredible amount of control here—what could be a straight up creepy story becomes an emotionally compelling narrative that refuses to play with black and white judgments of right and wrong. Multiple storytelling perspectives often serve to muddy a plot, and I won’t say that’s untrue here, but it also gives a multidimensional perspective on the strange, magical selkie brides.

jeppJepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine MarshHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 14-adult

This is a book that we could see as a Newbery option, but it has crossover appeal for the Printz, too. Jepp is sixteen, and the issues he faces are often unique to young adulthood. It’s a coming of age story that involves finding true love and following—or fighting—fate. It’s got appeal for readers of multiple ages, but I consider it to be a more appropriate contender for the Printz. Fingers crossed for this wild card!

11801954After the Snow by S.D. CrockettFeiwel & Friends; 16.99; Ages 13-adult

If the Chaos Walking series had a baby with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, it might resemble this book. The voice of Willo, the central character of Crockett’s novel, is both strange and engaging. I was haunted by it. After the Snow divides readers into two camps: those who were put off by the voice, and those who found it arresting and creative. I belong to the latter, and I think this title is unique enough to merit some recognition from the Printz committee.

Others to watch: The Diviners, Personal Effects, The Fault in Our Stars, Ask the Passengers

Disagree with me? Comment and tell me which titles should have made the list!

Our 2013 Printz Shortlist!

The Printz Award honors excellence in young adult literature, and there are some strong contenders this year. Here are the ones we think have a shot at the prize on January 28th!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinHyperion Books; 16.99

Ask the Passengers by A.S. KingLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers; 17.99

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenDutton Books; 17.99

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo LanaganKnopf Books for Young Readers; 17.99

Every Day by David LevithanKnopf Books for Young Readers; 17.99

Love YA? Tell us your picks for award season!

Miss Megan’s Favorite Books of 2012

2012 was a good year to be a reader! Ask me my favorite book and I’ll probably hem and haw before making a decision—but if I have to choose, I’ll choose from this list.

(Instead of giving you a long discussion of the merits of each book, I’m limiting myself to a Twitter-style 140-character summary for each. Here goes!)

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam RexHyperion Books (HarperCollins); 16.99; Ages 3-8

This discussion of author/illustrator collaboration hilariously breaks the fourth wall. Lots to look at, lots of laughs. Top Caldecott pick.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon KlassenCandlewick Press; 15.99; Ages 3-7

A little fish steals a big fish’s bowler hat. Text follows little fish, art follows big fish. Mayhem ensues. Klassen is a comic genius.

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy DoyleAmulet Books (Abrams); 16.95; Ages 9-adult

Poignant generational story about mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. Just the right length, great emotional impact.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara PennypackerBalzer & Bray (Harperteen); 15.99; Ages 9-12

This novel about an unlikely friendship is also a novel about two kinds of family: the kind we’re born into, and the kind we choose.

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-16

A Dickensian orphan story with a magical twist. Hilarity abounds. Schlitz is the queen of engaging, descriptive prose. Top Newbery pick.

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine MarshHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 12-adult

A young court dwarf in the Spanish Netherlands journeys on a quest to find his fate. Fantastic storytelling. Marsh is a DC author!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsAbrams Publishing; 16.95; Ages 14-adult

A story of unlikely friendship without the usual cliches. A fresh voice that is hysterical and engaging. You will laugh and cry.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 14-adult

Part spy thriller, part friendship story, with twists you’ll never see coming. Begs to be reread. Top Printz pick. Best book of the year.

If You Loved I Capture the Castle…

If You Loved I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith…

Regency Romances

Many fans of I Capture the Castle are also fans of Jane Austen, and Austen is actually referenced by the characters several times. Although I Capture the Castle  is set in the 1930’s, in some ways the story about love vs. money echoes Regency themes and preoccupations. So this first section of read-alikes is all Regency Romances of one kind or another.

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

This new romance is narrated by Althea, who knows that she must marry a rich man in order to save her family’s falling-down castle. To that end, she tries her best to attract the local Baron, while avoiding his argumentative cousin Mr. Frederick. Fans of Pride and Prejudice will be able to guess who she ends up with!

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevener

A novel told through the letters of Kate, enjoying her first Season in London, and her cousin Cecy, back home in the country, in a Regency England where magic is a part of everyday life.  Balls, suitors and picnics are mixed with wizards, sorcerers and spells.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

How often have you heard the words ‘post-apocalyptic’ and ‘Jane Austen’s Persuasion’ in the same sentence? Peterfreund has transplanted Austen’s final novel to a future where the world is run by ‘Luddites’ who eschew technology and run estates worked by ‘Posts’. Elliot North is a Luddite but her best friend Kai, back after four years away, is a Post. Will they be able to reconcile after years away from each other?

1930’s Adventures

Of course, I Capture the Castle is really set between the World Wars. The following are books set during that time period, some historical and some that take a few liberties with history.

A Brief History of Montmaray & The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

These two intriguing books are the journals of Sophie FitzOsborne, who lives with the rest of her royal family in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray. In the first book, the kingdom is attacked by fighter planes and in the second book, the family is forced to flee to England. The year is 1936, Germany is a threat, and Sophie must balance her concerns for her home country with the usual trials of adolescence. A great alternative history of mid-century Europe.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This is not a romance, and it isn’t set in the 1930’s. Rather, it is an espionage and aviation adventure set during World War II. However, in a blog post, the author revealed that one of the books she used for research into the atmosphere and setting of mid-century England was I Capture the Castle. She loves the book, and recommends that if you do too, you should read…

A Childhood in Scotland by Christian Miller

This is a memoir by a woman who grew up in a castle in the Scottish highlands in the 1920’s and it is filled with lush details of rooms, gardens, meals and clothes, similar to I Capture the Castle. Perhaps Cassandra’s life would have been more like this if the family had actually had any money! This book is out of print, but we’d be happy to find you a used copy.