The Biebs and Ivan Connection: My (Serious) 2013 Newbery Insight

For the sake of clarity: this post is about making the connection between two very talented people from different spheres (Katherine Applegate and Justin Bieber) and how social media has contributed to the buzz about those talents.  It is not a post about calling into question these people’s talents (even if Justin Bieber isn’t your cup of tea, he writes songs, plays several instruments and is a pretty dang good singer while bouncing around on stage).

I do not think Katherine Applegate won a Newbery because of Twitter.  I think she won one because she is extremely, undeniably talented.  Same thing with Bieber: I don’t think he wins awards because of Twitter.  I think he wins them because he is also talented.

While anyone can, of course, disagree with my opinions on what constitutes talent, I want to make it clear that this post is about observing a tremendously positive, exciting change in the way readers are celebrating books for young people on social media.  I think Twitter has changed the level of excitement about the Newbery in a very good way.  I do not think Twitter had anything to do with the fact that a very deserving book – The One and Only Ivan – won the Newbery.  No matter the state of technology when it was published, Ivan would have won.  I really believe that. So…

Stay with me on this one.

So in November, Oprah interviewed Justin Bieber and commented that he is like no other celebrity in history because of social media.  Essentially she says (and quite smartly, I think) that Biebs can’t really be considered on the same level as Elvis or The Beatles or even Michael Jackson because of the role that Twitter played in his rise to success.

Y’all, I think the same thing happened to The One and Only Ivan this year.  It’s a Newbery game changer.

I don’t have Photoshop. Can you tell?

To my knowledge, this is the first time there has ever been a real concentrated rallying around a particular Newbery contender on Twitter.  Sure, there have been predictions and fan favorites and things, but nothing like what Mr. Schu and Colby Sharp started; from Twitter chats to vlogging to hashtagging ’round the clock, I’d say there was a definite Ivan movement. In 2011, there certainly wasn’t a Moon Over Manifest movement as no one had read the dang thing.  And while I remember tons of buzz around When You Reach Me for the 2010 prize, I don’t think there was the kind of mobilization that there was with Ivan. And in January 2009, only the really cool kids were on Twitter.

To further my point, has a Newbery award winner ever thought of a blogger(s) immediately after hearing the news of winning the award?

And has a Newbery award winner ever thanked a Twitter community or blogger(s) in their acceptance speech?  Not that I know of, and I’ll betcha my little blue bowler hat that’s gonna happen come Chicago.

It’s the future, folks. Let’s celebrate with this song from The Jetsons movie that, when I was eight years old, considered THE MOST ROMANTIC THING OF ALL TIME.

 

Post-ALA Midwinter Depression Spiral? Follow These 5 Easy Steps

Blurg.

That’s the sound of post-conference blues.  You’re overtired and feeling wired and crazed and still blinking from the Youth Media Awards light show and you come home and realize that you don’t have any eggs to hard-boil for breakfast and your favorite tights need washing and…BLURG.

Well, that’s how I was feeling Wednesday morning on my second day back at work post-ALA Midwinter.  But then I did some things that put a bit of the pep back in my pants.  If you’re having a D in the D (down in the dumps) day, follow my patented program.

Tip 1: Put Up Those Posters

For the most part, I’m an anti-swag person.  I hate lugging a bunch of stuff home and I live in fear of becoming one of those insane rolling suitcase librarians in the exhibits.  But I have started a nice little poster collection in my office and scored two additions this past weekend.  Behold, Olivia, matching perfectly with my office’s pink walls (yes, I have a boss that let me paint my office pink.  Though I originally tried for something more of the Pepto-Bismol variety but that was vetoed).

Don’t worry, those creases work themselves out over time.

I also made a bold statement by throwing this one for Lane Smith’s Abe Lincoln’s Dream right on the front of my office door.  This is a no-Confederate zone, y’all!

You know what people are going to think when they see this? Fancy.

Tip 2: Put a book you love (but many don’t know or under-love) up on display

My pick was Hamsters Holding Hands by Kass Reich, published by BC’s own Orca Books.  If this doesn’t cheer you up, you have major problems.  There is a HAMSTER holding a BALLOON ANIMAL.  Alternatively, you can put all the award winners from Monday up on display too for bonus points.

And remember this?

Tip 3: Weed Something Ghastly

Like this! Wheezy – a story about a little English boy with asthma published in 1988.

My favorite page is below where the little dude asks “Please could I have some of those leaflets for my asthma scrapbook?”  Then he joins “the Saturday Swimming Club for children with asthma” (YES, this is actually what it is called) and everything is hunky dory.  He probably grew up just fine.  I actually weeded this today, guys.  No jokes.

Tip 4: Order Those Winners You Missed

White Bicycle. ‘Nuff said (and it’s apparently third in a trilogy?! That’s gotta be some other record/gasp-worthy thing).

Tip 5: Have Someone Call You a Unicorn

I was helping out with a real reference question doozie on the desk when my girl Saundra sent me this email.  A good reminder of the power of a shout-out and what a boost it is to get compliments from colleagues.  Made my day and something I want to do more often for others.

And, if all else fails, pump some 90s jams.  I blasted this all the way home.  Just go ahead now.

um….(2013 ALA Youth Media Awards gasps and more)

BEST THING EVER.

That was Jon Klassen’s Twitter reaction to pulling a total Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen style Caldecott move by snagging both an honor and the medal at the ALA Youth Media Awards this morning.  As Uncle Jesse would say “Haaaave Mercy!”

Shannon Ozirny: Psychic

Now I know tons of people made actual predictions that came true, but I would just like to point y’all back to a little tweet I busted out 12 days ago:

That’s right.  Now, Three Time Lucky only got a Newbery Honor, but this makes me at least 1/2 psychic.

Freaking Out

This was my very first time attending the awards.  It was 14 hours ago and I still kinda feel like this.  It was beyond exciting.

I think the biggest thrill was Beverley Brenna winning a Printz Honor for White Bicycle.  I thought the name sounded familiar, and after some quick Googling, I confirmed that she is from Saskatchewan!  Me too!

Things That Make You Go…Gasp!

There were some particularly cray moments this morning for reals.  Gonna bust out the bullets for this one:

  • No Printz love for The Fault in Our Stars.  How does a book with a million starred reviews and a Time review quote of “Damn near genius” get jack?  Beats me.
  • No Illustration Honors for the Pura Belpre. Zip.
  • No Schneider love for Wonder.
  • An Artemis Fowl book got an Odyssey award.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t said the words “Artemis Fowl” since about 2009.

Me Being an Idiot

The funny thing about conferences is that you are so busy running around and squealing when you run into people that you forget to eat.  This happened to me on Saturday.  Then I hit the sauce a bit and repeatedly called Kirby Larson “Clare.”  As in Clare Vanderpool.  Kirby is seriously the most gracious, upbeat, kind, wonderful person you will ever meet so she didn’t seem to mind at all, but STILL.  At least I was confusing her with another amazing Newbery talent and wasn’t calling her Francine Pascal or Lauren Conrad.

#1 Pal Award

Finally, a big shout-out to my ride or die pal Travis of 100 Scope Notes for hassling me (in a nice way) to get back in the saddle with my blog.  I bounced the majority of my tweets off of him this weekend and also about 93% of the content of this blog post after the ceremony, so if you’re digging it, you can thank him.  Travis followed me on Twitter back in the day when I had about 60 followers and he, along with the indefatigable ray of sunshine that is Mr. Schu, have been so supportive and made me feel utterly welcome at my first ALA conference back in Anaheim.  If it weren’t for the good people at Random House and the amazing Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz Memorial Scholarship that I won last year, I’m not sure that I would have made it to ALA and made some great friends.  So good stuff all around.

And in my perennial efforts to bring Jay-Z into everything, I give you this music-less tribute to Jay-Z’s favorite headwear, the Yankee cap.  I’m sure if anyone took it from him, he would go loco on them Klassen style (the best part is the random dudes they intersperse where you’re all “That’s not HOVA.”)

Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day by David Levithan. Random House. On sale August 28, 2012. Reviewed from ALA ARC.

You wanna know what makes a quality young adult romance?  One that really sticks out from the pack and just kicks you right in the nuts of your heart?

INCONVENIENCE.

That’s right.  There is no romance more exciting to read than one that centres around really inconvenient love.  Figuring out how to love someone when you both have cancer? Inconvenient. Deciding whether or not you should return to consciousness post-auto accident for your boyfriend?  Super inconvenient.  Trying to love someone you thought was a girl but then turned out to be a boy? Definitely not on the list of the top ten most convenient things.

Of course, those three scenarios refer to some of my recent favorite lurve-themed YA books: John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Brian Katcher’s Almost Perfect. They are brilliant in different ways (and of course deal with many other themes beyond love), but all feature characters who must really, seriously give ‘er to earn what their heart desires.  I think this theme of inconvenient love is so powerful that it can even carry a the book in the absence of really terrible writing (see: Twilight).

But what does all this talk of inconvenience have to do with David Levithan’s new book, Every Day?  It is officially one of the most inconvenient cases of love I have ever had the pleasure of reading.  The book’s main character, simply called A, wakes up in the body of a different person every day.  The body might belong to a male or female, a straight, gay or bisexual person, a person of any race – the only consistency is that all the bodies belong to sixteen-year-old people.  This is all going along fine until A meets Rhiannon.  A falls in love with Rhiannon.  And then things get SUPER INCONVENIENT.  Because how can you love someone when you have a different body every day? How the heck can that possibly work?

It’s a conundrum and a half, and that is why Every Day is so addictive.  As readers, we want to find out how someone in such an impossibly difficult, inconvenient situation could make it work.  Because if some genderless being with no body can make it work in love, then certainly we all have a shot, right?

This novel is not only exceptional in its premise, but in the brilliant points it subtly makes about the fluidity and elusive nature of gender.  Is this the first YA romance featuring a protagonist with no assigned gender?  I think so.  And that is a really big deal.  When this book inevitably becomes a Hollywood blockbuster, I just hope that A remains genderless, and we don’t discover at the end that the character’s “true” form is actually Taylor Lautner. Or Selena Gomez.  Or the dog from The Artist.

And, like every David Levithan book, Every Day is dripping with descriptions of emotions and feelings that are normally impossible to put into words.  I swear that there is something on every page of his books that I want to have printed on a t-shirt so I can run out into the street and shout “This is exactly how I feel!  Don’t you ever feel like this too!?”

If the human heart had a spokesperson, if would be David Levithan.

No offense, Maya Angelou.

O Canada on the ALA Exhibit Floor

Yes, I’m still posting about ALA because it was my first one and dang exciting.  If you had just experienced Christmas for the first time on June 22, don’t you think you would still be blogging about it too? I thought so.

Previous to actually attending ALA, I would follow the conference hashtag on Twitter and feel generally sorry for myself that I had never attended.  These feelings of self-pity would really flare when I saw photos from the exhibit floor – “Oh look, there’s Mo Willems just casually strolling by!” someone would post along with a twitpic.  Way to rub it in.

The thing is, I was always really curious to see what the actual booths looked like – especially the booths of my beloved Canadian publishers.  No one really ever posted pictures of the exhibits themselves, just the fabulous people inhabiting them for four days.  So this post is basically for myself pre-June 22, 2012. But hopefully some of you who haven’t attended ALA, or didn’t get a chance to stop at the great Canadian kidlit booths, will be mildly interested.

Kids Can Press

Kids Can Press is the equivalent of the person who really gets the party started.  And, try as you might, it’s hard not to get excited about a Christmas Scaredy book. Behold their booth:

Groundwood Books

Has Groundwood ever published an unclassy book?  I think not.  I am also loving their new book, I Have the Right to Be a Child which teachers will be clamoring for in the Fall, I know. Because I won’t be working for National Geographic anytime soon, all I have is this photo of their banner.  Sigh. But it is a beautiful banner.

Tundra Books

One of my favourites and publisher of Susin Nielsen who I am apparently obsessed with judging by my last couple posts.  And the cover of The French Fry King makes me so happy.

Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Publisher of one of my faves, Shirley Woods – does anyone do books like Shirley Woods?  Novels about fictional animals (that don’t talk and aren’t creepily anthropomorphized!) that are an amazing hybrid of fiction and non-fiction and completely engaging/dramatic?

Annick Press

They do it all.  From the much-buzzed creep show of Erebos (which I still need to read but is never on the shelves) to Robert Munsch to non-fiction queen (and awesome gal) Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Annick is all awesome.

I somehow missed getting a picture of Orca’s booth, which is bad because I love them and they are the closest geographically to my apartment.  They are also coming out with a very interesting new YA series called Seven. The premise: a grandfather with a pretty interesting/adventurous past dies.  He has seven grandsons.  They all takes different paths and are presumably affected by grandpa’s death in different ways.  Each of the seven books is penned by a different, highly awesome Canadian author.  It sounds like a Canuck 39 Clues for teens.  Should be nifty.

Big apologies if I’m missing any Canadian youth publishers here.  It really was great fun to see them at the exhibits – felt like a little bit of home.

Let me close this blog post with a nod to the subpar Sbarro in the Hilton food court, provider of my lunch – a piece of cheese pizza – for three straight days at ALA.  Because I was entirely too busy and overstimulated to find a tastier, more nutritious option, I tip my hat to thee for being so convenient and having a way shorter line than the equally subpar Baja Fresh.


The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen

Let us all rise and give thanks for Susin Nielsen’s amazing new book:

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen. Pubs September 11, 2012

I picked this ARC up at the Tundra booth at ALA.  My pal Kay did too.  Before we even read it, we were tremendously excited.  We had a conversation that went roughly like this before the USBBY panel on writing about war for young people:

Kay: I got Susin Nielsen’s new –

Shannon: (interrupting as usual): Oh me too.  It looks really –

Kay and Shannon: (in unison) Really good.

Kay: I think this is going to be the one to really break her into the American market.

Shannon: Me too.  And then we can be all smug about it.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen tells the story of thirteen-year-old Henry and his dad.  They have just moved to Vancouver (the entire story takes place within a three block radius of my apartment which is so cool. But I digress).  Where is Henry’s mom?  She’s in a psychiatric facility in Ontario.  Why is she in a psychiatric facility?  Because Henry’s older brother, Jesse, took a hunting rifle to school and shot a classmate before shooting himself.  Henry is now being encouraged by his hippie therapist to keep a journal as a means to help process his feelings.  The results are hilarious and poignant and absolutely true-to-life.  In other words, you will LOL and you will :`(

That is a crying emoticon by the way – not some weird Canadian symbol used to review stellar books.

You will just fall in love with Henry.  He has gained a bit of weight since the tragedy and refers to his new un-svelte bits as his “wobblies.”  He loves wrestling.  He never fails to notice his female neighbour’s huge bazongas. When he shuts down emotionally, he will only talk in a robot voice. He is both sensitive and rude, deeply insightful and totally clueless.  He is Nielsen’s most authentic, hilarious character to date, which is really saying something because no one can write a middle grade character like Susin Nielsen.

This book also manages to deal with the aftermath of a school shooting in a way that is totally realistic without ever tipping over into melodrama.  Like The Fault in Our Stars was so much more than a cancer book, this is so much more than a school shooting book. There are some definite tougher moments, especially around the bullying that Henry’s brother endured before committing the murder-suicide, but they are quick and never unnecessary.  This is solid middle grade material that is ideal for Grades 6-8 and won’t traumatize your heartier Grade 5s.  I think some librarians might order it because of the subject matter, but they will be pleasantly surprised to find that it makes just as big of a contribution to their humour collection as their “issue” collection. Fans of Tom Angleberger and Jack Gantos will really dig this.

When I was trying to explain this book and Susin Nielsen to my mom, she quickly interjected “I know who Susin Nielsen is, Shannon.  I watched the credits of Degrassi. Credits are very important. Americans are really missing out on how awesome Degrassi Junior High was in the 1980s – the original series before Drake was on it.  The coolest thing about Degrassi was the ensemble nature of the cast.  A few episodes would focus on a handful of characters and then the focus would shift to other characters and their storylines.  Half the fun of watching Degrassi was seeing your favourite characters walk by in the background; the actors would be principal actors in one episode and extras the next. Nielsen wrote a whole bunch of Degrassi episodes, and her mad screenwriting skillz really shine in her novels as she also takes the ensemble approach with her books.  Ambrose from Word Nerd is on Henry’s school trivia team. Karen from Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom is Henry’s upstairs neighbour.  The list goes on.  I can’t tell you how much kids love making these connections and reporting them to us at the information desk.

So for those of you in the know about Susin Nielsen: this book lives up to everything you are expecting and more.  For those of you who are Nielsen neophytes, stock up on her stuff now so you can share in my smugness.

ALA: 7 Published Books, 7 ARCs and Some Susin Nielsen Love

In total, I brought home 14 books from ALA. Of those 14 books, 6 were published books I paid for, 1 was a free published book and 7 were ARCs.

I had heard a lot about people going wild in the exhibits, gunning for stuff like a scene out of Life As We Knew It. And there has been much buzz about that 22 minute ALA book haul video that’s floating around. Stacked has a very thorough post on the whole thing. I’ll admit to watching most of it and being overtaken with jealousy at the Gary D. Schmidt ARC.

It might just be me and my 700 square foot world, BUT WHERE DO PEOPLE PUT ALL OF THESE BOOKS? I have three very skinny, small Ikea bookcases to my name. One shelf is taken up entirely by The Series of Unfortunate Events. Another houses the complete works of Leonard Marcus. That leaves me with 2.75 teensy bookcases. Thus, I have to be extremely selective about the books I bring into my life.

Perhaps the best solution to all of the debates around people going crazy on the ALA exhibit floor is to simply ban exhibit entry to those who live somewhere with an affordable housing market. Us Vancouverites and New Yorkers would be very dainty and respectable because we barely have room to brush our teeth, let alone store an extra book or two. I kid, I kid.

For those interested, this is what I scooped up:

6 Published Books I Purchased

 

From L to R: Stay by Deb Caletti, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, The Monster’s Monster and Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S.King, Amulet #1 by Kazu Kibuishi

Stay completely floored me in the sense that I was never able to sympathize with girls in relationships with scary dudes before reading this book. Jon Klassen is Canadian (!) and I Want My Hat Back has saved my butt zillions of occasions in storytimes with rowdy six-year-olds. Patrick McDonnell makes my heart warm. A.S. King makes complex things easy to understand. A signed Kazu Kibuishi will bring me tons o’ cred with nine-year-old male patrons for the foreseeable future.

 

1 Free Published Book

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

My pal Kay and I are apparently the only people in the world who have yet to read this book. Please don’t tell Mr. Schu. But it will get read!

6 ARCs

 

 

L to R in order of pub date: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, Everyday by David Levithan, Amulet #5 Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi, Drama by Raina Telgemeier, In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

 

I think these were probably on most school and youth librarian’s lists to grab, so nothing terribly original here. But I want to tell you – especially you Yankees – about this, the seventh and most blessed ARC:

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen. Tundra Books. Pubs September 11, 2012

Susin Nielsen is the next big thing. There is an episode of The Simpsons where Bart brings Santa’s Little Helper in for show-and-tell and Milhouse proudly brags “I knew the dog before it came to class!” Not to liken Susin to a cartoon dog, but this captures how most Canadian librarians feel about Susin Nielsen. We are going to feel very smug and brag alot when she gets 200 person signing lines at future ALAs.

She is a mix between Tom Angleberger, Jack Gantos and Susan Juby with just a touch of a teenaged Dav Pilkey (she isn’t afraid of some potty language). She was a screenwriter for Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High (the original series pre-Drake). Degrassi taught every Canadian born between 1979-1984 about being a teenager. She is funny, smart and somehow has access to the brain of a Grade 7 boy. If you haven’t read Word Nerd or Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom, you are missing out. My buddy Vikki has a great review of Clooney here.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is about a thirteen-year-old boy (named Henry K. Larsen, not surprisingly). Henry’s brother shoots a classmate before shooting himself. Tough stuff? Yes. Will Susin Nielsen somehow manage to infuse this terrible tragedy with enlightening-but-sensitive humour? If her track record is any indication, yes. I will be celebrating Canada Day this weekend lounging in Saskatchewan and reading this book (right after I wrap up a Quill & Quire review of another Canadian favourite’s new YA novel). I can’t wait.