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The 2014 Inky’s and YASLA Teens’ Top Ten

This week we had the announcement of some YA literature awards. First I was pleased to see the announcement of the winners of the Gold  and Silver Inky Awards. The Inkys are awards for teenage (or YA) novels and are co-ordinated by the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria via insideadog. This year we was the 8th year of the Awards that are voted for online by the readers (who are under 20) of insideadog.com.au who can be from anywhere in the world. You can look at the titles on this year’s long and short lists and also go back to previous years lists and there are links to previous lists from here.  There have been many wonderful titles that have made these lists so all are worth a look even if they are not the eventual winners. The 2014 winners: The First Third by Will Kostakis and   All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

  • Gold Inky Award (Australian book): The First Third by Will Kostakis The second novel from the author and it is this is both a funny and sad book about families and adolescence. The main character, part of a Greek-Australian family, is 17 year old  BillyTsiolkas.
    • Publisher’s website with teaching notes here.
    • Melina Marchetta interviews Will Kostakis here.
  • Will Kostakis tells us about his book ‘The First Third’ in the video below

  • Silver Inky Award (International book): All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry  Abducted 4 years previously, Judith is back but  has been mutilated by her abductor, who also murdered her friend. Shunned by the people around her she has to decide if she can regain her voice even if it changes everything around her. A very powerful story.  In the video below, author Julie Berry introduces the novel, “All the Truth That’s In Me.”

We have both these books in our library. They have been read students at our school over the last few months and they would agree that they are great stories.

A few days ago the YALSA’s 2014 Teens’ Top Ten titles were also announced. This Teen Choice list engaged Teens’ Top Ten book groups in sixteen school and public libraries around the country in reading and voting. The selected titles will also be included on the  Teen Book Finder App. It is now available for Android as well as iOS devices and anything that helps encourages my students to read is something I encourage. This app also offers a way to broaden the reading lists of my students in Australia by publicizing and promoting a broader range of book titles than they might otherwise see in the local library.

The future is here, almost! Machine Wars by Michael Pryor

Stories about future societies, especially dystopian ones, are high on our “most popular books” lists. Most are about surviving in this new somewhat alien worlds, Hunger Games and Maze Runner, and many are read across most year levels. Other favourites include: Bzrk (#1 of series) by Michael Grant, 0.4 (#1 series) by Mike Lancaster, The Hunt (#1 of trilogy) by Andrew Fukuda and Skinned (#1 Cold Awakening trilogy) by Robin Wasserman. 

Michael Pryor‘s book is set at the beginning, when the hero might just have a chance to stop things before society is forced to change and is enjoyed mostly by our younger students, the 12-13 year olds. The setting is now, today and easily believable.

Machine Wars

14-year-old Bram comes home late and as he arrives at the gate senses something is wrong. It is part of the survival strategy that his parents have drilled into him all his life. Bram’s mother is a brilliant scientist who is a world leader in the artificial intelligence world. She has always been aware that things could go wrong in her field and has planned for it. Bram has an elaborately planned survival plan, called “Scatter and Hide”, that has been designed to give his mother time to find a solution to the disaster. She asks Bram to stay out of the clutches of Ahriman (as the AI calls himself) for 3 weeks. He must not be taken hostage if she is to figure out how to overcome the rogue AI. This turns out to be easier said than done. With the help of his friend Stella and Bob, another AI unit, built by his mother and put into his childhood toy duck, Bram works hard to stay free. It is not easy to stay out of the clutches of a being that controls the internet. In today’s world staying off-line and off the grid is difficult especially when so many everyday activities are dependent on technology without you being really being aware of it. Bram teaches Stella to use a slingshot against some of Ahriman’s creations and Bob has some very useful moves as they try to stay ahead of their pursuer.

Bram is intelligent and a bit of a loner due to moving around a lot due to his parents working arrangements. He has developed various coping mechanisms such as using different character voices to hide his feelings. Stella, his new friend, is independent, thinks for herself and belongs to no single group but is friendly with all. Together, along with Bob, they decide that it is sometimes better to attack than just hide. Their days are spent alternatively hiding and planning then carrying out ways to fight back.

There are some humorous moments such as the description of Bram trying to find a way of keeping up with the news without technology and Stella walking across to a newspaper seller to buy the “old-fashioned” option.

View all my reviews

From the authors site, a page that discusses the novel, the story behind, its writing and links to other information.

Teacher Notes from Random House here.

The Slaves of Socorro: a great story needs a great trailer

Many of our boys love John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series and its spin-off the Brotherband series

This year we have had many students enjoying #4 in the series “The Slaves of Socorro“. It is a great story with lots of the sort of action that our boys love. The official book trailer, whilst advertising that the book is out, does nothing to really recommend it. So much could be put into the short trailer to really whet the appetite but this is a really bland attempt. We show trailers of our new books on a screen in our library. I am always looking for something to attract the eye of not only the good readers but especially the less interested students.

My challenge to our students is to come up with a better trailer, one that offers more to the imagination and may bring new readers to the series. We created a guide to the process and a rubric for class assessment several years ago. It has been used (and adapted) by students and teachers,and is available on one of our wikis

 

CBCA 2014 Books of the Year – Winners and runners-up

Congratulations to the authors and illustrators of the books below. To their editors and publishers and also the CBCA judges.

The CBCA winning books for 2014 voted on by the judges, were announced this afternoon. The judges have a difficult job and I know that a lot of deliberation and discassion has gone on. The CBCA awards are given to works that are the benchmarks for quality in Australian children’s literature. The books that made to this short list are being read and enjoyed by the boys. I wrote a post about the older readers shortlist with links for follow-up earlier in the year.  As is usually the case the books chosen this year were quite varied in their styles and subject matter.

The 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards have been given to the authors and illustrators in the following five categories from older readers to early childhood

Older readers

Winner: Wildlife by Fiona WoodShortlist

Honour Books

  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
  • The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn

 

Younger readers

City of Orphans - A very unusual pursuit -smlWinner: City of Orphans: A very unusual pursuit by Catherine Jinks. Catherine has an interesting page about the title, there are teaching notes and, from the Allen and Unwin site, there are Reviews by teachers (PDF) also.

Honour Books

 Early Childhood

Winner: The Swap by Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner.  Teacher notes here 

Honour Books:

 Picture book

Rules Of Summer-smlWinner: Rule of Summer by Shaun Tan. I am so pleased that another wonderful book by the brilliant author Shaun Tan won this section. There are some great resources  – my post with links including to videos, a teachers’ guide here and a podcast on The art of Shaun Tan.

Honour Books

 Eve Pownell Award for Information Books

Winner: Jeremy by Christopher Faille

Honour Books

CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers Shortlist 2014

The CBCA short lists came out a few weeks ago and I am always interested to see what the judges have put on the short list. The interesting thing this year is the number of books by younger writers on the list. What a good thing for the Australian YA sector to have debut novels making it to the list.

As usual we did not have the full complement of listed books on our shelves but below is the list, with reviews, of the ones from the older readers list that we do have in our library.

OLDER READERS: (suitable for more mature readers able to cope with challenging themes and controversial characters)

Castagna, Felicity  The Incredible Here and Now (Giramondo Publishing)

  • The way the story is told is interesting. The chapters are like a series of anecdotes/stories from the life of the  main character, Michael.  Set in the suburb of Parramatta, 15-year-old Michael narrates what he thinks, sees and understands the year he turns 15. His world alters more than he expects when he and his beloved brother Dom are involved in a car accident. Dom dies but the story does not dwell on grief. It is about Michael and his growth, from a child to a young man. He is resilient and pragmatic character who has to deal with a lot of things including his grief over the death of his brother and the family turmoil it brings. The world Michael inhabits is described vividly, the characters that are part of that world, his family and friends, are realistic. The reader can relate to their foibles and care about what happens to them in the novel. The writing style is simple and the language suits the character. The chapters short and the events documented are easy to relate to. This a story that most teenage boys could identify with and read with themselves in mind.
  • Website with teaching resources here and reading notes here.  
  • An interview with the author here

Keil, Melissa  Life in Outer Space (Hardie Grant Egmont)

  • Sam Kinnison is happy to be classed as a “geek”. He is an “A” who loves horror movies, the World of Warcraft and all his friends are “nerds”. He is comfortable in his world and knows where he is going, although he is tormented by the jocks at school, his friends are always there for him. Then Camilla Carter arrives at his school. Camilla is more than “cool’. She can be part of whatever group she likes. Sam thinks he can ignore her but her arrival changes everything. People start behaving out of character and Camilla decides that Sam will be part of her life.
  • A debut novel that is funny although there are some sad or difficult moments for Sam. It is a good coming-of-age story that teenagers can identify with.
  • Other reviews: here and an interview with Melissa Keil here

Kostakis, Will The First Third  (Penguin Group)

  • Only the second novel from the author this is both a funny and sad book about families and adolescence. The main character is 17 year old  Billy Tsiolkas and he is part of a Greek-Australian family.  He is the middle son, in a single-parent family and loves his idiosyncratic grandmother, Yiayia. She is a great character in the story and to roughly quote Yiayia’s outlook on life from the novel “Life is made of 3 parts: at first you are embarrassed by your family; in the second part you make your own family and thirdly you embarrass the family you’ve made.”  Yiayia becomes ill and so she gives Billy her list of things to do, her bucket-list. It is a short list of three things but they basically they amount to Billy getting his family, which has drifted apart, back together again. This is a big task and Billy has to deal with all sorts of situations as he tries to follow Yiayia’s instructions. There are many situations and characters that readers would identify with as they read this realistic portrayal of adolescent life in Australia today. I like they way Billy’s character described the Melbourne’s laneways, when he and his friend “Sticks” make a flying visit, to an address supplied by Yiayia.
  • Reviews from Insideadog  
  • Publisher’s website with teaching notes here.
  • Melina Marchetta interviews Will Kostakis here.

Near, Allyse Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Random House) Not in our library and so I have yet to read this novel

Wood, Fiona Wildlife (Pan Macmillan) Not in our library and so I have yet to read this novel.

  • Teacher’s notes here

Zorn, Claire The Sky so heavy (UQP)

  • Apocalyptic novel set at the beginning of a nuclear winter. There were elements that reminded me of books I read when at school or starting out in libraries, titles such as Z for Zachariah, Brother in the Land and Children of the Dust come to mind. It is not a simple copy of these stories however and the Australian setting along with many current issues underpin the story. Ideas explored here include the heavy reliance of the modern world on electricity and a lack of understanding about living with the natural world and the treatment of refugees, in this case due to an environmental disaster. Many other elements are there as well, survival, starvation, mental strength, bullying and racism.
    It begins like any other day for Fin, a fairly normal Australian teenager. He is living in a small town in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. where everything and everyone is familiar. It it all goes downhill from here. Nuclear missiles detonated after a conflict between two unnamed countries on the other side of the world spell disaster for everyone in Australia. Plunged into a nuclear winter Fin and his younger brother, Max, separated from their parents, have to survive. They are alone with food and water becoming more scarce and cold and darkness setting in. The normal way of behaving changes as people become sick and desperate for food, medicine and fuel. There is nothing coming out from the authorities and any hope of some sort of rescue fades. Suspicion, paranoia and rancour become more and more evident throughout the once friendly neighbourhood. Fin and Max decide to head to Sydney, with some friends, to try find their mother.  The journey to Sydney really brings home the enormity and finality of what has happened to Fin. The realisation that things will never go back to “before” hits home. He and Max are refugees in their own country on the wrong side of the barrier. As the story progresses Fin has many increasingly difficult choices to make and each one has consequences. He is not perfect and his character reacts in very understandable ways. This is a survival adventure story that appealed to a number of our boys. It is a good addition to the apocalyptic story genre.
  • Teacher notes are available here
  • Author interview here

It is interesting to compare the list to the INKY awards (Australian books chosen by young readers) Gold Inky Award long list (Australian books):

  • Zac and Mia by AJ Betts
  • All This Could End by Steph Bowe
  • Steal My Sunshine by Emily Gale
  • The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
  • The First Third by Will Kostakis
  • Every Breath by Ellie Marney
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
  • Run by Tim Sinclair
  • The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

Trailer for “The Giver” movie

The film is based on Lois Lowry’s  young adult novel is almost here. The trailer for the The Giver is a modern classic. It won the 1993 John Newbery Medal and was the 1993 Honor Book on the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award (Fiction)

The setting at first seems to be in a utopian society but gradually it begins to appear more and more dystopian. The poignant story is centred around 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colourless, world. At the Ceremony of the Twelves all the children in that age group are ‘assigned’ to their future role in life. The roles are carefully chosen by the Committee of Elders and based on their temperaments. It is expected that each child will live a productive life for the benefit of the whole. It is a world that encourages conformity which is seen as the path to contentment. Everyone is expected to be happy about their lot and fit into this life. This is a society which is free of pain and chaos but is also devoid of emotions and feelings. There is no place for love, joy, guilt or remorse or any other human emotion and freedom of choice and individuality are unknown concepts. Once someone becomes unproductive, for what ever reason, they enter the housing for the aged for a short period before being ‘released’.

Jonas is horrified when he believes that he has been passed over at the assigning ceremony but he is named as the Receiver. This is a position that is offered rarely and he knows nothing about it. He life changes as he begins his apprenticeship. He learns that the Receiver is the custodian of all memories in their community. The Receiver alone understands about colour, emotions, weather and, more importantly, individuality. The old Receiver is now The Giver and, as he transfers more and more memories to Jonas, Jonas begins to understand what the community has lost when they are so protected against pain, it also deprives them of joy.  As the Receiver of Memory he also begins to understand some of the other dark secrets behind his fragile community. It is a great book and I hope the film does it justice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJNNugNe0Wo

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