Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Colorado Blue Spruce Award 2013

Last week I  presented a workshop at the 2013 CCIRA conference announcing the winner of the Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award for 2013 and the nominees for 2014. The first book in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series, The Lost Hero, is this year's winner. This new series introduces three of the demigods mentioned in the prophecy in the Percy Jackson series, which says 7 demigods will bear arms at the Doors of Death.  Their nemesis is Gaea who aims to defeat the Olympians and take over the world. A list of the  2014 nominees and book talks for each are available on the Blue Spruce website at  In addition to promoting the new nominees, I was also excited to announce that the Blue Spruce Award won an honorable mention for the Intellectual Freedom Award from the NCTE. It was commended for providing young readers an opportunity to communicate about books without adult censorship and promoting books that might not have otherwise come to the attention of young readers. Over half the books that have won the award during the last 27 years have been challenged by one entity or another.
Although I have read many of the nominees, one book that I was prompted to read through its nomination is I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan, who is a film writer and director. This book, which is a riveting combination of the romance and survival genres, introduces Emily Bell who believes in destiny. When she is forced to sing "I'll Be There" as a church solo, despite her mediocre voice, she decides its fate because during her humiliation she locks eyes with Sam Border who is sitting in the back of the church. At first sight, they are connected. Sam and his little brother, Riddle have spent their entire lives being constantly uprooted by their mentally unstable father. Sam takes solace in attending random churches, where for a few moments he can escape his life. When he falls for Emily and she introduces him to her family, everything changes. As Sam and Riddle are welcomed into the Bells' lives, they witness the warmth and protection of a family for the first time. Then tragedy strikes, and they are once again on the run with their evil father.  When they escape from him, they're left fighting for survival in the desolate wilderness, and wondering if they'll ever get back to the family they have learned to love.
Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Gray, has a new book out called Out of the Easy, about a prostitute's daughter in 1950s New Orleans, who is trying to escape from her mother's fate and attend college. 17-year-old Josie Moraine dreams of going to Smith College, but then a mysterious death in the French Quarter derails her plans.  Working in a book store owned by the father of her best friend Patrick, Josie meets Forrest Hearne, a wealthy man from Tennessee who turns up dead soon thereafter.  Josie is sure her mother and her gangster boyfriend are somehow involved. She turns to Willie Woodley, the madam of Conti Street, for advice on avoiding getting embroiled in the investigation and escaping to the East Coast. Although Willie has sincere affection for Josie, she has other plans for her future. No matter how hard Josie tries to get away from the Big Easy, the clandestine world of New Orleans throws up road blocks at every turn.
Finally, the 2013 Alex Awards (adult books with special appeal to teens) include Where'd You Go Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple and The Round House, the National Book Award winner by Louise Erdrich. While reading both of these books, I thought about the possible appeal for young adult readers. In the first book Bernadette Fox, a revolutionary architect, disappears and her teenage daughter Bee follows her to Antarctica in hopes of finding her mother, whom everyone else assumes is dead.  In The Round House the rape of a Native American woman is seen through the eyes of her 13-year-old son, who is also trying to get to the bottom of what happened to his mother.  I can recommend both of these books for mature readers.