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The House of Dies Drear The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton

Here’s one of those books I never read as a kid – although I think I would have liked it, especially all the deliciously spooky bits with secret tunnels and the huge old house. I checked it out of the library a few months ago when I was weeding the mystery section, and since I just got around to reading it, now I can conveniently count it towards the POC Reading Challenge I signed up for.

Although the story only takes place over a few days, it feels like it covers a larger period of time, probably because of the backstory on the house and Pluto. The first part of the story is suspenseful and spooky, as Thomas’ family moves to into the enormous, historic house that used to be part of the Underground Railroad. Strange things start happening, Thomas’ twin brothers have an aversion to the house, and atmosphere builds.

The story is a bit dated in some areas, but it still works. What doesn’t work is that cover – why on earth can’t they come out with something better that wouldn’t languish on my library shelves? I won’t spoil how the story turns out, but it never gets really scary, and I’m still thinking over the way Hamilton chose to end things. I’d recommend this to kids who like mysteries that aren’t historical fiction but involve bits of history.

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So, it’s been a week since the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced (you know – Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.) and it’s been a week of discussing and reading opinions on blogs and listserves and the like.   I haven’t actually done any reading of the award winners (cough), but my holds have started rolling in and I’m looking forward to getting started, once I clear one or two things off my shelf (things that absolutely cannot be renewed one more time).

All of the blog reading and discussing has got me thinking about the books that I never get around to reading – the ones that win the not-as-famous awards, the books that are getting some attention but not as much, the awards that get overlooked.  Liz has a post about the Schneider medal, which I noticed (and ordered) this year, but would I have noticed as much if I hadn’t already been familiar with the teen winner, Marcelo in the Real World? And if I hadn’t heard buzz about the middle-school winner, Anything But Typical? I dunno.

Then, oh boy, there are the recent cover controversies – the ongoing issue of characters being depicted as white when they are in fact not.  It’s bad enough when you don’t feel like the cover illustration/photo suits the book or matches the character’s personality, but whitewashing?  Ugh.  Again, Liz has a good overview of the cover issue, and Colleen has passionate summary with plenty of links and some great discussion in the comments.

After toying around with the idea for a while (am I really organized enough?) I thought I’d join the POC Reading Challenge.  While I’d like to think I read books with characters from a variety of racial backgrounds already, this will be a way to make sure.  Plus, as a librarian – as someone who’s ordering books and putting them into the hands of children – I feel some responsibility to make sure there’s access to quality and variety in my collection.  I need to know what’s out there, be able to talk it up, and do my little part to show publishers that variety is needed.

A slightly unrelated goal is to read all of the award winners from this year (I took off the life-time acheivement awards and the Arbuthnot lecture – I’ve read books by all of the winners, so I figure that counts – Walter Dean Myers, Jim Murphy, and Lois Lowry).  Yikes.  Did I just say that?  Let’s see what that list would look like (taking off the ones I’ve already read):

  • “The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg” by Rodman Philbrick
  • “Going Bovine,” written by Libba Bray
  • “The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey
  • “Punkzilla” by Adam Rapp
  • “Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal,” written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
  • “My People,” illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr.
  • “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” illustrated by E. B. Lewis, written by Langston Hughes
  • “The Rock and the River,” written by kekla magoon
  • “Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros,” illustrated by Rafael López
  • “Diego: Bigger Than Life,” illustrated by David Diaz, written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
  • “My Abuelita,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Tony Johnston
  • “Gracias Thanks,” illustrated by John Parra, written by Pat Mora
  • “Return to Sender,” written by Julia Alvarez
  • “Federico García Lorca,” written by Georgina Lázaro, illustrated by Enrique S. Moreiro (is this in Spanish?  I might have to cross it off my list – we’ll see when our copy arrives)
  • “Django” written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
  • “Anything but Typical” written by Nora Raleigh Baskin
  • “Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken”  written by Kate DiCamillo and narrated by Barbara Rosenblat (audio)
  • “In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber,” written by L. A. Meyer and narrated by Katherine Kellgren (audio)
  • “Peace, Locomotion,” written by Jacqueline Woodson and narrated by Dion Graham (audio)
  • “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” written by Kadir Nelson and narrated by Dion Graham (audio – I’ve already read the print version)
  • “I Spy Fly Guy!” written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
  • “Little Mouse Gets Ready,” written and illustrated by Jeff Smith
  • “Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends,” written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee
  • “Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day,” written by Kate McMullan, illustrated by R. W. Alley
  • “The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors,” written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani
  • “Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca
  • “A Faraway Island”  written by Annika Thor, translated by Linda Schenck
  • “Eidi,” written by Bodil Bredsdorff, translated by Kathryn Mahaffy
  • “Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness,” written by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano

A mere 29 books!  And several of them are early readers or picture books.  Totally possible.  The question is how long it will take to cross them all off my list.  Also, several will fit into the POC Reading Challenge.

I’m not sure if I’ll attempt the Alex Awards, but that would be a good list to familiarize myself with – and it never hurts to have some adult titles to recommend to adults, too.  So much harder than recommending to kids!  You can tell where I belong.  Here’s the Alex list, in case I’m feeling even crazier:

Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
“The Bride’s Farewell” by Meg Rosoff, published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group
“Everything Matters!” by Ron Currie, Jr., published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group
“The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel, published by Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
“The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir” by Diana Welch and Liz Welch with Amanda Welch and Dan Welch, published by Harmony Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House
“The Magicians,” by Lev Grossman, published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group
“My Abandonment” by Peter Rock, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
“Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel,” by Gail Carriger, published by Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
“Stitches: A Memoir” by David Small, published by W.W. Norton & Company
“Tunneling to the Center of the Earth” by Kevin Wilson, published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins

October 2022

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