Blogging has become quite rare around here. I'm not making excuses or anything, but I am in the process of planning a cross-country move and trying to read my share of the 148 nominees as part of my Cybils Middle Grade Fiction panelist duties, so I've been a bit busy!
All of my reading this past month has been based on the recommendation of another, so I definitely wanted to link up to the 5 Minutes for Books I Read It carnival (click over there to see why this our last month doing it, and what will be new in 2011). The Cybils nominations are an open process. Anyone can recommend one book in each category. With there being only one per person, hopefully people are selective in choosing their very best.
Amy, at Hope Is the Word nominated Leaving Gee's Bend (linked to her review), and I've read some of it, but I don't think I've gotten far enough into it to make a decision. I trust Amy's recommendations, so I look forward to reading a bit more and getting into the story. The voice is definitely true and the setting is strong, two things that make for a great story.
One reason that I've had to put that book aside is because Betti on the High Wire arrived earlier this week. It's another Cybils nominee, and one that I remembered Dawn enjoyed from her review on 5 Minutes for Books. I haven't been able to find a copy, and Dawn agreed to send me her review copy. Another panelist can't find it either, so I have to read this quickly so that I can send it along to her as well before it returns to Dawn's care. This one was also a little slow-going. I liked Babo, but I wasn't really drawn into her story of the circus kids and the leftovers from her war-torn country. However, as soon as the setting changed, where Babo, now Betti, was taken to America to be adopted by the Melons, I couldn't put the book down. This is a wonderful story that will help children (and adults!) empathize with immigrant children or those like Babo and her friend George who are adopted from a foreign country and brought to America. I'm not quite finished with it, but I imagine it will finish strong.
However, this book leads me to answer Katrina's weekly FIR Reading Question: "Do you ever read the end of the book before you actually get there?" Well--my answer is no, not usually. I do not want to know. I want to be surprised. I don't even read reviews on books that I haven't finished for fear that something will be spoiled. However, in reading many of these Middle Grade novels, especially those which are historical fiction or based on some other type of fact, there's often an author's note at the end. I get there and think, "I wish this had been at the beginning of the book. I would have liked to know that."
In Betti on the High Wire, we don't know what country Babo came from. I even went back and skimmed the early chapters, thinking I had missed it. So I turned to the back, where an author's note would be, and lo and behold -- there was not only an author's note, but it started out this way:
You may be wondering where in fact Betti comes from? You may want to pummel me over the head, feed me to Cindi the lion, and smoosh me in the center of a fire circle for not telling you through this whole entire book.
Well, it's not that I've intentionally played tricks on you or kept secrets. The problem is that I haven't been able to name her country. And trust me, I've tried and tried and tried.
But there are far too many people disasters -- wars -- happening in our world right now.
The author Lisa Railsback goes on, but this is one time that I'm really glad I peeked at the end. I was very careful to avoid seeing one word of the pages of the last chapters as I flipped to the back, but now I can focus on her story and stop wanting to pummel the author.
Here are some other Cybils nominees that I've read and actually posted reviews for, that were reommended by someone who loved them best out of all the books that were published in that genre in 2010: