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If you wanna be a writer you gotta be a reader.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review: Youth Literature

My tenure as a judge for the National Book Awards, 2011, ends today.  It was a fabulous, exhausting and  remarkable experience.  Along with four other judges (Ann Brashares, Nikki Grimes, Marc Aronson, Matt de la Pena), I read 278 books over the summer.  Our panel gradually narrowed the entries to about thirty, then ten, and then the five finalists

While the five finalists--make that six, what with the now infamous confusion of "Chime" with a non-contender by a similar title--got all of the attention, there were other  noteworthy books that got our panel's full attention, but didn't quite make the cut.  It was painful, letting go of books I greatly admired, but compromise was in order as we had a job to do:  pick a winner.

So below is an informal list of the "contenders"--books that all of the panelists came to know well, and to wish well beyond 2011:

Between Shades of Gray*
Chime  (finalist)
Inside Out and Back Again  (NBA Youth Lit winner)
My Name is Not Easy    (finalist)
Flesh and Blood So Cheap (finalist)
A Plague Year
A Girl Named Faithful Plum
The Babysitter Murders
Bird in A Box*
Black, White, Other*
Dragon Castle*
Eliza's Freedom Road
The Flint Heart*
The File on Angelyn Stark
How to Save A Life
The Near Witch*
Paper Covers Rocks*
Okay For Now  (finalist)
Saving Zasha*
Skate Fate
5000 Years Of Slavery
Small Acts of Amazing Courage
Vietnam:  I Pledge Allegiance
We All Fall Down

*books that got lots of discussion.  Highly recommended.