In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Name that book

Dear Annie,

Ah, the power of great folk tales.  Especially when women are leading the charge.

I had a very satisfying Book Lady Moment yesterday.  A customer had been asked by a friend to pick up a book about which she knew only:
  • It was by a Newbery or Caldecott winning author.
  • It had a monster or a wolf and the ocean in it.
  • The author was female.
My first thought was Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George.  The story of an Inuit girl who lives with a wolf pack, it won the 1973 Newbery Medal.

No, said the customer, that's not it.  Then she added that the friend had heard the author on the radio recently.  George died last year, so that was definitely out.

But radio attention was the key that solved the riddle.

This week, the National Book Award, in an effort to get more publicity for good books, decided to release a "Longlist" of contestants for the 2013 Award.  The Young People's Literature list includes ten nominees.  It's a good list this year, ranging from edgy YA books to some very sweet and engaging books aimed much younger kids.

One of the nominated authors is Kathi Appelt, who won both a Newbery Honor and a National Book Award Finalist spot for her 2010 book The Underneath.  Not a big fave of mine: a little dark and too fond of the nobility of suffering.  Her current release, though, is delightful: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.  There are no wolves in the book, although there are two very likable raccoon siblings.  The bad guys are the evil real estate developers, but there is a monster of sorts: the Sugar Man, a tropical yeti-like figure.  It all takes place in a swampy bayou in Texas -- I guess it sort of qualifies as ocean.

No wolves or open ocean, but it was the answer.  Once she heard the title, the customer knew that was it.  It's fun, this guessing game I play often with my customers.  And when the answer is a thoroughly enjoyable book, it feels all the better.



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