Jillicious Reading: All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven

Summary: Theodore Finch. He is a tortured soul, completely obsessed with death.  Everyday he thinks of ways he might die, but also desperately seeks something -  anything - that will keep him here. 

Violet Markey. She is struggling to make it through each day without her sister.  She is counting down the days until graduation when she can get out of her town and begin to live again, away from the memories and the pain.  

And, then Finch and Violet meet.  On the ledge of the bell tower at school. One rescues the other, and a relationship begins that changes everyone's' lives forever.  

ThoughtsAll the Bright Places grabs you from page 1 and never lets go.  Teens Finch and Violet are both seriously struggling.  Finch is an outsider.  Getting up, making it through the day, and finding a reason to do it again the next is a constant challenge.  Violet's struggle is new.  It began when her sister died in a car accident in which Violet was a passenger and survived.  Everyone wants her to start moving on, getting back into life.  But she just can't do it.  Being a sole survivor is incredibly difficult, and Violet is consumed by guilt.  When the two meet, both find a kindred spirit that neither expected, but is exactly who both need. 

This powerful novel and these afflicted characters are unforgettable.  Inspired from events from her own high school experience, Jennifer Niven tells a story that is gripping, honest, and completely heart-breaking.  It explores these teens' struggle to truly live as well as navigating difficult family relationships and intense first love.  It inspires readers to look for the bright places in their lives and to also look for those around them who might be silently suffering.  Get your tissues (and your Post-its!) ready. This one will touch your heart forever.  

Read All the Bright Places if you ... 
  • enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor and Park, Thirteen Reasons Why or If I Stay 
  • have lost someone close to you
  • sometimes feel lost - or like a "weary traveler" - in this world
  • are a tortured soul or commiserate with those who are
  • you remember (or dream of!) your first true love
Click here to read more about All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven, and her critically-acclaimed books published for adults. 

Note: The movie rights of All the Bright Places have already been sold, and Elle Fanning has been cast to play Violet!  

I created a wall of some of my bright places and was honored that author Jennifer Niven added it to her blog!  :) 


Jillicious Reading: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All The Boys I've Loved Before
by Jenny Han

Summary:  Lara Jean has never really dated.  But, she has loved several boys who, unknowingly, have broken her heart.  She writes to each, pouring out her soul in letters that she never mails; all notes are kept safely in a hatbox under her bed.  Until one day the secret letters are mysteriously mailed.  Suddenly, eyes that were never meant to see the letters are exactly the ones who receive them. Overnight Lara Jean's very private love life becomes very public, and she is forced to deal with the mess. 

Thoughts:  This is a delicious novel, and I just gobbled it up.  It is a romance, but it also tackles important themes of family relationships, loss, and identity with the perfect combination of depth and humor. 

Lara Jean is the middle daughter of three who lost their mother at a young age.  The oldest, Margot, is going away to college and the family is dealing with this change.  Skilled author Jenny Han explores the complicated relationships of the sisters - their strong bond as they care for each other and their father, but also the added pressures they put on one another in the absence of their mother.  

The debacle of the mailed letters is a creative premise.  It brings different characters into Lara Jean's life, forces her to face her feelings, and allows her to begin to realize who she really is.  Han works it all adeptly, not bringing in too many past loves, and perfectly pacing the chaos with character development and self-discovery.  The boys are believable, intriguing characters, full of personality and surprises. The youngest sister, Kitty, brings additional humor and heart to the story.  The result is a delightful novel that explores what happens when one is faced with the truth and new possibilities. 

Read To All the Boys I've Loved Before if you ... 
  • enjoyed Jenny Han's previous writing
  • like books by Stephanie Perkins or Lindsey Leavitt
  • have ever had a secret crush
  • have a sister 
  • have a complicated family relationship 
  • wonder what would happen if your private thoughts were made public! Gasp!
Click here to read more about the hilarious Jenny Han, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, and her other novels.  

SPOILER ALERT:  Ms. Han has already announced that there will be a sequel, P.S. I Still Love You. (Thank goodness!!)   I can hardly wait, and, judging from the Good Reads page, I am not the only one.  Many other fans are feeling equally tortured having to wait until 2015 for the story to continue!  But don't visit the page until you've finished the first novel.  :) 


Jillicious Reading: The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Curse
by Marie Rutkoski

Summary: Kestrel is the daughter of the general, part of the aristocracy.  She is used to winning and to getting what she wants.  On a whim, she purchases a slave, Arin, in an auction.  It is not long before he starts to change the way Kestrel thinks, the way she sees the world, the way she feels about everything.  But Arin is not what he seems.   

Thoughts: The Winner's Curse is a completely enthralling novel. It pulled me in from the very beginning because of its originality.... a world of indulgent aristocrats, a conquered people-turned-slaves, and a society that values military strategy and prowess in combat over the arts.  

Kestrel is passionate about music, but it is not seen as a worthy pursuit of the upper class.  Her father insists that she join the military or get married, so she looks for ways to exert control in her life.  This is quickly lost when her world is turned upside down.  The novel is lush and intoxicating, pulling the reader into a world of high society, political intrigue, secrets, forbidden love, and betrayal.  Kestrel and Arin are complex, well-developed characters, both full of surprises.  I look forward to their continued story in the next two books of the trilogy.                

Read The Winner's Curse if you ...
  • like books that pull you into a completely different, fully imagined new world
  • liked the Incarceron series by Catherine Fisher, the Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo or For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
  • look for atmospheric novels with a unique feel
  • enjoy stories with unexpected plot twists and turns
  • love stories of star-crossed love!  :)
Click here to read more about The Winner's Trilogy and author Marie Rutkoski. 


Jillicious Reading: Beach Reads

Beaches, summer, romance ...  all things I love and all elements of a good beach read.  Here are a few I enjoyed this summer while sunning at the beach ....   :)  

Nantucket Blue
by Leila Howland

Summary:  Cricket is elated when her best friend Jules asks her to spend the summer on Nantucket with her family.  Cricket adores the Claytons and is thrilled about the possibilities of the months ahead ... particularly since her longtime crush Jay Logan will also be summering on the island. But an unexpected tragedy changes everyone's plans. Cricket is still determined to spend her summer on Nantucket; but when she gets there, nothing turns out like she planned.

Thoughts: I must start by saying that I love Nantucket.  The grey shingled houses, the bursting blue hydrangea, the idyllic main street, lobster rolls ... it's like a postcard come to life.  I wish I could afford to summer there myself!  So, I was already excited about this book just because of the setting. And, author Leila Howland does an incredible job recreating this magical place, taking the reader right to the
quaint streets and sandy shores of Nantucket.  

But, I was surprised by the story.  It's a summer romance, but has a lot more depth and plot development than I expected.  I fell in love with the interesting cast of characters including Cricket, her family, and the many people she meets on the island.  The novel explores the challenges of friendship, family relationships, loss, and self-discovery in addition to navigating first love. I really enjoyed this book and immediately treated myself to the juicy sequel, Nantucket Red!   

I recommend the book duo to anyone looking for good beach reads, hoping to be transported to a picturesque summer town, or seeking a compelling story about figuring out who you are and who you really belong with in the world.  

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend
by Katie Finn

Summary: Gemma is looking forward to the summer ahead and having time to spend with her perfect boyfriend, Teddy.  But when Teddy shocks her with a sudden breakup, she is devastated. Instead of traveling across the world with him, she ends up in the Hamptons with her father. The Hamptons is an amazing destination, to be sure, but it's also the place where Gemma must face her past and a friend she betrayed years ago. She wants to make things right; but a case of mistaken identity, an unforgettable, cute boy on the train, and the effort of keeping up a charade creates one complicated summer.

Thoughts: As soon as I heard Katie Finn is another pen name for author Morgan Matson, I was totally in.  I loved Matson's Second Chance Summer and was eager to try another novel
Photo: Long Island CVB
by her.  I also liked that this story was set in the Hamptons; it sounded like the perfect book for my beach bag! 

After I started, though, I wasn't sure about the mistaken identity storyline.  I don't always like excessive hijinks.  ;)  But, I did like the characters and felt the story had heart and promise.  Gemma is a funny, engaging character.  Nothing goes her way, and although her case is extreme, I think we can all relate to those times when things seem to be falling apart around us.  

I am really glad I stuck with the novel.  It's humorous, takes an interesting turn, and leaves the reader eager for the next book in the series, Revenge, Ice Cream, and Other Things Best Served Cold (which comes out next spring).    
The author's Second Chance Summer is also a summer story, but it's a heavier drama dealing with intense loss and grief as well as finding love.  Although lighter, Broken Hearts, Fences, and Others Things to Mend does explore important themes of friendship, trust, betrayal, and family relationships.  I would recommend it to someone looking for a fun summer read, someone who can relate to having made mistakes and living with regrets, or someone looking for a book with humor and heart. 


Jillicious Desserts: Recent Adult Reads

It's summer!  Time to sleep in, sit in the sun, catch up on home projects, prepare for next year, and read, read, read!  The summer is also the time I allow myself to indulge in a few adult books.  Here some recent reads:

The Pink Suit
by Nicole Mary Kelby 

The Pink Suit  is based on the story behind the iconic pink suit Jacqueline Kennedy wore that fateful day in Dallas in 1963.  This unforgettable ensemble and many others from "The Wife's" wardrobe came from Chez Ninon, an exclusive New York  boutique which specialized in creating French-inspired designs for American royalty.  The book incorporates factual information into a fictionalized tale about all those involved in the creation of the suit - from the President who ordered the suit for the First Lady to Coco Chanel who designed it to the eclectic ladies who ran Chez Ninon to Kate, the talented seamstress who labored over every stitch and pleat to craft the perfect pieces.  
This is a fascinating tale of fashion, politics, New York City, and love.  It focuses mostly on the seamstress Kate, which I didn't expect, but really enjoyed.  The novel transports the reader into 1960s NYC as experienced by an Irish immigrant.  Kate lives in an Irish neighborhood and has captured the attention of Patrick the local butcher.  But, her world is quite different than his as she selects fabrics, perfects stitches, and imagines but never attends the events for which her designs are created.  The Pink Suit is a unique, captivating novel that takes readers behind-the-scenes of a fashion boutique and of an unforgettable moment of history.      

The One and Only
by Emily Giffin 

The One and Only is the story of Shea Rigsby, a 33-year-old avid football fan who has spent her whole life in the small town of Walker, Texas supporting and then working for her beloved college football team.  The novel opens at the funeral of the wife of the football team's beloved coach and mother of Shea's best friend Lucy.  In light of this tragedy, Shea begins to question the choices she has made and must face her deepest desires.  

I was drawn to this book because of the subject & setting - college football in a small Texas town. It isn't a top pick, but I did like the football and all of the Dallas references (the small town is outside of Dallas), including The Ticket (my favorite radio station), Highland Park HS (the high school in my school district), and Mi Cocina (my favorite Mexican restaurant).  :) 

Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes  

Louisa is from a working class family and has never thought much beyond her small British town.  She lives an ordinary life and enjoys her simple job in a local cafe.  But when her boss has to let go, her life is shaken up, and she is suddenly in desperate need of a job.  She finds work caring for Will Traynor, a highly successful man who lived his life on the edge until a paralyzing accident confined him to a wheelchair.  Will is bitter and depressed.  Louisa isn't sure she can make it a day in this new situation, but she needs the money and is out of options.  Slowly things start to thaw between her and Will, and he begins to show her a world beyond their town, a world she never expected. 

I adored this book. Louisa is funny, original and endearing.  She lives in the shadow of her sister and has settled into the life and family role that she believes she is fit to play.  But gradually, she starts to wonder and to dream.  

Me Before You is an excellent novel. It breaks your heart and also inspires you to live every moment to the fullest. Read it, and be sure to have a box of tissue nearby.       



May 2 was the longest day of my life.  I knew all of the candidates on the Caldecott ballot would be contacted at some point to learn if they had been elected (or not).  I kept the phone with me all day awaiting the call and praying for good news.  Friends were texting, some were also awaiting election results, others were just encouraging me as I waited.   

The call finally came that afternoon, and it was Dan Bostrom, the ALSC Marketing Manager.  He asked how my day was going and then said, "I have some news that's going to make it even better."  I almost jumped out of my skin. I had been elected!  I squealed and danced all through the library!  

Serving on the Caldecott Committee has been a dream of mine for many, many years ... ever since I started sharing picture books with students.  I love art and words and marvel at the way the two come together so exquisitely in this format.  The privilege of serving on this committee is an honor and a responsibility I will not take lightly.  It will be hard work, but I look forward to the reading, evaluation, discussions,  debates, and challenge of working with a group to select one medal winner.  

This weekend at the ALA Annual Conference I was able to attend a lovely Random House cocktail party celebrating illustrators Chris Appelhans, Marc Brown, Brian Floca, Mary GrandPre, and Kevin Hawkes.  Hearing these talented artists talk about their work filled my heart and reaffirmed my love for illustration and the power of the picture book.  (This basically happens every time I hear an author or illustrator speak or read a picture book!)  My heart swelled knowing that I will play a small part in making picture book history. 

Thank you to all the ALSC members who voted for me and gave me this special opportunity.  I can't wait to get started!


Jillicious Reading: Grandmaster

by David Klass

Summary: Freshman Daniel hasn't really found his place at school.  He doesn't seem to fit in anywhere and just tries to fly under the radar.  A mediocre player on the team's prestigious chess club, Daniel is surprised to be asked by the two senior co-captains to join them and their fathers at a weekend father-son tournament.  To his further amazement, Daniel then learns the truth. His father - a reserved, accountant - was actually a chess prodigy at the age of 16 and earned the ranking of Grandmaster.  When his father agrees to return to the game 30 years later and accompany Daniel to the tournament, the six man team is in for a weekend none of them expected.

Thoughts: Grandmaster is a fast-paced, compelling novel that keeps the reader engaged like a spy thriller or intense sports match.  I am not a chess player, and I was completely on the edge of my seat during the tournament scenes.  The book includes enough chess to satisfy those who do play, but not too much to overwhelm the novice or non-player.  What keeps the story captivating is the characters.  They are interesting, flawed and believable.  Main character Daniel is a likeable kid, and readers can relate to his desire to fit in at school.  His father is also an interesting character as he faces his past demons and reveals his former life to his son.  I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between these two as Daniel learns more about his father and starts to reorder his priorities.  I also liked the addition of Liu, a spunky girl who competes with her mother.  She brings out a different side of Daniel and adds some pluck and humor to the story.  If you see Grandmaster and expect it to be a boring book about chess, you would be grandly mistaken. 

Read Grandmaster if you  ...
  • like chess
  • don't like chess
  • enjoy sports fiction with front-row-feeling scenes that pull you into the action and keep you on the edge of your seat
  • look for young adult literature with interesting teen and adult characters 


Jillicious Healthy Bites: True Stories from the Holocaust

Stories from the Jewish Holocaust during WW II continue to captivate readers.  As difficult as it is to read about the depths of human evil reached during this time, it is also incredibly inspiring to read of those who held onto hope in horrific circumstances and ultimately survived to tell their story.  It is also so vitally important to read these narratives and remember how simply and subtly these dreadfully evil initiatives began.  

Below are three 2013 releases, two nonfiction and one fiction based on a true story, that tell the hopeful, heroic stories that came from this time of persecution: 

Odette's Secrets
by Maryann MacDonald

Odette's Secrets tells the story of a young Jewish girl living in Paris during the Nazi occupation.  Her father joins the French army, her mother joins the Resistance, and Odette is sent to the French countryside for safety.   

Throughout the frightening time, young Odette is both terrified and confused.  She fears the soldiers, worries about her father, and runs from those who bully her for her yellow star.  She also wonders about her Polish roots, her Jewish faith, and later the Christian values of the foster family that cares for her while she seeks refuge in the country.  She gets used to silently observing, keeping secrets, and hiding in plain sight.  

I never thought of what these young people must have endured as they tried to make sense of the terrifying world around them as well as their own identity.  And what extremes their parents went to for their protection!  This moving novel also shows what the survivors faced when they triumphed over their persecutors, but then tried to return to their homes and to their former lives.

Author Maryann MacDonald was deeply moved by Odette's story and asked her family permission to share her experience in a book for children.  She ultimately chose to tell the story as a first person novel-in-verse instead of a factual biography to allow a more intimate view into the young poet-to-be's thoughts and feelings.  The result is a accessible, personal narrative that immediately pulls the reader into Paris in 1942 and provides another perspective from this time.
Odette's Secrets is a selection on the 2014-2015 Texas Bluebonnet List.

The Boy on the Wooden Box 
by Leon Leyson

Leon Leyson was the youngest survivor on what became the world famous "Schindler's List." This memoir tells how Leyson's life went from a happy childhood to a terrible nightmare at the hand of the Nazis and their occupation of his Polish homeland.  Leon's family was forced to move to the Krakow ghetto, but through determination, luck, and ultimately the attention of the man named Oskar Schindler,  Leon, his parents and a few of his siblings' avoided placement in the horrific concentration camps. 

Constructed from Leyson's personal notes and speeches, The Boy on the Wooden Box tells of how he survived in Schindler's factory with almost nothing to eat but holding onto hope and believing in Oskar Schindler, who became his lifelong hero.  Leyson tale's is honest and reflective, but told without bitterness and hatred.  It is a powerful, moving memoir that celebrates the risks taken and the perseverance necessary to survive during this time of persecution.

 The Boy on the Wooden Box is a title on the 2014 Texas Lone Star Reading List.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi
by Neal Bascomb

After WWII ended, one of the highest ranking Nazi officers, Adolf Eichmann, vanished.  Believed to have eradicated over 700,000 Jews from Hungary and to have been responsible for millions of Jewish deaths, Eichmann was a prime war criminal to be brought to justice; but he had not been seen or heard of in years. Until a clue finally surfaces from a blind Argentinean man and his teenage daughter.  Then the manhunt begins. 

The Nazi Hunters tells the riveting true story of how the Eichmann case went from a desire to find the man to promising leads to dead ends to the forming of an elite team of Israeli spies to plan and execute an incredible capture.  This team - all of whom had been directly affected somehow by Eichmann's crimes - would have to secretly enter Argentina, capture Eichmann, and smuggle him out of the country and return him safely to Israel so he could be brought to justice on Israeli soil.   

Neal Bascomb has crafted a work of narrative nonfiction that expertly provides historical facts and reads like a spy novel.  I was on the edge of my seat reading this book!  It is truly fascinating.  The author does an outstanding job of introducing the young, powerful Eichmann, later showing what he has become during his years in hiding and his views of his actions, and finally showing what an impact the time with Eichmann has on his captors.  Bascomb also effectively weaves in the story of an Auschwitz survivor, Zeev Sapir. The reader meets him early in the book when he has an encounter with Eichmann; later Sapir has a chance to testify against Eichmann.  It's quite powerful to see one survivor get to face his tormenter and get to share his story with the world.  Photographs and documents are included throughout the book that add intrigue and authenticity to the captivating account. 

This is a must-read for anyone interested in WWII, Jewish and Holocaust history, narrative nonfiction, and/or page-turning tales of spying and intrigue.          

The Nazi Hunters is a title on the 2014 TAYSHAS Reading List


DMA Arts & Letters Live 2014

The Dallas Museum of Art offers a literary series called Arts & Letters Live (including the BooksmART programs "for the young and young at heart") that brings outstanding authors and illustrators to town every year.  I love this programming and have been volunteering for the events for several years.  

The day the season's lineup is announced is always exciting; I open the email and eagerly devour the list to see who's coming ... I know, total nerd.  Each season offers an outstanding offering of children's, young adult, and adult authors.  Just a few of the amazing writers I have had the opportunity to hear through this programming include: E.L. Konigsburg, Marcus Zusak, Kathryn Stockett, Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman, Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Eoin Colfer, and Lois Lowry.  This year is no different, offering an excellent array of talent (including S.E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders who will be here on April 24!).  

I've attended two BooksmART programs this year and both were fabulous:

Oliver Jeffers

I have longtime been a fan of Jeffers' work.  It is whimsical and charming, and I love his distinctive handwriting (always a weakness with me).  Mr. Jeffers visited the museum on February 9, and the illustrator himself proved to be just as charming as his books and artwork. First off, he has an Irish accent so the room fell in love with him right off, but he also has a delightful sense of humor, a passion for what he does, and a lovely appreciation for his fans.  He did a stellar job of presenting to a crowd that ranged in age from 2 to 82 and kept all completely entertained.  And during the book signing, he drew something special in every book and had a word for every person who waited for a signature.

One thing I loved that he said is that everyone is an artist when they are young.  Some just stop.  When young artists came through the line, he would tell them, "Just keep going".  I like that. I wish I had kept going. 

Here is a video he showed at the beginning that shows his studio and gives a taste of his fun personality: 

Tim Federle

Tim Federle is new on the scene but he has definitely made a big splash.  He published his first book Better Nate Than Ever in 2013 to stellar reviews and much critical acclaim. This autobiographically inspired debut novel tells the story of Nate, a kid growing up with big dreams in a small town; he knows that life will get better if he can just get to New York City.

After reading several reviews and tweets about this novel, I read it last year and loved it.  It's heartfelt and hilarious.  Although I have never felt the draw of the stage, I could definitely relate to Nate's desire to find his place in the world... particularly in the midst of middle school!  And writers with comic talent always have me at hello.  ;)  So, I was thrilled when I saw Tim Federle's name on the season's schedule and was doubly thrilled when Carolyn Bess, Director of Programming and Arts & Letters Live, asked me to introduce him.  What an honor! 

Well, what a treat it was when Mr. Federle visited on March 2.  He was an absolute riot.  I
loved him from the minute I met him, as did the entire room.  We were rolling from the moment he began.  Unfortunately, Dallas experienced a crazy cold snap that day and icy roads kept many from attending.  But, the author took it all in stride and the small crowd that attended (what he described as, "almost enough for a party bus") enjoyed every moment!  It was a side-splitting afternoon celebrating writing, following dreams, and tap dancing that was more than worth bundling up and facing the elements.  

If Tim Federle is ever in your area, I advise you to be first in line to see this talented, hilarious guy!  Librarians, he will be at both TLA and ALA annual conferences this year.  :)

Side note: Tim Federle is the creative genius behind Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist which I have previously mentioned is a favorite gift of mine.  He is now at work on Hickory Daiquiri Dock which will likely be my new go-to gift for new parents.  ;)  

If you live in the Dallas area, I highly recommend taking advantage of the Arts & Letters Live series.  Most of the programs are free, but you do have to reserve tickets ahead of time.  Click here for the season at a glance.  Hope to see you at an upcoming event!


ALA Midwinter 2014

2014 has been a whirlwind!  It's time to catch up on some posts.  Let's start with some recent literary events. 

I was not made for cold weather.
The ALA Midwinter Meeting was held in January in Philadelphia. It was bitterly cold as evidenced in the photo on the right.  Travel buddy Mary and I were walking down the street squealing as we were pelted with freezing snow; clearly, no one confused us for native Philadelphians. But, in spite of the bone-numbing temperatures, I had a wonderful weekend in Chilly Philly (my first visit to the city).  Here are some highlights: 

**Scholastic Author Reception 
Scholastic hosts these fun events where a group of their authors perform a readers' theater of excerpts from each other's upcoming releases.  The mix of books, genres, styles, and personalities is always a delight, and this gathering was no different.  The reception featured Julia Donaldson, Jon J. Muth, Natalie Lloyd, Cynthia Lord, Rodman Philbrick, Deborah Wiles, and Lucy Christopher

Natalie Lloyd is a debut author, and she completely charmed the room (again! ... she was
also featured at the Scholastic event at NCTE and won a legion of fans there as well).  Her debut novel A Snicker of Magic is an enchanting story celebrating words, family, and new beginnings.  I expect we will continue to see great things from this talented lady!

I also particularly loved Muth's unique Hi, Koo! full of endearing haiku poetry perfectly illustrated by his gentle artwork. Two more spotlighted books I am really excited about are Cynthia Lord's Half a Chance ( I loved her first novel Rules) and Deborah Wiles' Revolution, the second in her Sixties Trilogy.  I have been eagerly awaiting this follow-up to Countdown.  It will surely be another powerful story of this tumultuous, important time period told in Wiles' heartfelt style.  And, isn't the cover excellent?? 

**Random House Dinner 
Random House hosted a lovely dinner with authors E. Lockhart, Dana Reinhardt, and Jenny Hubbard. It was a delightful evening celebrating excellent writing for young adults. I had read the incredible We Were Liars and loved hearing the back story to this unforgettable novel as well as learning about the additional upcoming novels featured at the event.  

I have since read And We Stay, a melancholy story of a teen who experiences a great tragedy but finds healing through poetry and the spirit of Emily Dickinson.  It was written by the talented and very Southern Jenny Hubbard (Paper Covers Rock) and edited by the equally talented and absolutely fabulous Rebecca Short whom I had the pleasure of chatting with throughout the evening. After reading this moving story, I am now eager to visit the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachussets (Emily Dickinson's home and an important setting in the novel) and I also plan to revisit Dickinson's poetry with fresh eyes. 

**Exhibition Opening at The Barnes Foundation 
Thanks to the ever-connected Mary, we were able to attend the opening of a special exhibition at The  Barnes Foundation. The Foundation holds an extensive collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art amassed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Dr. Barnes was committed to "the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts" ... be still my heart!  I was completely awed by what had been Dr. Barnes' personal collection which includes hundreds of pieces by Renoir, Picasso, Rousseau, Matisse, and one of my very favorites, Cezanne. 

The exhibition opening that weekend was Magic Ladders created by artist Yinka Shonibare. Shonibare's work "cites the artistic and intellectual history of Europe. His sculptures - life-sized mannequins clothed in the Dutch wax fabrics associated with Africa - offer a dramatic, playful, irreverent examination of identity, history, and politics. [The] show focuses on education, enlightenment, and opportunity, ideals embraced by Dr. Barnes." (-taken from The Barnes Foundation website)

The exhibition was fascinating.  I loved the fabrics, the mix of patterns, the striking images.  The mannequins were bold and arresting and each portrayed a powerful message.  My favorites, of course, were the child-sized figures climbing ladders of books (volumes taken from Dr. Barnes' own library) representing the growth that is attainable through knowledge and education.   

The exhibition was sponsored by Anthropologie and select stores will have pieces inspired from the art.  I hope Dallas is one of these select stores!  

The visit to the Barnes Foundation was an unexpected addition to the trip, and such a treat.  I highly recommend a stop here if you are ever in the Philadelphia area.

** ALA Youth Media Award Announcements
The award announcements is always one of the highlights of Midwinter.  There is such excitement in the air as early risers line up to enter, last minute predictions are being made, the doors finally open, the crowd scrambles for seats, the selection committees enter the room, and the officers take the stage.  When the announcements begin, there are wild cheers as favorites win and gasps or even stunned silence when suprise titles are named; but it is always exciting and a wonderful celebration of the literary excellence created the previous year.  

I was so pleased with the outstanding selections and congratulate the authors and illustrators on their awards and the committees on their hard work. A few of my personal favorites that received acknowledgement this year were: 
  •  Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo (Newbery Winner)
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (Newbery Honor)
  • Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle (Caldecott Honor)
  • Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner (Caldecott Honor)
  • P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (Coretta Scott King Author Award)
  • When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kook Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (CSK/John Steptoe winner)
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Printz Honor, Odyssey, Honor)
  • Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (Odyssey Honor, Stonewall Honor)
  • Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (Pura Belpre Illustrator Award)
  • The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle (Pura Belpre Author Award)
  • The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults)
There are always some books you would like to have seen come away with an award.  For me, I really would like for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown to have received Caldecott acknowledgement.  I felt the color, contrasts, pacing, and humor in this book were all brilliant. I also would love to have seen Winger by Andrew Smith and All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry earn Printz recognition.  Both of these unforgettable teen voices and their powerful stories were unique contributions to young adult literature that I would like to have seen celebrated. 

But, so it goes. Comparing our favorites to the winners is all part of the fun!  I appreciate the work of the committees, trust the process, and look forward to next year's announcements.  I also hope to someday serve on one of the committees and get to be a part of, what I am sure, is an intense, arduous, but incredibly rewarding experience.  

**Friends, Food & Fun
Of course, the best part of these conferences is enjoying good food in fun cities with good friends! 

A late dinner with  Karen & Mary!


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