Stay up to date with Current Events from WebLessons, updated every Monday morning. Click Here to view the archive of past articles.
Do you need a good read? Maybe something to see you through the Thanksgiving break? For readers in search of a memorable book, the N.B.A.—the National Book Award—is a good place to look. The annual prize honors one book in each of four genres: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and young people’s literature. On Wednesday, November 18, the N.B.A. will announce its 2014 winners. Immediately after, readers will swarm online sellers and book stores and copies of the winning book will sell out.
The National Book Award began in 1950 as a prize given by writers to writers for works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. In later years, the Young People Award was added. Read more about the mission and history of the N.B.A. Learn more about the award process—who judges, which books are eligible, what the prize is—and the entry process. Visit Up All Night, the National Book Foundation’s online exhibit Young People’s Literature finalists and winners. Click on an image to learn more about that book. Click on range of years to see finalists and winners from those years. The list no doubt includes some you have read and others you have heard of.
This year’s five Finalists for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature represent a broad range of genres--poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. They include a nonfiction work about a group of African American sailors who risked their freedom and their lives, not to protect America, but to fight for civil rights; a memoir in verse that shares author Jacqueline Woodson’s early life; a fiction that weaves together the story of an AIDS orphan and Gabon’s threatened chimpanzees; a fantastic fictional tale of a high school student who has his head cryogenically frozen and, years later, attached to another body; and a historical fiction with two narrators who explore Mississippi’s transformative and violent Summer of 1964. On Tuesday, November 17, the five Finalist authors will face New York City middle school and high school correspondents for the Teen Press Conference. You can follow their conversation online on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. But, you can also learn more now about these five noteworthy books and their authors.
On the Brink—
Two of the 2014 N.B.A. Finalists for Young People’s Literature explore life and death. Eliot Schrefer’s Threatened follows Luc, an AIDS orphan who is hired by Prof to study wild chimpanzees in Gabon, Africa. For Luc and the chimpanzees, life is precarious. Read an excerpt. Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature asked Schrefer to share something about Threatened. Hear his answer. Check out what other readers have to say about Threatened; visit Goodreads.com and read the reviews posted there.
The premise of John Corey Whaley’s book, Noggin, is decidedly less realistic but also about life and death…and life again. Imagine this: Travis Coates’ head was cut off and cryogenically frozen. Five years later, it’s been attached to someone else’s body and Travis is back—alive and in high school. Talk about piecing your life back together. Read a summary and watch a preview. (Noggin has already been optioned as a movie.) Then scroll down to read an excerpt of the book. Over 600 readers have posted reviews of Noggin on Goodreads.com. See what they have to say about this unusual tale.
Fighting for Civil Rights—
Three of the Finalists address America’s civil rights history, though in different ways. In The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, author Steve Sheinkin introduces readers to a true but little known event: the 1944 Port Chicago, California ammunitions explosion, and the subsequent trial of 50 African-American sailors who were tried for mutiny for refusing to return to work. Read the National Book Award summary of the book. Read an excerpt of The Port Chicago 50 and then read through the 170+ reviews on Goodread.com. Earlier this year, Teenreads.com interviewed author Steve Sheinkin. Read the interview and learn about his writing process and how he discovered the story of the Port Chicago 50.
Unlike The Port Chicago 50, Deborah Wiles’ Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two, is the fictional exploration of the prejudice, segregation, and the struggle for civil rights in Mississippi in 1964. Read a summary and listen to an excerpt of the novel. Scroll through the Goodreads.com reviews of Revolution to get a sense of the book. Read the Bookpage.com interview with author Deborah Wiles.
America’s civil rights history is also a cornerstone of Jacqueline Woodson’s work but in a different way. Woodson’s work, Brown Girl Dreaming, is her memoir of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Of the five Finalists, Woodson’s story is the only memoir and the only one written in verse (a style for which Woodson has become known). Learn more about Brown Girl Dreaming. Woodson talks with NPR’s Kat Chow about her latest book, why she writes for teens, and how she responds to criticism for the title Brown Girl Dreaming. Open the link at the bottom of the page to read an excerpt. Peruse the 300+ reviews of Woodson’s memoir on Goodreads.com. Is this a book for you?
Five very different books by five talented authors. (Schrefer, Sheinkin, Woodson, and Wiles have written other N.B.A. winners or finalists. Whaley is no slacker; his previous book won a Printz Award, the YALSA prize for teen readers.) Which book do you predict will win the N.B.A.? Which will you curl up with, read late into the night, recommend to friends? You may want to request a copy from the library or buy a copy before the 18th. After then, some will be in short supply. A good book can be hard to find. An award winning book can be hard to keep in stock.