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October 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Alex Awards
Funded by the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust, the annual Alex Awards, which are announced in conjunction with National Library Week, honor the top 10 adult books for teenagers published during a calendar year. Part of a five-year project cosponsored by Booklist and the Young Adult Library Services Association, the awards recognize the work of Margaret Edwards, a pioneer in library service to teens.
The project also includes a series of programs intended to help librarians promote adult books to their teen readers. This year’s program, “Teen Readers and Adult Books: A Winning Combination—Year 4,” will be held at ALA’s Annual Conference in San Francisco on Sunday, June 17, 2–4 p.m. Members of the Adult Books for Young Adults Task Force will look back at the previous Alex winners, connecting them to the new ones and to one another, and discuss readers’ advisory issues related to providing teens with adult books to read. The program will also include introductions to the winning books, presented by task force members, who nominated and chose the selections.
This year’s winners, all published during 2000, reflect the best for teens based on literary quality, readability, and appeal. Comprising fantasy, realistic fiction, history, and more, the books are excellent springboards for introducing teens to the riches of adult literature. At the same time, they reinforce librarians’ commitment to young adult readers’ wide-ranging reading tastes and abilities as recognized by the work of Margaret Edwards, Booklist, YALSA, and the American Library Association as a whole.
Bradley, James and Powers, Ron. Flags of Our Fathers. 2000. Bantam, $24.95 (0-553-11133-7).
Bradley had a vested interest in finding out about the six men who were immortalized by the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima in 1945. His father was one of them, though he rarely spoke of the event. Determined to learn more, Bradley investigated. His powerful, straightforward account, written with Ron Powers, brings to light what he discovered—not only about his father and the other celebrated soldiers, a few barely out of their teens, but also about the battle itself and its effects on those who fought. An abridged, paperback version, which focuses more on the young men’s lives than on the violent battle, will be available from Delacorte in May ($15.95; 0-385-72932-4).
Bradshaw, Gillian. The Sand-Reckoner. 2000. Tor/Forge, $23.95 (0-312-87340-9); June 2001, paper, $14.95 (0-312-87581-9).
Sand was best for calculations. When Archimedes wrote on his cloak, he upset his sister. But no one remained angry at this distracted young man for long, not when they learned he was a genius who could make weaponry that might keep Roman soldiers at bay. Invoking her background in history and the classics, Bradshaw extrapolates an episode in the life of one of the greatest mathematicians and engineers of antiquity, mixing it with a story about a Roman slave in the midst of the enemy. There’s romance, war, and history of the ancient world, all tightly wrapped in a vivid sense of the joy derived from human invention.
Chevalier, Tracy. Girl with a Pearl Earring. 2000. Dutton, $21.95 (0-525-94527-X); Plume, paper, $12 (0-452-28215-2).
Dutch painter Vermeer’s portrait of a girl with a pearl earring is a quiet, radiant tribute to an unnamed girl. In Chevalier’s imaginative, elegant novel, the lovely young woman is given a name, Griet; an age, 16; and a job, servant in the household of the painter himself, a household full of secrets and prejudice. The result is a richly envisioned coming-of-age story that will sweep teens back in time to a place so vivid it seems a character in itself.
Colton, Larry. Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn. 2000. Warner, $24.95 (0-446-52683-5).
Colton, a former professional baseball player turned journalist, spent 15 months on the Crow Reservation in Montana to observe Hardin High School’s girls’ basketball team. One player stood out: Sharon LaForge, a talented but troubled teenager. As her story deepened and unfolded, so did Colton’s understanding of the conditions on the reservation as they affected the players’ lives and aspirations. His involving account of what he saw and what he learned is a realistic yet inspirational view of contemporary “young people of the Plains.”
Jordan, June. Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood. 2000. Basic, $20 (0-465-03681-3); May 2001, paper, $12.50 (0-465-03682-1).
A poet and professor of African American Studies, Jordan turns her eyes inward yet again, this time on her own history, in a haunting coming-of-age memoir of the first 12 years of her life. Writing in the flowing language of a prose poem, she recalls being caught in a cultural disconnect, a black child in a white world, and draws a vivid portrait of her father, alternately brutal and caring, who became the biggest influence in her life. His demands, which she usually accepted without question, like a “little soldier,” coupled with his desire for her success, made her strong.
Marillier, Juliet. Daughter of the Forest. 2000. Tor, $25.95 (0-312-84879-X); paper, $14.95 (0-312-87530-4).
The first book in the Sevenwaters fantasy trilogy sets a high standard for those to follow. Beginning with the bewitchingly romantic jacket, the novel plunges readers into a world of fairy tales and magic. Marillier’s fresh, richly embellished telling centers on a Celtic myth in which the youngest of seven children (and the only girl) must restore her loving brothers, who have been turned into swans. To do so she has to weave them each a shirt from a blistering plant that tears her skin to shreds.
Philbrick, Nathaniel. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. 2000. 302p. Viking, $24.95 (0-670-89157-6); May 2001, Penguin, paper, $14 (0-14-100182-8).
It’s the story Melville drew on for Moby Dick: an enormous whale bent on the destruction of the whaling ship that is chasing it. But Philbrick delves much deeper into the actual history of the nineteenth-century ship, the Essex, and the 20 sailors aboard, many of whom died when the vessel was tragically sunk. The details about the whaling industry in Nantucket and how oil was extracted from the huge creatures are fascinating, as are the facts and speculation about the physical and psychological ramifications the disaster had on the crew. It’s a riveting, tale of struggle, heroics, and cowardice, vividly told.
Sherwood, Ben. The Man Who Ate the 747. 2000. 272p. Bantam, $19.95 (0-553-80182-1).
There’s humor and sweet romance in this novel set in small-town America, but what teens will probably like best is the story’s quirky backdrop. Nebraska farmer Wally Chubb is ingesting an airplane—a 747, in fact—which he is methodically grinding into a paste and using like ketchup on his food. Even J. J. Smith, Keeper of the Records for The Book of Records, thinks the feat is astounding—even more so when he discovers that Wally has no interest in breaking records. Wally is doing everything for love.
Strauss, Darin. Chang and Eng. 2000. Dutton, $23.95 (0-525-94512-1); May 2001, Plume, paper, $13 (0-452-28109-1).
Little is known about the famous conjoined brothers, Chang and Eng, from Thailand, who came to the U.S. as exploited sideshow celebrities. But in this remarkable novel, narrated by Eng, Strauss tells the brothers’ stories, both as individuals and as one. As their history as performers, farmers, husbands, and fathers smoothly unfurls, teen readers will come to understand the true nature of the twins’ unbreakable bonds.
Watt, Alan. Diamond Dogs. 2000. Little, Brown, $23.95 (0-316-92581-0).
A father-son relationship is at the heart of this contemporary novel, which is as hard hitting in language and physical description as in the turbulent emotions it explores. Like his abusive, demanding father, 17-year-old Neil is an angry bully, who usually diffuses his temper on the football field. One evening, while driving drunk, he hits and kills a pedestrian and hides the body in the trunk of his father’s car. When Neil’s father, the sheriff, chooses to ignore the crime, the father and son are forced to acknowledge the secret that has been tearing them apart for years. Tense drama and a powerful portrayal of a classic YA theme are expressed in a thoroughly authentic teen voice.
Alex Awards, 2001, committee members: David Mowery (chair), Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library; Betty Carter, Coppell, Tex.; Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego, Calif.; Pamela Spenser Holley, Virginia Beach, Va.; Bonnie Kunzel, Princeton (N.J.) Public Library; Susan Riley, Greenburg (N.Y.) Public Library; Deborah Taylor, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, Md.; Stephanie Zvirin, Booklist.
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