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National Book Awards

Jacqueline Woodson - Another Brooklyn
Another BrooklynNo stranger to the National Book Awards (she won in 2014 for her verse novel, Brown Girl Dreaming), Jacqueline Woodson earns another nomination for her latest fiction, Another Brooklyn. This novel, although written for adult audiences in mind, follows August through her memories of her childhood and adolescence for, as Woodson states, “those complex years have a profound impact on the rest of our lives” (NPR, All Things Considered, 2016).

Another Brooklyn came to me in this kind of dreamlike series of vignettes..." Woodson explains. Set in a time and place that no longer exist, the story is meant to replicate that "fuzzy haze of memory."

The memories belong to August who was born in Tennessee but moved to Brooklyn after her mother died, a fact she refuses to accept. We first meet August as an adult who has returned to Brooklyn to bury her father.

A chance encounter with an old friend triggers a flood of feelings about her childhood and the friends she grew up with. As she looks back on that time, she keeps reminding the reader "this is memory," which makes one wonder if her version of the story is true.

But August's memory can't be questioned, Woodson says. "It belongs to her. ... It's not something that you are going to change a person's mind about. ... She is saying: This is mine, this is what I own."

Jacqueline Woodson plays with form, musicality, and rhythm throughout this novel, as she does in previous works.  This musicality of words is evidenced in the harmonies of the friendships in the novel and in the reconciliation of memories from August’s past and her dreams for the future.

Kate DiCamillo - Raymie Nightingale

Raymie NightingaleAuthor Kate DiCamillo is well-known on the upper elementary, middle grades reading circuit.  She has authored such beautiful works as The Tale of Desperaux, The Miraculous Journey ofEdward Tulane, and Because of Winn Dixie, is now a nominee for the National Book Award for Young People’s Fiction for her summer 2016 release, Raymie Nightingale.  Dicamillo, multiple Newbery Award winner, says that her inspiration for the character of Raymie was herself.

When Raymie’s father leaves with a dental hygienist in the summer of 1970, Raymie devises a plan to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition so he will see her picture in the paper and come back home.  As a contestant, Raymie must twirl her baton and smile continuously.  During twirling lessons, Raymie meets Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, both of whom have plans of their own.  They all have things they have lost and people that have abandoned them, which doesn’t provide a lot for them to all smile about.  But, as the summer carries on, the girls bond and learn that “it takes a lot of bravery to be kind.”

This book is an example of how strong and resilient children are.  They are, by far, braver than they think and often wiser than adults to whom their care has been allocated.  Raymie Nightingale is the perfect book to inspire you to be your bravest self and cherish those friendships that change your life.   

National Book Award Finalist

Jason Reynolds - Ghost

GhostJason Reynolds has taken the world of Children’s and Young Adult Literature by storm! With his debut novel, When I Was the Greatest, his co-authored All American Boys, and The Boy in the Black Suit, he has established his relevance in young adult literature and now, he has made just as big of an impression on the world of middle grade literature.  His May, 2016 release, As Brave as You was his first foray into middle grade books and his sophomore middle grades effort, Ghost, has proved to be just as successful.

Earning him a National Book Award finalist nomination, Ghost, tells the story of Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw, who has been trying to out run his past.  One day, Ghost happens upon a track practice of The Defenders, who are all excellent runners and could be junior Olympians if they practice, which is foreign to Ghost, since he never thought of running as anything that you needed to practice.  When the fastest runner on the team gets on the line, Ghost lines up next to him and earns him an invitation from the coach to become part of the team.  Tired of running in hand-me-down high tops, Ghost shoplifts a pair of track shoes and after a while they weigh him down more that make him fly.  Ghost makes a slow transformation both on and off the track, especially after a bonding team dinner where all the teammates share something about themselves that no one else knows. 

The team continues to bond and eventually Ghost builds the confidence he needs to deal with not only his track shoes, but also his past and current situations.  With help from his coach, mom, and teammates, Ghost begins to soar. 

Reynolds writes Ghost’s voice with such clarity and full realization that readers will be eager to become friends with this skilled runner.  This is the first in a promised series with each member of The Defenders narrating a novel in the collection.