Thursday, October 16, 2014

National Book Award Finalists Announced

The finalists for the National Book Award for the best book in young people's literature have been announced. The five finalists include three novels, a memoir, and one historical nonfiction book.

Eliot Schrefer's Threatened (Scholastic Press, 2014) is an eco-thriller that takes young Luc and mysterious "Prof" into the forests of Gabon, to investigate the dangers to the survival of the endangered bonobo chimpanzees, where they find the chimps are not the only only endangered.

Deborah Wiley's second book in her historical fiction trilogy,Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy) (Scholastic Press, 2014) follows two characters, a white girl in sleepy Greenwood, Mississippi and a young African American boy, who meet and live through their life-changing Freedom Summer of 1964. (See my July, 2014, review here.) The first book in Wiles series is Countdown (Sixties Trilogy).

In John Corey Wiley's science fiction coming-of-age novel Noggin (Atheneum Press, 2014) finds that even a second chance to live has its problems. Travis dies of leukemia at the age of sixteen, but five years later his medically preserved head is transplanted to a donor body. But even though he's still a sophomore in his head and at school, everyone else, his friends, his first girlfriend, and his parents, are five years older and have moved on. Learning to be himself in a different body in a much changed world teaches Travis a lot about what it means to be and to live.

In her Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014), award-winning novelist and poet Jacqueline Woodson tells her own story of growing up in the 1970s as an African American girl in Columbus, Ohio, Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York, in a free-verse memoir that documents the family life and teachers who helped her realize her talent as a writer. "I know" she says, "that I was lucky enough to be born during a time when the world was changing like crazy--and that I was part of that change."

Multiple-award winning author Steve Sheinkin's The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (Roaring Brook, 2014) looks at a little-known civil rights event in the midst of World War II. An explosion in the armaments-shipping facility at Port Chicago, in which over 300 African American sailor were killed. Sheinkin documents how the survivors refused to return to work until dangerous practices were changed and how fifty of them were court martialed as deserters in one of the first cases in the civil rights movement.

The winners of all the National Book Awards, including the prizes for adult fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, will be announced on November 19, 2014. See the complete shortlist of finalists here.

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