School Library Journal’s first every Battle of the (Kids’) Books ends tomorrow with the finale judged by the honorable Lois Lowry. As the instigator and half of the Battle Commander, I had a complete blast doing the BoB and am glad to know others enjoyed following it as well. I’m particularly tickled at the finalists as they are as far on opposite ends of the children’s book spectrum as you can go.
On one side you have Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, the quintessential page-turner — the front runner from day one in the People’s Choice Poll. I’m with Judge Ellen Wittlinger who wrote in her first round decision:
The suspense never lets up for a second, and I found myself constantly surprised by the twists and turns here. Even though the ending does not tie things up neatly—a sequel appears this year—it was completely satisfying and brought a tear to my crusty old eye. In fact, I haven’t fallen in love with a book like this in a long time.
And then, as far as you can possibly go and still be a children’s book (and I know there are arguments all over the place about this— I’ve been part of them) there is the second volume of M. T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing. Judge Tim Wynne-Jones said it best in his second round decision:
I read the first half intermittently over a three-month period. I could put it down. But the important thing is that I couldn’t leave it down. It demanded to be read (albeit in a respectful tone, without raising its voice). Partly, I think the book itself – its tome-like physical entity – cast a spell over me. It looks portentous, right down to the well-cut version of Caslon, which, the colophon explains, was the very typeface used to set the Declaration of Independence. A book this thoughtfully designed exerts a lot of gravity upon a reader.
And when I was drawn back into its orbit, I found that, as with the first volume, the second half of it – well, the last third, anyway – proved to be a real page-turner, a belated thriller. This is the prize awaiting the steadfast reader. Hang in there; there’s action aplenty up ahead!
Two stellar books. Two completely different reading experiences. I’m sure glad I don’t have to decide between them! Do be sure to check in tomorrow to see who won.