I thought I would join another reading challenge.
YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge focuses on books that appear on several prize lists compiled by the ALA and YALSA. To complete the challenge, you read 25 of the 83 books on the challenge list between now and June 22. I really like that this list includes such a variety of titles—some of the best YA of the year, including this year’s Printz winner, but also popular books and even adult books (the books that won the Alex Award, which is given to adult books with crossover teen appeal).
Over the past two weeks, I’ve read these books on The Hub’s list:
Cynthia Levinson’s We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. This book, a nominee for the 2013 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, tells the story of four African-American children and teens who participated in the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama. Over the course of nine days in May, 1963, about 4000 African-American children and teens were arrested for marching to protest segregation. The children’s nonviolent march, abuse at the hands of police, and arrests brought international attention to the problem of segregation and were a catalyst for achieving desegregation in one of the South’s most racist cities. I didn’t know about this particular civil rights story, and I found the book fascinating. I wished it had been a bit shorter: a lot of background information is shared about the civil rights movement and about the actions of many other people during this period in Birmingham, and the narrative drags a bit at certain points. But it’s an interesting and important story.
Gaby Rodriguez’s The Pregancy Project. This book appears on the Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Because I don’t follow the news very closely, I had never heard of Gaby’s story, but it will probably be familiar to many readers (and watchers of Lifetime movies!): as a high school senior, she faked a pregnancy for her senior project in order to investigate the issue of teen pregnancy. The project wouldn’t make much sense taken out of the context of Gaby’s own family: her mother had her first child when she was 14 and many of Gaby’s 7 siblings also became teen parents. She herself was determined to avoid becoming a teen parent herself, but she was curious how attitudes towards her—from family members, teachers, and friends at school—would change if she became pregnant. Even though she explains her rationale for the project at length, I still had a hard time understanding what she really wanted to gain from it or how she could logically be considered a voice for pregnant teens, given that her pregnancy was faked. Her personal story is compelling, however, and she comes across as an earnest and thoughtful young woman. It really is a quick read—it only took me a little over an hour to read it. And I think a lot of teens would find this book quite absorbing.
Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. This book won the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction as well as a Newbery Honor—most deservedly. It’s one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in the past few years. Sheinkin takes an incredibly complicated story—actually three incredibly complicated stories—and weaves them together into one can’t-put-it-down narrative. First, there’s the story of scientists in the U.S. working to build the first atomic bomb. Second, there’s the story of the Russians trying to steal information about the U.S. scientists’ work. And third, there’s the story of Allied attempts to keep the Germans from building the bomb first. Each of the three threads has its share of espionage and intrigue. I expect this book will be in my Top 10 for the year.
Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel, Drama, shows up on three lists: it was named a Stonewall Honor Book , and it also made it onto the list of Popular Paperbacks and Great Graphic Novels . I really enjoyed this story about a middle-school girl named Callie who is a total theater geek. She’d love to star in the school’s musical, but she can’t sing, so she works on set design instead. Telgemeier has such a light touch as a writer: she doesn’t gloss over the pain of middle school and the disappointment of first loves, but she also manages to create characters who have interesting and rich and happy lives.