She's no Deirdre Baker......but I don't mind reading what Susan Perren has to say in the Kids' section of the Globe and Mail now and then. (Odd, that the only thing I like about the Star is the bi-weekly Small Print section in which Deirdre Baker rambles, in her almost unbelievably articulate way, about the brightest and best of the Kids' book world).
But this, dear friends, is not about the Star, it is about Susan Perren's 2006 YA picks.
They read as follows:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation by MT Anderson ( recent winner of the National Book Award)
Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Odd Man Out by Sarah Ellis
Rex Zero and the End of the World by Tim Wynne-Jones
A Very Fine Line by Julie Johnston
A couple are usual suspects by now, but the Sarah Ellis delighted me. I was glad to hear her get the credit she so obviously deserves for this most recent endeavour.
As a bookseller, Octavian Nothing has been a challenge. It is, like the Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, a book that forces the younger demographic to challenge themselves beyond the usual expectancy. Only the most dedicated of readers will have the tenacity to battle Anderson's beautiful 18th Century prose, dilluted sentences and spacious intervals. To get inside of Octavian's mind and reap the benefits of this multi-faceted text, one must be willing to surrender completely to one of the most difficult teen reads of the past couple of years. A worthwhile adventure, indeed, but not for the half-heartedly inclined.
I read the ARC of the Julie Johnston in the summer and was thrilled at the supposed simplicity of the text and how the interposed thematic meaning beneath surfaced in Johnston's always eloquent manner. I love giving it to bright pre-teeners; wide eyed dreamers who love dwelling on the cusp of reality and fantasy; who feed on stories that transport them to different times. For those anxious to find a parallel, Eva Ibbotson's A Song For Summer strikes me as similar in tone and theme. Though both are set in different worlds physically, they both require the same capacity for abandonment. You want to drift of in these books. Take the words on the page, chew it slowly, and drift far away.
Gatty's Tale is, of course, a Crossley-Holland ( worthy in itself) and takes up the plight of the fiesty orphan we previously encountered in the enormously popular Arthur series. Always thinking our young friend deserves a book of her own, this met my expectations! Gatty's adventures seem to me a hybrid of Adam of the Road and an equally fascinating group of books by Joan Aiken ( see Wolves of Willougby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea).