Recommended Teen Book Award Winners

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel

I am thrilled to share my first column with Caroline’s readers. Through the years, I have helped many of you find the titles Caroline recommended so I know how enthusiastically the column was embraced and will endeavor to continue her tradition of sharing great books for children of all ages. Luckily, children’s literature is in my blood. I began shelving books in the Headquarters Library children’s department while still in high school. I came and went as college and other interests pulled me in different directions, but it didn’t take me too long to recognize where I really belonged. Not just in a library, but in this library system! I received my Masters in Library Science and eventually began managing the Headquarters youth services department. Now, I am lucky enough to be coordinating youth services throughout the system.

For many years I have worked with children from birth through twelfth grade, but fresh from grad school I worked primarily with teens. So this Monday, when the 2011 book awards were announced by the American Library Association, although I was happy to hear the children’s book awards, I was particularly excited about the teen winners. Especially since teen literature awards are relatively new in the library world.

The Printz Award is given to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature and has only been awarded since 2003. This year’s winner is “Shipbreaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi. This dystopian novel is set in a world where young teens, small enough to fit in small spaces, earn their living by crawling through old ships and stripping them of everything worth selling. Fear of his father and growing too big for his job gnaw at Nailer until a hurricane washes a shipwreck ashore that could save the lives of Nailer and his friends. The only problems: a lone survivor who needs his help if she’s going to stay alive and threats from other crew members who will do anything for a chance to get ahead.

Another recent teen book award is the YALSA (Young Adult Library Service Association) Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. That mouthful was given to the biography “Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing” by Ann Angel. A reviewer has said, “Angel manages to convey in print (with some amazing photographs) the sound of Joplin’s voice, the depth of her live performances.” The author has also created a Web site,, bringing the singer alive with actual videos of her performance.

Other winners with teen appeal include the Coretta Scott King (Author) winner, “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia, the story of three sisters who are shipped off for the summer to live with the mother they have never met. Instructed to call her Cecile and stay out of the kitchen, they are left to their own devices yet still somehow get to know, and if not love, then at least respect this former stranger.

“The Dreamer” by Pam Mun~oz Ryan is the Pura Belpre’ (Author) Award winner for a Latino author whose book best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience. Here Ryan imagines the childhood of Nobel-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. Lyrically written, Neruda’s struggles to follow his heart, despite a tyrannical father with his own future plans for his son, are beautifully portrayed. The reader cannot help, but root for the young man even if you know nothing of the poet he becomes.

Rebecca Purdy is coordinator of children’s services for Central Rappahannock Regional Library. Phone her at 540/372-1160 or e–mail her at