Cindy and Lynn’s 2017 Book Awards

Cindy: Instead of listing our favorite books of 2017, Lynn and I thought we’d try handing out some special awards this year. I’m not talking about Newbery, Caldecott or Printz Awards; we’ll leave those to the official committees. We’re off to Denver this week for the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, and we can’t wait to learn who the big winners are, but in the meantime, here are the Bookends Awards. Envelopes, please!


The Book that Had the Most Holds at One Time (even before the author appeared on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah):

The Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

I read the advanced-reader copy the night before eighth-grade book talks, and knew this was a book that all of my students needed to hear about. Rather than letting it go out during the first hour, I clutched it all day and book talked it each hour to our entire eighth grade—two classes an hour. By the end of the day, we had over 60 student holds, and the teachers wanted it, too.

The same thing happened at my other middle school. I ordered ten copies for each building (not my usual budget allotment), and while the initial demand has been met, multiple copies are still circulating, and some weeks, there’s a waiting list again. Many of the students in line to read it are ones who never want to read anything. Reynolds understands them, and he’s writing great books for them. His books are sure to make a difference in so many ways, and I’ll buy as many copies as it takes. Our public library is bringing Jason to Holland, MI in March. He will be speaking in the evening at our Performing Arts Center, which holds 717 guests. I hope to have every seat filled for this special event.


The Best Book for Cold and Flu Season:

Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick

If you have a cold, you’ll have the perfect diction to read this “stuffed up” dialogue. If you don’t have a cold, you’ll have more lung power to laugh along with the story. Don’t mith it.


The Creepiest Book I Read All Year:

Thornhill, by Pam Smy

This story alternates two creepy, atmospheric plot lines set at Thornhill Institute and in its neighborhood—one in 1982, told in diary entries, the other in 2017, told in haunting, black and white artwork. I really don’t want to spoil the story by revealing much.

I have students who want something else like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and besides recommending Selznik’s other illustrated novels, there weren’t any other books that made them happy. This will, but it will also give them chills. It will also satisfy fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.


The Book I Wish I’d Read During Last Summer’s Lunar Eclipse Madness:


Moon Shadow, by Erin Downing

A thirteen-year-old girl finds her voice to be strong and learns how to stand up, even to the mother who abandoned her after a lunar eclipse on her birthday magics her moonstone. The paranormal parts of the story require some suspension of disbelief, but the interactions between Lucia and her family, friends, and mean schoolmates are quite authentic. My middle-school girls are enjoying this story quite a lot.


The Best Use of Knitting in a Book:

The Hearts We Sold, by Emily Lloyd-Jones

It’s not every book in which you find a demon sitting on a bench outside a hospital knitting with blood-red yarn! Lynn and I both loved this Faustian fantasy with, um, heart.







The Most Surprising Book I Read All Year:

Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim

I don’t quite know how to describe this gorgeous, layered, funny, cross-format collection of  Korean folktales. Instead, I urge you to click over to Eva Volin’s brilliant review. I might never have seen this book if Lynn hadn’t thrust it into my hands, but I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. Caldecott, anyone?


The Book I Read the Slowest:

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers, by Deborah Heiligman

It might have taken me half a year to saunter through, but that’s okay—the book perfectly suited my pace. Some people race through art galleries, while others can sit and look at one painting for hours. I enjoyed letting each gallery of this book sink in before moving to the next. Sometimes I read just a page or two of a short chapter, and sometimes I read several chapters at once, but I always took my time. The closer I got to the end, the more I wanted to slow down, as I knew what sadness awaited. Heiligman has created her own masterpiece.




The Book that Most Made Me Feel Like a Middle-Schooler:

When My Sister Started Kissing, by Helen Frost

Frost’s gorgeous depiction of two young girls, one charging ahead into adolescence and one holding back, took me right back to those painful, exhilarating years.


The Book I Had to Fight My Grandsons to Read:

The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud

The founding members of the Focus Group are now 14 and passionate readers. They read a lot of books this year, but the one they were most impatient for was the fourth installment of Lockwood & Co. When it came, I had planned to read it immediately, but they saw it, so what could I do? They are much bigger than I am these days.






The Book That Made Me Want to March Again:

Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu

I loved Mathieu’s wonderful story of a “dutiful” girl who learned to be brave and stand up for her rights. I was so indignant at the culture of that high school that I was ready to grab a hat and start marching with all those Moxie girls!


The Picture Book that Drew the Most Gasps:

The Book of Mistakes, by Corinna Luyken

Every time I read this gorgeous, imaginative picture book, I found myself and my audience gasping with surprise and delight. Oxygen should be provided along with the book!






The Book That Made Me Want to Give Up Retirement and Go Back in the Classroom:

Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism, by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

This invigorating and challenging book is SO rich with fascinating topics that just beg to be discussed and explored with teens. It made me yearn to do just that—until I realized how hard it would be to start getting up at the crack of dawn again.


About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "Cindy and Lynn’s 2017 Book Awards"

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  1. Love this format for book awards. You’ve pointed me to a few titles that I’ve missed!

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