Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oops! National Book Foundation Unveils Six YA Finalists

By SLJ Staff

October 12, 2011

And then there were six. For the first time in recent history, the National Book Foundation unveiled six finalists yesterday in the Young People's Literature category. What happened? Someone screwed up.

NBA(Original Import)Typically, there are five finalists in four categories—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people's literature. But after Wednesday's announcement, a sixth book was added to the list.

"It was our mistake, and we take full responsibility," says Harold Augebraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation, sponsor of the prestigious National Book Awards. "For security reasons, we do everything by phone, and we don't write things down when [the judges] transmit the titles to our staff. And someone wrote it down wrong."

Due to confidentiality rules, Augebraum says he can't reveal the books involved in the mishap, but in order to "not take anything away from anybody," a decision was made to make an exception and include all six titles this year.

The finalists for the 62nd National Book Awards were streamed on Oregon Public Broadcasting's morning radio program, "Think Out Loud," in front of a live audience at the new Literary Arts Center in Portland, OR.

Virginia Euwer Wolff, a 2001 National Book Award winner, announced five Young People's Literature finalists: Debby Dahl Edwardson's My Name Is Not Easy (Marshall Cavendish); Thanhha Lai's Inside Out and Back Again (Harper); Albert Marrin's Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy (Knopf); Lauren Myracle's Shine (Amulet) and Gary D. Schmidt's Okay for Now (Clarion). Only later was Franny Billingsley's Chime (Dial) added to the National Book Awards's website.

Author Marc Aronson, who chaired the panel of judges for the Young People's category, says two judges who were listening to the broadcast immediately realized the mistake and spread the word. Other judges included Ann Brashares, Matt de la Peña, Nikki Grimes, and Will Weaver.

Lai, whose book is based on her own childhood experiences, tells the story of Hà, who is 10 when Saigon falls and her family flees Vietnam. "This is so much more than I ever could have expected from telling a story based on a piece of my life," she says. "I'm truly honored."

Myracle, whose gritty novel involves a vicious hate crime, poverty, and drugs, says she received a phone call from Augebraum earlier this week and felt "amazed and honored and incredibly humbled" by her nomination.

"Shine is a book that didn't get a single starred review (we author types keep track of these sorts of things), and though I've always felt accepted in the great and wonderful world of kids' books, I've never felt as if I were in the Cool Kids Crowd," says the best-selling author. "So from where I stand—not only as a writer for young people, but as writer for young people perceived to be pink, fluffy, and depraved—I have to say that it feels pretty damn good to be told that this year's panel of NBA judges read my book and said, 'Yeah. We like it.' Because they're my peers, you know?"

In Billingsley's Chime, 17-year-old Briony Larkin blames herself for all her family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin.

Edwardson's My Name Is Not Easy is a survival tale involving a group of young Alaskan natives who are transplanted from their home villages to a parochial boarding school in the Alaskan wilderness.

Marrin's Flesh and Blood So Cheap is a gripping account of one of America's most tragic workplace fires, the New York City Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on March 25, 1911, in which 146 people, mostly women—perished when they were trapped behind the locked factory doors.

Schmidt's Okay for Now is a coming-of-age tale about a 14-year-old who moves to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother.
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