2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

This past week, the National Book Foundation hosted the annual National Book Awards to celebrate the achievements in four genres of literature: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. It got a little insane this year with the whole Shine debacle but the awards carried on and a winner was selected. Below, we’ve given you a run-down on the winner and finalists for the Young People’s Literature category.

The winning novel for 2011 in Young People’s Literature is Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Besides eternal glory, Thanhha also received $10,000 and a crystal sculpture. Inside Out and Back Again is about ten year old Hà fleeing Saigon with her family to escape the Vietnam War. Hà must reconcile her mixed feelings about trading her colorful world of friends and traditions for a dull (albeit safe) life in Alabama surrounded by strangers. This is Thanhha’s first novel–how will she top herself next?

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (a companion to The Wednesday Wars) is another tale of moving to a new town and leaving your inside jokes among friends and familiar grocery stores behind. Doug Swieteck is dragged out to “stupid Marysville” in New York with his abusive father and three brothers: one quiet and passive, one a domineering bully, and one, his eldest, completely damaged by the war he fought. Big props to any Fig who can read this heartbreaking story without going through an entire box of Kleenex.

In Chime by Franny Billingsley, teenage Briony is haunted by her stepmother’s last words: accusations for all the hardships the family has endured. But when the mysterious Eldric rolls into town with his golden lion eyes, he’ll attempt to show Briony just how extraordinary she is, unaware of all the secrets she’s been harboring.

My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson was inspired by her husband’s real life. Her protagonist, Luke, has a real name “full of sounds white people can’t say,” so he ditches it when he gets to a new school. Here, speaking one’s native language is forbidden, and there’s segregation amongst the Whites, Eskimos, and Indians during lunch. It’ll definitely be a difficult school year for Luke, but it might be made easier by the company of other outsiders.

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin explores the real life tragedy of a factory fire back in 1911. Terrifyingly, this disaster could’ve been avoided if the factory hadn’t been locked from the outside to prevent the workers from leaving during the work day. Marrin explores the social and economic factors that led to the fire in a fascinating way.

Do any of these sound worth a read, Figs? All of them? One or two, maybe? Or maybe Shine is the novel that sparked a glimmer in your eye? Let us know!

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