Review of The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School, by Sonora Reyes

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School

by Sonora Reyes

Balzer + Bray, 2022. 385 pages.
Review written February 21, 2023, from a library book
Starred Review
2023 Walter Awards Honor Book, Young Adult
2023 Pura Belpé Author Honor Book, Young Adult
2023 Morris Award Finalist

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School is a debut novel that introduces an author with lots of promise. Our protagonist is Yamilet, who’s just been told she and her brother Cesar are going to Catholic school. Yamilet’s job is to look after her younger brother, in her same grade because he’s so smart, who keeps getting into fights at the public school. Their mother is hoping a new environment will keep him out of trouble.

What their mother doesn’t know is that Yami is happy to go to Catholic school herself because her once-best friend outed her at public school after Yami told her she was in love with her. It turned out Bianca did not share her affection and was horrified that Yami is gay. So Yami is determined to not make the same mistake at Catholic school and does everything she can to appear straight.

But then there’s one person who’s lesbian and out at her new school — and Yami finds herself falling for her. She can’t let that happen!

And that’s not all that’s going on. Cesar keeps getting detention (at least he’s not fighting!) and spins a story for their mother that he’s on the football team. Yami’s trying to make some money, in case their mother finds out she’s gay and kicks her out, and much more. Their father was deported years ago back to Mexico, but Yami thinks he might understand what she’s going through, since he was never as sincere about the Catholic faith.

It’s all put together in a story that keeps you reading and makes you care about Yami and all she’s trying to navigate. We’re rooting for her to be able to be herself and find love as herself. I liked the way people in the story surprised her, without it feeling unrealistic.

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Review of Mango, Abuela, and Me, by Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez

mango_abuela_and_me_largeMango, Abuela, and Me

by Meg Medina
illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Candlewick Press, 2015. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Cybils Fiction Picture Books Finalist
2016 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book
2016 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book

Mia’s grandmother, her Abuela, has come to live with her family. But Abuela doesn’t speak English and Mia doesn’t speak Spanish. But little by little, they learn to communicate, and some of the help comes from a parrot named Mango, who learns both languages as well.

This is simply a lovely cross-cultural story. It does address that it’s difficult to learn a new language, and takes lots of practice, but all the motivation in this story is love.

The first night, before Abuela goes to sleep, she shows Mia a red feather from a parrot that nested in her mango trees back in her old home. This is the episode that gives Mia the idea to purchase the parrot in the pet store for Abuela and name him Mango.

Spanish words are peppered throughout the story. It’s just a nice twist on the stranger-in-a-new-country story. This time it’s not the girl herself, but her Abuela who clearly loves her and learns to tell her stories about her Abuelo, and also learns to hear all the stories Mia has to tell.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Savvy, by Ingrid Law


by Ingrid Law

Puffin Books, 2008. 342 pages.
Starred Review
2009 Newbery Honor Book

My copy of Savvy is inscribed to me from the author, acquired at ALA Annual Conference 2011. I finally read it on the plane on the way to ALA Annual Conference 2013. What in the world took me so long? I completely loved it. I wasn’t surprised to do so, since fantasy that wins Newbery Honor is pretty much a sure thing for me.

The book opens as Mibs is turning thirteen. Here’s how the book opens, when she explains why turning thirteen is significant in their family:

When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it. I had liked living down south on the edge of land, next to the pushing-pulling waves. I had liked it with a mighty kind of liking, so moving had been hard — hard like the pavement the first time I fell off my pink two-wheeler and my palms burned like fire from all of the hurt just under the skin. But it was plain that Fish could live nowhere near or nearby or next to or close to or on or around any largish bodies of water. Water had a way of triggering my brother and making ordinary, everyday weather take a frightening turn for the worse.

Her turn is coming soon:

My savvy hadn’t come along yet. But I was only two days away from my very own thirteen dripping candles — though my momma’s cakes never lopped to the side or to the middle. Momma’s cakes were perfect, just like Momma, because that was her savvy. Momma was perfect. Anything she made was perfect. Everything she did was perfect. Even when she messed up, Momma messed up perfectly.

But before Mibs’ birthday can be properly celebrated, with powerful adults keeping an eye on things in case her new savvy gets out of control, her Papa gets in a car accident and is in a coma in the big city. Mibs and Fish and toddler Gypsy are left behind with Grandpa.

When the preacher’s wife gets wind of Mibs’ upcoming birthday, she plans a birthday party with her daughter and all the girls from Sunday School.

I could feel Fish and Grandpa getting more and more nervous at all the talk of parties. Thirteenth birthdays in the Beaumont family were strictly non-public affairs.

What follows is a delightful sequence of disasters. Mibs and Fish stowaway in a bus along with the preacher’s son and older daughter, driven by a Bible salesman who sells pink Bibles that no one wants. They want to get to Poppa, but have to take some detours along the way. Mibs learns her incredibly quirky Savvy, and learns a lot about people along the way.

Over-the-top adventures with quirky characters and a whole lot of heart. It’s easy to see why this book caught the attention of the Newbery committee. I’m so glad I finally read it!

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
by Lish McBride

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2010. 343 pages.
2011 Morris Honor Book

I finally read this book as part of my Award Challenge — reading award winners and honor books — and because I have an Advance Reader Copy of its sequel, Necromancing the Stone.

This isn’t necessarily a book I would have read otherwise, since it is quite dark, with a grisly death and necromancers and a werewolf clan. However, once I got through the rather gruesome beginning, I found myself liking the characters and the light-hearted, humorous approach to this darkness.

Sam is a college drop-out working in a fast food joint, without a lot of prospects. He’s definitely surprised when he gets the attention of a seriously mean and scary man whose tail light he happened to break when playing potato hockey. When someone frighteningly strong beats him up after work and his friend’s head is sent to him in a box, well, he figures he can’t exactly ignore the problem.

He’s told he’s a necromancer, able to communicate with the dead. But why didn’t he know about it until now? And what does it have to do with the herbs his mother gave him to wear around his neck — the herbs that keep away nightmares?

It turns out that the necromancer who spotted him has plans for Sam that won’t be good for him. He’s also hiding a beautiful teenage werewolf in his basement. Sam needs to get enough information about who this necromancer is to be able to do something to stop him from killing Sam and stealing his power.

This is a surprisingly fun book about a good — but perhaps a bit irresponsible — kid thrown into some dark situations. Sam deals with them with humor and flair.

Here’s an early part where the author manages to put some humor into an awful situation:

I opened the box, then quickly dropped it and scrambled up onto the counter, making very dignified shrieking noises. Ramon stared. Frank came into the kitchen just in time to see the box bounce onto its side and its contents roll lazily out. Ramon tried to back up, but he was already against the wall. Frank managed a quick hop back as Brooke’s head rolled to a stop in the middle of the floor. It had already been severed cleanly at the neck, making her ponytail appear longer as it trailed behind like the tail on a grotesque comet. I couldn’t see any blood. In fact, the wound looked cauterized, which didn’t make it any more pleasant.

Nobody said a word.

Nobody except Brooke.

“Ow, cut it out, you guys!” Her blue eyes popped open and swung around until they found me. “Ugh, so not cool. Really, Sam. You don’t just drop somebody’s head. Especially a friend’s. Like being stuffed into a box and bounced around for an hour wasn’t bad enough.”

I screamed and grabbed a butter knife off the counter. I’m not sure what I planned to do with it, but in the meantime I held it in front of me just in case Brooke suddenly grew her body back and attacked. I mean, if she could talk, what was stopping her from leaping up and gnawing piranha-style on my ankels? Once a severed head talks, life’s possibilities seem endless.

Frank ran and hid in, I think, the bathroom. I heard some crashing noises that sounded like stuff being knocked around in my shower, anyway. Ramon slid behind the easy chair and hugged it, keeping his eyes on the head at all times. I think he’d stopped breathing. I crouched there, unmoving except for the shaking of my brandished butter knife, and stared at the head of a cute girl resting in the middle of the dirty linoleum of my kitchen floor. For some reason, I had the irrational thought of asking Mrs. Winalski whether or not this counted as having a girl in my apartment.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Sondy for Newbery!

It’s official! I’m on the ballot for next year’s Newbery committee!

Here I am at the 2010 Newbery Banquet. I’m such a Newbery-geek, any contact with the awards process thrills me!

Here’s the scoop. Each year, a committee chooses the “most distinguished contribution” to American literature for children. The committee is made up of fifteen people, eight of whom are voted on by members of ALSC, the Children’s Services division of the American Library Association. There are sixteen names on the ballot.

Why should you vote for me, Sondra Eklund?

Besides being an avid reader of children’s books all my life, I’ve been writing book reviews in Sonderbooks since 2001, thinking about why certain books are good.

When I discovered Heavy Medal blog a few years ago, and they posted the Newbery criteria and guidelines, I couldn’t keep myself from printing out and reading every word. I realized then how much the whole thing fascinated me. Since then, I avidly follow Heavy Medal, and have learned much from Jonathan and Nina about the Newbery Medal and the process of choosing the winners.

When ALA offered online classes, I took one on the Newbery Medal, one on the Caldecott Medal, and one on the Printz Award.

Last January, I had the privilege of attending the William Morris Seminar, an entire day of training about the process of book evaluation committees. I’m ready to carry out what I’ve learned!

Last year, I joined Capitol Choices, a DC-area group that chooses about a hundred of the best children’s books of the year. They meet monthly to discuss great books, and it gave me practice being in a formal book-discussion setting.

Last year I also got to be a first round judge for the Cybils Awards, in the category of Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction. I figured it would help me find out if I like spending all my spare time intensely reading children’s books. (I loved it!)

I’m involved in ALSC, a member of the Children and Technology Committee for the past two years.

I am currently Youth Services Manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library, a large public library in northern Virginia. Last year, I started a Mock Newbery Club. I hope to keep it up to get feedback on how actual kids feel about the new books being published.

In 2008, 2009, and now 2013, I’ve been on our county’s Summer Reading Selection committee, selecting a list of books to promote for Summer Reading.

What’s more, this would be a great time in my life to devote to children’s books. My youngest son just headed off to college, so I’m living alone. I’m moving into a lovely new home next month. No more cooking and cleaning for kids! I am ready to devote all those spare hours to reading children’s books! 🙂

So, any ALSC members out there, make my dream come true! Vote for Sondra Eklund for Newbery Committee!

And Thank You from the bottom of my heart!

Review of Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Why We Broke Up

Novel by Daniel Handler
Art by Maira Kalman

Little Brown and Company, New York, 2011. 354 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Printz Honor

I read this book as part of my crazy plan to read award winners, even though I know it’s impossible, so I began by focusing on award winners where I’ve actually met the author. I started this book the evening after I got home from ALA Annual Conference, and stayed in bed late on Independence Day morning to finish it. The book is absorbing, quick reading, but very insightful.

Now I have to say to start off with: Call me old-fashioned, call me a prude, but I’m really glad that back when I was dating, we didn’t get naked with a guy on the 2nd date or so. We didn’t expect a kiss to mean we’re going to be felt up right away. And on top of that, I’m really happy that I didn’t have to plan when and where to lose my virginity. Or, wait a minute, I did plan a big party with all my family and friends (a wedding) and I lost my virginity in a truly extraordinary place (a honeymoon). Makes me feel sorry for kids today missing out on that.

But the story — the story is outstanding. Min explains what she’s doing right at the start:

Dear Ed,

In a sec you’ll hear a thunk. At your front door, the one nobody uses. It’ll rattle the hinges a bit when it lands, because it’s so weighty and important, a little jangle along with the thunk, and Joan will look up from whatever she’s cooking. She will look down in her saucepan, worried that if she goes to see what it is it’ll boil over. I can see her frown in the reflection of the bubbly sauce or whatnot. But she’ll go, she’ll go and see. You won’t, Ed. You wouldn’t. You’re upstairs probably, sweaty and alone. You should be taking a shower, but you’re heartbroken on the bed, I hope, so it’s your sister, Joan, who will open the door even though the thunk’s for you. You won’t even know or hear what’s being dumped at your door. You won’t even know why it happened.

It’s a beautiful day, sunny and whatnot. The sort of day when you think everything will be all right, etc. Not the right day for this, not for us, who went out when it rains, from October 5 until November 12. But it’s December now, and the sky is bright, and it’s clear to me. I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. And the truth is that I goddamn loved you so much.

The thunk is the box, Ed. This is what I am leaving you. . . . Every last souvenir of the love we had, the prizes and the debris of this relationship, like the glitter in the gutter when the parade has passed, all the everything and whatnot kicked to the curb. I’m dumping the whole box back into your life, Ed, every item of you and me. I’m dumping this box on your porch, Ed, but it is you, Ed, who is getting dumped.

The thunk, I admit it, will make me smile. A rare thing lately. . . . The world is right again, is the smile. I loved you and now here’s back your stuff, out of my life like you belong, is the smile. I know you can’t see it, not you, Ed, but maybe if I tell you the whole plot you’ll understand it this once, because even now I want you to see it. I don’t love you anymore, of course I don’t, but still there’s something I can show you. You know I want to be a director, but you could never truly see the movies in my head and that, Ed, is why we broke up.

And so Min gives Ed a box full of stuff. The box and each item in it is pictured one by one, as Min tells the story of their relationship. It wasn’t a long relationship, lasting from October 5 to November 12. But Min has quite a number of souvenirs and you can see from the excerpt above how good she is at spinning words, showing you pictures.

And, I have to say this also, the book has a universal feel to it. On the back, it says, “Min and Ed’s story of Heartbreak may remind you of your own.” There are quotes from other writers about high school heartbreak.

I realized that though I had my heart broken not long ago, though I did get a divorce, I never did really break up. Instead, I got secretly betrayed and abandoned, while I was trying to cling by my fingernails to the marriage. Funny how reading someone else’s story, it’s easy to see what a good thing it was for Min to break up with Ed. Easy to imagine the satisfaction that Thunk must have brought. I got to thinking, what would I put in a box if I were to really act out a break up with a Thunk? What would I write in a letter? Now, mind you, there’s no box big enough for 24 years of marriage, and no book long enough. But Why We Broke Up did spark some deep thinking. I decided to celebrate Independence Day by putting away my wedding pictures. (Yes, I admit, I still had them up.) So not only was it a tremendously engaging story, it was therapeutic, too.

And that’s a win all the way around.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

The Cybils! The Cybils! The Cybils!

Woo-hoo! I’m so excited! This year I get to be a panelist in choosing the Cybils Finalists for Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Anybody remember my Crazy Reading Plan for 2012? Yeah, this will completely and totally mess it up. But then, participating in Capitol Choices (a DC-area group that chooses 100 top children’s books of the year) had already done that. I am planning to have FUN madly reading middle grade fantasy and science fiction for the rest of the year!

Just for fun, I’ll list my stats from before the Cybils reading, January 1 to September 17, 2012. It’s been fun to keep track this year, anyway.

Books I reread: 8
My books read: 8
New Library Books: 11
Award Winners: 7
PrePub ARCs: 8
Older Library Books: 8
Books Read for Capitol Choices (some picture books included): 27
Exceptions: 10 (reasons like meeting the author & the Heavy Medal shortlist)
Nonfiction: 24
Books of Short Stories: 1
Short Chapter Books: 9
Children’s Nonfiction (not included above): 12
Picture Books worth noting: 19
Audiobooks: 12

Total: 164

The only bad thing about this list? There are soooooo many more I’d like to read! But anyway, being a Cybils Panelist will force me to focus. I’m planning to read some books before the Capitol Choices meeting this Friday, and then dive into Middle Grade SF&F!

Read on!

Review of Everybody Sees the Ants, by A. S. King

Everybody Sees the Ants

by A. S. King

Little, Brown, and Company, 2011. 282 pages.
2011 Cybils Finalist
Starred Review

Since he was seven years old, Lucky Linderman has dreamed about his grandfather, who was Missing in Action in Vietnam so many years ago that Lucky’s father never had his father around. These dreams are dream-like, with dream-like impossible things happening in them. But when Lucky wakes up, he has things in his hand that he was holding during the dream. His grandfather gives him a cigar, for example, and he’s holding it when he wakes up. If he steps in mud, he’s dirty when he wakes up.

That’s not why Lucky’s gotten in trouble at school, though. Here’s how he explains what happened:

All I did was ask a stupid question.

Six months ago I was assigned the standard second-semester freshman social studies project at Freddy High: Create a survey, evaluate data, graph data, express conclusion in a two-hundred-word paper. This was an easy A. I thought up my question and printed out 120 copies.

The question was: If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?

This was a common conversation topic between Nader (shotgun in the mouth), Danny (jump in front of a speeding truck) and me (inhaling car fumes), and we’d been joking about it for months during seventh-period study hall. I never saw anything bad in it. That kind of stuff made Nader laugh. And Nader laughing at my jokes meant maybe I could get through high school with less shrapnel.

I think you can see why this survey led to “concern,” but the fallout also leads to bullying. And he gets some answers to his survey from surprising places.

As the book continues, Lucky deals with more bullying and a trip with his Mom to Arizona to stay with his mother’s brother and wife, crazy Aunt Jodi. All the while, he’s dealing with these dreams that are somehow real. And the ants? Well, the ants are a sort of Greek chorus that Lucky sees, who watch and comment on his every move.

They first appear when he’s being bullied:

Ants appear on the concrete in front of me. Dancing ants. Smiling ants. Ants having a party. One tells me to hang on. Don’t worry, kid! he says, holding up a martini glass. It’ll be over in a minute!

All of this may sound strange, and it is. The book is strange, and the phenomena are never explained. But somehow it all adds up to a powerful and moving story about a boy growing up and learning to face tough things. By the end of the book, you’re completely on the side of Lucky Linderman, and confident that he’s going to make it through high school.

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at an ALA conference and checked against a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Capitol Choices and Reading Plans

I had such a wonderful time at the 2012 Morris Seminar, learning how to participate in Book Evaluation Committees, I’ve decided to finally join Capitol Choices.

Capitol Choices is a Washington, DC, area group that makes lists every year of Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens. I decided to join the Ten to Fourteen Reading Group.

I think this is a nice transition position to being on an award committee some day. It’s a voluntary group, and I don’t feel obligated to read every single book being considered (though I will definitely try). I’m planning to read more new books in that age group than anything else, but I’m not going to read exclusively from this group.

And that brings me back to my Crazy Reading Plan which I posted in January. It’s March 3rd. How am I doing?

Well, I find I love the plan and the variety it brings to my reading. The one thing I don’t like is how long it takes me to go through one cycle. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

Rereads: 3 books
Books I Own: 3 books
New Library Books: 3 books
Award Winners: 2 books (a Cybils Finalist & a Printz Honor book)
Prepub ARCs: 2 books
Older Library Books: 2 books
Capitol Choices Considerations: 1 book
Exceptions (read to finish Heavy Medal reading list): 2 books
Nonfiction finished (I usually read these a chapter at a time): 5 books
Short Chapter Books read between other books in the cycle: 3 books
Children’s Nonfiction: 2 books
Audiobooks: 3 books

Put that way, it adds up to 31 books, which is not bad at all for March 3rd. The part I don’t like is that I’ve only gotten through two complete cycles of my Plan.

But I am enjoying it. I love that I’m getting around to rereading favorites (so far, all three books were ones I loved and reread before reading a newly published sequel). I love that I’m slowly getting award winners, which I’d been meaning to read, read. I love that I’m reading books I own. I love that I’m getting a few ARCs read before they’re published.

In fact, I’ve decided to make the cycle even slower. First, I’ve decided, for awhile anyway, to alternate between books on my plan and books for Capitol Choices, either already on the In Progress List or that I think might be good candidates. That will be my way of compromising between reading more of these books than anything else, but still getting to read adult books.

But the other, very silly thing I’m doing is adding Awards to my Award Winners Workbook. When I started my plan, I had lists from six different awards of books I haven’t read that have been honored by those awards. Confession: I had lots of fun making those lists. When I hear about another award for middle grade or YA books, I find myself making another list.

So far I’ve added:
SLJsBoB books I haven’t read yet, from the present or past (18 books).
Andre Norton Award Winners and Finalists (27 books).
Edgar Award Winners and Finalists for Children’s and Young Adult Books (336 books).
LA Times Book Prize Winners and Finalists for Young Adult Literature (19 books).
I’m currently in the process of adding:
Past Capitol Choices List books for ages ten to fourteen and fourteen and up (hundreds of books).
Josette Frank Award Winners (74 books).

As you can see, this is getting completely ridiculous! I will be very lucky if I get ONE book read from each award list before the year ends, let alone all the books honored this year. My one hope is that by reading for Capitol Choices, I’ll read most of next year’s award winners before they win, thus meaning my lists won’t grow faster than they get depleted.

And there’s something about putting a book on a list that comforts me in the belief that I WILL read it some day. So many books, so little time is the story of my life. This way I can operate in the belief that I’ll get to the truly good books some time or other!

And of course the overarching principle is that I love rules and I love reading and I love variety — and I think this Plan is FUN! So onward I go!

My Crazy 2012 Reading Plans

I’m going to interrupt my posts about Sonderbooks Standouts to talk about my new plans for reading books in 2012.

To understand this, and how much fun I’m having making plans, you probably should know that I am a rule-follower and love rules. I decided to channel this love in harmless, fun areas. I also check out way, way too many library books and get far too many Advance Reader Copies and other free books at ALA conferences. And I also buy more books than I can get read.

Up until the middle of last year, I had a problem that if I owned a book, I never got it read, because it didn’t have a due date. After ALA in June, with so many fabulous ARCs I really wanted to read, I decided to assign myself a rule: I will alternate reading Library books with books I own.

Later, I got to thinking that since I love rules and I love spreadsheets, why not make myself some rules about what books I’m allowed to keep checked out and which to turn in? I call it The Rule of Three, and basically I try to only have three books checked out in each category — and I have lots and lots of categories. When I check in books from having too many in a category, I put them on a list for a mythical future day when I will have less than three books checked out in that category. Theoretically, every day I get a pile down to three by checking in books from that category.

I’m having mixed results with The Rule of Three, but mostly it’s gotten me to turn in more books than I otherwise would have, and be slightly realistic about what I can get read, so I think it’s a good thing.

The alternating between library books and books I own, however, is working out super well. I’ve gotten lots of wonderful books I own read, and haven’t been too horribly much slower on the library books.

This brings me to 2012. When the year started, I received a package in the mail with four Advance Reader Copies that look really good. I looked at my piles of ARCs from ALA — and most of them have already been published. The point is kind of to read the books before they’re published, you know?

So, I thought I’d add a new rule. Every other time, with the books I own, I’ll read an ARC that hasn’t been published yet.

That led to another. With library books, I will also alternate between recently published books and others. Because I do like keeping up with what’s recently been published.

But then Mr. Schu from Mr. Schu Reads posted about The Newbery Medal Challenge. He’s going to read all the Newbery Medal winners in 2012.

That got me thinking. A year and a half ago, I took a class on the Newbery Medal and read many of the winners. Last year, I took a class on the Caldecott Medal and read all the winners. And finally, a few months ago, I took a class on the Printz Medal. When I took the Printz class, I decided that since it’s a much newer award, it would be much more manageable to try to read all the winners and honor books. So I made myself a list of all the ones I hadn’t read, starting with the present. There are 43 books on the list. But I hadn’t actually started reading any of the books on the list.

But why not do it as a challenge? And add it to my rules? So far, I had four categories I’m cycling through: A library book, a prepub ARC, a new library book, and a book I own. Well, why not add a fifth category. After those four categories, I’ll read an Award Winner!

But then, oh no, I got jealous of Mr. Schu reading the Newbery books. I thought, why not alternate my award winners between Printz Medal and Honor books with Newbery Medal and Honor books? I will start with the present — I always want to read the new award winners — and just list the ones I haven’t already read. There are 288, so I am not at all thinking I’ll finish this list any time soon. But what a fun use of rules to get myself actually reading them.

But, uh-oh, then I got to thinking: There are other award books I’ve really been wanting to read. How about the Morris Award? That’s a very new award, so there aren’t all that many books I haven’t read (17, it turns out). I can add that list as a third award-winning list. But I have a real soft spot for first-time authors, since I’m trying to get published myself, so I’d really like to read those winners and finalists.

And wait! What about the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award? (210 winners and honor books I haven’t yet read.) Or the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature? (154 winners and finalists I haven’t yet read.) And how can I forget the Cybils? They are chosen by Bloggers, my people. I’d been wanting to read those books, and it’s a newer award, so I don’t have to go back too far. In fact, it turns out there are 135 winners and finalists in the categories of Middle Grade and YA fiction and nonfiction and fantasy/SF fiction that I haven’t read yet.

Remember I told you you needed to understand that I’m a person who loves rules? Believe it or not, I had all kinds of fun making spreadsheets for each of these awards. And I’m so excited about my new plan, I just had to write about it. I decided, to make the whole thing even, I’d add one more category to my reading cycle: Rereads. When Sonderbooks was an e-mail newsletter, I always included one Old Favorite, but since I switched to a blog, I haven’t done nearly as much rereading, and I miss that. So why not include one every sixth book? Besides, I just got the sequel to Coronets and Steel, and I very much want to enjoy rereading it before starting the sequel.

Now, I should add that there will be exceptions. If I would ever get on an award committee (which I would love to do), I’d happily set aside these rules for awhile. And right now, I’m finishing up reading the Shortlist from the Heavy Medal blog so I can vote in the mock Newbery they’re hosting next week. Another exception is that when I go on plane trips, I only bring paperbacks, and usually ones I own.

Clearly, obviously, reading all these Award Winners is not something I’m going to finish this year, or maybe even in my lifetime. I will be very happy if I get all of this year’s award winners read before next year’s are announced! But I am very excited about having this objective method for choosing excellent books for one-sixth of my reading.

I do think it will be fun to blog and tweet about this process of reading Award Winners. All I can think to call it is #awardchallenge. We’ll see how I do.

Did you notice that I didn’t include Nonfiction or Picture Books? Those each have their own completely different systems. I won’t even start to try to explain them.

So, in summary, here’s my plan for reading this year (as soon as I finish The Trouble With May Amelia):
1. Reread a book. (First one will be Coronets and Steel)
2. Read a book I own. (First one will be the sequel to Coronets and Steel)
3. Read a newly published Library book. (First one will be Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James)
4. Read an Award Winner or Honor Book, cycling in this order: Printz, Newbery, Morris, Boston Globe/Horn Book, National Book Awards, and Cybils; and beginning with the most recently announced books. (For example, I can already start on the Finalists for this year’s Morris and Cybils awards.) (First one will be Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A. S. King)
5. Read a pre-publication ARC. (First one will be The Last Princess, by Galaxy Craze.)
6. Read any Library book. (I’ll probably take this one from my Rule of Three piles.)

Call me crazy, but I’m really looking forward to carrying out this plan!

It’s going to be a great year for reading!