I like the way Marie Lu (Seraphina v. Moonbird) and Catherine Gilbert Murdock (No Crystal Stair v. The One and Only Ivan) each find much in common between their contenders. (Especially Lu’s observation about the relationship between birds and dragons.) But where you might think that qualities in common might facilitate comparison, neither of these judges pits one book against the other. Lu’s “heart is soft” for Seraphina and that “in the end, the tale of Seraphina’s journey won me over the most.” Murdock writes “Young readers will delight in Ivan’s triumph. I however, delighted more in the triumph of a self-made grocer’s son who spread the joy of books to hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged souls.” Murdock also has a criticism of each of her contenders, but I don’t really follow her argument re No Crystal Stair, that like “many biographies” it makes its subject “too important” but then later in the same paragraph she states that she suspects “Lewis Michaux fostered far more controversy than is reported here.” Which is it?
These are both fine essays (and both notable for a lack of reliance on the first person) but I feel like each could have gone either way, with each stating which book wins but not offering any reasons beyond personal preference. This has been a common occurrence in this year’s matches (always?) and maybe that’s what’s wanted? But I was thinking back on our old friends Mr. Apple and Ms. Orange. True, comparing them to each other is pointless, but can’t you have an orange that is a better example of its species than a given apple is of its? Hey, don’t bogart that joint.
I’ll go with Murdoch for her liveliness (when before has a BoB judge used “va-va-voom”?) and more analytical approach.
The first round is complete, and I’m giving the win to Kathi Appelt. I really liked that way she didn’t just give us reasons both books were great but went on to explore what about her choice made it better fulfill the criteria she revealed.