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Battle or Lovefest?

The Morning News has begun its Tournament of Books, and SLJ is slated to begin its Battle of the Books on March 12th. I was pleased to see that the Morning News has already taken the gloves off, with Nathan Bradley calling The Yellow Birds a “slathering of wan cliches,” and I hope the SLJ judges will similarly refrain from holding back–too often those judges indulge in ostentatious and overlong handwringing about how HARD it is to DECIDE between two such ever-shining testaments to the power of the written word, blah, blah, blah, awesome, awesome, wimp out, PEACE.

On Thursday, the Morning News will choose between Louise Erdrich’s National Book Award winner The Round House and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, whose omission from this year’s Printz lineup intrigues me. (Does anyone know the scoop?) I’d go with the Green–The Round House has a Jodi Picoult plot but, to my ears, a flat affect that keeps the story and characters at too much of a distance. BoB’s first bracket, judged by Kenneth Oppel on March 12, is Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb versus R.J. Palacio’s Wonder. Not a fan of the latter. How about you?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Sam Bloom says:

    Love the “blah, blah”… refrain, Roger – there definitely is diplomacy at work pretty much 24/7 with BoB! As pissed as I was when Julius Lester dumped on When You Reach Me back in the day, that is one of the few times I can remember a judge flat out saying he/she didn’t like one of the books. I can imagine as an author it would probably not be in your best interest to rip one of your brethren to shreds in a public forum, though, so it is probably going to remain nice.

    As for Bomb vs. Wonder, I think they both are a bit overrated. I much prefer Bomb, but I don’t think it was… ahem… the bomb, so to speak. If we’re talking nonfiction, I’d take Moonbird over Bomb in a heartbeat, and having just finished Titanic I’d almost go with the sinking ship in a head-to-head battle with the heavy water. But I predict it’s a moot point, because I think Wonder is going to win the whole thing in a complete repeat of last year (the emotional kid-with-a-disability story winning the hearts of everyone). I’m pulling for No Crystal Stair or whatever book survives the Moonbird-Seraphina match-up.

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Julius Lester’s remarks can be found at

    It’s funny, Sam, but I don’t read it as a dumping-upon. Lester is saying “this just isn’t my kind of book,” which, given the free rein BoB judges have, is just as valid as any other response. At least he doesn’t get all cute about it as some have!

    I’m currently sketching out my own BoB Judges Battle (can anyone think of a catchier title?) in which I will critique brackets of BoB judges, selecting one from each to advance on the basis of their critical skills, prose style, and ability to make and defend a decision. Details are still being worked out but look for it here on Read Roger once BoB gets cranking.

  3. Sam Bloom says:

    Well, looking back at it I can certainly see how diplomatic Lester was (I missed that the first time around – the combination of the fact that he’d NEVER. READ. WRINKLE IN TIME!!! coupled with his comments about Miranda’s voice left me pretty steamed), and I think it’s funny that I was so mad. I love Tales from Outer Suburbia now, and I loved it then! Anyway, I look forward to your Judges Battle – I like the idea of James Patterson and, say, Lynne Rae Perkins fighting it out to the death in a Battle Royale. And speaking of Perkins, I would bet the farm on her winning your inaugural bracket.

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