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Perkins v. Patterson v. Cottrell Boyce

Our third round is a three way, comprising BoB’s two-semifinal rounds (Lynne Rae Perkins judging Bomb and The Fault in Our Stars; James Patterson doing the same for No Crystal Stair and Splendors and Glooms)  and the Big Kahuna round (Frank Cottrell Boyce judging The Fault in Our Stars, No Crystal Stair and the resurrected Code Name Verity).

Perkins likes The Fault in Our Stars for its “clear-eyed funny transcendence.” But of what? I liked her experiments in comparison (which book got more Post-it notes? which one would she recommend to more people?) and while she ends with a very practical method (“Which one would I be reading again?”), I’m not at all sure if this was her deciding question or a rhetorical one, as it this point “the train began to pull away” and the conductor tells her to grab one book or the other.

Patterson chooses No Crystal Stair because “bookstores in this country are dying.” Well, yes, they ARE, but this kind of cheerleading is a little too close to Donna Jo Napoli’s “nuclear war would be terrible” reasoning to be completely, um, transcendent. I do like Patterson’s call for teachers to let students “flip [No Crystal Stair] around and go at it at their own pace.” I don’t think I started that book at the beginning, either.

Cottrell Boyce is interesting in that he subjects Code Name Verity to some fairly damning criticism but then goes on to laugh off his own comments as nit-picking, as in “this book makes light of torture, ha-ha, no biggie though.” He doesn’t have anything negative to say about The Fault in Our Stars, but gives the big prize to No Crystal Stair because it comes “from a loving heart.” I think I agree with him that it does, but I would be afraid to venture that the other books don’t. But good for No Crystal Stair. I was surprised when it won The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and I’m surprised here, too. It’s the kind of book you love but worry that nobody else will.


The third-round winner is Lynne Rae Perkins. While I wish she hadn’t dashed away on a metaphorical train at the end of her essay, she left the impression that of these three judges, she would be the most fun to talk about books with. And I’d want to ask her more about the re-reading criteria: In my head, great books and books I love to reread are two Venn circles that barely intersect.

Tomorrow I will chose a winner from our three finalists: Perkins, Kathi Appelt, and Martine Leavitt. The winner will receive a years’s subscription to the Horn Book Magazine as well as a donation of same to a school or library of their choice.

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. aw, i liked Frank Cottrell Boyce’s judging! even tho I did not agree even a tiny bit with his choice. Boyce (one of my favorite MG authors, btw) DID make me understand how and why he made it, and that’s what makes bracketology fun.

    i was very impressed by a bunch of the kid commentators’ posts — such smarties.

  2. I thought Perkins and Cottrell Boyce both brought the judging up a level. I was ready to be indignant and scornful if he didn’t pick Code Name Verity, but he had some specific concerns he pointed to. For me, saying it was nitpicking didn’t laugh it off, but did acknowledge that these concerns didn’t keep it from being a great book — they just kept it from winning the Big Kahuna.

  3. I love the slap from Bataman, remninds me of the good old days where I used to watch this cartoon

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