Administrative tasks

Apparently I have to write this post in order to claim my blog on bloglovin'. That said, I am regretting having gone with feedly rather than bloglovin' after the demise of Google Reader (sniff), and am trying to switch everything I read over once more. Thank you for following me on whatever reader you use, or just clicking over from Facebook or twitter or a random comment or link out there on the Internets. I'm glad you made it.

Cybils Reading Challenge

Every year I try to read at least one new book from each of the Cybils shortlists (with the exception of middle grade science fiction and fantasy, since I've read all of those). It's a great way to stretch as a reader, especially for those of us who tend to read and review the same sorts of things the rest of the year. Here's my reading list, in order by category:

Book apps. Ack! I don't own a book app-compatible device, but if I did, I would choose Dragon Brush or The Voyage of Ulysses.

Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books. I've read all but one of the short chapter books: Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot by Anna Bradford (Atheneum). 

Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy. Our panel's list! I wrote the blurb for the delightful Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (Harper) and will definitely have more to say about it here.

Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. David Levithan's Every Day (Knopf) was already on my hold list. I might have to reread Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Random House), too--it's one of my favorites.

Fiction Picture Books. Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska (Carolrhoda).

Graphic Novels. Historically, this has not been my favorite category, but I found lots to love on the Elementary/Middle Grade shortlist. I'm going with Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado (First Second). It was nominated by Charlotte, so I'm sure to like it.

Middle Grade Fiction. On the other hand, this category's shortlist was less appealling (to me personally; someone else might love every one of these books). I chose Almost Home by Joan Bauer (Viking) from among the finalists I haven't read, mostly because of the puppy on the cover. Unless giving Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb) a more careful read counts?

Nonfiction for Tweens and Teens. Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from the War by Marsha Skrypuch (Pajama Press).

Nonfiction Picture Books. Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman (Nancy Paulsen). I like Kalman's work, and that is a gorgeous cover.

Poetry. National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! compiled by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic Children's Books). This one is already on my shelf; I checked it out for Milly, my resident animal-lover.

Young Adult (whew). The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis (Amulet). Translated from the German.

There are a couple more categories than there were back when I started the Cybils Reading Challenge, but reading even one new book from a different category is worth doing, I think. This time I'm hoping to get to all of them.

Dragon Castle

After all was said and done, I was honored to write the text to accompany Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac (Dial) on this year's list of Cybils finalists in Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction. Writing these little paeans to literary achievement and kid appeal is tricky; they have to be concise (mine is 111 words, not counting the exclamation) yet convincing, and above all, they have to make you want to read the book. Which I hope you do.

By the head of the dragon! It’s a good thing Prince Rashko, the sensible second son, is around to defend the royal family’s ancestral castle when Baron Temny and his army of invaders move in, because he’s not going to get much help from his parents (called away to the Silver Lands) or his brother (bewitched by the beautiful Princess Poteshenie). Drawing on Slovakian proverbs and folklore, Bruchac alternates—and eventually intertwines—Rashko’s story with that of the hero Pavol, also depicted in a mysterious tapestry that hangs on the castle walls. The result is high fantasy laced with history and humor, action and adventure, as Rashko and the reader alike uncover the secrets of Dragon Castle.

I like to think I'm getting better at writing these (this is the third year I've been a first-round Cybils panelist; I wrote the blurbs for Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (Scholastic) in 2010 and Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins) in 2009), but there's always more to say. I'm still sorry I wasn't able to work the giant, telepathic wolves into the final copy.

I would love to know, though: Would you read Dragon Castle? Why or why not? Because, ahem, you should.