Tag Archives: Maggot Moon

ALA Awards

Mark,

Okay, I’m home from Philadelphia, had a good night’s sleep, did my laundry, sorted the mail, and now I’m ready to say a few words about my reactions to the Youth Media Awards.

In order of their announcement:

The Alex Awards: that was me yelping when Lexicon was announced. Actually, it turns out that it was the only one of the ten that I had read, although Brewster and Sea of Tranquility have been on my TBR list since AB4T reviewed them. I was disappointed at the fact that nine were fiction titles, although there are more nonfiction titles on the expanded list, including my personal favorite, Frozen in Time.

Edwards Award: Yes, yes, yes! Some people were saying afterwards that they didn’t think of Markus Zusak as having been around long enough for an Edwards nod, but Fighting Ruben Wolfe came out in the US in 2001, and Getting the Girl  in 2003. Laurie Halse Anderson got the award in 2009, for Speak and Fever 1793, which came out in 1999 and 2000, respectively, so it isn’t unprecedented. As you note, I’m a big fan of Zusak’s “Aussie slacker” books, and I was especially gratified that Getting the Girl was one of the honored books, because it’s a personal favorite of mine, and I think it is one of the great overlooked YA books of the 21st century. It is a stand-alone sequel to Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and I am looking forward to re-reading both of them before the Edwards brunch at Annual.

Morris Award: As you know, I’ve been a fan of Charm and Strange since I read it, and I was delighted that it won the Morris. To be fair, I still haven’t read the other finalists, so I can’t offer any salient remarks on them.

Nonfiction Award: I was kind of rooting for GO!, just because it was nice to see a non-history (dare I say, non-World War II?) book on the list. But I managed to snag a copy of Nazi Hunters at the reception, and I’m looking forward to reading it. (You can make me eat my words next January, when my Nonfiction Committee chooses a World War II book!)

Printz: Again, we’ve both talked about Midwinter Blood. I see your issues with it, but it is a book that has really stuck with me. You mentioned its daring and inventiveness, and I sometimes think those kinds of things are like the “degree of difficulty” ratings they give ice skaters and gymnasts–even if the execution isn’t perfect, the attempt is so audacious that it merits extra points.

I was definitely surprised at Navigating Early. I read it back in the beginning of the year, but didn’t even talk about it on the blog, because I didn’t see it as Printz potential, nor was it particularly resonant with me. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but honestly, it kind of slipped from my radar as soon as I read it.

Also a surprise to me was Maggot Moon. We both had issues with it, and one of mine was that I thought it was too young for the Printz. When I said this on Monday to a member of the Printz committee, that person–who had admittedly read the book more often and more deeply than I–looked startled, and obviously the committee thought it was a young adult book.

Eleanor & Park didn’t excite me, as you know, but I felt it was a solid YA book and I wasn’t surprised to see it on the list.

I had not even heard about Kingdom of Little Wounds until the night before the announcement, when I was having dinner with other librarians and someone brought it up as a book she thought was a strong contender this year. Clearly she was right!

Other awards:

Newbery: I haven’t read Flora and Ulysses, but I have it on hold. I was happy to see some younger books acknowledged, like that one and The Year of Billy Miller.

Caldecott: Not my area of expertise, but I heard Brian Floca speak on Friday afternoon, talking about the creation of Locomotive, and I’ve flipped through the pages, and it seems a worthy choice. I “read” Journey (it’s wordless), and thought it was lovely.

Schneider Family Awards: When Rose Under Fire was announced, I asked the person sitting next to me, “Why that one? What’s the disability?” She couldn’t answer, but fortunately, I ran into a member of the committee later, and she told me that it was Rose’s PTSD that they were mostly thinking of, but also the disabilities of the “rabbits.”

So there are some quick thoughts. Tomorrow I’ll post on some of the galleys I picked up at Midwinter (including a new one by Marcus Sedgwick), and we can start speculating about 2014.

– Mom

 

 

 

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Maggot Moon: Mark’s Take

Mom,

No, I didn’t care much for Maggot Moon either.  I had similar feelings to you, so I won’t belabor it too much, but here are a few thoughts:

I’m pretty sure the waving flag “error” was a nod towards a long-held piece of the conspiracy theory about the “faking” of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  NASA was aware that there would be no wind to keep the flag from hanging loosely, so they attached a crossbar to the top edge, so it would stand out and look picturesque.  The conspiracy theorists, not realizing this, claim that the pictures on the moon show the flag “clearly” blowing in the wind.

But that parallel with real life actually points to one of my major problems with the book: I don’t understand why Gardner felt the need to fictionalize the story so much. I mean, it is pretty obvious (to me at least) that the setting is Soviet-era Russia (Motherland vs. the land of Croca-Colas and all that), with a slight bit of alternate-history added, but why couldn’t Gardner just come out and say that?  Why did so many little details have to be changed?  Why not just say the evil leader was Krushchev?  The reason I ask, is that if she had set the book in the real world Soviet Union, it would have gone a long way towards alleviating your (and my) biggest criticism: the fact that, as you said, “There really weren’t any grey areas.”  Giving the book a real world setting would have allowed the “bad guys” to have all the freight of the Soviets, who (despite Cold War-era propaganda to the contrary) were not black-and-white, evil-to-the-core bad guys.  At the same time, fictionalizing the Soviets has the effect of making everything much less precise than it could be, in terms of who and how the apparatus of the state works.

I too didn’t think much of the dyslexia angle, and frankly, I didn’t find it particularly well-written either. I was annoyed by a lot of the imagery and figurative language:

  • “in another country where the buildings don’t stop rising until they pin the clouds to the sky. Where the sun shines in Technicolor” (p. 5) — that Technicolor bit is an especially overused phrase.
  • “My bones nearly jumped free from my muscles when I heard a noise in the back garden” (p. 179) — kind of seems like a new way of saying something, but ultimately yields a fairly prosaic cliche.
  • “Never would I have thought that the hard-boiled Miss Phillips had such a soft, sweet center” (p. 20) — bit of a mixed-metaphor that.

I don’t mean to be unrelentingly negative here (I’ll leave that to Gardner ;)–there were aspects of the book I liked, and I did find myself sucked into the narrative by the end.  But it has enough defenders, and mainly I just want to make clear why it won’t be making our Mock Printz list in the Fall.

– Mark

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Maggot Moon

MaggotMoonMark,

Apparently it is time to talk about Maggot Moon, by Sally Gardner. I say this because it keeps coming into my consciousness lately.

First, it won the UK’s prestigious Carnegie Medal in June.

Second, Horn Book, Booklist, and PW gave it starred reviews.

Third, when I was at ALA, I had the opportunity to meet some of Sharon Grover’s teen members of “The Book Club Formerly Known as Printz.” These are the teens who read widely last year, held their own Mock Printz, and like the Real Committee, chose Nick Lake’s In Darkness as their winner. Anyway, when I was chatting with them, I asked them what they were currently reading that impressed them. Two of them immediately responded, “Maggot Moon!”

Fourth, this morning I read a blog post entitled, “The Carnegie Medal–Can Children Have their Prize Back, Please?” in which the author discussed both Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking books and Maggot Moon, about which he said, “Adults should read it. They will love it. The hero is on the side of good and the side of evil is awful and banal and good fights to the bitter end for what it believes in. However, I’m not sure I would give it to a child.”

So, since I read Maggot Moon last week, it’s time to talk about it. Starting from the blog post referred to above, my first comment is that the author, like so many others, consistently blurs the distinction between children’s (e.g., middle grade) and young adult books. I actually thought that Maggot Moon fell a little on the younger side of that distinction, just because of what he said: “The hero is on the side of good and the side of evil is awful and banal.” It was a bit too cut-and-dried for teens. There really weren’t any grey areas; it was obvious from the beginning that Standish and his grandfather were the “good guys” and the despotic government were the “bad guys.”

I can see why the book is appealing, but my biggest problem with it was that it was too improbable. Unless I missed something important, I understood that because the radiation from the moon was too strong to allow landing on the moon, the government had decided to fake a moon landing, to demonstrate their prowess to the world. But if they knew the radiation was too strong, wouldn’t scientists in other countries? Wouldn’t it be obvious (umm. . . .flag waving in the breeze?) that it was a fake? So what would they be proving? And why would it be important for Standish to demonstrate that it was a hoax?

So that didn’t work for me.

The articles about the Carnegie Medal make a big deal about the fact that Standish was dyslexic, and so is the author, Sally Gardner. Again, I didn’t see that as being that big a deal. It struck me as being like so many things in children’s and YA books–a way to create more tension for the main character, and to isolate him, so that his feats would be even more important.

So that was my initial one-read impression: well-written, but too young for YA and with plot holes that I couldn’t get over. Is it this year’s version of Wonder? How about you? Have you read it yet?

– Mom

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