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Season 1, Episode 8

Illustrated Middle Grade and a YA Series 24 years in the Making

March 4, 2021

Guests Jen and Sarah join in this episode as we talk about the Newbery and Caldecott book awards as well as book-to-movie adaptations.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

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Emily 0:03 Hello, and welcome to the Planet Book podcast. I'm your host, Emily, a youth services assistant with the Springfield Greene County Library District. Thank you for joining in each episode as we welcome two guests to talk about their latest favorite teen and tween reads.


Emily 0:17 Today I'm joined by Jen, a youth services assistant with the Springfield Greene County Library District. Hello Jen. Thanks for joining us.

Jen 0:23 Hello. Thanks for having me.

Emily 0:26 And our next guest is Sarah, a Youth Services Manager with Springfield Greene County, who is returning to the podcast for a second time. Welcome back, Sarah.

Sarah 0:33 Thanks for having me.

Middle Grade Book Recommendation

Emily 0:35 And with our guest introductions done, we are going to start with our book recommendations. Jen, what middle grade book are you sharing with us today?

Jen 0:41 Today I'm going to talk about the invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It's one of my favorite books of all time, I give it out as Christmas presents to adults and children alike. Because I love it so much. It is not a new book. But it's the one I'm going to talk about. The book was published in 2007, and won the Caldecott in 2008. Now, that's one of the reasons I love this book so much is because it's structurally experimental, and very unique. Because normally the Caldecott is given to illustrators of picture books. In fact, Hugo Cabret is a novel, it's a 533 page novel. So it's like this three inch thick book. And it's the good news is though, it's got 284 pictures inside. So one of the one of the reasons I recommend this book so often is that I can hand people a three inch book, and they're going to look at it and think I'll never read that. And then you sit down and you open up and the first 25 pages are pictures, and you're through the first 25 pages in like five minutes. And then you realize, wow, I am going to get through this three inch book. Part of why I picked this book is because what I need right now is to escape into another world, time, place. And it's set in the 1930s Paris, Paris train station, the main character is an orphan, Hugo, and he is living in secret in a train station in Paris. So that's the the loose structure. But because his father died and left a automaton, which is like a mechanical robot, in the attic of the train station, Hugo's trying to fix that automaton. So he can, in theory, find the secret message that his father left. And to do that he makes friends with various people, one being Georges Méliès. And Hugo Cabret is a historical fiction, so George Méliès was a real person. He was actually one of the grandfather's of film. He made the first sci fi film ever. It was a silent film called A Trip to the Moon. And he used Méliès used a lot of experimental techniques for 1902. He spliced and did color to the film. And so if you were to go on YouTube, since it's now public domain, you could watch A Trip to the Moon, and it holds up. It is so much fun. He was a magician. And so the movie is a big, I mean, it features in the book, so it would be fun to go watch. That's that's why I like this book, because it leads you down so many rabbit holes. You can learn about George Méliès, you can learn about A Trip to the Moon, you can learn about automatons. You can learn about magic, France. And you can do it just by going to Brian Selznick's website, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, because he links everything meticulously. So that's my suggestion.

Emily 4:18 So what age range would you recommend for this book? I know you said you hand it out to a lot of people because it does have illustrations.

Jen 4:24 Yes. And when I worked at elementary, we gave it primarily to the fifth graders, fifth and sixth graders, but I looked on Scholastic's site, third through eighth is the target audience. But it's, I mean a 30 year old could read this book and enjoy it. And when I was reading it with my son because it is a picture does have the picture book structure, and very little text. Like when you get a page of text, it's not a full page of text. It's sometimes just three sentences or one sentence on a page. So I was able to read this with my first grader.

Emily 5:02 Very cool. So, you mentioned that this book won the Caldecott. And just for our listeners who maybe are not familiar with the Caldecott, we have a Caldecott expert here. Sarah, our other guest, she was actually on the Caldecott Committee in 2016. Right, Sarah?

Sarah 5:17 Yes.

Emily 5:18 And so could you maybe tell our listeners who aren't familiar with it? What is the Caldecott award?

Sarah 5:23 So the Caldecott award is given by the American Library Association for the most distinguished illustrations in a book for children ages zero to 14. Most of the time, that is a picture book, because that's where we usually find a lot of illustrations. But in recent years, we've had more things like Hugo Cabret, that is a chapter book that is an illustrated chapter book, or we've had graphic novels that have won Caldecott Awards, because really, it's for any illustration. And it goes to the illustrator of the book.

Emily 5:57 So who did the illustrations in this book? Did Brian Selznick do them?

Jen 6:00 Yes.

Emily 6:01 Wow. author and illustrator?

Jen 6:03 Yes.

Middle Grade Read-alikes

Emily 6:04 Very cool. So Jen, what books would you suggest as read alikes for this one?

Jen 6:08 I'd actually suggest two more from Brian Selznick, his follow ups, the first being Wonderstruck. It's the exact same format. It's a big thick book with lots of pictures. And this is exploring the link between these two characters from different time periods. There's a little girl in the 20s, her mom's a silent film actress, she's deaf. And then there's a little boy in the 70s, whose mom has just died. And he runs away to New York, and it's 1970s, gritty, New York, and he ends up in the Natural History Museum, and makes a friend there and then they start exploring this connection that his father had to the museum. So again, it's kind of like, my dad, my parents are dead. And I'm an I'm an orphan, and I'm going to try to solve this mystery. So and it's a quick read. It's visually stunning. And I would like to say both Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck were made into excellent films. Hugo Cabret the movie was directed by Martin Scorsese and Wonderstruck was directed by Todd Haynes. So after reading a book, you can go watch the movies and see how they compare. Then there was the Marvels so if you want to kind of finish the big thick trilogy of text and pictures, Brian Selznick's, the Marvel's would be a great follow up as well. If you have younger siblings, I would suggest reading to them Baby Monkey Private Eye. It's basically the same kind of book, but for early readers. So if you have a kindergarten or first grader, they're going to get to read. You're going to be able to teach them to read with a really fun book about a Baby Monkey, Private Eye.

Emily 8:04 Another book that came to mind when you said that it's like a silent film is Mo Willems, That is not a Good Idea.

Jen 8:12 Yes

Emily 8:13 I love that one. And it is like a silent film. It has the pages that are all black that just have the little bit of words on them. And it's a it's a good kind of horror book too. Because

Jen 8:22 Yeah

Emily 8:24 It's a little dark. So um, yea. So Jen thank you so much for sharing this book with us and all of these read alikes. It sounds like it has so much kind of going into this story that it really opens up a lot of different avenues for people to try to explore and find interests in other things. So thank you so much for sharing with us.

Young Adult Book Recommendation

Jen 8:41 Yes. And I just wanted to give someone an escape. This is a great escape to right now.

8:46 Awesome. All right. So that is our middle grade book recommendation and also some really great read alikes. We are going to move on to our YA recommendation which has been provided by Sarah. Sarah, what have you got for us today?

Sarah 8:59 Okay, so I have a book that is called The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. There, there are a lot of books that I like to give people. There are a lot of books that I want to put in readers' hands. But this is a book that I want to like give to every single person because I think it is that fantastic. When I first became a librarian 14 years ago I asked a bunch of library friends, I have a friend from college who was a librarian, and I said what books should I read to prepare for being a children's librarian and she said The Thief because this came out in 1996. And this is an older book, but the series has been going on for 20 plus years. And in fact, the final book in the series just came out. It's it's one of those books that I will tell you a little bit about it, but really is it's good if you go in knowing just very little because there are so many plot twists and turns and surprises and the characters are just so secretive and twisty that you will just be surprised along the way. So it is fantasy. But it's more high fantasy along the lines of political intrigue and a fantastical world with maybe some gods and goddesses happening, helping and making magic along the way. So there's it's not like sword and sorcery and dragon type fantasy. So it is much more of a thinking puzzle book. It's about a thief. Our main character is a thief named Gen. And Gen is

Emily 10:45 Good name


Sarah 10:47 Gen is approached he was, I think, in a pub, and bragging about how he is a fantastic thief, he's the best that there is, no one can stop him and he'll never be caught. And of course, then he gets caught. And there is there are multiple kingdoms in this world. So there there is Sounis, there's Attolia, there's Eddis, there are all sorts. And then there's the Mede Empire. And so they're all kind of warring with each other. And the magus from Sounis approaches Gen and says, I have this very ancient, amazing gift that I want you to go find. No one has ever been able to find it. It's Hamiathes' gift. It's this beautiful, mystical, mythical stone. And I want you to find it because no one has ever been able to find it. But I think you are the best thief, you can. And I want to use Hamiathes' gift to try to get the queen of Eddis to marry my king in Sounis. So this is basically all political intrigue to get these kingdoms united. And they they go on this quest, Gen goes on this quest to try to find this gift. But is he really who he says he is and who is Gen really working for and Gen is just such a fantastic character. And each book in the series that follows is told by a different character. And the brilliant thing that Megan Whalen Turner does with these books is yes, there's lots of sequels, but each one could stand alone. So you could pick up the book, you can pick up the series at any point and you would be fine. Of course, you're gonna get a lot more because then once you read a book, you know the inner workings of all the characters, and so you're in on the story where the characters aren't. And so you get all this inside knowledge. And it's just so brilliantly crafted. I just want to gush about these books, because they're so good. And I want everyone to read them and be like, Oh my gosh, did you see this, this twist coming because it yeah, they're so fantastic.

13:01 They are also amazing on audio, I actually prefer them on audio a little because Turner uses a lot of language that you know, like the magus and Sophos and Gen and Eddis, and I wouldn't know how to pronounce all of these names. And so I really appreciate having Steve West as the narrator on the audio because then I can hear his fantastic accent. And then I know how to pronounce all of the characters and countries' names. And this series is it's something that sometimes people describe it as Game of Thrones for younger readers. It has a very small but dedicated fan base that if you really want to get into the Queens Thief fan base there there is a small but dedicated fandom out there for you to join. And because these books have been going for so long, so in some ways, they're kind of like Game of Thrones, in that it takes her a really long time to write each sequel. But if you, for adults who are looking for something that has that political intrigue, and they missed that, they want a lot of mystery and intrigue and backstabbing and political maneuvers and ploys. This would be a series that adults could read and find a lot of stuff in but it's also a series that, you know, sixth grade and up could read and enjoy just just as well. It'd be a really fun family read along I think because then you can all decide what what your theories are. There's so many theories and guesses along the way. And it's amazing to me how each book takes me by surprise. Like, I think I know what's coming. And I don't know Megan Whalen Turner, it's just amazing. And she knows how to write these amazing characters and this amazing story and I think I know where it's going and then she's like, Oh, just tricked you again. And that's not where this is going. They're they're really fun. And also, The Thief when it was released was a Newbery Honor. So we have two award books on our show today.

Emily 15:08 Ooh, two award books

Sarah 15:10 So Newbery, Caldecott is for illustration. Newbery is for text for the words of a book. And the first book in the series was a Newbery Honor. So it was honor for the great, fantastic writing of the series. And it was Megan Whalen Turner's debut.

Emily 15:25 Wow.

Sarah 15:27 Yeah, so it's, you know, twenty some years later, she's got the final one in the series. And it is a big, big book. So it's a good time to get into the series, because now they're all done and you don't have to wait six years for the next one. And yeah, they're, they're super fun.

Emily 15:45 Okay, so we've talked about you said, it would probably be good for about sixth grade and up. But maybe younger, if you're reading it together as like a family?

Sarah 15:54 Maybe. I think if you have a really good, smart, fourth, fifth grade reader who can really catch on to a lot of sleight of hand in a story, they might enjoy this. And this is also one of those books that I feel like you could pick up multiple times and you'll discover different things. Because once you've read it, you know the story now, so then you can go back. It's one of those books, you want to go back and read right after you finish it. Because then everything's revealed. And you go back and you're like, oh, that's where she hinted at that. And oh, that's where that is. So that just all of the books have that feel where you you finish it, and you feel so awesome, because you solved the puzzle, but then you want to go back and see how she laid the path for it and things that you missed throughout.

Young Adult Read-alikes

Emily 16:43 So so what books would you suggest as like read alikes for these?

Sarah 16:47 The False Prince series is another that is similar, and has that same kind of intrigue and mystery.

Emily 16:54 From what it sounds like, I feel like the Tamora Pierce

Sarah 17:02 Yeah

Emily 17:03 The Wild Magic, that series and Alanna of Tortall, the Alanna series maybe a little bit more because it has a lot more to do with like, court and political intrigue.

Sarah 17:15 Yeah

Emily 17:16 But they're high fantasy stories. They have great full cast audio audio books. The whole time you're talking about this I was like now I want to go re-listen to Wild Magic because I love it so much. All right, well, so that is two awesome book recommendations, one for middle grade and one for young adult readers. And also some really great read alike options today. Thanks for sharing those guys. Thanks to both Jen and Sarah for sharing your current favorite books with us. And thank you so much for being guests on the Planet Book podcast.


Jen 17:44Thanks for having me.

Sarah 17:46 Thanks for having us.

Emily 17:49 If you are looking for more book recommendations, check out the kids and teen pages at the library dot o r g for book lists and other helpful resources. If you would like a personalized reading recommendation, click on the Your Next Read banner on the library website and fill out our questionnaire. We will email or call you with a list of books based on your specific reading requests. Remember to tune in next time for more great middle grade and young adult reading suggestions. And thank you for listening to the Planet Book podcast.

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