Posts tagged ‘Award Finalist’

2 The Point Tuesday The False Prince

I was on the Cybil’s committee that chose The False Prince as the winner for 2012. I’ve held off on posting a review of this because I didn’t want to tip my hand. Now that I’ve reviewed the sequel The Runaway King, I thought I would post a copy of our summary as a To the Point Tuesday. To the Point Tuesday was formed as a 150 word review of a recent read. It’s slightly over the 150 word limit, which I’m okay with because of how much happens in the novel and also how much I loved the book. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

False PrinceTitle: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A Nielsen
Narrator: Charlie McWade
ISBN: 9780545391665 (audiobook), 9780545284134 (hardcover)
Discs/CDs: 7 CDs, 8 hours 14 minutes
Pages: 342 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic, c2012.
Publication Date: April 1, 2012

“You’re a trick to figure out Sage. Would you ever be on my side, even if I chose you above the other boys?”
“I’m only on my side. Your trick will be convincing me that helping you helps me.”
“What if I did?” Connor asked. “How far would you go to win?”
“Th better question, sir, is how far you will go to wine.” I looked him steadily in the eyes as I spoke, although his back was to the fire and his eyes were set in shadow. [...] So we know you’re willing to murder to win.”
“I am.” Conner backed up, speaking to all of us again. “And I’m willing to life, to cheat, and to steal. I’m willing to commend my soul to the devils if necessary because I believe there is exoneration in my cause. I need one of you to conduct the greatest fraud ever perpetrated within the country of Carthya. This is a lifetime commitment. It will never be safe to back down from my plan and tell the truth. To do so would destroy not only you but the entire country. And you will do it to save Carthya.” (28-29)

Sage is taken from his orphanage along with three other boys and thrust into an attempt to save the kingdom from impending war. If he loses, it’s certain death, but Sage is very reluctant to win, since the prize at the end means becoming someone’s pawn and living a lie for the rest of his life. The detailed world Nielsen creates is full of life, populated with mystery, twists and turns, and engaging and complex characters. Readers don’t know who to trust, while Sage knows he can trust no one, especially not Connor, the man who stole them away and has aspirations of his own. Sage’s voice is perfection, reading like a medieval Sherlock Holmes. Unreliable and snarky, Sage keeps his observations, assets, and motivations to himself until he knows he can benefit. Readers can’t help but cheer for him, even as he struggles to come to grips with the ups and downs of a fate he doesn’t desire.

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

BombTitle: Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Author: Steve Sheinkin
ISBN: 9781596434875
Pages: 266 pages
Publisher/Date: Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, c2012.
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Awards: 2012 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, 2013 Newbery Honor Book, Winner of the 2013 Sibert Award and the 2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, Cybils Top Five Nonfiction Finalist,

This is a big story. It’s the story of the creation — and theft — of the deadliest weapon ever invented. The scenes speed around the world, from secret labs to commando raids to street-corner spy meetings. But like most big stories, this one starts small [...] sixteen years before FBI agents cornered Harry Gold in Philadelphia. (7)

Not only is this a big story, but it’s also a complex and sometimes convoluted story, filled with spies and sabotage, intrigue and ingenuity, science and suspense. In 1938, German physicist Otto Hahn was the first to split the atom, an accomplishment that scientists around the world thought was impossible. Less than one year later, President Roosevelt was appraised by none other than Albert Einstein of the possibility of this discovery being used to build a super-sized bomb, and Roosevelt demanded action. Thus began the race for physical, monetary, and intellectual resources to discover the key and build a bomb before any of their enemies. In the shadow of World War II and into the Cold War, scientists worked tirelessly. Robert Oppenheimer’s team in California was the first to crack the code, but the group was plagued with security uncertainties and the government, military, and scientists involved questioned who they could really trust with this deadly and destructive data.

This book has received many accolades, from being a 2012 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature and 2013 Newbery Honor Book to winning the 2013 Sibert Award and the 2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. One thing that would have helped this award-winning book immensely is a timeline. As readers bounce from scientists to spies and back again across multiple continents and countries, it was almost information overload. It was difficult to differentiate everyone in the beginning, especially when the forward starts in one year and then you zip backwards in time almost a decade and another part where two people on a sabotage team both had the same first name. But for science enthusiasts and detailed orientated people, this will intrigue and enthrall them to have all the pieces of the puzzle together in one concise book. Sheinkin goes beyond the creation of Fat Man and Little Boy and their deployment on Japan, allowing readers a glimpse into the beginnings of the Cold War.

One scene mentioned in the book that particularly struck me was learning how far America went to determine who was spying on us:

While in the United States, Soviet spies had to use an American telegraph company to send information quickly to Moscow. The KGB probably knew that the telegraph company was making copies of every telegram and handing them over to the U.S. Army. This didn’t particularly worry the Soviets–the messages were always written in an extremely complex code.
In 1949, after years of failure, American code breakers cracked the code. Intelligence began decoding all the messages sent to the Soviet Union during the war. That’s when they came across a shocking note sent from New York City to KGB headquarters in 1944. [...]
The 1944 telegram summarized a top-secret scientific paper. The paper had been written by one of the British scientists working with Oppenheimer. A few phone calls later, Lamphere [a FBI counterintelligence agent] had the name of the paper’s author: Klaus Fuchs. (221)

Proving how complex the situation was, the German-born physicist named Klaus Fuchs was working with British scientists in England when his assistance was requested in America, prompting him to spy for the Russian Communist Party. When he is arrested and finally being tried in 1950, his lawyer emphasizes the fact that at the time he was passing secrets to the Soviet Union during World War II, the country and Britain were allies. This made the difference between a maximum 14 years in prison for passing secrets to allies and the death penalty if the two countries had been enemies at the time the crime was committed. Fuchs got out early for good behavior, later moving back to East Germany.

Especially interesting is a peak, however brief, into the political rational of Japan not surrendering after the first bomb was dropped. I would have liked to have read more about the bombs’ effects on the country, but sticking to the facts and not trying to sensationalize the country or its population I feel made a greater impact. The simple statement “Fat Man exploded over the city of Nagasaki with the force of 22,000 tons of TNT. At least 40,000 people were instantly killed, and tens of thousands more fatally wounded or poisoned with radiation.” leaves a power impression. I hope readers considered these stark statistics and allowed them the full attention they deserved. This is not a fast read, but you’ll feel immeasurably rewarded once you get through this dense text that presents the making of the bomb and it’s after effects from all sides.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, check out Sue Heavenrich over at Sally’s Bookshelf.

This book in particular was read as I participate in YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge which challenges readers to finish 25 books by June 22nd from a list of 83 titles that were recognized and published over the last year.

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster

Titanic Voices From the DisasterTitle: Titanic: Voices From the Disaster
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
ISBN: 9780545116749
Pages: 289 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2012.

[...]On Thursday morning at around 11:30 a.m., the Titanic lowered her anchor two miles off Cobh harbor, at the Irish port of Queenstown (no w called Cobh), to pick up more passengers. It would be the ship’s last stop before heading out onto open seas — and to the New World. [...]
Years later, Frank (of Father Frank Browne) recounted that at dinner the first night on board he was befriended by a rich American couple, who offered to pay his way for the entire voyage — all the way to New York. But when he wired his religious order for permission to go, it was denied. The message read: “Get off that ship.”
So Frank left the ship — along with his precious photographic plates.
And that’s how it happened that today, thanks to Frank Browne and his uncle Robert’s generosity, we have his rare, heartbreaking photographs of those first hours of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. (21)

It’s stories of the near misses of people who survived the Titanic‘s sinking that strike readers so poignantly. Frank Browne received a two-day ticket as a gift, and departed the vessel before it reached open seas. Joe Mulholland decided not to sign up for work because he saw the ship’s cat carrying her kittens off the boat and took it as a bad omen. Violet Jessop, who at just 24 was working as a stewardess and who later would survive the sister-ship Britannica’s sinking during the war. But it’s also the story of the losses, like Alfred Rush who turned 16 on the boat just the day before and refused to get in a lifeboat because he was a man and not a child. Drawing extensively from first hand accounts of the disaster along with the work of historians, scientists, and researchers from today, Deborah Hopkinson puts the sinking of the Titanic into perspective and brings it to life.

I was a little skeptical of this book when I first heard about it, being published during the year of the 100th anniversary of its sinking. But I was pleasantly surprised by its quality and the emotions that it wrings out of readers. Covering the stories of children and adults, passengers and crew, Hopkinson presents a well-rounded look of the events of that night. Drawing heavily from previous works, her over 60 pages of source notes, photo credits, facts, glossary, timelines, and index due credit to the research profession, proving to readers the right way to cite your sources and providing an amazing wealth of resources. People interested in the disaster should check it out simply for the works cited, as it details the works of some of the survivors and provides resources to hear their accounts. I didn’t fully realize that since the event was 100 years ago, we no longer have any survivors alive today. Millvina Dean was the last survivor alive, passing away in 2009, but she was just nine weeks old at its sinking so I don’t know how much she could fully remember.

The source that everyone who is intrigued by the sinking should check out is http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org. This site is an absolute wealth of information about the survivors, the victims, the crew and passengers, even going so far as to document the description of the bodies recovered from the wreckage. The BBC also has some recordings of survivors telling their stories, which is fascinating to consider that we have that information available to us. Even if you don’t consult their additional sources, Hopkinson adds depth to the events by putting the crash into historical context with information that has come to light over the years. For instance, it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge that the Californian, a liner that was just ten to twenty miles away from the Titanic, shut off their radio just minutes before the collision occurred and could have helped if they’d only recognized the flares in the sky as a distress call.

All in all, you know that this is going to be a heartbreaking account, and still I encourage readers to take a look at this in-depth record. It’s not dry (pardon the pun) nonfiction but a well written compilation of accounts, superbly strung together while relating the story from setting off to sinking down,  drawing you in and making you feel as if you were there.

This is the first in a series of posts as part of YALSA’s challenge to read all the Nonfiction Award and Morris Debut Award Finalists before the winners are announced on January 28th. You can find the list of five finalists for each award on YALSA’s blog The Hub (Morris Award Finalists can be found here), along with information about the challenge.

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