Why I love depressing books

As a kid, I spent a fair amount of time in really small libraries. There wasn’t a lot of guidance. I never met the magical book lady with 20 cats and secret magic power who would show me the best books ever. Well, not until my piano teacher in middle school turned me loose on the science fiction paperbacks in her attic.
So I read pretty much anything, but kept an eye out for the special shelf in nearly any library that had the Caldedott and Newbery Honor books. I didn’t really differentiate between them. Those books that said AWARD and had the shiny metallic official-looking stamp on them!
A few years ago it struck me how depressing they all were. How many books about brave children struggling through the Great Depression and the Holocaust did I devour? A LOT. I think I got addicted to their atmosphere of serious angst and their heavy handed morals.
So I was a little bit amused to look at this year’s winners and see that they include:
- How I Learned Geography, where a young boy is mad AT FIRST when his father brings home a colorful map instead of some bread. I am sure it is good… yet I kind of feel like I’ve read it before, somehow.
- A book of poems about Cuba’s struggle for freedom. Do I even need to say more!?
Oh, ALA! I totally love you. Your respectable honor books sustained my revolutionary soul for so many years! I can’t wait to go to the library and spend an afternoon reading the entire “for young adult reluctant readers” award list. THey will be depressing yet uplifting, and won’t be about middle class suburban white children, I have complete faith in that, and are not meant for middle class suburban white children (though I was one) but are meant to be un-boring to everyone else. I wonder how far they succeed in that?

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5 Responses to “Why I love depressing books”

  1. elswhere



    And this year’s Newbery features a mass murder in the first chapter! (And is, for once, speculative fiction. All hail Neil Gaiman and the ALA!)
    I ADORED Holocaust books as a kid. For some reason they didn’t depress me at all.

  2. elswhere



    Hey, where’d my first comment go?
    BTW, the link you’ve got up there is just for the Macmillan award books. Here’s the full list:
    http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/2009medawardwin.cfm

  3. lyssa



    I always liked the award books, too. Now I’m working my way through all the Booker prize ones, and they’re all adult versions of the same depressing stuff! It is totally awesome and I’ve loved them all so far.

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