Are you ready to visit The Night Circus?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern; published by Doubleday, New York, 2011; 387 pages.

From the black and white striped end pages and the hypnotic black and white pages that demarcate each section of the book, you know that this is not going to be a traditional story.  Le Cirque des Rêves, The Circus of Dreams, has magically appeared in a field where there was nothing before.  Over the gate is the name and the hours (from nightfall until dawn) and within are a series of black and white tents.  The scents wafting within are of apples and cinnamon and other warm memories.  All the performers are dressed in shades of blacks and whites and grays.  Their feats are almost too good to be true.  However, their stories are far more interesting than their performances.  The stories of the how the circus was formed, over midnight dinners, are as interesting as the stories of how the performers are selected and how the future of the circus will be secured.  Unbelievably, this wondrous show was created for one purpose: to settle a bet in which only one contestant will survive.

Morgenstern helps set the transcendental nature of the story by helping readers time travel from the late 19th century to the early 20th century in each chapter.  Time and place are set in the chapter titles (as are magical words to help foreshadow the action).  At first I was confused and had to pause to figure out where I was and which character I was following, but soon that was no longer a distraction but rather a part of the storytelling.  By mid-book, the divergent storylines came together and began to make sense and I could predict the conclusion, to a degree.  Perhaps my favorite aspect of the book was the author’s ability to draw me in using all of my senses.  At times I could almost smell the caramel popcorn and hot cider!

Fans of steampunk will enjoy this tale of magical competition.  Although it’s not really steampunk, it has the same Victorian sensibility, supernatural feats, and bizarre mechanical contraptions.  There’s romance, mystery and fantasy working together in The Night Circus.

The Night Circus  is an adult novel that won a 2012 Alex Award.  The Alex Awards recognize adult books that would be of particular interest to teens.  While I think older teens will enjoy the book, I don’t think its complex plot will appeal to younger teens.  I will be talking about it with young adults.

3P     4Q     Grade Level: 11+
Cover Art: The paper circus tent will make sense to readers but will also generate interest to see what the circus is about.

From Reading List: Alex Award Winner (adult books that appeal to young adults) 2012


ALA announces Youth Media Award winners

In a live webcast, the American Library Association announced the winners of the Youth Media Awards.  Winners and honorees in the teen and young adult categories are listed below.

Michael L. Printz Award:

The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association.  The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.

Where Things Come Back written by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.


Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler; The Returning by Christine Hinwood; Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey; and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Morris Award:

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

Where Things Come Back written by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction:

The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year. 

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery written by Steve Sheinkin and published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Margaret A. Edwards Award:

The Margaret A. Edwards Award, established in 1988, honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. The annual award is administered by YALSA and sponsored by School Library Journal magazine. It recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.

Susan Cooper for The Dark Is Rising Sequence.

Schneider Family Book Award

For books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

Two books were selected for the middle school award (ages 9 – 13): “close to famous,” written byJoan Bauer and published by Viking, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group; and “Wonderstruck: A Novel in Words and Pictures,” written by Brian Selznick and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic.

The teen (ages 14-18) award winner is “The Running Dream,” written by Wendelin Van Draanen and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Stonewall Book Award -Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award:

Given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy written by Bil Wright and published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, an imprint of Simon& Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.


a + e 4ever drawn and written by Ilike Merey and published by Lethe Press, Inc.; Money Boy written by Paul Yee and published by Groundwood Books, an imprint of House of Anansi Press; Pink written by Lili Wilkinson and published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins; and with or without you written by Brian Farrey and published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.


Odyssey Awards:

This annual award will be given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

Rotters written by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne and produced by Listening Library, an imprint of Random House Audio Publishing Group, Random House, Inc.


Ghetto Cowboy, written by G. Neri, narrated by JD Jackson and produced by Brilliance Audio.

Okay for Now, written by Gary D. Schmidt, narrated by Lincoln Hoppe and produced by Listening Library, an imprint of Random House Audio Publishing Group, Random House, Inc.

The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham and produced by Scholastic Inc., Scholastic Audiobooks.

Young Fredle, written by Cynthia Voigt, narrated by Wendy Carter and produced by Listening Library, an imprint of Random House Audio Publishing Group, Random House, Inc.

Alex Awards:

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.

    • Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard, published by Little, Brown & Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
    • The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens by Brooke Hauser, published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
    • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
    • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
    •  Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
    • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, published by Bloomsbury USA
    • The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
    • The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo, published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

More information about YALSA and all of the awards can be found here:

Congratulations to all winners and honorees!

YALSA announces 2011 Youth Media Award winners and honorees

YALSA has posted the list of winners and honorees in the young adult categories for the 2011 Youth Media Awards.  You can find links to all of them here:

Congratulations to all winners and honorees! 🙂

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind…creating currents of electricity and hope

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer; published by William Morrow, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009; 270 pages.

Kamkwamba’s autobiography (written with Bryan Mealer) is more than the story of a boy who brought electricity to his rural African village.  His struggles against poverty, famine, and politics give insight into the bigger struggles in Malawi.  His vignettes of daily life, interwoven with tales of magic and history told by his father, illuminate the remarkable differences in life in Africa compared to our lives of relative ease in the West.  Overall, his perseverance to find solutions to problems big and small underline the importance of hope, education and problem-solving.

I had a hard time getting into the rhythm of this book.  I enjoyed learning about life on a continent I will probably never visit.  I cheered for William to overcome overwhelming odds.  I was especially moved that he cherished books and parlayed his book-learning into real-world solutions.  But I couldn’t get past the feeling that I was listening to a kind of stream-of-consciousness writing.  It was like William dictated a bunch of stories to Mealer and then Mealer organized the vignettes into a timeline.

For teens that like to read in short bursts, this book would be right up their alley since it’s easy to set down after a story or two.  I also think this is invaluable to teach life in another world, almost like another time.  Perhaps this is the reason the book won an Alex Award for 2010.

2P     2Q     Grade Level: 10-12+

Cover Art: The yellow background is eye-catching.  Adding the sketched windmill with a photo of Kamkwamba is intriguing.  Perhaps the combination of the art and the title will appeal to teens.  I personally loved the subtitle: “Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope.”

From Reading List: Alex Award winner (adult books that appeal to young adults), Too Good to Be True Nonfiction

Soulless is steampunk meets Frankenstein & Holmes

Soulless (Book 1 in The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger; published by Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009; 357 pages.

Poor spinster; she is too Italian, too curvaceous, and too outspoken for Victorian England’s tastes.  Yet somehow Alexia Tarabotti survives in her step family and in society.  With her custom-made parasol (silver tipped, loaded with buckshot), she finds herself in the middle of quite a mystery: why are so many vampires and werewolves disappearing?  This enlightened age, Victorian though it may be, has incorporated ghosts, vampires and werewolves into polite society.  Her Majesty includes a vampire and a werewolf as trusted advisors.  So where does a preternatural like Miss Tarabotti fit into this picture?  Will she solve the mystery, and more importantly, will she find love and acceptance in this world?

Soulless reads like Sherlock Holmes meets Frankenstein, but with a sharp wit and wicked sense of humor.  I guess I would categorize it as steampunk: supernatural forces at play during the Victorian rise of scientific discovery.  I truly couldn’t put the book down as all of the elements worked so well together.  My main criticism is that the point of view was frequently confusing; most of the time, a break in the chapter alerted readers to a shift of perspective, but not always and not always seamlessly.

For anyone, but older teens especially, who is sick of Glampire fiction, this book will provide a welcome respite.  Sit in your most comfortable armchair, sip a cup of tea, and enjoy a heroine who is an equal in almost every way to her romantic interest!  Perhaps these were reasons Soulless made YALSA’s Alex Awards list for 2010.

4P     3Q     Grade Level: 10+

Cover Art: The misty London background with Alexia and her parasol might hint at the story inside, but not well.  The metallic, hot pink title adds a hint that this may well be a steampunk story.  I think teens are going to have to be looking for this book; I found it in the adult sci-fi section at my local library.

From Reading List: Alex Awards, 2010

RSS Braingle’s Teasers

  • Today's Daily Brain Teaser (Jul 19, 2018)
    Automobile Makes Name the automobile makes: 1. river wading place 2. ringed planet 3. famous emancipator 4. weep convulsively 5. Star Wars action figure 6. earth wanderer 7. spotted cat 8. heavy metal 9. evade 10. diminutive 11. endlessness 12. bawl + disparaging remark Check for the answer.