The deadline for submitting books to the 2016 Oregon Book Awards is Friday, August 28, 2015. In the meantime, we’re sharing the judge’s comments on the 2015 finalists from each category. Remember that the 2016 OBAs include the PNCA Award for Graphic Literature, and the original publication dates and guidelines for this category are different. Click here to download guidelines for all of the upcoming awards.

Mitali Perkins has written many novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl and Bamboo People. Her newest novel, Tiger Boy, is a Junior Library Guild selection. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the US with her family. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana. Currently she resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and sons.

Here are her comments on the 2015 Oregon Book Awards finalists for the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Literature:

body-in-the-woodsThe Body in the Woods by April Henry

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby, volunteers with Portland County’s Search and Rescue team, must join forces to stop the murder of homeless teenagers. April Henry’s mystery is perfect for reluctant readers because it features a creepy killer, but that isn’t all this book offers. Along with a gripping plot, good stories introduce us to interesting people and provide a strong sense of place, weaving all three seamlessly. In Henry’s accessible page-turner, a Portland “vibe” is palpable, and her three main characters are diverse and likeable. Ruby has Asperger’s, Alexis takes care of her mother who is mentally ill, and Nick struggles with feelings of inadequacy thanks to a war-hero father. These weaknesses, along with their growing friendship, play a key role in stopping the killer. Young fans of crime stories and thrillers on television will be lured into the realm of books thanks to Henry’s compelling storytelling. Once they finish The Body in the Woods, they’ll be delighted to discover that it’s the first of a series.

HOPEISAferrisHope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera

Upper elementary readers are the perfect audience for this funny, moving story featuring Star Mackie, a persevering, poetry-loving girl who lives in a trailer park. Star’s three quests–to connect with her father, fit in at school, and support her sister–are explored in humorous spelling assignments that she decides not to turn in to her teacher. Her voice is honest, determined, and always defined by hope, and we easily share her affection for the secondary characters in the novel. Pair this endearing story with a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and give both to your favorite young reader.

bridge-from-me-to-you-by-lisa-schroederThe Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder

Young teens in search of a clean but sophisticated romance will enjoy this hopeful quick read with a happy ending. In alternating chapters of poetry and prose, Lauren and Colby describe their bonding over bugles, baking, birds, and bridges. Schroeder weaves in themes of grief, privilege, and fresh starts, as well as exploring the pressure that comes with athletic talent and the joys of living in a small town.

 

WHISPERWhisper by Chris Struyk-Bonn

Imagine a culture where parents systematically abandon or abuse children born with physical and mental deformities. In Struyk-Bonn’s compelling dystopian novel, we cheer for a main character with the determination and courage to resist an unjust system, form her own family, and take charge of her destiny. Initially marginalized even further thanks to gender, the hero in this brutal but hopeful fairy tale manages to rescue both herself and her community. Thoughtful readers will make connections with real-world issues like the environmental consequences of factory farming, the rejection of disfigured or disabled babies in both rich and poor societies, and children who must fend for themselves on the streets of unsafe cities.

 

Judge’s Comments: 2015 OBA finalists in Young Adult Literature