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Youth book award trims nominees list to five

By Sarah Sullivan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The long list is now shorter by half. On Oct. 16, five finalists for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature were named from the "long list" of 10 nominees.

They are Kathi Appelt's "The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp" (Atheneum), Cynthia Kadohata's "The Thing About Luck" (Atheneum), Tom McNeal's "Far Far Away" (Knopf), Meg Rosoff's "Picture Me Gone" (Putnam) and Gene Luen Yang's "Boxers & Saints" (First Second).

The winner will be announced at a Nov. 20 ceremony in New York.

Two of these writers are making a second trip to the awards ceremony. Appelt's novel, "The Underneath" was a finalist in 2008, going on to garner a Newbery Honor in 2009, and Yang's graphic novel "American Born Chinese" was a finalist in 2006, going on to win the Michael L. Printz Award in 2007.

Rosoff's novel "How I Live Now" won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2005. And, Kadohata's novel "Kira-Kira" won the Newbery Medal in 2005. McNeal is the only nominee whose work has not previously been nominated for one of the major awards. His novel "Far, Far Away" is an eerie modern fairytale narrated by the ghost of Jacob Grimm.

Yang's "Boxers & Saints" is a two-volume graphic novel, which lays out two sides of the Boxer Rebellion in China.

Kadohata's "The Thing About Luck" is directed at a slightly younger audience (think ages 8 to 12) and tells the story of 12-year-old Summer, who is left to care for her brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for harvest workers when her parents are called to a family emergency in Japan.

Appelt's "The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp," also written for the middle-grade audience, is a tall tale set in the Bayou in which two raccoon scouts are charged with waking up the Sasquatchlike Sugar Man to save the sweet cane of the swamp from feral hogs, while 12-year-old Chap Brayburn is trying to save his family's Paradise Pies Café from greedy developers.

Rosoff's "Picture Me Gone" (for a slightly older audience) is about a remarkably observant 12-year-old girl named Mila whose college-professor father takes her along on a trip to gather clues about the disappearance of his best friend.

Finalists for the award receive $1,000, and winners receive $10,000. To be eligible, a book must have been written by a U.S. citizen and published in the United States between Dec. 1, 2012, and Nov. 30, 2013. For more information about the awards, visit

Sarah Sullivan, of Charleston, is the author of "All That's Missing" and "Passing The Music Down." She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College and may be reached through her website at


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