This morning the finalists for the National Book Awards were announced in five categories, including Young People's Literature, and it's a stellar line-up of books. The winner will be revealed on the evening of November 14 and John Corey Whaley, author of this year's Michael J. Printz winner, Where Things Come Back, will host the National Book Awards Finalists Reading the night before. It's times like these that I wish I lived in New York, what a fantastic way to spend an evening...
Check out the list of contenders for Young People's Literature below, plus an exclusive interview between finalist Eliot Schrefer (Endangered) and David Levithan.
- Endangered: Set in the dangerous world of the Congo, one girl must save a group of bonobos--and herself--from a violent coup that forces all of them from sanctuary.
- Goblin Secrets : In this atmospheric fantasy and adventure novel, a young boy joins a theatrical troupe of goblins in an effort to find his only living relative--his big brother.
- Out of Reach: When Rachel's brother goes missing she's forced to face his addiction and her own dark secrets in an effort to discover the truth about his disappearance.
- Never Fall Down: Based on a true story, a boy becomes a child of war under the Khmer Rouge and confronts horrors and hardships in the killing fields by living the credo never fall down.
- Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon: The story of a race that spanned 3 continents as covert activities and scientific genius converged to create the world's most formidable weapon--the atomic bomb.
David Levithan Interviews Eliot Schrefer (you can read the whole thing after the jump)
DL: For many YA novelists, like myself, “research” involves looking at old journals, or going on Facebook. But for ENDANGERED, you traveled to Congo and spent some time with bonobos. What was that like?
ES: Lola ya Bonobo, the bonobo sanctuary where I stayed, is on the palace grounds of the former dictator of DRC. It’s a lovely place, with a river running through and dense overhanging greenery. Oh, and there are also sixty-odd bonobos shrieking at all hours. And some crazy fast ants. And a resident Siamese cat who sometimes goes missing and returns with her whiskers gone, because the gardeners can sell them on the black market as sorcery reagents.
When I flew to Congo, I had already read plenty about the bonobos, and their characterization in my book didn’t change terrifically once I was there. But those other unexpected observations—particularly the human element of Congo, which I got immersed in when one of the sanctuary’s surrogate mothers brought me around her village—opened the country up to me. I flew there because of the bonobos. But by the time I left I’d come to see the bonobos as part of a system and of a world.
DL: What is the strangest thing you did with a bonobo while you were there?
ES: I’m not sure if the gentle people of Amazon really need to know this, but I inadvertently tongue kissed an ape. We were playing a game where I’d blow on her lips, and this little three-year-old turned out to be impossibly strong. She decided she wanted to kiss, and I had no option in the matter. I did a big cartoonish spit-take once I managed to get free.
DL: I know you were haunted by one image in particular involving a bonobo, which found its way into the book. Can you talk about how that one image spurred you on?
ES: In the process of researching ENDANGERED I read the quarterly reports from Friends of Bonobos, the non-profit behind Lola. One story made me cry when I read it. An orphan bonobo infant named Kinsuke arrived at the sanctuary too weak to survive. She was rescued from a bushmeat trader only to spend one night in safety, surrounded by people who wanted nothing more than for her to live. She had been restrained with a rope, and when the resident vet cut it and went to pull it away, she clutched it to her. It had been what imprisoned her, but it was also her only possession. She died cradling it.
Reading about Kinsuke spurred me on in two ways. I became even more resolved to find out more about the bonobo crisis and what the rest of the world can do to help. On another level, though, that tension—that your greatest torment can become your greatest treasure—is a theme I made it my goal to explore in the novel. ENDANGERED is dedicated to her.