The Soaring Eagle Book Award nominees are generated by the recommendations of our teens in the state of Wyoming to promote reading. The teens nominate and, eventually, vote to award their favorite of ten nominee books each year. Although there are several criteria for a book to be considered for a Soaring Eagle nomination, my favorite is that the goal is simply to help our teens find “good” books. Often these are books that cover a wide range of topics and make relevant social observations.
YA staff and many other librarians throughout the building take pride in taking the time to read some, or all, of the Soaring Eagle Book Award nominees each year. YA staff spend days in the schools talking about the Soaring Eagle nominees to the teens in our community. In preparation for the school year, the library uses Campbell County Public Recreation District grant money to order a set of the award books for county agencies and district schools, so that students can have ready access to them. The teen volunteers at CCPLS pack the books and mail them out in a memorable day that involves chaos, fun, packing, double-checking, triple checking, taping and un-taping boxes in order to get the correct books to their locations.
The books themselves cover a variety of genres and themes, from non-fiction, to fantasy, to historical fiction. Of particular interest to me this year was the theme of the ‘monster’. It was common in many of the books that were nominated. The monster is a person, an individual who is capable of inflicting harm on others. These people often lead us to questions about humanity. A book that tackles these themes can help us see the choices that we face and the consequences of them. Some of the situations the characters handle are relatable, as they could happen to anyone. Some are not. Yet the idea of choices, choices to stand up for what’s right, choices to fight against impossible odds, choices to decide what will happen next in the story, remains something that translates through all situations. The following book talks were given about stories that deal with these themes.
Code of Honor
By Alan Gratz
Scrolled on a piece of paper was the code of honor that Darius and Kamran had lived by since they were little. 1—Be the strongest of the strong, 2—Be the bravest of the brave, 3—Help the helpless, 4—Always tell the truth, 5—Be loyal, 6—Never give up, 7—Kill all monsters. Only now, as the whole world is watching, Darius appears to have violated that code by betraying the elite Army Rangers and joining al-Qaeda. Kamran, a senior in high school, a football star, the homecoming king, is seeing his world turned upside-down. There are news reporters camped on his front lawn and no one but Kamran believes that Darius is innocent with his regular appearances on TV, personally taking responsibility for attacking Americans overseas. But Kamran does not believe it. He knows the code that he and Darius live by and he is determined to find the truth for himself, to prove that his brother is committed to their code of honor.
When Kamran himself is kidnapped, questioned and held prisoner by Homeland Security, he must convince them that he, a senior in high school, knows what the rest of the country does not believe—that Darius is innocent and he is trying to warn Kamran through a code that only they know that worse acts of terrorism are coming. Can Kamran prove that Darius is innocent and save the lives of thousands of people?
By Various Authors, including, Shaun Hutchinson, Neal Shusterman, and Kendare Blake
Violent Ends is not a story about the actual shooting that took place at Middleborough High. It’s about Kirby, the boy who pulled the trigger and killed five classmates and one teacher. This book is told from seventeen points of view. Some of the stories happen before the shooting, some after, and a few take place during the shooting. The stories range from years before the shooting and to months after. Kirby’s sister has her own story about how she deals with the fact that her brother is a monster who ripped her and her family’s lives apart. Another story is told from the point of view of Billie, the new girl at school who was just trying to get the perfect picture. There is even a story from the point of view of the gun that Kirby used. The gun tells a beautiful story about its time before entering Kirby’s life and also its time with Kirby leading up to the moment before the shooting.
All American Boys
By Jason Reynolds
Rashad is an artist and a member of ROTC who happens to be an African American. He decided to go to the store and pick up some chips, something he has done many times. However, this time as Rashad is kneeling by his bag to collect his money, a lady trips over him. The cop only sees Rashad kneeling by his bag, making it look as if he is trying to steal the chips. Rashad tries to explain what has happened, but the cop does not listen. He pummels Rashad for “resisting” arrest. The cop ends up putting Rashad in the hospital causing the graffiti art that started everything “RASHAD IS ABSENT AGAIN TODAY”.
Quinn, a white kid saw everything, but he is not sure what exactly he saw. He knows he saw his best friend’s brother, a person who is like a big brother to him, beat the crap out of a fellow student. He keeps the fact that he saw it silent for a while, because he believes someone has to have caught it on camera.
Someone did catch it on camera, and it does not look good; splitting the school and the nation down the middle. People start blaming “racism” and “police brutality”. As it turns out, prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. Know we fight for a future where no one will be absent due to police brutality.