Falling for YA, Part 1: 1 Book, 1 Chicago

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Despite spending yesterday at the beach, I woke up this morning feeling that it was fall.  I woke up wanting a Pumpkin Spice Latte, but I don’t think they are on the menu yet.  Despite being a “coffee professional” and coffee snob, I will unashamedly admit to being first in line at Starbucks for this seasonal treat. I tried going on the Starbucks website and it looks like there’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte video but no official word on its nationwide release.  I suppose I’ll just have to walk across the street and look for myself.

However, the subject of fall brings me to two things: the 1 Book, 1 Chicago fall book pick & Booklist’s YA fall preview.  This post will deal with the first thing.  I’m really excited to see that this fall’s 1 Book, 1 Chicago selection is  Markus Zusak‘s The Book Thief.

1 Book, 1 Chicago: The Book Thief

For those of you who aren’t familiar, One Book, One Chicago is essentially a citywide book club, where book discussions, classes, theater productions, and other events are held to celebrate a book and unify the city for a few months.  I was particularly excited to see that this fall’s choice was a young adult title: The Book Thief.  Now, this is a book I have intended to read for years and I’m taking this as my prompt to stop dallying and get on with it.  I have read Zusak’s I Am the Messenger,  which I adored and was one of those rare books that grips you and won’t let you stop reading until you’ve reached the last page.  I imagine his better known The Book Thief  will produce a similar effect.  According to the Random House site, The Book Thief is:

…just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I have always been a spokesperson for children’s and young adult literature, insisting that a good book is a good book, regardless of its audience.  Just because children or teenagers like a story does not mean that its writing is of a lesser quality.  I think the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series have done a great deal to expand the audience of YA literature and help remove some of the the stigma attached to children’s books; the fact that Chicago is promoting a teen novel on the same level as it did Saul Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March makes me happier than I can say.

If you are in the Chicago area, stop by any library branch and there should be a hefty booklet like the one pictured above, which outlines all the Book Thief events.  I’d also like to point out that Markus Zusak will be the keynote speaker at the Teen Volume Conference at Harold Washington Library on October 22.  The event is tailored to educators and librarians, but it is free and open to the public, though registration is required.  If a conference is not to your taste, however, Zusak will also be chatting with Dawn Turner Trice of the Chicago Tribune that same evening and the conversation will be available for streaming or download at wbez.org/amplified.

Stay tuned for Falling for YA, Part 2: Booklist’s Fall Preview.

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