The best book I got at NCTE has stiff competition from a signed copy of Gloria Whelan’s new novel Parade of Shadows, which I’m looking forward to reading. And it would be hard to beat a signed copy of The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles, as it’s one of my favorite books of the year. But sorry, Gloria, Deborah, Patricia Reilly Giff, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Jeff Kinney, Charles R. Smith Jr., Katherine Applegate, Sy Montgomery, Marilyn Singer, Joyce Sidman, Robert Neubecker, T. A. Barron, William Low, Megan McDonald, Linda Sue Park, Peter Sís, and anyone else I’m forgetting. I love your books, but they’re no I Want to Be an Airplane Hostess by Carla Greene. Nor are they I Want to Be a Homemaker, also by Carla Greene. I can’t decide which of these compelling reads I prefer. Fortunately both of them are conveniently bound together in ONE volume! Read one story, flip the book over, and read the other. How handy! How convenient! A girl’s twin aspirations joined together, BFF.
Of course, I didn’t actually pick up this 1960 gem at a publisher’s booth, so I suppose it’s cheating a bit to allow it to take home top prize. But this literary masterpiece WAS given to me at NCTE by my dear friend Tim Decker, who was signing copies of his newest book, Run Far, Run Fast, at the show on Saturday, so I say it qualifies.
Why is this book the best of the ones I took home from the show? Because it sets all the others into the most stark relief—makes them seem that much more valuable, that much more welcome. Thank goodness we’ve moved beyond this point, in terms of quality of writing, quality of content, and quality of message.
Books like this, of the Dick and Jane ilk, paved the way for the reader-friendly titles we have today, of course. But thank goodness they were the paving stones, rather than the bedrock.