Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
March
Unbecoming
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
OCDaniel
Girl in the Blue Coat
Refugee
Defy the Stars

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I’ve been taking part in the Mighty Smackdown for a few years now and I think this has been a really tremendous edition. Not only because of the exceptional quality of the books - even the ones I was critical of were still pretty darn good, and these final three are all exceptional - but also because of two significant changes for me: 1) I have two of my wonderful colleagues from Callingwood, Beth and Christy, taking part in the Smackdown this year and 2) My daughter Sara is now old enough to read and enjoy most everything the Smackdown has thrown our way.

It says a lot about the level of books on offer in this year’s Smackdown that I feel really honored and inspired to be able to share these books with these important people in my life. Choosing between three books of this caliber is tough not only because they are such uniquely good reads, but also because I think they share an ethos and maybe even a moral compass. And not to get all political on y’all, but you don’t have to look much further than the leader of the free world’s latest transgression (Note: I’m referring to the FBI director’s firing, but I haven’t checked twitter since I started typing this, so there may be an even more egregious betrayal of fundamental democratic principles occurring as I write) to see that we live in very perilous times, where our hearts and minds are being battered by violence that seems so absurd it sometimes masquerades as the comical. But, of course, there’s not much funny about revolting abuses of power and this is at the heart of each of these three books, and perhaps, most profoundly, it is the core of Echo, our choice to be the Smackdown victor. I have a bit of a tendency in these posts to justify my choice by poking holes in the other book and sometimes that feels OK, but it wouldn’t feel very good With The War that Saved My Life and Wolf By Wolf. We all deeply enjoyed both of these books and I don’t have anything bad to say about them. Why Echo then? Well, it is beautifully written, with characters that are fully realized through restraint rather than excessive detail and these characters have a resonance that continues even after one closes the book for the night. The three primary stories at the heart of the novel (excluding that framing narrative) are wrapped up and tied together neatly for us in the end, but even before we see how everything comes together there is a unity to the narrative that runs through all three of those stories. The musical thread serves an important narrative function, but I think it also, to come back to my earlier point, conveys a powerful and devastatingly important point about the power of the arts to transcend tyranny, from the petty to the grandiose. But I don’t need to tell any of us that, because that’s at least part of why we keep coming back the Smackdown every year. See you next year! Thanks Arlene and Dia, as always!

Echo Heard Above All

This is the first season of Smackdown where in the finals, I will be happy with whichever book makes the cut.  I read each of these books in previous rounds, so I put together a compare and contrast organiser with my opinion...





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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo!
This was not an easy decision for the Ottewell team. We read the zombie pick Wolf by Wolf and one member really liked it. The rest of us found it to be an interesting 'what if' story but still had the usual teenage angst stuff. There was quite the twist at the end though and at least Dianne is willing to join Renee in reading the sequel.

Alisha really liked The War that Saved My Life. We definitely agree with her that it is a great fit for a junior high novel study unit. But should we base our selection solely on the book's appeal to our students? Well Alisha was swayed a bit and in the end agreed that Echo was a carefully planned and very interesting read. Although the use of the harmonica as a unifying element is not entirely a new concept because it is similar to the adult novels Accordion Crimes and The Red Violin this book was suspenseful, well written and again nicely geared toward junior high.

In the end there is something to be said for a book that tugs at the heart strings. Our combined four votes go to Echo!

The Ottewell Team: Dianne, Renee, Alisha, Deb

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Votes scattered everywhere

Well, if it still matters, Westminster has votes to add to every pile.  Wendy liked The War That Saved My Life most, because she found the characters most real and thought the book was lovely.  Krystal liked Echo most of all, and highly recommends the audio version.  Brianne and Laura both pick Wolf By Wolf as the most engaging of the books.
So:  War - 1
Echo - 1
Wolf by Wolf - 2

Monday, May 8, 2017

Short and Sweet


The Final Round - Short and Sweet

For me it came down to Wolf by Wolf and Echo - loved them for different reasons but in the end, Echo won it for me.  And that's all I have to say about that! #EchoForTheWin

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Where Andrew Finally Wins...


In the history of the Mighty Smackdown Andrew (an original participant) has been beaten down many a time for his opinions. Like those freaky clowns weighed down by sand who get punched and bounce back up, Andrew has been fighting the good fight for many years. One only has to scroll through the blog posts to see example after example of this.

Today, though, Andrew's blog post has broken the tie for me between Echo and Wolf by Wolf.  I am voting with Andrew because I love a book that keeps popping into your head long after you've read it regardless of your initial thoughts. Both these books stand apart from The War That Saved My Life which is third for me. This summer I will be reading the sequel to Wolf by Wolf and thinking of all my Smackdown colleagues - especially Bozo er... I mean Andrew.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

And the winner is....

This feels like coming full circle as I cast my vote for the winner of this year's Mighty Smackdown.  I read Wolf by Wolf in the first round and I have to admit that it was for me a reluctant choice when it moved past the first round. Over the weeks there have been other books that I found easier to support and voted for those to move forward, but in the end it is Wolf by Wolf that gets the nod. Of all of the books that I have read in Smackdown this year, Wolf by Wolf is the one that keeps coming back into my thoughts as I make connections back to it over and over again. This is the book that most deserves to be in the hands of as many readers as possible.