Clever, clever minxes! YALSA is the Young Adult Library Services Association, and YA librarians, I can tell you from experience, are the most enthusiastic promoters of literature and reading you'll ever meet. When my editor told me that Ten Cents a Dance had been nominated for their annual list of Best Books for Young Adults, I was thrilled. When I learned they'd chosen Ten Cents as one of their Top Ten, I wasn't just over the moon--I'm pretty sure I sailed out past Saturn somewhere. I'm only just now starting to feel the ground under my feet. There were so many incredible YA books published last year; I can't tell you how honored I am to be included.
Which means you ain't heard it at all. Because nobody--nobody--can hold a candle to the the incomparable Eartha Kitt, who recorded "Santa Baby" first, in 1953. My parents had a record of it, and I grew up listening to Eartha every Christmas. Years later, when I heard Madonna's cover, I couldn't help but think--sorry, Madge--what a flat, thin thing she made of the song, next to Eartha's glorious, throaty purr.
As a kid, I was fascinated with Eartha Kitt. Her name, for one. Her accent. Her beauty and most of all, the air of wildness that came through our TV screen like a beating pulse. I was raised in a strict Catholic household, went to strict Catholic schools, and here was a woman who...how can I put this? It wasn't just that she seemed not to obey The Rules. It was more like The Rules wouldn't dare set foot in her universe. That was Eartha. She was thrilling, she was completely beyond my ken, and she was just the teensiest, tiniest, eensiest bit scary. Whenever I saw her on TV--as Catwoman, as a guest on someone's variety show or talk show--I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was mesmerizing. If you want a little taste of what made Eartha great, this is one of my favorite videos of her:
Eartha Kitt passed away on Christmas Day, at the age of 81. Performing to the end. In interviews, she said that as an orphan, her only family was her fans; she was grateful to them for embracing her, and she loved them.
When I say that just being named a finalist is an honor, believe me, I'm not being squidgy. I've read some of these books and been blown away by them. To be included on the same list is...well, it's freakin' unbelievably fabulous, is what it is. Unreal in the best possible way.
Many thanks to the Cybils panelists who read through all the YA Fiction nominees (almost 140 books!) to choose these seven. Now, the judges will read and decide the winner. Announcement on February 14th. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, if you're looking for some great reads, check out the shortlists for all the categories. To celebrate, I went on a shopping spree at A Children's Place Bookstore (because hello, the best way to celebrate anything is to buy more books) and came home with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Foundlingby D.M. Cornish (not on a list but its sequel Lamplighteris), and Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, which won the 2007 Cybil for YA Fiction. Plus the other YA Fiction finalists I haven't already read.
A stack of new books. Cybils love. No better way to start a new year.
Resolutions, Shmesolutions. Where's My Cheese Popcorn?
The only New Year's resolution I've ever kept was not to make any more New Year's resolutions. Works for me. Why mess with success?
For the resolution-minded of you out there, though, I have a couple of suggestions. (You've heard the adage, "Those who can't, teach"? Well, this is the lesser-known corollary: "Those who don't, suggest.")
Feed the hungry by testing your knowledge. This is an armchair geek's idealist dream come true. Go to FreeRice and answer the questions. Every question you get right donate's ten grains of rice to the world's neediest people. The default subject is English vocabulary. Give you the shivers? Then click at the upper right to change subjects, from famous paintings to the periodic table to math to geography. Make it a web stop every day, and see how many grains of rice you can donate in five or ten minutes.
Want to do something for the four-legged among us? Then visit FreeKibble, answer the daily question, and, whether you get it right or not, you'll donate ten pieces of kibble to an animal shelter. Prefer cats to dogs, or want to do something for both? Then play FreeKibbleKat, too. This was yesterday's cat question:
One male cat and one female cat and their offspring are capable of producing how many cats in seven years? (answer below)
a) 420 cats b) 4200 cats c) 42,000 cats d) 420,000 cats
(For the math-adept among you, a single female cat can produce up to 3 litters per year; the average litter size is 4 to 6 kittens. Calculate away!)
Flunking your FreeRice vocab questions? Sign up for A Word A Day. It's free, it's fun, it's geeky, it's a little piece of heaven in your daily inbox.
Been meaning to pop into that little independent bookstore across town? DO IT.
I know some of you live in towns with no independent bookstores (sometimes, no bookstores at all.) But if you do have an indie, go the extra mile. Browse around. Buy at least one of the titles on your list, and if you don't have a list (or you can't remember a single title on it as soon as you step into a bookstore--something that invariably happens to me) then chat up the bookseller for a recommendation. Indie booksellers are passionate book people and they're tuned into their customers; they know whereof they speak. If they don't have the title you're looking for, they'll happily order it in for you--and they'll get it faster than Amazon.com, with no shipping charges.
I fibbed about the resolution thing. I made this one a while back and I intend to keep on keeping it in 2009. Why?
Because ten years ago, there were about 3500 indie bookstores in the country. Today they're down to 1500...and the vast majority of those losses were before the economy tanked. 2009 is going to be a make-or-break year for many of the remaining indies, and they can only do it with our help.
Because the biggest national chain bookstores have a couple of people in corporate deciding which books to carry. They carry books they think will sell...which leaves thousands of fabulous books and authors out in the cold. Without independent bookstores, your chances of ever hearing about those books is virtually nil.
Because the more independent bookstores go under, the narrower our book choices will be.
If you take only one suggestion, take this one. Shop locally, and not just for books. Support your neighbors, keep those dollars in town. If you're not sure whether you have an indie bookstore nearby, check IndieBound and find out. Meet a bookseller in 2009. You'll be glad you did.
Answer to kittycat question is...d) 420,000 cats. A bit of mind-boggling to start your year off right. Spay and neuter in 2009...and Happy New Year, everyone!
I'm a veterinarian who started writing and never stopped. I've published two young adult novels: Ten Cents a Dance, which was named a Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association, and Tallulah Falls, which was named a 2007 Book for the Teen Age by the New York Public Library. I practice veterinary medicine part-time; the rest of the time, I'm up in my office, clacking away at the keyboard.