Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SLJ BOB: Octavian v Ways

Was anyone really that surprised to read that Octavian trumped Ways To Live Forever in SLJ's Battle of the Books?

It's sad to see Ways go -- because it's one of those books that is like a chocolate chip cookie. Meaning, chocolate chip cookies are everywhere (oh, another sad book!). But when you think about it -- being generous, ninety percent of chocolate chip cookies aren't that great. Not enough chips or too much; not good chocolate; texture not right; etc etc. It's not easy making (or for the non bakers, finding) a Great Chocolate Chip cookie. And because it seems so deceptive (oh, just a chocolate chip cookie when in fact it is THE chocolate chip cookie), those cookies -- and books -- don't stand a chance against the Octavians.

(Yeah, for a second I did consider comparing Octavian to a dessert. But couldn't come up with the right one -- because it's the desert that you can only find at one restaurant, which is wonderful, but really, there's more people who talk about the desert than have actually eaten it.)

Roger Sutton, the judge, gives us this standard for judging the books in his ruling: Great books shake up our expectations. They resist us as much as we resist them. Part of the fun of these battles is seeing what standards other judges use.... and how that changes who wins what.

Jonathan Hunt, Official Commentator, notes that Octavian is the book everyone says they read and didn't. Being on the Printz Committee that awarded this book a Printz Honor, you know I read it. But here is the thing I don't like....when people use the like/didn't like (or read/didn't read) Octavian test as code for the "smart" versus "average" student. Please. Let's not judge a book by it's reader.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I didn't say that everyone says they read it, but didn't (least of all, the Printz commitee, which I'm sure read it twice--at the very least). Rather, I spoke to the fact that so many ardent fans of Octavian readily admit to taking a long time to read this book, almost out of a sense of duty, rather than pleasure. Despite the snarky tone of my ON commentary which was intended to stir the pot, so to speak, I am a fan.