The following awards are entirely made up, basically just so I can talk about these particular books. However, two awards repeat every year, because I always can find a resourceful orphan and a horrible, terrible, and by far the worst kind of parent.
The most dangerous book I read this year: Reckless by Cornelia Funke
This was more of a personal problem. There's nothing dangerous about the book's content. It's your ordinary fairy tale based adventure. However, I read it while I was in the middle of drafting a story, which happened to be a fairy tale based adventure. Uh oh. Was I giving myself a little challenge not to be overly influenced?
Luckily, Reckless features modern day characters, Jacob Reckless and his brother Will, who find a way through a magic mirror into a world where fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and Sleeping Beauty are real. And much more dangerous than the stories told you. Its nothing like my story. Mostly.
Winner of the Most Talking Animals: The Prince Who Fell from the Sky by John Claude Bemis
In this book there are talking bears, coyotes, wolves, rats, dogs and cats. Human speech is no where to be found, so if you are unable to understand grunts, growls, squeaks or other subtle body language don't bother picking up this book. .... just kidding. (I didn't want to spoil anything.)
Runner up: Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Winner of the Most Surprising Heart Award: The Scarecrow from The Scarecrow and his Servant by Philip Pullman
A turnip-head scarecrow comes magically to life and the story follows his misadventures with robbers, a theatre trope, a broom, an army, and a kingdom of birds. He is accompanied by his faithful servant, a young capable human boy. The scarecrow keeps a very important document inside himself. I love the language in Pullman's stories. The descriptions and actions are simple, but they have just the right turn of phrase. This was my favorite of the three I read this year.
Winner of the most terrifyingly injury award:
Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Chapter 5 begins with the main character examining his foot, which has a small pink scar and a hole. That's right a tiny little hole in the bottom of his foot. Inside he finds a worm, which he proceeds to pull out of the hole with tweezers. That's when everything starts to go wrong. And this is how we know something is not right, because of that tiny little hole.
Winner of the transformation Award: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
This was the first book I read in 2013, so I know I started the year off right. To call this book just a story based on selkie mythology doesn't do it justice. Margo Lanagan does a stunning portrayal of a small seaside village and its inhabitants. The men of the island can get themselves a perfect seawife if they're willing to pay the witch's price. And how do the real women react? Well, its impossible to compete with someone who has supernatural beauty, who is obedience, and simply lovely beyond reason, the perfect wife and mother. Most of the real women leave. The seawives can't. They might long to return to the sea, they might be miserable, but they can't without their 'skins'.
There are several view points portrayed in this book, one of the sons who decides to help find his mother's skin, a young man who returns to the island and is not looking for a perfect seawife, but ends up with one anyway and a woman who decides to leave the island after her husband gets himself another 'wife', but the most heartbreaking is the witch's story.
Runner up: The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Resourceful Orphan Award: Mosca from Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge
Poor Mosca as if the story didn't start off bad enough: her companion Eponymous Clent is in jail, her goose has run off and she's broke. Then she gets kidnapped just because she can read! Whether escaping from farmhouse cellars, sneaking around a strange city with a split personality, facing down thieves, mayors, or the infamous, treacherous locksmiths, Mosca's your girl for adventure and getting into and out of trouble. The story weaves in strange ways, but it all comes together and Mosca not going to stand by while people suffer or let the impostors get away. She'll give them what's coming to them, even if that means revolution or burning and tearing down an entire city. You go girl!
Also, Hardinge's books remind me ever so slightly of Diana Wynne Jones, beautiful language, curious situations and strange characters to encounter throughout.
Fourth Annual Worst Parent award: the Mother from Ico:Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe
There were other terrible parents I read about this year, neglectful ones, absent ones, a father in prison with unreasonable expectations, another father who does something horrible to his little boy, but the worse parent I encounter has to be the Queen from Ico: Castle in the Mist.
There's something epically horrible about a woman who claims her birthright as the child of a Dark God, tries to destroy the world and decides to drag her daughter along with her. For some reason being trapped together for several timeless centuries doesn't help them get over their differences. Huh.
First Runner up: the Father from Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Second Runner up: the Dowager Governess in Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Other favorite fairy tale books »