Did you fill out your bracket (link opens a PDF)?! The Battle starts tomorrow, so if you haven't, you'd better get crackin'. And without further ado, I give you my first round picks (complete with peanut-gallery-type commentary).
(First of all, I just have to say that it's so hard to make these choices. The books we're comparing are so very different! But I'll give it my best shot.)
Octavian Nothing Vol 2 vs. Ways to Live Forever, judged by Roger Sutton. I liked Ways to Live Forever and I never could get through either of the Octavian Nothing books (maybe someday I will). Now, Horn Book didn't star Octavian and they did star Ways to Live Forever. But I think I've got to give this one to Octavian because everyone gushes about it. It just seems like one of those books that's going to be deemed "better".
The Graveyard Book vs. The Trouble Begins at 8, judged by Jon Scieszka (and yes, I can spell his name without looking it up!). There's no question that I, myself, prefer Trouble. I had a few problems with The Graveyard Book and I just didn't love it. That said, Graveyard is a popular favorite and who doesn't love Neil Gaiman? I have to go with The Graveyard Book on this one.
Chains vs. Washington at Valley Forge, judged by Elizabeth Partridge. Oh, this one is no contest for me. First, I must confess that I hadn't even heard of Washington at Valley Forge before this bracket was released. And a Russell Freedman book that's not getting buzz, well, doesn't that speak for itself? But mostly, I just loved, loved, loved Chains. (So much that I think I've got it going all the way...) So Chains is my definite pick for this one.
Here Lies Arthur vs. Tender Morsels, judged by Meg Rosoff. This was a bit difficult because I haven't read either of the books in question. I started Arthur but put it down because it just wasn't my thing at the time. I'm going with Tender Morsels on the strength of its Printz honor win (and it is being judged by a Printz-winning author...).
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks vs. We Are the Ship, judged by Rachel Cohn. This is another one that's just no contest for me. I loved Frankie; it was on our Cybils shortlist. I loved a lot of things about We Are the Ship, but I did have a problem with it. And I've got to think that YA fiction author Cohn is going to go with Frankie.
The Hunger Games vs. The Porcupine Year, judged by Ellen Wittlinger. Again, no contest for me. The Hunger Games was my hands-down favorite book of 2008. I even reread it and plan on rereading it again before Catching Fire is released.
Graceling vs. The Underneath, judged by Tamora Pierce. This is a tough one for me because I loved both these books, but in very different ways. Graceling has a kick-butt heroine and adventure and romance and a well-constructed fantasy world. The Underneath has achingly beautiful writing and unforgettable characters. I love them both, but I have to think that Ms. Pierce (author of many a kick-butt fantasy heroine) is going to go with Graceling.
The Lincolns vs. Nation, judged by Ann Brashares. I'm going to go with The Lincolns strictly because I heard Candace Fleming talk about it at an event and she's utterly charming. This one could go either way!
So, there you have my picks for the first round! We'll start finding out the winners tomorrow, so make sure you're tuning in to the Battle of the (Kids') Books Blog and following them on Twitter. Where do you think I've gone wrong? What do you agree with? What are YOUR picks?