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Is It That Time of Year Already?

You know, the time of year when it’s all about the lists? When we see what achieved consensus among the review journals, what got dissed, and what we missed?

Why yes, folks, it IS that time, because November started with Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012. Now, PW is always first, and they’re earlier this year than last according to my notes, so it’ll probably be a while before we see any of the other YA lists. (But for those with an interest in the full range of kidlit, the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books 2012 is also out. You can check out the coverage at Calling Caldecott and 100 Scope Notes and weigh in with your thoughts.

And of course we’re less than 10 days from the NBA announcements, so there’s that too.)

But back to PW! And commentary!

We’ve already written at length about only three of the YA titles that made the fiction list (Bitterblue, The Fault in Our Stars, and No Crystal Stair).

Others are upcoming: Grave Mercy I’ll be posting about later this week, along with Code Name Verity (but you all know my feelings about that one any way, right?), so I won’t say any more than that for now about either of those books.

Almost everything else on PW’s list is also on our contender list (and maybe all this consensus means it IS a really excellent year?). Several of them are from repeat offenders, Printz style: Libba Bray’s The Diviners; A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers; Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island; and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. And then we’ve got Lois Lowry’s Son, which I haven’t read yet but hear is firmly YA (unlike the rest of the series).

The two outliers are Ron Koertge’s Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

Lies, Knives… is not on our contenda list, and I’m sort of surprised to see it here. I thought it was ambitious, but ultimately didn’t carry through — literally; many poems left me baffled because it seemed as if they were truncated and some necessary final stanza was lacking. The package is beautiful, though, and I think there is an audience for this, and again this is one tainted by the baggage of what we know: retold fairy tales and me go way back, including a massive multimedia annotated bibliography in graduate school. To a less versed audience (pun alert!), this might play differently. Any strong supporters want to weigh in on it and defend its place as best book of the year?

Cinder looks awesome (or at least awesomely fun) but I just haven’t read it yet, and neither strong buzz nor star count put it on our list. Oversight? Oddball choice from PW? Let us know.

I also haven’t read either of the graphic novels that made the list, which both fall into that dreadful 10-14 age bracket according to PW, which makes them possibly YA or possibly middle grade. Has anyone read Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson or Drama by Raina Telgemeier? Are they YA? Are they contendas?

PW also has a separate nonfiction list, and I don’t know what happened there — in this year of almost unprecedented strength in children’s YA, only four books made the PW list? Of those, one is clearly too young (it’s also on the NYT illustrated list); we’d also ruled out Chuck Close’s Face Book, which PW agrees skews younger. The remaining two, which are on our list, are Beyond Courage by Doreen Rappaport and We’ve Got a Job by Cynthia Y. Levinson. And while I haven’t even read it yet, I am most shocked by the lack of Bomb.

So what jumped out at you? What did they miss, what do you think will make every list, and what’s an inexplicable one-off?

About Karyn Silverman

Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (say that ten times fast!). Karyn has served on YALSA’s Quick Picks and Best Books committees and was a member of the 2009 Printz committee. She has reviewed for Kirkus and School Library Journal. She has a lot of opinions about almost everything, as long as all the things are books. Said opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, YALSA or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @InfoWitch or e-mail her at karynsilverman at gmail dot com.


  1. Just a truly dreadful showing by PW on Nonfiction. There are easily 10-15 great Nonfiction Children’s titles that are better than several on the fiction list.

    The fiction list itself reads more like a “most buzzed” list than a “best of” list. Very disappointing stuff.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      Mark, I’m not sure that’s an entirely fair assessment of the fiction. Several of these are fantastic reads, and while I think the list as a whole tends toward the obvious, it’s also a year in which the obvious and the excellent have overlap.
      Let’s also remember that this is PW, the one industry rag aimed at the booksellers rather than the librarians, so a certain commercial bias is, perhaps, both appropriate and forgivable.
      Your take on nonfiction, however, I absolutely agree with; I haven’t read nearly as much as you have, but just based on buzz from sources I trust (you among them, but not only you), it’s just unfathomable that there were only four books the editors at PW found worthy of noting here.

      (edited to add: gracious I sound a bit lofty! Blame it on lack of coffee.)

  2. Karyn – oh sure, call me on my crankiness (blame on my severe head cold) 😉

  3. I really enjoyed Cinder and think it’s probably one of the better sci-fi/futuristic books of the year, but more of just a fun read rather than one of outstanding literary quality.

    Hilda and the Midnight Giant is delightful and I’m glad to see it on PW’s list. It would definitely appeal to teens (and adults!), but I think it’s more of a children’s book akin to something like Coraline.

    Drama could fit into the Printz age bracket, but I’m not sure it would stand up to some of the stronger contenders from this year.

  4. “Best Books” for Cinder? Hardly. Don’t get me wrong – it was super fun and all – but it really doesn’t rank up there with the best quality books this year. But I can see why PW might put it there – that cover is OUTSTANDING and sells the book all on its own.

    Ditto what Whitney said re: Drama. I give HUGE kudos and thanks to Telgemeier for creating fantastic graphic novels for this demographic, but I don’t think Drama will be able to compete for the Printz this year.

    I was surprised about Bitterblue, actually. It is so dependent on having read the previous two books that I don’t think it can stand alone on a Best Books list.

    And am I officially the last one in the country to not have read Code Name Verity???

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