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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Mary Poppins Books

Almost three years ago, I talked about Mary Poppins books (practically perfect in every way).

These are books that deserve stars and commercial acclaim and critical praise. They are in the top of the crop for the year, but they’re… a little thin. Like Mary Poppins, they appear and have their moment and then off they go; unlike Mary Poppins, they don’t leave too much behind (she, after all, wrought change. Also earworms).

So yes, these are great books, but they are also books that don’t quite have that je ne sais quoi for the Printz. They are light reads. Delectable reads. Reads we are hard pressed to remember, but the vague memory comes with a smile. Oh, I loved that book! I might say about one of these books, but I recall nothing about it.

(This is the opposite of books like The White Darkness or Midwinterblood, books for which I feel no love but I remember it all and I STILL have a lot to say, and distinct from books like The Returning or Code Name Verity, which I both loved and could still talk about at length. Just to contextualize how I mentally sort and rank my reading.)

This year, there were a few books that fell into this category, separate from series books or books that really didn’t seem like contenders. These are books that I could easily believe received nominations, because in that first heady flush of reading they are so perfect, but they lack staying power. This is the category of book that I recall fondly from my own year on Printz because they were enjoyable to read and easy to let go of; the Mary Poppins book is not the book that prompts the bleed on the table plea for a closer look.

Here are three of the most perfect from this year. We recommend these for library purchase, for reading, and for Best Fiction for Young Adults. (Just not for the Printz.)

The Ring and the Crown, Melissa de la Cruz
Disney-Hyperion, April 2014
Reviewed from ARC

I (Joy) really enjoyed this series introduction from Melissa de la Cruz. It’s not likely to show up as a Printz contender because it’s the first in a series, so the plot doesn’t feel resolved enough to stand on its own, and because it’s slightly weighed down by all of the exposition that needs to happen. However, the novel is still a delightful beginning. De la Cruz establishes the mechanics of the world in the prologue–it’s the early twentieth century in an alternate universe with a Franco-Anglo empire. Although the politics of the plot are important, it’s the characters who truly drive the action. Oh, did I mention that there’s magic? De la Cruz balances the power games of the monarchy with the various romances–oh, there are many. At its core, this is the story of two girls pushing against society to create their own destinies.  Just as fascinating as it is squee-worthy, I’m looking forward to the sequel. -JP

Evil Librarian, Michelle Knudsen
Candlewick Press, September 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer in book form, which is always a win. Also did you catch that title? Talk about pandering… (Kidding!)

Sheer fun with a side of blood, and so easy to sell to teen readers. It’s a great piece of writing for what it is, but it’s silly and commercial and doesn’t hold up to any kind of close scrutiny. But I really had fun reading it. It’s campy. It’s smart. It’s got a great slow burn of a romance. And the protagonist (whose name totally escapes me) is all girl power all the time, which I appreciate as a woman and as an educator. But I forgot her name. And I wasn’t left with any larger questions or thoughts. Still, if you haven’t read this little treat yet, get thee to a library to check it out. You won’t be sorry. -KS

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, Kate Hattemer
Knopf, April 2014
Reviewed from ARC

 With 4 stars and a GREAT title, this is a book that grabbed some attention right out the gate.

And actually, this might be a contender I am dismissing too easily, now that I come to actually write down my thoughts. It’s sparkly and witty — in fact, there was a slight whiff of Dawson’s Creek-ery about these teens, who are smart in a hyper-realistic, talky way that is not, quite, like the John Green model of too smart teen protagonists. And the plot is very topical in a way that is also commentary on reality TV, although it’s maybe a little behind the times too (reality TV hasn’t gone away, but it’s not the shocker it used to be that it’s not actually very real after all, and I am not sure it’s actually a genre that teens pay that much attention to these days). There’s great use of literature that is organic to the story with Pound’s Cantos, there’s a conversation about art and commercialism, and it’s more about friendship than anything else. Also, Baconnaise (the only character I clearly remember). So I could see how there is meat here for discussion. But it struck me as pat and glossy and fun and I don’t think it quite has the umph needed to drop into serious contenderness. -KS

 

So that’s our Poppins pick list for the year. Got anything to add?

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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.

Comments

  1. Anne Bennett says:

    We have The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy on our Mock Printz list (titles selected in September before some of the really good titles were even published.) I LOVE the seamless way long poem is introduced and presented. I enjoyed the unique plot and the quirky characters. BUT the book isn’t really “doing it” for my teen readers and since I read it back in June I have felt the plot slipping away from me. Guess that is a clear sign that the book doesn’t have the special something that Printz winners have.

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