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Someday My Printz Will Come
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Partial Non-Fiction Roundup Part Two

Hello! I hope your 2015 is going well! We are getting closer and closer to the big, Printzly reveal, you know. And in the interest of getting through a few more titles on our long (and always growing, it seems) list, here’s another nonfiction roundup. This time, we’re looking at three of the five finalists for Excellence in NonfictionIda M Tarbell, Laughing at my Nightmare, and Popular. (We’ve already checked out Port Chicago and the Romanovs aallllllllll the way back in 2014.) They all three show a wide variety of topics covered for teens in nonfiction, and also all three have compelling, particular perspectives on our world.

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business — and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully
Clarion Books, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy

First up, we have Emily Arnold McCully’s biography on Ida M. Tarbell. With one starred review, we added it to our long list once it got the Excellence in Nonfiction’s finalist stamp of approval. It’s definitely impeccably researched, with clear writing and a balanced view of its subject — McCully doesn’t try to hide any of Tarbell’s 2015-unfriendly attitudes (her thinking on Mussolini, or her rejection of women’s suffrage, for example). McCully provides enough details and quotes from Tarbell’s writing, and does a fine job of placing Tarbell in her historical context. The text is bolstered by historical photographs. This isn’t the review-darling that the Romanovs and Port Chicago are, but it’s a strong biography in its own right, with as much to say about our the present world as about Tarbell’s.

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
Roaring Brook, October 2014
Reviewed from ARC and then final copy

A book of my heart this year: the book I added to our list and then took off when it never got a starred review: Shane Burcaw’s Laughing at my Nightmare. I’ve been following him since Tumblr showcased his blog. I ended up taking it off the list after I read about half the book — it was mostly from the blog, which I’d already read. I figured that would be the end of it; I’m so glad the committee ignored me! Though I don’t think Burcaw has added much new content to the book — it is episodic and random in the way all the best blogs are as they publish, live — it still shows what a unique perspective he has, and still reveals his hilarious sense of humor. He’s always upfront about his experience with muscular dystrophy, but that’s never entirely the focus of his writing. Burcaw has a lot to say about life, and so what could tend to the Very Special After School Special is instead sharp and insightful. It’s a memorable read.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
Dutton, April 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Another book with a very young — in this case, still a teenage — author! Van Wagenen used a vintage popularity guide to help her in her yearlong quest to find popularity in her Texas high school. It’s the kind of book that sounds like stunt writing — a little too good to be true, a little too much concept and too little content — but Van Wagenen is a charming narrator with a sweet story. And some of the details of the background work well to contrast the read with the cover/packaging; Van Wagenen includes details about rough neighborhoods, gangs, a school lockdown. With some unexpected grit, an endearing narrator, and a relatable situation, Popular has charm to spare.

So what does this leave us in Printz-land? (Or, more accurately, Pyrite Land round these parts and at this point of the year.) I don’t think either of these three will overtake Romanovs or Port Chicago (and I loved A Volcano Beneath the Snow, though of course that’s not on the table for ENF). Not to mention the many other nonfiction titles we’ve raved about/looked at/considered. I’ve got a repeat conclusion from last week — these are strong titles, but I wouldn’t bet money on them going too far in RealCommittee’s conversations. But what do you all think? And do you have any predictions for the Excellence in Nonfiction winner? Let’s talk in the comments!

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About Sarah Couri

Sarah Couri is a librarian at Grace Church School's High School Division, and has served on a number of YALSA committees, including Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, and (most pertinently!) the 2011 Printz Committee. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, GCS, YALSA, or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @scouri or e-mail her at scouri35 at gmail dot com.

Comments

  1. So talk to me about Laughing at My Nightmare. I picked it up and almost bought it for our collection (I’m a middle school librarian) but read some reviews that said that he talked a lot about sex in it. Do you think it would be okay for a middle school collection, with a YA sticker on it? I’ve got John Green, Laini Taylor, Sarah Maas, etc. in the library, plus a fair amount of adult nonfiction, but I try to be careful about sexual content. I’d love to have your feedback as a fellow librarian!

  2. amazing posts

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