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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Thumper’s Dad (A Roundup)

Once upon a time ago, over on Heavy Medal, Jonathan very boldly (and wittily) ran a post with just a title and the cover of the book.

His point was that sometimes you just don’t have anything good to say about a book, so why say anything at all?

I’m not nearly as bold, nor are my opinions so strongly unspeakable, but today I’m aiming to be very nearly as brief with a crop of books that that just won’t go the distance.

Infinite In Between coverInfinite In Between, Carolyn Mackler
HarperTeen, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy

Mackler is a previous honoree and one of those authors I will always read. This one has huge appeal; in fact, I’ve just field nominated it for BFYA. The concept is worth noting (five narrators, 4 years, so that there is a very large story encoded in very brief vignettes highlighting the ways near strangers can orbit around one another and how lives intersect), but the effect of that concept is that a lot is crammed in. I might be dismissing this too easily, though; the reviews have been largely glowing.

zeroes coverZeroes, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti
Simon Pulse, September 2015
Reviewed from e-ARC

Another book I looked at with an eye to previous winners and honorees. This is fun; a sort of send up of superhero stories, and compulsively readable (the tagline is “X-men meets Heroes,” which probably tell you everything you need to know). It never quite hit a level that made me sit up and take notice beyond “fun;” I do find myself wondering if a second read would find more, given that there is some genre subversion happening, but it struck me as surface level subversion. More critically for the Printz conversation, this is first in a trilogy. I’ve written about this before (also here); looking at a series book against stand alone books is like putting a chapter from one book up against complete books. Too often, book one has great set up, but too much is left trailing because it’s only a piece of a larger work rather than a complete work in and of itself. Eligible? Sure. Likely to get very far? It would take a much rarer book than this.

The Truth CommissionThe Truth Commission, Susan Juby
Viking, April 2015
Reviewed from final e-copy

I am 100% willing to hear how wrong I am on this one. I enjoyed it plenty, but didn’t see the brilliance several of you saw. However — and this is a Sarah-style “big but” — I bought and read this in e-copy, because I was impatient. And I think e and footnotes are a bad match, so it may be that the less than optimal format deeply affected my reading. So bring on the counter arguments; Juby is another author I love, and humor never gets the props it should, meaning this is one I would love (so much love in this tiny paragraph) to be wrong about.

the last leaves fallingThe Last Leaves Falling, Sarah Benwell
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 2015
Reviewed from final copy

Confession: I only read the beginning of this, and then jumped to the very end. Given the many many conversations about diversity and cultural appropriation we’ve all been having, I had some immediate discomfort with the Japanese setting, primarily in the shape of questions about authenticity. On the other hand, four stars and an unusual premise (well, sicklit isn’t unusual, otherwise we wouldn’t have that terrible descriptor, but the sickness depicted is one I’ve never seen in any book) have me thinking I could be convinced that this deserves another chance, so I am open to arguments about other readings or insights from those who, you know, actually have read this all the way through.

DumplinDumplin’, Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray, September 2015
Reviewed from ARC

I LOVE this book. It’s heart warming and delicious and full of positive body messages. Definitely a must read, definitely deserves attention. I just don’t see it being Printz attention, although (I can ALWAYS argue both sides), it’s possible I’m doing the automatic dismissal of women’s fiction thing. I don’t think it’s that, but it’s possible. This wins on theme (the body positivity is a piece, but it’s more finding and declaring your own self, in all ways) and has a great voice, it’s just not quite top 5. But if you’ve been ignoring this, do yourself a favor and read it.

So there you have it, 5 books in roughly 500 words. Brevity, yes. Accuracy? You tell me; comments are open.

 

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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. It’s clear that Sarah Benwell did a lot of research, but Sora’s fascination with samurai doesn’t read to me as authentic, and neither does the Japanese teen internet culture depicted in the book. (I am not Japanese, but I lived there, and I speak the language more or less fluently). I haven’t finished the book yet, though.

    • Karyn Silverman says:

      It was the Samurai obsession (and the notion of the noble suicide) that set off my alarm bells from the start, which was exacerbated by the ending. I agree that there is respect and research, but it didn’t feel authentic. Another minor early question you might know the answer to: in Japan, would you say you were eating “noodles” (generic)? I wondered. I suspect, in terms of RealCommittee speculation, that these questions will could well keep this off the table.

      • I can definitely see *some* Japanese teenager being obsessed with samurai, but only if there was something in his background that made it make sense — one of those teenagers who has a slightly overeager interest in war planes and warships and is still sad over Japan’s defeat in WWII and Japan’s loss of military power and glory since the days of the samurai. But that only brings into focus how little of Sora’s personality we really get to see, beyond him being interested in literature and baseball.

        No, it wouldn’t be typical to refer to generic noodles — you’d say ramen, soba, udon, and so on. But that’s a minor wording thing to me; in a novel translated from Japanese, I wouldn’t have a problem with the translator translating ‘soba’ as ‘noodles,’ especially if they were trying to keep things accessible for a younger audience. I’m more bothered by the reference to “Jell-O” in the hospital (even putting the brand name aside, gelatin’s not a typical Japanese hospital food), the inexplicable Arnold Schwarzenegger fan group (a cursory search revealed no Arnold Schwarzenegger bulletin boards in Japanese — why NOT do the research to figure out who’s a celebrity now in Japan? Just make it Arashi or something, they’ve been around for long enough that it wouldn’t feel super dated), the fact that Sora would like to be a fountain pen like the ones used for ‘beautiful calligraphy’ even though beautiful calligraphy in Japan is typically done with a brush instead of a pen…

  2. I think Dumplin is one of those books that doesn’t quite hit for Printz but I would expect to see on BFYA Top 10 and other year end lists with broader criteria. I haven’t read Truth Commission yet, but my gut is that it falls in the same category.

  3. Of these I have only read Dumplin’ and The Truth Commission so far. I agree with you on Dumplin’ I think the book is Important and Fun (a rare combination) but a lot of it didn’t work for me because of personal baggage. On a more relevant level, I also just thought that the plot dragged too much to really make this book a stellar read. Although I also felt that way about Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging so I guess there is still a possibility?

    I definitely think The Truth Commission suffered for being read as an eBook. In print the interplay between footnotes and the actual story (not to mention the illustrations is great). I’m even interviewing Susan Juby about it on my blog next month because I had so much to say. What I liked and what I think makes it Printz worthy is that the novel works on so many levels with ideas about Truth versus what we present to the world and also as a self-aware book that engages with what is means to create a book. There’s also the big ideas about art and how people engage with it although that’s one of my favorite topics so maybe I’m being biased here.

    This is probably not relevant to awards discussions but I also liked the way Normandy works in this story to create her own support system when her family fails her.

  4. I like The Truth Commission a lot but because of the footnotes. If it is going to be considered at all it is on the merit of the footnotes and the “creative nonfiction style.” My teen readers aren’t saying much when they return this book so either, a. they don’t like it, or b. they aren’t actually reading the footnotes so they don’t get the fuss.

    The best part of The Last Leaves Falling is the references to Japanese culture…the flavors of ice cream, the public transportation, the ghost creatures that a cat will keep away. Loved that aspect. The euthanasia issue seemed a bit too easy or breezy for me. I did like the book, though.

    • The thing is, so many of the references to Japanese culture are just incorrect. (You won’t find any place in Japan that sells fifty flavors of ice cream; there’s Baskin Robbins which has 31 flavors, but flavors like squid ink and sweet potato are very regional and you would get them at a neighborhood place that has one or two or three flavors, not Baskin Robbins.)

      • Karyn Silverman says:

        If anyone on the RealCommittee has even a fraction of Emily’s knowledge (or reads these comments, or spends some time researching, which is likely because librarians), these accuracy issues should be enough to take it off the table, assuming it made it on in the first place.

  5. I have a friend who loved The Truth Commission – and even held it up favorably to The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, which I loved – but it didn’t work for me at all. And I wanted to find it compelling! I found the entire plot to be a small-scale mystery masquerading as a Great Work of Truth, and that didn’t work for me, at all. Mostly because its examination of truth didn’t work for me at all. And I found the characters to be one-dimensional throughout the entire story, which didn’t help matters either.

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