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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Nonfiction roundup

Well, perhaps less of a round up than an offering of two books — two books that I don’t think will go the distance in PrintzLand (although of course only time will tell). We’re looking at the Freedman book on Lincoln and Douglass and the Aronson book on J. Edgar Hoover. My problems with each are…interestingly contradictory, I’m afraid. (And in my struggle to work through all of this, I find myself wishing I could just link to all the amazing, inappropriate, unhelpful but hilarious videos I can find. Forgive me, you guys. And thanks, Spielberg, for releasing a movie at the perfect moment for this blog post. How timely that Lincoln is so zeitgeisty.)

And at the risk of destroying all blogging creditability up front, I will also admit that nonfiction is not at all my area of reviewing expertise. I was a history major in college, but that was a long time ago, and I don’t feel entirely comfortable looking at nonfiction from a literary perspective. Of course in PrintzLand we start and end with Printz policies and procedures. But in an effort to feel a little more prepared to write this blog post, I also took a look at YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award policies. “The title must include excellent writing, research, presentation and readability for young adults.” OK, check. Do you feel ready?  [Read more...]

Year of the Beasts

beasts Year of the BeastsYear of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell
Roaring Brook, May 2012
Reviewed from final copy

By my count, Year of the Beasts has received two stars; it’s in the buzz portion of our contenda list. Some of that buzz, I know, has been from me to Karyn: Cecil Castellucci is always doing interesting work, and Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole blew me away a few years ago and I can’t wait to read it, I kept saying. I’ve actually been carrying this book around in my bag for months, starting it and then stopping because…well, I don’t know why, exactly. I just wanted to keep reading it, I think. (Don’t look for sense-making there.) So it seems having a hard deadline for a review is a good thing for this type of nonsensical situation. I don’t think Karyn wants to hear any more buzz from me until I can also tell her I actually read the book.

We have: summer, the end of school, the arrival of the carnival, sisters, friends, boys. But then fall arrives, and so do tragedies, Greek myths, panels and pictures. Told in alternating chapters, this is the story of Tessa and Lulu. Castellucci writes the summer chapters, the Then chapters. Tessa and Lulu had a hard summer; Tessa is the older sister, the plainer sister, the sister with a crush on Charlie. Lulu is younger, prettier — and Charlie only has eyes for her. Powell’s art takes over the fall chapters, the Now chapters, except that Now Tessa’s monster self is apparent; she is transformed into Medusa and her hard eyed glare turns friends and family into stone figures. Her friend, Celina, is a siren, a mermaid on a seashell. And Tessa can’t take her eyes off the Minotaur, a wounded, wandering figure that doesn’t want to speak to her. [Read more...]

Bitterblue

bitterblue BitterblueBitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Dial Books, May 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

I should probably be honest: I read this book as a fan first. I enjoyed Graceling and was impressed by Fire; I was more than curious about Cashore’s new book. Once I stole borrowed — with total intent to return! Someday! — Karyn’s copy, I read it and figured I was just reading it for myself. I love how feminist these books are, I love how strong Cashore’s protagonists are. But Bitterblue has stayed with me through the year, and it received four stars, bumping it into auto-contenda status. Yay!

So I’m being upfront and outing myself as a fan from the get-go — really trying to own my baggage, I suppose. But let me also say right at the start: I think this is a good read but unfortunately I suspect it’s not quite as strong on reread. [Read more...]

The Obsidian Blade

obsidian The Obsidian BladeThe Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman
Candlewick, April 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

I have a feeling this is going to be a short review, in part at least because I didn’t finish reading this one. Yes, we’ve gotten to my first DNF of the year (at least, my first public blogging about a DNF title; rest assured, there have been others). (Er. We all know that DNF is Did Not Finish, yes? I first saw Liz B use that acronym at Teacozy, so I’m assuming it’s a thing. A Thing, actually.)

Can I also just mention that I’m super bummed to out myself as someone who did not finish a Pete Hautman book? Because I would really prefer, as a fan, to be raving about this book — it’s science fiction! It’s full of action! It’s Pete Hautman! National Book Winner Pete Hautman! He will write any book and make it pretty awesome! Pete Hautman, people! [Read more...]

The Children and the Wolves

wolves The Children and the WolvesThe Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp
Candlewick, February 2012
Reviewed from a final copy

I’ve never read an Adam Rapp book before, so I volunteered for this one. Volunteered! I said, sure, I will read it. Oh, you guys. I mean, I thought I was prepared. I tried to be ready. And this book was exactly what I thought it would be, so…I guess that means I was as ready and prepared as I could be? Maybe? I might also be a little broken inside, though.

So: Bounce, Orange, and Wiggins are three middle schoolers who meet in detention. Bounce is the ring leader who provides drugs from her rich, successful, and usually absent parents. Her latest plan: to kidnap a four year old (whom they call the Frog), chain her in the basement, and go door-to-door raising money for her rescue. The Frog spends her time in the basement playing a video game that gives the novel its title. Orange is happy to go along with any idea Bounce has — and she has more of them as the book goes on. Wiggins is uncomfortable with their actions, but isn’t quite sure what to do.  [Read more...]

Froi of the Exiles

 Froi of the ExilesFroi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Candlewick, March 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Melina Marchetta! Chronicles of Lumatere! Part two! Froi! Yes, I was pretty excited to read this one. With three (? check my math on that) starred reviews, and a real affection for Finnikin of the Rock, I was ready for a fabulous read. And I did enjoy Froi as a personal read, just for me, but I’m not totally convinced of its contenda-ness for Printz Purposes.

As you might recall from Finnikin, order has very recently been restored to Lumatere; only three years ago, Finnikin and Isaboe were able to break the curse on their homeland and retake their land from the evil king of the neighboring country Charyn. Froi was an important part of that story, and is now a member of the Lumateran guard with a gift for languages. He is training as an assassin, and heads off to Charyn, where he’s expected to kill the evil king. The country of Charyn has suffered under a terrible curse of their own — no one has born any children for the past 18 years, and the land and people suffer from their barren condition. Froi finds an altogether more complicated situation, however, and killing the king becomes the least of his problems, as he meets the emotionally unstable Quintana and confronts the truth of his own past.

[Read more...]

Final Four

finalfour Final FourThe Final Four, Paul Volponi
Viking, March 2012
Reviewed from final copy

I suspect this will be a short review (well, short for our usual average of 900-1000 words around these parts). But if you strongly disagree with me, I suppose the comments will make up for my brevity up here, right!? Paul Volponi’s The Final Four is an auto-contenda because it’s received four starred reviews. It’s a pleasure to read; I don’t dispute any of the stars or the reviews. But in the end, I don’t believe this will go the distance in Printzland. [Read more...]

Chopsticks

 ChopsticksChopsticks, Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
Razorbill, February 2012
Reviewed from Final Copy

Chopsticks is a particularly interesting item from the buzzed-about portion of our contenda list. It’s a fascinating format — available digitally and physically — full of arresting visuals and links to outside media. Although there are very few words on each page, the visual elements are all carefully chosen and placed. Analyzing the title feels like it requires a special vocabulary; it’s not quite a graphic novel; it feels most like a found scrapbook. [Read more...]

You may have noticed that John Green wrote a book this year

 You may have noticed that John Green wrote a book this yearThe Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Dutton, January 2012
Reviewed from final copy

This is easily one of the biggest titles of the year — six starred reviews! Big time buzz! John Green! Previous Printz winner! Nerdfighters! — so we’ve been thinking about it for a while. Since this is a book from a former Printz winner and honoree, we knew we’d be reading it with our Printz glasses on. When you add the serious subject matter, the thoughtful treatment of said subject matter, the memorable characters, and the five-hanky tear-jerker of a plot, you know there’s a lot to talk about in terms of Printz-worthiness.

Hazel has terminal cancer. Augustus is a cancer survivor who has lost a leg to the disease. They meet in a teen cancer support group. It’s complicated and baggage-filled love almost at first sight. She doesn’t want to die on him; he wants to save everyone. It’s clearly a recipe for heartbreaking disaster. Their mutual love of (fictional) Peter Van Hauten’s (fictional) An Imperial Affliction gives the two an excuse for a road trip, but plot happens and PLOT PLOT PLOT. [Read more...]

The Whys & Wherefores of the Printz Award, Postscript: Practical Matters

highlighter The Whys & Wherefores of the Printz Award, Postscript: Practical Matters

Image from flickr user kodomut. Used under cc license.

We’ve looked at the Printz process, and ruminated on the idea of literary excellence. Now it’s time to look at some of the more practical details: how do you find books to read? How do you get all that reading done? How do you remember the books you’ve read? [Read more...]