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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Seraphina

Seraphina 199x300 SeraphinaSeraphina, Rachel Hartman
Random House, July 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Gosh golly, but I love rereading.

Books change upon acquaintance. They get deeper (or, sometimes, shallower, but let’s not go there); different aspects bubble to the top; when the reader is no longer at the mercy of the plot’s momentum there is time to really savor all the different elements, even those that were initially subtle notes.

(Also, apparently, books are actually pots of soup. Mmmm, soup.)

Seraphina is one of those books that improves upon acquaintance, and which lingers after consuming reading. Having now read it three times, I find that actually, I love this book. And while love is immaterial, I’m also incredibly impressed at the way it keeps revealing new facets (rather like the moment Seraphina first sees dragons in their dragon forms, and realizes that the initially dull scales are filled with all sorts of color, in fact).

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Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity Code Name VerityCode Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
Hyperion, May 2012
Reviewed from ARC

At last! I finally get to write about my one true love of the year, the book I will champion against all others as the be all, end all best book of the year.

(Sorry, Railsea, you rock, but you’re still not number one, Pyrite nomination notwithstanding.)

Oh god, now that the moment is here I feel such pressure to make the case. Because this is, for my money, the runaway best written book of the year. And yes, I loved it, but that’s not actually the point at all. The point is that this is a masterwork of writing, full of literary flourishes, tightly plotted, rich in character, well-grounded in reality, haunting in setting, and just hitting it out of the park on so many levels. It deserves the Printz.

(And look, people, the world has been amazing about keeping mum about some of the intricacies of this plot, because there are twists and reveals and they are super. But after nearly a year of keeping mum unless the other party in the conversation had also read it, I’m going to break my discretion, because I can’t discuss CNV with any level of specificity or textual evidence unless I give it all away. So do us all a favor. If you haven’t read CNV yet, please don’t click through. This is a book that is already fettered by the weight of expectation for some readers; do yourself a favor and read it unspoiled. We’ll wait. You’ll be back.)

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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?

Books in Brief

I’ve been reading like  madwoman lately, trying to get through any books that anyone I know has mentioned favorably in the context of award getting. I have one more (Brooklyn Burning) that I want to finish and one review from our original contenda list left to post (Beauty Queens), and Sarah’s been working on a pile of her own, so we’ll get all that up this week. But MOSTLY what we’re going to give you this week is a Mock Printz of (y)our own. The list will post tomorrow, and we’ll give until probably midnight Wednesday to vote, and then do honor book polls with the goal to post all results by Saturday, just as the REAL committee is finishing their own discussions, decisions, and votes.

But I’m jumping ahead, because what this post is really about the last minute reading I’ve been doing.

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Under the Mesquite

Under the Mesquite 203x300 Under the MesquiteThis was a late addition to our reading pile thanks to the Morris nod and a presence on one of the year-end lists. It’s not an easy book to track down; I struck out at a few bookstores and the local library system (where it is owned but in single digits). But I finally got my hands on it and read it in just a few hours.

And I’m a little underwhelmed. It’s a lovely book, and I think it’s an important one: there are not enough books like this, in which a Mexican-American family lives their life, and the focus is not on assimilation or immigration but on the family, and their duality (Mexican/American, Spanish/English) shapes them but isn’t the whole story by a long shot.

Instead, this is about love and loss and family, important and universal themes.

But it’s thin. [Read more...]

Sarah’s Top 5

Karyn has talked about this before — the conundrum you face when you really love a book but eventually have to admit that it’s flawed. I mean, maybe you email your committee about [REDACTED] and they respond politely at first, promising to take a look. But then you keep emailing and eventually someone, someone, has to respond and say, “Sarah, it’s a fun read but what about [REDACTED]? And you know, I had trouble believing [REDACTED]. And the [REDACTED] really just didn’t work, either, and I’m not even going to get into the [REDACTED].”

That’s when personal top five lists can come in really handy; you get to acknowledge — even celebrate — your baggage and then you can try to stuff it back in the closet and refocus on committee work. [Read more...]

New Kids on the Block

woodpecker New Kids on the BlockI doubt this is news to anyone, but the Morris shortlist was released the other day.

Three of the five were on our original contenda list (although we’ve only discussed two so far), and a fourth was a late addition thanks to reader response when we first discussed (and almost dismissed) it (we will definitely be revisiting it now).

(The fifth was on the books that made a best of year list but that we had oops! missed pile, so NOW it’s on our list, twice over.)

This kind of recognition automatically puts a book higher in the public estimation. But does it actually affect or correlate with Printz recognition?

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Stay With Me

stay 150x150 Stay With MeStay With Me got, by my count, four starred reviews, and I’m sure it will be (well, is already, since it’s out!) a hit with teen readers, too. I think it earned those stars, and I believe it will circulate well and be well-loved by lots and lots of teens.

It’s a Way 3 read for me (though I’ll admit, I’m not totally wild about it personally, it’s more that I cannot wait to hand it off to teens and would love to hear their thoughts). This is a book that doesn’t quite stand up to the close scrutiny of Printz-magnifying glasses, I think.  [Read more...]

Just One More

hornbook 225x300 Just One More

CC-licensed image by dougbelshaw

List, that is.

The Horn Book Best of 2011 list posted today.

This means that all of our pre Jan 1 lists are out: BCCB and Booklist should release their lists right around the New Year (so much for a winter break!)

Here’s how it all shakes out:

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Stop Playing Games with My Heart (More Best Lists)

stacks 300x225 Stop Playing Games with My Heart (More Best Lists)This week brought us not one but two great lists!

On Monday, Kirkus Reviews posted the Best Teen Books of 2011, and it was FULL of surprises. Surprises in the whoops, I missed that book entirely category, so color me chagrined (I imagine it a sort of blush color, to suit the physical manifestation of the emotion).

I’m consoling myself with the repeated mantra of “Best and Printz are not the same.” They’re not mutually exclusive, but the overlap can be slim depending on how best is defined and given that the Printz Award goes to one book and an honor goes to no more than four books; whereas we can have hundreds of books defined as best in a list (although usually not more than 100 on any single list).

And then, on Thursday, we finally got the full School Library Journal list! Which was happily less full of surprises.

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