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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

How I Discovered Poetry

How I Discovered Poetry cover 198x300 How I Discovered PoetryHow I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Dial Books, January 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Marilyn Nelson, author of the 2006 Printz honor book A Wreath for Emmett Till, is responsible for what may be this year’s most unique contender, pairing two genres only occasionally spotted in the YA world — memoir and poetry — to make a whole that is notable and worth recognizing. [Read more...]

The (Very Long) List

I Love Spreadsheets1 247x300 The (Very Long) ListWe’ve got a list. We’ve checked it twice.

(I want to make a naughty or nice joke, but really, naughty books just don’t make it on Printz contender speculation lists.)

We’ve considered buzz, that strange ephemeral thing that happens on Goodreads and Twitter, we’ve looked at stars (shoutouts, ever and always, to Jen and her amazing list, without which we would have no accurate data on stars and books), and finally we’ve gone over the list of previous winners and honorees to see who has new books out this year.

Whew!

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It’s such an honor

Heading into the honor vote, we knew a few things: Eleanor & Park and Winger were in strong positions to do well based on where they finished behind Boxers & Saints. Although E&P ended up 26 points behind Boxers & Saints (and Winger was 36 points behind), there was only a 24 point margin between E&P, Winger, The Summer Prince and Far Far Away. Additionally, E&P, Winger and The Summer Prince all did well with first place votes (5, 6, and 6 respectively; interestingly, Far Far Away only received 2) in the vote for gold, indicating that they would all be good bets for Pyrite honors.

Another eight titles also had legitimate chances at grabbing an honor spot from any of the titles above based on the number of first and second place votes they received in the vote for gold: All the Truth That’s in Me, Black Helicopters, Fangirl, The Midnight Dress, Midwinterblood, Mortal Fire, Rose Under Fire, and September Girls. These were titles that ended up with fewer weighted points overall, but when they did receive support it was usually in a first or second place slot.

As happened last year, we had roughly half the number of voters for honors as we did for gold. (Again, probably due to all the fun everyone’s having at ALA). However—and this is really exciting—nearly everyone who voted in the honor round had also voted for gold! Because we had such a small pool of voters, the data can’t necessarily scale up well, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Read on to see if there were any surprises, what it all means, and to look at pretty charts!
[Read more...]

Fangirl — Finally!

16068905 Fangirl    Finally!Why isn’t Fangirl getting more Printz buzz? It’s earned five stars and has appeared on a couple best of 2013 lists.

Is the subject too niche? Are readers putting all their support behind Eleanor & Park?

Whitney Winn of Youth Services Corner did a useful roundup of Mock Printz lists. While E&P appeared on all nineteen of the lists included in her data, Fangirl was on just five.

Am I taking crazy pills?

I lurve E&P. You know I do. But Fangirl is the stronger book. It’s richer thematically, has better characterizations, a more complex story, and a fascinating structure. If only one of Rowell’s novels is recognized by the Real Committee this year, it should be Fangirl.
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Roundup: All the Books

Okay, not all the books, but three books for the price of one post: The Golden Day, Winger, and The Midnight Dress.

(It was going to be four books, because I stayed up way too late reading More Than This the other night, but I think I need to sit on that for another day or so before I can do it justice.)

Other than the facts that all three feature murders and have garnered three stars, these aren’t linked by anything other than that they needed to be talked about in the context of awards season.

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Roundup: In a worst case scenario

We’re about two weeks away from the YMA’s so it’s the perfect time to highlight some books that are flying under the awards radar. Both of the titles I’m looking at today have excellent character writing and deal with themes of violence and what people do in extreme circumstances. Neither book quite has what it takes for the Printz, but I was surprised that they didn’t show up on more best of the year lists. Thankfully, both are BFYA nominees so while I keep my fingers crossed, read on for why I think they deserve some kind of recognition.

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Death and Love: Sorrow’s Knot & The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Today, I’m talking about two books that are in my personal top 10 of the year. And both revolve around death and love, two primal, powerful pieces of life.

And they’re both fantastic.

Other than that, they’re really different, and I suspect neither of them has much chance at a Printz nod, which is sort of a shame.

[Read more...]

Message or Masterpiece (Or, Does the Problem Novel Still Exist?)

Today we’re running a roundup of books that we think are worth discussing because they are in the top, say, 100 of the year. But they aren’t quite there, and we don’t think they’ll go the distance. And to make the post about more than just a series of short reviews, we’ve limited today’s roundup to books that have a lot to offer but seem to lose out on Printzliness in the name of message or purpose. Every time we discuss these books, we find ourselves focused on a central issue not of writing but of the world: an issue discussed in the books at hand but not really of them.

And as we discussed this, we found ourselves comparing these books to the problem novels of yesteryear, because like them, what the books are about seems to weigh more heavily then how they are written, even if the how is light years beyond the old chestnuts. And really, these books offer so much more than just the issues at their hearts — but we were struck by the ways that the social issue at the heart of the text stuck in our heads the longest, outweighing the literary elements. Is this about our own biases, seeing and holding on to the part that feels like a news soundbite — and therefore, easy to remember and the sort of thing that we are reminded of by the outside world on a sadly too frequent basis — or is it an issue in the writing?

Let’s see! [Read more...]

Yellowcake

yellowcake YellowcakeYellowcake, Margo Lanagan
Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 2013
Reviewed from Final Copy

Short stories aren’t always my favorite – collections can be so uneven sometimes; I’d rather spend time in a big long novel. But Margo Lanagan seems to be trying to convince me that I – even I! – can love a collection of short stories. Yellowcake is everything you’d expect – a generally strong collection of stories full of beautiful writing; disturbing images; colliding, twining themes. It’s s strong contender, although I’m not totally convinced it will take a medal in the end.

Let’s talk about what’s good here first. The language, of course (“Styx water is sharp and bites inside your nose.”): effective, unexpected, powerful. Her carefully crafted dialogue provides clues and insights into her characters (Gallantine’s very few, studiedly casual, deceptively mild lines gave me chills, for instance). Lanagan is an amazing writer, and she does her usual awesome job here, too. [Read more...]

Far Far Away: Once upon a time…

16030663 Far Far Away: Once upon a time... Far Far Away, Tom McNeal
Knopf Books for Young Readers, July 2013
Reviewed from Final Copy

It is perhaps the most polarizing title of the year. Love, hate, and debate about audience have all bubbled up around Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away. A National Book Award finalist, the novel also has five starred reviews and has made four of the year’s best lists; clearly, there is a lot of love for this book. But whenever I discuss Far Far Away with someone who didn’t like it, they don’t just dislike the book, it’s more like disdain.

I’m not one of those people but I’m not quite on the side of adoration either. McNeal’s most prominent theme is story—its power and our lives as stories are two variations that we see in the novel. McNeal’s use of storytelling (specifically, fairy tales) as a major theme is done well enough, but when analyzed with other elements of the novel such as voice, style, and characters, Far Far Away is a book made up of discrete notes that, when played together, make a dissonant sound.
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