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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

A Volcano Beneath the Snow

volcano A Volcano Beneath the Snow

A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin
Knopf, April 2014
Reviewed from final copy

JOHN BROWN TAKE THE WHEEL is probably not how you expected this review to start, but let’s embrace the unexpected and just go with it. With four stars and some rave reviews happening, Albert Marrin’s A Volcano Beneath the Snow is definitely getting some love here and there. [Read more...]

Roundup: Boarding School Blues

17797364 Roundup: Boarding School Blues20601687 Roundup: Boarding School BluesThis morning, we’re looking at two novels set in boarding schools; And We Stay is Jenny Hubbard’s follow up to her 2012 Morris Award Finalist, Paper Covers Rock, and debut author Chelsey Philpot is inspired by classic literature in Even in Paradise.*

Both novels feature a young woman with a traumatic past who, in her junior year, transfers to a boarding school in New England amidst whispered rumors and speculation. Ostensibly, these stories are quite similar.

But… not really. [Read more...]

A Time to Dance

atimetodance 281x387 217x300 A Time to DanceA Time to Dance, Padma Venkatraman
Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Joy referenced the #weneeddiversebooks movement a few posts back, when she talked about two black ballerinas, one fictional and one actual. In some ways, A Time to Dance could have been included in that post: it’s a book about a dancer who is also a person of color. But in other, critical ways, this entirely different, and not only because it’s a novel in verse and getting way more critical acclaim.

This isn’t perfect, but it definitely beats out those other dance books we’ve seen this year and the other novel in verse I’ve read so far (with the caveats that Brown Girl Dreaming is next to read, and I don’t consider How I Discovered Poetry a novel).

[Read more...]

Threatened

 ThreatenedThreatened by Eliot Schrefer
Scholastic, February 2014
Reviewed from an ARC

The art of reading for Printz is an interesting one; the pile adds and drops titles throughout the course of the year. With two stars and some buzz, Threatened was a back-and-forther for me — sometimes in the pile, sometimes to the side, sometimes near the top, sometimes moved to the bottom. But when it got shortlisted for the NBA, it came back to the top of the pile with a vengeance. We wondered if anyone would speak up for it…no one had much to say then. Maybe you’ve been saving your comments for a longer post? [Read more...]

A Matter of Souls

18350732 A Matter of SoulsA Matter of Souls, Denise Lewis Patrick
Carolrhoda Lab, April 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Whenever I review a book, I try to remind myself of my personal quirks as a reader. A major one I have is that it usually takes me approximately four-to-eight pages before I feel firmly oriented in a story. This is true regardless of the author’s skill; I don’t know why, but my brain just takes longer to situate itself within a new narrative. And this particular quirk can put me at a disadvantage when I’m reading short fiction. I admit all of this up front so that it’s clear that I’m not the ideal reader for Denise Lewis Patrick’s slim collection of short stories; however, it’s the universal theme of human connection, woven through each page that gave me a way into this book.
[Read more...]

The Gospel of Winter

The Gospel of Winter cover image 198x300 The Gospel of WinterThe Gospel of Winter, Brendan Kiely
Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster), January 2014
Reviewed from ARC

It’s so hard when a book is completely admirable and worthy of discussion and yet I just can’t like it. Because now I’m torn between wanting lots of discussion on this and also wanting to move on to a book I can like more.

Winter and the Connecticut suburbs, man. It’s all misery.

[Read more...]

The Hit

hit The HitThe Hit by Melvin Burgess
Scholastic, February 2014
Reviewed from an ARC

Melvin Burgess, Melvin Burgess, Melvin Burgess! So much love for Melvin Burgess, who can do dark and devious and subversive. The Hit has two starred reviews, an action-filled plot, unexpected twists, and a killer idea: a drug that will kill you after giving you the best week of your life. But will it go the distance during committee discussion?  [Read more...]

We Need Diverse Books (Ballet Edition)

13360957 We Need Diverse Books (Ballet Edition)20685495 We Need Diverse Books (Ballet Edition) Diversity in YA has received a lot of attention recently, thanks to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag that’s evolved into a formal organization for activism and awareness. Brandy Colbert’s debut YA novel, Pointe was published just two weeks before the influential hashtag was born. Excellent timing because Pointe isn’t only a novel with a narrator of color; it’s a novel that places its protagonist in a world that’s known for its issues with women of color.  Seriously, just google “where are all the black ballerinas;” you will see an alarming number of results. If you needed further proof, you could look at Michaela DePrince’s recently published memoir, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Each book earned a star from Publisher’s Weekly, which would make them under-the-radar contenders for the Printz. And although they are quite different in the way ballet is utilized as part of the narrative, we’ve paired them for this post because they offer contrasting viewpoints, and it’s a diversity of voice within very specific parameters.
[Read more...]

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean

Billy Dean 198x300 The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean, David Almond
Candlewick, January 2014
Reviewed from finished ebook

David Almond was one of the original Printz court (see my royalty pun there?). Skellig was an honor book in 2000, and then Kit’s Wilderness took the gold in 2001. Almond hasn’t stopped writing; at least in his native England, he seems to have something published and earning accolades nearly every year. So why is no one talking about his latest to cross the pond, the surreal and magnificent The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean?

Maybe it’s just that I had my head still firmly stuck in 2013 books in January, but I almost missed this entirely. Luckily someone put his next book on their to-read list in Goodreads, and when I went to check the US pubdate for that one, I stumbled across this one. It received three starred reviews, so we can be sure three people read it, plus me and one stalwart reader who read it for my discussion group at BookFest @Bank Street last week. I’m wondering if that’s it. (Edited to add: And the smart folks at PW, who put it on their list.) Which is a shame, because while I’m still not sure I liked this one, I think it’s definitely in the running for most ambitious novel of the year. [Read more...]

Afterworlds

afterworlds AfterworldsThree stars! Two plots for the price of one! Paranormal romance WITH commentary on the paranormal romance genre! A book for book lovers! Publishing trivia sprinkled throughout! Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld is a door stopper of a book with a lot to say — about the intricacies of publishing, the craft of writing, the art of pulling stories from life, and the strange compulsion that asks people to take on the challenge and stress of sharing words with total strangers.  [Read more...]