So this year, I’m starting out with what I can only describe as the “out of left field contender of my heart.” I thought this would be a quick read that I’d be able to check off and move on from — maybe doubling it up with another title here. What can I say — I don’t always like stuff that’s shorter, and nonfiction is only sometimes my jam. And we’ve talked before about how it can be difficult to assess — and especially come to consensus on — anthologies and other mixed-author works. Working through each essay individually and then evaluating as a whole is hard enough on your own; persuading 10 other committee members to vote for an anthology can get tricky. So this is maybe also a shot-in-the-dark contender, but there’s so much that hits perfectly that I just can’t let it alone. [Read more…]
Traditionally, we’ve launched the season with our massive (like, 90 titles long) reading list, but when we open with the big list, we always end up regretting approximately one-third of the titles.
So this year, we’re going to share a shorter, not even slightly exhaustive list. Here are our top 25 titles, included either because we’ve already read them or because they’ve gotten all the stars (by which I mean 4 or more, marked with an asterisk) or because the author or description have us thinking these are likely to be worth the conversation.
Obviously, we won’t be reviewing only 25 books this season, and we have plenty of books we’ve read that probably won’t go the distance but are certainly worth a conversation and therefore a post. But here’s the 25 we’re most excited to talk about, aphabetized by title because that’s how we’ve been discussing them.
American Girls, Alison Umminger
As I Descended, Robin Talley
The Bitter Side of Sweet*, Tara Sullivan
Blood Red, Snow White, Marcus Sedgwick
Burn Baby Burn*, Meg Medina
Character, Driven*, David Lubar
Every Exquisite Thing, Matthew Quick
Exit, Pursued by a Bear*, E.K. Johnston
Golden Boys*, Sonya Hartnett
The Head of the Saint, Socorro Acioli
Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley
The Lie Tree*, Frances Hardinge
The Memory of Light*, Francisco X. Stork
My Lady Jane, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows
The Passion of Dolssa*, Julie Berry
Railhead, Philip Reeve
The Reader*, Traci Chee
Samurai Rising*, Pamela S. Turner
The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner
The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan
Spontaneous, Aaron Starmer
Still Life with Tornado, A.S. King
Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin
Unbecoming*, Jenny Downham
We Are the Ants*, Shaun Davis Hutchinson
What would you add? Remove? Actually, let’s play this committee style: these are our nominations thus far. What are yours?
We’ll be back Monday with our first review. Catch you then!
And we’re back with even more more books, in part 2 of our mega roundup of all (not really all) the books.
Honor Girl, Maggie Thrash
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy
I was distracted while reading Honor Girl. The first two chapters orient the reader in the early days of the new millennium; there’s a list of celebrity crushes including Leonardo DiCaprio, Usher, and Justin Timberlake, our narrator is reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (and later, Goblet of Fire), and her favorite band is The Backstreet Boys. I spent most of the book trying to figure out if I’m older or younger than Maggie Thrash (as it turns out, I’m older by just six months). Near the end of the book a date is shown which confirmed my suspicion, but I had to read it a second time just so that I could experience the book without my self-centered curiosity getting in the way.
I’m mentioning this at the top of the review because those little references tethered me to the material in good and bad ways. I’ve never attended an all-girls school or camp, nor have I ever gone to a sleepaway camp. But I remember where and who I was in the summer of 2000. Being able to contextualize Maggie Thrash’s memoir through my understanding of myself at that time allowed me to fully appreciate how she captures a few months in her life when everything and nothing changed. It’s beautiful and nostalgic.
In our first round of Pyrite voting a couple of you gave Honor Girl your first place slot. With three stars and solid content to back it up, it’s not a longshot for the RealPrintz but there are a few things that will probably keep this one from the winner’s circle.
Symphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from ARC
One of my favorite books last year was Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. Despite having a ton of critical praise for its tight, thrilling narrative and thoughtful approach to complex history, it didn’t manage to snag a Printz (although it did win lots of other great awards). Symphony for the City of the Dead is, in many ways, a wonderful sequel to Fleming’s book. M.T. Anderson begins Symphony with Dmitri Shostakovich’s childhood, just before the end of the Romanov reign and the rise of Lenin. For the first half of the book he alternates between chronicles of Shostakovich’s life and the political and social upheaval in Russia beginning with the Bolsheviks and the revolution straight into World War II. The siege of Leningrad and the composition of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 are the main focus of the rest of the book. Anderson—a two-time Printz honoree—does very good work here but a few things in Symphony may keep the author from earning his third Printz.
Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, May 2015
Reviewed from final copy
We’ve got two nonfiction reads. They’re both short, they’ve both received a lot of stars, and they’re both bringing new material to teen collections (IE, they’re full of SIGNIFICANCE, which may not be Printzly, but is still exciting and interesting to talk about). Will either one go the distance? [Read more…]
We’ve spent the week looking at Printzbery books: the stuff that falls on the young end here, but is still eligible and worth the conversation. But here for our Friday read, I’ve got a totally different direction to take: two memoirs with distinctive voices: two very different reads. Ironically, the only thing they may have in common? They’re not really for younger teens at all. It’s hard to say that either one will definitely take a medal when all is said and done, but as different as they are, they’re worth considering. [Read more…]
I’m a day late in getting to this one because I just finished it. With no digital copies available, and my usual source without it in stock, I had to wait on a delivery. It was totally worth the wait, and I’m so glad it’s a physical copy (I don’t often say that, to be honest, but this is one gorgeous book; I enjoyed poring over the pages). I’m guessing that this will be a somewhat short review as a result, as I’ll continue to process…in the comments. [Read more…]
Hello! I hope your 2015 is going well! We are getting closer and closer to the big, Printzly reveal, you know. And in the interest of getting through a few more titles on our long (and always growing, it seems) list, here’s another nonfiction roundup. This time, we’re looking at three of the five finalists for Excellence in Nonfiction — Ida M Tarbell, Laughing at my Nightmare, and Popular. (We’ve already checked out Port Chicago and the Romanovs aallllllllll the way back in 2014.) They all three show a wide variety of topics covered for teens in nonfiction, and also all three have compelling, particular perspectives on our world.