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.
Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business — and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully
Clarion Books, July 2014
Reviewed from final copy
First up, we have Emily Arnold McCully’s biography on Ida M. Tarbell. With one starred review, we added it to our long list once it got the Excellence in Nonfiction’s finalist stamp of approval. It’s definitely impeccably researched, with clear writing and a balanced view of its subject — McCully doesn’t try to hide any of Tarbell’s 2015-unfriendly attitudes (her thinking on Mussolini, or her rejection of women’s suffrage, for example). McCully provides enough details and quotes from Tarbell’s writing, and does a fine job of placing Tarbell in her historical context. The text is bolstered by historical photographs. This isn’t the review-darling that the Romanovs and Port Chicago are, but it’s a strong biography in its own right, with as much to say about our the present world as about Tarbell’s.
Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
Roaring Brook, October 2014
Reviewed from ARC and then final copy
A book of my heart this year: the book I added to our list and then took off when it never got a starred review: Shane Burcaw’s Laughing at my Nightmare. I’ve been following him since Tumblr showcased his blog. I ended up taking it off the list after I read about half the book — it was mostly from the blog, which I’d already read. I figured that would be the end of it; I’m so glad the committee ignored me! Though I don’t think Burcaw has added much new content to the book — it is episodic and random in the way all the best blogs are as they publish, live — it still shows what a unique perspective he has, and still reveals his hilarious sense of humor. He’s always upfront about his experience with muscular dystrophy, but that’s never entirely the focus of his writing. Burcaw has a lot to say about life, and so what could tend to the Very Special After School Special is instead sharp and insightful. It’s a memorable read.
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
Dutton, April 2014
Reviewed from final copy
Another book with a very young — in this case, still a teenage — author! Van Wagenen used a vintage popularity guide to help her in her yearlong quest to find popularity in her Texas high school. It’s the kind of book that sounds like stunt writing — a little too good to be true, a little too much concept and too little content — but Van Wagenen is a charming narrator with a sweet story. And some of the details of the background work well to contrast the read with the cover/packaging; Van Wagenen includes details about rough neighborhoods, gangs, a school lockdown. With some unexpected grit, an endearing narrator, and a relatable situation, Popular has charm to spare.
So what does this leave us in Printz-land? (Or, more accurately, Pyrite Land round these parts and at this point of the year.) I don’t think either of these three will overtake Romanovs or Port Chicago (and I loved A Volcano Beneath the Snow, though of course that’s not on the table for ENF). Not to mention the many other nonfiction titles we’ve raved about/looked at/considered. I’ve got a repeat conclusion from last week — these are strong titles, but I wouldn’t bet money on them going too far in RealCommittee’s conversations. But what do you all think? And do you have any predictions for the Excellence in Nonfiction winner? Let’s talk in the comments!
We’ve got a small list of nonfiction titles to go through today — all with starred reviews, and two on year’s best lists. These are all good non-fiction, solid reads. I liked them. Understand: these are no frogs here, and I enjoyed the kisses very much. Buuuuuut… I’m not convinced that they’ll be talked about in a major way at the Printz table. [Read more...]
Hidden Like Anne Frank by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis, translated by Laura Watkins
Published by Arthur A Levine, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy
Hidden Like Anne Frank is a collection of 14 stories collected by Prins and Steenhuis, translated by Laura Watkins. The chapters each read like memoirs; they’re all presented in first person, in the voices of the Dutch-Jewish survivors of the war. The stories present a range of experiences — some are about children as young as 3, while others are the experiences of older children — although there are a number of factors that they have in common (the idea of “sperre,” the temporary prison in The Hollandsche Schouwburg). The most significant commonality is that these are all stories of survivors, and so the stories include information beyond what we often think of as “the end” of the story. [Read more...]
This is a difficult review to write.
The reason I’m struggling has nothing to do with Steve Sheinkin’s book, and everything to do with it.
My thoughts keep turning to Michael Brown, John Crawford III, and Tamir Rice. I’m thinking about the protests happening all over the country as I write these words. And I’m thinking about how these current events are part of the narrative of civil rights and racism in the U.S., specifically their connection to what happened at Port Chicago 70 years ago. Almost three-quarters of a century have passed since those 50 black sailors were convicted of mutiny, but we still need to take a hard look at the ways in which American systems have criminalized black youth—even when those young people are actively working to serve and defend the country.
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...]
It seems like everyone is talking about The Family Romanov*. Let’s set aside those stars though, because a discussion of what it means when a book earns full marks, ahem, stars, should be its own post. (Okay, here’s the TL;DR version: six stars last year were the prelude to Caldecott gold for Brian Floca’s Locomotive but weren’t so predictive for Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints—even though we wanted them to be.)
The more interesting awards discussion surrounding this book is actually about audience. Is Fleming more likely to be in the running for a Newbery or a Printz? And yes, that last sentence assumes that The Family Romanov is a serious contender for one or both, because really, if it isn’t, I’m going to have seriously re-think everything I know about the world. [Read more...]
Does literary quality mean that a writer has to have a strong authorial presence? I bring this up because Beyond Magenta is a wonderful nonfiction book. It’s easily one of the strongest contenders for this year’s YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction—but will it be a serious Printz contender? [Read more...]
This year, it has really come home to me that I have been doing this for a while, with the following exchanges:
Me: Oooh, a new one from Cecil Castellucci!
Joy: You mean the LA Review of Books editor?
Me: Oh! David Almond has two books out this year? We need to read those.
Joy: …I’ve heard of him.
Me: There’s a new Lucy Frank! I loved I Am An Artichoke!
Joy: <<Blank face>>
Ok, so I’m maybe exaggerating a bit, but Lucy Frank, whose name is impressed upon me as a YA author, whose early books I booktalked quite often in my salad days at New York Public Library, is one of many authors who elicit a sort of Pavlovian “I should read that” response, because I was reading their work in my formative years vis á vis YA literature.
Be wary of nostalgia reading, friends. It can lead you in the wrong direction. [Read more...]
Gosh, it’s a good year for poetry, at least from a publishing perspective.
And unlike Nelson’s gorgeous memoir that I will be hard pressed to sell to actual real live teen readers™, Poisoned Apples has appeal in spades.
This was a later addition to our list, thanks to buzz and
three stars five stars, and I’m glad we didn’t miss it; it’s a small collection of woman-centric fairy-tale poems that recast the action in the schools and streets and bedrooms and bathrooms of today’s world. Sort of Anne Sexton lite, maybe — which, frankly, is pretty much everything wrong with this collection in a nutshell. [Read more...]