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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

Before we get into Vincent and Theo, I want to acknowledge that the National Book Awards were announced on Wednesday evening and the winner for Young People’s Literature was Robin Benway’s Far From the Tree. I’ll be covering that one later in the season and I’ve been intrigued since before it was longlisted for the NBA. I’m adopted and periodically grumble about the lack of contemporary YA fiction with adopted protagonists. While I’m excited for the representation I’m also cautiously optimistic, as one usually is when faced with your identity as written by someone else. If you’ve already read Far From the Tree and have thoughts about its NBA win, let us know in the comments!

Okay, now back to those Van Gogh boys. I’ll confess that I can’t think about Vincent Van Gogh without hearing Don McLean sing “starry, starry niiiight…” or seeing Tony Curran’s eyes well up with tears in his brilliant portrayal of Van Gogh on Doctor Who. He is one of the most famous painters of all time and we all think we know who he was; brilliant, depressed, and unappreciated in his time. Deborah Heiligman challenges the conventional wisdom and offers a thesis of her own about Vincent: the story of Vincent is incomplete without the story of his brother, Theo.

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Gay Pride

gay pride

Today we have a two-fer! Are you in the mood for a quick nonfiction read? Or perhaps a fictional take on the Grand Tour? Maybe some history with a side of sass? Perhaps a rogue taking a hedonistic last hurrah before shouldering familial responsibilities? OK, I’m going to stop asking questions and just get on with this introduction. We’ve got a title with two stars, and a title with four. Both of these books have a definitive voice telling the story. Both of these are reads that will entertain you, and keep you thinking.  Do you think one of these books could walk away with a medal? [Read more…]

Nonfiction Roundup Part One

Just as this has been a year of grief and tough topics in fiction, nonfiction has been similarly focused on emotionally draining subject. (Or perhaps it’s my personal exhaustion with the state of the world combined with the difficult reads? Hard to say.) Today Sarah and I are reviewing two very different books about the fight for racial equality. Ann Bausum’s book is a straightforward historical account of a protest that took on a life of its own while Loving Vs Virginia is narrative nonfiction using poetry and primary source material. What are the chances that either of these will turn up as contenders this winter?

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Nonfiction roundup, part 2!

nonfic 2It wouldn’t be January at Someday without roundup review posts galore! I’m nothing if not a stickler for tradition so we’re rolling into hump day with three nonfiction books covering three very different subjects: a man whose story might as well be myth, a complicated and unpopular war, and a pacifist turned spy. If there’s any thread connecting these three books it’s perhaps that none have been short listed for the YALSA nonfiction award, which demonstrates the depth of quality nonfiction for young readers we saw in 2016. With no shot at the nonfiction award, do any of these (appearing below in order of author’s last name) stand a chance at the Printz?
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These Books Have Nothing in Common

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-2-37-04-pmThat is, these books have nothing in common except their matching star count. But time is short and the books with positive reviews are many, so here we are, lumping them together.

Russo’s If I Was Your Girl was on our list from the very beginning of the year. It’s a love story with a trans main character, and never devolves into a problem novel, which is still relatively refreshing (and oh so welcome) when it comes to trans protagonists.

Kids of Appetite, on the other hand, was a late entry after it started showing up on year-end lists. It features a protagonist with an uncommon medical ailment and a character who maybe functions as a magical negro, and reads like Andrew Smith lite.

Needless to say, I only support one of these as a contender.

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Nonfiction Round Up

nonfictionroundup1OK, this was supposed to be a nonfiction roundup, and it sort of still is, because I am going to talk about a few titles. However it also sort of isn’t because I definitely have one title that I want to focus on. I’m also slightly skipping around in time (through the magic of this blog post and not actually a time machine, or anything) — but in order to fit this all in, I’m writing about two titles from the fall with a mid-year title. Obviously we can focus on any title in the comments — but I’ve got a rave coming on and I wanted to warn you all about that from the start. [Read more…]

Checking in with the mothership – SLJ’s Best of 2016

sljWith only six weeks left in 2016—an almost universally recognized dumpster fire of a year—the best of lists will release in a steady stream. We take the lists seriously because they can help us identify books that are beginning to have a strong consensus opinion, as well as books that may become a dark horse.

SLJ editors discussed a selection of favorites from their Best of 2016 list in a fun live stream (which you can view here and on KidLit TV). The full list will go live on SLJ’s website next week but you can download a PDF of all 66 titles now.

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Samurai Rising

bk_samuraiSamurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds
February 2016, Charlesbridge
Reviewed from a final copy

Here’s my first nonfiction title of the year, coming to us from back in February! We’ve got four stars, some love in the comments of our original list post — and who doesn’t love history? (I mean, maybe not the peasants burninating in the countryside at the time, probably. They might have argued that history sucked.) Turner’s title is an intriguing example of narrative nonfiction. With so few sources, with so little to really go on historically speaking, Turner manages to fill in with a lot of details, related research, and intelligent guesswork. She paints a vivid picture adding in details to set the scene — blacking teeth, Samurai training, armor, and other aspects of life in feudal Japan. [Read more…]

The V-Word

v-wordThe V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex edited compiled by Amber J. Keyser
Simon Pulse, February 2016
Reviewed from final copy

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…]

The List, Abbreviated

Photo by Flickr user List_84, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Flickr user List_84, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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, alphabetized 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!