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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

What Is This Quality Thing, Anyway?

Blowing Questions photo by Flickr user Brian Yap 224x300 What Is This Quality Thing, Anyway?

What is a Printz-worthy book? How do we gauge merit? Is great literature a definable thing?

There are so many questions and so few answers, but if we’re going to analyze all these books in light of the Printz award, it’s probably a good idea to think about what it is we’re hoping to see recognized come February 2. [Read more...]

Aaand We’re Off!

crowd 500x375 Aaand Were Off!

Here we are, a diverse, vibrant, occasionally unexpected crowd. Together, we’re going to analyze the $%&* out of some books.

Well, Labor Day has come and gone, which means our labors are beginning again!

Which means it’s time to say:

Welcome to Someday My Printz Will Come, 2013 edition.

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The Whys & Wherefores of the Printz Award, Part 1

I’m thinking if you’ve gotten as far as reading this blog, you probably know a little something about the Printz, more formally known as the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

But maybe not, because (and this is a matter of some concern for us) it’s not a well known award, although that situation improves every year. More than that, it’s not very well understood.

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The Curse of the Serial Book, or Why Series Titles Get No Lovin’

Looking back at Sophie’s rundown of series books that have been recognized by the Printz Committee over the years, a trend emerged that seems to draw a line between shared universe vs. truly serial works. By and large, truly serial works have only been recognized at series launch, with two duology conclusions and one single middle volume as exceptions, and that one volume is a verse novel, which may—by virtue of verse automatically leaving so much unstated—be a different animal altogether.

So let’s stand back and consider what we mean when we say “series,” and why genuine serial series books are at a disadvantage when it comes to being named the finest work of writing in any given year.

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Series, Schmeries: What’s the Big Deal?

And now, for the epic throw-down you’ve all been waiting for: series vs. stand-alone books! Dun-dun-DUNNNNN! I freely admit that I worked myself up into a rhetorical tizzy as I drafted this post. Last week, I cheerfully volunteered to write the first entry in our exploration of series vs. stand-alone titles. Let’s just say that I’ve lived to regret that nonchalant confidence.

Let’s go!

According to the song (and Omar Little, perhaps its most famous fictional interpreter), the cheese stands alone, but to be considered for YA literature’s highest prize, must a book stand alone, too?

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HULK SMASH

7006096262 97d816160f z HULK SMASH

Get it? Get it, guys!?

A long time ago, we started out thinking and talking about the Printz policies and procedures. And do you know what I said? What I typed, I mean?

Yeah, but who wants to be on a committee that picks a book everyone hates, y’know? I guess this is a good opportunity to talk about POPULARITY (since the criteria are yelling…) versus APPEAL. And whether either of those concepts have any business being in the conversation that is actually all about QUALITY.

Karyn pointed out the difference between popularity and appeal, and mentioned that appeal is, in the end, a pretty subjective concept. She also pointed out that at the Printz table, you have the luxury of stepping away from the question of appeal and just focusing on questions of literary excellence.

And then I stepped in and beat on the drum a little more about teen appeal and how that’s an important part of our work as librarians and shouldn’t we think of the teens WHAT ABOUT THE TEENS?? HULK LOVE TEENS, WANT TEENS TO READ NICE BOOKS. (OK, Hulk has nothing to do with this post at all, but we just saw The Avengers and so now all I want to do is type like HULK. WITH CAPS. SMASH SMASH SMASH.) Back then, we moved on to other parts of the P&P. Because we had a lot of words to cover and more thoughts to share.

But I’m still wondering: Can something be both really excellent and really boring? And, as my notes for this blog post so eloquently said, “appeal teens reading quality what is YA anyway arg halp!”

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Stars in my Eyes (or, Starred Reviews vs. The Printz, round 2)

4688797296 1178e349f6 o 263x300 Stars in my Eyes (or, Starred Reviews vs. The Printz, round 2)

CC-licensed image ("Starry Eyed Gaga") by Flickr user mellydonut. A bit literal, but really, isn't this how we all feel when we read a really excellent book? Also? I find Blythe dolls weirdly compelling.

Between Roger’s piece way back and Sophie’s thoughtful assessment of stars in our playground, I’m not sure what more really needs to be said.

But never let it be said that I passed up an opportunity to air my opinions.

Last week, I read a Mary Poppins of a book.* It deserves a dozen stars. And it won’t, and shouldn’t, be considered by the 2014 Printz committee (the book is a 2013 pub. I had no business reading it. But… it was pretty! And calling my name. And sometimes we need to succumb to siren songs.).

Because perfect, or even merely really excellent, books are not always so big on the Literary. In this case, the writing is pitch perfect, which is not always a given in even a star-earning book. The plotting is tight. The characters are engaging. The world gets a big “mwah” for being so much fun and well established without any needless exposition. It’s well written, but it doesn’t, in the end, offer anything more than a diversion.

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Stars vs. Printz: Round One!

So, starred reviews and the Printz award. We’re going to cover this topic in at least two posts this year, so whatever I don’t address (or get dead wrong), Karyn will cover in a couple of weeks!

I’m a visual, list-making sort of person, so as I mulled over this topic this week, I found myself making a mental chart of how they relate, in terms of their functions as well as how they’re determined.

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New Kids on the Block

woodpecker New Kids on the BlockI doubt this is news to anyone, but the Morris shortlist was released the other day.

Three of the five were on our original contenda list (although we’ve only discussed two so far), and a fourth was a late addition thanks to reader response when we first discussed (and almost dismissed) it (we will definitely be revisiting it now).

(The fifth was on the books that made a best of year list but that we had oops! missed pile, so NOW it’s on our list, twice over.)

This kind of recognition automatically puts a book higher in the public estimation. But does it actually affect or correlate with Printz recognition?

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Roundup

divergent1 198x300 RoundupSo, I’ve been pretty busy lately.

One of the things keeping me busy is the launch of an annual outside reading project I do with my 9th graders, called Read, Write, Recommend, which involves independent recreational reading and Goodreads. It’s an awesome project and I am really proud of it and someday (someday!) I will write a whole article about it because it has been fantastic at getting students reading and talking about books.

Anyway, a huge part of RWR is the recommend element, and at the start of the year, many of the recommendations are in the form of reader’s advisory consults with me (later in the year, they’ll be recommending more to each other while I hover around holding up shiny new books). I love love love standing in the library with a dozen students crowded around me asking for books and asking have I read this or that or do I have something they’ll like given a past love of X,Y, or Z.

And as I’ve stood there passing out book recommendations and basking in the thanks the next day, I’ve been thinking about how books fall into a number of categories:

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