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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

More Morris, or Rachel Hartman on Charm & Strange

Charm Strange cover More Morris, or Rachel Hartman on Charm & StrangeA few days ago on Twitter, Rachel Hartman (yes, you know, that Rachel Hartman, who brought us last year’s best debut — and one of last year’s best books, period), Seraphina, asked if we were doing a Morris shortlist roundup this year. The answer, sadly, was not really, because our Morris readership hasn’t been thorough enough. Out of that conversation came the following guest post, in which Rachel reviews Charm and Strange, the most Printz-buzzed of the Morris shortlist titles.

For those of you who don’t stalk follow Rachel on any social media, a few salient biographical details and some links: In addition to Seraphina (which won the Morris Award last year AND a Printz Honor) and also the author of the forthcoming sequel (in March 2015. I KNOW) Shadow Scale. She can, as mentioned, be found on Twitter, where she procrastinates, talks about music and writing, frequently makes me laugh, and is a general source of things that are Good. But if you really want all the details, you should head over to her website and blog, this month featuring Morris shortlist authors and books — in fact, she’ll be posting an interview with Stephanie Kuehn later today! But enough of the introduction and on with the write-up.

I asked Karyn whether y’all would be doing any kind of Morris roundup this year. She told me time was tight, so probably not. I’ve only read Charm & Strange from this year’s Morris list, but I volunteered to review it because I’m on deadline. My procrastination knows no bounds.

There will be spoilers ahead — to my great relief, since this is a difficult book to discuss without spoiling — but let me try to give you the spoiler-free condensed version first. I loved Charm & Strange, and that’s saying a lot. I’m a fantasy person. It takes a very special real-world, “problem” novel to keep my attention at all, let alone make me love it. This is an intensely painful book to read, however. In terms of awards, I don’t know. I never predict anything correctly. You could certainly write a multi-page paper on this book — or on the psychology, philosophy, and metaphor contained therein — and yet I don’t think I could bear to re-read it. I’m not sure how it would hold up if I did, since so much hinges upon the reader and Win discovering the truth together. Once all the terrible truths are revealed, is that all there is — and is that enough?

Come with me under the fold, and let’s dig into this thing!

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All the Truth That’s In Me

Another guest post, this time on a book that has been getting a ton of positive press. Guest poster Maureen Eichner is a children’s assistant at a public library in the Indianapolis area. She has excellent taste in fantasy and is a thoughtful careful reader, so after reading and replying to this, do take a moment to check out her other writing:  Maureen blogs at By Singing Light (http://bysinginglight.wordpress.com) and spends more time on Twitter (https://twitter.com/elvenjaneite) than she would like to admit.

All the Truth cover All the Truth Thats In MeAll the Truth That’s In Me, Julie Berry
Viking Books (Penguin), September 2013
Reviewed from final copy

All the Truth That’s In Me is Julie Berry’s first YA book — she has also published several books for younger readers. It’s garnered some critical kudos, with starred reviews from SLJ, Kirkus, Horn Book, the Bulletin, and PW, as well as a mention on the SLJ and Kirkus Best of 2013 lists. In some ways, it’s easy to see why it’s gotten this acclaim. But of course, stars or lack thereof don’t necessarily bear on the Printz.

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Maggot Moon, a Literary David

Another guest post — it took a while for anyone to take us up on the offer, but when it rains, it pours! Maggot Moon is a fascinating book, one I admired greatly, and here to talk about its Printzly qualities is Barbara Moon. [Read more...]

The Dream Thieves

We put out a call asking for interested parties to take a shot at making the case for their top book of the year, and today, occasional guest poster Clair Segal is back to do just that. Or sort of that, because she’s taken on a challenge: talking about a second book in a series.

Clair is the library technology librarian at a New York City independent school. You can read more of her thoughts on Twitter, at her own blog, or on the AISL blog.

Dream Thieves cover The Dream ThievesThe Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic, September 2013
Reviewed from ARC

See, the thing no one told me about going to your first Annual is that it makes you act crazy.

Totally crazy. Librarian!crazy. (Which is frankly the best kind of crazy because all things in life are better when prefaced with “Librarian!”)

But crazy is crazy, and I acted the book-obsessed-fool in Chicago. I stumbled over my tongue telling Holly Black how “amazering” Coldest Girl was. I tried to show Emily Danforth that I was awesome and hip, and great best-friend material. I waited in an insanely long line to profess to an indifferent Tamora Pierce that she had changed my life forever at the tender age of nine. (“Hmm,” my childhood idol offered, nodding politely and sliding over a signed book as her handler motioned me on.)

Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves made me beg a stranger for pity.

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All You Never Wanted

Another (and last for the year) guest post from pinch-hitter Joy Piedmont. This time, Joy raves about a book that made the contenda list with three stars but mostly deserves recognition as a serious buzz book. I’m a long time fan of Adele Griffin’s, and this is, I think, a stronger candidate than her last few YA titles when it comes to award chat. But I’ll let Joy explain why…

AYNW 198x300 All You Never WantedAll You Never Wanted, Adele Griffin
Knopf, October 2012
Reviewed from final copy

All You Never Wanted: it’s a gem of a title, isn’t it? It’s a warning, a temptation, and a promise written directly at you, pulling you in.

And Adele Griffin’s latest has more than a great title. It’s an engaging study of two teenage sisters told from their alternating perspectives. Attention-seeking Thea and anxiety-stricken Alex seem to be direct descendants of Edith Wharton’s characters. (It’s no surprise that in a recent online Q&A, Griffin revealed that she went through a Wharton phase, and discussed how that may have influenced AYNW). Like Wharton’s, Griffin’s characters are complex and fully realized in an exploration of wealth, privilege, class, desire, jealousy, and anxiety.

In the end, it’s a gorgeous little TARDIS of a novel.

(Bigger on the inside, for you non-Whovians).

[Read more...]

Bomb

Guest blogger Joy Piedmont is back (and I think we’ll be taking advantage of her at least once more before the season is done!), covering another major nonfiction title of 2012.

Bomb1 397x500 BombBomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point, September 2012
Reviewed from final copy

When I say, “World War II espionage” which 2012 young adult title comes to mind?

Yeah, I know Code Name Verity is the big name in this conversation, but Bomb is a gripping spy story in its own right.

There are three main threads of Steve Sheinkin’s book: the American effort to build the atomic bomb, the Allies attempts to sabotage German advances towards the atomic bomb, and the Russians’ work to steal the plans for the atomic bomb. Sheinkin has taken something sprawling and complex and molded it into a nonfiction title that reads like an epic action movie. (Seriously, read the chapter on the destruction of the German heavy water plant in Vemork, Norway and tell me you don’t imagine this scene from Inception.)

Sheinkin nails action pacing and easily incorporates real quotes from the people involved. He also makes physics and atomic theory, which would normally make my brain hurt digestible by introducing the theory in the context of actual experiments conducted prior to and during the Manhattan Project.

That juxtaposition of fiction style with nonfiction content characterizes the entire book. Bomb oozes style, and it’s the book’s greatest strength — and greatest weakness. Sheinkin has a firm command of fast pacing, snappy dialogue, and multiple storylines, which create a massively appealing read. With descriptive language and clever plot juggling, Sheinkin creates the atmosphere of life as a wartime spy (or a bomb-building physicist); it’s dangerous and exciting. This effective world building and use of stylistic tools create a book that feels light.

Dare I say it? Bomb is, at times, too easy.

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My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Another guest post from Joy Piedmont, who is saving our bacon at this crunch time, as we realize just how many books we haven’t read yet!

my sister My Sister Lives on the MantelpieceMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Annabel Pitcher
Little, Brown, August 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel has earned four starred reviews landed on Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2012 and the Atlantic Wire’s YA/Middle-Grade 2012 Book Awards (in the “Most Deftly Handled” category). Originally published in the UK in 2011, this is a haunting story about how grief and hatred destroys families, told through the voice of a 10-year-old boy trying to make sense of it all.

Yes, that’s right. The protagonist is a 10-year-old. Which raises one question right off the bat: Who is this book for? Kirkus lists ages 10-14, while SLJ and the publisher list grades 7-10 (or ages 12-15, roughly). The content is probably best suited to young teens (13 to 15, much as SLJ says), but the voice is so young. Could this be a nostalgia read for that audience? (Do young teens read new books as nostalgia reads??) Does the youth of the protagonist make this more suited for the Newbery audience (of course, as a British import, this isn’t actually eligible for the Newbery at all), and not a true Printz contender? What do we do with these books that really are liminal — not J because of content, not YA because they’re too young? Would this have been better served written for an adult audience, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in a the Night Time or Room, where the thematic scope and young voice don’t pull in different directions, to the detriment of the novel?

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The Diviners: Divine, and the Bee’s Knees Too!

One of the best things about having progressed from new librarian to rapidly aging librarian is the opportunity to work with bright young things. Former colleague Clair Segal is now the library technology coordinator at an independent school in NYC, and has graciously agreed to guest blog for us once again, this time about Libba Bray’s The Diviners. (If you take a close look at the acknowledgements in The Diviners, you’ll see why we farmed this favorite out — conflict of interest, what??)

Also, after you read her guest post, if you find yourself thinking, “Hey, this girl is awesome!” you should go check out her blog, the aptly titled Awesomebrarian.

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Titanic: Voices from the Disaster (Is Not a Disaster)

Occasional guest blogger Joy Piedmont is back! She (unlike, say, Karyn) likes to read nonfiction, and has OPINIONS about it. Thoughtful, considered opinions. Making her a perfect candidate to guest write as we try to catch up on our nonfiction 2012 piles. So, with no further ado…

titanic2 Titanic: Voices from the Disaster (Is Not a Disaster)Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, Deborah Hopkinson
Scholastic Press, April 2012
Reviewed from final copy

What is good nonfiction?

I know, I know; you came for a review and I’m hitting you with the big questions right up front. Apologies.

Right, so, good nonfiction.

Actually, it’s what any good book is: engaging, honest (factually and/or artistically), moving. Reading isn’t just the consumption of information, it’s an act that must change us, even in a small way. Good books should force us to question, to cry or to shout; we should be moved. Good nonfiction can put you under a spell and make the real unreal. (And isn’t this the inverse of good fiction, making the unreal real?) Good nonfiction, like fiction, is transformative.

When we consider this in light of the Printz, there is no reason why nonfiction can’t be in the conversation, and 2012 has been a particularly good year for YA nonfiction.

[Read more...]

More Numbers from Our Guest Gurus

Before we return to our regularly scheduled abstract theorizing about literature (with Sarah and I weighing in on that standalone thing, as we keep promising to do), we’ve got an addendum to the numbers-loaded guest post from two weeks back.

In the comments on that post, which was full of fascinating data, the question was raised about correlations between stars and wins/honors. And so our valiant number crunchers tackled the question, as follows. (Have I mentioned how happy I am that we found some readers who can actually deal with data? You don’t want to know how many hours Sarah and I spent on last year’s Mock poll data, and I suspect we still made some data errors. Numbers are so very much not my strong point.)

And so, with no further ado, Predicting the Printz, Part 2: Another guest post by Elizabeth Fama (YA author) and John Cochrane (Professor of Economics), with heroic data collection by Jen Baker (Librarian). [Read more...]