We’ve looked at the Printz process, and ruminated on the idea of literary excellence. Now it’s time to look at some of the more practical details: how do you find books to read? How do you get all that reading done? How do you remember the books you’ve read? [Read more...]
In many ways, this post is more the what than the why.
Because it’s time to tackle the really complex, almost undefinable heart of the award: the definition of literary excellence.
Sarah and I took a run at this last year, and it took two really long posts. I still stand by everything we said there (click if you want to see if you stand by what we said, too: part 1 and especially part 2), and I encourage anyone who is interested in the Printz to read the comments on part 2, but after a year of thinking on this question of excellence I think it’s worth revisiting — and glancing again at the Policies and Procedures that guide our understanding of what it is we’re seeking when we look for the book that deserves the Printz award.
So let’s go once more into the fray to the Policies and Procedures. [Read more...]
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.
So I’ve been writing and rewriting a post on genre bias and the Printz for — I’m not kidding you — the past two weeks. But it boils down to a very drama-less post about a lack of genre bias in Printzland and how things seem to me to be fine. Which: good news for Young Adult Literature, but bad news for an interesting post, eh? [Read more...]
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.
I flew to Anaheim, my suitcase packed with dresses, knowing intellectually that it would be the end of my term on the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award Committee, but in completely emotional denial. We’d all be having book discussion meetings, right? We’d be arguing passionately for the titles we thought best embodied the award’s criteria! Yeah! Um, no.
Fortunately, I quickly got my head around the notion of this being our time to celebrate our wonderful winner, Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley and our amazing four honor titles, Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler & Maira Kalman, The Returning, by Christine Hinwood, Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey and The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. Oh, YEAH, that’s what all these dresses were for — the four Printz events I’d be attending over the course of the weekend! [Read more...]
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.
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?
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!”
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.