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Someday My Printz Will Come
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Roundup: Books That Pass the Bechdel Test

Paper Airplanes 198x300 Roundup: Books That Pass the Bechdel TestWildlife cover 198x300 Roundup: Books That Pass the Bechdel Test

For years in my teens and early twenties, I read chick-lit like it was going out of style. I didn’t mind the label or the candy colored covers or the many many headless women — I was young, and not in love, and these books filled a hunger. I now scorn the love triangle in EVERY. DAMN. BOOK, especially in genre, but I understand why it holds appeal. But I’ve also developed a real appreciation for a different kind of love story, the kind about friendship with no romantic overtones but which is just as rich and deep as any romantic love story.

“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend,” as Elizabeth Wein put it in Code Name Verity.

And in September, two lovely examples of exactly this kind of love story came out.

[Read more...]

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

17934412 The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil RightsThe Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press, January 2014
Reviewed from final copy

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.
[Read more...]

Why We Took the Car

Why We Took the Car cover Why We Took the CarWhy We Took the Car, Wolfgang Herrndorf (translated by Tim Mohr)
Scholastic, January 2014
Reviewed from finished ebook

I initially came across this one on Jen‘s fabulous spreadsheet. Two stars doesn’t make it a must read, but I still haven’t quite recovered from The White Bicycle. It’s one thing to not have read a Printz winner/honoree personally, and a common thing, it seems, for me to disagree with the winner, but for a book to be so far off the radar that I hadn’t heard of it was really surprising and a cause for chagrin. So I try to pay attention to 1 and 2 star titles that are utterly unfamiliar, in hopes of never being that surprised again.

This is one of those unfamiliar 1-2 star books. [Read more...]

A Volcano Beneath the Snow

volcano A Volcano Beneath the Snow

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...]

Roundup: Boarding School Blues

17797364 Roundup: Boarding School Blues20601687 Roundup: Boarding School BluesThis morning, we’re looking at two novels set in boarding schools; And We Stay is Jenny Hubbard’s follow up to her 2012 Morris Award Finalist, Paper Covers Rock, and debut author Chelsey Philpot is inspired by classic literature in Even in Paradise.*

Both novels feature a young woman with a traumatic past who, in her junior year, transfers to a boarding school in New England amidst whispered rumors and speculation. Ostensibly, these stories are quite similar.

But… not really. [Read more...]

A Time to Dance

atimetodance 281x387 217x300 A Time to DanceA Time to Dance, Padma Venkatraman
Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Joy referenced the #weneeddiversebooks movement a few posts back, when she talked about two black ballerinas, one fictional and one actual. In some ways, A Time to Dance could have been included in that post: it’s a book about a dancer who is also a person of color. But in other, critical ways, this entirely different, and not only because it’s a novel in verse and getting way more critical acclaim.

This isn’t perfect, but it definitely beats out those other dance books we’ve seen this year and the other novel in verse I’ve read so far (with the caveats that Brown Girl Dreaming is next to read, and I don’t consider How I Discovered Poetry a novel).

[Read more...]

Threatened

 ThreatenedThreatened by Eliot Schrefer
Scholastic, February 2014
Reviewed from an ARC

The art of reading for Printz is an interesting one; the pile adds and drops titles throughout the course of the year. With two stars and some buzz, Threatened was a back-and-forther for me — sometimes in the pile, sometimes to the side, sometimes near the top, sometimes moved to the bottom. But when it got shortlisted for the NBA, it came back to the top of the pile with a vengeance. We wondered if anyone would speak up for it…no one had much to say then. Maybe you’ve been saving your comments for a longer post? [Read more...]

A Matter of Souls

18350732 A Matter of SoulsA Matter of Souls, Denise Lewis Patrick
Carolrhoda Lab, April 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Whenever I review a book, I try to remind myself of my personal quirks as a reader. A major one I have is that it usually takes me approximately four-to-eight pages before I feel firmly oriented in a story. This is true regardless of the author’s skill; I don’t know why, but my brain just takes longer to situate itself within a new narrative. And this particular quirk can put me at a disadvantage when I’m reading short fiction. I admit all of this up front so that it’s clear that I’m not the ideal reader for Denise Lewis Patrick’s slim collection of short stories; however, it’s the universal theme of human connection, woven through each page that gave me a way into this book.
[Read more...]

The Gospel of Winter

The Gospel of Winter cover image 198x300 The Gospel of WinterThe Gospel of Winter, Brendan Kiely
Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster), January 2014
Reviewed from ARC

It’s so hard when a book is completely admirable and worthy of discussion and yet I just can’t like it. Because now I’m torn between wanting lots of discussion on this and also wanting to move on to a book I can like more.

Winter and the Connecticut suburbs, man. It’s all misery.

[Read more...]

The Hit

hit The HitThe Hit by Melvin Burgess
Scholastic, February 2014
Reviewed from an ARC

Melvin Burgess, Melvin Burgess, Melvin Burgess! So much love for Melvin Burgess, who can do dark and devious and subversive. The Hit has two starred reviews, an action-filled plot, unexpected twists, and a killer idea: a drug that will kill you after giving you the best week of your life. But will it go the distance during committee discussion?  [Read more...]