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Someday My Printz Will Come
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Rose Under Fire


rose1 Rose Under FireRose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein

Disney Hyperion, September 2013
Reviewed from an ARC

Last year, we had a lot of great conversation about Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which ended up with a silver medal. This year, we have its companion title, Rose Under Fire. With two starred reviews, will this title go the distance? I’m not so sure; I’ve gone through at least three different stages of thinking about this book. I think I’ve settled on “not likely.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy here: The writing is beautiful, and the decision to keep first person diary style benefits this story. It allows for immediate, emotional connection with Rose, and also provides an opportunity to track the changes Rose undergoes through the course of the story. Her change in voice from part one to part two is abrupt and effective; you’re warily drawn in, trying to understand what changes have happened. And the polished writing of the third section gives the book a gorgeous, formal (but still emotional and effective) ending. [Read more...]

Another Year-End List, with STATS!

my stats Another Year End List, with STATS!

This is how I do statistical analysis. There's a better way, right?

The Kirkus list posted yesterday, and it’s a whopper: a full 100 books.

Happily, since we’re talking 100, I can do some statistical analysis!

We had 42% of the books on the Kirkus list on our own contender list from the beginning — that’s not yet half, but more than a third, which is not a bad overlap.

(I’m not listing all 42 titles, though.)

An additional 7% of the list are on our unofficial list of books we will cover if we can get them read in time — two for their Morris nods (Wonder Show and Love and Other Perishable Items), one for multiple Pyrite write-ins (In Darkness), and four because we’ve been hearing things (See You at Harry’s, Enchanted, although I started that and felt a bit meh, The Broken Lands, and Vessel).

We’re also adding two more to our unofficial list now, since Kirkus marks the second year-end recognition for Drama (also on the PW list) and My Name is Parvana (also on the SLJ list).

A further 11% of the list are books that one or more of us have already read and didn’t think rated a post. We don’t disagree that that these are (or at least could be argued as being) in the top 100 of the year, but we felt these were not close enough to the top of the pile to merit the extra time. That said, they might find their way into a post eventually, time permitting.

Of the remaining 38%, I see a fair number of series books, many of them books with a strong fan base but which no one is reading except as part of the larger body of work and which, statistically speaking, are such Printz longshots that they aren’t worth covering here. We’ll call the rest dark horses, and see if we see them again or if they are just outliers.

Thoughts?

Is It That Time of Year Already?

You know, the time of year when it’s all about the lists? When we see what achieved consensus among the review journals, what got dissed, and what we missed?

Why yes, folks, it IS that time, because November started with Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012. Now, PW is always first, and they’re earlier this year than last according to my notes, so it’ll probably be a while before we see any of the other YA lists. (But for those with an interest in the full range of kidlit, the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books 2012 is also out. You can check out the coverage at Calling Caldecott and 100 Scope Notes and weigh in with your thoughts.

And of course we’re less than 10 days from the NBA announcements, so there’s that too.)

But back to PW! And commentary!

We’ve already written at length about only three of the YA titles that made the fiction list (Bitterblue, The Fault in Our Stars, and No Crystal Stair).

Others are upcoming: Grave Mercy I’ll be posting about later this week, along with Code Name Verity (but you all know my feelings about that one any way, right?), so I won’t say any more than that for now about either of those books.

Almost everything else on PW’s list is also on our contender list (and maybe all this consensus means it IS a really excellent year?). Several of them are from repeat offenders, Printz style: Libba Bray’s The Diviners; A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers; Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island; and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. And then we’ve got Lois Lowry’s Son, which I haven’t read yet but hear is firmly YA (unlike the rest of the series).

The two outliers are Ron Koertge’s Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder.

Lies, Knives… is not on our contenda list, and I’m sort of surprised to see it here. I thought it was ambitious, but ultimately didn’t carry through — literally; many poems left me baffled because it seemed as if they were truncated and some necessary final stanza was lacking. The package is beautiful, though, and I think there is an audience for this, and again this is one tainted by the baggage of what we know: retold fairy tales and me go way back, including a massive multimedia annotated bibliography in graduate school. To a less versed audience (pun alert!), this might play differently. Any strong supporters want to weigh in on it and defend its place as best book of the year?

Cinder looks awesome (or at least awesomely fun) but I just haven’t read it yet, and neither strong buzz nor star count put it on our list. Oversight? Oddball choice from PW? Let us know.

I also haven’t read either of the graphic novels that made the list, which both fall into that dreadful 10-14 age bracket according to PW, which makes them possibly YA or possibly middle grade. Has anyone read Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson or Drama by Raina Telgemeier? Are they YA? Are they contendas?

PW also has a separate nonfiction list, and I don’t know what happened there — in this year of almost unprecedented strength in children’s YA, only four books made the PW list? Of those, one is clearly too young (it’s also on the NYT illustrated list); we’d also ruled out Chuck Close’s Face Book, which PW agrees skews younger. The remaining two, which are on our list, are Beyond Courage by Doreen Rappaport and We’ve Got a Job by Cynthia Y. Levinson. And while I haven’t even read it yet, I am most shocked by the lack of Bomb.

So what jumped out at you? What did they miss, what do you think will make every list, and what’s an inexplicable one-off?

Just One More

hornbook 225x300 Just One More

CC-licensed image by dougbelshaw

List, that is.

The Horn Book Best of 2011 list posted today.

This means that all of our pre Jan 1 lists are out: BCCB and Booklist should release their lists right around the New Year (so much for a winter break!)

Here’s how it all shakes out:

[Read more...]

Stop Playing Games with My Heart (More Best Lists)

stacks 300x225 Stop Playing Games with My Heart (More Best Lists)This week brought us not one but two great lists!

On Monday, Kirkus Reviews posted the Best Teen Books of 2011, and it was FULL of surprises. Surprises in the whoops, I missed that book entirely category, so color me chagrined (I imagine it a sort of blush color, to suit the physical manifestation of the emotion).

I’m consoling myself with the repeated mantra of “Best and Printz are not the same.” They’re not mutually exclusive, but the overlap can be slim depending on how best is defined and given that the Printz Award goes to one book and an honor goes to no more than four books; whereas we can have hundreds of books defined as best in a list (although usually not more than 100 on any single list).

And then, on Thursday, we finally got the full School Library Journal list! Which was happily less full of surprises.

[Read more...]

Let the Games Begin!

Not those games, although every other conversation I had today was about the Hunger Games trailer.

best books 300x209 Let the Games Begin!

Image by Kasaa, used under Creative Commons licensing. Some rights reserved.

No, I mean the annual best books game. The lists! The awards! The moments of truth! And (my favorite), the Monday morning quarterbacking.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re just at the very beginning of the process.

[Read more...]