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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean

Billy Dean 198x300 The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean, David Almond
Candlewick, January 2014
Reviewed from finished ebook

David Almond was one of the original Printz court (see my royalty pun there?). Skellig was an honor book in 2000, and then Kit’s Wilderness took the gold in 2001. Almond hasn’t stopped writing; at least in his native England, he seems to have something published and earning accolades nearly every year. So why is no one talking about his latest to cross the pond, the surreal and magnificent The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean?

Maybe it’s just that I had my head still firmly stuck in 2013 books in January, but I almost missed this entirely. Luckily someone put his next book on their to-read list in Goodreads, and when I went to check the US pubdate for that one, I stumbled across this one. It received three starred reviews, so we can be sure three people read it, plus me and one stalwart reader who read it for my discussion group at BookFest @Bank Street last week. I’m wondering if that’s it. (Edited to add: And the smart folks at PW, who put it on their list.) Which is a shame, because while I’m still not sure I liked this one, I think it’s definitely in the running for most ambitious novel of the year. [Read more...]

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

18166936 The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton
Candlewick Press, March 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Here’s some magic realism by way of fairy tales with writing that’s often achingly beautiful. Some books engage your intellect and others grab your heart; some books, however, immerse you in a sensory experience. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is this third kind of book. In a densely packed narrative that spans generations, Leslye Walton writes about love, obsession, regret, innocence, identity, freedom, and a lot more, aided by descriptive writing that emphasizes the five senses.
[Read more...]

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

18166920 Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak OutBeyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, Susan Kuklin
Candlewick Press, February 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Does literary quality mean that a writer has to have a strong authorial presence? I bring this up because Beyond Magenta is a wonderful nonfiction book. It’s easily one of the strongest contenders for this year’s YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction—but will it be a serious Printz contender? [Read more...]

Children of the King

cotk Children of the King

Children of the King, Sonya Hartnett
Candlewick, March 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Luxuriant prose, complicated and resonant themes, contemplative characters — Hartnett’s historical fiction is actually a bit of a genre-blender with thin fantasy elements woven in. Traditionally, the Printz committee rewards books that mix genres — but RealCommittee choices also tend to skew older, and Children of the King has been pegged by publisher and reviewers as a middle grade title. It’s happened before — David Almond comes immediately to mind; Hartnett’s rich descriptions and haunting strains of magic woven into the plot invite that comparison. [Read more...]

Reality Boy and More Than This and Black Helicopters, oh my!

A few final books we wanted to squeeze in: Reality Boy, which received some buzz early in the year but seems to have fallen off everyone’s radars despite three year-end Best lists; More Than This, a book that has picked up some traction recently as a buzz book and potential contender; and Black Helicopters, which seems strongly divisive but which no one has forgotten despite having first read it months ago — and staying power matters when it comes to awards.

(As a bonus, we each reviewed one of them so you can try to guess which “I” is which blogger!)

[Read more...]

Roundup: All the Books

Okay, not all the books, but three books for the price of one post: The Golden Day, Winger, and The Midnight Dress.

(It was going to be four books, because I stayed up way too late reading More Than This the other night, but I think I need to sit on that for another day or so before I can do it justice.)

Other than the facts that all three feature murders and have garnered three stars, these aren’t linked by anything other than that they needed to be talked about in the context of awards season.

[Read more...]

Message or Masterpiece (Or, Does the Problem Novel Still Exist?)

Today we’re running a roundup of books that we think are worth discussing because they are in the top, say, 100 of the year. But they aren’t quite there, and we don’t think they’ll go the distance. And to make the post about more than just a series of short reviews, we’ve limited today’s roundup to books that have a lot to offer but seem to lose out on Printzliness in the name of message or purpose. Every time we discuss these books, we find ourselves focused on a central issue not of writing but of the world: an issue discussed in the books at hand but not really of them.

And as we discussed this, we found ourselves comparing these books to the problem novels of yesteryear, because like them, what the books are about seems to weigh more heavily then how they are written, even if the how is light years beyond the old chestnuts. And really, these books offer so much more than just the issues at their hearts — but we were struck by the ways that the social issue at the heart of the text stuck in our heads the longest, outweighing the literary elements. Is this about our own biases, seeing and holding on to the part that feels like a news soundbite — and therefore, easy to remember and the sort of thing that we are reminded of by the outside world on a sadly too frequent basis — or is it an issue in the writing?

Let’s see! [Read more...]

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 Kingdom of Little Wounds

little wounds The Kingdom of Little Wounds

The Kingdom of Little Wounds, Susann Cokal
Candlewick Press, October 2013
Reviewed from ARC

I wanted to like this.

I mean, it’s huge, it’s about my favorite general period in history, it uses a fairy tale motif throughout, it’s got a stunning package, and people whose opinions I respect say this is an it book when it comes to literary books this year.

I really really wanted to like this.

But…

[Read more...]

Roundup: Girls in Crisis

Double feature crisis show!

Today we’ve got not one but two — TWO! — reviews for the price of one click. Really, these two books — Fat Angie and 17 & Gone — have very little in common, but they are both March pubs and have some thematic overlap, dealing as they do with girls in distress. Not damsels in distress, but the kind of deep-seated internal anguish that is too often intrinsic to teen girls, saddled as they are with expectations and beliefs and the need to always be aware.

[Read more...]