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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Thin Line

the-singing-bones-coverCover Girl Who Drank the MoonSnow White Ohelan cover

I’m going to cheat a little today, and deviate from our attempts to review in roughly calendar order.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about middle grade and YA and all ages and the fine line between the Newbery and the Printz.

We’ve had books on all ends snag awards, yes, but these are generally outliers (see: Navigating Early, Last Stop on Market Street, This One Summer). Generally, the Printz list is solidly YA, the Newbery middle grade, and the Caldecott goes to a picture book for ages 4-7. But here’s the thing: books aren’t nearly this clearcut in their appeal. And as always, we have a handful of books this year that seem tailor-made to defy easy age and award bracketing. Today I’m going to look at three of them (with an honorable mention of a fourth): Matt Phelan’s Snow White, Shaun Tan’s The Singing Bones, and Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank Down the Moon. These aren’t the only potential line-blurrers: Joy’s Thanksgiving call for reader nominations raised Wolf Hollow (my honorable mention) and Some Kind of Happiness as possibilities, and the nonfiction this year is almost all on the cusp — and that’s just the ones I can name off the top of my head. But these three are the ones I see as having the most consensus as crossover books we might want to talk about, whether or not they actually have the legs to go the distance.

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Golden Boys

goldenboysGolden Boys by Sonya Hartnett
Candlewick, April 2016
Reviewed from an ARC

Oh, friends, I may not be the person to write this review — not least because I haven’t technically finished reading this quite short book. I mean, I’ve read most of it, and what I’ve missed, I have skimmed through as I was trying to get ready for this semi-late review. If I just waited to post until tomorrow morning, I’d have it all done and feel slightly more legit about this. But…if I’m being honest, finishing isn’t going to get me where I need to be to make a solid call on this one. Hartnett is a past honoree, and Golden Boys has four well earned stars — the writing is lovely, full of well-integrated motifs and gorgeous imagery.

I know, I know, I sound like the most ungrateful reviewer around, not appreciating all this bounty! We’ve talked before about preferences and baggage, and the difference between reading for yourself, reading for a collection, and reading for committee (all so different!). I am always someone who wants a lot of plot in my plot, who would prefer that characters run around — and maybe swing a vorpal sword while they run. But I recognize that’s not always what I will get in my reads. Case in point here!  [Read more…]

Burn Baby Burn

burn-baby-burnBurn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
Candlewick, March 2016
Reviewed from an ARC

Can I rave for a minute? What a title! And what a cover, too. Medina manages to blend a lot of elements beautifully and smoothly. With four stars and a place on the NBA longlist, this read has a lot going for it. And a lot of people rooting for it — there’s a lot of love from all of us here; it was mentioned as an early frontrunner in the comments. But the sparkles of a disco ball can be very forgiving; in the harsh light of the Printz criteria, how well does it stand up to all the love? [Read more…]

So many books they never end oh god too many books (Hanging Chad part 1)

morebooks copyThis year is just full of books, and so many of them are worth talking about. Sadly, we’re not going to get to everything we hoped to read before Monday’s award announcements, despite valiant efforts.

I’m mourning Leavitt’s Calvin, loaded on my Nook but sadly unread; Seneca Village; Lizard Radio, with a premise so unusual that maybe I will read it even after I ought to be moving on to 2016 publications; and a handful of other books besides. Not to mention all the books reviewed by Joy and/or Sarah, a percentage of which I haven’t read and several of which are clearly among the top 20 or so of the year.

But enough crying over books unread, and on to the final titles we have squeezed in. We’ll run half of them today and the other half tomorrow, because otherwise this post would be out of control.

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Honor Girl

honor girl coverHonor Girl, Maggie Thrash
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from final copy

I was distracted while reading Honor Girl. The first two chapters orient the reader in the early days of the new millennium; there’s a list of celebrity crushes including Leonardo DiCaprio, Usher, and Justin Timberlake, our narrator is reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (and later, Goblet of Fire), and her favorite band is The Backstreet Boys. I spent most of the book trying to figure out if I’m older or younger than Maggie Thrash (as it turns out, I’m older by just six months). Near the end of the book a date is shown which confirmed my suspicion, but I had to read it a second time just so that I could experience the book without my self-centered curiosity getting in the way.

I’m mentioning this at the top of the review because those little references tethered me to the material in good and bad ways. I’ve never attended an all-girls school or camp, nor have I ever gone to a sleepaway camp. But I remember where and who I was in the summer of 2000. Being able to contextualize Maggie Thrash’s memoir through my understanding of myself at that time allowed me to fully appreciate how she captures a few months in her life when everything and nothing changed. It’s beautiful and nostalgic.

In our first round of Pyrite voting a couple of you gave Honor Girl your first place slot. With three stars and solid content to back it up, it’s not a longshot for the RealPrintz but there are a few things that will probably keep this one from the winner’s circle.
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Graphic Novels, redux

OK, I know I’ve already said it’s been quite a year for historical fiction (and, you know, I stand by that), but we’ve had some amazing graphic novels to read this year, too. I don’t know if we’ll replicate This One Summer’s total dominance at the YMAs (OK, maybe I’m slightly overstating there!), but I did have a rave for Nimona, and I’ve got some more excitement for two other titles here. How far will they go? Well, I’d be happy (though surprised) to see one in the final five, and ready to argue hard for the other. [Read more…]

Symphony for the City of the Dead

Symphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from ARC

One of my favorite books last year was Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial RussiaDespite having a ton of critical praise for its tight, thrilling narrative and thoughtful approach to complex history, it didn’t manage to snag a Printz (although it did win lots of other great awards). Symphony for the City of the Dead is, in many ways, a wonderful sequel to Fleming’s book. M.T. Anderson begins Symphony with Dmitri Shostakovich’s childhood, just before the end of the Romanov reign and the rise of Lenin. For the first half of the book he alternates between chronicles of Shostakovich’s life and the political and social upheaval in Russia beginning with the Bolsheviks and the revolution straight into World War II. The siege of Leningrad and the composition of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 are the main focus of the rest of the book. Anderson—a two-time Printz honoree—does very good work here but a few things in Symphony may keep the author from earning his third Printz.
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It’s Historical! (Fiction, that is)

Emperor of Any Place coverPaper Hearts cover

Today, two historical fiction books I’d love to talk to about, both set during World War II (making this an apt post to publish on the first night of Hannukah).

One is a lovely novel in verse that I don’t think has gotten much attention — zero stars, no buzz — but I was deeply touched by it and want to shine a little reflected glory on it by sticking it in the conversation even if it’s so dark of a horse it’s nearly invisible.

The second is a critical darling and I just don’t seem to have read the book everyone is raving about, so I’m eager to hear what others see in this one.

So join me below the fold for Paper Hearts and The Emperor of Any Place.

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Printzbery Part 1

There's a Prince Berry in Strawberry Shortcake! Who knew?

There’s a Prince Berry in Strawberry Shortcake! Who knew?

Printzbery: could be one, could be the other, might even end up both.*

By popular demand: today we’re talking about all those maybe kidlit, maybe YA books from the first three quarters of the year.

On the table for the potential Printzbery*: Roller Girl; Echo; Goodbye, Stranger; The Hired Girl, Cuckoo Song, and Orbiting Jupiter.

Today, we’re tackling The Hired Girl and Echo and tomorrow we’ll bring you Roller Girl and Goodbye Stranger; Orbiting Jupiter we’ll cover as we get deeper into the back half of the year (along with anything we come across in the meantime). And Cuckoo Song? It’s on my serious contender list and I will argue that it reads up UP UP, so I plan to cover it either by itself or in tandem with another genre frontrunner, hopefully in the next week or so.

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X: A Novel

X book coverX: A Novel, Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
Candlewick Press, January 2015
Reviewed from final copy

X: A Novel made the NBA longlist and is one of five YA novels to receive six stars this year. (For reference, the other titles are: Challenger DeepThe Tightrope Walkers, Goodbye Stranger, and The Boys Who Challenged Hitler. All except Goodbye Stranger were on our initial list, and we’re likely to review Rebecca Stead’s latest because of its crossover appeal.) The praise has been effusive for this fictional account of Malcolm X’s life as a teenager. Words such as, “powerful” and “important” have been used liberally and appropriately as X arrives at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is a fixture in the national conversation and we strive to honestly examine race and racism in our country.
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