Karyn talked about the emotionally powerful Two Boys Kissing last week, and at the risk of completely echoing her review, I had such a similar reading experience with Courage Has No Color, which moved me to tears. The Triple Nickles dealt with racism in the army and at home, all while training to defend a country that wanted to keep them segregated. They worked extremely hard, made great sacrifices, and after all they endured, the men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion were never sent overseas to use their considerable skills in combat. I came away from that first reading feeling bitter and inspired, and I had very favorable things to say about the book overall. And now? I still have favorable things to say, but I don’t think this is a book we’ll be seeing in the winner’s circle come January.
With five starred reviews, this was an easy auto-contenda to spot. Rappaport looks at the active, heroic roles Jewish people played during the years of the Holocaust. She shares 21 stories — many involving teens and young children — of the Jewish Resistance that took place across Europe during the Second World War. In a year that has been tremendous for nonfiction writing for teens, this is an important title. It’s a memorable read, and it’s a beautiful book. In the end, though, I don’t think I would be able to make the case for Beyond Courage if I were sitting at the Printz table on the RealCommittee. [Read more...]
One of the things I find frustrating about this blogging thing is the December blahs.
At this point in the game, I have a sense of what the year has brought us. I’m not a seer, so I don’t know what books will take the RealPrintz (and judging by last year, don’t listen even if I pretend I DO know), but I know what the top of the pile looks like.
But we’re still reading, and we’re still covering books we listed back in September as contenders. And some days, what we’re tasked with is coming up with a thousand or so words about a book that was quite good, and that doesn’t deserve to be dissected into shards, but that just isn’t a serious contender.
And yes, I acknowledge that sometimes, I say “not a contender” and what I really mean is, “here’s my argument against this one, but your mileage may vary.” This time, I really just mean they’re not contenders.
Well, perhaps less of a round up than an offering of two books — two books that I don’t think will go the distance in PrintzLand (although of course only time will tell). We’re looking at the Freedman book on Lincoln and Douglass and the Aronson book on J. Edgar Hoover. My problems with each are…interestingly contradictory, I’m afraid. (And in my struggle to work through all of this, I find myself wishing I could just link to all the amazing, inappropriate, unhelpful but hilarious videos I can find. Forgive me, you guys. And thanks, Spielberg, for releasing a movie at the perfect moment for this blog post. How timely that Lincoln is so zeitgeisty.)
And at the risk of destroying all blogging creditability up front, I will also admit that nonfiction is not at all my area of reviewing expertise. I was a history major in college, but that was a long time ago, and I don’t feel entirely comfortable looking at nonfiction from a literary perspective. Of course in PrintzLand we start and end with Printz policies and procedures. But in an effort to feel a little more prepared to write this blog post, I also took a look at YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award policies. “The title must include excellent writing, research, presentation and readability for young adults.” OK, check. Do you feel ready? [Read more...]
I have a feeling this is going to be a short review, in part at least because I didn’t finish reading this one. Yes, we’ve gotten to my first DNF of the year (at least, my first public blogging about a DNF title; rest assured, there have been others). (Er. We all know that DNF is Did Not Finish, yes? I first saw Liz B use that acronym at Teacozy, so I’m assuming it’s a thing. A Thing, actually.)
Can I also just mention that I’m super bummed to out myself as someone who did not finish a Pete Hautman book? Because I would really prefer, as a fan, to be raving about this book — it’s science fiction! It’s full of action! It’s Pete Hautman! National Book Winner Pete Hautman! He will write any book and make it pretty awesome! Pete Hautman, people! [Read more...]
I’ve never read an Adam Rapp book before, so I volunteered for this one. Volunteered! I said, sure, I will read it. Oh, you guys. I mean, I thought I was prepared. I tried to be ready. And this book was exactly what I thought it would be, so…I guess that means I was as ready and prepared as I could be? Maybe? I might also be a little broken inside, though.
So: Bounce, Orange, and Wiggins are three middle schoolers who meet in detention. Bounce is the ring leader who provides drugs from her rich, successful, and usually absent parents. Her latest plan: to kidnap a four year old (whom they call the Frog), chain her in the basement, and go door-to-door raising money for her rescue. The Frog spends her time in the basement playing a video game that gives the novel its title. Orange is happy to go along with any idea Bounce has — and she has more of them as the book goes on. Wiggins is uncomfortable with their actions, but isn’t quite sure what to do. [Read more...]
Melina Marchetta! Chronicles of Lumatere! Part two! Froi! Yes, I was pretty excited to read this one. With three (? check my math on that) starred reviews, and a real affection for Finnikin of the Rock, I was ready for a fabulous read. And I did enjoy Froi as a personal read, just for me, but I’m not totally convinced of its contenda-ness for Printz Purposes.
As you might recall from Finnikin, order has very recently been restored to Lumatere; only three years ago, Finnikin and Isaboe were able to break the curse on their homeland and retake their land from the evil king of the neighboring country Charyn. Froi was an important part of that story, and is now a member of the Lumateran guard with a gift for languages. He is training as an assassin, and heads off to Charyn, where he’s expected to kill the evil king. The country of Charyn has suffered under a terrible curse of their own — no one has born any children for the past 18 years, and the land and people suffer from their barren condition. Froi finds an altogether more complicated situation, however, and killing the king becomes the least of his problems, as he meets the emotionally unstable Quintana and confronts the truth of his own past.
I’ve been reading like madwoman lately, trying to get through any books that anyone I know has mentioned favorably in the context of award getting. I have one more (Brooklyn Burning) that I want to finish and one review from our original contenda list left to post (Beauty Queens), and Sarah’s been working on a pile of her own, so we’ll get all that up this week. But MOSTLY what we’re going to give you this week is a Mock Printz of (y)our own. The list will post tomorrow, and we’ll give until probably midnight Wednesday to vote, and then do honor book polls with the goal to post all results by Saturday, just as the REAL committee is finishing their own discussions, decisions, and votes.
But I’m jumping ahead, because what this post is really about the last minute reading I’ve been doing.
And who doesn’t love a good Titanic tale? Haven’t we all had that moment when the scope of the tragedy, the mythology of the final moments, touched us in some way? I have two books that brought the story to life for me: First, Richard Peck’s Ghosts I Have Been. My memory of details has faded, but I remember that this was a seminal book for me and the image of Blossom clutching the wet blanket still brings me chills. And I remember the little boy. And the cold.
My second critical Titanic tale was Connie Willis’s Passage, an odd and not entirely successful—but still brilliant—look at near death experiences and missed connections which uses the Titanic to great advantage and led me to read a bit more Titanic nonfiction (Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, anyone?)
So although I had missed most early buzz about Allan Wolf’s The Watch that Ends the Night, once I realized it was a, about Titanic and b, fiction, I was excited to read it. Plus three stars, and it made The Horn Book’s 2011 Fanfare.