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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

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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The Tightrope Walkers



The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond
Candlewick, March 2015
Reviewed from an ARC

Oh, I am conflicted about this one. This is gorgeous, gorgeous writing — even the first line pulls you in and lets you know that you’re in for something unusual here (“I was born in a hovel on the banks of the Tyne, as so many of us were back then.”) With a careful balance of themes, metaphors, and images (tightrope walking, but also literally happening, the cane of Miss O’Kane, generational hopes and disappointments), this is meticulously crafted. It’s also got unsettling violence, and the ways it uses this element has got me asking hard questions. [Read more…]

Egg & Spoon

Egg & Spoon, Gregory Maguire
Candlewick Press, September 2014
Reviewed from final copy

What an ingenious little (okay, big) book this is.

Maguire is at his best when he’s being sly and subverting tropes and expectations; he did it to genius effect in Wicked, which remains one of my favorite novels, and while his overall body of work is uneven, when his writing shines it’s positively lustrous.

This is him at his best.

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Partial Non-Fiction Roundup

We’ve got a small list of nonfiction titles to go through today — all with starred reviews, and two on year’s best lists. These are all good non-fiction, solid reads. I liked them. Understand: these are no frogs here, and I enjoyed the kisses very much. Buuuuuut… I’m not convinced that they’ll be talked about in a major way at the Printz table. [Read more…]

In Brief (at length)

We’re called “Someday My Printz Will Come” for a reason; we kiss a lot of frogs. Which is necessary if we want to read widely — and we do, because that gives us the best sense of the year. The Printz is, after all, an award for literary excellence in the publication year — wider readership means we are assessing the books against as many of the competition as possible.

We can’t cover every book we collectively read — if you’re interested in seeing those lists, find us on Goodreads — and there are plenty of books we are happy to skip. But we wanted to take a moment to give out a few honorable mentions to some books that aren’t quite frogs, but they aren’t princes, or Printzs, either.

So, in brief, a roundup of some titles we don’t think need a lengthy discussion but did deserve some acknowledgement. The following books fall into one of two categories — either we read them and loved them, but sadly believe they have no chance when it comes to the Printz, OR they landed on our list for reasons of stars (we do our best to lay eyes on everything with three or more stars) or buzz, but we just can’t see them going the distance.

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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

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender coverThe 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.
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