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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

December Blahs

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.

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Nonfiction roundup

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...]

The Obsidian Blade

obsidian The Obsidian BladeThe Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman
Candlewick, April 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

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...]

The Children and the Wolves

wolves The Children and the WolvesThe Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp
Candlewick, February 2012
Reviewed from a final copy

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...]

Froi of the Exiles

 Froi of the ExilesFroi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
Candlewick, March 2012
Reviewed from ARC

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.

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Books in Brief

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.

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The Iceberg Watcheth

The Watch that Ends the Night 214x300 The Iceberg WatchethHappy 2012! This year marks 100 years since the fateful maiden voyage of RMS Titanic, which is why we’ve saved this book for our first post of the year.

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.

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Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son

Tom, Tom, he was a piper’s son,
He learned to play when he was young.
And all the tune that he could play
Was over the hills and far away
(Nursery Rhyme; this text from Wikipedia)

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A Monster Calls

monster 150x150 A Monster CallsFair warning: this is a book that will hurt to read.

You’ve probably heard of it.  It’s getting stars in journals and a lot of love online. In fact, Heavy Medal wondered if it’d be eligible for the Newbery. It’s also got a moving, fascinating back story. It’s hinted at by the sentence on the cover (Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd), but the full story is here. [Read more...]

Blink & Caution

Screen shot 2011 10 13 at 9.40.14 PM 198x300 Blink & CautionBlink & Caution has received stars from Kirkus and SLJ, and PW, a 5Q/4P from VOYA (per Books in Print), and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, plus it was just named a finalist for the Canada Council for the Arts Governor General’s Literary Awards.  So, you know, this book is no slouch.

And let’s get this out of the way up front: it’s a good book. It deserves praise.

But it’s flawed, and the flaws are literary in nature. And I’m mostly only going to talk about the flaws, because all those links at the start cover the good stuff really well and in great detail. [Read more...]