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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Morris Nominations

YALSA’s Morris Award (technically the William C. Morris Debut Award) is a great showcase of strong new voices in the YA literature field. Often there are a few books we have had on our speculation list that end up being Morris finalists, because good writing is good writing. And, of course, sometimes the best writing is a debut — from Looking for Alaska, 10 (TEN!) years ago (before the Morris, but still a debut) to Seraphina just two years ago.

But the thing is that the Morris pool is a LOT smaller. And often crowded with schools of commercial clone fish, against which the more original and/or literary novels tend to really shine. And we all know that a big fish in a small pond often becomes a small fish when the body of water is bigger.

The Printz is a pretty big body of water. [Read more…]

Picture Books for … Teens?

It’s rare that there are true all-ages picture books.

This year, we have two of note.

Both are beautiful, thought-provoking, unusual, and skew way up. All the way to adolescence and beyond.

I’ll eat my hat if either receives a silver from the RealCommittee. Hell, I’ll eat all y’all’s hats. BUT. These are gorgeous books with appeal for older readers, so here’s me shining a bit of light on them.

[Read more…]

Mary Poppins Books

Almost three years ago, I talked about Mary Poppins books (practically perfect in every way).

These are books that deserve stars and commercial acclaim and critical praise. They are in the top of the crop for the year, but they’re… a little thin. Like Mary Poppins, they appear and have their moment and then off they go; unlike Mary Poppins, they don’t leave too much behind (she, after all, wrought change. Also earworms).

[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.

[Read more…]

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…]

A Volcano Beneath the Snow

A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin
Knopf, April 2014
Reviewed from final copy

JOHN BROWN TAKE THE WHEEL is probably not how you expected this review to start, but let’s embrace the unexpected and just go with it. With four stars and some rave reviews happening, Albert Marrin’s A Volcano Beneath the Snow is definitely getting some love here and there. [Read more…]

Roundup: Boarding School Blues

And We Stay coverEven in Paradise coverThis morning, we’re looking at two novels set in boarding schools; And We Stay is Jenny Hubbard’s follow up to her 2012 Morris Award Finalist, Paper Covers Rock, and debut author Chelsey Philpot is inspired by classic literature in Even in Paradise.*

Both novels feature a young woman with a traumatic past who, in her junior year, transfers to a boarding school in New England amidst whispered rumors and speculation. Ostensibly, these stories are quite similar.

But… not really. [Read more…]

A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance, Padma Venkatraman
Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Joy referenced the #weneeddiversebooks movement a few posts back, when she talked about two black ballerinas, one fictional and one actual. In some ways, A Time to Dance could have been included in that post: it’s a book about a dancer who is also a person of color. But in other, critical ways, this entirely different, and not only because it’s a novel in verse and getting way more critical acclaim.

This isn’t perfect, but it definitely beats out those other dance books we’ve seen this year and the other novel in verse I’ve read so far (with the caveats that Brown Girl Dreaming is next to read, and I don’t consider How I Discovered Poetry a novel).

[Read more…]

Death and Love: Sorrow’s Knot & The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Today, I’m talking about two books that are in my personal top 10 of the year. And both revolve around death and love, two primal, powerful pieces of life.

And they’re both fantastic.

Other than that, they’re really different, and I suspect neither of them has much chance at a Printz nod, which is sort of a shame.

[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…]