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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Dark Horses

Some dark horses for your viewing entertainment.

For our final review of the season, squashed in at the 11th hour, we bring you a quick and dirty final roundup to shed a little bit of love on some books that we never got to discuss at length but that we still think deserve a little attention.

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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.

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The Story of Owen

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston
Published by Carolrhoda Lab, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

You know we’re not going to get out of here without a Trogdor reference, right? I mean, that’s not in any way the point or even relevant, but it’s still burninating me up inside. Much like the countryside and all those peasants. Which doesn’t get us to the three stars, the three best of year lists (so far), or the placement on the Morris shortlist. The Story of Owen may not have thatched-roof cottages, but it is mostly full of fantastic fantasticness. [Read more…]

Hidden Like Anne Frank

Hidden Like Anne Frank by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis, translated by Laura Watkins
Published by Arthur A Levine, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Hidden Like Anne Frank is a collection of 14 stories collected by Prins and Steenhuis, translated by Laura Watkins. The chapters each read like memoirs; they’re all presented in first person, in the voices of the Dutch-Jewish survivors of the war. The stories present a range of experiences — some are about children as young as 3, while others are the experiences of older children — although there are a number of factors that they have in common (the idea of “sperre,” the temporary prison in The Hollandsche Schouwburg). The most significant commonality is that these are all stories of survivors, and so the stories include information beyond what we often think of as “the end” of the story. [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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Children of the King

Children of the King, Sonya Hartnett
Candlewick, March 2014
Reviewed from ARC

Luxuriant prose, complicated and resonant themes, contemplative characters — Hartnett’s historical fiction is actually a bit of a genre-blender with thin fantasy elements woven in. Traditionally, the Printz committee rewards books that mix genres — but RealCommittee choices also tend to skew older, and Children of the King has been pegged by publisher and reviewers as a middle grade title. It’s happened before — David Almond comes immediately to mind; Hartnett’s rich descriptions and haunting strains of magic woven into the plot invite that comparison. [Read more…]

The Undertaking of Lily Chen

The Undertaking of Lily Chen, Danica Novgorodoff
First Second, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

I almost didn’t write this review. Not for a lack of quality in Danica Novgorodoff’s graphic novel–it has quality bursting out of the pages. No, I almost abandoned this one because of that pesky eligibility question. It’s an issue I raised last year when I reviewed Lucy Knisley’s Relishanother book that was technically an adult pub. But, there was enough ambiguity in the publisher-defined age-range that I thought it was worth a discussion. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I think the same principle applies for the delightfully morbid love story that is The Undertaking of Lily Chen. Yeah, technically it’s an adult pub, but if I ran the world (or, at the very least, the Printz committee) I would put this book forward for discussion.
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The Winner’s Curse

The Winner’s Curse, Marie Rutkoski
Macmillan, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Not gonna lie. I loved this book. I loved from the pretty dress cover — I know! But I’m a sucker — to the thoroughly unexpected world. I loved the lack of easy answers and the fact that there is more to come. I loved Kestrel’s brilliance and her stupidity, and Arin’s conflicting desires for freedom and to be a good man, in a world where both are not an option. So much love, really.

But my love does not literary merit confer, sadly, so let’s see if there’s a case to be made.

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