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Infandous

infandousInfandous by Elana K Arnold
March 2015, Carolrhoda Lab
Reviewed from final ebook

I’ve been on a bit of a strange kick here at the end of this season. Untwine and Moonshot in particular really blew me away, but didn’t pick up a lot of stars between them. Infandous is somewhat similar in that it got two stars and didn’t make a year’s best list — and I really loved it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve talked before about the differences between stars and Printz votes, but…sometimes it does feel funny to be so rave-y about something that not every reviewer gave a star to. And I must acknowledge, as far as this specific title goes, I’m an easy mark; if you have a book on women, society, double standards, and fairy tales, then I’m pretty guaranteed to be first in line. So will this be a book that makes it to the final five? Well, for committee members who are most likely reading and rereading, that’s…hard to say. [Read more…]

Magic Realism x2 (Bone Gap and The Accident Season)

Happy 2016. I closed out the old year by frantically reading my way through a backlog of wonderful (and not so wonderful) books. Today, to start the new year on the right foot, I’m catching up on discussing some books I read ages ago but have been avoiding writing about.

Also! A week from today most of us will be in or en route to Boston, or else enviously reading #alaleftbehind tweets, so we’re in the homestretch! We’ll be reading and posting like mad all week and right on up through (and possibly past!) ALA.

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Roundup: Countries in conflict

book coverbook cover

Black Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, March 2015
Reviewed from final copy

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go, Laura Rose Wagner
Amulet Books, January 2015
Reviewed from final e-book

It’s a midweek roundup of books with commas in their titles. Okay, these two books are also about countries in the midst of crisis. Black Dove, White Raven is set in the years leading up to Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go presents more recent history—the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010.
[Read more…]

Printzbery Part 2, This Time on Wheels

Roller Girl coverYesterday we gave you a twofold twofer: two titles with potential for both Printz and Newbery.

Today we’re back with another, Roller Girl, in what looks like it might be a weeklong series.

Let’s get to it!

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Two Books That Have Absolutely Nothing in Common*

The Dead I Know coverDime coverAs previously mentioned, time is short and books are many.

So for today, two books that don’t actually belong in a joint post, brought to you by the color red and the letter D: The Dead I Know and Dime.

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Boys Will Be… Knitters and Lovers and Funny, Oh My

Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda coverBoys Don't Knit coverSimon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray, April 2015
Reviewed from ARC

Boys Don’t Knit, T.S. Easton
Feiwel and Friends, March 2015
Reviewed from final copy

It’s a twofer Monday, today, with two delightfully warm, funny, and frankly tender tales of boys grappling with what it means to be a boy, and also what it means to fall for someone.

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You know nothing, Mim Malone: Mosquitoland

Mosquitoland coverMosquitoland, David Arnold
Viking, March 2015
Reviewed from final copy

There are major spoilers ahead so if you don’t want to know major plot points for Mosquitoland proceed with caution.

At a certain point in one’s reading life, first person narration immediately triggers suspicion of an unreliable narrator. It’s not a terrible starting point because when do people ever tell stories without bias? The conventional wisdom is that everyone is the hero in their own story and this is definitely true of Mim Malone, our unreliable, letter-writing, narrator who runs away from the titular Mosquitoland (her new home in Mississippi) to rescue her ailing mother in Ohio. Mim is smart enough that we can believe in her ability to make the journey and navigate the various practical obstacles, but broken enough for us to question her emotional stability and judgment. Her voice is clear and distinct in David Arnold’s quirky road trip odyssey.

This is his debut novel and landed on our list after earning three stars. Amid the buzz however, there’s been criticism aimed at Mim’s understanding and use of her “one-sixteenth” Cherokee heritage. On her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, Debbie Reese has written extensively about this issue; I encourage you to check out her posts including one in which David Arnold responds to the criticism. Since that conversation has been so thoroughly and thoughtfully covered, let’s look at some of the other criteria to determine the possibility of seeing Mosquitoland earn a special sticker this winter.

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The Walls Around Us (are pretty darn impressive)

The Walls Around Us coverThe Walls Around Us, Nova Ren Suma
Algonquin Books for Young Readers, March 2015
Reviewed from final e-copy

Finally! In The Walls Around Us, Suma has delivered the book I wanted back when I first read Imaginary Girls. It’s got the good stuff I knew to expect — her wordsmithing really is excellent (my notes use the effusive words “lush” and “sensual”), she slides between fantasy and reality with a slippery grace — and those qualities works together perfectly with the complicated plot and seriously broken characters.

In short, I was blown away by this one.

However, within a few weeks of finishing the book I felt this vague sense of distaste and wasn’t really singing its praises very loudly, because we have here a book that is excellently written but (much like The Tightrope Walkers) not entirely likeable.

I blame Violet. I hated her with a depth characters can’t often evoke, because she’s written that well.

The again, and luckily, likeability isn’t at all an issue for the Printz, while good writing is, which makes this one a serious contender.

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The Tightrope Walkers

tightrope

 

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…]

Haunting Historicals: Razorhurst

RazorhurstRazorhurst, Justine Larbalestier
Soho Teen, March 2015
Reviewed from final e-copy

This seems to be a divisive book. It picked up four stars right out of the gate, but in conversation with readers (mostly librarians), I’ve found the majority didn’t love it, although not necessarily for reasons that matter for Printz. It’s a genre-blender — well-researched historical fiction but also an I-see-ghosts tale (that is a genre now, right? At least, I-see-paranormal-stuff seems to be one). In some ways, it’s urban historical fantasy, a niche I rather enjoy and that allows for some fun to be had with a genre (historical fiction) that sometimes gets bogged down in balancing fact and fiction. It’s a good book that defies easy description, and yet it seems to be hanging out low on the buzz meter.

On the whole, I think the haters are wrong and this deserved all its stars, although there are a few issues. Let’s tease them out.

[Read more…]