Nostalgia and the Printz process don’t really go hand-in-hand. But those old school feelings really can color reading experiences. We have to do a lot of work to recognize them and move past them in order to assess a book more objectively. The first time you read someone, you might have been a young, impressionable librarian (Karyn is not the only one dating herself this week, ahem). Or an author’s earlier work could have defined an entire field and, you know, won the very first Printz award. What I’m saying is your (OK, be honest: my) baggage might make it hard to realize that the particular book you’re holding isn’t what you’re expecting. But, as always in Printz discussion, it’s important to focus on the book in hand, not previous works. [Read more…]
Let me start with a provocative question: Can a book be so literary that it fails at being a book?
Midwinterblood is full of the sorts of things I’ve hardly thought about since my days as an English major: tropes, motifs, archetypes, foreshadowing, even an ekphrastic device (ok, I had to look that one up, but it’s there; it’s a work in one medium commenting on a work in another medium, here prose commenting on a painting). It’s also told in reverse chronological order, as a series of short pieces that move back in time and seek to illuminate one another and some deeper thematic scope.
Sometimes it’s so full of these things that they seem to crush any cohesive narrative, but at the same time there’s a nimble literary magic happening here that has garnered five starred reviews* and make this one feel like a serious contender.
I’ve read Midwinterblood twice now. I’ve marveled, I’ve complained, I’ve taken extensive notes, and I still waver between work of art and stinking hot mess.
By my count, Year of the Beasts has received two stars; it’s in the buzz portion of our contenda list. Some of that buzz, I know, has been from me to Karyn: Cecil Castellucci is always doing interesting work, and Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole blew me away a few years ago and I can’t wait to read it, I kept saying. I’ve actually been carrying this book around in my bag for months, starting it and then stopping because…well, I don’t know why, exactly. I just wanted to keep reading it, I think. (Don’t look for sense-making there.) So it seems having a hard deadline for a review is a good thing for this type of nonsensical situation. I don’t think Karyn wants to hear any more buzz from me until I can also tell her I actually read the book.
We have: summer, the end of school, the arrival of the carnival, sisters, friends, boys. But then fall arrives, and so do tragedies, Greek myths, panels and pictures. Told in alternating chapters, this is the story of Tessa and Lulu. Castellucci writes the summer chapters, the Then chapters. Tessa and Lulu had a hard summer; Tessa is the older sister, the plainer sister, the sister with a crush on Charlie. Lulu is younger, prettier — and Charlie only has eyes for her. Powell’s art takes over the fall chapters, the Now chapters, except that Now Tessa’s monster self is apparent; she is transformed into Medusa and her hard eyed glare turns friends and family into stone figures. Her friend, Celina, is a siren, a mermaid on a seashell. And Tessa can’t take her eyes off the Minotaur, a wounded, wandering figure that doesn’t want to speak to her. [Read more…]
Ideally, if I were really on the Printz Committee, I’d be done reading all the contendas by this point. Actually, if we’re going for ideal, I’d have been done for a couple of weeks. At this point in the year, it’s time for very serious rereading: really going through the contendas in detail, weighing various elements, moving past first impressions into a firmer opinion of each title.
And, you guys, that would be super helpful because I could do with a reread of this title. (I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately.) But let’s get started. [Read more…]