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In Lieu of my Planned Post…

sparking color star ( / CC BY 3.0

You guys, we made a calendar. We assigned topics. We had a schedule. And according to that schedule, my post this week was supposed to be a write up of Candlewick’s Fall ’12 preview that happened last Friday. Only, things changed, some stuff shifted…and I wasn’t able to make it.

So I’m going to do a little shifting of my own here. You can think of this post as a bridge between now and early April. Next week, we’ll be talking (a little) about what we’ve been reading. The week after that, we’ll be focusing on the differences between starred review criteria and Printz criteria. So I’ll spend this blog post looking at our starred review tracking, which may help shape your reading (Karyn did mention that we were serious about encouraging participation, right?), and may help get us started thinking about what those starred reviews mean in relation to the Printz Committee’s work.

First, a little background and a few caveats about our behind-the-scenes process: we are looking at reviews from School Library Journal, Hornbook, Kirkus, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly. Obviously we are not looking at titles for younger readers; we’re including stars for books published for 12 years and up, grades 7 and up — you get the idea. Unfortunately for me and this blog post, we haven’t tracked down PW yet, so our data is not complete.

At the moment, we’ve got 43 titles listed with one or more stars. There are three titles with three stars each, and nine titles with two stars each. The remaining 31 titles have a single star.

The three with three:  John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Nina LaCour’s The Disenchantments, and Paul Volponi’s The Final Four. I have no doubt that we’ll be talking (however briefly) about TFioS next week (we’ve all three read it), and I know for a fact that a lot of you all have read it, too. I haven’t seen The Disenchantments, but I know Sophie has, so I bet we’ll hear at least a little about it in a week’s time as well. And I just picked up Volponi’s latest at the library today, so I should have something concrete to offer then as well. Phew — I’m glad we can say that we’ve got those three covered!

And the nine titles with two stars each are:

  • Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
  • Marching to the Mountaintop by Ann Bausum
  • The Wicked and The Just by J. Anderson Coates
  • Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
  • Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
  • No Crystal Stair by Vonda Micheaux Nelson
  • There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff
  • Double by Jenny Valentine
  • Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson

I’ve already gushed about how excited I am to read Friends with Boys, so now I’ll squee about how intriguing Chopsticks sounds! Creepy, deliciously mysterious, and it’s not just words! I don’t know if I’ll have it tracked down by next week, but maybe you guys have already cast eyes on it? I’d love to hear more about it, if you have.

Of the remaining thirty-one titles, there are definitely some that have me excited. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Jesse Andrews) is sitting on my dresser, so I’ll try to pick it up between now and next week. Pete Hautman’s The Obsidian Blade is the first in a trilogy. I only got about 1/4 of the way through it before I decided it wasn’t working for me. That star, however, is making me rethink my first impression; I’ll give it another shot and see what I can tell you next week. I’d also like to track down Roddy Doyle’s Greyhound of a Girl and Cecil Castelucci’s Year of the Beasts (but no promises on those for next week).

For the curious, a few more titles with one star:

  • After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth
  • When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellison
  • Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Obviously, it’s early in the year — and of course we haven’t included numbers from PW up to this point. Clearly, these numbers can and will shift. But just writing this post has been helpful for me, in terms of giving me a plan for this week’s reading. What about you guys? Have you read any of these?

Oooh, and I’m wondering: would you all be interested in periodic starred review round ups? How often? What kind of information would you like to see included (do you care where the three stars for TFioS came from, for example)? Let us know!

About Sarah Couri

Sarah Couri is a librarian at Grace Church School's High School Division, and has served on a number of YALSA committees, including Quick Picks, Great Graphic Novels, and (most pertinently!) the 2011 Printz Committee. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, GCS, YALSA, or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @scouri or e-mail her at scouri35 at gmail dot com.


  1. Yes! To the last paragraph. I just don’t “get” starred reviews. Who gets to give stars? What is the criteria for multiple stars? Educate me, please!

    • Sarah Couri says

      Katie, I think a lot of your questions will get answered in further detail in our upcoming post(s). But the quick version is that each publication has its own set of criteria, and it’s basically up to the reviewer to make the case in the review whether or not a book is worthy of a star. The only place I’ve publicly reviewed has been at SLJ and I don’t think I ever did give a book a star. I know a lot of you guys are reviewers, though, so I’m sure you can add your perspectives!

  2. I’ve been keeping track of starred reviews on my blog at — I have the hardest time getting access to Booklist reviews, but I think my list is comprehensive through February at least. There are also some middle grade titles on there that probably won’t be Printz eligible, that’s just a hard line to draw!

  3. Just read graphic novel Friends with Boys and loved it. Plus I picked up Ann Bausum’s book about Martin Luther King Jr’s final days at a history conference–very cool book. Thanks for the breakdown about the stars!

  4. I am fascinated by this post and hope more of the same is going to come. First, I am a dedicated follower of Printz and knowing about the process is invaluable to me. Second, I would very much be interested in starred reviews roundups, because this information is not easily available to casual readers, like me. I think only Kirkus reviews are more or less open to the public. Bi-weekly feature would be good, I think.

  5. A starred review roundup would definitely be helpful. I can’t order every single book that’s been starred, but if something has received several stars and I haven’t ordered it yet, it does indicate that I need to reconsider. Luckily, I have ordered the “three with three,” but have only read The Fault in Our Stars. I didn’t know that The Final Four has received so many stars–I knew the reviews have been very good, but I just ordered it because I’m always in need of good sports novels for the YA collection. I’m really looking forward to reading it now!

  6. Sarah Couri says

    Whitney, your link is so fantastic, thank you! And can I just have an aside and agree about the difficulty in drawing the line between MG and YA?? SO tricky.

    Katie, Tatiana and Jennifer, I’m persuaded that we’ll do this on a somewhat regular basis. The nice thing from a behind-the-scenes perspective is that it will give the three of us some deadlines to getting the starred review information together. And I know that it will help me make decisions about what to read next, which can be just as overwhelming on a committee as it is in every day librarian life!

    Kate, your votes for those two titles are really making me impatient to get my hands on them. Here’s hoping my library holds come through quickly. 🙂

  7. I WOULD appreciate stars roundup and I’d really appreciate that run down on the differences between starred reviews and Printz criteria!

  8. Hope Baugh says

    All of the posts for this blog so far this year have been very helpful. I confess that I read them all at once yesterday afternoon but now I’ve got the blog in my reader, I think.

    I would find more star round-ups very useful, too – every month or two? Or really, whatever is convenient for the blog contributors. I am lucky in that my library subscribes to the six review journals mentioned, but I had never thought to keep a running list of starred books. What a good idea! (Duh! – laughing at myself for never having thought of it.)

    As someone mentioned in the comments for another post, I rarely mind not having read the Printz winner when it is announced but I do dread not having ordered it for my library. My 2012 New Year’s resolution is to lead a full life rather than a busy one, so I’m not going to promise to read every Printz contenda, but I do promise to read and comment on as many as I can, and to read this blog regularly. I’m looking forward to the discussions here this year!

  9. I love keeping track of stars and stuff – it just appeals to my little spreadsheety heart – with that in mind, I have stars from all six of those journals updated through the end of March for everything and April for the Bulletin. Based on that and only including titles reviewed for Ages 12/Grades 6 and up (the age limit thing though is definitely a judgement call – I may have included or left out some of the younger side stuff that I shouldn’t have) – here are my tallies:

    5 stars: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – starred by everyone but the Bulletin (which hasn’t reviewed it as far as I can tell)

    4 stars – 5 titles:
    Disenchantments by Nina LaCour – PW, Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist
    Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth – PW, Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist
    No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Michaux Nelson – PW, Kirkus, SLJ, Horn Book
    There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff – PW, Kirkus, Booklist, Horn Book
    Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson – Kirkus, SLJ, PW, Horn Book

    3 stars, 11 titles:
    After the Snow by S. D. Crockett – PW, Kirkus, SLJ
    Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson – Kirkus, PW, SLJ
    Drowned Cities by Paola Bacigalupi (squee!) – Booklist, PW, Kirkus
    Final Four by Paul Volponi – Booklist, Bulletin, SLJ
    Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin – Kirkus, Booklist, Bulletin
    Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – Booklist, Kirkus, PW
    Master of Deceit by Marc Aronson – Kirkus, PW, SLJ
    Miles to Go For Freedom by Linda Barrett Osborne – PW, Kirkus, SLJ
    Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman – Kirkus, PW, Booklist
    To the Mountaintop by Charlayne Hunter-Gault – PW, SLJ, Booklist
    We’ve Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson – Kirkus, PW, Booklist

    2 stars: (Just gonna do titles here, because it starts to get long)
    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
    The Butterfly Clues
    The Chaos
    The Children and the Wolves
    Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip
    The Difference Between You and Me
    Friends With Boys
    Froi of the Exiles
    Greyhound of a Girl
    In Darkness
    The List
    Marching to the Mountaintop
    Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
    Never Fall Down
    Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie Bat
    Radiant Days
    Try Not to Breathe
    Under the Never Sky
    The Wicked and the Just

    I also count 52 one star titles that fit that age range.
    Yea for numbers!

  10. Oh, I’d love some star roundups/explanations of what the heck they really signify. I love that this blog helps me keep up with all the contendas in little ways I wouldn’t keep track of on my own.

  11. I’m pretty baffled by The Obsidian Blade too….and I generally love Pete Hautman, I couldn’t tell where it was going or why it was going there, and I found a weird disconnect between cute alien kittens and young teen boys with graphic scenes of the crucifixion and 9/11.

    • Sarah Couri says

      Jamie, thanks! I got frustrated while reading when I realized that the mom character was supposed to really be suffering…and yet could still cook and clean. Um, gross? (In other words, I really did put it down early. I’m going to give it another try later this afternoon, because I, too, do generally like Pete Hautman a lot!)

  12. I love everything about this post as well as Whitney’s and LizB’s helpful roundups!!! You guys are hitting it out of the park this year!!

    Can’t wait to start discussions!

  13. Hope Baugh says

    I thought I left a comment earlier this week but I have not seen it show up yet while others have, so I’m trying again. I would like to see star round-ups and I am looking forward to participating in the discussion here, if I can.

  14. My reading pace hasn’t been great, but I think I’ve got some of the right stuff going in my TBR. I’ve read TFioS and Under and Meth Moon, both of which are on the bubble in my opinion as far as Printz.

    I’m currently reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post and the rest of my “soon” pile includes:
    Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
    Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
    Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl
    and Grave Mercies

  15. Love this post! I would really enjoy reading starred review round ups too. Thanks to Whitney and Jen B for the starred reviews so far. That’s so helpful. I have The Disenchantments checked out from my library right now, I’ll have to see if I can get to it this weekend.

  16. Karyn Silverman says

    Jen B and Whitney, thanks for your much better numbers! I have to confess that our numbers being so off is probably my fault– I called Sarah in a panic when she posted this and said “But I am way behind!” and she pointed out that you all would catch anything we’d– okay, I’d– missed. Whew. Our next roundup is already scheduled and as a result should not suffer from backend disorganization (which is to say me!)

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