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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Pyrite Redux: Lifestyles of the Rich and Privileged

The ALA Youth Media Awards are just around the corner and that means that it’s redux time! Today we’re revisiting two 2014 favorites: Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

The Hudson Valley Library Association’s book club met today for its annual Mock Printz. Karyn and I hosted some very smart librarians for an afternoon of delightful debate, and at the end of the day The Family Romanov ran away with the Pyrite*. At this point you may be thinking, “…and We Were Liars?…”

It just missed earning an honor. (Like, 1 point shy.) It surprised all of us in the room, which is funny considering we were the ones voting, but such is the way these things shake out.

The conversation, however, did and didn’t prepare us for this result. Family Romanov was praised for its brilliant pacing and clear presentation of events, but we also questioned the book’s tone. Does Fleming play her hand too openly? Regarding We Were Liars, we discussed Lockhart’s command of voice and tightly crafted story, but wondered if it ends up being less than the sum of its parts. Some people said the fairy tales didn’t work for them while others thought they enhanced the novel’s themes.

Now it’s your turn, dear readers. These are two divisive titles that have already gone through the critical darling/backlash cycle, so where are we now? Make your case in the comments!

*HVLA’s Mock honors went to: I’ll Give You the Sun, How I Discovered Poetry, Egg & Spoon, and This One Summer. We’ll bring you into the Mock discussion when we revisit each of these titles in the coming days.

About Joy Piedmont

Joy Piedmont is a librarian and technology integrator at LREI - Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School. Prior to becoming a librarian, Joy reviewed and reported for Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch. She reviews for SLJ and is the President of the Hudson Valley Library Association. When she’s not reading or writing about YA literature, she’s compulsively consuming culture of all kinds, learning to fly (on a trapeze), and taking naps with her cat, Oliver. Find her on Twitter @InquiringJoy, email her at joy dot piedmont at gmail dot com, or follow her on Tumblr. Her opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, HVLA or any other initialisms with which she is affiliated.


  1. I liked (not loved) Family and shared it with a colleague who is very into the whole Russian Revolution era. She pointed out that consistently throughout the book, the daughters are misidentified in the photos – something I would never have picked up on. If I were on the committee, with that knowledge, I would be unable to give it a top vote.

    • Karyn Silverman says

      Wow, Laura, that makes a huge difference if it’s true, but in that case I’m really surprised no one has raised that before now.
      I was one of the readers uneasy with Fleming’s tone; her word choice paints some very vivid images that convey a lot. I am assured this is a good thing, or at least a thing, in nonfiction, and how it definitely adds to the style which is on the criteria for Printz. I still didn’t vote for it, but also wasn’t surprised it took the gold. I’ve only heard minimal praise here, though, so whether you agree or disagree with our small pool yesterday, I’d love to hear it.
      As for We Were Liars… It worked for me on both reads. I buy the fairy tales as the only way Cady would be able to get at the truth — she can’t face it head on; childhood represents a kind of innocence as does her amnesia, so she turns to the canon of her childhood to work her way through the complex relationships. When I look at the Printz criteria, I find that this is a consistently strong example of each item (voice, story, setting, style apply particularly). There may be books stronger in one category, as Joy pointed out (in person) yesterday, but few that have this consistency. And when it comes to the Printz, that makes for good odds. It’s definitely sticking towards the top for me, although where exactly is a bit of a moving target.

      • Oh, wow! Now I want to take another look at the photos, because I didn’t pick that up. If it’s true, that definitely raises even more questions than I originally had.

    • Laura — I’m afraid your “expert” friend’s claim is very much exaggerated. With the exception of a single typo that has been corrected since the first printing, the grand duchesses are all properly identified in the photos. (The acknowledged typo, on the tercentenary portrait of the entire family, did indeed reverse Olga and Tatiana.) At first glance it may appear to some that the caption for the lantern slide of Rasputin with Alexandra and her children is wrong, as their features are significantly blurred, but upon examination of the original photo (visible here:,_her_children_and_a_governess.jpg) it’s easily apparent to those who are familiar with the grand duchesses that Ms. Fleming’s identification of the imperial children is also correct in that instance.

      As Mr. W. pointed out, misidentifications of the Romanovs abound. I don’t think there’s a single volume in my collection of Romanov literature that doesn’t have at least one correction penciled into the margins of the captions. If you’re going to condemn Ms. Fleming for one fleeting typo, you must also be prepared to dismiss the works of Robert Massie, Joseph Fuhrmann, Dr. Mark Steinberg, Prince Michael of Greece, and even the memoirs of Nicholas II’s own chief of personal security, General Alexander Spiridovitch.

      • When I served on the ENFYA committee, it’s exactly these errors that caused the most discussion of the books we read – and several books were disqualified due to poor word choice, factual “typos” and the like. Granted, the Printz is not the NF award, but one would hope that these types of conversations are also held.

        There was another book that came out this year that had poor word choice that was corrected between the ARC and the finished copy. Knowing that meant that I could in good conscience put the book on my library’s shelves. It’s not a question of “condemnation” but of wanting the best books for my students.

  2. This from my expert: “the captions fairly consistently miss-label Grand Duchess Olga and Grand Duchess Tatiana. Olga is the one with the very round face (not fat, just round: almost the shape of a coin–”typically Slavic”); she’s the eldest and first-born of Nicholas and Alexandra. Tatiana is the very slim, very beautiful second-born, the one who looks like she could have been a late 20th century fashion model.”

  3. I did a bit of detective work using the credited sources and archives and the statement that the captions are “consistently” incorrect “throughout the book” is absolutely false. Simply untrue. My best guess is this person has seen these photos elsewhere with incorrect captions and presumed those were correct. Archives like Getty and Corbis are famously loaded with errors. Their flubs are perpetuated in articles, books, and websites the world over. The photos of the Romanov girls are very often confused even scholarly adult books.

    I think that if you are going to put an entire book in question based on the suggestion of a friend who is “into” a certain subject you are advised to do the research thoroughly and view primary, trusted sources. It’s wise to be skeptical, but essential to get it correct.

  4. I’m glad this was corrected in later printings, but that doesn’t help those who (like my library) have the incorrect version. As for my expert, I trust their knowledge and academic credentials – this was not some casual reader with a passing interest but has done considerable research on a high level.

    As is mentioned above, archives like the Getty contain errors, and this family is particularly difficult to identify in many sources. Skepticism is helpful, particularly when there is at least one obvious error.

  5. Laura, my trouble with your comment is that you state that “the captions fairly consistently” are mislabeled. There was a single typo– that was discovered and corrected– but all the other photos are correctly labeled. If you know of other mislabeled photos you have the responsibility to back up your doubts with evidence instead of insinuation because your comments will lead some to believe that all the captions may be wrong. That is unfair. Sarah informs us that the great Romanov scholars, ” Robert Massie, Joseph Fuhrmann, Dr. Mark Steinberg, Prince Michael of Greece, and even the memoirs of Nicholas II’s own chief of personal security, General Alexander Spiridovitch” also made small mistakes in their highly regarded histories. Do we dismiss these scholars for their minor caption errors?

    It’s unfortunate that minor errors have occurred in all these highly regarded histories, but i’m going to put my faith in a thoroughly researched three hundred page narrative, supported by thirty pages of source notes, vetted by Russian and American scholars versus your mystery expert. What happens here is that your comments unreasonably throw doubt over the entire book. In the end, what matters is the depth and the breadth of the research and scholarship — the truth of the wider story– not the mislabeling of a single photo.

  6. Bina Williams says

    There is one translation of a diary in Chapter 10 where the person says “As if.” This stuck out.. I tried finding the original source online but could not…
    Plus, in the family tree, there is a typo for Nicholas’s birth year.
    Other than that, I really enjoyed reading this book…especially after reading Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire!

  7. A correction
    “The conversation, however, did and didn’t prepare us for this result. Family Romanov was praised for it’s brilliant pacing and clear presentation of events…”

    its brilliant pacing
    it’s=it is

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