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Pyrite Honor Votes: Results and Decisions

By Materialscientist at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

By Materialscientist at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

We voted, and we have some results to share!

(Insert boilerplate about how this will be the simple version of the results with analysis to follow when Joy finishes geeking out over the numbers.)

But first, a reminder about honor vote procedures:

Based on the results of this ballot, the committee will decide if it wishes to name honor books and, if so, how many.

We can name up to four Pyrite honor books, per RealCommittee rules, but we don’t have to — last year, the RealCommittee only named two, which was a bold move (usually all four get honored). In my own RealCommittee year, we debated long and hard over how many honor books to name because of the points gap; we’ve seen this in the Pyrite before as well, where there is a clear distinction between the most supported and the least supported of the top four books. We can suss this out in the comments, and decide what we, as a shadow committee, want to name, but to do that you’ll need some numbers. Here they are:

The Lie Tree was the clear frontrunner — no surprise — with 70 75* points (7/5/0/1).

There’s a huge gap before the next group of books, which are pretty tightly clustered, as follows:

We Are the Ants: 35 (2/3/2/0)

Still Life with Tornado: 34 (2/2/3/1)

Scythe: 32 (3/1/1/3)

The Female of the Species: 32 (2/3/1/0)

Just to give a fuller sense of the points spread, March Book 3 just missed the top 4, coming in with 30 points (2/1/3/2), and The Sun is Also a Star had 29 (2/1/3/1); after that there’s another drop down to 22 points.

So, have at it: 1 honor book? 2? 3? Or do we go for the full four? (And if so, how?) Some years this is one of the more difficult choices the RealCommittee makes; let’s do our best to be as thoughtful.

*An earlier version of this post stated that The Lie Tree had 70 points due to a spreadsheet error.


About Karyn Silverman

Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (say that ten times fast!). Karyn has served on YALSA’s Quick Picks and Best Books committees and was a member of the 2009 Printz committee. She has reviewed for Kirkus and School Library Journal. She has a lot of opinions about almost everything, as long as all the things are books. Said opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, YALSA or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @InfoWitch or e-mail her at karynsilverman at gmail dot com.


  1. So I haven’t spent any time on the RealCommittee but I have led about eight Mock Printz workshops. This is how I would handle the situation with my committee of teen readers: 1. Assign Lie Tree as Honor1. 2. Explain that four books are at a virtual tie and explain that we can only assign four honors (maximum). 3. Discuss, debate. 4. Revote, this time the only options are those four books. (5/3/1 pts) 5. Talley. If the bottom books are a tie, then we will only have three Honor books.

    I should say, I was pretty upset that only two books received Honors last year. There were such good books and they could only agree on two of them? I’m still angry! Ha!

  2. Not only are the points disparate, the numbers of voters are, too: The Lie Tree was named by 13 voters, while the 30-cluster each only have 6-8 supporters. In a RealCommittee situation where we all read all the nominees, things would probably be different.

    I think I’d be on team One Honor. Sometimes, the Printz-iest books of the year don’t come in sets of five.

  3. Math’s off, I think–I have Lie Tree with 75 points but the same spread (7/5/0/1):


    Doesn’t change the results, anyway.

    I’m actually–and somewhat uncharacteristically–in favor of only one honor book in this situation. Much as, yes, there are more than two books total that deserve to be recognized as among the best of the year, we have a very clear imbalance between the top honor selection and the next cluster, and a super-tight cluster for the next 6 spots (I’d include March and The Sun is Also a Star) as part of that cluster). The Lie Tree had 13 voters; three of the cluster had 8, two had 7, and one had 6. That’s not double the next vote-getters, but it’s a big gap. Which for us could be a readership/appeal gap, much more likely in this forum than the RealCommittee, but is still significant. The Lie Tree had seven first-place votes, which is more than double any other book; the next first-slot vote-getters had three a piece. And, of course, points! The Lie Tree had twice as many points as the next book if Karyn’s math is right, more than twice if mine is.

    So it seems off to recognize The Lie Tree and some of our next rung at the same level, and it seems off to pick three of the cluster (unless we have another ballot, as Anne suggests) over the other three. Maybe differentiating among the cluster would seem more comfortable if there wasn’t such a huge gap between the cluster and The Lie Tree, but with this ballot it feels like splitting hairs.

    Splitting hairs being one of our favorite activities, of course.

    There’s BFYA and Morris and Nonfiction to round out the other best books of the year; Printz doesn’t need to take all the weight.

    (Also, with all the talk of “the cluster,” I’m now thinking about Stephen Universe.)

    • Karyn Silverman says

      Math has been fixed! The spreadsheet formula was not grabbing one cell for some reason, and in my haste I was blindly following what the spreadsheet told me.

  4. Joy Piedmont says

    “So, have at it: 1 honor book? 2? 3? Or do we go for the full four? (And if so, how?) Some years this is one of the more difficult choices the RealCommittee makes; let’s do our best to be as thoughtful.”

    I think the answer to this question forces us to think about the purpose of the Printz Award. According to the policies and procedures:

    “The award will: Recognize the best in the field of materials for young adults, Promote the growing number of books published for young adults, Inspire wider readership in the genre, Give recognition to the importance of the genre, Position YALSA as an authority in the field of evaluating and selecting materials for teen library collections”

    With these in mind, I would argue that in order to promote and inspire wider readership in the genre, we should strive to honor four books. Looking at it another way, I could also argue that if we’re to recognize the best in the field, we must be rigorous in rewarding only those books that are truly excellent.

  5. Karyn Silverman says

    Ok, I has many thoughts! So this is partially in reply to Anne, Kate, and Mimi, but I’m not nesting because THOUGHTS.

    I completely see Kate and Mimi’s points about why naming only one honor makes sense; the support is much higher for The Lie Tree than for anything else. But there are some seriously excellent books we shut out with that decision, and I hate to do that. I used to lean the opposite direction and treat the numbers as absolute, but I’ve softened with age and learned to take a broader view. Afterall, a Printz honor might mean the author gets another book deal or it might keep a book in print, which could really matter for relatively new authors like Shaun David Hutchinson or Mindy McGinnis. An honor might be a cue to publishers to take risks — would March exist if American Born Chinese hadn’t opened up the door for graphic works as literary works? (I know ABC was the winner, but I think even as an honor it would have had an effect.) In other words, the honor does a lot for the book, and that’s worth considering too, especially in this* situation, where we largely agree that all 6 of the tightly clustered books are pretty significant and literary works.

    *Hypothetically, obvs, because what we decide in a virtual and mock Printz environment doesn’t actually have a big impact, but if we were the RC and had to grapple with a situation like this, these are the arguments I would raise.

    So I would fight for the maximum number of honor/nickel books, but then we have the issue of an actual tie if we treat the numbers as absolute, or an ethical issues if we look at the numbers as indicators, which is pretty likely — I know if I had voted 10 minutes earlier or later, my rankings might have been different, and that’s without even getting into the issue Kate raised, which is that we’re all voting under false pretenses because we haven’t read every book in our “nomination” pile.

    I like Anne’s solution. I have no idea what the RealCommittee protocol would be here, though — I know we have some other RC alums in our readership, so if anyone knows whether re-voting the Honor slate is an option, I would love to hear. It didn’t come up in my year and the P&P have no provision — but the P&P is also vague enough that it seems plausible that re-balloting could be permissible. The Newbery manual, for what it’s worth, says “If the committee chooses to ballot for honor books, only books that received points on the
    award winning ballot may be included. The same voting procedure is followed as for the
    award winner,” which, applied here, would leave room for re-balloting. Going back to Anne’s solution, taking the clear top honor book out of the running means that the points will have a greater spread (since The Lie Tree is currently hogging them all), which hopefully means we’d be able to tease out which of the cluster of books is by consensus most deserving. As an added bonus, we now know how many voters supported each title in the cluster, so there’s some strategic thinking and arguing that could happen.

    For Someday’s purposes, we have had a slightly to very different group of voters at each round, so a re-vote would not be an entirely accurate gauge, so with that in mind I suggest we take the top three from the cluster rather than re-voting — but if we could guarantee the same voters, I would revote with the clustered titles and take the top three from that vote plus The Lie Tree as our honor/nickel slate.

    Whew. That was longer than my original post, I think!

    • Ah, but what are the top three in the cluster? Scythe has two more voters and one more first-place vote than Female of the Species, but they have the same number of votes. If we must choose between them, I think the arguments tip toward Scythe–but the absolute numbers are a tie.

      • Karyn Silverman says

        Sorry, yes. I meant Lie Tree plus top 2, for three total, to avoid this precise question. Although I like your argument for Scythe — it has more support overall, and more support as a stronger contender. Also I want Scythe on the dais, so I might be biased…

  6. I hope Real Committee won’t settle on only one honor. Last year was such a disappointment!

  7. Allison M. says

    I think we should re-vote! I would be really interested to see how that would turn out.

    • I vote for revoting, too…only allowing the four books in a virtual dead heat…We are the Ants; Scythe; Still Life in Tornado; and Female of the Species.

      Of course, one of the problems with our voting method is we can see others’ votes and can be strategic with our vote. Ha!

      • Karyn Silverman says

        Your wish is our command, but with the 6 in the full cluster, because the point spread was less than the value of a single first place vote, which makes it all too close to call.

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