Mock Printz 2012 Results

Ten Ocean County Librarians have voted. The first round results are as follows (you could choose up to 3 titles, ranking first to third):

Between Shades of Gray – 16
Beauty Queens – 16
Daughter of Smoke and Bones – 10
A Monster Calls – 9
Stick – 6
Shine – 5
The Berlin Boxing Club – 4
Chime – 4
Blood Red Road – 3
Scorpio Races – 3
The Name of the Star – 2
Dead End in Norvelt – 2

In terms of first place votes:
Beauty Queens – 4
Between Shades of Gray – 2
Daughter of Smoke and Bones – 1
Stick – 1
Chime – 1
A Monster Calls – 1

So we went to a second round of voting for titles with 5 or more votes (meaning at least two people had to have voted for the title). The results:

Beauty Queens – 21 (with 4 first place votes)
Between Shades of Gray – 16 (with 2 first place votes)
A Monster Calls – 12 (with 1 first place votes)
Daughter of Smoke and Bones – 11 (with 2 first place votes)
Stick – 7  (with 1 first place vote)
Shine – 5
Chime – 2

Mock Printz 2012 Winner – Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Mock Printz 2012 Honor books – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Lani Taylor, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Here are some comments:

Erin: I think Between Shades of Gray should win because it was beautifully written and you felt you knew the characters and could feel what they were feeling. Also because it brings up a part of history that is not spoken of and needs to be brought out into the light.

Mary Jo: Between Shades of Gray is award worthy. It’s written at that level. The ending reinforces the power of writing. Even when a culture conceals, the power of storytelling and having an audience to hear the story allows the silenced to to reclaim their story. Just as Hollywood loved Hugo Cabret because it is a movie about the power of movies, this is a soty about the power of storytelling. So it adds value to an already strong text.

Katie: I wish every book was as well-written and witty as Beauty Queens.

Jen: I’d give an honor to Beauty Queens—no higher than that.  I also loved The Name of the Star (my #3).  Though it wasn’t my cup of tea, Chime by Franny Billingsley is surely in the mix with the Printz committee.  I also don’t think you can count out Okay For Now and Dead End in Norvelt in this category.  I did really like A Monster Calls, but not sure if I’d give it the medal—an honor for sure.  I just think a lot of people may have initially picked it up because it’s such a slim book and thus may not have read some of the thicker  books (read: Daughter of Smoke and Bone).  Lastly, my dark horse/ long shot pick is Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando.  It came up on one of the best of the year lists, which is how it came to my attention.  It really was very well-written and had an interesting mix of realism and a fantasy-within-reality element.  My I-wish–it-were-so-but-it ain’t-never-gonna-happen pick is Rick Yancey’s Isle of Blood.

As for me, my number one pick is Stick. It’s not getting the blogosphere attention I believe it deserves. Stick is an incredible character. The writing is sparse and it has an almost Punkzilla quality toward the conclusion. I believe it’s very literary and I’d love to see it recognized. Our winner, Beauty Queens, doesn’t have a chance in my opinion, though it is a better book than Daughter of Smoke and Bone because it actually adds something to its genre. I wish I had had an opportunity to argue against Beauty Queens and Daughter of Smoke and Bone (or rather lobby for Stick, A Monster Calls and Between Shades of Grey) but our voting took place via email. We did discuss at a meeting but not all were able to attend and many who did attend the meeting didn’t read a majority of the books. So… we voted electronically and heard from all the avid readers.

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Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2011)

“What’s your favorite song of theirs?” Tiara asked.
” ‘Let Me Shave Your Legs Tonight, Girl,’ ” Petra blurted out.
“Ohmigosh, I LOVE that one!” Tiara said, clapping. “How about ‘I Only Want to Be with You’ or ‘I Just Need to Be Yours’ or ‘You, You, You’?”
Nicole chimes in. ” ‘I Gave Up My Hobbies So I Could Spend More Time with You.’ ‘I Love You Like a Stalker!’ Or — ooh, I know: ‘Safe Tween Crush’? (p 73)”

En route to the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant, a plane full of beauty queens crashes on a (supposedly) deserted island. Thirteen contestants survive – clumsily at first – and then thrive, eventually building huts, a water filtration system, and a micosociety.

Admixture, a bunch of rowdy, handsome pirates shipwreck on the island and men in black shirts with guns and explosives kidnap Mary Lou’s boyfriend and threaten the girls.

Beauty Queens is an amagamation, a melting pot. It pokes fun at a slew of issues ad nauseam: reality tv, marketing, education, media, race, ethnicity, bias, sterotyping, sexuality, and of course, beauty. Sometimes Bray delivers (Ladybird Hope’s interview on Barry Rex Live on page 56) and I found myself laughing out loud (“Protect the citadel!” p 71) and sometimes the references were blunt and fell flat.

Sometimes, I felt this was less of a satire and more home-hitting. Take the quote I led off with. Anyone read some of the teen reactions to Stolen by Lucy Christopher? Yeah. Scary.

I don’t doubt it was a fun book to write (possibly contributing to its unnecessary length) but it is only a mildly entertaining read. I agree with Patti @ Opps…Wrong Cookie though – best cover of the year.

Read other reviews/thoughts:
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Books Smugglers
Opps… Wrong Cookie
Tia’s Book Musings

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The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow (2011)

The sounds of men hitting speed bags and jumping rope mingled with the gutteral grunts of exertion and blended in a strange primitive symphony. The place also had a distinctive animal smell that was warm and damp like a butcher shop on a summer day (p 101).

Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern is a tall, lanky youth when his boxing lessons with champion Max Schmeling begin at the Berlin Boxing Club. Hitler’s Nazi party is just coming to power in Germany and Karl is being bullied at school for his Jewish heritage, though he considers himself a Red with no religious affiliation.

He finds refuge in his apprenticeship at the boxing club, strength training and secretly meeting the beautiful Greta. He is also a passionate cartoon artist. Then his world begins to crumble. His father’s bussiness disappears, his family is evicted and his relationship with Greta is forbidden by law and her parents. Though reluctant to leave, it soon becomes clear to Karl’s father he must take his family out of the country.

Fluid prose, metaphors that reinforced the time period and the narrator’s youthful perspective, a well-paced plot and genuine characters define this novel. While there are several crescendos, the denouement was gripping and a wave of terror clutched at me. An excellent read.

Read other reviews:
Book Smugglers
Opps… Wrong Cookie

I also recommend:

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Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones (2011)

Look up at the Plaza Regent, Blink, in the shivery morning light. Count the floors – take your pick (p 3).

Blink lives on the street. He sneaks into hotels and steals food from the room service trays. One morning, while scrounging, something weird happens inside a hotel room. A crash… then a thump, padded by silence. Three rough-looking men leaving with another. A Suit. They ditch the room key, which Blink uses to enter the room and a world of weird. He takes the wallet containing a wad of cash and a picture of a beautiful girl. Perhaps foolishly, he takes the smart phone.

Caution can’t forgive herself for murdering her brother, Spencer. She’s sentenced herself to death by magic. Merlin, a dealer and thug, is her executioner. She’s living out a death sentence, until she takes Merlin’s stash and runs. Confident he will find her and finally kill her, she believes she is getting what she deserves.

Their stories converge as Blink attempts to unravel the mysterious crime he witnessed that shivery morning and Caution runs from her abuse boyfriend.

The suspense starts immediately and lets up only enough for the two characters to have brief flashbacks, explaining the circumstances that led to their current dire state. The language is mostly lyrical, with a fine cadance and only a few missteps with over-expounded storytelling or cliché lines such as, “Anyway, the only law on your side right about now is the law of survival” (p 63).

On occassion the convoluted plot had me skeptical but I was invested in the characters. So I suspended by disbelief and went along for the ride. I’m glad I did.

Read other reviews:
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Annette’s Book Spot
Eve’s Book Addiction
Kirkus (starred)
National Post (a pretty close to perfect review)

Library copy | ISBN 978-0763639839 | Ages 14 and up | 342 pages | $16.99

Read Alikes:

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Blood Red Road by Moira Young (2011)

I seen them squiggles before, I says to him. On landfill junk. I spit on the ground. That ain’t nothin special. Bloody Wrecker tech.
Oh no my dear, it’s good Wrecker tech. Noble even! From the very beginnings of time. Those squiggle, as you call them, are letters. Letters joined together make words. And words tell a story. Like this one (p 121).

Sometime in the future, the world has been devastated by the Wreckers and their technology. Along the banks of a dried-up lake, Saba lives with her twin brother, Lugh, her father and her younger sister, Emmi. Since their birth, Saba and Lugh have been inseparable.  

Then some men ride into town on the heels of a dust storm, snatching Lugh away and killing their father. Saba sets out to find Lugh, accompanied by a persistant Emmi. Together, the pair brave the cheats, robbers, and slavers of Hopetown - the nearest settlement – where they learn Lugh was taken by a man who calls himself the King. They are helped by a handsome rogue named Jack and a band of female fighters called the Free Hawks.  Along the way, Saba discovers she is a ferocious fighted herslef and she forms a bond, albeit reluctantly, with her sister and Jack.

The minimalist style of this novel appealed to me immediately. Saba’s dialect (she is illiterate) was also a welcome change. These two factors led to a quick reading of this seemingly long novel. The action starts immediate and rarely slows.

It wasn’t until the later episodes, when I believe the world building was crossing over to improbable, that my adoration wavered. Giant, flesh eating worms with claws? Too Tremors and where the heck did it come from. No other mutant animals until this point. Lugh’s (easy) rescue and the Tonton’s actions? Where was the basis for that? I was left scratching my head. Even the casualties seemed required and unnatural (and the King’s death – ridiculous!).

When Jack rode away, I thought of the poem “My love is like a Red, Red Rose” (read it on WikiSource). Oh, he loves her so much! Then he rides away leaving only promises. Hum. Highly suspect.

Lots of adventure, well-written and it includes the steamy but brief romantic scenes adolescent girls love. I think this will be enjoyed by both boys and girls.

Read other reviews:
Ms. Reader Pants
Hitting on Girls in Bookstores
LA Times

ARC | Margaret K. McElderry Books | June 7, 2011 | ISBN 978-1442429987  | 464 pages | Ages 13 and up | $17.99

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak (p 51)?

Oh, this book is so goooooood.

Connor has nightmares so terrifying, the monster who appears in his back yard doesn’t scare him in the least. The monster may be the size of a yew tree, contorted with an evil grimace, but it is not scary. Connor’s mother is sick and the treatments she receives only make her worse.  His father is has moved to America with his new wife and child.  At school, Connor is either bullied or ignored. So instead of being afraid of the moster, Connor hopes it can help him. After all, the monster is powerful.

The monster’s help comes in the form of three true stories, with the agreement that Connor will tell a fourth truth. But truth is at the heart of Connor’s nightmares.

This story within a story techinique and the story about story theme have been explored in many other much-discussed novels of 2011: Breadcrumbs, The Mostly True Story of Jack, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated the Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Interesting.

This slim novel packs a strong punch. I appreciated it front to back and up and down. It’s a book I don’t want to review in detail because I’m still savoring the experience. I’m not ready to share. Well-written and well-paced with complimentary illustrations, it’s one of the best books of 2011.

Is it elegible for a Newbery? Jonathan Hunt talks about it on Heavy Medal. I would be so disappointed if a sidebar kept this one from being recognized. Of course, there’s always the Printz!

Read other reviews:
Books, Time and Silence
Fuse #8
The Guardian

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Mock Printz 2012 List

The American Library Association’s 2012 Youth Media Award announcements will take place on Jan. 23, 2012, 7:45 a.m. CT from Dallas, Texas.  The announcements are part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting, Jan. 20 – 24, 2012. Ocean County Library librarians will meet on Friday, January 6 to discuss the following titles and to select a mock Printz winner:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Shine by Lauren Myracle
The Floating Islands by Rachael Neumeier
The Queen of Water by Laura Resau
Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Stick by Andrew Smith
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey
Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Have we overlooked anything? (Chime is purposefully absent from our list. I tried reading it long before the National Book Award debacle and found it completely boring. I couldn’t finish it – though I read the last few pages and it validated my decision.)

Other Printz blogs/lists:
Book Envy
My Head is Full of Books
Opps…Wrong Cookie
Someday My Printz Will Come

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The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey (2011)

Admittance to the Locked Room was restricted to only two classes of organisms–those that posed the highest risk to human life and those fools who would pursue them (p 122).

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop is in the business of hunting the organisms that pose the highest risk to humanity. He is the Monstrumologist and thirteen-year-old Will Henry is his assistant. Then the opportunity to hunt the top prize, the Faceless One, arrives in the form of a prank. John Kearns sends Warthrop the nidus ex magnificum - the nest of the Magnificum – by way of one Mr Kendall. One touch of the nidus leads to infection. Infection to Oculus Dei (the eyes of God) and henceforth to death. Mr Kendall, the curious delivery man, becomes one of many victims in the race to find the Magnificum.

“It will be a seminal moment in the history of science , Will Henry, the finding of the magnificum, and not without some ancillary benefit to me personally. If I succeed, it will bring nothing short of immortality–well, the only concept of immortality that I am prepared to accept. But if I do succeed, the space between us the ineffable will shrink a little more. It is what we strive for as scientists, and what we dread as human beings. There is something in us that longs for the indescribable, the unattainable, the thing that cannot be seen” (p 147).

Yancey, once again, delivers a riveting story full of horror, suspense, and excellent character development, as well as an exploration of the human psyche. The most surprising and satisfying developments belonged to Will Henry. His transformation from assistant to apprentice, from witness to catalyst is extraordinary. Let me tantalize you with the following passage from Will Henry’s folio:

I suppose we cannot help it. We are all hunters. We are, for lack of a better word, monstrumologists. Our prey varies depending on our age, sex, interests, energy. Some hunt the simplest or silliest of things–the latest electronic device or the next promotion or the best-looking boy or girl in school. Others hunt fame, power, wealth. Some nobler souls chase the divine or knowledge or the betterment of humankind. In the winter of 1889, I stalked a human being. You might think I mean Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, I do not. That person was me (p 172).

Meanwhile, Yancey paints Warthrop as vividly as ever. The reader will be sucked into his sphere along with Will Henry and at the conclusion, all three come face-to-face with the Magnificum.

Is it any wonder the power this man held over me–this man who did not run from his demons like most of us do, but embraced them as his own, clutching them to his heart in a choke hold grip. He did not try to escape them by denying them or drugging them or bargaining with them. He met them where they lived, in secret places most of us keep hidden. Warthrop was Warthrop down to the marrow of his bones, for his demons defined him; they breathed the breath of life into him; and without them, he would go down,as most of us do, into that purgatorial fog of a life unrealized (p 420).

If there is one book you read this year, it should be The Isle of Blood. Assuming, of course, you have read The Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo. And if you have already read these first two books in the series, I’m sure you have already picked up The Isle of Blood and need no urging from me. Then we will all face the horror of waiting for the fourth installment.

Read other reviews:
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Teacozy
Book Smugglers

Reading Rants
In Review

Library copy (print) | September 13, 2011 | Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers | 560 pages | ISBN: 978-1416984528 | Ages 14 and up | $18.99

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Stick by Andrew Smith (10/11/2011)

Half my head is quiet.

 I was born this way.
Most people don’t notice right away, but once they do, I see their faces; I watch how they’ll move around toward that side–the one with the missing part–so they can see what’s wrong me with.
So, here. Look at me.

I’m ugly.

I’d like to preface my summary and review with a sentiment. I was enthralled by this book. Completely. I read it in one sitting.

Stick isn’t his real name. It’s Stark McClellan but everyone calls him stick. He’s thirteen-years-old, six feet tall and, well, a stick. His older brother, Bosten, who is in the eleventh grade, has always looked out for Stick, whether it is protecting Stick from school bullies or their abusive parents. The brothers have formed a loving bond so solid nothing can come between them.

There are many exceptional aspects to Smith’s storytelling. Stick is our first person narrator and the verity of his voice is immediately apparent and consistent.

Things get into my head and they bounce around and around until they                    find a way out.
My mother never talk about my ear. She hardly ever talks to me at all.
I believe she is sad, horrified. I think she blames herself.
Mostly, I think she wishes                   I was never born (p 7).

The prose echo Stick’s thoughts just as his thoughts echo and bounce around in his mind, trapped by his missing part. Stick believes himself ugly – a thought reiterated just often enough that we know it is never far from his thoughts. It is a thought that strips him of whatever fragile confidence he is able to build before the negative external forces in his life tear him down. It colors ever new interaction, magnifying his already meek nature. This is depicted as well as and perhaps even better than other excellent books dealing with physical abnormalities (like North of Beautiful and SLOB). Continue reading

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The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier (2011)

There were a dozen of them — no, Trei saw as they approached: fourteen. Fifteen. They flew as geese fly in the fall, in a formation like a spear point. At first the shape the winged men made was stark as a rune against the empty sky, but as they approached the ship, they broke their formation, wheeled, and circled low. The morning light caught in the feathers of their glorious wings, crimson as blood, except for one man whose wings were black as grief (p 4).

After the death of Trei’s family, he travels from his hometown of Rounn in Tolounn to the Floating Island of Milendri. Rounn is industry. Women are free to pursue their interests unconstrained. The Floating Islands are majesty and magic. Women must be chaperoned and are barred from professional work.

When Trei sees the Kajuraihi flying on magical winds, he becomes sky-mad but will his half-island blood be enough for the dragons whose magic keeps the islands afloat? As Tolounn prepares for war, suspicion turns on Trei.

Trei finds an unlikely ally in his sarcastic cousin Aranè when he discovers she has been posing as a boy to attend school at the University. She is a gifted chef with a dream society will not allow her to obtain.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

There are shades of steampunk in this novel: the furnaces that power the mages who bring down the Islands and the magical feathers that bond with the bird feathers and attach to the Kajuraihi’s arms as wings.

Class and gender discrimination are ever-present.

Trei sat back in his chair and looked at her, still doubtful, as though she had changed shape under his gaze — not just from a girl to a boy, but from a known to an unknown. Araenè waited for him to say, Girls can’t be mages, but he said instead, “There might be a war coming — did you know?” (p 134)

The citizens of Milendri live in the First City, Second City, or Third City (where low-born girls are less restricted).

One aspect I wish was more developed was Araenè’s magecraft. We learn a little as the story progresses (and as Araenè must quickly learn it) but the rules are never truly defined and the possibilities explored in-depth.

I did enjoy the eventual romance. It’s subtle blooming three-fourths of the way in had me sprinting to the finish. It just felt right! I also thought the element of grief was well handled.

The story changed shape as I read and took me along unexpected paths, not all of which needed explanation. Very enjoyable.

Read more reviews:
Book Smugglers
Book Yurt
Kirkus (starred)
Tempting Persephone

Library copy | Alfred A. Knopf | February 8, 2011 | 400 pages | ISBN 978-0375847059 | $16.99