"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Are starred reviews a predictor of award ceremony success?

I've been spending a lot of time looking at the reviews of the best YA books of 2011 in preparation for our selection of the books that will be included in the Bethel SD Mock Printz list. In the past we've tried to include books that have several starred reviews. Starred reviews are given to books of special merit by professional reviewers: School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books, Horn Books, Library Media Connection, etc.

Here are the top "star" YA books so far this year:

TitleAuthor# Starred reviewsOther info to consider
Between Shades of GraySepetys6
ChimeBillingsley6Horn Book Honor
Anya's GhostBrosgol5Graphic novel
Blink and CautionWynne-Jones4Horn Book Winner
Jasper JonesSilvey4
Paper Covers RockHubbard4
A Monster CallsNess4Due out 9/27/11
Queen of WaterResau4
Okay for NowSchmidt4Middle Grade level?
Berlin Boxing ClubSharenow3
KarmaOstlere3Prose in verse
I am JBeam3
Daughter of Smoke and BoneTaylor3Due out 9/27/11
Tall StoryGourlay3Middle Grade level?
Strings AttachedBlundell3Horn Book Short list

If starred reviews determined the winners, creating our Mock Printz book list would be easy. Take this list, drop off the books we think are really middle level books and our reading list would be the remaining thirteen.  But take a look at the stars given to last year's award winners.

TitleAuthor# Starred reviewsLast year's Award Winners/Honor Books
Ship BreakerBacigalupi3Printz Award winner; National Book Award YA finalist
Please Ignore Vera DietzKing3Printz Honor
NothingTeller4Printz Honor
StolenChristopher1Printz Honor
Revolver Sedgwick4Printz Honor
MockingbirdErskine2National Book Award YA Winner
LockdownMyers1National Book Award YA finalist
For contrast this book didn't win any of the major USA book awards:
Finnikin of the RockMarchetta5

It is obvious, if we look at last year's results, that starred reviews do not necessarily help determine if a book will win an award.  Stolen and Lockdown had only one starred review each. Hmmm.....  What do you think?  Should we focus our list on "star-heavy" books or just pick the books we like for our Mock Printz list?


  1. I've always been more interested what a book is about and if it sounds interesting than whether everyone else is reading it and raving about it. Of course, I'm not one to read a book just because it won an award either.

  2. My choice from that list is Between Shades of Gray, which I thought was just wonderful. It will be fun to see what wins

  3. You know, we used to think starred reviews were really important, but lately we're finding that we don't always agree with them -- whereas we do tend to agree that the Printz, Newbery, etc. nominees are fabulous. So while stars might point you in a decent direction, we definitely don't think they should be your only focus. As a blogger, you have a great insight into what people are actually reading and enjoying and being impacted by. That might be useful information too.

  4. Sometimes I feel that the starred reviews are what *adults* really like and not necessarily reflect upon the targeted audience. I loved "Chimes" writing style but I don't think it appeals on a wide level which is probably why it hasn't been checked out much at my library. I absolutely loved "Stolen" and am surprised to see that it only got 1 starred review. A lot of books on the first list on my tbr pile and I haven't gotten to them yet so I can't really comment on them.


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