"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=========

Friday, January 10, 2014

Applying mathematical approach to 2014 Printz selection

Every year about this time I start obsessing about the possible Printz Award books. In September two other high school librarians joined me in selecting a handful of books we think might be potential Printz award winners. Then we set a team of students to work reading them. This year we selected 15 books. See list here. I had an initial team of over 50 students willing to make a stab at reading at least five of the books on the list. They also agreed to attend the workshop where we, the team, would pretend to be the Printz selection committee choosing the book we think will be the winner. My team has whittled itself down to around 30 loyal readers. I can't wait for the Mock Printz Workshop which will be on January 23rd after school.

For the workshop I like to be uber prepared with information about the books, the authors, and the whole Printz selection process. In addition, I want to have an idea what other bloggers and reviewers are saying about the books. This year I decided to look at this information with a mathematical eye to help me make informed decisions.

Starred Reviews. Professional book review sites like School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist will give starred reviews to books they deem worthy. This is different than the stars given to books on Amazon or Goodreads, so if I say that a book has five starred reviews it means that five of those professional book review sites selected the book as special. If it has only two starred reviews only two of those reviewing sites thought this book deserved the extra special attention. And so forth. Of the books published this year for young adults receiving starred reviews these are the top:

5 starred reviews
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell* +5
  • Far Far Away by Tom McNeal* +5
  • March, Book One by John Lewis +5
4 starred reviews
  • Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black* +3
  • A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty* +3
  • Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff ** +3
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell +3
3 starred reviews
  • Boxers/Saints by Gene Luen Yang** +1
  • Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson* +1
  • All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry +1
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein +1
  • Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner* +1
  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick* +1
  • The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky +1
  • In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winter* +1
 A few years ago the book Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley had only one starred review before winning the coveted Printz Award. Starred reviews are not the be-all-end-all predictor, but they are a tool to use, particularly in guiding book selections for reading.

In addition professional book reviewing sites and some newspapers publish their list of favorite books at the end of the year. At this time they cull through their own starred reviews and select their best of the best. I looked at six sites that published end of the year "FAVORITES" lists:
-New York Times- Notable Children's Books;  (N)
-Hornbook-Fanfare! ;  (H)
-Publisher'Weekly- Best 20 books of 13 ; (P)
-School Library Journal- Best Books of 2013, fiction (S)
-Kirkus Reviews-Best Teen Books of 2013  (K)
-Booklist Online- Editors Choice, Young Adults  (B)

Here is what I found:

On all six lists:
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell* (all) +5
  • Boxers/Saints by Gene Luen Yang* (all) +5
On four lists:
  • Far Far Away by Tom McNeal* (S,B,H,P) +3
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (S,K,P,N) +3
On three lists:
  • All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry (S,K,H) +1
  • Reality Boy by A.S.King (S,K,P) +1
  • A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty* (S,K,H) +1
  • Picture Me Gone Meg Rosoff (B,P,N) +1
  • Winger by Andrew Smith (B,K,P) +1
Another thing to consider is the National Book Award finalists: (These are announced in November.)

  • Far Far Away by Tom McNeal +1
  • Boxers/Saints by Gene Luen Yang +1
  • Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff +1
  • the other finalist and winner are books more geared toward the middle grade reader.

And the Horn Book/Boston Globe winner and finalists: (Announced in May)

  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell-winner +2
  • A Color of White by Jaclyn Moriarty- finalist +1
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman- not eligible for Printz this year because it was published last year.

Now to my complicated mathematical scoring to determine my prediction of the winner and honor books. I will use the scoring method used for dual track meets at the high school: 5 pt for 1st; 3 for 2nd; and 1 pt. for 3rd. I will also give additional points for placement on the National Book Award and Horn Book Awards.  See scoring in red above.

Now for the total points:

Eleanor and Park= 12 pts.
Far Far Away= 9 pts.
Boxers/Saints= 7 pts.
Picture Me Gone= 5 pts.
March, Book One= 5 pts.
A Corner of White= 5 pts.
A Rose Under Fire= 4 pts.

Based on my elaborate and complicated scoring system I predict that Eleanor and Park will take the 2014 Printz Award. Far Far Away and Boxers/Saints should take honors for sure and the judges will have to employ some other scoring system to break the tie further down my list.  Ha!

What do you think of my scoring system? Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? Let's hear your opinion now.


  1. I think it's awesome that you can get that kind of commitment and enthusiasm from students. My two teenagers love to read, but I doubt I could convince them to go the extra mile like this. Kudos to you for keeping kids so engaged! The scoring system seems pretty watertight, but my entirely random guess is that the Printz people will decide to be more original and pick something other than the heavy favorite.

    1. I know that my scoring system won't actually sway any judges. Last year, if I had done this same scoring system The Fault in Our Stars would have won by a landslide. I actually really like Far Far Away and Boxers/Saints so wouldn't mind if either of these took the top prize. Actually I also really like A Corner of While and Picture Me Gone, too. I think this year has a really strong field to pick from. (I haven't read March or Rose Under Fire, yet.)

    2. About the student participation, I work it pretty hard keeping the books and the interest in the foreground all fall. I also rely pretty heavily on my upperclassmen to be the role models for the younger students. Since I have been doing the Mock Printz for five years now I have some students who have read for the team for three years. When the Mock Printz is over in January they cast about for a month or so trying to figure what to read now. I sometimes have kids who ask me if they can help me make my selections for the next year. It really is cool!


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