"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 19, 2015

Thinking about starred reviews...

In a few days I will meet with the other high school librarians in my school district to select our YA Mock Printz books for the year. In preparation for the meeting I have spent a portion of the day scrutinizing sites that compile starred reviews in an attempt to divine which books are the most likely to win the coveted Printz Award in January.

One of the lists I have spent a lot of time looking at was created by the folks over at SOMEDAY MY PRINTZ WILL COME a blog hosted at School Library Journal (SLJ.) The blog is dedicated to book reviews and discussions pertaining to Printz Award books.  The megalist they created is of all Children's and YA books that have received at least one starred review this year. It is a bit overwhelming (and I'm not sure when it was last updated) but it is very comprehensive. The six reviewing sites they include in their list are: Booklist; Horn Book; Kirkus Reviews; Publishers Weekly;  Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; and School Library Journal.

Does the number of starred reviews really matter to the Printz Committee? Karyn Silverman wrote an interesting blog post several years ago titled How Many Stars Does It Take to Catch a Printz? It basically says that the committee is just about as likely to select a book with three stars or less as they are to pick a book with three stars of more.  She included some pretty cool graphs to make her points.
In the past three years, since Karyn wrote her blog post back in 2012, only three books received less than three starred reviews before they won a Printz Honor: Carnival at Bray (2015), White Bicycle (2013), and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2013). Carnival and Bicycle were outliers, in my opinion. There was no way these two books could have been on my Mock Printz list because I didn't hear about them until they ended up on the prize list in January.  Aristotle and Dante, however, was on everyone's list, including ours, and it probably won more awards in 2013 than any other YA book.  Yet, it only had two starred reviews. Obviously, the Printz Committee saw what the rest of us saw in that book.  And it makes me wonder about the reviewers who didn't give it a star. So why should I pay attention to starred reviews if they don't determine winners? We have to start somewhere.  If we just randomly picked books without applying any criteria it would be overwhelming for us to wade through all the YA books published in one year.

So, according to the starred review totals, which books "should" be considered for the Printz this year? (Remember, six is the maximum number at this point in time.)

YA Books with six starred reviews:

  • Challenger Deep by Shusterman
  • The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Hoose (nonfiction)
  • X: a novel by Shabazz
  • Tightrope Walkers by Almond
YA Books with five starred reviews:
  • The Alex Crow by Smith
  • The Walls Around Us by Suma
  • Relative Stranger by Stead (may be aimed at younger than YA students)*
  • Cuckoo Song by Hardinge $
YA books with four starred reviews:
  • The Truth Commission by Juby
  • All the Bright Places by Nevin
  • The Dead I Know by Gardner
  • Fatal Fever by Jarrow (nonfiction)*
  • The Game of Love and Death by Brockenbrough
  • Hold Me Closer Levithan*
  • The Last Leaves Falling by Benwell
  • March-Part Two by Lewis (graphic biography)
  • More Happy than Not by Silvera*
  • Nimona by Stevenson
  • Razurhurst by Larbalister*
  • Shadowshaper by Older
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Albertalli
  • Stonewall by Bausum (nonfiction)*
  • Tommy: the Gun Which Changed America by Blumenthal (nonfiction)*
My favorite three-starred reviewed books (of the ones I have read):
  • Mosquitoland by Arnold
  • Audacity by Crowder
  • Bone Gap by Ruby
  • Princess X by Priest
  • Ghosts of Heaven by Sedgwick

Several books which are NOT published yet are generating quite a bit of interest but their review totals are still a little low at this point. We don't know how many starred reviews they will garner:

  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Ness---3 starred reviews so far; due out in October.*
  • Symphony for the City of the Dead by Anderson---2 starred reviews so far; due out next week*
  • I Crawl Through It by King---3 starred reviews so far; due out on Tuesday.*

I imagine that we will select the majority our books for the 2016 Mock Pritnz from the above list of books. There are a few other three-starred reviewed books that sound good but I haven't read them yet. If my librarian friends haven't read them either, it is unlikely we will select them.

Which of these books have you read? Which would you recommend we add to our list? Are there any favorites you don't see here?

*= books I haven't read
$= currently reading

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