Nerd Printz Update – Year 2!

Hi and thank you for reading my twice yearly blog updates! Ugh, I really should be better at this. It’s kinda like, what I do, blog. So besides failing last year at posting anything close to a regular schedule I also made little progress on my Nerd Printz Challenge. I started off strong, working through what my library owned on audio but then slowed considerably.

But this year, this year will be…probably more of the same. I’m taking the microscopic momentum I had last year and plan to build on it. To that end 2013 is only 16 days old and I’ve already finished a Printz! YAY! On with the review!

handler_webWhy We Broke Up, novel by Daniel Handler, art by Maria Kalman, 2012 Printz Honor.

  • Story: Min Green writes a long letter explaining why she broke up with her ex-boyfriend Ed Slaterton. She uses the letter to explain each item in a box that she is returning to him that played some role or had significance in their brief relationship. Through the letter we see how popular jock Ed and “don’t say arty” Min first started dating, the brief and rocky course of their relationship before the aforementioned break-up. Usually I don’t enjoy books that present the end and then work backward to tell the story. I like reading to figure out the unknown. But in this case the structure works because although we know Min and Ed break up we don’t find out way until well into their story. I also love the art and how each object opens a new chapter in the story. The objects represent a different aspect of their relationship, good, bad, bittersweet and pointed.On a roll of undeveloped film, “But we never developed them. Undeveloped, the whole thing, tossed into a box before we really had a chance to know what we had, and that’s why we broke up.”
  • Voice: Nailed it. Told in Min’s voice, Handler does an amazing job of creating a unique voice. Yes, it sometimes veers into overly complex but always maintains a conversational and authentic voice. One of my favorite parts of the book.
  • Style: Long form break-up letter with great art.
  • Setting: An  unnamed middle class town, an art house theater, a high school, two houses and a cemetery.
  • Accuracy: Sure, although it kept bugging me that the movie and cultural references weren’t real. Like I get why they were invented, so we all have the same frame of reference (none) but at the beginning I thought, maybe they are. Then I thought, for sure, not they’re not. Then I got sad because I would love to see Greta in the Wild.
  • Characters: Min – Maybe my one complaint of the book is how singularly we’re focused on Min. She’s a great character. Honest, vulnerable, naive, hopeful, lost, and yes, artistic. But by using the letter we only have Min’s perspective. I’m not sure I really need Ed’s but everything we learn about other characters, like her mom, her friends, Ed’s friends, are all from her perspective. Ed – Typical jock with hidden layers, like good math skills and ability to steal sugar from diners. I found Ed interesting but wish I could see him from another perspective from Min’s. We get some from his sister but not enough at times. Al – Min’s best friend. Joan – Ed’s sister. Annette, Jillian – Ed’s ex-girlfriends. Jordan, Lauren – Min’s friends.
  • Themes: Love, Relationships, Friendship, Heartbreak, Honesty.
  • Illustrations/Design: Incredible. I’ve already mentioned the art by Maria Kalman as amazing and tied very well with the story. The cover and end papers are also art by Kalman and set the story very well. The book is printed on heavy-weight, high quality paper which is rare in YA books but was necessary to showcase the illustrations. And the author blurbs on the back are stories of their own break-ups like David Levithan’s “The boy I loved didn’t know I existed. Then again, he was obsessed with Camus, so he didn’t know if any of us existed.” Very nice touch.

Thoughts: On the surface this book is in no way my cup of tea. Break-up story, told in flashback. But with incredible writing, sly humor and amazing honestly, I found myself liking it more and more. Not sure if this it hits all my buttons to be “the bestest book ever!” but it is a great read and I’m glad I finally got around to it.

Four out of Five Printzmobiles



And in other good news I’m re-reading Looking For Alaska for a book group so I’ll have my first re-read post going up. It’s been about six years since I’ve read it. Hope I still love it since I go on and on about it being John Green’s best.


NerdPrintz Update #2 – Skellig

Another audiobook I listened to awhile ago. I listened to this and Kit’s Wilderness back to back and even though Skellig was the honor I thought this was a more interesting story, more character-focused rather than theme-focused.  My notes, thankfully for you kids and kittens, are more robust.

Skellig by David Almond, 2000 Printz Honor

Story: Michael’s baby sister is very sick so his father and mother spend much of their time caring for her. One night Michael discovers Skellig, a short, odd and very ill man/creature in the dilapidated garage in the back yard.  Micheal tries to help Skellig secretly but eventually tells his neighbor Mina. As his baby sister condition worsens, Michael must confront these grave issues.

Voice: Similar to Kit’s Wilderness yet more direct, less poetic. Use of repetition, “extraordinary,” William Blake.

Style: Also similar to Kit’s.

Setting: English country town, garage behind Michael’s house, Mina’s house, hospital.

Accuracy: Sure (by “sure” I mean accuracy is probably a very important point when deliberating but when discussing winners and honors it tends to be a moot point.)

Characters: Michael, typical 10 year old, sticks up for Mina, concerned for his sister. Mina, quirky, home-schooled by her mom. Dad, keeps Michael out of school when things are bad (I’m not sure why I thought this was important besides as giving the plot a chance to move forward), Mom and baby (clearly I also thought these two were tied/interchangeable), Skellig, creature? Angel? Mystery of who he is and where he comes from. Teasing boys at school.

Theme: growth, perseverance, courage, faith, mystery, interesting use of supernatural/fantasy creature.

Design: N/A but the narrator was fine.

Thoughts: As I said earlier I liked this better than Kit’s. The story was more contained, more focused on Michael, his family, Mina and Skellig. I also liked the relationship between Michael and Mina and how it grew.

Four out of Five Printzes

NerdPrintz Update #1 Kit’s Wilderness

It’s July 3rd! How’s that year long challenge I started at the beginning of the year going…uh, yeah.  Good thing I wrote notes.  AKA this review may be a bit sketchy. But I swear I did read it. I’ll run down the suggested qualities that the Printz committee looks at when deliberating. Again, read this back in February so a little sketch.

Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond, 2001 Printz Medal Winner

  • Story: A sweet story about stories and a boy and his grandfather. About the darkness of the past to light of the future, hope. The Game of Death = reborn.
  • Voice: Straight forward language with deep insights. Use of repetitive language, “aged 13” “haunted.”
  • Style: Old timey, folktale vibe.
  • Setting: Stoneygate, a rundown, decaying mining town.
  • Accuracy: Sure
  • Characters: Kit, Christopher Watson; his grandpa, mom and dad; John Askew, a brute; Alice Keenan
  • Themes: Life/Death, Bridging past to present, Hope, Power of Family/Relationships
  • Illustrations/Design: Narrator was alright.

Thoughts: It was one of those stories that grew on me. While listening I found it to be good but not extraordinary. Thinking more on it I really like the relationship between Kit and his grandfather. The stories they share and create are very powerful and speak to the bigger themes in a really lovely way.

Four out of Five Printzes.

Let’s Nerd this Printz Up!

Inspired by former classmate and all around superstar John Schu and his Newbery/Caldecott challenges, I’m pledging to read all the Printz medal and honor books and today my list just got longer.

The 13th Printz winner was announced this morning at ALA’s Midwinter Conference. (Congrats John Corey Whaley, you’re next on my list, seriously!)  Helpfully I already have one 2012 honor in the bag, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater which was also one of my favorite audiobooks.  In fact for each of the years I have read at least one title, except 2010.  Why, I have not a clue, it wasn’t not intentional just a crazy happenstance.  As of today I’ve read 24 of 62 Printzes (Printzz? Printz’? Printzi? Prizies?) so overall I have a strong head start which will hopefully lead to finishing.

For the next few months I’m going to be reading the ones I’ve miss or intentionally skipped and rereading other I haven’t read in a long time (Looking For Alaska, Jellicoe Road *note buy more tissues*).  I also plan to write a small review for each title, my take, thoughts on why it won and it’s place in the canon (does YA have a formalized canon? Hold please…okay Google is unclear, will investigate further.)

First up tomorrow will be Kit’s Wilderness, 2001 Winner, and Skellig, 2000 Honor, by David Almond, mostly because I’ve just finished them.  Yeah, I won’t really be doing this in any real sort of order so deal.  To the Printzmobile!