Thursday 15 March 2012

What is YA? - Printz

You’ve probably heard of the Governor General’s Award, and the words Newbery or Caldecott might ring a bell. But how many of you know what the Printz Award is? The Michael L. Printz Award is an American award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).  It is a fairly new award, but has quickly caught on as a prestigious award in it’s own right.  Let’s look at some of the winners and honors. 

The most recent winner and honors go to a slew of great books (as usual).  Honor books include Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (possibly known to some readers under his nome de plume, Lemony Snicket) .  In a long letter accompanied by a box of mementos, Min Green tells her ex Ed Slaterton exactly why. In detail. There are really nice paintings by Maira Kalman to accompany the letters, and there’s a website called the Why We Broke Up Project , which is quite fun to explore  The Returning by Christine Hinwood might appeal to fantasy fans. Hinwood has created a world, including a very particular way of speaking, that grabs the reader and holds them in the story.  Featuring a large cast of characters and an intricate plot with a bit of war and romance thrown in, this one has something for everyone. 

This year’s winner, Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley, is a complicated character-driven story involving a rare bird and a disappeared brother. The narrative twines around itself like a weedy vine and ends up in just the place you hope it will. 

Some of my favourite past winners and honors include Going Bovine by Libba Bray, in which 16-year old Cameron, dying of Mad Cow disease, sets off to save the world with the help of a garden gnome and a dwarf sidekick. If this story sounds unusual, that’s because it is. But the Printz Award recognizes great writing, and that’s what you’ll find in this wild romp.  In 2011, Marcus Sedgwick’s  Revolver was on the honor list – a grim, yet breathless read of revenge and retribution. In 2009, Terry Pratchett’s  Nation was given a Printz honor. Readers familiar with Pratchett’s work will be surprised to find him deviating from the Discworld and creating a whole new island and a new set of characters. This book is amazing as an audio, too.   The 2009 winner was  Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Set in Australia, this book takes us into the inner jungle of a secret society at a boarding school and holds us there till the emotional conclusion.
I can still hear the resounding cheers when the 2007 winner was announced. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang was the first graphic novel to be given one of the major ALA awards, and librarians were happy to see it. You get three stories in one when you read this smart, funny, and prickly story of racial stereotypes.  2007 was also the year of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, one of my all-time favourite audiobooks.  In 2006, John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska won the Printz Award. Green has since become quite the Internet sensation with his Nerdfighting brother, Hank.    Canadians can also get in on this award, as Kenneth Oppel proved in 2005 with his novel Airborn getting a Printz honor. 

So, if you want to read the best of the best in YA lit, get over to the Printz website  and start your journey. You’ll find some great reads there!

WHAT IS YA? Will be a monthly feature, published on the 15th of each month, written by Angela Reynolds, our Head of Youth Services.  We are giving away YA books to go along with it! Make a comment below about one of the books we talked about, and you’ll be entered into a monthly draw for a YA review copy. Must be able to pick the book up at one of our branch libraries; no books will be shipped or mailed.

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