Tag Archives: Karen Foxlee

My Printzables

ImageEarly on in the game, I realized that I would not be able to read everything I wanted for both the Newbery Award and the Printz Award, so I chose the Newbery. The books are shorter, for one thing, and I helped to run our library system’s Mock Newbery Club for five years before I became a selector, so I have more experience with that competition.

This is not to say that I haven’t read for the Printz, however. I am more likely to read a Young Adult (YA) book on my own anyway, so it is not a burden to do so. The Michael L. Printz Award is given to the best book written for teens in each calendar year, and if you’ve seen the Hunger Games movies, you’ll know that YA authors are doing some great work and seeing substantial commercial success. The Printz Award is looking for literary quality, rather than popularity, though. One big difference between the Printz and the Newbery is that the Printz can be awarded to any author, regardless of nationality.

I’ve categorized all of the following YA books that were published in 2013 into four groups, along with some short comments. Almost all of those that I read have been reviewed on this blog. If not, there was probably a reason.

ImageGroup One: The Series. First of all, here are the books that I liked (or sometimes loved) very much, but I feel that they are so dependent on their prequels and/or sequels that they cannot stand on their own:

Across a Star-Swept Sea, by Diana Peterfreund (Second in a fun series.)

The Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson (Third in a great trilogy.)

The Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare (Third in a fabulous trilogy.)

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater (Maggie never disappoints. Second in a wonderful series.  Complex characters.)

Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger (Fun series derived from her adult series “The Parasol Protectorate.”)

The Lord of Opium, by Nancy Farmer (So very literary. Wonderful, but dependent on House of the Scorpion.)

Quintana of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta (Third in THE trilogy. “The Lumatere Chronicles” is THE series for older teens and adults.)

ImageGroup Two: Not winners. Here is another list of titles that I just do not find literary enough for the award. Some of these are top contenders on other lists, but I feel that there are better titles this year. Although they are not my picks for an award, a few were very good reads. If you’d like more information about a title in this list that I did not review, let me know.

All Our Pretty Songs, by Sarah McCarry- So many drugs, and I can’t quite remember the plot.

Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal- I liked this, but not as much as many others did.

The Golden Day, by Ursula Dubosarsky- Characters too young; not enough character development.

The Kingdom of Little Wounds, by Susann Cokal- Absolutely not. This is an adult book—for adults with strong stomachs. What was Candlewick thinking? The characters are teens because they lived in a time when girls married at 13 and were happy to live to age 30.

More Than This, by Patrick Ness- Loads of fun, but derivative. Not as literary as others.

 Rapture Practice, by Aaron Hartzler- Nicely done memoir. I just liked other things better.

Reality Boy, by A.S. King- A compelling story by an exceptional author, but not a favorite this year. I loved her Everybody Sees the Ants.

Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian. Great character development with a weak ending. Much better than you’re thinking.

The Sin-Eater’s Confession, by Ilsa J. Bick- A rugged read. I could not get over the author’s bigoted depiction of Christians.

The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson- Oh, so pretentious. Many experts disagree, but I did not like any of the characters. It reminded me of the values expressed in Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence: artists are exempt from “middle-class morality.”

ImageGroup Three: I ran out of time. Books that are on many top Printz prediction lists that I did not read, although I would like to, are:

Charm & Strange, by Stephanie Kuehn

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick [Update! Please see review on January 26, 2014]

Picture Me Gone, by Meg Rosoff

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein (Loved the first one.)

Winger, by Andrew Smith

I actually had some of these on my nighttable, but I just ran out of time.

ImageGroup Four: The winners! That leaves me with this list of six favorites for the year, two by one author!

All the Truth That’s in Me, by Julie Berry- Tense, gritty. Great main character in a unique story.

Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang- This is actually a pair of graphic novels based on the Boxer Rebellion in China, and it works incredibly well! Complex and surprising. Will the committee consider it one work?

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell- Ripped my heart out. My emotions were completely engaged. Tremendous character development. This is my top pick of the year.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell- A three-layer novel with great characters. Fun, engaging; engrossing story.

The Midnight Dress, by Karen Foxlee- Lush writing, beautiful setting, and a strong main character.

Out of the Easy, by Ruta Sepetys- A true coming-of-age story with an exceptional setting.

In summary, my favorite three, in order, are probably:

1)      Eleanor & Park

2)      The Midnight Dress

3)      Fangirl

All of these favorites are great reads for adults and teens, and these authors are among the best anywhere. Go check them out!

We’re making a party out of the ALA Children’s Media Awards at our library. Tune into the webcast here by 8:00 on Monday morning, January 27th. No matter which titles garner the medals, all the readers win!

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are completely my own and do not reflect those of my employer, several friends, or the professional medal-watch bloggers. But we have fun.

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The Midnight Dress, by Karen Foxlee

ImageRose wanders from town to town around Australia, pulling up stakes whenever her artist father falls into the bottle once again. As a result, Rose is tough and owns only a few t-shirts and jeans, bobby pins to keep her curly hair flat to her head, and her treasured journal, her book of words. When she begins school in the latest northern town, she doesn’t want to make any close friends, but chatty, exuberant Pearl finds a way into her heart: Pearl, who wants to live in Paris, loves trashy novels, and flirts with the 30-something owner of the used bookstore. It’s Pearl who convinces her to have the reputed witch, Edie Baker, make her dress for the Harvest Parade. When Rose arrives at Edie’s moldering mansion, she finds more than just an elderly seamstress. Edie tells stories of young love and a hidden cottage while she teaches Rose to sew the most beautiful dress she has ever imagined.

As this novel opens, a young woman has disappeared and is considered to be murdered, and Detective Glass has been called in to investigate. Rose’s shoes were found at the cane plant, and Rose has not been seen since the Harvest Parade. This unfolding mystery is woven throughout the book at the beginning of each chapter, with the action of the story and the investigation coming together at the conclusion. These two threads, plus the story of Edie’s family that she relates to Rose each week, are like the dress they create: bits of midnight-blue taffeta from one ancient gown, black mourning lace from another, pattern pieces cut from historical newspapers, all combining to create something deeper than one piece of cloth, than one straight narrative, could be. It is the skillful twining together of the fabrics, of the stories, that creates the magic.

ImagePerhaps we only see the best of the best, but Australia has some amazing authors. Markus Zusak wrote the awe-inspiring The Book Thief, among others, boldly experimenting with having a book narrated by Death. Now it’s a major movie, so that was a leap worth taking. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s cute and sweet. He sat on the floor and ate lunch with the giggling girls in our Printz Club at the ALA convention the year The Book Thief won a Printz honor. ImageMelina Marchetta won loads of awards for her realistic fiction year after year, after which she shocked the book world by turning around and writing some of the most stunning high fantasy I’ve ever read. I am a devoted fan. What is in the water over there? Karen Foxlee’s The Anatomy of Wings was also highly decorated, and The Midnight Dress is lush and dreamy, filled with breathtaking writing that makes the reader go back and read passages again, just for the sound of the words. In the very beginning of the novel, I knew that I was in for pure joy when I read this description of the tide that Rose hears when they first arrive at their new home, the Paradise trailer park:

Rose can hear the ocean: the sudden intake of its breath, as though it has remembered something, something terrible, but finding there is nothing it can do, it breathes out again. (p.3)

I’ll never hear the ocean again without thinking that it’s breathing.

Here is Edie’s description of her mother, Florence, when she was young. Florence’s father was a tailor, and she was an exceptional seamstress.

But Florence, she was different, she knew the mysteries of folding and draping and the pleasant secrets of pin-tucking. [She and her brothers went to the creek, and she was afraid to swim.] When she finally let go of the bank and floated away on the river’s back, it had terrified her but also filled her with awe; the way the world was always leaning someway, draining someway, pulling someway. The tides, the moon rising above the rooftops, the water flowing from the mountains to the sea. (pp. 70-71)

This is not a novel for those who love action stories. Although there is a plot, the value of the story is in the interior journey of the characters. It is a book that revels in the words, in the heat of the rain forest, the secrets of families, and the heartbreak of betrayal. The ending is not as unexpected as I think it was meant to be, but it is satisfying, all the same. It’s a treat for readers who love fine writing. Some particularly offensive profanity, so be aware.

Very highly recommended for teens and adults.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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