The Printz Award Winners Under a Microscope: Content Trends, Committee Challenges, and Teen Popularity

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By Joni Richards Bodart, Ashley N. Barrineau, and Mary L. Flamino

Abstract

A content analysis of the winners of the Michael L. Printz Award revealed six common content trends: journeys, teenage angst leading to self-actualization, family relationships, romantic relationships, controversial issues within the content, and diversity of story characters. The majority of these thematic elements have been historically present in literature for young adults. However, the controversial subject matter and diversity of characters prevalent in many winners are more recently developed trends in young adult literature showcased in Printz Award winners. Additionally, the authors discussed the challenges faced by the committee in selecting a winner each year and the popularity of these winners among the teen audience.

Peter Butts, chair of the 2001 Printz Award committee, described the stereotypical young adult novel as one with an “artificially dictate[d] plot” to let teen readers know they were not alone in their adolescent emotions, or with a plot used as “vehicles for imparting adult values.”1 The stereotypical young adult novel is credited with the development of the “problem novel,” which the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) defined as books that impart to readers “an obvious message about a single problem, populated by characters and carried by a story arc that support that message and little else.”2 However, of late, “problem novels have on the whole become something entirely different in current teen literature.”3 This change is reflected in the books that have received the Michael L. Printz Award.

The Michael L. Printz Award was established in 2000 to recognize the best title, based solely on literary merit or quality, published for teens between the ages of twelve and eighteen, during the preceding calendar year. The award was established in response to requests to recognize young adult literary excellence from members of YALSA. According to Michael Cart, who was involved in the creation of the Printz Award and served as committee chair in 2006, the decision to design and implement this award focused, in part, on “the establishment of a more expansive definition of the term ‘literary merit.’”4 The committee’s preference for an unrestrained definition of quality in young adult literature resulted in the current criteria for the Printz Award. On the Printz Policies and Procedures web page (www .ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/printzaward/aboutprintz/michaellprintz.cfm), after identifying what quality is not, YALSA personnel have acknowledged that it is far harder to determine what quality is and that new literature can change and redefine quality. Therefore, flexibility in criteria regarding literary quality was not only preferred, but necessary, according to committee members.5 The committee also hoped that flexible criteria would inspire submission of “‘edgier’ books relevant to the lives of high school students” in all their diversity and would encourage authors writing for teens to create books that moved beyond the stereotypical young adult novels of past generations.6

Between 2000 and 2010, the Printz Award committees that served annually selected winners. Therefore, eleven titles have been honored with the Printz Award as the best young adult book of the year. In this study, the researchers sought to determine commonalities between the Printz Award winners. In addition to addressing the challenge to which each Printz Award committee must respond in choosing a winner, researchers analyzed the eleven titles and identified common themes or content trends. These six common themes included: journeys, teenage angst leading to self-actualization, family relationships, romantic relationships, controversial issues within the content, and diversity of story characters. The research reported in this study will identify common themes, the presence of these content trends in the Printz Award-winning books, and the extent to which these content trends provide fresh perspective in young adult literature.

Finally, although each year’s decision reflects the committee’s consensus on their definition of literary merit, in this paper, the researchers examined the popularity of these titles among the intended teen audience.

Method: Identification of Content Consistencies in Printz Award Winners

The researchers identified common themes by reading the eleven of the winning Printz Award titles. After reaching consensus about emerging patterns within the books’ content, the researchers developed and defined a list of six content trends. The authors set up a Google Document to collaboratively recognize the presence of each trend in all of the previous Printz Award winners by:

  • listing each work,
  • listing the determined themes below the title, and
  • revisiting each Printz Award winner as textual evidence was recorded to demonstrate support for the trend’s existence within the title.

In many instances, descriptions of content themes were adapted from Koellings’ Best Books for Young Adults. After the analysis of content trends among the Printz Award winners, the authors conducted a literature review to determine which themes were typically found in young adult literature in general and whether any common themes were new to the young adult literature scene.

Results: Common Themes Among Printz Award Winners

Six common themes were identified’ as prevalent in many of the Printz Award winners.

Theme 1: Journeys

The first theme identified was journey, which the authors defined as character progression from one place or stage to another. The theme was identified to be present when a character in the work embarks on either a literal or physical quest or a metaphorical journey, during which time they overcome a large mental, emotional, or spiritual challenge in his or her life. The journey theme was identified as present in all eleven of the previous winners in a literal sense, a figurative sense, or both.

For example, a literal journey is a foundational element of the 2002 winner, An Na’s A Step from Heaven, because the story centers on main character Young Ju and her family’s immigration from Korea to the United States. The other title where the journey theme was present only in a literal sense was the 2010 winner, Going Bovine. The winner of the first Printz Award in 2000 was Monster by Walter Dean Meyers. In this work, the journey theme was present in a figurative sense as 16-year-old Steve’s internal struggle about his guilt and being labeled a “monster” unfolds for the reader in both screenplay and diary format during the character’s trial for a convenience store hold-up that resulted in murder. Jellico Road, the 2009 Printz Award winner, presented the journey theme metaphorically. In 2004, Angela Johnson’s The First Part Last included both a figurative and literal journey. Metaphorically, the main character, Bobby, journeys to understand parental responsibility and the intense love one feels for their child as he embarks on fatherhood alone. Bobby also journeys literally when he decides to move away from the city where he’s always lived to the country because it is what is best for his daughter. Other Printz Award winners that included a journey theme in both a literal and figurative sense included Kit’s Wilderness, Postcards from No Man’s Land, How I Live Now, Looking for Alaska, American Born Chinese, and The White Darkness.

Theme 2: Teen Angst Leading to Self-Actualization

Teen angst leading to self-actualization is the content trend among Printz Award winners. In Best Books for Young Adults, Koelling wrote, “Of great importance to teens at all stages of adolescence is the development of a positive sense of self, which does not often come smoothly and can exact a price.”7 The researchers used this stage of development to define this content trend. The theme was assigned to a book when major characters indicated anxiety about who they were as individuals at the beginning of the story and surmounted this angst through coming of age or through the literal and/ or figurative journeys they made, leading to a realization and knowledge of self. Protagonists in all eleven of the Printz Award winners experienced angst, catharsis, insight, and self-actualization.

In Looking for Alaska, Miles decides to go to his father’s alma mater, a private boarding school in Alabama, rather than stay home and attend a public school where he doesn’t fit in. One of first people he meets at his new school is the mysterious Alaska, with whom he immediately falls in love. But by the end of the school year, he has learned the importance of family and friends, and how they can help him overcome his insecurities. This theme also plays a major role in The White Darkness. Main character Sym is a hearing-impaired teen that is shy and self-conscious about sex, a popular topic among her English girlfriends. Sym shares little with her classmates, but instead finds comfort in her imaginary lover, a Polar explorer named Titus Oates, who was abandoned after wandering off in the Antarctic wilderness ninety years prior. During her journey through her imaginary Antarctic “ice,” Sym comes to realize her worth as a strong individual who can survive, begins to feel comfortable enough to risk speaking to those around her, and opens up to the idea of real romantic relationships.

Theme 3: Family Relationships

Another trend was the family relationships theme, which is found to a degree in all of the winning Printz Award titles. The researchers defined this theme as a “focus on teens in the context of their family lives.”8 This theme occurred when family history or secrets, family crisis, the definition of family, or teen identity within the family unit were elements in the book’s plot.

Family ties and history are honored in Kit’s Wilderness in the bond between Kit and his grandfather, whose health deteriorates throughout the book. Dealing with the loss of his grandfather is a major difficulty for Kit and the other members of his immediate family. In A Step from Heaven, the entire plot centers on a Korean family and how their relationships and family dynamics change as they embark on their new life in America. Main character Young Ju struggles to find her individual identity as an American citizen while upholding the Korean cultural values her parents have impressed upon her.

In The First Part Last, Bobby comes to understand the meaning of parental roles; the strength of bonds in an untraditional family, family is also addressed in How I Live Now. The importance of family theme was echoed in the most recent Printz Award winner, Going Bovine, as main character Cameron experiences a new realization of his life’s importance to himself and his family. In another take on family, family secrets are simultaneously revealed to the main protagonists and to the reader in Postcards from No Man’s Land and The White Darkness.

Theme 4: Romantic Relationships

The next major theme in many of the winning Printz Award titles was teenage romance. Koelling stated, “As teens are growing into their adult bodies and experiencing the accompanying physical, psychological, and emotional shifts, their sexual identities take center stage and are of tantamount importance in their continuing development.”9 This content trend appeared as young love, lust, or sexual encounters in nine out of the eleven Printz Award winners. Although young love or interest in the opposite sex did not play a role at all in Monster or A Step from Heaven, all other Printz Award winners featured a romantic theme.

In The First Part Last, a romantic teen relationship results in pregnancy and single parenthood. Postcards from No Man’s Land includes the details of Jacob’s sexual interest in both males and females, as well as a wartime love affair from the past told alongside a story of attraction in the present. How I Live Now, set during a fictional world war, also features a wartime romance between two first cousins. Looking for Alaska has a number of romantic elements, especially pertinent being Miles’ lust for female main character Alaska.

Theme 5: Controversial Topics

The next content trend found in all the Printz Award winners was the presence of controversial topics within the story. The researchers again looked to Koelling who defined this theme as an element in a work that would create “a conflict of opinion”10 among various readers and critics about the appropriateness of that element for the intended audience. In The Official YALSA Guidebook, Michael Cart stated, “To further expand the potential readership, publishers began encouraging authors to write edgier, more sophisticated and even experimental fiction.”11 In fact, the Printz Award criteria, “In accordance with the Library Bill of Rights, CONTROVERSY [emphasis added by researchers] is not something to be avoided. In fact, we want a book that readers will talk about.”12 Controversial topics in young adult literature are often found in books labeled as problem novels.13 However, the presence of this theme in the Printz Award winners did not imply the trendy problem novel of the early 1970s, where the problem was the central focus of the story and “drew heavily on the possibilities for preachy moral instruction.”14 Instead, the controversial subject matter identified in all of the Printz Award winners showcased a distinguished problem novel in which “books…feature more than one story line peopled with multiple and complicated characters of all ages from any number of backgrounds who face problems for which there may be no ready answers.”15 In other words, controversial themes “emerge[d] genuinely from the character’s actions, choices, and circumstances.”16

For example, controversial subject matter was present in How I Live Now that Daisy has an eating disorder. In the 2001 Printz Award winner, Kit’s Wilderness, central character John Askew drops out of school to embrace his dark side. Also, main character Kit describes the ghosts of small children who had died long ago in a collapsed mineshaft, indicating the presence of supernatural elements. According to the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, occult or supernatural content is the sixth most frequent reason why books are challenged.17

Incest is typically a taboo topic in American society and sexually explicit content is the most frequent reason that a work is challenged,18 yet Postcards from No Man’s Land contains a number of controversial topics, including allusion to bisexual and homosexual relationships, affairs that led to illegitimate children, and assisted death or euthanasia. Meg Rosoff’s 2005 winner, How I Live Now, was controversial due to the romantic and sexual relationship between main character Daisy and her first cousin Edmond.

Theme 6: Diversity

The last common theme pertained to the diversity of characters in the Printz Award winners. Young adult literature expert Patty Campbell wrote, “For a long while YA fiction depicted an all-white mostly middle-class world.”19 For purposes of identifying the presence of this theme in the winning Printz Award titles, the researchers defined diversity as characteristics of central protagonists that are unlike or different in terms of race or ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. The diversity theme was determined to be present when characters had traits that were different than those of white American characters who were middle-class and heterosexual. This theme was represented in many of the Printz Award winners above and is also included in the Michael L. Printz Award criteria. This criterion states, “Librarianship focuses on individuals, in all their diversity, and that focus is a fundamental value of the Young Adult Library Services Association and its members. Diversity is, thus, honored by the Association and in the collections and services that libraries provide to young adults.”20 It was apparent that Printz Award winners’ main characters comprised an ethnically, racially, and gender diverse group, although they were not diverse in sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.

In regard to racial or ethnic diversity, main characters from eight of the eleven Printz Award winners were not white Americans. For example, main characters of Printz Award winners have included a Korean girl in A Step from Heaven, an African American boy in The First Part Last, English boys in Kit’s Wilderness and Postcards from No Man’s Land, an English girl in The White Darkness, and an Australian girl in Jellico Road. Also, there is a Chinese main character in American Born Chinese and the main character in Monster is African American. Although not exclusively related to the author’s definition of diversity, the researchers concurred with Michael Cart in his recent article “A New Literature for a New Millennium? The First Decade of the Printz Awards”12 when he observed that “…fully half of the 10 winners to date were first published outside the United States (Kit’s Wilderness, Postcards from No Man’s Land, How I Live Now, The White Darkness in England, and Jellicoe Road in Australia).”

Seven of the previous Printz Award winners contained male main characters and four contained female main characters. Since male characters seem to have been favored, the researchers wondered whether there was an attempt among the committee members to increase young adult male readership by showcasing quality young adult literature featuring central male protagonists. This question was particularly interesting in light of the fact that “[b]ooks featuring strong, intelligent, courageous, quirky, artistic, determined, scrappy, wily, independent, resilient, witty females dominate…fiction…on recent [Best Books for Young Adults] BBYA lists,” of which titles are selected not solely based on literary merit, but on teen popularity as well.22

Sexual diversity was present in only one of the winning titles: Postcards from No Man’s Land was the only title that featured a protagonist who indicated his sexual orientation to be something other than heterosexual, although the 2000 honor title Hard Love featured an openly homosexual central character.23 Though the previous Printz Award winners were not diverse in regard to sexual orientation, in Postcards from No Man’s Land, the bisexuality of the main character and open homosexuality of other central characters were not treated as problems but rather as aspects of their characters. This is an evolutionary way of treating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) issues in young adult literature, as “[t]o treat a broader range of sexual identities no longer necessitates a somber tone and message-driven delivery.”24

Finally, in regard to socioeconomic diversity, three main characters were of low socioeconomic status. These characters included Steve in Monster, Young Ju in A Step from Heaven, and Taylor from Jellicoe Road. Additionally, two main characters came from wealth, with the remaining seven were found to have been part of the middle class. Therefore, when considering diversity based on socioeconomic status, it seems that the previous Printz Award winners have reflected the norm in young adult literature.

Table 1 illustrates the identified content trends in each of the previous Printz Award winners. Each of the previous Printz Award winners appears in the top columns and lists each of the common themes discussed previously in the rows.

Discussion: Trends and the Development of YA Literature

Several of the common themes or content trends identified by the authors to be present in the Printz Award winners are typical themes in literature for young adults. These content trends included the journey, teen angst leading to self-actualization, family relationships, and teen romance themes. As mentioned previously in the definition of the theme dubbed “teen angst leading to self-actualization,” the researchers observed that characters often develop a sense of self through their experiences during their literal and/or figurative journeys as they move through the story. Similarly, the researchers found that main characters in the previous winners often sought to identify their individuality in the context of their familial and romantic relationships. As Michael Cart remarked, “As the teen years are when an individual, separate identity and the early self of adulthood are being established, it comes as no surprise that a great number of books are published for teens that treat, in one way or another, themes of the self.”25 From this statement, the researchers interpreted content trends that were issues surrounding the general and broad theme of coming of age. In her chapter titled “Trends and Issues in Young Adult Literature,” Pam Cole stated that “[t]he genre addresses coming-of-age issues” in a list of “characteristics that have historically defined” young adult literature.26 Therefore, the content trends identified in Printz Award winners have been present in young adult literature over time, which is highly appropriate since they are written specifically for a teen audience (however vastly diverse) that faces issues surrounding the unique experience of coming of age through an identification of self. The Printz Award winners have all showcased quality works that emphasize the issues surrounding this common teen experience.

On the other hand, the controversy and diversity themes identified by the authors to be present in the Printz Award winners appear to be trends more recently developed in young adult literature. Although controversial subject matter has typically been found in young adult literature, these topics have frequently been presented in ways that aim to solve protagonists’ problems through moral instruction, as is definitive of the original problem novel.27 The trend toward a less didactic and more realistic and open-ended problem novel was exhibited by the way controversial subject matter is presented in the previous Printz Award winners. “Some current subjects in realistic YA fiction hark back to the problem novel, but without succumbing to the single-mindedness of that form,”28 Marc Aronson writes in Exploding the Myths. “I suspect that literary distinction for teenagers will most often arise in texts that have a great deal to offer but also allow space for the reader to enter.”29 Controversial subject matter in young adult literature, presented through the problems that protagonists face, is evolving to be less one-sided. Rather, it is up to the reader to determine what is right or wrong. Michael Cart confirmed this in his discussion of the first decade of the Printz Award: “A staple of [adult] literary fiction, ambiguity had been largely absent from young adult literature but is an essential constituent of…Monster (a book in which the question of the main character’s guilt is left to the reader to resolve) and its use was another herald of the coming-of-age of young adult literature.”30 The maturation of young adult literature through the presentation of controversial topics in the evolved problem novel was also hinted at by YALSA, in its statement that “[p]erhaps this trend reflects a more complex society and adolescent experience. Perhaps it is a natural progression or evolution of a literature that has simply grown up.”31 The controversial subject matter identified as a content trend in the Printz Award winners exhibits this new vein in young adult literature: presenting controversial problems in an open-ended manner that allows for the adolescent reader to evaluate and therefore develop moral consciousness at a time in life where it is being fully realized and shaped.

Finally, diversity of character is becoming more celebrated, or at least has evolved into a content trend from a time when the world of young adult literature was portrayed only through the stories of white middle-class Americans. Michael Cart wrote, “The wonderfully varied and newly expansive, international nature of today’s YA literature is evidenced by the fact that books first published in other countries are also eligible for the Printz Award, affirming the fact that the renaissance of YA literature is not confined to these sunny shores but is now indeed, a global phenomenon.” 32 As mentioned previously, diversity is encouraged by YALSA through their consideration of the concept in the Printz Award criteria. Diversity in young adult literature is of the utmost importance because it is imperative to ensure that “every young adult of every race, ethnicity, color, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age and religion can find his or her face and condition being reflected with accuracy and compassion in the pages of good books.”33 The content trend of diversity identified in the Printz Award winners represents parallels a shift to honor this important prerogative. Of the Printz Award winners, Cart wrote, “[A]ll of these books are…distinguished by their diversity, which is emblematic of the wonderful welter of innovations and trends that—since the late 1990s—have been redefining the meaning of ‘young adult literature.’”34 However, only time will tell if this trend towards more diverse young adult literature, as exemplified through the previous Printz Award winners, will continue to grow and expand. It is hoped that the field of young adult literature will continue to grow and expand through the themes of quality controversial subject matter and diversity of character.

The Challenges of Selecting the Best

Because Printz Award criteria are flexible, committee members’ reading interests, preferences, and definitions of quality literature differ greatly, which makes selecting the very best title in the expanding and varied field of young adult literature a challenging task each year. Jonathan Hunt, who served on the 2008 Printz Award committee, stated, “You wrestle with the award criteria, with your own literary prejudices, and with the committee process…It’s hard not to get defensive, especially when you are not at liberty to disclose just how the committee reached its decision, but criticism…presents an opportunity to open up a dialog about our fundamental perceptions of teens, books, and teen book awards.”35 His article not only provided an excellent glimpse into the challenges faced by the committee as they worked to choose the year’s best young adult book, but it also revealed issues related to personal literary interpretation and differences in opinion about book appeal and the definition of quality.

Hunt also made an important point about the Printz Award committees:

It’s a mistake, of course, to think of the Committee as if it is a single monolithic entity, as if it is of one mind about anything. The reality is that [each] committee is made up of nine passionate people—and a different nine every year—who have widely divergent opinions, attitudes, and tastes. Chances are that your opinions, attitudes, and tastes were represented by someone on the committee.36

It is useful to keep this observation in mind when thinking about the selection of winning titles of any literary award.

What of Popularity?

In the same way that quality is flexible in the Printz Award criteria, the notion of popularity is also difficult to define. In his book Exploding the Myths, Marc Aronson, who served on the YALSA committee to create the Printz Award in 1999, defined it: “Popularity is a measure of how many people like something.”37 For purposes of this discussion, the researchers used Aronson’s simple definition of this term.

Young adult librarians have long debated the quality versus popularity question when discussing patrons’ needs. Former Printz Award committee chair Peter Butts wrote, “In the literature of YA criticism the conventional wisdom places popularity and quality at opposite ends of the spectrum.”38 This debate has resulted in the inclusion of teen opinions in the committee process for the Best Books for Young Adults, in which books are selected based on a balance of both quality and popularity.39 Also, the creation of the Teens’ Top Ten list as part of Teen Read Week recognizes what is popular with young adult readers by allowing teens to nominate and choose their favorite books from the previous year.40 However, the Printz Award committee is required to select a winner based on quality alone, as each committee defines quality. While there are thousands of young adult titles published annually, this committee must pick out the titles they agree deserve the Printz Award. The gold and silver stickers affixed to the covers of the winning titles and honor books set them apart from other titles on bookstore and library shelves, indicating that these titles deserve extra consideration (although whether the titles received this additional notice is unclear).

Many teenagers are notoriously difficult to please, and likely to be wary of all things recommended by adults, including award-winning titles recommended by parents and teachers. Pam Cole hinted at this dilemma when she wrote, “[T]eens don’t generally choose a book on literary merit, and as teachers we engage our students best when we know and respect what they enjoy.”41 However, teachers and librarians know that teens don’t always enjoy something they feel is required of them.42 When a class of library and information science students discussed the impact of the award stickers on children’s and young adult titles, many of them recalled that books with those stickers were frequently considered to be “good for you books” rather than titles they’d enjoy reading.43

In the ten years since the Printz Award was first given, many of the winning titles have not maintained their popularity, but some of the Printz Award winners are consistently popular. The first winner, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, and The First Part Last by Angela Johnson44 are repeatedly read and recommended. Others popular titles include John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and two more recent winners, Jellico Road and Going Bovine.45

Beginning in 2003, Teen Read Week included an opportunity for teens to select their favorite titles from the preceding year, creating the Teens’ Top Ten list. That year, The First Part Last by Angela Johnson was selected by teens.46 Like Monster, The First Part Last is realistic urban fiction, the story of a teen father who has to make difficult decisions that thrust him into adulthood far sooner than he had expected. Only two other Printz Award titles have been selected by teens for the Teen Top Ten. It would seem that quality and popularity do not always coincide, perhaps making the Printz Award’s emphasis on quality even more important since the winners are titles that teens might not have chosen on their own.

Many books have maintained great popularity in addition to their Printz Award recognition and are also found on other lists, like the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers.47 It is difficult to discern if the easier reading level improves the popularity, or if the multiple mentions on different lists made these titles more easily identifiable to list compilers. Subject matter often drives popularity and can even trump a high reading level; when teens enjoy a story for its content, a more challenging (or less challenging) reading level becomes less important. Controversy also draws in more readers, since it may be caused by subject matter with which teens can readily identify.

Regardless of whether or not they are popular among teens, the Printz Award winners were all well-written and relevant to issues facing today’s teens. These quality titles have enhanced the young adult literature world and garnered more respect for teen literature.

Conclusion

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, eleven committees of nine members each read thousands of books and selected eleven exceptional titles for the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The winning titles expressed the teen experience in a variety of ways, from a teen on trial for murder to a teen obsessed with an Antarctic expedition to a teen facing the inevitability of death. The winning titles all contain themes and ideas that teens can relate to their daily experiences, or that can lend insight into the lives of friends or acquaintances, often through the lives of teen characters from unfamiliar situations, countries, or ethnicities. Teens are beginning to experience life’s hardships and controversies, and they look for books that reflect those experiences; these books help identify the various challenges that they will face. The truth and authenticity of these titles make them important and also make them winners for young readers for generations to come.

References

  1. Peter Butts, “The Making of a Printz,” Media Spectrum 29 (Fall 2001), 25-26.
  2. Holly Koelling, ed., Best Books for Young Adults, 3rd ed. (Chicago: American Library Association, 2007), 49.
  3. Ibid., 49.
  4. Michael Cart, “The Printz Award: Introductory Overview,” in The Official YALSA Awards Guidebook, ed. Tina Frolund (New York: Neal-Schuman and YALSA, 2008), 109.
  5. American Library Association, “Michael L. Printz Award Criteria,” www .ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/printzaward/aboutprintz/michaellprintz.cfm (accessed July 17, 2010).
  6. Butts, “The Making of a Printz”, 24-25.
  7. Koelling, Best Books for Young Adults, 3rd ed., 54.
  8. Ibid., 59.
  9. Ibid., 56.
  10. Victoria Neufeldt and Andrew N. Sparks, eds., Webster’s New World Dictionary (New York: Pocket Books, 1995), 133.
  11. Cart, “The Printz Award: Introductory Overview,” 108.
  12. American Library Association, “Michael L. Printz Award Criteria.”.
  13. Butts, “The Making of a Printz,” 26.
  14. Pam B. Cole, Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century (Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009), 66.
  15. Koelling, Best Books for Young Adults, 3rd ed., 49-50.
  16. Butts, “The Making of a Printz,” 26.
  17. American Library Association, “Statistics,” www .ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengesbytype/index.cfm (accessed August 4, 2010).
  18. Ibid.
  19. Cole, Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century, 67.
  20. American Library Association, “Michael L. Printz Award Criteria.”
  21. Michael Cart, “A New Literature for a New Millennium? The First Decade of the Printz Awards,” Young Adult Library Services 8, no. 3 (2010), 29.
  22. Koelling, Best Books for Young Adults, 33.
  23. Ibid., 57.
  24. Ibid., 56.
  25. Ibid., 54.
  26. Cole, Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century, 49.
  27. Ibid., 66.
  28. Ibid., 68.
  29. Marc Aronson, Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2001), 119.
  30. Cart, “A New Literature for a New Millennium? The First Decade of the Printz Awards”, 28.
  31. Koelling, Best Books for Young Adults, 50.
  32. Michael Cart, “The Renaissance Continues: Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century,” Catholic Library World 79, no. 4 (2009): 281.
  33. Ibid., 279.
  34. Cart, “A New Literature for a New Millennium?” 29.
  35. Jonathan Hunt, “A Printz Retrospective,” The Horn Book Magazine 85 (July/August 2009), 395.
  36. Ibid., 403.
  37. Aronson, Exploding the Myths, 113.
  38. Butts, “The Making of a Printz,” 31.
  39. Ibid., 25.
  40. American Library Association, “Teens’ Top Ten (YALSA),” www .ala.org/teenstopten (accessed July 28, 2010).
  41. Cole, Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century, 50.
  42. Ibid., 50.
  43. Joni Richards Bodart, “LIBR 267-01/-10: Award Winners for Youth”, online posting, February-March, 2010. https://liffey.sjsu.edu/default.asp, SLIS SJSU ANGEL website (accessed July 28, 2010).
  44. Kat Werner, “teen response to Printz Winners,” online posting, June 10, 2010. http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/yalsa-bk/2010-06/msg00357.html, YALSA-BK (accessed November 20, 2010).
  45. Katie Cardell, “teen response to Printz Winners,” online posting, June 14, 2010. http://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/yalsa-bk/2010-06/msg00450.html, YALSA-BK (accessed November 20, 2010).
  46. American Library Association, “Teens’ Top Ten (YALSA),” www .ala.org/teentstopten, (accessed July 28, 2010).
  47. Young Adult Library Services Association, “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers,” www .ala.org/yalsa/booklists/quickpick (accessed July 28, 2010).

About the Author

Dr. Joni Richards Bodart, internationally known as the leading expert on booktalking, is an assistant professor at San Jose State University SLIS, where she is in charge of the Youth Librarianship curriculum.’  Ashley Barrineau and Mary Flamino are MLIS students at San Jose State University.

About Anna Lam

Anna Lam is a Communications Specialist for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).
This entry was posted in Volume 1 Number 2: February 2011 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Printz Award Winners Under a Microscope: Content Trends, Committee Challenges, and Teen Popularity

  1. marc aronson says:

    The most obvious trend in the Printz is that committees have favored novels, while all books, including anthologies, playes, poetry, and — Nonfiction — are eligible. If there is one disappointing trend in the award selections it is the clear avoidance of nonfiction. While there is now a YA NF award, that is only in the last two years and there is no reason why a book cannot win both. The Printz is not a fiction award, and yet it has become that.

  2. What intrigues me is the lack of non-fiction but the overwhelming presence of historical fiction. It would be nice to see more variety in winners poetry-anthologies and the like. I wonder if it is harder to find that “edgy” quality among these types of books.

  3. marc aronson says:

    nothing in the rules requires the winners to be “edgy” — merely excellent.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I wonder if the honor books also fall into these themes? Or are these themes simply so universal that any list of 11 YA books would also fall out in similar ways?

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