2021 Youth Media Awards

As we gear up for ALA Midwinter and the 2021 Youth Media Awards (YMA), we thought it could be fun to highlight a few YMA-related stories. In the coming weeks, we’ll focus on those titles from the past and present award cycles that might inspire you and your readers!

But first, a reminder: you can follow along with the Youth Media Awards announcements starting at 8 am CT on Monday, January 25. You can watch with ALA’s streaming platform or through the various social media platforms using the hashtag #alayma.

To begin our dive into these special awards, let’s look at the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Established in 2000, this award is granted each year to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on literary merit.” Mike Printz was a high school librarian for years, and he believed wholeheartedly in finding the right book for the right reader at the right time. In honor of 20 years of service to young adult readers, here are a few then and now connections:

Continue reading 2021 Youth Media Awards

#ALAAC18 Recap: Printz Award Reception

On Friday, June 22, the Printz and Printz honor winners, announced in February at Midwinter, formally accepted their prizes.

As a fan of YA literature, one of the most exciting things about the Printz reception is how many authors (not just the year’s honorees!) are in attendance. Sitting in the audience and recognizing folks from their book jacket photos like Rebecca Stead, Tahereh Mafi, and Ransom Riggs truly made me feel like I was at the book world’s [much cozier] version of the Emmys and transformed a regular hotel conference room into something much greater.

After opening remarks from YALSA president Sandra Hughes-Hassell and 2018 Printz Committee Chair Angela Carstensen, each honoree spoke about their work and writing careers. Below is a brief recap of each speech from this special night. For more information about the Printz award and past winners, see the YALSA website and the Teen Book Finder App.

Continue reading #ALAAC18 Recap: Printz Award Reception

Another Year, Another Mock Printz

As the year begins to wind down, so do Mock Printz selection teams! With the Michael L. Printz Award just over 2 months away, we begin to narrow our choices and seriously discuss our contenders.  As a member of my library system’s selection team, I read many amazing and beautiful books this year. The experience was fun, engaging, and exposed me to books and authors I may not have otherwise picked up.

Does your library host a Mock Printz? What is your set up?

Continue reading Another Year, Another Mock Printz

Booklist: YA Alternate History

June is history month, and while there’s a ton of great historical fiction for teens out there, it’s also a perfect time to start asking “What if?”

What if the American Revolution never happened?

What if the Axis Powers won World War II?

Alternate history books are a great way to explore these questions, and alternate history for teens is becoming increasingly popular. Here are a few books to get you started.

ALTERNATE HISTORY IN YA FICTION

These stories can blend speculative elements with historical facts, which is perfect for prompting discussion about what is truth and what is fiction in the novels discussed. They can also prompt readers to explore more nonfiction about the time period.  Continue reading Booklist: YA Alternate History

ALA Annual 2015: The Printz Award Program and Reception

The 2015 Printz Award Program was held last night, Friday, June 26th, here in San Francisco, and though my pictures aren’t as clear as I’d like (and I had to type my notes into my phone while its battery dwindled), here’s a quick breakdown of the event– which, as always, was full of laughs and emotional moments.
printz2015a
From left to right: Jenny Hubbard, author of Printz Honor And We Stay; Jessie Ann Foley, author of Printz Honor The Carnival at Bray; Andrew Smith, author of Printz Honor Grasshopper Jungle; Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, illustrator and author of Printz Honor This One Summer; Jandy Nelson, author of 2015 Printz Award Winner I’ll Give You the Sun; and Booklist consultant and moderator Daniel Kraus.printz2015b

During Jandy Nelson’s speech, she told us that the only thing she said during the phone call, other than screaming, was in response to being told where this year’s award program would be. “I live in San Francisco!” She took this opportunity to thank the Printz committee the way she wished she had when they called her!  Continue reading ALA Annual 2015: The Printz Award Program and Reception

2015 Michael L. Printz Program: Questions Needed!

[slideshow_deploy id=’14434′]

 

On the evening of Friday, June 26, YALSA will host one of its biggest author programs of the year: The 2015 Michael L. Printz Program and Reception. This is an exciting YA opener for the American Library Association’s Annual Conference, held this year in San Francisco. Award winner Jandy Nelson will be speaking about her book, I’ll Give You the Sun, a poignant story told by twins, Jude and Noah, who take turns narrating across a three year gap. In addition, Printz Honor Award winners will be featured: Jenny Hubbard (And We Stay); Jessie Ann Foley (The Carnival at Bray); Andrew Smith (Grasshopper Jungle), and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (This One Summer.) 

The popular question and answer format will make up the bulk of the program. This is where you come in! Whether or not you will be able to attend the program in San Francisco, you can still submit a question by filling out this form.

Interested in joining us for the Printz Program and Reception? Purchase a ticket here.

-Diane Colson, 2015 Printz Committee Chair, currently reading Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Jukebooks: I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

20820994At thirteen, twins Noah and Jude are firm fixtures in each other’s lives. They are rivals, co-conspirators, and unshakable allies all at the same time. Three years later, everything about their lives is fractured. Their once strong bond is almost nonexistent, and their family seems broken beyond repair. The creative drive, however, cannot be denied for long, and soon their paths back to art, reconciliation, and passion will bring them back to each other.

Told in two timelines, one from Noah at thirteen and one from Jude at sixteen, the 2015 Printz Award winner I’ll Give You the Sun is an ambitious, evocative study of the power of art to inspire and heal. There is a glorious tension in each narrator’s story, keeping the reader on edge as they race to discover the fates of the various tangled family and romantic relationships.

Jandy Nelson uses evocative language to express emotions, with Noah’s states of mind especially bursting with idiosyncratic colors and motion. The poetry of so many lines linger long after readers finish the last page.

In thinking through what music or song might touch on both the language and powerful longing so key to the novel, I had the thrilling realization that one of my favorite songs of yearning fit the bill.

Michigan born singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens uses the musical equivalent of this novel’s elements in his compositions: image-laden lyrics, a slow build toward a dynamic final verse, and multi-layered choruses and instruments to create a lush, romantic sound. He’s also justifiably famous for his lengthy song titles and deliberate wordplay. “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!” from Stevens’ 2005 album Illinois struck me as a perfect fit for I’ll Give You the Sun, and in particular for the character of Noah.

The song doesn’t line up in all details, but it nails two aspects. First, the lyrics detail the powerfully felt spark of new love and the electric physical brushes that make you tremble before a first kiss even feels possible. The song can be read as featuring platonic or romantic love, and like the best songs reflects the listener as much as the songwriter, but here it fits Noah’s passionate attraction perfectly. The hesitant gestures and the final defiant outpouring of emotion sync with Noah’s tumultuous navigation of his relationship with the object of his affection, Brian.

Second, the narrative and music swirl together to present a timeline that is being remembered, one summer’s moments of longing and regret, and a present reaffirmation of the narrator’s strength of feeling and continued steadfast devotion. I’ve always been impressed by how a few lines in the first verse can so vividly recall summer in precise images, perfectly matched with Stevens’ delicate delivery and quiet pauses. The final undeniable explosion of sound including the repeated chorus of “We were in love…” and joyful horns finish with a strong note of hope and reconciliation.

A sample of the lyrics:

I can tell you, we swaggered and swayed
Deep in the tower, the prairies below
I can tell you, the telling gets old
Terrible sting and terrible storm

I can tell you the day we were born
My friend is gone, he ran away

I can tell you, I love him each day
Though we have sparred, wrestled and raged
I can tell you I love him each day

Listen to the song here:

[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=781775666 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=1242679833]

The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!

Thanks to regular Jukebooks author Diane Colson for letting me join in on this feature for The Hub. While working together on this year’s Printz Committee we discovered a shared love of music and relishing the connections between a well told story and a well wrought song. It’s great to find someone else who composes playlists for favorite novels and characters!

-Robin Brenner

Lady Lazarus: Sylvia Plath & YA Literature

photo by flickr user Todd Mecklem
photo by flickr user Todd Mecklem

So, every year around this time, I reread The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It’s just a habit I’ve had since I was a teenager; it gets to be about time for my birthday, and I suddenly know what book I’ll be reading next. It’s comforting in a way that signals a new year for me and winter’s fast approach. This year, after my yearly reading, I decided to branch out a bit to see how Sylvia Plath has influenced and been incorporated into teen literature.

I had noticed two things over the past year that influenced this decision which surprised me. First one – every year I give away books for our Teen Summer Reading program, and I always have The Bell Jar as a choice. This year, I ran out of copies of that book. That got me thinking, and then what cemented it was an increase in teen patrons asking to check out the book. And, it never being on the shelf – I always had to place a request for interested patrons. I mean, it would have been her 82nd birthday on October 27th – but, not like a major milestone like a 100th birthday like in the case of poet Dylan Thomas. But, I noticed a lot of new books being published on Sylvia that included nonfiction and fiction. Maybe readers are just noticing these new books and wanting to go back to read her seminal work – who knows? All I know is it got me interested enough to want to recommend not only some old favorites that incorporate Sylvia into their story, but some newer titles I think readers might be interested in knowing about.

I’ll lead with the book that started this whole long convoluted journey for me…

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: So, yes – my very favorite book of all time. Originally published under a pseudonym in 1963, The Bell Jar tells the semi-autobiographical tale of Sylvia’s time in New York and beyond, starting with her time as an intern at a very prestigious magazine. Esther Greenwood is having a breakdown – she is questioning her place in the world as a woman, a girlfriend, an intellect, and how all those things feel like weights on her shoulders. Esther brings to life the feelings of confusion, sadness and anger in such a realistic way that I think readers come to see Esther as a friend and someone who might possibly be vocalizing their own real feelings in a way they were unable to do. I’ve had teen readers tell me that in the book they recognized themselves and suddenly the world felt a little less lonely. A story of finding yourself and questioning everything that will certainly appeal to readers who are navigating the tricky waters of personhood.

Belzhar by Meg WolitzerBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer: This is one of the new books I was telling you about! Published just a few months ago, Belzhar tells the story of Jam. Her boyfriend, Reeve, has died and she just can’t cope – the sadness is overwhelming. Her parents decide to send her to The Wooden Barn, a boarding school that helps teens deal with difficult life situations in a way that they can return to their normal lives. What’s interesting about The Wooden Barn is that there is a very special class being offered – Special Topics in English. Doesn’t sound so special, but it is in that the teacher, Mrs. Quenell, specially chooses which students will be in her special topics class. She has chosen 5 students for this year’s class – Mrs. Quenell’s last one – and the special topic they’ll be studying – Sylvia Plath and her writing. All the students are required to write in journals that Mrs. Quenell has given them…and that’s when it turns strange. Jam realizes that when she writes in her journal she travels to a place where Reeve is still alive and she can be with him. But, she has to make a choice – to be with Reeve forever is to leave everything else behind. And, good grief, the big reveal at the end (and there are a couple) made me gasp out loud. An interesting study of Sylvia Plath and the depths of human emotion. Continue reading Lady Lazarus: Sylvia Plath & YA Literature

Did You Love Lost? Try These Books!

palm_jungle
photo by flickr user brewbooks

Where I live, the temperatures and humidity are climbing these days, leaving me feeling a bit bedraggled and wilted. Weather like this prompts a strong nostalgia in me for one of my favorite TV shows, Lost, both because I feel as humidity-drenched as they all look on the island, and because the heat saps my energy, so I need a book with a hook strong enough to generate its own page-turning momentum, the way Lost expertly hooked me with truly bizarre discoveries, goosebump-causing unexplained phenomena, and never-quite-enough tidbits of the characters’ lives before the crash.

While I can never go back to the jaw-dropping, melodramatic delights of viewing Lost for the very first time, I can, and do, regularly seek out reading materials that will deliver that same tantalizing mix of survival, conspiracy, flashback storytelling with globetrotting locales, a diverse and varied cast of secret-keeping characters, and developments so strange I actually say, “What?!” out loud. The books in the following list all offered one or many of those factors.

MIND MGMT Vol. 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt – Perhaps an obvious pick, given that Lost producer Damon Lindelof loved this so much he wrote the foreword, and that Kindt has given Lost a very direct nod by numbering the “lost” flight in his story 815. It’s supposed to appeal to Lost fans. But just because a thing is supposed to appeal doesn’t always mean it hits its mark. Imagine my delight then, to be promised by Lindelof that I was in for just the kind of wild ride Lost used to deliver so reliably, and then to have the book in my hand actually take me on just such a ride. This is one of those plots that keeps unfolding to reveal new layers, introducing new characters, and feeding you information from the past and the present without ever explaining anything fully (so just resign yourself to a degree of uncertainty about everything).  MIND MGMT Vol. 1 was one of 2014’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and the graphic format here really served the fragmented storytelling; what was going on in the frames could be saying one thing, and then the frame itself could say something else entirely, and the reader could follow the action through many places and time periods very quickly with a few key visual cues. The best part, for me, of discovering this bizarre (and, fair warning, violent) world; it’s an ongoing series.  Continue reading Did You Love Lost? Try These Books!

Opening Lines to Test Your Printz Honor Book Knowledge

by flickr user urbanworkbench
by flickr user urbanworkbench

Want to write a book? Great! Just put your fingers on your keyboard and start typing.  There you go, your first sentence!

Perhaps that’s the way it works for some, but for many authors, the opening sentence is one to ponder. Should it be enigmatic, coy, hilarious, or profound? Will it be powerful or understated? Elaborately descriptive or one perfect word? That sentence is read in just a moment, but has the potential to excite a reader’s interest… or not.

Each one of the Printz Honor books in the multiple choice quiz below had to start with a first line.  Continue reading Opening Lines to Test Your Printz Honor Book Knowledge