“The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist Book Cover The Monstrumologist
Rick Yancey
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
September 22, 2009

2010 Michael L Printz Honor Book

A monster-hunting doctor and his apprentice face off against a plague of monsters in the first book of a terrifying series. Publishers Weekly says “horror lovers will be rapt.”

These are the secrets I have kept. So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor in nineteenth-century New England, Will has grown accustomed to his late-night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was eating her, Will’s world changes forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagus—a headless monster that feeds through a mouth in its chest—and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to overtake and consume the world…before it is too late. The Monstrumologist is the first stunning gothic adventure in a series that combines the terror of HP Lovecraft with the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Dear book,

It’s me, not you. I think I can see why you won lots of awards, but you didn’t do it for me. I didn’t really care about your characters, and apparently I’m not as much of a fan of horror as I used to be, because now I’m grossed out and might have trouble sleeping tonight because of you.



“Going Bovine” by Libba Bray

Going Bovine Book Cover Going Bovine
Libba Bray
Juvenile Fiction
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

2010 Michael L Printz Award Winner

In an attempt to find a cure after being diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob (aka mad cow) disease, Cameron Smith, a disaffected sixteen-year-old boy, sets off on a road trip with a death-obsessed video gaming dwarf he meets in the hospital.

“Going Bovine” is a strange trip of a book. I read this a few years ago, probably close to when it was first published. I enjoyed a lot of it, but frankly, I felt like there was too much of it for me. It’s based on “Don Quixote” and like it’s source material, the adventures ramble on. And on.

I’m also thinking that the emotional impact of the story was lessened by the fact that it was a reread. This might have also been why it felt so long: I knew what was coming, and kept checking the progress meter (I read an ebook this time), wondering if I was done yet.

I can see why it won many awards, and the message about what it means to actually live, and not just exist, is something more of us need to think about. Even though I had a bit of a struggle getting through it, I think a first time reader would get more out of it, and I would definitely recommend it to teenage readers.


“Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith” by Deborah Heiligman

Charles and Emma Book Cover Charles and Emma
Deborah Heiligman
Juvenile Nonfiction
January 6, 2009

Michael L Printz Honor Book 2010


Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary tract on evolution and the fundamental ideas involved, in 1859. Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within Darwin himself, and played an important part in his marriage: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debates.

Deborah Heiligman's new biography of Charles Darwin is a thought-provoking account of the man behind evolutionary theory: how his personal life affected his work and vice versa. The end result is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for young readers.

Charles and Emma is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

I didn’t dislike this book, but I couldn’t quite figure out why it was considered worthy of honor by the Printz Committee — or of any of the honors it received.

It was…fine? I learned quite a bit, actually, about Darwin’s work and how he came up with his ideas, which was quite interesting, but the writing didn’t feel all that spectacular to me.

I guess I found myself comparing it to another non-fiction book that won a lot of awards recently — “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin, and it did not hold up favorably. “Bomb” was a wonderful book — it was fast-paced, non-stop, and read like an adventure novel, but it was real!

“Charles and Emma” — it meandered and backtracked, and talked about a lot of minutiae. Maybe I just wasn’t crazy about the way in which the author wove in commentary from letters and journals — it all felt somewhat awkward and contrived.

I could tell that the author was very passionate about her subject, just as Darwin and his wife were passionate about their family, their love for each other, and the work that Darwin was doing. I guess it just wasn’t enough for me to really end up loving this book, too.

“The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves” by M. T. Anderson

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II Book Cover The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II
M.T. Anderson
Juvenile Fiction
Candlewick Press
December 21, 2010

Michael L Printz Honor Book 2009

Sequel to the National Book Award Winner! Fearing a death sentence, Octavian and his tutor, Dr. Trefusis, escape through rising tides and pouring rain to find shelter in British-occupied Boston. Sundered from all he knows — the College of Lucidity, the rebel cause — Octavian hopes to find safe harbor. Instead, he is soon to learn of Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves who join the counterrevolutionary forces. In Volume II of his unparalleled masterwork, M. T. Anderson recounts Octavian's experiences as the Revolutionary War explodes around him, thrusting him into intense battles and tantalizing him with elusive visions of liberty. Ultimately, this astonishing narrative escalates to a startling, deeply satisfying climax, while reexamining our national origins in a singularly provocative light.

So, this book. This is the book that derailed me. I really enjoyed the first book in this duology (The Pox Party), but this book was such a slog. And it was a slog in a way that made me feel guilty about not liking it. The first book was very compelling — there’s so much history that we never learn about, voices and stories that go untold, and reading about a character who was a slave during the American Revolution, was fascinating.

This book….I just couldn’t care about what was going on — it was another important part of our history, that I didn’t know anything about, which is why there was a lot of guilt on my part for not liking the book. Octavian Nothing escapes Boston and ends up in Virginia, joining up with Lord Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment — slaves were offered freedom if they joined up with Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia.

As you can imagine, it didn’t really turn out well. The book was a diary of the horrors the former slaves endured, and of course, they never really did get their freedom.

I wish I could have enjoyed this more, I think it was me, not the book, though I’ve read other reviews that expressed similar sentiments.

Finishing it was a relief, and now I can move on.

“Repossessed” by A.M. Jenkins

Repossessed Book Cover Repossessed
A. M. Jenkins
Juvenile Fiction
Harper Collins

2008 Michael L Printz Honor Book

Don't call me a demon. I prefer the term Fallen Angel.

Everybody deserves a vacation, right? Especially if you have a pointless job like tormenting the damned. So who could blame me for blowing off my duties and taking a small, unauthorized break?

Besides, I've always wanted to see what physical existence is like. That's why I "borrowed" the slightly used body of a slacker teen. Believe me, he wasn't going to be using it anymore anyway.

I have never understood why humans do the things they do. Like sin--if it's so terrible, why do they keep doing it?

I'm going to have a lot of fun finding out!

This was? OK? I guess? The idea was interesting, a demon possessing a teenaged boy, and experiencing life on Earth through his body, but the execution was a little underwhelming for me. I guess I wanted there to be more to it, more plot, more exploration, just…more…

It also took a preachy turn to it towards the end that I thought was a little too in your face, message-wise.

This is ridiculously short, but the more time I spend agonizing about what to say about a book that clear the threshold of awesome for me is less time I can spend reading….