“Tender Morsels” by Margo Lanagan

Tender Morsels Book Cover Tender Morsels
Margo Lanagan
Juvenile Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Michael L Printz Honor Book 2009

Tender Morsels is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever—magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?

This is not a book for everyone, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for younger teens. It starts off with some very disturbing events, and while some reviewers felt these were gratuitous, or too explicit, they didn’t feel that way to me (and I have a pretty low tolerance for that kind of thing in the books I read).

The prose was beautiful, and while it was based on a fairy tale (Snow White and Rose Red), it felt very original and unique to me. I’m a sucker for retellings and expansions of fairy tales, and I loved what Lanagan did with this.

One of the things I like about reading from the list of Printz books is that they aren’t just from US authors — Lanagan is Australian, as is Marchetta (author of the winning book from 2009), and it’s nice to see at least a tiny bit of world perspective. Even more would be better.

I’m glad to have read this and Lanagan’s previous award-winning book of short stories.


“The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks Book Cover The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
E. Lockhart
Juvenile Fiction
August 25, 2009

Michael L. Printz Honor Book -- 2009

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father's "bunny rabbit."
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take "no" for an answer.
Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriend's all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew's lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

The reviews are mixed on this one: it seems like readers either liked it or loathed it — some thought it had a great feminist message, others thought it’s message was terrible.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and found myself wanting to put it in the hands of all of the teenage girls I know (and I know a lot of them….).

Is it perfect in it’s feminist message? Probably not, but what I found compelling was the questions Frankie asked — questions that I wished more girls ask about the status quo and about boys and the way the world works.

It helped me that it was funny (at least, I thought it was, my sense of humor isn’t entirely mainstream…), and that it was a boarding school book — I’m a bit of a sucker for those.

I borrowed this one from the school library, and need to see if I can suggest it to a few girls of my acquaintance.

“Jellicoe Road” by Melina Marchetta #printzproject

Jellicoe Road Book Cover Jellicoe Road
Melina Marchetta
Abandoned children
Harper Collins

Michael L Printz Award Winner 2009

I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs—the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother—who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

The moving, joyous and brilliantly compelling new novel from the best-selling, multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca.

Not that anyone’s wondering, but I have continued to read, even though I pretty much completely stopped posting. I’ll be honest: I got completely bogged down by a book, and let it derail me. I’ve also been reading some other stuff.

(My arbitrary reading goal for 2015 is 100 books. I’m at 93 and it’s just the end of September….)

This book, “Jellicoe Road” — I had a hard time with this one to start. I did NOT get the appeal until I was about halfway through and then I couldn’t put it down. It was about that point that I realized that the ebook edition I was reading was lacking in formatting or notation that would have made things make a lot more sense. The book switches between different narrators, from different time periods, and there was absolutely NO delineation. I believe that in the print versions, the text was set in different typeface (or italics, or something?) — what a difference that would have made!

It’s been almost 2 months since I actually read this, and I see that when I marked it in Goodreads, I only gave it 3 stars. In the time since, I guess I have reimagined what I thought of it, because I was sure I had rated it higher.

So here’s the struggle with having waited so long to write about this book: I’m not sure what to say! It was good, it was award-worthy, and if you do read it, make sure you read it on paper, so that you aren’t completely confused for half the book about what’s going on!

“The White Darkness” by Geraldine McCaughrean

The White Darkness Book Cover The White Darkness
Geraldine McCaughrean
Juvenile Fiction
Harper Collins

2008 Michael L Printz Award Winner

I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now—which is ridiculous, since he's been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way. In ninety years I'll be dead, too, and the age difference won't matter. Sym is not your average teenage girl. She is obsessed with the Antarctic and the brave, romantic figure of Captain Oates from Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole. In fact, Oates is the secret confidant to whom she spills all her hopes and fears. But Sym's uncle Victor is even more obsessed—and when he takes her on a dream trip into the bleak Antarctic wilderness, it turns into a nightmarish struggle for survival that will challenge everything she knows and loves. In her first contemporary young adult novel, Carnegie Medalist and three-time Whitbread Award winner Geraldine McCaughrean delivers a spellbinding journey into the frozen heart of darkness.

This was….a strange and intense book. Having gone on my own little adventure a few years ago, on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, I find reading about other adventurers to be very captivating. Not that my adventure in any way compares to what Symone, the main character in this book, experiences when she goes on a “vacation” to Antarctica.

From the start, you suspect that something is off, and the whole book is one big descent into madness. I found myself unable to look away as everything horrible happened, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did, and in ways I didn’t expect.

This is another one of those books that won’t be up your alley if you don’t like unreliable narrators, or need happy endings for your books.

“Your Own, Sylvia” by Stephanie Hemphill

Your Own, Sylvia Book Cover Your Own, Sylvia
Stephanie Hemphill
Juvenile Nonfiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers

2008 Michael L Printz Honor Book


On a bleak February day in 1963 a young American poet died by her own hand, and passed into a myth that has since imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of millions. She was and is Sylvia Plath and Your Own, Sylvia is a portrait of her life, told in poems.

With photos and an extensive list of facts and sources to round out the reading experience, Your Own, Sylvia is a great curriculum companion to Plath's The Bell Jar and Ariel, a welcoming introduction for newcomers, and an unflinching valentine for the devoted.

I was not expecting to like this book at all, and honestly, there was a fair amount of dread on my part before starting it.

Poetry? About Sylvia Plath, the poet? I’m not smart enough for that — for poetry. This is my high school English experience still haunting me. Not surprisingly, poetry is not as hard as I once thought, and if nothing else, this Printz project has gotten me to read plenty of it!

I don’t consider myself any kind of judge of poetry, so I don’t know if Hemphill’s poetry is any good or not, but everything about this book worked for me. I know that the author was fictionalizing the thoughts and accounts of Plath’s life, but it drew me in, and made me want to learn and read more. Plath’s own novel and poetry are now on my TBR list.