“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.


“One Whole and Perfect Day” by Judith Clarke

One Whole and Perfect Day Book Cover One Whole and Perfect Day
Judith Clarke
Juvenile Fiction
Front Street Incorporated

In this Michael L. Printz Honor Book, Lily wishes she could be like the other girls in her class. But how can she? As the only sensible person in her family, she never has time to hang out with friends. Someone has to stay home to look after her brother. Maybe she should fall in love! What could be less sensible that that?
When her grandmother invites the whole family to a party, Lily cannot imagine how they will make it through the day. Her mother is always bringing home strange people. Lily doesn't even know her father . Her grandfather has disowned her brother. Her brother has a new girlfriend that no one has met. To top it all off, that day when her eye caught Daniel Steadman's just for a moment, she felt all woozy inside. If that was love, she isn't sure she likes the feeling. As the party approaches, all Lily can hope for is one whole and perfect day. Is it too much to ask?

I was completely underwhelmed by this novel and was glad it was so short. I didn’t really care about the characters, and all of the coincidences were a little too coincidental for me.

The whole thing felt a little pointless, and while I can handle a character-driven story that is light on plot, this was a little too far over that line for me.

Oooo, a three sentence post. OK, 4 with that one. Well, once I finish this it’ll be 6.

“Dreamquake” by Elizabeth Knox

Dreamquake Book Cover Dreamquake
The Dreamhunter Duet #2
Elizabeth Knox
Juvenile Fiction

2008 Michael L Printz Honor Book

The dreamhunting began as a beautiful thing, when Tziga Hame discovered that he could enter the Place and share the dreams he found there with other people. But Tziga Hame has disappeared and Laura, his daughter, knows that the art of projecting dreams has turned sour. On St. Lazarus's Eve, when elite citizens gather at the Rainbow Opera to experience the sweet dream of Homecoming, Laura, determined to show them the truth, plunges them into the nightmare used to control the convict workers. The event marks the first blow in the battle for control of the Place, the source of dreams. Then, when Laura's cousin, Rose, uncovers evidence that the government has been building a secret rail line deep into the Place, Laura follows it to find out what lies at its end. As she struggles to counter the government's sinister plans, a deeper mystery surfaces, a puzzle only Laura can unravel, a puzzle having to do with the very nature of the Place. What is the Place, after all? And what does it want from her?

Inventive and richly imagined, Elizabeth Knox's dramatic conclusion will satisfy readers - whether or not they've read Book One.

Awhile back, I looked ahead to all of the books on the list, figuring out if I could borrow them from a library, read them on Oyster, or purchase a copy. At the same time, I discovered that this book, “Dreamquake” was part two of a “duet” — so I grabbed a copy of the first book as well, and I am so glad I did. Despite what the blurb says above, you DO need to read the first book to enjoy the second (in my opinion).

The first is Dreamhunter, and I actually felt like it was the stronger, more interesting of the two books. I think it if had been one complete book, with a little bit of paring down, it could have been even better. But that’s just me, and I’m not the author or her editor with their vision of what they wanted the books to be.

I’m always very jealous of books that have such amazing world-building — jealous because I could only wish to be so clever and come up with so much detail.

Some people probably won’t like the ending, it’s a little too neat, but I’m letting my overall satisfaction with the pair of books as whole carry me through on this one. Glad I read it and glad to continue to get read authors from other countries.

2007 Printz Project Summary

I really need to stop procrastinating on writing about the books. I get too far away, and I don’t know what to say about them. I’m still about 4 books behind. I have decided not to let myself keep going  until I catch up, but that just means that I’ve actually read two OTHER books in the meantime.

I don’t really have anything to add to what I’ve already written about the 2007 honored books. This was a good year, I thought — none of the books made me think “why is this here?” 2007 included the first graphic novel, another John Green, another Markus Zusak, and the first M.T. Anderson. Also, the very strange Surrender.They were all different enough, that I don’t think I can try to pick a favorite. I’ve spent too much time debating about what to write about or not write about anyway, time to move on……..

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief Book Cover The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
Juvenile Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers

2007 Michael L Printz Honor Book


It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I bounced off this book in the past, and for about the first third of it I was torn about “having” to read it. That’s kind of a long time to stick with a book, but at some point, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.

I have gotten in a bit of a rut over the years of reading books that are only in certain genres with characters that all had a sameness to them. The books honored by the Printz award are very diverse, with lots of unique perspectives. “The Book Thief” is definitely different — narrated by Death, about a young girl during World War II and the life she leads with her neighbors and foster family, and the Jewish man her family hides for a time.

This is not a quick read with a lot of fast action. It’s unique style does take some getting used to, and some people will probably decide it’s not for them. I loved seeing how books and words left their mark on Liesel and her family, friends, and neighbors. I cared a lot about what happened to everyone, and even though it’s been several weeks since I finished, I still find myself thinking about it occasionally.