“The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist Book Cover The Monstrumologist
Rick Yancey
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
September 22, 2009
ebook
448
Oyster

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.

Sincerely,

Suzanne

“Tales of the Madman Underground” by John Barnes

Tales of the Madman Underground Book Cover Tales of the Madman Underground
John Barnes
Juvenile Fiction
Penguin
2009
Paperback
532
Owned

2010 Michael L Printz Honor Book

 

Tales of the Madman Underground

Read

Tales of the Madman Underground

Wednesday, September 5, 1973: The first day of Karl Shoemaker's senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl's been part of what he calls "the Madman Underground" - a group of kids forced (for no apparent reason) to attend group therapy during school hours. Karl has decided that senior year is going to be different. He is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act - and be - Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has five after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker

This big book was a little scary to start, the cover material did not make it sound like a book that I would enjoy, and it was a long one to boot. It was also a little slow to start, and I let myself get distracted by a couple of other things. Once I got going, and really got into it, though, I was hooked on Karl Shoemaker’s story.

Fair warning: there’s quite a bit of profanity, and he is a teenage boy who thinks a lot about girls. It’s also set in the 70s and there’s a lot of horrible stuff that happens to Karl and his friends. I know, I know. I’m really selling it here.

The stuff that makes the book so good is that Karl is a wonderful character. He’s not perfect, but I really loved him, and while there’s a lot of heartbreaking and scary situations, there’s a lot of hope and friendship and beautiful writing.

I would have chosen this over “Going Bovine” as the winner of the Printz award, personally. Definitely recommended to older teens and adults.

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

Charles and Emma Book Cover Charles and Emma
Deborah Heiligman
Juvenile Nonfiction
Ottawa
January 6, 2009
Hardcover
268
Library

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.

“Punkzilla” by Adam Rapp

Punkzilla Book Cover Punkzilla
Adam Rapp
Juvenile Fiction
Candlewick Press
2009
244

Michael L Printz Honor Book 2010

 

An award-winning writer and playwright hits the open road for a searing novel-in-letters about a street kid on a highstakes trek across America.

For a runaway boy who goes by the name "Punkzilla," kicking a meth habit and a life of petty crime in Portland, Oregon, is a prelude to a mission: reconnecting with his older brother, a gay man dying of cancer in Memphis. Against a backdrop of seedy motels, dicey bus stations, and hitched rides, the desperate fourteen-year-old meets a colorful, sometimes dangerous cast of characters. And in letters to his sibling, he catalogs them all — from an abusive stranger and a ghostly girl to a kind transsexual and an old woman with an oozing eye. The language is raw and revealing, crackling with visceral details and dark humor, yet with each interstate exit Punkzilla’s journey grows more urgent: will he make it to Tennessee in time? This daring novel offers a narrative worthy of Kerouac and a keen insight into the power of chance encounters.

I am not the target audience for this book, and while that doesn’t usually matter for a lot of books (a good book is a good book regardless of genre or targeted age-range), this one did nothing for me.

I can appreciate the literary merit. I’m probably reacting as a mom of teenaged boys who would very much like to pretend that the kind of world the 14 year boy in this book lives in doesn’t exist.

Runaways, drugs, sex, homelessness, AIDS, death, prostitution, and on and on……the world is such an ugly place for some people. If nothing else, I guess this book is a good reminder for me of just how lucky my family and I are. And maybe a call to action to help make the world suck less for other people, if I can.

“Tender Morsels” by Margo Lanagan

Tender Morsels Book Cover Tender Morsels
Margo Lanagan
Juvenile Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
2010
436

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.