Friday, October 19, 2012

Printz Watch 2013: The Land Down Under

One of my very favorite things about the Printz award is its international scope.  Though it's an award given in America by an American committee, books from all over the world are considered to be eligible as long as an American edition is published during the consideration year.  Books like Meg Rosoff's how i live now, the 2005 winner, Kit's Wilderness, the 2001 winner, and Postcards from No Man's Land, the 2003 winner, were written by British authors.  A couple of international Honor books include Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (UK), Skellig (UK), and Nothing (Denmark).

The international scope of the Printz is pretty far-reaching, but I would argue that perhaps Australia has one of the most influential group of YA writers on the planet.  Melina Marchetta's jaw-dropping masterpiece Jellicoe Road won the Printz in 2009 (and if you haven't read that one, I beseech you to. It's in my top two favorite books OF ALL TIME).  There have been seven additional Australian authors that have received Printz Honors (and one from New Zealand---hi, Elizabeth Knox! Only Kiwi on the list--represent!). Two of these authors have received multiple Printz Honors.  But this isn't surprising.  Australian YA is AMAZING and over here at the Pearl Library, I do my very best to collect as much of it as I can.  There are still some fantastic authors that haven't been published in the US (like Shirley Marr and Kirsty Eagar), but the ones that have American distributors here are on my shelves!

This year, there are three serious Printz contenders that have been imported from Australia.

Margo Lanagan has received two Printz Honors already.  She's known for writing haunting and slightly disturbing works of fiction.  These tend to skirt the line between magic realism and flat-out fantasy.  The Brides of Rollrock Island is about a remote ocean community in which men utilize the services of a local witch to draw their wives from the creatures of the sea.  Published in Australia as Sea Hearts, this book is every bit as unsettlingly beautiful as Lanagan's other works.  This book received five starred reviews. (See our last post for information about starred reviews!)  The language is beautiful, the characters are flawed and relatable, and you can't look away.  Is it Printz-worthy? Honestly, I don't know, but with Lanagan's history of awards, you better believe the Printz committee will be reading and rereading it.  To check it out yourself, click here.

Graffiti Moon may not have received any starred reviews, but I say forget about that because it's wonderful.  Lucy has just year 12 and before her life changes forever, she just wants to find Shadow.  Shadow is a graffiti artist that only works at night, and Lucy's artistic soul adores his work.  The entire book takes place in one night as Lucy tries to locate the elusive Shadow, with the help of Ed, the last guy she wants to deal with. But Ed says he knows how to find Shadow, so they spend an all-night search going from place to place and finding out more and more about Shadow.  But as the search progresses, Lucy finds out more about herself, her friends, and even Ed.  This book is just so lovely.  Cath Crowley captures the voices, the insecurities, the inner lives of her characters so well.  We have another one of her books, A Little Wanting Song (Aussie title: Chasing Charlie Duskin), and that, it just changed the way I look at my own self.  This lady's got chops.  Y'all, even if this book doesn't get a Printz nod, it deserves a read. Request it here.

Oh, Melina, MELINA, Melina.  If this woman wrote ingredients lists on cereal boxes, I'd read them, so you should probably be aware that there is nothing that I say about her or this book that will be unbiased or objective in the least.  Froi is a follow up to her insanely popular Finnikin of the Rock, in which Marchetta tried her hand at fantasy.  And suceeded beautifully, of course.  Finnikin worked as a standalone, but then she decided to explore the character of Froi in his own work, and it was just as lovely. (She's calling the series the Chronicles of Lumatere.)  I'll be totally honest and say that it's been awhile since I've read this one.  It was published in Australia about a year ago, and I couldn't wait for the US publication date, so...I ordered it from overseas. WORTH IT.  I'm currently reading the third book in this trilogy, Quintana of Charyn, which will be published in the US in March (yeah, I ordered this one from Australia, too. Obviously.).  Do I think Froi is Printz-worthy? Based solely on literary merit, definitely. It's received four starred reviews!  But the fact is, it's the middle book of a trilogy.  There's a lot of backstory, and there's a lot of buildup to the final book.  I loved learning about the history of Skuldenore, and about Froi's origins, and continuing the story of Finnikin and his family.  I loved it and I thought it was literarily excellent, but it doesn't stand alone as a single title very well.  If you read this one without reading the first book, you'd probably be lost, and I think that will count against it during Printz deliberation.  Still, start by reading Finnikin, then read Froi.  You know I'll have the last book on our shelves as soon as Candlewick publishes it in March.

I know this one has been a long one, but I'm utterly fascinated by the way that YA is written and received in other countries.  Pick up one of these Aussie books! You'll be so glad you did.