New Year, Past Winners | Pondering Printz

SLJ kicks off our monthly awards season column, Pondering Printz, with commentary and predictions on who might take the highest honor for YA books, the 2020 Michael L. Printz Award.

This fall, SLJ will reprise our Pondering Printz logomonthly awards season column, Pondering Printz, which features expert predictions and analysis of the annual Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult Literature. Slated to be announced on January 27, 2020, as part of the Youth Media Awards at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association, the Printz honors the best book for teens and is among the most prestigious prizes in children’s literature.

This awards season celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Printz, the first of which went to Walter Dean Meyers’ s Monster in 2000, and marks a significant milestone for the YA world.

Stay with us through January as former committee members discuss this year’s contenders and add to the conversation every month.


The Printz honors the best in young adult literature for ages 12-18, with one winning book and up to four honor books recognized annually. The Printz committee is tasked with looking for excellence in story, voice, style, setting, accuracy, characters, theme, illustrations, and design, but the books recognized also have that indefinable something, that je ne sais quoi, which sets them apart. Since the inaugural award in 2000, 94 books have been recognized in total, with eight authors beeing recognized more than once. Five authors have received two honors—Deborah Heligman, Terry Pratchett, M.T. Anderson, Margo Lanagan, and Marcus Zusak—and an additional two authors have both won the Printz and received an honor—David Almond and John Green. Marcus Sedgwick is the only author to be awarded three times: he won for Midwinterblood in 2014 and was honored twice. Looking at these eight authors, I was struck that six were male and only two were female. With several female authors who have been recognized in the past releasing new books in 2019, I thought it would be interesting to start this year’s Pondering Printz by asking the question, do their new books have what it takes to win the 2020 medal?

The Poet X and With the Fire on High coversLast year Elizabeth Acevedo won the Printz for her novel in verse, The Poet X. Her newest book, With the Fire on High, is the story of Emoni, a teenage aspiring chef as well as a proud and loving single mother, trying to carve out a space for her own dreams. You will savor this, not just for the mouth-watering food descriptions, but for Emoni’s pure and true voice.

There are few books in recent memory with as poignant an inspiration as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Shout. Anderson was honored in 2000 for her novel Speak, the story of a survivor of sexual assault who literally and figuratively finds her voice through art. Anderson, herself a survivor of sexual assault, was inspired to write Shout after readers of Speak confinded their own experiences of abuse to her. Shout is unflinching, compelling, and lyrical; it grabs you and doesn’t let you go. With its themes of survival and recovery, this is a haunting story for our #MeToo world.

Honored in 2017 for The Passion of Dolssa, Julie Berry’s latest, Lovely War, is a sweeping tale of love amid the ravages of World War I as told by Greek Gods on trial duringThe Passion of Dolssa and Lovely War covers World War II. The book is rich in emotion, history, and Greek mythology. You will want to read this one over and over to catch every detail you missed as you devoured it the first time.

Dig by A.S. King, who was honored in 2011 for Please Ignore Vera Dietz, is powerful and surreal. Dig, is about five cousins, their family’s history, and the impact of race through the generations. As King acknowledges, this is an uncomfortable read, but it will reward you richly with its uniqueness and nuance.

In 2015 Mariko Tamaki was a Printz and Caldecott honoree with Jillian Tamaki for their graphic novel This One Summer. This One Summer was only the second graphic novel recognized by the Printz (currently there are three: American Born Chinese won in 2007 and March: Book 3 took the medal in 2017). Tamaki’s most recent graphic novel, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, is a love story that explores toxic relationships, friendship, and self worth. Beautifully illustrated with seamless text and art This One Summer and Laura Dean coversintegration, this is a book about relationships that every teen should read.

Arguably one of the biggest debuts in recent memory was Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, a 2018 Printz honoree. Her follow up, On the Come Up, takes place in the same neighborhood, but with its own story and characters. Thomas excels at writing authentic voices and Bri’s jumps off the page—her joy, her pain, her frustration, and her anger. Bri, her family, her friends, her highs, and her lows, will stick with you long after finishing the last page.

Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together won the Coretta Scott King in 2018 and was a Newbery honoree in 2018 as well (I know, not the Printz). Her newest, Watch Us Rise, co-written with Ellen Hagan, may be a dark horse Printz contender, but one worth considering. The story of Jasmine and Chelsea’s call to arms against racism, sexism, and sizeism is topical and inspiring. I know it inspired me.

So much of what the committee does is shrouded in secrecy, which is why predicting what will win is so much fun. As a former committee member, the only thing I know for sure is that the current committee members will have read hundreds of books by the time they choose the 2020 Printz Award winners. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and predictions. This is a wide-open race and my “to read” pile just keeps growing. Happy Reading!


Kefira Philippe is the librarian at Nichols Middle School in Evanston, IL. In addition to reviewing for SLJ, she has served on YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults and the 2017 Printz Committee. She can found with her nose in a book any time she has a free moment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Martha Brockenbrough

Don't forget THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL by Laura Ruby, who won the Printz Medal in 2016 for BONE GAP. (And by don't forget, I gently suggest "please add.")

Posted : Sep 18, 2019 09:22


RELATED 

TOP STORIES

LIBRARY EDUCATION

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COMMUNITY FORM

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.