Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The YA Guide to Book Awards: The Michael L. Printz Award

Looking for a good book to read but don't really know where to start?

True story.
One option is to ask your friendly neighborhood librarian (duh), who will be happy to give you some suggestions. But if you’re still not sure or browsing independently, another option is to check out past and present award winners.

We’ve all seen those shiny award stickers on the covers of books in the library or bookstore (maybe even on the covers of some of our favorites!). Turns out, the books carrying these stickers of glory are “pre-screened” to be awesome. That doesn’t mean you’ll love every award-winning book, but it DOES mean that they’ve been deemed quality reading material by Really Qualified People, and they are definitely worth giving a try.

One of the upcoming Accio Lit book talks will cover Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, which, I’m not gonna lie, I picked up because of the Printz Award medal on the cover. I had too many books to choose from that I really wanted to read, so an award-winner seemed like a good place to start. And BOY was that a good call… but I’ll save that for another time.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be doing a rundown of several different book awards, what they mean, who decides which books receive them (and a few examples of which books have), and why you should pick them up next time you’re in search of a new favorite book.

Let's begin with a YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) award, which is specific to the YA audience.

The Michael L. Printz Award

The Printz Award medals. Gold is the winner, and silver is for honor books.

What is it?

According to YALSA:
The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.
Michael L. Printz was a high school librarian who was extremely passionate about YA literature and ensuring that his students were perfectly matched with the books they needed, when they needed them. He was an active member of YALSA, and he instituted an Author-In-Residence program at his high school. Printz placed a high value on YA literature, and the Printz award "recognizes the best titles in young adult literature in a given calendar year."

Printz winners and honor books can be either fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art, or an anthology. Notably, the award is only given to books in print (no e-book-only titles allowed). The criteria is otherwise pretty broad; YALSA explains, "What we are looking for, in short, is literary excellence." The award is NOT a popularity contest -- the committee looks for quality books in an ever-changing list of criteria. As you will see, a broad cross-section of books have been chosen for this award. What do they all have in common? They are well-written, engaging, and enduring.

Who decides?

The Printz award winner is chosen by a committee of nine, with one chair and eight members, plus a consultant from the ALA book review publication Booklist (who doesn't vote). The committee consists of librarians who are also members of YALSA, and they serve a one-year term. They award one medal per year, and honor up to four other books as well. Librarians (and teens!) can nominate books for the Printz award each year.



Why should you care?

The Printz award is truly a medal of excellence in YA literature. I personally have loved every Printz award winner (and most of the honor books) I've read because they are always unique, smart, well-written, and reflect a variety of genres, which is super important as there are so many different genres represented in YA (sci-fi, realistic fiction, graphic novels, historical fiction, the list goes on). Picking Printz winners is a great way to keep up with past and present gems, and also offers you some challenging but worthwhile reads that will really make you think.

Tune in next week for another installment in the YA Guide to Book Awards!

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