In the kids’ book world, this time of year ranks among a blogger’s favorite—it’s when we all discuss our favorite books and look ahead. It also happens to be Youth Media Awards speculation time.

The American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards honor the best in books and media for children and teens and will be announced Jan. 10. And, as always, I am most intrigued by who will win the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

The Printz is the most exciting, most intriguing of the major awards. It has no residency requirement like that of the more recognized Caldecott and Newbery awards, which are restricted to U.S. residents only. The Printz can also go to books previously published in other countries, again unlike both the Caldecott and Newbery.

But what really sets the Printz apart is that it is often the most unpredictable of the major awards, with the winner often coming out of left field. Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (First Second, 2007) was the first—and remains the only—graphic novel to win the Printz in 2007. The acclaimed The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2006) and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf, 2006) received honors in 2007. And Louise Rennison’s comedic chick-lit novel Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson snagged the award in 2001—and while it’s an enjoyable book, and one that I liked, it’s not exactly the first that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “literary excellence.” Or Judith Clarke’s One Whole and Perfect Day, a book seemingly few readers had heard about, which won the honor in 2008.

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The Young Adult Library Services Association, or YALSA, awards the Printz and has added two more book awards, the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, both of which announce their shortlists in early December. However, there still is no Printz shortlist—and that leaves everyone guessing, making it all the more fun.

Which brings us back to YMA speculation time.

If you read my last post, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Janne Teller’s Nothing (Atheneum, 2010; Teller divides time between the United States and Europe, the book was first published in Denmark) is my top choice for the 2011 Printz. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s They Called Themselves the K.K.K. (Houghton Mifflin, 2010) become the first nonfiction book to win.

Other picks rumored to be in the running include Melina Marchetta’s fantasy, Finnikin of the Rock (Candlewick, 2010). Marchetta is the Australian author of 2009 Printz winner Jellicoe Road (HarperTeen, 2008), and both of her books were first published in Australia. Science-fiction works like Welsh author Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron (Dial, 2010), British author Philip Reeve's Fever Crumb (Scholastic, 2010) and Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (Little, Brown, 2010) are also considered to be contenders.

Additional books making a strong run for the Printz are Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution (Delacorte, 2010) with its intertwined contemporary and historical storylines—I haven’t read this yet, but trust the opinions of those who have. And there will likely be some contemporary fiction in the mix, perhaps John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Dutton, 2010) or Francisco X. Stork’s The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (Arthur A. Levine, 2010). (The omission of Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World was probably the biggest surprise last year.)

A growing number of libraries hold mock awards, in which participants read a slate of titles, then discuss and vote on books following the same procedures as the Printz committee. Take a look at some lists for more Printz possibilities, or wait for Whitney’s compilation of titles at the blog Youth Services Corner. Then join thousands of librarians and teen-lit fans, including myself, as we watch the 2011 awards announcements Jan. 10.


Trisha Murakami blogs at The YA YA YAs and is eagerly anticipating the announcement of the 2011 Youth Media Awards.