Subscribe to The Horn Book

Reviews of the 2012 Printz winners

Winner: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (Atheneum)
Review in The Horn Book Guide, Fall 2011
When Cullen Witter was seventeen, his younger brother disappeared from their rural Arkansas town. Meanwhile, the suicide of Cabot Searcy’s college roommate has sent him on a quest to save mankind. The two parallel plot lines, disconnected at first, merge seamlessly in a shocking climax. Multiple points of view and smart plotting bolster this complex and intriguing novel. LANA BARNES


Honor: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler; illus. by Maira Kalman (Little, Brown)
Starred review in The Horn Book Magazine, January/February 2012
Min and Ed’s differences are profound—most obviously, she’s a quirky aspiring filmmaker and he’s a popular jock. Readers see immediately, though, that it’s not simply these practical differences that caused their break-up, the event on which this unique novel, posed as a letter that Min is writing to Ed, is centered. In addition to this letter, Min is planning to drop off on Ed’s doorstep a box of items, tiny tokens of their relationship (some with obvious sentimentality, others seemingly random objects, like a bottle cap). Though tightly focused and always tethered to its format as a denunciative break-up note explaining the physical memorabilia, Handler’s text continually makes the reader forget this narrow structure: the imagistic, affecting stories that Min tells about each object are completely engrossing and provide insight into their young and flawed love. Min’s thoughts on the significance of each item (and the moment or memory it’s tied to) are brilliant and mature beyond her age, but authentically fit her introspective and intelligent character. The poetic eloquence and honesty of Min’s narration; the clarity with which each idiosyncratic character is drawn; the distinctive premise that gives direction to but does not limit plot: these factors combine to help us comprehend both why they broke up, and why that outcome is not what matters most in this story. A stylish book design, thick glossy pages that make the book satisfyingly hefty to hold, and Kalman’s spare illustrations of the objects heighten the overall enjoyment and perfectly complement Handler’s accomplished prose. KATRINA HEDEEN


Honor: The Returning by Christine Hinwood (Dial)
Review in The Horn Book Magazine, May/June 2011
Cam goes off to war at age twelve and returns at age seventeen, spiritually maimed, one arm missing, the single surviving soldier of his village. There is no hero’s welcome. In a series of artfully interwoven character studies, of Cam’s betrothed, his young sister, a refugee child, the village boy who loves him, and the enemy whose life Cam spared, Hinwood gradually reveals her richly conceived pre-industrial, agrarian world. Her language, a mixture of newly minted words, archaic English, and subtle variants on syntax and grammar, reads like a foreign tongue in which one is magically fluent. The restraint, earthiness, and perfect pitch of this telling are reminiscent of Kevin Crossley-Holland. Secrets are exposed, people are brought to unexpected kindness, the complexities of politics and love are examined, all against the backdrop of the horror and sheer stupidity of war. “Gyodan had told him, ‘War is art: strategy, sword-work, archery.’ But to Gyaar, it was grass churned to mud, the mud red.” SARAH ELLIS


Honor: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (Knopf)
Starred review in The Horn Book Magazine, May/June 2011
Jasper Jones—town outcast, juvenile delinquent, general scapegoat—shows up at thirteen-year-old Charlie’s window one night, and brings him to a grove along the riverbank, the scene of the apparent murder of the daughter of the shire president. Convinced of Jasper’s innocence, Charlie helps him hide the body until the two boys can find the murderer and bring him to justice. It’s a heavy burden for him to bear as he courts the sister of the dead girl, chafes at the racism that his Vietnamese best friend encounters, and witnesses the deterioration of his parent’s marriage. As secrets come rattling out of the closet, the characters are forced to make difficult choices in the satisfying resolution to this gothic-flavored coming-of-age tale. The mood and atmosphere of the 1960s Australian setting is perfectly realized—suspenseful, menacing, and claustrophobic—with issues of race and class boiling just below the surface of the small town. Smart, sensible, and likable, Charlie is drawn with a deft hand, and his first-person narration astutely captures, not only a sociopolitical cross-section of his community, but also his tumultuous family situation and internal life as well. JONATHAN HUNT


The Scorpio RacesHonor: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
Starred review in The Horn Book Magazine, November/December 2011
“It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” Stiefvater’s novel, inspired by Manx, Irish, and Scottish legends of beautiful but deadly fairy horses that emerge from the sea each autumn, begins rivetingly and gets better and better…all the way, in fact, to best. Stiefvater masterfully combines an intimate voice (think I Capture the Castle) with a fully evoked island setting with sensory-rich language (think Margo Lanagan) with a wealth of horse detail with a plot full of danger, intrigue, and romance. The narrative alternates between two first-person voices: Sean Kendrick, more in tune with the magic horses than anyone else on Thisby but tied to his stable job by his love for his employer’s valuable water horse, Corr; and Kate “Puck” Connelly, orphaned by the vicious horses and desperate enough (both for money and to keep her small remaining family together) to enter the famed annual Scorpio Races—though she secretly intends to ride her beloved land mare, Dove. Both Sean and Puck need to win the race and claim the prize money to achieve their dreams, so the tension builds and holds until the final, climactic scene: the bloody, intoxicating race along the edge of the ocean, where the perils include not just crazed horses but human villainy. Stiefvater sets not one foot wrong as she takes readers on an intoxicating ride of their own. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO


Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.


  1. […] Scorpio Races, by Maggie Seifvater Ok, so the review in The Horn Book was so great, that I really can’t add anything: Stiefvater’s novel […] begins rivetingly and […]

Speak Your Mind