Reviews of the 2022 Printz Award Winners


Firekeeper’s Daughter
by Angeline Boulley
High School    Holt    496 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-250-76656-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-76657-1    $10.99

Recent high school graduate Daunis Firekeeper (known for much of the book by her white mother’s family name, Fontaine) decides to stay in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and attend Lake State with her best friend, Lily. She is then ­devastated when Lily is killed by her meth-addicted boyfriend. Soon after, two undercover agents approach Daunis about taking her late uncle’s place as a confidential informant investigating meth that included “hallucinogenic additives…Psilocybe caerulipes from near Tahquamenon Falls.” Daunis has strong scientific knowledge and a close connection to the Native community, despite being unenrolled (her father, a member of the Sugar Island Ojibwe tribe, is not on her birth certificate). Readers are introduced to the Anishinaabemowin language and, as Daunis calls on traditional knowledge to assist her in the investigation alongside her scientific knowledge, to the customs of the Sugar Island Ojibwe. This is a gripping page-turner, multifaceted, authentic, and suspenseful, that will keep readers wondering who is responsible for the meth that is taking over Daunis’s community — and who exactly she can trust. NICHOLL DENICE MONTGOMERY

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Concrete Rose
by Angie Thomas
High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    368 pp.    g
1/21    978-0-06-284671-6    $19.99
Library ed.  978-1-4328-8474-1    $24.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-284675-4    $12.99

One of the most dynamic characters in Thomas’s acclaimed The Hate U Give (rev. 3/17) is Starr’s father, Maverick Carter. In this prequel, seventeen-year-old Mav has joined his incarcerated father’s gang for protection and is secretly selling drugs with his best friend. The situation isn’t ideal, but it provides young Mav with everything he wants in life…until he discovers he’s a father. Suddenly a single parent to a three-month-old, Mav reevaluates the life he needs to live for his son (and that’s just the first major complication), but he quickly discovers that leaving his old life without consequences isn’t an option, while outside pressures build to a tragic event. Authentic to the point of heartbreak, Maverick’s voice is earnest as he wrestles with his decisions. Even as his behavior swings chaotically between virtue and violence or near-violence, Mav’s main motive remains consistent throughout — to protect and honor his loved ones. Fans of Thomas’s work will not be disappointed by this intense portrayal of this phase in the Carter family’s story. EBONI NJOKU

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Last Night at the Telegraph Club
by Malinda Lo
High School    Dutton    416 pp.    g
1/21    978-0-525-55525-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-55526-1    $10.99

High school senior Lily Hu lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1954 with her medical professional parents; she behaves obediently and dreams of working at the Jet Propulsion Lab like her aunt Judy. But she hides a secret yearning. After seeing an ad featuring “Tommy Andrews Male Impersonator,” she sneaks out to the performance at the lesbian Telegraph Club with Kath, a white classmate who shares Lily’s longing. Soon the two are club regulars, even though Lily’s parents have warned her they are being watched (after her father’s citizenship papers were confiscated by the FBI) and could be deported. When an incident at the Telegraph threatens to uncover Lily’s lesbian identity to her family, she is forced to make a difficult choice. This standout work of historical fiction combines meticulous research with tender romance to create a riveting bildungsroman. San Francisco, “with its steep stairways and sudden glimpses of the bay between tall, narrow buildings,” is almost a character itself. Interspersed flashbacks that detail the personal histories of Lily’s parents and Aunt Judy and timelines of world events further put the 1950s Chinese American experience into context for readers. Lo’s (Ash, rev. 11/09; A Line in the Dark, rev. 11/17) comprehensive author’s note includes an absorbing section on “Lesbians, Gender, and Community” and a select bibliography of print and film resources. JENNIFER HUBERT SWAN

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
by Kekla Magoon
Middle School, High School    Candlewick    390 pp.    g
11/21    978-1-5362-1418-5    $24.99

In October 1966, in Oakland, California, Black college students Huey Newton and Bobby Seale began to organize in reaction to rising police brutality in Black communities. Those plans birthed the Black ­Panther Party, established as a response to an unjust system and one of the most misunderstood political parties/movements in modern history. “The Panthers played several roles: they were civil rights and human rights activists, militant revolutionaries, and community organizers, and they were also a political party.” Magoon (Light It Up, rev. 11/19; The Highest ­Tribute, rev. 1/21) has produced a comprehensive and all-encompassing account of the group. Initially formed with the intent to monitor the police — legally — the Party created and expanded multiple social programs that served their communities. Providing, in the first four chapters of the book, an overview of centuries of enslavement, torture, oppression, lies, and aggression, Magoon likens the treatment of Black Americans to an earthquake, noting that “the major turning points of history are seismic, born of eons of slightly shifting geologic plates. They do not emerge from nowhere. They are born of deep unrest.” Her history of the Black Panther Party is ­meticulously detailed, from the creation of its Ten-Point Platform and Program to the eventual divide in leadership ­following sabotage by the FBI’s covert ­counterintelligence program, ­COINTELPRO. Magoon goes beyond the dissolution of the Party to discuss life for Black Americans from 1982 to 2020, expertly drawing parallels between the Black Panther Party and the Black Lives Matter movement. A wealth of quotes, photos, and sidebars enriches the book. Complete with an author’s note, an annotated list of key players in the Black Panther Party, a timeline of important events, a glossary of terms, a bibliography for further reading, and source notes, this compelling work would be invaluable for both individual and classroom reading. EBONI NJOKU

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


by Lisa Fipps
Intermediate, Middle School    Paulsen/Penguin    256 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-9848-1450-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-1451-7    $10.99

Since she was five, Ellie (now eleven) has lived by a list of Fat Girl Rules: “Make yourself small”; “Move slowly so / your fat doesn’t jiggle”; “When you hear laughter, / someone’s laughing at you.” She only feels comfortable in her body when she’s swimming or spending time with her dog or her similarly fat best friend, Viv. But when Viv moves away, Ellie is alone in facing the sixth-grade bullies, who call her a whale, slam doors in her face, and — horrifyingly — loosen the screws on her desk so it collapses. It’s not much better outside of school, where strangers make rude comments, or at home, where her mother posts dieting articles on the fridge and even takes her to see a bariatric surgeon without her consent. (If it all seems too cruel to be realistic, an author’s note explains that these experiences are based on her own.) Luckily, Ellie has the support of her dad, a new friend, and an understanding therapist who teaches her to stand up for herself. Ellie’s simple and powerful free-verse poems intensify her emotional turmoil and smoothly destroy stereotypes (“They think I’m unhappy / because I’m fat. / The truth is, / I’m unhappy because / they bully me / about being fat”). Her strength in accepting herself and learning to defy her Fat Girl Rules is an inspiring reminder to all readers that they deserve to “take up space.” RACHEL L. SMITH

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


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