M.T. Anderson’s 2009 Printz Speech
Posted by: Gillian Engberg
There’s no question that the Printz Honor–winning Octavian Nothing duet presents readers with an intellectual challenge. In his National Book Award acceptance speech for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Volume One: The Pox Party, Anderson himself described the books as “a 900-page two volume historical epic for teens, written in a kind of unintelligible 18th-century Johnsonian Augustan prose.” Here, in his impassioned acceptance speech for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Volume Two: The Kingdom on the Waves at the 2009 Michael L. Printz Awards (administered by ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association and sponsored by Booklist), Anderson speaks right to adults about the importance of providing rich, reading challenges for kids. Here are some memorable lines that earned some loud applause:
“No child naturally hates knowledge. No toddler comes into the world saying, ‘Don’t tell me about how stuff works. I don’t give a shit. Everything about the world sucks. ‘ . . . It takes an adult to make a child hate knowing things. The fact is that kids don’t believe that thinking isn’t fun until we tell them so.”
Just as in his books, Anderson shows in his speech how the unsettled complexities of Octavian’s time flow right into today. And he reminds us that thinking deeply about things is what makes life “vivid and full.” And fun. What, according to Anderson, is the “one remaining taboo left in YA literature?” Listen to his speech to find out.
[The Printz Award speeches appear on Booklist Online with the permission of YALSA.]