Daily Archives: June 14, 2007

Thoughts on Newbery: Some Kids Weigh In

My wonderful, wonderful 4th grade class gave me a wonderful, wonderful end-of-the-year gift yesterday, an”educating monica” scrapbook filled with the children’s ideas on what makes a great story — all to help me in my Newbery quest. It is a work of art — in addition to the children’s writing, each page is filled with images related to our studies of the year, my ladybug fixation (related to September 11th — but that is a story for another post), and more. It is one of the most lovely testimonials I’ve received as a teacher.

To begin with they recommend that our Newbery winner have imagination, emotion, purpose, humor, action, funny words, interesting scenery, and empathy. And then they want it to be exciting, hilarious, happy, sad, adventurous, surprising, interesting, visual, cliffhanging, understandable, great, and creative. Here are some more of their ideas:

AM tells me, “It can’t be too much action, but it also can’t be too boring.”

MD points out that in one of her favorite books, Harry Potter, “…. in the end of the book you figure out the answers to some secrets…”

AI noted that a writer of a great book needs to “use lots of humor; kids love it.” and also to “use fun words like willy-nilly. I used those kinds of words in my Pilgrim story.”

CK thinks a great story, “… must be laugh out loud funny. Not the kind of funny where you laugh and one minute later you forget; the kind of funny where it is hilarious and you can never get it out of your head.”

XF thinks a great story is “…should not be too sad that a person should start crying when reading it. It should not be too happy that they would get bored. And, it should not be too funny that they would laugh themselves to death!”

SF thinks it needs imagination!

HU wants a story that is humorous and one worth listening to ” over and over again.” She also wants fascinating characters like the Gryphon, Mock Turtle, and Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

OF thinks it should be “interesting, exciting and sometimes funny…”

SS recommends that it have “adventure, humor, and mystery.”

JG believes, “every story should have a great beginning….”

OS highlights as great stories, Charlotte’s Web, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Tale of Despereaux among others.

EC notes that, “You know you read a good book if you can say to a friend, ‘Oh, last year I read a really good book.'”

MB thinks, among other things, that it has “something that can take you away.”

BW wisely reminds us that we need to “be creative and write all your good thoughts before you forget them.”

FL thinks a great fantasy book “is a balanced blend of fantasy fairy-tale, excitement, humor, and creative-ness.”

ZB sees a “wonderful novel of far away lands as well as a stunning but diverse cast of characters to play out a cliffhanging fast pace, page turning, eventful masterpiece of literature.”

LK feels there “there needs to be excitement or a trick so that the book is not boring.”

Thanks, Edinger House 2006-2007; I will keep all your important ideas in mind as I read, read, and read some more this summer and next fall!


Filed under Literature, Newbery, Reading

Learning about Africa: Fourth in a Series

Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray alerted me to Vanity Fair’s special issue on Africa. I’m of two minds about it.

On the one hand (or mind) it does reinforce my previous post on Africa being the hot continent du jour. Looking through the Table of Contents, I see a lot of articles from the point of view of outsiders — Bono, Christopher Hitchens, Brad Pitt, Sebastian Junger, and Bill Clinton to name a few. And let’s not forget Madonna; Punch Hutton has a very kind piece about her work in Malawi, “Raising Malawi: Madonna Lends a Hand.” Having not yet read the other articles, I can’t speak for the other outsiders, but this one on Madonna? Simplistic, glowing, and you’d never know that some did not think so highly of Madonna and her efforts in Malawi. Chimanada Ngozi Adichie, for one. Check out the Orange Prize winner’s interview, “Madonna’s not our saviour” for an insider’s perspective on all these outsiders. (Thanks to Linda Lowe for the link.)

On the other hand (or mind), I do appreciate the in-depth articles in Vanity Fair and assume there are plenty in this issue. And maybe, just maybe some readers of this issue will decide to learn more. That is always a good thing, isn’t it?


Filed under Africa, Learning About Africa