Daily Archives: May 8, 2008

Thoughts on Newbery: Atmosphere

Huh? Why Newbery, you asked? After all, I’m done. We made our decision and now it is the 2009 Committee‘s turn. Well, because I’m now thinking about possible books for this year’s award and my current favorite is absolutely neck-deep in atmosphere.

Now I may be using completely the wrong word, but by atmosphere I’m thinking about books in which the setting is alive and a vibrant part of the story, books in which you just smell, feel, and taste the heat or the wind or something else. Books like Richard Mosher’s Zazoo. It has been years since I read it, but I remember being drawn in by the atmosphere of that life, that home where Zazoo and her grandfather lived. Books like Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series where the place is so weird, so unique, so part of the story.

What brought the term to mind is Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, a book that I like more and more as I think about it. And the more I think about it and read other reviews, it strikes me that it is the atmospheric writing that elevates it to award contender for me. The story is engrossing, but it is the sense of place the author gives to us, that bayou, ancient and current, that is absolutely central to the book. Swirling, twisting, moving in and out and about, Appelt’s mastery in creating atmosphere is what makes this book to my mind a serious contender.

Are there others you’ve read, old and new, that are similarly vividly atmospheric?



Filed under Newbery