Daily Archives: January 18, 2012

Thoughts on Newbery: My 2012 Druthers

On Friday the members of the 2012 Newbery Committee will position themselves around a table in an undisclosed location and begin their work. After a few days they will make their decision at which point a puff of white smoke will come out of the Dallas Convention Center for the waiting multitudes.

Well, okay, no white smoke.  Instead we will get to see the Committee members wandering around looking inscrutable, exhausted, and exhilarated until Monday morning when all will be revealed.

Because it is always fun to put down in print beforehand what you’d like to see honored and see if the Committee ends up agreeing with any of them, here are some of mine for 2012.

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming.  I’ve been a longtime fan of Fleming’s work. In fact I championed another of her books for Newbery not too long ago. This one is outstanding. I thought the parallel narratives of the search for Earhart and her life story were superb. Fleming’s research is impeccable, the writing crisp and tight, and she knows just what to bring out to make for a fascinating biography for children.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Back in September I wrote about this one, “A Monster Calls is a magnificent work — folkloric, allegorical, atmospheric —- a book each reader enters privately and differently.”  For more about my thoughts (as well as my Newbery hope for it) and an exchange between two of my friends and the author please read the post, “Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls: It’s What Makes Us Human.”

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. In a review of this I wrote, “The somber aspects of the novel are lightened by many delightful moments of humor, lightheartedness, and joy; it is all and all, a moving and transcendent reading experience.”

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright.  This is a dark horse, but such a charming one!  I read it aloud to my fourth graders and they concluded with me that it was Newbery-worthy.  Writers often reference people, ideas, and such as Easter eggs for adult readers and indeed this book is full of clever Dickensian bon motes, but they stand alone as clever bits of writing all by themselves. Take the opening, introducing the cat hero, “He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms.”  You don’t need to know the reference to enjoy it and my students certainly did.  A grand romp with a heart and delightful writing.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. I tend to be wary of verse novels these days, but not this National Book Award winner. I was taken immediately in when reading this powerful story of immigration based on the author’s own childhood. From the first page set in 1975 Vietman to the last in Alabama, I was utterly engaged throughout.  There is an incredible authenticity to the experiences, emotions, and language in this impressive debut. Virginia Euwer Wolff in a fine SLJ profile said it best in describing it as:

…a powerful story in slender, sinewy prose poems, just a few words in each line, inviting and intriguing young readers who are eight to twelve, some of whom may be meeting their first novel in verse.

In addition to the ones highlighted above, there are a whole bunch more here in the wings that I’d be pleased to see honored as well. Say Brock Cole’s The Money We’ll Save (and my thanks to Heavy Medal for drawing it to my attention), Jennifer L. Holm’s The Trouble with May Amelia, Jack Gantos’ Dead End in Norvelt, and (an even darker horse:) Uma Krishnaswami’s The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.  If the Newbery allowed consideration of art and design Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck would be in the wings too, but they don’t so it isn’t.

And then I always keep in mind that this year’s (or any year’s) winners may be none of the above, books I read and will need to revisit, or books that were completely off my radar. Whatever they are I will be celebrating them them all!



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