Heavy Medal Guest Post: Jonathan Hunt on SECOND CHANCES

Another guest post from Heavy Medal blogger, Jonathan Hunt:

Did we discuss a book before you had the chance to read it?  Or maybe we covered it, but didn’t give it its just due?  Well, here’s your second chance to chime in on some of the books we’ve mentioned earlier.

 CROW by Barbara Wright . . . We lumped this book with THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK and WE’VE GOT A JOB for a civil rights-themed post, but perhaps this one was deserving of its very own.  It remains the hardest luck title in terms of best book lists (0-5 with Bulletin the sole remaning possibility), but it has a devoted bunch of fans.  I’m not sure if this one will win the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, but I have to think it’s a leading candidate, and the past two O’Dell winners have fared very well with the Newbery committee.

THE FAIRY RING by Mary Losure . . . I was really snarky about this title, but it was named Top of the List in Nonfiction by Booklist, and I’m really enjoying Losure’s next book, WILD BOY, so I think this is probably just a case of my personal taste in subject matter clouding my judgement of the author’s skill and craft.  I still think this one has a hard row to hoe with such a crowded field, but it might if the committee perceives this as being a better juvenile book.

THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage . . . This book has a lot of recommend it, and I like it quite a bit, although I think the perception is that I do not.  I’d need to reread this to figure out how serious I could get about this one.  If the mystery part of the novel adheres to the conventions of the genre, that is, if I can actually figure it out by clues rather than a series of surprises, then I can be very serious indeed.

TITANIC by Deborah Hopkinson . . . I think this is the leading candidate to win the YALSA Nonfiction Award.  I’m not saying it should win, or even that it will win, but I think YALSA may have goofed when they listed the finalists, inadvertently tipping the committee’s hand.  But that’s just a conspiracy theory so don’t pay it any mind.

TWELVE KINDS OF ICE by Ellen Bryan Obed . . . This one has acquired fans as more and more people get the opportunity to read it.  I reread it recently and found that it holds up quite nicely.  I’m sure this is a title where the committee will discuss the appeal factors–abilities, appreciations, and understandings.  It’s another book that doesn’t fit neatly into any one category, but if the committee can appreciate the book on its own terms, then I can easily seen this one being recognized.

WE’VE GOT A JOB by Cynthia Levinson . . .  So far this one is running neck and neck with MOONBIRD in terms of leading the nonfiction pack when it comes to best of the year lists–they have four apiece.  Like CROW, this one was probably deserving of its own post.  It’s already a YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist, I wouldn’t be surprised with Sibert recognition, and Newbery recognition could make it one of the more decorated books of the year.

WONDER by R.J. Palacio . . . Okay, Wonderheads, take a deep breath and tell me why this one is more distinguished–according to the criteria–than BOMB, LIAR & SPY, and SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS.  Go!

Jonathan Hunt
Heavy Medal



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4 responses to “Heavy Medal Guest Post: Jonathan Hunt on SECOND CHANCES

  1. Meghan

    I can’t get over Three Times Lucky. I was hesitant to pick it up in the beginning (I’m slightly over the whole southern, orphan-ish girl vibe) and let it idle for a while on my TBR shelf. However, after I read it-hungrily and with a vengeance, I couldn’t dismiss it from my mental list of Newbery contenders, even though it didn’t seem like it was getting the same buzz from others. Regarding the book’s distinguished qualities, I didn’t enter in to the Newbery conversation considering the debunking of a mystery-based-on-clues as you mentioned Johnathan. In fact, I usually feel like a mystery is flat if I can figure it out before the end. I’d be interested in hearing more about your qualifications for the book’s “mystery-ness” or lack there of and factoring it with this book’s quality.
    I loved it for the some reason that I thought I would detest it- southern, orphan-ish girl vibe. Turnage made it so “strong” (an adjective which is used phenomenally by Turnage’s herione, Mo) and so rich in southern appeal, my cynicism was won over and I believed every single, quirky detail Mo described. From the sound of laughter, the art of karate, to the discovery of a murderer, the descriptions flowed seamlessly and were unified with exactly what I believed to be the personality of the narrator. I think the writing here is outstanding- captivating and humorous without feeling like Turnage has tried to hard and resulted in an artificial product.


    • I feel much the same about the Turnage. I buy the voice, wholeheartedly, and though it falls into a sort of “spunky southern girl” category, it also feels different to me. Very authentic, human, and at the same time wild and eccentric. It took me somewhere.

      I also really love Crow. It feels like a very unusual book to me, and the ending knocked me for a loop.

      I still (after following Heavy Medal for a few years) don’t feel like I fully understand how to argue each aspect of a book, keeping in mind the rubric. But I know that both of these titles did something that made them stand out this year… and wanted to say so!


  2. Me three on the Turnage. A lot of small town Southern novels leave me cold as they end up too syrupy, soppy, and whatnot. But when they work, I’m a fan. This one did for me as I too enjoyed the voice and the various scenes, characters, and humour. I’ll be curious about those who look at the plot hard in terms of the mystery as to how successful it is for them. I can say that my 4th graders seriously warmed up to it and were constantly speculating about the mystery as it went on. At first it was the Colonel and just about everyone (say those twins whom they adored:), but eventually they got close. While I don’t think they figured it out completely, they weren’t taken aback when it was all sorted out


  3. Jonathan Hunt

    Is it too late to revive this discussion?

    I think it’s hard when a writer sets an expectation and then doesn’t follow through–hard sometimes to build consensus, that is. For example, when Turnage tells us on the opening page that somebody dies before the dust settles. Not even in Tupelo Landing should the dust take 68 pages to settle. We’ve mentioned that pacing is often very subjective, but here the author seems to promise us a faster pace. Likewise, I think she conveys the implication that this is a sleuth story and us such we would expect to play along and find the clues. If it becomes purely a guessing game, then it’s still fun, but not as strong.

    But, hey, one of my pet books may fall prey to the same line of reasoning, namely that by labeling NO CRYSTAL STAIR as a novel the author has created a set of expectations in regard to the characterization and character development of the secondary characters that is absent from that novel.

    Sure, we can all forgive our favorite books their foibles–but can we forgive somebody else’s favorite? I think that’s the complication.


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