There are many worthy possibilities this year. Here are some I’d be happy to see recognized:
First and foremost there is Jason Reynolds’ Ghost. I came across the ARC in early July and read it knowing nothing about it. I fell in love then, wrote this rave review, and am still in love. It is tight, fast paced, with beautifully developed characters, vivid description, and a fabulous voice. My heart is on my sleeve with this one.
Of course, there are many, many other wonderful books this year. Among them I’d be especially happy and thrilled to see any of the following recognized.
- Jenni L. Holm’s Full of Beans. I read this aloud to my class this fall and that experience reinforced my admiration for this title. It is spare with fully realized characters, a wonderful voice in Beans (interesting that two of my favorites so far have strong boy voices as narrators), and clever. It is warm, emotional, and funny. A delightful middle grade work of historical fiction that totally deserved the Scott O’Dell historical fiction award.
- Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale. This is a unique and compelling book. The structure is fascinating — a series of connecting stories told in the vein of The Canterbury Tales (but without the sex:) — that build to a remarkable climax. Wonderful historical material, wonderfully researched. There is a lot going on in this book, all of it good. In particular I admired the themes related to faith and religion. Wow! I had thought it would be for kids older than my 4th grade students, but several strong readers have read it with pleasure.
- Louise Erdrich’s Makoons. This is a quiet story rich in the lives of this family, introduced years ago by Erdrich in The Birchbark House. In my starred Horn Book review I wrote, “Throughout, there are poignant moments, including the deaths of several family members and a sense of foreboding about the future as the buffalo begin to disappear. Whether encountering this community for the first time or returning to it, readers will be enriched by Erdrich’s finely crafted corrective to the Eurocentric dominant narrative of America’s past.”
- Pamela L. Turner’s Samurai Rising. Having no interest in samurais I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It is a credit to Turner’s passion for her subject, research, and brash writing. There has been debate whether her little sardonic asides enhance or distract (“No pressure, Yoshitsune”) — for me it is the former. My enthusiastic blog review is here.
- Grace Lin’s When the Sea Turned to Silver. With each book in this series, I feel Lin got stronger. This final one is the best, I think. Great characters, description, and a twisting narrative makes for an immersive read. While not necessary for Newbery consideration I like that every kid I know who reads this (and/0r the earlier titles in the series) loves it.
- Julie Fogliano’s When Green Becomes Tomatoes. Many others have been articulate about this delightful title so I don’t feel I have anything to add other than the individual poems are gems and the way they connect to make a whole is masterful. I am in awe of Fogliano’s skill at writing true and genuine poetry for children.
- Anne Nesbet’s Cloud and Wallfish. This is probably the outlier of the list, but it is a book that grew and grew on me. Having a personal familiarity with the time and place I first read it when I received an ARC months ago. Then sometime later I reread it several times for a review and each time it impressed me more. It is certainly a dark horse, but you never know! I concluded my starred Horn Book review, “This is edgy, dramatic, and emotionally rich historical fiction that provides a vivid look into an extraordinary moment in history.”
- Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer! I have been doing an author study of E. B. White for years with my students and am also a big fan of Sweet so this, for me, was a match made in heaven. I had thought that it might be a long shot for Newbery given how heavily illustrated it is, but was thrilled recently to see that it won Sam Bloom’s Mock Newbery at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. I adored this (you can read my review here) and would be delighted to see it honored.