Thoughts on Newbery: My Hopes for this Year

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.


Filed under Newbery

5 responses to “Thoughts on Newbery: My Hopes for this Year

  1. Judy

    There is nothing better than finding wonderful new material to add to an existing program like your E. B. White author study. I’ve read several of your choices and really enjoyed GHOST and BEANS. Won’t be long until the big announcement! Thanks for posting your favorites for readers like myself who enjoy knowing the choices of the “experts”!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, yes and yes! It’s been especially interesting to hear students talk about Ghost. One thing I’ve noticed is how a variety of kids are responding to it–and all are talking about the character, his decisions and how he grows. Reynolds tackles important, serious issues with real understanding of what young readers can grapple with.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rosanneparry

    So glad you mentioned Cloud and Wallfish. When I wrote about the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War I found very little for written for kids about that era. In the years since Second Fiddle I’ve not seen much either, so I was thrilled to get an ARC of this several months ago. It is still (unfortunately) waiting for me to finish current research so I can dive into the book unencumbered.
    Also happy to see Makoons mentioned here. We moved the Erdrich series to the younger MG section of our bookstore and it sells much better over there. I’m not sure why the venue change made a difference but I’m delighted to see it get a wider readership. One of our families got Makoons for a road trip read aloud and came back for the rest of the series as soon as they got home.


  4. Pingback: Thoughts on Newbery: This Year’s Awards (and not just Newbery) | educating alice

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