This past year has been an odd one for me in terms of Newbery possibilities. You see, I’m chairing the Boston Globe-Horn Book award committee and we consider books published in an unusual timeframe: June 2018 — May 2019. As a result, I’ve had to focus my attention on books that came out the second part of last year. I did read a number of the earlier ones in ARCs before that, but not as many as I would have otherwise. So with that caveat here are some titles I’d be happy to see recognized a week from tomorrow. (I should also say that, unlike Newbery committee members, there are no restrictions on BG-HB committee members as to stating preferences on social media:)
Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. Because this title was not up for my committee (having won last year) and because it seemed above the Newbery age range, my copy sat staring at me for a long time. Finally, because it was a novel in verse celebrating spoken poetry, I decided to listen to it. (I listen to a lot of books as I walk to and from school mostly for adults.) And I was smitten as well as convinced that it was absolutely within the Newbery age-range which is through age 14 which can mean a few days shy of 15. (Interesting to see that Common Sense media puts it at 13+.) The issues in this book are completely within the interest and concerns of upper-range Newbery age readers. Nothing in it is inappropriate or too old for them.
Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone. I fell madly in love with this title when I read the ARC last August. I’m now reading it aloud to my 4th graders which makes me appreciate it all the more — the sentence-level writing is a delight, the characters — main and secondary— superbly delineated, and the clever plot riveting. You can read my gushing review of it here.
Jonathan Auxier’s Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. BG-HB eligible, but will say I loved it on first reading and agree with all the accolades.
Jarrett J. Kroscoczka’s Hey, Kiddo. Also eligible for BG-HB so I won’t say much other than I was very impressed with it and will definitely be looking at it more closely when time to consider our choices. As for it being a graphic novel, I’ve become swayed by others over the years as to how to consider the story more than staying rigidly to only the text.
Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Journey of Little Charlie. While not eligible for the BG-HB I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC and read it last spring. You can read my admiring review here.
Kwame Alexander’s Rebound. Another not eligible that I was fortunate to read anyway in ARC. I thought the themes, the poetry, and the comics were seamlessly interwoven. I did read elsewhere that there were some factual errors in the ARC and hope those were corrected in the final book.
Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me. Another eligible for my award and one I admired greatly. Woodson excels at tiny moments and those set in the school range true for me. There was one in the lunchroom where something happened and then the kids moved on that was so real to this teacher. Beautiful.
Kate DiCamillo’s Louisana’s Way Home. Also eligible and also one I will consider seriously come time for our deliberations. DiCamillo is the master of the not-quite-real story. In following discussions on this title over at Heavy Medal it occurred to me that her stories are somewhat like filmmaker Wes Anderson’s — hyper-fable-folk-real-tale. Think The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Varian Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance. Another I was fortunate to read early on. Thought I’d reviewed it, but evidently did not. I did blurb it for the author (something I only do if I can be completely honest and I was): “The Parker Inheritance is a remarkable and rich book, one that kept me reading late into the night, absorbed and captivated. Fresh, original, timely, it is an outstanding read.”