Gary Schmidt’s Trouble is one of the books this year that hangs on tenacioulsy in my memory, even though it came out in the spring. With layer upon layer of plot and character development, Schmidt creates a perspective that is real to life and constantly surprising. He catches the mood shifts of a family in crisis with detail-rich precision:
"But in the fork-clinking-against-plate silence that followed, Henry remembered that Trouble had come. How could he have forgotten it, even for a moment? And then he thought, How sweet it is to have forgotten it for a moment. And then he was so mixed up that he just ate the crescents of yellow bell peppers and tried not to think at all." (p.46)
I especially appreciate the way that minor characters are drawn so well…and become major characters by the end. (Sanborn, Louisa). It’s as if they were always major characters, but the protagonist just didn’t notice, as is so often the case in real life. On second reading, the delicate deliberation with which Schmidt lays this out is clear.
Just about every major review of this book hails its significant strengths, but points out different flaws: too many plot threads? Too many shifts in tone? Too broad a brush on racism? Which begs the question–how do you measure the blemishes against the distinguished characteristics in a Newbery discussion?
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About Nina Lindsay
Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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