WHAT DOES DISTINGUISHED WRITING LOOK LIKE?
We’ve hashed this out yet again under The Cream of the Crop. Coincidentally, if I were a committee member one of the things I would be particularly looking for in my final readings are passages that evidence a distinguished style that I can quote, if need be, to my fellow members. I mentioned a few of these in the earlier comments, but I’ve added a couple of new ones as well. Peruse these and then offer up some of your favorites in the comments below.
CLAUDETTE COLVIN by Phillip Hoose
More than any other story I know, Claudette Colvin’s life story shows how history is made up of objective facts and personal truths, braided together. In her case, a girl raised in poverty by a strong, loving family twice risked her life to gain a measure of justice for her people. Hers is the story of a wise and brave woman, who, when she was a smart angry teenager in Jim Crow Alabama, made contributions to human rights far too important to ignore.
THE GREAT AND ONLY BARNUM by Candace Fleming
One morning, P.T. Barnum received a strange letter from a man named J.A. McGonagle. "There is a rumor spreading across Iowa that you are dead," McGonagle wrote. "I am writing to find out whether this rumor is true."
Wrote Barnum in response, "My impression is that I am not dead."
MARCHING FOR FREEDOM by Elizabeth Partridge
"They like to say these particular struggles were black struggles, but they were not . . . We fought this movement primarily because it benefited us as a whole. But if you look at the pictures and read about the history of it, it was not a black movement–it was a people movement. And the future has to be a people movement, until injustice is stamped out in any form."
And we do it with the great democratic tradition: voting. So simple. So powerful.
YOU NEVER HEARD OF SANDY KOUFAX?! by Jonah Winter
Who was Sandy Koufax? You gotta be kidding! You never heard of Sandy Koufax? He was only the greatest lefty who ever pitched in the game of baseball.
HOW OLD IS TOO OLD FOR THE NEWBERY?
We’ve revisted this question several times in the past, but the release of the ALSC Notable Midwinter discussion list affords us yet another opportunity to discuss it because both committees are charged with selecting books for the same audience (ages 0-14). What’s not too old for Notables? CROSSING STONES by Helen Frost, POP by Gordon Korman, LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld, CHARLES AND EMMA by Deborah Heligiman, and MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco Stork. Okay, okay, they may, in fact, be too old for Notables as this is just a discussion list, but it will be interesting to see if any of them make it to the final list. MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is probably the most surprising choice, but don’t be shocked if the Belpre committee–with yet the same audience–recognizes this book, too. And if it’s not too old for Notables and Belpre, is it really too old for the Newbery?
HOW INDEPENDENT DO THE TEXT AND THE PICTURES REALLY HAVE TO BE?
We’ve discussed this issue with the picture books, but in previous years we might have had the same discussion about books for older readers, namely THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET and WE ARE THE SHIP. This year the problem book is THE STORM IN THE BARN, a wonderful graphic novel which just won the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award. While I think there are some few graphic novels like STITCHES that have a text that (a) works with the pictures and (b) works independently, THE STORM IN THE BARN is not one of them. Hence, virtually no chance at Newbery . . . but what about Caldecott?
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at email@example.com
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