Alchemy on Fox Street
Here are two books that I’m quite fond of, that are strong, and well liked. Are they the strongest this year? I’m not sure. If I were on the committee right now, putting forward nominations, these might be the ones that I hold back on in this first round, to see if someone else nominates. Once nominated by one person, it’ll be on the table for discussion, and I think these should be.
Karen Cushman sure is good at getting her heroines into terrible predicaments. In ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN, Meggy’s way out of her predicament is by way of state of mind as anything else, as her sudden abandonment in 1573 London provokes her to fend for herself, despite her disability. The story is short, but every word used to its best effect. Suspense and humor keep the readers attention, and playfully (for instance, the narrative duping regarding the goose and the butcher on p.45). Cushman works plenty of period vocabulary into her dialogue, which may take some readers by surprise, but will ultimately arm them will a slew of wonderful new curses. And Cushman’s way with words is simply artful. Regarding riling Roger: “Twas like poking a porridge, she thought . It did no harm to the porridge but only made her feel sticky.” p.57.
WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET stood out to me for it’s fresh voice and unique perspective on character…and by a new author, and for a younger age than the “usual” Newbery fare. So it’s stayed on my radar. There’s a energy and a freshness in the style of the writing, taking a very ordinary situation and imbuing it with a new perspective for readers. I believe in Mo Wren as a “real” character more than any other in my fiction favorites so far this year. In this way, it’s my CALPURNIA TATE.
What do you all think? There are plenty of others that may be in the “middle” on your shelf. Two others in my “middle” are COUNTDOWN and THE DREAMER…both of which I can recognize as very good, but neither of which I can get myself that excited about. Still, they should be discussed by the committee, and I expect they will be. With 7 nominations, broken out into 3 rounds, the process more than ever ensures that a variety of contenders will make it to the table. ALCHEMY and FOX STREET would probably be in my second round of nominations if they didn’t show up in anyone’s firsts. And minds can be swayed in those final discussions at Midwinter! Someone might be able to write a justification statement accompanying their nomination of COUNTDOWN that so convinces me, that I could give a whole new reading. Try it.
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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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