Beating the Bushes
The Newbery committee has almost certainly traded two more November nominations and will shortly trade a final two in December (for a total of seven). Back in October, we traded our own initial mock nominations. Mine were KEEPER, SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD, and A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, and others chimed in with their top three in the comments. In fact, 13 people chimed in with these results . . .
ONE CRAZY SUMMER
OUT OF MY MIND
THE WATER SEEKER
SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD
A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS
THE KNEEBONE BOY
THE CLOCKWORK THREE
WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET
THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK
TURTLE IN PARADISE
CLEMENTINE, FRIEND OF THE WEEK
With these 13 voters, 7 of us would ultimately need to vote for the winning book. ONE CRAZY SUMMER and THE DREAMER are in the lead with 4 of those necessary 7 votes. I’ve mentioned that I could vote for either book (especially if the alternatives are OUT OF MY MIND and THE WATER SEEKER), but I’m somewhat ambivalent about them (although I still need to reread both). I’m going to spend my remaining nominations, therefore, on drawing your attention to some great books that are under the radar.
KUBLA KHAN by Kathleen Krull
I’ve been contemplating this one for the past week or so, and I’m having a hard time articulating why I find the text of this picture book biography distinguished, but I do. I think SIR CHARLIE serves as a good counterpoint, however. If you find the prose of SIR CHARLIE too purple, then perhaps you will better appreciate the witty, but more understated humor of Krull. If, too, you found that Chaplin was not represented in a holistic way, that his actions had not been interpreted properly, that his life was not considered in the context of his art and times, then you will most definitely appreciate those elements here. Working with the little that we actually know about Kubla Khan, Krull masterfully organizes her facts with great clarity and accuracy, giving us the big picture of world politics, but also the small anecdotes that illuminate character–and she does it with a great narrative voice.
I’m still thinking about this one, but it’s on the verge of replacing KEEPER in my top three . . . In fact, in the course of writing this, it just did! Gerald Morris has done a wonderful job of retelling the Arthurian legends with wit and humor. I read the first one, THE SQUIRE’S TALE, and perhaps another one, but it was so long ago . . . Flash forward to the final climactic book with the forces of Arthur and Mordred pitted against each other. Here’s another one to add to the intertextuality discussion. This tenth and final book revisits characters from throughout the series, but it stands independent (not that that’s a Newbery criteria or anything). The back includes a glossary of characters with information not only on which ones are from the legends and which are Morris’s characters, but also which books in the series they appear. This is my kind of book, but I know it’s going to be a chore to build consensus around it.
ZORA AND ME by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
This fictional treatment of the childhood of Nora Zeale Hurston has a lot going for it. The setting is wonderfully realized from the historical period to the black community of Eatonville to the atmospheric physical geography. The main child characters are likable and believable and the secondary characters are intriguing. The narrative voice of Carrie (the “me” of the title) is also very strong. The plot revolves around a couple of mysteries, and if the resolution of them may be a little bit tidy, I found this plot more engaging than most of the character-driven contenders. This one bears comparison to THE DREAMER and THE HEART OF A SAMURAI, both also fictional childhoods of real people.
Okay. Now it’s your turn. You have to make a strategic decision to dogpile on the most buzzed books or look a little farther afield. Give me your top 5 Newbery nominations at this point in time. Go!
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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