Shortlist Title #9: Sugar Changed the World
You shouldn’t be surprised. Jonathan posted on this title recently, drawing out it specific strengths as they relate to the Newbery Criteria and comparing it against our other contenders. It was one of the first titles we latched onto in this season, and we mentioned it as an example of a late-pub date book that we felt we couldn’t include in the original shortlist. So: even though it just came out last month, I’m hoping you’ve read it already, or at least made arrangements to obtain it!
In his recent post, Jonathan makes a case for this title as equally well constructed and compelling as THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK, but also as a title that “stretched [his] mind in ways that THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK did not….like A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, there’s a lot of work for the reader to do here.”
I agree that this is both a challenging book, and that Aronson and Budhos challenge themselves to bring the reader along with them. That’s what I most appreciate about this title. Looking at two of the Newbery criteria…
…I feel that Aronson and Budhos have exploded the traditional method for presenting/organizing history for young readers, and constructed their narrative as a parallel journey to theirs: the researchers following leads and hypotheses. They manage still to progress in a somewhat chronological fashion, but always allowing the trains of analysis to depart from the linear path: like a Shepherd dog running, circling back to its owners to lead them along. (That’s a compliment, Marc and Marina. I like Shepherds). The end material is like a treasure box…extra goodies for those who care to look.
The question that I look forward to discussing with you all is: do they achieve what they’ve set out to do, as well as–say–Bartoletti does? Or our authors of fiction do? I feel that there are a handful of places in which Aronson and Budhos are slighltly sloppy in a few of their claims, either in connecting all their dots, or in use of hyperbole. I still have to do a thorough re-read to track this, but I do recall someone else mentioning a similar twinge in a comment. If Aronson and Budhos are going to stretch our minds and make us work, I’m willing to lend the focus and complexity of thought required if I’m given a thread to follow that will hold. There is certainly more on display in this title of the authors’ distinguished work, than in THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE KKK (which, we noted in our discussion, is similar to last year’s CLAUDETTE COLVIN in that part of the artistry is in the fact that you don’t notice the author’s skill overtly), but does that in the end make it more distinguished?
Nevertheless, I have no doubts that this title merits discussion in the top ranks of contenders this year.
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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 email@example.com
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