Though there’s a lot of popular support for certain titles this year, nothing seems “obvious” to me for the Newbery. And I’m one who’s always happy to have the committee pull a title out of left field. With so many strong atypical-Newbery titles out there this year, I’ll only be surprised if there isn’t something surprising up on the podium.
So, looking back to Jonathan’s Too Many Books, Too Little Time... here are some titles that remain some of my favorites, even though they didn’t make it to our shortlist. I wouldn’t be surprised or displeased to see them honored in some way on Monday January 10th.
The Good the Bad and the Barbie
I posted on this way back in September. I’m impressed with how well Stone tackles a thorny issue…the shape of her argument reminds me slightly of Bartoletti’s in KKK. She lays an historical foundation, letting others speak … inserts an authorial judgement here and there to provoke the reader to read critically (the first one I found is on p.40 “Is having a lot of things supposed to make us happy?”) … and waits until the final chapter to give us her assessment. I thought this almost restrained, but a colleague of mine thought it was too much–she wanted, I think, a “form your own opinion” factual cultural history. I think Stone still allows for the reader to form her own opinion…and in fact opens herself for argument.
I only had issues with a couple of places in which Stone seems to address an adult audience, distancing a child audience (p.65 “We are sometimes unaware of things that come out of our mouths that make an impact on the girls in earshot.” and p.92 “…it can be helpful for kids to express their frustrations…Kids are well aware that Barbie is not real..). But these are extremely minor. So why didn’t this show up on our shortlist? Simply because there was a lot of strong nonfiction…a lot of it with late pub dates, and we had to choose. I think SUGAR is still the stronger contender for Newbery….but don’t miss out on BARBIE.
Alchemy and Meggy Swann and What Happened on Fox Street
I posted on these, as a pair, back in October. Didn’t get quite enough enthusiasm to push my own enthusiasm to the “must be on our shortlist!” level. They linger with me though, as tightly-crafted engaging narratives each with unique style, and offering complexity and depth on par with some of our heftier choices…but to a young audience. I’m glad to see them hang on in people’s favorites lists.
Marilyn Singer is a fabulous writer of poetry for kids (her Creature Carnival still one of my all time favorites). Her style is deft, her voice natural, her sense of audience keen. My jaw still drops everytime I open Mirror Mirror…I can’t even imagine trying to do what she’s done with her original form: “The Reverso” (sort of a poem palindrome). Through these pairs, she evokes snapshots of character from well-known folktales, and the form enhances a sense of voice and rhythm…attention to these is heightened, especially when reading them aloud.
This certainly is one of the best books of the year. But I think that Sidman’s poetry is more defensible by Newbery criteria alone…Singer’s is certainly accomplished, but I worried a group of Mock Newberiers might not be able to find it distinguished.
Thanks everyone who mentioned this one! I’ve always been a fan of Houghton Mifflin’s “Scientists in the Field” series, and not only does this one not disappoint, it’s riveting. I think it takes a lot of time for people to tease out how to evaluate non-standard-looking Newbery titles against the Newbery criteria and against other contenders, and in a Mock discussion I just think we didn’t have room for this one. It’s a very long shot for Newbery, but I’d love to see it honored somewhere in the awards and Notables.
There’s some other favorite longshots out there that I’m not so keen on…notably A Tale Dark and Grimm (great, but too gimicky and uneven for me to see it as distinguished) and The Notorious Benedict Arnold (I almost feel like I shouldn’t go there…but I just felt that Sheinkin missed on giving readers the level of transparency of research they deserve. Everything is thoroughly documented, but we don’t get any sort of inkling (as we do with SUGAR, for instance) about the context of the sources. So there’s a lot of clearly fictionalized/embellished conversation/thoughts quoted, as if we’re to assume that they must be factual.) I haven’t tried to stir much up on these (well, until now), because I still think they’re as strong or stronger than a lot of the more “typical” Newbery fare being touted online, and in the end I’m most interested in the unexpected Newbery…the one that forces us to think creatively about what–in our time–makes distinguished literature for children.
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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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