Batty, Jane, Skye–and May Amelia
While I was sad to see the absence of Rosalind from most of this book, it certainly changed the family dynamic among the remaining sisters, and especially allowed for Batty to come into her own. Each sister grew and changed over the course of the story, and the revelation about Jeffrey’s father, if a bit over-the-top, was at least foreshadowed earlier. Plot and character dovetail with the idyllic summer setting of a Maine coastal village for a pitch-perfect story. Birdsall has a wonderful way of paying homage to old-fashioned classics of children’s literature, while updating them with a modern sensibility, and her writing is funny and wise. If the Newbery Medal were given for how much I enjoyed a book, or how I much loved the characters, then this could probably top my list.
Jennifer Holm has the uncanny ability to not only channel the essence of childhood (i.e. how children talk, feel, and think), but to effortlessly and efficiently paint a historical setting without making it feel like a history lesson. Indeed, Publishers Weekly said it best: “Anyone interested in learning to write crowd-pleasing historical fiction for elementary school readers would be wise to study Holm’s work. Since Our Only May Amelia, Holm has collected three Newbery Honors, and this sequel demonstrates her mastery of writing a complete, exciting story in a trim novel.” OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA is my favorite of Holm’s Newbery Honor books and she returns to this wonderful character with a sequel that is shorter than the original (there’s a novel idea–I almost want to give her another Newbery Honor for that alone). Here, too, I really love the portrayal of the family dynamic, the complications of the plot, and the depiction of Finnish immigrants in turn-of-the-century Washington state.
So, what do you make of THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE and THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA? And, more importantly, how do they compare with the likes of OKAY FOR NOW, WONDERSTRUCK, and DEAD END IN NORVELT?
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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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