I’d like to revisit some books that we’ve already featured, books that, because we initially introduced them just before or just after their publication date, probably didn’t have as many readers as they do now, and thus did not generate the kind of discussion they are capable of.
Something hit Ben Wilson and he opened his eyes. The wolves had been chasing him again and his heart was pounding. He sat up in the dark room and rubbed his arm. He picked up the shoe his cousin had thrown at him and dropped it on the floor.
“That hurt, Robby!”
Robby muttered a few words.
“What?” Ben asked.
“What? What? Can’t you hear me? Are you deaf?”
Robby, along with practically everyone else on Gunflint Lake knew that Ben had been born deaf in one ear, but he still thought it was funny to ask Ben this all the time, even in the middle of the night. He repeated himself for Ben. “I said, stop yelling in your sleep!”
I liked this book. The text didn’t necessarily stand out to me as most distinguished in any of the named elements, but I did think it was distinguished in all of them. Now that we’ve had this recent conversation about I BROKE MY TRUNK!, I’m curious to see how prominently the interdependence of the text and pictures will figure into our discussion of the distinguished qualities of this book. I’m also looking forward to a closer examination of its depiction of deafness, the deaf community, and American Sign Language.
School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in my backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it. I was holding a pair of camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and ancient Miss Volker’s roof, and then up the Norvelt road, and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where the screen for the Viking drive-in movie theater had been erected.
We cannot consider an author’s previous body of work, but this one has echoes of nearly all of Gantos’s previous books, namely Jack Henry, Joey Pigza, HOLE IN MY LIFE, and THE LOVE CURSE OF THE RUMBAUGHS–and that gives this book something of the feeling of a magnum opus. I think that Gantos, like Horvath, has a very particular sense of humor, and when it works for the reader, it really, really works, but when it doesn’t then the story doesn’t seem nearly as wonderful. I’m not the biggest fan of his humor–it always strikes me as amusing more than hilarious. But I did find this one hilarious! My quibble was with the plot. Didn’t it get lost in the middle of the book? Still, I’m mystified as to why this one doesn’t have more buzz.
Conor was awake when it came.
He’d had a nightmare. Well, not a nightmare. The nightmare. The one he’d been having a lot lately. The one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter how hard he tried to hold on. The one that always ended with–
“Go away,” Conor whispered into the darkness of his bedroom, trying to push the nightmare back, not let it follow him into the world of waking. “Go away now.”
The last time we discussed this book, it was overshadowed by our discussion of eligibility issues. We’re going to presume it is eligible, and now that we’ve done so, I definitely think it’s one of the stronger novels in the field with style and theme being particularly impressive. We’ve had some complaints here and there in the comments about whether it’s pitched to a genuine child audience or an adult audience. Maybe Monica’s post will help you make up your mind.
It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems. It was the kind of snow that transforms the world around it into a different kind of place. You know what it’s like–when you wake up to find everything white and soft and quiet, when you run outside and your breath suddenly appears before you in a smoky poof, when you wonder for a moment if the world you woke up in is not the world you went to bed in the night before. Things like that happen, at least in the stories you read. It was the sort of snowfall that, if there were any magic to be had in the world, would make it come out.
This one has three starred reviews, is rated fairly high on the goodreads mock Newbery poll, and has some lovely writing in its opening paragraph, but it failed to sufficiently impress either of us. So, for this book I’d read reviews and discuss its merits with colleagues and children before returning for a second reading in an attempt to try to figure out what people see in this book that I am missing. So here’s your chance: Enlighten me.
Each one of these books piqued my interest in some way, and would need a second reading to determine whether it would be worthy of a nomination. Needless to say, we are also looking at all of these as shortlist possibilities so we’d love to hear more solid arguments for or against them, arguments that are grounded in the Newbery criteria, of course. Hopefully, this second chance will breathe new life into these respective discussions.
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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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