Best Books Outliers
Each review journal has books that are unique to its own best of the year list. Many of these books got starred reviews from multiple journals, but others were championed solely by one publication. Since there is no correlation between my earlier composite list and Newbery recognition, these books are just as likely–and oftentimes just as worthy–as more heralded books. Here’s a rundown of some of the more likely Newbery outliers.
We’ve spent our time here championing I BROKE MY TRUNK! as the most likely easy reader candidate, but Mo Willems had an other easy reader, AMANDA & HER ALLIGATOR, that earned four starred reviews. Note: Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of award-winning titles with ampersands? BLINK & CAUTION (Boston Globe-Horn Book Award), INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN (National Book Award), and DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE (soon-to-be Printz Award). It bodes well for AMANDA & HER ALLIGATOR, does it not? But as the Geisel rather than the Newbery. Marc Aronson’s TRAPPED is another book with four starred reviews; we’ve already discussed its Newbery chances here. On the other hand, Publishers Weekly was the only journal to star THE APOTHECARY by Maile Meloy and MISSING ON SUPERSTITIOUS MOUNTAIN by Elise Broach. I liked the setting of the former book, but found both plot and character to be a mixed bag. I haven’t read the latter book, but have enjoyed the author’s previous work, including SHAKESPEARE’S SECRET and MASTERPIECE. If those are any indication of this book, it’s another well-written, kid-friendly book.
School Library Journal
THE QUEEN OF WATER earned four starred reviews–we’ve already discussed its Newbery chances here–but this is its lone appearance on a list. WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE by Tess Hilmo is probably its most likely Newbery candidate among the outliers. I enjoyed this book, and found many distinguished qualities–so many of which are reminiscent of previous Newbery winners that it’s no wonder that it’s been mentioned occasionally in the comments here–but not enough to rise above the pack of contenders. Note: If the covers of MOON OVER MANIFEST and THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY had a child, it would be this cover. Other outliers include MY NAME IS NOT EASY by Debby Dahl Edwardson (the only star and list for the National Book Award finalist), CHARLES DICKENS AND THE STREET CHILDREN OF LONDON by Andrea Warren (solid nonfiction), WILDWOOD by Colin Meloy (longish fantasy), and SMELLS LIKE TREASURE by Suzanne Selfors (I know nothing about this one).
With the longest list it stands to reason that Kirkus would have the most outliers–and it does. We’ve discussed many of them here already: JEFFERSON’S SONS (four starred reviews), SECRETS AT SEA (three), SIDEKICKS (three), LIESL & PO (three), THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK (three), BLIZZARD OF GLASS by Sally Walker (one), EDDIE’S WAR (one), HIDDEN (one), and THE FREEDOM MAZE (one). But what about HOUND DOG TRUE by by Linda Urban (four starred reviews), CITY OF ORPHANS by Avi (three), THE INQUISTOR’S APPRENTICE by Chris Moriarty (two), THE MANATEE SCIENTIST by Peter Lourie (one), THE FLOATING ISLANDS by Rachel Neumeier (one), and DRAGON CASTLE by Joseph Bruchac (one)? Which of these strikes you as the most likely Newbery candidate?
Horn Book has one of the shortest lists–and the fewest outliers (although Bulletin has one more title on their list, but many more unique titles). We’ve already praised BLUEFISH here (although perhaps not enough) and we included THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE on our shortlist, but what about BREAKING STALIN’S NOSE by Eugene Yelchin? (Incidentally, Yelchin is also an illustrator; he collaborated with Karen Beaumont on WHO ATE ALL THE COOKIE DOUGH?, one of my storytime staples.) This one’s still in my pile, but Roger Sutton seems pretty excited about it. Is he the only one? And while MEADOWLANDS by Thomas Yezerski is a good nonfiction picture book, it will be easier to build consensus around DRAWING FROM MEMORY, THE HOUSE BABA BUILT, A NATION’S HOPE, BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY, and AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK.
THE GREAT MIGRATION (one of the better poetry books this year) had four starred reviews, SPARROW ROAD (a stereotypical Newbery book) had two, and MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND (one of Nina’s personal favorites) had one, but we’ve mentioned them here already. We haven’t discussed THE SILVER BOWL by Diane Stanley which had three. Why did it get overlooked? Is it the cover? Or did it get lost in a sea of fantasy this year? And then there is THE WIKKELING by Steven Arntson. I’ve heard nothing about this title, but it looks intriguing: creepy, atmospheric dystopian tale with folkloric motifs. It also looks like it’s from a small press, so I missed this one when I blogged about that subject.
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
As I mentioned this list is arguably the most idiosyncratic and there are many unique titles. The ones that seem most Newberyish to me are LEXIE by Audrey Couloumbis (which seems similar to JUNONIA from the description–and speaking of JUNONIA: no best of the year list), WATER BALLOON by Audrey Vernick (a debut novel from a picture book writer), and MUSIC WAS IT by Susan Goldman Rubin (shortlisted for the YALSA Nonfiction Award). I haven’t read the first two books, but I found MUSIC WAS IT to be a strong biography. I could see it securing a place among the Sibert book, but I don’t think it climbs past AMELIA LOST. I loved GETTING NEAR TO BABY, but have found Couloumbis’s subsequent work to be very disappointing, and I have WATER BALLOON in my pile.
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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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