Last year, we seriously entertained the idea of Newbery recognition for an Elephant & Piggie book, specifically I BROKE MY TRUNK! Willems has two more books in the series this year: LISTEN TO MY TRUMPET! and LET’S GO FOR A DRIVE! I’m equally enthusiastic about these books, and if I were on the real committee I would probably nominate the former book just to force the issue, but since our conversation on this blog would be very similar to what it was last year, I’ll pass this time around–unless you’re curious.
Willems is joined this year by two veteran author/illustrators with debut easy readers: Kevin Henkes with PENNY AND HER SONG and PENNY AND HER DOLL; David Macaulay with CASTLE: HOW IT WORKS and JET PLANE: HOW IT WORKS. I’m happy to see Henkes bring his mouse books to a younger audience, but these easy readers strike me as more sweet and not as funny as the picture books (which shouldn’t be an issue for me since the picture books are not under consideration this year–just more baggage I need to process–and that’s just a personal preference anyway). I really like the Macaulay books–CASTLE has more humor than JET PLANE and will probably play better to most readers–but adding a nonfiction bias on top of illustration and brevity biases doesn’t make me optimistic for its Newbery chances.
Next we have BINK & GOLLIE: TWO FOR ONE by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. I like this book a lot, and the humor rooted in character is great, but I kind of feel that the three stories get progressively weaker. Agree or disagree?
Toon Books have broken into the Geisel line-up several times, and this year they have THE SHARK KING by Kikuo Johnson which promises to make another run. An added bonus: this is a retelling of an old Hawaiian folktale.
Do any of these eight titles strike you as underdog Newbery possibilites? Enough that you want to champion them? Seven of these titles are by big name authors. This is a field that gets little fanfare: not much buzz and very few starred reviews. Last year’s Geisel winner, TALES FOR PICK EATERS, for example, had neither. Are there undiscovered gems out there we simply don’t know about?
Another issue: half of these books employ the medium of sequential art (i.e. comics) in some form or fashion, and that makes the job of finding evidence solely in the text very difficult. But is it impossible? I feel a graphic novel post coming on . . .
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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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