I’ve mentioned here and there in the comments that I just never warmed up to THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE and THE GAME OF SILENCE for whatever reason, and I’m not even sure that I read THE PORCUPINE YEAR, but I really, really like CHICKADEE. While it’s currently not in my top three, should one of those titles falter, this is one of a dozen or so titles that I can be talked into supporting, so I’m pleased to see that it has a couple nominations already.
I like the shorter length of this book, I like that the narrative frequently switches viewpoints and generates more suspense, and I like the humor. Here’s one of my favorite scenes, when Two Strike finally catches Chickadee’s kidnappers, and they fall head over heels for her.
Babiche trembled as he gave directions to the cabin. Even as he shuddred, though, he was filled with admiration for Two Strike. He looked at his brother. Batiste had opened one eye just a crack, and its gleam told Babiche that he thought Two Strike was magnificent.
“We have treated the boy like our own son,” cried Babiche. “Because we heard of the beauty of this vision before us. This woman, Two Strike.”
Two Strike bent over and snarled at him. This snarl completely melted the heart of Babiche. He begged her to marry him–and his brother, too–right on the spot.
“And the horses will be our wedding gift!” he said.
Two Strike’s hand grabbed his throat. “You are lucky to escape with your own life,” she said. “If I ever see you or your brother again I’ll slice you to ribbons, I’ll tear you to shreds, I’ll grind you to pulp. I’ll destroy you!”
“Oh, what heaven!” cried Babiche. “My heart is already mashed like a boiled potato!”
Batiste lifted his head, dizzy with emotion. He quickly added. “And mine is crushed like a rotten turnip!”
“We are a bouyah of love, boiling for you!” they shouted together.
But the two were calling after a quickly disappearing Two Strike.
But Louise Erdrich has written another book this year that we might do well to consider: THE ROUND HOUSE. This book just won the National Book Award for Fiction. Yes, it is published for adults, but that does not preclude it from Newbery consideration if an intended potential audience is children up to and including the age of fourteen.
This part of the criteria was tweaked recently, presumably to discourage the committee from considering books published for adults, but I find that it clarifies nothing. HarperCollins could have published this as a YA book, clearly indicating that children are an intended potential audience, but that might have robbed the book of a broader audience. Publishing THE ROUND HOUSE as an adult book does not mean that HarperCollins did not intend for the audience to include 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. Nor do I believe that Louise Erdrich, when writing this book about a thirteen-year-old boy, intended to exclude a middle school/junior high audience. And, honestly, if we are going to consider things like NO CRYSTAL STAIR, BEYOND A METH MOON, NEVER FALL DOWN, and CODE NAME VERITY, then should we not consider this one, too?
Now before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, let me say that I haven’t read this book beyond the summary, the reviews, and the free preview on Amazon, but I like what I see so far. I’m 41st on the hold list at my public library. I wouldn’t go out of my way to search out books published for adults, but this one–or, say, FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM by Philip Pullman (if it had been eligible by virtue of residency) are the kind I would check out, at the very least.
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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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