2012 Best Books Outliers
Consensus among best books lists is not necessarily the best indicator of Newbery recognition, and we’re now going to take a look at some books that made just a single list. Last year, this excercise yielded a Newbery Honor book, BREAKING STALIN’S NOSE, which the Horn Book called and allowed us to save face. Maybe one of these books will be a Newbery Honor this year.
Booklist has two outliers on its list: THE EXTRAORDINARY EDUCATION OF NICHOLAS BENEDICT by Trenton Lee Stewart and THE BOY ON CINNAMON STREET by Phoebe Stone. The former book, of course, is a prequel to THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY, but I have not heard any buzz about this title at all. It got a lone starred review from Booklist. The latter book, however, got four starred reviews, but I really did not care for it very much. It, too, has failed to capture any buzz, starred reviews notwithstanding. They also picked PENNY AND HER SONG for their list, while three other journals went with the second volume in the series, PENNY AND HER DOLL.
THE BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S BOOKS
Bulletin doesn’t really have very many outliers–at least, not your typical Newbery fare. THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD by Deborah Kops would be hard pressed to sneak into the Sibert line-up, let alone the Newbery. It doesn’t have any starred reviews, not even one from the Bulletin! I found it well-written, but I wasn’t much interested in the subject. Bulletin eschewed the Kevin Henkes bandwagon and selected BINK & GOLLIE: TWO FOR ONE and LISTEN TO MY TRUMPET as their easy reader choices. I’m particularly elated by the latter choice, and if I were on the real committee, I would have suggested and, quite possibily, nominated it. I didn’t make a big deal about it in this forum because our discussion would have closely mirrored last year’s conversation, but I remain no less enthusiastic about its distinguished qualities.
Not many outliers here either. In fact, just one on the entire list: CHICKADEE. This is one of my pet titles, as you already know, but I’m not sure that I could successfully argue that it’s better than LIAR & SPY and SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS. It’s part of a series, but it’s a new arc in the series, so I don’t think that should hinder its chances. I’d like to think this one is a frontrunner for the O’Dell and a darkhorse for the Newbery. Erdrich has already won the National Book Award for THE ROUND HOUSE. Could she nab the Newbery with CHICKADEE? Here’s hoping Horn Book goes 2 for 2 with their outlier picks!
With the longest list, it’s not surprising that Kirkus has the most outliers. I’m going to highlight just a couple: WATER SINGS BLUE which got four starred reviews and is, to my mind, the standout poetry collection of the year. And THE REVOLUTION OF EVELYN SERRANO by Sonia Manzano. With the explosion of Latino population in this country, it’s disappointing that there aren’t more books for/by/about them. SUMMER OF THE MARIPOSAS by Guadalupe Garcia McCall is an SLJ outlier, but I think THE REVOLUTION OF EVELYN SERRANO is a more likely Newbery darkhorse. They will both contend for the Belpre, however.
We featured WILL SPARROW’S ROAD in a post, while THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann and THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen have both been mentioned in the comments here and there. Each one only got one starred review and one list–all from PW. But what about THE SECOND LIFE OF ABIGAIL WALKER by Frances O’Roark Dowell? Dowell is one of those writers who always manages to get 2-3 starred reviews for her books (ABIGAIL WALKER got two), they are always well-written and extremely kid-friendly, but for some reason she’s never broken through to major acclaim. Could this be her year?
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
SLJ has several great nonfiction outliers led by SNAKES by Nic Bishop (three starred reviews) and THE MIGHTY MARS ROVERS (four starred reviews). I’ve already mentioned SUMMER OF THE MARIPOSAS, and Nina discussed ONE YEAR IN COAL HARBOR, so their other notable fiction outlier is ON THE ROAD TO MR. MINEO’S by Barbara O’Connor. Like Dowell, O’Connor is one of those authors whose books always seem to collect several starred reviews and child readers, but never break through to the big time. This one started out really strong for me, but lost momentum throughout the novel. Still, I’m happy to see it recognized here, if not with Newbery love.
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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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