Hey, Old Friends
We know the odds of repeat Newbery recognition are slim (the percentage of repeat winners in the past 5 years ranges from 20%-50%) and the odds of repeating for a sequel are slimmer still–in fact, limited only to Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Robin McKinley, Cynthia Voigt, and Richard Peck. And yet we cannot help but be drawn to the possibility, especially when we enjoyed the first books so much.
THE BAMBOO SWORD by Margi Preus . . . I haven’t seen this one yet, but this sequel to HEART OF A SAMURAI doesn’t publish until September 15th. In a starred review, Kirkus writes: Thanks to the lively, warm, and witty storyteller’s voice and the vivid, sensuous depictions of the katana swish and kimono swirl of 19th-century Japan, readers will feel immersed in this tumultuous time in Japanese history. . . Preus spins another suspenseful swashbuckler starring a Japanese boy who finds himself caught between cultures.
THE CURIOUS WORLD OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly . . . The sequel to THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE has four starred reviews. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first one (largely because of the slow pace), so I wanted to listen to this one on audiobook, but I’m finding it hard to get into. I may have to come back to the physical book on this one. In a starred review, Booklist writes: The novel offers many pleasures, from its well-realized setting to its vividly portrayed characters, but the most irresistible is Callie’s wry, observant narration. Readers will flock to this sequel for the pleasure of revisiting this beloved character and her world.
GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA by Rita Williams-Garcia . . . The final book in this trilogy which began with ONE CRAZY SUMMER was a pleasure to listen to on audiobook. In a starred review, School Library Journal writes: Much of the narrative includes backstory from the previous titles, which is important for context, though new readers will want to read the previous books to fully appreciate this novel. This final installment is rich in atmosphere and clearly conveys the sisters’ distinct personalities, their loyalty to one another, and their special place in their complex family.
THE ODDS OF GETTING EVEN by Sheila Turnage . . . Another one I haven’t seen, but then this sequel to THREE TIMES LUCKY doesn’t publish until October 6th. It already has a pair of starred reviews, though, with the possibility of even more forthcoming. In one of those, Kirkus writes: The fun is in the telling, and Turnage’s telling shows alacrity as well as aplomb. The author gracefully weaves a laundry list of characters with a plot that has a lot of moving pieces, and she does it with charm and humor, hitting the sweet spot for young readers searching for more-complex tales but not ready to leave the silly behind.
PRINCESS ACADEMY: THE FORGOTTEN SISTERS by Shannon Hale . . . I have a special affinity for PRINCESS ACADEMY since that was my committee, so it’s kind of hard for me to be objective about the sequels. I liked PALACE OF STONE, but I like FORGOTTEN SISTERS even more. I’m surprised by the just a lone starred review from Booklist: Action-packed and well paced, the story’s depth incorporates artful negotiation, the importance of education, and citizens’ equality and rights. This final installment of the Princess Academy trilogy certainly leaves room for more books if Hale were so inclined. Won’t she reconsider?
SWITCH by Ingrid Law . . . I have this one, but haven’t taken a shot at it yet. It’s the one with the least amount of buzz. School Library Journal writes: Law’s signature writing style is evident in her third story; whimsical word patterns dance around her savvy characters. Gypsy and her family seem to be in constant, unusual motion, rather like a Willy Wonka elevator. And, much like authors Deborah Wiles or Patricia Reilly Giff, Law contrasts warm family support with personal despair and hardship, nicely balancing her dramatic action with stability and optimism.
Some of these titles may get individual attention a bit later in the season; for others, this may be their shot at Heavy Medal glory. Which ones deserve a closer look?
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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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