Curse of the Three Star Book, Part 1
We don’t necessarily create our shortlist with the intention of predicting the winners, but it’s nice when that works out. I’ve noticed that we’ve been especially prone to missing or underestimating the winner if the book has three starred reviews. We missed MOON OVER MANIFEST and DEAD END IN NORVELT entirely and while THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN was on our shortlist, it was overshadowed in our online and mock discussions by BOMB and SPLENDORS & GLOOMS.
If the Goodreads poll and my own tally on our Top Five post are any indication, we’ve quite possibly done it again with THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE. We’ve also spotlighted BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN; CIRCUS MIRANDUS; and LISTEN, SLOWLY. These, too, seem like strong contenders. Here’s another pair of three star books. Will either one keep the curse alive?
There are few authors who, with a single novel, can hold the attention of both the newly independent reader and and adolescent reader, but with her follow up to THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN Applegate is proving that she belongs in that group. The relatively slender novel features short chapters, lots of dialogue, and a brisk pace which make the book accessible for a wide ranger of readers as does the juxtaposition of the magical realism (imaginary friend) with issue-driven realism (homelessness). There’s a lot to like here, but for me, ECHO and HIRED GIRL have set the bar for fiction, and I’m just not sure CRENSHAW could claw its way past all those novels in my second tier.
The reigning Edwards Award winner is known more for her realistic fiction whether it’s her Hazelwood High trilogy for teens or OUT OF MY MIND for younger readers. Her previous foray into historical fiction, COPPER SUN, netted her a Coretta Scott King Award. And she’s back for more with this tale of a smart young girl in segregated North Carolina. I listened to this one on audiobook and it was a love/hate affair. I loved the narrator, but I couldn’t hear her very well because the volume wouldn’t increase as I turned it up. No Odyssey Award for you, Stella! I’m kind of foggy on the plot details–I recall a thread about the Klan and another about Stella’s writing ambition–but the character still resonates very clearly with me as does the setting. Historically, the Newbery loves historical fiction, but it’s a crowded field this year with ECHO, HIRED GIRL, THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, and GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA.
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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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