Curse of the Three Star Book, Part 2
On Friday, we talked about a pair of three star books that I’ve read. Here are a whole heap–seven!–that have either languished in my to-be-read-pile or I’ve started them but not finished them (not for lack of interest, but lack of time). So I present them here, leaning on the reviews to provide some insights into their Newberyishness.
NOTE: Please see comments below. BEASTKEEPER appears to be ineligible by virtue of citizenship and residency requirements.
Publishers Weekly: Blending modern-day problems and ancient magical curses, Hellisen’s (When the Sea Is Rising Red) novel sparkles like a classic fairy tale, even as it plumbs unpleasant truths. Sarah is precocious, independent, and strong-willed, and the story brims with thought-provoking insights and lyrical descriptions for readers to sink into-especially those who, like Sarah, dream of finding magic in the mundane.
BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly
Publishers Weekly: Writing with acute sensitivity and sometimes painful realism, debut novelist Kelly skillfully captures the betrayals, tentative first crushes, and fluctuating emotions of middle school, which are heightened by Apple’s awareness of her cultural and ethnic difference. In the face of her classmates’ casual racism and cruelty, Apple’s efforts to make genuine friends and embrace the things that make her unique feel like a true triumph.
New York Times: Although complicating factors such as Japanese aggression, Japanese internment, the civil rights movement and interracial marriage are mentioned, they are like scenery glimpsed through a moving bus’s window. They seem detached from Mimi’s lived experience rather than an integral part of her. The spare, first-person verse structure may make it difficult to delve into these issues, but the lack of context flattens what could have been a wonderful story.
A NEARER MOON by Melanie Crowder
Kirkus Reviews: This lyrical story has a once-upon-a-time quality and, like the best of fairy tales, an evil to be overcome, a magic charm, and a lesson to be gleaned. Crowder’s language is sumptuous, written with an elegiac quality that suits the wistful longings of her protagonists. A quiet story of perseverance and hope, exquisitely written with words and images that demand savoring.
Booklist: This loving homage to classic mysteries features an early twentieth-century English setting, a snowed-in manor house, mistaken identities, a decades-old secret, hidden passageways, and a passel of precocious children.
RETURN TO AUGIE HOBBLE by Lane Smith
Publishers Weekly: A major tragedy occurs for which Augie feels responsible, but two-time Caldecott Honoree Smith, in his first novel, does an impeccable job of introducing heartbreak while keeping the mood light. Augie is a good-hearted kid whose wry humor makes him a companionable narrator. Readers may feel as disoriented as Augie when Smith shifts from recognizable ground to add an otherworldly dimension, but it works because Augie deserves an ending that makes him whole again.
Booklist: Readers will be moved by Arthur’s growth, as he forms an attachment to the man to whom he initially gave so little thought, as well as by his dedication to saving the folk artist’s prized work after his death. Though fictionalized, Pearsall shines a light on Hampton, an amazing, lesser-known artist whose pieces are housed in the Smithsonian Museum, with an author’s note detailing the true story. A moving exploration of how there is often so much more than meets the eye.
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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 email@example.com
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