Russell Freedman–like Jason Reynolds–actually has two strong Newbery contenders: WE WILL NOT BE SILENT (five starred reviews plus Kirkus Prize shortlist) and VIETNAM (four starred reviews). Both of them are quintessential Freedman: crystal clear prose, elegant book design, carefully selected primary sources, and thoughtful, intelligent analysis.
I first became familiar with the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl, the protagonists of WE WILL NOT BE SILENT, from Newbery Honor book HITLER YOUTH. Of course, in that book they were just one of several profiles in courage, whereas here they are the sole focus.
Several have mentioned here that the title coupled with the subject of resisting a fascist leader have given this book new relevance. While I agree and while the Newbery committee might also, it’s unlikely to be the thing that pushes this one over the top.
VIETNAM is actually my favorite of the two, and is a book that I could easily flirt with for a nomination. Freedman distills a very complicated war with his characteristic style. I think it could appeal to the same group of children who like SAMURAI RISING (which we have discussed ad naseum) and DIVE! which we have not.
I’ll also admit it’s awfully hard to not compare these books to a pair of books from last year, THE BOYS WHO CHALLENGED HITLER and MOST DANGEROUS, both of which outshine these. Of course, the committee won’t be making this comparison, but it’s awfully hard not to let that cross your mind.
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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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