Heavy Medal Finalists – Clayton Byrd Goes Underground and The First Rule of Punk
As Roxanne explained yesterday, we are going to start discussing our final long list of titles in a way as similar as possible to the way the real Newbery Committee discusses titles. This is a great time to compare books to each other, and is also an opportunity for everyone to express both the things they find positive about each title and the things they like less. This process helps everyone to think about the titles in new ways and to think about how they will eventually cast their votes.
We’ll be introducing each title briefly over the next nine posts – two books per post. Please utilize the comments to take our introductions and run with them. Referring back to the discussion guidelines Roxanne discussed in yesterday’s post will help you along and always remember the terms and criteria!
So, let’s get started.
Short List Title: CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND
(Titles on our short list will be included in the live Mock Newbery in Oakland.)
We first talked about this title over here.
This novel is distinguished in so many ways. It explores its themes in unique and nuanced ways, sensitive to a child’s understandings, but also mature and realistic. Among these themes, grief, anger, loss, and music are all powerfully handled and the characters’ unique ways of dealing with emotion makes them strong and realistic. Williams-Garcia has done something masterful with language – creating a story that reads with the rhythm of the music (the blues) that the story is based around. The story has a beat – a heartbeat, and a blues beat.
I found the glympses into Clayton’s mom’s thinking to be extremely respectful of a child’s ability to undestand and also true to the family structure that Clayton is part of. He *would* have a sense of what his mom was dealing with, and thus it makes sense that a young audience gets that same peek into her world view.
What do you see as strengths of this title? And weaknesses? How does it compare to THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK or others on our long list?
Long List Title: THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK
(Titles on our long list will be included in our online conversation and balloting, alongside the short list titles.)
Another book about music, but different from CLAYTON in so many ways, is THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK. One thing they have in common, though, is the style of music coming through in the pace, tone, and writing of the text. THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK uses modern language, zines (which are great), and punk-rock style rebellion the same way that CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND uses soul and rhythm. We first discussed this title here.
I find Malú to be, perhaps, the most realistic, loveable, relatable, flawed protagonist of the year. While many of the adults in the story are a bit one-dimensional, that only serves to make Malú seem even more dynamic, more capable of growth, and more likeable. She is the center of the story, in the same way that she is, as are all children her age, the center of her own world. Like CLAYTON BYRD, the strengths of this book, for me, lie in theme and character. Exploration of self, and rebelling against a mother who doesn’t understand the desires of her child, are present in both books. This book exemplifies excellence of presentation for a child audience.
What do you think?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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