Heavy Medal Finalist: I’m Just No Good At Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
Short List Title: I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING AND OTHER NONSENSE FOR MISCHIEVOUS KIDS AND IMMATURE GROWN-UPS
(Titles on our short list will be included in the live Mock Newbery in Oakland.)
I often distrust the age-designation “For All Ages” on recommended book lists. For, no doubt, each book must have a target audience: by the author’s choices of words, subject matters, required experiences, and tones. To me, “For All Ages” seems a cop-out, indicating a level of laziness or indecisiveness of those who assign reading/interest level to books.
In the case of “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming,” however, “For All Ages” is both accurately descriptive of what the author attempts to achieve and truthfully representative of what the author has successfully accomplished.
Chris Harris includes subject matters both real and fantastic that would sustain young listeners’ or readers’ interest: from “How the Fourth Grader Communicates” (pp. 55-56) to “Ten Ginormous Hippos Jumped On a Bed” (pp. 145-146). At the same time, Harris provides tidbits and thoughts that delight grown-ups who are either reading the poems aloud to others or quietly on their own. For example, “What Happened to Us Monsters: The Mummy’s Lament” lists literary characters that very young listeners might not have encountered to give the grown-up readers a chance to share their cultural literacy with the next generation — at the same time, the poem addresses the concept of aging out of once wild lifestyles: which could be hilarious to young listeners and readers while quite poignant to older readers.
This book is definitely “individually distinct” with a irreverent and yet compassion tone, much humor, and clever concepts that warrant repeat readings and discussion: such as the “Jigsaw Puzzle Difficulty Chart” (p.202) “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” (p. 40) and “I’m Shy on the Outside” (p. 116), this is definitely one of the more distinguished titles in 2017 and one of the top five of the eighteen Heavy Medal Finalists for me.
(And what fun is the missing page numbers and how they came to be!)
One aspect that we (and perhaps the real Newbery Committee members) have to grapple with but have not discussed extensively is whether and how we discuss the illustrations/designs/images.
These are the guidelines from the manual:
- “Contribution to American literature” indicates the text of a book. It also implies that the committee
shall consider all forms of writing—fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
- The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.
In I’m Just No Good at Rhyming quite a few poems cannot exist in text alone. There is the design for “a way to get out” for the poem “Trapped” on page 131 (and 133,) and most of the punch line humor is delivered via the illustration for “I Don’t Like My Illustrator” (p. 147-148).
There are lines in Her Right Foot which address what readers see in the pictures: “You may have noticed by now that the pictures of the Statue of Liberty in this book have her colored brown” and “What do you notice when you see this picture?”
The pictures for Princess Cora do not have to exist at all. There are no instances that the text does not stand alone. This renders Princess Cora a beginning reader with illustrations and not a “picture book” as often more strictly defined as to have some interplay of text & illustrations.
First Rule of Punk contains graphic/design elements. All’s Faire in Middle School and Real Friends are graphic novels. Loving vs Virginia and Vincent & Theo both have supportive imageries.
I invite Heavy Medal readers to comment on the graphic elements of these titles wherever you see fit — in previous posts, this post, or posts yet to come!
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SLJ Blog Network