Heavy Medal Finalist: Loving vs. Virginia
Long List Title: LOVING VS VIRGINIA ( (Titles on our long list will be included in our online conversation and balloting, alongside the short list titles.)
The book is subtitled: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case — a “documentary” “novel,” not a “verse novel” and not a nonfiction. So, I read it as such. I didn’t treat reading the shorter sentences as reading poems. Instead, I read Mildred’s and Richard’s alternating POV sections as their inner thoughts (and sometimes dialogues, too), to get directly to the emotions, the relationship, and the events as they unfold.
What Powell delivers are strong emotions, an intense and urgent relationship, and historically significant events. Combined, these contribute to a powerful account of a civil rights milestone that has seldom (or ever?) been retold for young people.
I appreciate how Powell effectively creates the two voices for Mildred and Richard. Mildred’s lines tend to be much shorter, almost breathless, conveying a sense of urgency and yearning. Richard’s lines tend to be longer, lingering, and more deliberate.
On page 88, Mildred’s says:
the girl in back of me
the boy in front of me
I’m in trouble.
What am I going to do?
On the facing page (page 89,) Richard says:
I drove up to Rays. He’s got my DeSoto up on blocks,
says, Wanna race this heap?
Take off the bumper, lighten it up?
Percy and drive it. over at Sandbridge?
I said, Yeah, sure.
His place looks more junkyard than anything else.
I also find the plotting quite effective. Powell would end a section with unanswered questions — like when Richard learns about Millie’s pregnancy for the first time — and then makes the readers wait for what happens next — like when readers need to be with Mildred for two whole pages (3 months) where she gives birth before we find out what Richard would do next. Just two pages — not too long, but enough to maintain the suspense and tension.
There are many other positive aspects to make this a worthy title on our Long List with five reader nominations. There are also concerns raised by readers and scholars which might impact on whether the book would receive the necessary number of votes to warrant a medal or an honor. (See Doctor Debbie Reese’s comment and link when we announced the Long List.)
I now invite Heavy Medal readers to weigh in on the literary merits of this title and also whether the issues pointed out by Dr. Arica L. Coleman in her review of this title should enter the Heavy Medal/Newbery Conversation — especially when we consider that the current official Newbery Manual contains the following from the Diversity and ALSC Media Award Evaluation segment:
As individuals serving on committees evaluate materials according to the criteria outlined for their specific charge, they should strive to be aware of how their own perspectives and experiences shape their responses to materials. Every committee member brings unique strengths to the table, but every committee member also brings gaps in knowledge and understanding, and biases. Committee members are strongly encouraged to be open to listening and learning as well as sharing as they consider materials representing diverse experiences both familiar and unfamiliar to them.
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.
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