Will Woodson Win?
It is hard to argue against Jacqueline Woodson’s writing in any given year, and this year is no exception. She not only has written a stellar picture book (THE DAY YOU BEGIN) that has real Newbery potential, but she has also brought us the beautiful HARBOR ME. Woodson has a rare gift of covering topics that are complex, topical, political, and important without being didactic and without talking down to her audience.
In HARBOR ME a group of kids sit in a room and, given the safe space to do so, talk. They talk about ther lives. They talk about the challenges they face in this country where they are not so safe. They talk about the challenges they face in their families. They open up and they grow.
If this sounds too good to be true, too fake to feel real, or too simple to make sense, I get it. I would think so too if it was in the hands of anyone other than Woodson.
In her hands, though, it works. Yet, does it have the strength of other titles this year? Are the characters each real enough? Do they each seem full? Is the set-up a little too easy (6 kids given the space to talk, and then utilizing it the way they do)?
Woodson is a brilliant writer. Her word choice, sentence strutcture, and turn of phrase are perfection. I’m not sure, though, that this books hits all the right notes when it comes to charaterization and story, especially compared to other strong titles this year.
Even compared to herself! I’m not sure HARBOR ME does a better job, with all its words, as THE DAY YOU BEGIN does in 32 pages. 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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