Nominations Catch-Up: Jackie, Parker, and Ivy
With November nominations closed and compiled, let’s get three books into the conversation that have high nomination numbers, but haven’t been featured yet:
JUST LIKE JACKIE has eleven nominations, alleviating earlier concerns that we might never feature this book; only three titles have more at this point. Now that we are highlighting JACKIE, I hope to hear from nominators about its Newbery worthiness. It definitely has strengths. Robinson is a pretty convincing character. She’s fierce and brave and a true friend, but her best efforts often misfire badly, and she’s a bit of a bully herself. I like the way she knows she’s a handful, and kind of regrets it, but is also not really thinking she needs to change:
I’m happy to let Alex sop up his bloody nose with the sleeve of his sissy-boy snowboarding jacket. There’s no sealing up a kid that’s gone bad. I should know. (3)
Her anger manifests itself in believable ways as she tries to navigate through school while trying to care for her grandpa and keep his condition secret. Her defensiveness is rooted in anxiety about her own situation, and it makes sense that she changes as she learns that other kids are struggling in different, but not that different, ways.
Those interactions with the other kids seem a little over-managed by the plot element in which the four kids, all of whom have issues with the family tree assignment, are neatly placed in a therapy group. The interactions within the group are engaging (mostly: I struggled with Alex crying out of the blue and all of those kids keeping quiet about it outside of group and even the next day in the group), but the set-up feels a bit artificial. Maybe that’s just me: I had a similar concern with HARBOR ME.
THE PARKER INHERITANCE, with nine nominations, is an interesting change of pace. It’s a puzzle mystery, in the tradition of THE WESTING GAME, CHASING VERMEER, and others. And it’s a well-conceived mystery. The letter from Candice’s grandmother sets things up nicely, and the steps Candice and Brandon take as they get closer to the truth are engaging and surprising. The story moves forward with well-paced revelations that are right at the level of the child reader: challenging, but not frustratingly complex.
Along with the mystery, there’s some intriguing exploration of racism, bullying, and family bonds, among other issues. With some historical context, since the narrative slips between present day and the 50s. Plot and themes work very well together, and both take center stage. The characters did not especially stand out to me, but that can be okay in a plot-driven book. The Newbery Criteria state that the committee “need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements.” In this book, a personality as big as Mason Buttle or Mia from FRONT DESK could have distracted from the mystery, history, and themes.
IVY ABERDEEN’S LETTER TO THE WORLD received six nominations. It’s a strong portrayal of a twelve year girl learning who she is. Which includes the realization that she’s a girl who likes girls, but there’s much more to Ivy than that. I really appreciated the way the family dynamics were done. We only get Ivy’s naturally self-centered point of view, so her complaints seem valid, and her gradual realization that others are dealing with things too is similar in many ways to Robinson’s growth…though managed more naturally here in my opinion.
Ivy has a great bunch of open-minded people who understand her confusion, probably better than she does herself: a best friend who totally gets it; an adult who recognizes her confusion and supports it with just the right words (217-220) and a family who obviously will understand once they know. But none of that is obvious to Ivy, and that’s a big strength of the novel. Ivy’s confusion is convincing and relatable,even though she has all that potential support and understanding around her. This is a sensitive, subtle exploration of a girl who’s finding her way.
I admired all three of these books for different reasons, but didn’t choose to use one of my five nominations on them so far. With 26 nominations among the trio, though, I hope to learn what made them rise towards the top of lists of other Heavy Medal readers.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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