Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist #3: The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown.
Introduced by Heavy Medal Committee Member Tamara DePasquale
We invite HM Committee members and readers to join the discussion on Newbery Worthy Finalist #3
Meet Margaret Wise Brown, an eccentric, complicated, and prolific author of more than 100 books for children. She was like no other children’s author of her time, and appropriately, The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown is like no other picture book biography to date.
At the very first page turn, Margaret Wise Brown is quoted: “All this emphasis today on who writes what seems silly to me as far as children are concerned.” And author Mac Barnett respectfully acknowledges that sentiment with a playful, well-written ode to Margaret Wise Brown that cleverly winks at one of her most popular titles, The Important Book.
So, what is essential to know about Margaret Wise Brown? Barnett engages his young readers with direct questions, asking what is important to know about Margaret Wise Brown. Is it her birthday? Her hair color? His simple responses are far from impressive, and he knows it. Just like Ms. Brown, he “gets” his readers and gives them what they are looking for: stories about her pets, their odd names, swimming nude, and her quirky behaviors. Barnett does not shy away from any topic. Yes, as a child, she skinned and wore her rabbit’s pelt. She frivolously spent her first earnings on a cart of flowers and a party to celebrate, and she loved both a man and a woman. She also died at the early age of 42. All of these bits of information – none more important than another — provide great storytelling opportunities and underscore Margaret Wise Brown’s appreciation and respect for a child’s natural curiosity.
Like the patterns found in The Important Book, Barnett ends his biography the same way he started it: coming full circle. “The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown is that she wrote books.” What makes Barnett’s writing distinguished is that he so successfully captures the spirit and spunk of Margaret Wise Brown and, in doing so, includes all of the hallmarks that distinguished her as a beloved children’s author. No doubt, Ms. Brown would be pleased with the telling.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Annisha Jeffries
Annisha Jeffries is the head of the youth services department at Cleveland Public Library. She was a member of the 2007 ALSC Board and served on several selection committees, including the 2018 Caldecott Committee. A 2000-2001 Spectrum Scholarship recipient, Jeffries is currently the Chair of the Norman A, Sugarman Children's Biography Award. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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