The Plot Thickens: Newbery Criteria Deep Dive
In a continuation of our Newbery Criteria deep dive, today Steven and I take a look at plot in 2023 Newbery Contenders. Last time was characterization and we’ll make it to the rest of the Criteria throughout the year. For today, let’s talk plot!
EMILY: When looking at plot, I can get lost between an interesting storyline (THE LAST MAPMAKER or THE UNFORGETTABLE LOGAN FOSTER) and the “development” of said plot with many cause and effect events (AVIVA VS. THE DYBBUK, OR THE PATRON THIEF OF BREAD). Steven, how do you evaluate plot?
STEVEN: I like the way you identify those two aspects of storyline and development. I also like to look at how the plot impacts other elements, especially character and theme. Like in AVIVA VS. THE DYBBUK, the actions of the dybbuk and the question of what he was and if he was real were really engaging. But those actions also got us further and further into understanding Aviva herself. And brought in the theme of anti-semitism and its role in Aviva’s family and community.
STEVEN: Choice of style is so important to plot also. In THE PATRON THIEF OF BREAD, I actually thought the gargoyle interludes disrupted the plot, until the end when they finally came together. On the other hand, the narrative style of JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE, where the narrator tells us about the events she took part in, but holds back some key details, works really well. It keeps us engaged and wondering, and sets up the climactic moments that come later.
EMILY: Interesting how you bring up style, do you think that criteria goes hand in hand with plot? I guess the style helps drive the plot. I think of that in OGRESS AND THE ORPHANS too, the crows at first seem distracting but then they play a HUGE plot point in helping the orphan.
STEVEN: ANYBODY HERE SEEN FRENCHIE? was kind of deceptive in its plot too, partly through the style choices. It starts out with a bunch of short chapters from Aurora’s point of view, but then as the search for Frenchie expands, we start to get pov’s from other people involved too. That kind of shifted the plot from being solely focused on the lost boy and his ties to Aurora and widening it to get into the impact on the whole community.
EMILY: Talking about, deceptive plot we must bring up: I MUST BETRAY YOU. I didn’t know who to trust in that book and it was the slow roll of the different perspectives and plot changes that really kept me engaged. I also thought the “years later” update at the end really brought it all together (in a non-forced way).
EMILY: This discussion is really making me look deeper at some of these titles. And appreciate OGRESS and FRENCHIE a little bit more. We would love to hear about any of these titles, or other books with strong development of plot in the comments.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Emily Mroczek-Bayci
Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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