Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: VIOLET AND JOBIE IN THE WILD by Lynn Rae Perkins
Introduction by Heavy Medal Award Committee Member Maura Bayliss
Siblings Violet and Jobie are experienced house mice who know so much about human behaviors that they use a “snapping pole” in a “cheese game” to retrieve their delicious treat. But all that changes when they’re trapped and then released into the wild. Part animal story, part adventure story, Lynne Rae Perkins weaves a tale about the pair making their way in a strange new world.
Left on their own, they experience nature’s perils and wonders for the first time. Shelter and food are their first priorities and the reader squirms as they spend their first night with a fox. They survive and move on to a better home which leads them to a new friend, who figures prominently in the narrative. Old and wise Zolian recognizes that they need help and becomes a kind and important mentor. A mutually beneficial relationship is born: Violet and Jobie learn life skills while Zolian (and perhaps the reader) sees some of nature’s everyday occurrences with the renewed wonder of the inexperienced mice. Changing perspective is an important theme throughout: indoors to outdoors, experienced to rookie, human to mouse, immature to mature.
Jobie surprises Violet one day by announcing his intention to move out and “start a family” with his newly found “someone special”. Devastated Violet seeks comfort and wisdom from grandfather figure Zolian, but has to muster courage and self-reliance to find him, since Zolian is off on an adventure of his own. Violet finds Zolian, but their time together is brief, and Violet needs to be brave once more. This time it’s clearly her own brave inner voice that leads her on, eventually to a new friend whose story mirrors her own in the form of an outdoor mouse who climbed inside a camper and now travels the world. The camper moves and Violet’s perspective changes yet again as her new world is left behind. It’s okay this time, since Violet has matured and the reader has seen her develop, and she has found a kindred spirit. The story ends where it began, as Jobie tells his grandkids the story of the “cheese game” and daredevil Aunt Violet.
To be sure, a great story here, from a previous Newbery winner who knows her audience.The leaf surfing episode, the corny jokes that Jobie hears from his friends, or trying out the beaver noises as described by the narrator on page 120 will be highlights. Young readers/listeners will gloat when they recognize things before the innocent siblings do: it’s a fox looking at them, they’re maple seeds twirling down from the sky, it’s thunder and lightning that they’re so fearful of. The Zolian character allows Perkins to impart timely maxims to this age group: there’s a difference between being afraid vs. being aware, one must always be brave, it’s okay to be sad sometimes. There’s also lyrical prose, for example when Perkins describes a frog on page 92:
“What had seemed squat and lumpen was suddenly strong and graceful. It could practically fly.”pg. 92
For all these reasons, this book has the hallmarks of a wonderful read aloud or a page turner early chapter book for the independent reader, with pertinent messages, inspiring characters and a lot of fun.
Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!
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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