Getting my votes in

On Monday all the Newbery/Caldecott/Sibert/Geisel awards will be announced, and I figured I'd slip in my picks now so that just in case something I like gets a medal I won't look like I jumped on a winner bandwagon after the fact. Cuz, you know, street cred among librarians is an intense, intense thing. Shivs slipped into cardigan sleeves and all that.

I've been reading off the lists of "books with potential" that other libraries are using for their own Mock Newbery competitions. Only . . . here's a the thing. Not too many of the books I've read this year have blown me away and made me want to run out and tell everyone about them. There are certainly some that I really like, and that I think are better than the others, but nothing that really brie'd my baguette, you know?

Reading so many books in a short amount of time, though, made me notice certain trends.

This year, war is a big one. Several books are set during the Vietnam war:

All the Broken Pieces
Kaleidoscope Eyes
Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

And there are a couple dealing with Iraq/Afghanistan

Peace, Locomotion
Heart of a Shepherd

I know that in kids' books one of the first thing you want to do is get rid of the parents, but a lot of these did it in some pretty depressing ways. First we had the (many, many) kids who are foster kids or orphans:

Peace, Locomotion
Carolina Harmony
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
All the Broken Pieces
Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

And the ones who are dealing with the death or abandonment of a parent:

Love, Aubrey
Also Known as Harper
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
Kaleidoscope Eyes
Heart of a Shepherd
All the Broken Pieces

Cheery, huh? But now on to my faves.

#1: SLOB by Ellen Potter. Technically, because of the age of the narrator, this one is YA. And it's wonderful. It's about a bright (perhaps genius) middle-schooler named Owen. Owen is the heaviest kid at his school and is busy working on two inventions, one of which is a trap to catch the person who keeps stealing the Oreos in his lunch box. I would recommend that you NOT read other descriptions of the book, because they might give too much away. One of the best things about SLOB is that you begin reading a seemingly simple tale about a fat kid's problems at school, but then it becomes much more emotionally complex (and breaks your heart) as crucial elements are revealed.

All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg. This one is written in free verse, and is about a 12-year-old boy named Matt whose mother had him airlifted out of Vietnam with the departing US soldiers. His adoptive family loves him and he's on his way to being the star of the school baseball team. But he is met with some racism on the team and must slowly come to terms with his painful memories of Vietnam and of the mother and younger brother he left there.

Heart of a Shepherd
by Rosanne Parry. This is another War book, about a boy named Ignatius who is left to try to run his family's Oregon ranch practically on his own while his father (along with all the other military reserve members of the community) is serving in Iraq and his brothers are away with the Army or at college. Religion plays an important element in the story--there's a Quaker grandpa and the community's new Catholic priest. This is a coming of age story that I really enjoyed.

Love, Aubrey by Susan LaFleur is one of our "abandoned/orphaned/neglected girl makes good" entries, and I think it's the best one of them. Aubrey's father and sister are killed in a car crash, and her mother pretty much implodes with grief and runs away, leaving her behind. Aubrey goes to live with her grandmother in another state, where she begins to get settled and makes friends. The book is a series of letters that Aubrey writes to an imaginary friend, where she works out her feelings about being abandoned, not only by her father and sister but also by her mother. It does have a hopeful ending though, in case you were worried.

Peace, Locomotion
is the sequel to 2003's Locomotion, which I haven't read. I do like Jacqueline Woodson, though, and I really liked this. It's told in a series of letters from Lonnie to his little sister. They both live in foster homes after the death of their parents, and they communicate through letters and occasional Saturday visits. Lonnie talks about his struggles at school, the teachers who encourage him in his poetry endeavors, and his foster mother's worry over her son who is fighting (and then goes missing) overseas.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is the book with the strongest Newbery buzz. I'll be fine if it wins, even though I believe I liked SLOB better. It's about a 6th grader named Miranda living in 1979 New York City. She's reading A Wrinkle in Time, and suddenly starts to receive mysterious anonymous letters that predict future events accurately. The notes are urgent and indicate that something important is about to happen. While she tries to work this out, Miranda is also having friendship struggles and helping her mother train to be a contestant on the $20,000 Pyramid. You definitely should read this one. And then once you get to the end you will be probably tempted to go back and read it again to find the clues you missed the first time around.

Does anybody have their own Newbery predictions or favorites? (And yes, I believe those two things are frequently incompatible, since it seems that some Newbery committees are just hell-bent on choosing books that they loved the pants off of but which no child would ever want to read. Which is fine, I guess, if you take Children's Literature to mean "Literature about Children" rather than "Literature for Children.")


Christian said... [reply]

Though it might get thrown into the Printz awards for its YAness, I anticipate Catching Fire taking something because Hunger Games didn't. Especially since the committees like to do that when they realize they missed the boat the previous year. (See also A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck which only got the award because A Long Way from Chicago was so dang good.)

Giggles said... [reply]

Now that looks like a good list. Darn graduate school keeping me away from children's books for too long. I'm going to have to go to the library and see what I can find.

Janell said... [reply]

Excellent point about Newberry choosing books more about children than for children. I never liked any of those books when I was a kid; I wanted good and exciting stories and not something that would result in an essay on how a character felt or reacted in an extreme circumstance.

emandtrev said... [reply]

Wow. I really wish I had something meaningful to contribute by way of review, but I haven't read any of these yet. I will now, though...

Janssen said... [reply]

Am the worst children's librarian ever. I have only read one of those books - When You Reach Me.

April said... [reply]

"When You Reach Me" is the first book I read in 2010! I enjoyed it a lot.

Am reading YA book "Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse" right now. Sort of Harry Potter-ish in that there's an orphaned boy and magic, etc. Decent so far.

Missy W. said... [reply]

Thank you for this list. A lot of the YA books I have tried to read (since I was actually a YA myself) really bugged me, but I hope it's because I haven't been trying the right ones. I'll definitely be giving SLOB a try.

Anonymous said... [reply]

Love When You Reach Me, but also am a huge fan of Evolution of Calpurnia Tate....

Nells-Bells said... [reply]

AWESOME. thank you, thank you for all the recommendations. i think you should do this sort of thing more often. i want to see the newberry winners. i bet i can google it, right?

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

No predictions, I'm too out of it. I would like to try SLOB, I like my YA lit to have a some humor in it. The last pick also sounds hilarious as I watched 20,000 Pyramid all the time in the summers as a kid, and Wrinkle in Time was the first book I really remember loving.

Brie'd my baguette?

Oh, and I had a daydream this morning about my name in conjunction with the words "Newbery buzz." And yet, with me spending time blogging instead of writing, I have about as much chance of winning the prize as I do the lottery (seeing as how I never play the lottery).

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