December 10, 2016

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Underdogs?

We’ve often worried that we create a bit of an echo chamber effect here, picking a shortlist to focus on at the expense of many other wonderful titles.  Previously recognized authors along with highly praised books tend to dominate our shortlist, exacerbating the effect.  Sometimes, I wonder if we should do some radical like exclude […]

When Green Becomes Tomatoes

I was pleasantly surprised to see WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES tied with WOLF HOLLOW atop our recent Top Five tally.  We liked Fogliano’s previous books, AND THEN IT’S SPRING and IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE, but being picture books, they were somewhat of a hard sell. This longer work, a poetry collection, should […]

Russell Freedman

Russell Freedman–like Jason Reynolds–actually has two strong Newbery contenders: WE WILL NOT BE SILENT (five starred reviews plus Kirkus Prize shortlist) and VIETNAM (four starred reviews).  Both of them are quintessential Freedman: crystal clear prose, elegant book design, carefully selected primary sources, and thoughtful, intelligent analysis. I first became familiar with the story of Hans […]

Makoons

MAKOONS by Louise Erdrich is the fifth book in this cycle, but only the second one about this new generation in the family.  I have to admit that I am not a natural reader for this series, that the slow episodic plots do not speak to my needs as a reader, and I believe I […]

Samurai Rising

Having reread SAMURAI RISING, I can say that it has unequivocally secured a place on my ballot, and depending on the will and disposition of my hypothetical committee, I could even spend my first place vote on it! First of all, I want to say that whatever you think of this book (and we were strongly divided on […]

2017 Heavy Medal Shortlist!

We have settled on the shortlist for our mock Newberys (and we will release specific details and dates and times once we have arranged them).  We typically chose 8 titles, but have occasionally stretched to 9 titles (as we have done this year).  When we do 9 titles then length is always a consideration, and it makes it […]

Black Power!

“In the midst of the human ugliness of racism, there is the human beauty in the resistance to racism.” Ibram X. Kendi The National Book Awards had a bit of a 2015 ALA Midwinter moment with African Americans winning three of the four categories, and for decidedly political works, no less.  Joining John Lewis and […]

Top Five

We used to check in with our readership several times a year about their top choices, mimicking the nomination process that the real committee experiences wherein they nominate three books in October, two in November, and a final two in December.  Since we don’t post quite as frequently now as we used to, we are […]

Chapter Book Roundup

Now it’s time to discuss an underappreciated body of literature for children, what are often called chapter books.  Since I think that term is still fairly vague, I’d call them transitional chapter books.  That is, books that bridge the gap from the more challenging easy readers to the easiest novels.  On the younger side, these […]

The Inquisitor’s Tale

I like this book very much, and I can easily see the committee discussing it very seriously.  It’s strong in virtually every single element that pertains to it–plot, character, setting, style, theme, and accuracy–and yet I’m feeling slightly underwhelmed on a personal level when it comes to plot and theme.  The characters in this book are […]

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Yes. There is a witch in the woods.  There has always been a witch. Will you stop fidgeting for once?  My stars!  I have never seen such a fidgety child. No, sweetheart.  I have not seen her.  No one has.  Not for ages.  We’ve taken steps so that we will never see her. Terrible steps. […]

Verse Novel Roundup

We’ve already said it’s been an exceptionally strong year for poetry, and if you include novels in verse (not to mention FREE VERSE, a novel that celebrates and incorporates poetry, but is not a verse novel), then it is a phenomenally strong year.  We’ve already discussed BOOKED, a fairly strong contender on its own merits, but […]

Tim Wadham: The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones

Tim Wadham has served on numerous award committees, including The Boston Globe Horn Book award, the Pura Belpré award committee twice, and the 1998 Newbery committee.  He is a contributor to School Library Journal and the Horn Book Guide.  His picture book, The Queen of France was published by Candlewick Press.  He lives in Puyallup, […]

Too Old?

ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN by Gavriel Savit . . . When I first read descriptions of this book with comparisons to THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS and LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, I didn’t think I would like it very much.  THE BOOK THIEF is another apt, if imperfect, comparison.  The language here is beautiful, […]

Poetry Roundup

BEFORE MORNING by Joyce Sidman . . . This picture book contains a single poem, but what a lovely, haunting poem it is!  The form of this poem is an invocation, and as such it seems like it could have been an outtake from her previous collection, WHAT THE HEART KNOWS.  Can a single poem […]

Biography

“Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written.” Mark Twain “When you write biographies, whether it’s about Ben Franklin or Einstein, you discover something amazing: They are human.” Walter Isaacson “I seldom read anything that is not of a factual nature because I want […]

Discussing Diversity

As our discussion of GHOSTS slowly unfolds, I’m reminded of how very unNewberylike it is.  Part of that is because it’s virtually impossible to simulate a face-to-face discussion in an online setting, but I also think that another part has to do with process. The committee trades suggestions anonymously through the chair throughout the year. […]

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled

One day when Frank could not win for losing, he got Lucky. And one day when Lucky was lost and found, he got Frank. Sometimes you read a book, and you have a gut reaction to why it belongs in the discussion of the most distinguished contribution of American literature for children, and you can […]

Raymie Nightingale

Well, I kind of put my foot in my mouth last time around when I declared that FLORA & ULYSSES was my least favorite DiCamillo novel (or perhaps I even said it was her worst–I can’t quite remember).  Of course, then she went on to win her second Newbery Medal several months later.  DiCamillo’s “worst” […]

Kirkus Prize Shortlist

The third Kirkus Prize shortlist has been announced and like its predecessors its chock full of Newbery possibilities.  Yes, the shortlist always includes two picture books, two middle grade titles, and two young adult titles, but you know how we feel about the Newbery committee embracing the full breadth of its charge.  The winner gets […]