Sunday, December 30, 2007
Thanksgiving...Christmas...New Year's Day.... The holiday season doesn't end for me on January 1. As soon as the new year begins, I start looking forward to Newbery Day -- the Monday in January when the American Library Association announces the winners of its children's book awards. I've been collecting first editions of the Newbery winners and Honor Books for over twenty-five years. All year long, I read new books, attempting to find the most distinguished titles and trying to predict what will win the Newbery. And over the past few years, I've begun collecting books that have won the ALA's newest awards, the Printz (for young adult literature) and the Sibert (for nonfiction.) I've never collected the Caldecott titles, mainly because their so difficult (and expensive) to find in good condition.
So...what books will turn up on this year's Newbery roster?
My favorite is THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt, a serio-comic tale of a seventh-grade boy and his relationships with his English teacher, his family, Shakespeare, and some escaped classroom rats. It's a note-perfect depiction of growing up in the Vietnam War era that will have kids both laughing and thinking.
EMMA-JEAN LAZARUS FELL OUT OF A TREE by Lauren Tarshis is a great character study of an eccentric girl who, in reaching out to others, finds a place for herself in the world.
WAY DOWN DEEP by Ruth White examines the life of an orphaned girl and her neighbors in a rural West Virginia town. With a touch of magical realism, this novel celebrates the meaning of community.
GOOD MASTERS, SWEET LADIES! : VOICES FROM A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE by Laura Amy Schlitz is a series of monologues introducing the citizens of a medieval town. Not nonfiction and not a novel, this offbeat book is both historically enlightening and fun to read aloud.
This is my dream Newbery slate for 2008, although I can imagine other books being honored as well, including Christopher Paul Curtis's ELIJAH OF BUXTON (a book I enjoyed, though I found the shift from the rambling comic vignettes that comprise the first of the half the book and the serious, stunningly written novella-length episode that ends the book rather jarring.) THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie is also uncommonly good, but seems much more likely for the Printz Award than the Newbery.
I'm sure there are many other possibilities that I haven't read yet, but there are still a couple weeks to go before the awards are announced. If you can think of any other candidates, please post your thoughts here.