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1. Mock Newbery Club

We are starting a Mock Newbery Club at our school this year.  We have a meeting coming up to introduce books and think about those we'd like to read. I've been working on a Padlet to collect trailers and blurbs on many of the books on our list.  I am hoping it is a resource that helps members choose great books!  Looking forward to our first meeting later this month!



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2. The Summer of the Swan (1970)

The Summer of the Swans. Betsy Byars. 1970. Penguin. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Sara Godfrey was lying on the bed tying a kerchief on the dog, Boysie.

I'm so glad that Hope is the Word is hosting a Newbery Through the Decades reading challenge. June is the month dedicated to reading winners and honors from the 1970s. I may never have picked up Betsy Byars' The Summer of the Swans without a little extra motivation. And The Summer of the Swans? Well, it's compelling, very compelling.

Sara loves her brother Charlie. She does. But she doesn't always like him, or, like having to take care of him all the time. To be fair, Sara, on the day we meet her, is in a bit of a mood. This is one of those days when it seems almost every person in Sara's life is frustrating or annoying her. Sara's day will get worse before it gets better.

I really liked The Summer of the Swans. I liked the intensity of it. Charlie goes missing in the night, and that changes everything. Primarily we see this through Sara's perspective. Though we know that it is upsetting news to their Aunt Willie as well. Everyone in the neighborhood gets involved including a boy, Joe, that Sara really doesn't like or trust. Will Sara, however, change her mind about Joe after spending the day with him? after seeing the 'real' him? Will Charlie be found? Is he okay?

The Summer of the Swans won a Newbery in 1971.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Distinguished and Diverse: Celebrate the 2015 ALSC Honor Books

2015 ALA Annual Conference

2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco (image courtesy of ALA)

ALSC and the ALSC Awards Preconference Pilot Program Task Force want to remind Annual attendees that registration slots for the 2015 ALSC preconference program are still avaialable. This program takes place 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday, June 26, 2015, at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco.

The program, entitled Distinguished and Diverse: Celebrate the 2015 ALSC Honor Books, will spotlight 2015 Honor Book recipients for the Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Pura Belpré, Sibert and Geisel awards. The keynote speaker for the program is K.T. Horning, and there will be a panel facilitated by Judy Freeman.

The event will feature authors, illustrators and editors such as:

  • Cece Bell
  • Jacqueline Woodson
  • Lauren Castillo
  • Mary GrandPré
  • Candace Fleming
  • Yuyi Morales
  • Jillian Tamaki
  • Katherine Roy
  • John Parra
  • Patricia Hruby Powell
  • Mark Siegel
  • Christian Robinson,
  • Jon Klassen
  • Melissa Sweet

This is the first year that such a preconference will be held. The charge of the Awards Preconference Pilot Program Task Force is “to develop content and the program for a half-day preconference that will feature 2015 ALSC-only award honorees.” Based on the success of this year’s preconference, ALSC may or may not choose to hold similar events in connection with upcoming Annual Conferences. ALSC members receive a special discount (use code: ALSC2015) on registration.

The post Distinguished and Diverse: Celebrate the 2015 ALSC Honor Books appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. Up A Road Slowly (1966)

Up A Road Slowly. Irene Hunt. 1966. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

I loved, loved, loved Irene Hunt's Up A Road Slowly. Is it one of the best coming-of-age stories that I've read? Perhaps. At least one of the best I've read lately. I think out of all the Newbery books I've read this year (newly read as opposed to reread) this one would probably be my favorite and best. It reminded me--in a good way--of Good Morning, Miss Dove and Emily of New Moon.

Julie is the heroine of Up A Road Slowly. When we first meet Julie, she's a child: around seven years old. Her mom has just died, and her father is sending off his two youngest children to Aunt Cordelia. (The oldest, Laura, is in her final year of high school, I believe. Christopher is the brother.) How will Julie adapt to her move to the country? to her new house? to living with her aunt whom she barely knows? It isn't easy certainly. But truth be told, Julie would probably struggle some with her emotions no matter what.

So essentially, readers watch Julie grow from seven to seventeen (or eighteen) throughout the novel. Readers get to know Julie, Aunt Cordelia, and Uncle Haskell very, very well. One of my favorite things about the novel was it's characterization. Hunt did a great job at making her characters achingly human. Readers also get to know her classmates and friends. 

Did I have a favorite character? Of course. I loved Julie, I did. And I am really, really happy with whom she ended up with. It made me giddy in fact. But I think my favorite character may just be Aunt Cordelia herself.

Have you read Up A Road Slowly? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. I, Juan de Pareja (1965)

I, Juan de Pareja. Elizabeth Borton de Trevino. 1965/2008. Square Fish. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I, Juan de Pareja, was born into slavery early in the seventeenth century. I am not certain of the year.

I am so glad I read I, Juan de Pareja. The cover may not have said, read me, read me, but I found this historical novel to be quite compelling overall.
 
I, Juan de Paraja is set in Spain (and Italy) in the seventeenth century. Juan's master--for the most part--was Diego Velazquez, an artist. Both were real men. (Juan de Pareja) The first part of the novel introduces readers to Juan, and has him traveling to meet his new master after his former mistress' death. The rest of the novel spans several decades of his life and service. The focus is mainly on art--on painting portraits. Juan becomes quite interested in painting, and longs to be allowed to learn how to paint himself. (He's not allowed because he's a slave.) He observes and absorbs, waiting, perhaps for an opportunity to try for himself. Opportunity comes, and his secret life begins...

I found the book to be a quick read. I found it to be fascinating as well. I liked reading about both men, and I liked how focused it was on art. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Ginger Pye (1950)

Ginger Pye. Eleanor Estes. 1950. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 306 pages. [Source: library]

Ginger Pye is a book that I never would have read as a child. Why? Well, for the simple reason that there is a dog on the cover. Why risk reading a book if there's a chance that the dog could die? Safer to read other books perhaps. Is it for the better that I didn't read this one until I was an adult? Probably. Though I should add that Ginger Pye, the dog on the cover, does NOT die. The book would have been sad enough for me as a child.

As an adult there were quite a few things about the book that I enjoyed. Not that I loved, loved, loved it. Readers meet Rachel Pye and her brother Jerry. Jerry, we learn, really, really, REALLY wants to buy a puppy. He needs a dollar, and he needs it NOW. There is someone else who wants to buy "his" puppy, and, he'll need to hurry to get his pick. Fortunately, at just the right time, he's offered an opportunity to dust the church. What a relief! Rachel helps him clean, and they get there just in time it seems. They buy the dog, name him Ginger, and all is well...or is it?!

For they are not the only ones who think that Ginger is the best dog ever. Never forget that someone else wanted Ginger. (They do forget.)

The book is a bit of a mystery. They're not very good at detecting, however. Readers may guess a long time before they do. Still, this one has a happy enough ending. I am glad I read it.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Number the Stars (1989)

Number the Stars. Lois Lowry. 1989. (Won Newbery in 1990) 137 pages. [Source: Bought]

Number the Stars was probably one of the first fiction books I read about the Holocaust and World War II. (I know I also read The Hiding Place and The Diary of Anne Frank, but both of those are nonfiction.) What did I remember about Number the Stars after all these years? Well, I remembered that it was about a young girl who had a Jewish best friend. I remembered that the girl's family helped the friend and her family get out of Denmark. I remembered the intense scene where German soldiers come to her house looking for hidden Jews. But most of the details had faded away. So it was definitely time for me to reread.

Annemarie is the heroine of Number the Stars. I loved her. I loved her courage and loyalty. Ellen is Annemarie's best friend. I love that readers get an opportunity to see these two be friends before it gets INTENSE. I also love Annemarie's family. I do. I don't think I properly appreciated them as a child reader. One thing that resonated with me this time around was Annemarie's older sister, her place in the story. The setting. I think the book did a great job at showing what it could have been like to grow up in wartime with enemy soldiers all around. In some ways it was the little things that I loved best. For example, how Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti (Annemarie's little sister) play paper dolls together, how they act out stories, in this case they are acting out scenes from Gone with The Wind. I think all the little things help bring the story to life and make it feel authentic.

For a young audience, Number the Stars has a just-right approach. It is realistic enough to be fair to history. It is certainly sad in places. But it isn't dark and heavy and unbearable. The focus is on hope: there are men and women, boys and girls, who live by their beliefs and will do what is right at great risk even. Yes, there is evil in the world, but, there is also good.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Revisiting The Giver

The Giver. Lois Lowry. 1993. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages. [Source: Library]

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

My fifth "review" of Lois Lowry's The Giver. What more could I say that I haven't already said several times before? Feel free to read my reviews from 2007, 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Why did I reread The Giver this year? For two reasons. One. I watched the movie adaptation of The Giver. I watched the movie first, and, then started the book soon after. How do the two compare? What did I think of the movie? Well. The two certainly have a few differences. Jonas is much younger and even more innocent in the novel. But there was something about the movie that just worked really well. So I definitely didn't hate it! And I may have even loved it. I would never say I liked it "better" than the book. But on its own, it's a great movie. I loved many things about it. I loved how it was able to perfectly capture a few scenes from the book including the one where Jonas asks his parents if they love him. I also loved Jeff Bridges as The Giver! I love how both the book and the movie are thought-provoking.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Do you like the book or movie better? Is it ever fair to compare books and movies?

The second reason I reread The Giver is because I'm participating in the Birthday Month Reading Challenge. Lois Lowry's birthday is in March, so, it seemed a good fit for me! 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Nominate a Colleague for the 2016 ALSC Ballot

Do you have a colleague who is a well-organized and knowledgeable manager, a skilled and articulate book evaluator, or an intelligent and creative leader in the field of youth services? Do you recognize one or more of these qualities in yourself? We are looking for ALSC members committed to our core values — Collaboration, Excellence, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Integrity and Respect, Leadership, and Responsiveness — to serve our association. The 2015 ALSC poll will open soon for voting, and it’s time to start thinking about next year’s slate of candidates.

The members of the 2016 ALSC Nominating Committee encourage you to make recommendations for the following positions for the spring 2016 ballot:

  • ALSC Vice-President/President-Elect
  • ALSC Board Director
  • New to ALSC Board Director
  • ALSC Fiscal Officer
  • ALSC 2018 Caldecott Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Newbery Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Sibert Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Wilder Award Committee Member

The deadline for member nominations for the 2016 slate is Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Simply fill out the online suggestion form at:

Suggestion Form for 2016 ALSC Ballot 

We appreciate your assistance, and look forward to hearing from you.

The post Nominate a Colleague for the 2016 ALSC Ballot appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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10. Invincible Louisa (1933)

Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women. Cornelia Meigs. 1933/1995. Little, Brown. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

My mom has wanted me to read Invincible Louisa for years. I finally did, and I enjoyed it. Did I love it? Probably not LOVE. But I certainly appreciated it and found it pleasant enough.

Invincible Louisa is a biography of Louisa May Alcott written for children. It reads much like a novel. There is plenty of dialogue; there is plenty of emotion and description. It covers her whole life--from birth to death. Though not equal attention is given to every year, of course!!! Much of the focus is on the whole Alcott family.

Probably half the book focuses on Louisa Alcott "becoming" a writer: how she came to write stories, sketches, poems, novels, etc., how she came to be published, how her works were received by critics and the public. But the book focuses much on her character. (It's not a word you hear a lot about now perhaps. But her values, beliefs, and principles.) So, yes, the book is about her being a writer, but, it is just as much about her being a daughter and sister.

Would I have appreciated Little Women more if I'd read Invincible Louisa as a child? Perhaps. The two books would definitely complement one another.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze (1932)

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. illustrated by William Low. 1932/2008. Square Fish. 302 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Young Fu stood on the narrow curbing before Dai's two-storied tenement in Chair-Maker's Way, Chungking, and stared about him. In the doorway, Fu Be Be, his mother, directed load-coolies in placing the household goods which she had brought from home, and anxiously examined each article as it passed before her. 

After his father dies, Young Fu and his mother move to the city of Chungking. Young Fu is eager to begin his work as an apprentice to a coppersmith, Tang. He's grateful for the opportunity. And more fortunate still that it isn't his only opportunity for learning, for their new upstairs neighbor is willing to teach him to read and write.

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze is a coming-of-age novel. The book follows him from the age of thirteen to eighteen, I believe. I would say the book is about his adventures and misadventures growing up, but, I'm not sure adventures is the right word. It captures his experiences growing up in China in the 1920s. Sometimes the experiences are memorable for all the right reasons. Sometimes not. He makes mistakes, he does. But he acknowledges his mistakes, seeks to make restoration, and grows wiser--or at least a little wiser.

I definitely enjoyed this one. I found it interesting. The chapters were long, in my opinion, but ultimately worth it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Thimble Summer (1938)

Thimble Summer. Elizabeth Enright. 1938/2008. SquareFish. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Garnet thought this must be the hottest day that had ever been in the world. Every day for weeks she had thought the same thing, but this was really the worst of all. 

Thimble Summer won the Newbery in 1939. Thimble Summer is about the 'magical' summer Garnet Linden (the heroine) experiences after finding a silver thimble in a dried up riverbed. (The book opens with a drought. It is hot, hot, hot, and rain is much needed.)

Thimble Summer celebrates life and family. I loved it.

In the first chapter, readers meet Garnet, her family, and her best friend. This is the chapter where she finds the thimble that "changes" everything. (She certainly believes it changes her luck).
In the second chapter, Garnet and her best friend, Citronella, visit Citronella's great-grandmother and hear a story about when she was very naughty. (I loved this bit!) The third and fourth chapters go together. The family is building a new barn, and a lime kiln is needed. During their time watching the kiln, a stranger is introduced to the family, a young boy named Eric. After listening to his story, well, the family just has to 'keep' him. In the fifth chapter, Citronella and Garnet accidentally get locked-in at the library. Chapters six and seven are about when Garnet runs away from home to the 'big' city for a day. Chapters eight and nine are about the fair--and all the fun to be had. Her pig also won a blue ribbon.  Chapter ten is Garnet reflecting at how WONDERFUL the summer has been, and how much she loves life just as it is.

I loved this one. I loved Garnet. I loved her family. I loved getting to know Jay, her older brother, and Eric, her new 'adopted' brother. (She has more brothers. But they are all younger, and, Garnet hardly has much to do with them.) I loved her adventures with or without Citronella! It's just a satisfying read from cover to cover.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. ALA Awards 2015: Horn Book reviews of the winners

santat_adventures of beekle  alexander_crossover
The most prestigious honors in children’s literature, the Newbery and Caldecott medals, were awarded to Kwame Alexander and Dan Santat on February 2, 2015, at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting in Chicago. Also announced at the gathering were the winners of the Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, Michael L. Printz, Robert F. Sibert, and Mildred L. Batchelder awards and several other major honors. Follow the links below for more information about all the winning titles, including in many cases their reviews in The Horn Book Magazine or The Horn Book Guide.

Newbery Medal
Caldecott Medal
Belpré Award (Author and Illustrator)
Coretta Scott King Awards (Author and Illustrator)
Printz Award
Sibert Award
Batchelder Award

Additional ALA awards
Alex, Arbuthnot, Carnegie, Edwards, Geisel, Hamilton, Morris, Odyssey, Schneider, Steptoe, Stonewall, and YALSA Nonfiction awards

Best Fiction for Young Adults list

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14. Reviews of the 2015 Newbery Award winners

Winner:

alexander_crossoverThe Crossover
by Kwame Alexander
Intermediate, Middle School   Houghton   235 pp.
3/14   978-0-544-10771-7   $16.99   g

Josh and Jordan (JB), identical twin sons of former basketball phenom Chuck “Da Man” Bell, are ball legends themselves, and they aren’t yet thirteen; Josh is the only middle schooler around who can dunk, JB has a mean three-point shot, and together they’re a well-oiled machine on the court. But then things start to change, as they tend to do at their age: JB gets a girlfriend, and before Josh knows it, their relationship is strained to the point of a mid-game altercation that lands him benched for weeks. On top of that, their mother frets constantly over Dad’s poor health, and the boys begin to worry, too. Josh’s first-person verse narration is a combination of exciting play-by-play game details, insightful middle-school observations, and poignant meditations on sibling dynamics and familial love. Since poet Alexander has the swagger and cool confidence of a star player and the finesse of a perfectly in-control ball-handler, wordplay and alliteration roll out like hip-hop lyrics, and the use of concrete forms and playful font changes keep things dynamic: “SWOOP in / to the finish with a fierce finger roll… / Straight in the hole: / Swoooooooooooosh.” Alexander brings the novel-in-verse format to a fresh audience with this massively appealing package for reluctant readers, athletes especially. KATRINA HEDEEN

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor books:

eldeafostar2 El Deafo
by Cece Bell; illus. by the author; 
color by David Lasky
Intermediate, Middle School Amulet/Abrams 242 pp.
9/14 978-1-4197-1020-9 $21.95
Paper ed. 978-1-4197-1217-3 $10.95

At the age of four, in 1975, Bell contracted meningitis, leaving her severely to profoundly deaf. In this characterful, vivid, often amusing graphic-novel memoir she recaptures the experiences of her childhood — adapting to deafness, to others’ attitudes toward it, and to the technology of the Phonic Ear, a cumbersome assistive device. At the heart of her story is an experience relevant to most children: the finding of the “True Friend,” a falling out, and a reunion. Bell combines great humor and charm (her characters are all anthropomorphized bunnies) with emotional complexity and seriousness; her depiction of Cece’s valiant struggles with loneliness, irritation, and embarrassment at the way people treat her is moving, utterly convincing, and authentic — never “poor bunny.” Her forthright humor works especially well in conveying the practicalities of Cece’s mode of communication: “I sure can’t lip-read a butt!” she says, looking at a speaker’s back. This memoir is thus exceptionally informative and entertaining in relation to some aspects of deaf communication, but, most centrally and powerfully, it is exceptional for its perceptive, indomitable protagonist and complex story of friendship, growth, and classroom and family dynamics. DEIRDRE F. BAKER

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

woodson_brown girl dreamingstar2 Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Intermediate, Middle School Paulsen/Penguin
328 pp. 8/14 978-0-399-25251-8 $16.99 g

Here is a memoir-in-verse so immediate that readers will feel they are experiencing the author’s childhood right along with her. It starts out somewhat slowly, with Woodson relying on others’ memories to relate her (1963) birth and infancy in Ohio, but that just serves to underscore the vividness of the material once she begins to share her own memories; once her family arrives in Greenville, South Carolina, where they live with her maternal grandparents. Woodson describes a South where the whites-only signs may have been removed but where her grandmother still can’t get waited on in Woolworth’s, where young people are sitting at lunch counters and standing up for civil rights; and Woodson expertly weaves that history into her own. However, we see young Jackie grow up not just in historical context but also — and equally — in the context of extended family, community (Greenville and, later, Brooklyn), and religion (she was raised Jehovah’s Witness). Most notably of all, perhaps, we trace her development as a nascent writer, from her early, overarching love of stories through her struggles to learn to read through the thrill of her first blank composition book to her realization that “words are [her] brilliance.” The poetry here sings: specific, lyrical, and full of imagery: “So the first time my mother goes to New York City / we don’t know to be sad, the weight / of our grandparents’ love like a blanket / with us beneath it, / safe and warm.” An extraordinary — indeed brilliant — portrait of a writer as a young girl. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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15. YMA Favorites

When you’re reading this, a lot of us will be heading or preparing to head to Chicago for ALA Midwinter. There are many things to be excited about during Midwinter–meetings, exhibits, seeing friends.

But not a lot actually meets the level of excitement, that the Youth Media Awards. This will be my first YMAs in person! I’m so jazzed. So I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on my favorite winners of past YMAs. Honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about this, but I’ll just do a quick overview because y’all are packing or flying.  My very favorites of the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Printz Award Winners:

I know this is everyone’s favorite, but it’s totally mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It won the 1963 Caldecott award. This book was written over 20 years before I was born, but I adored it as a child. I remember asking my mom to read it to me over and over and over again. And it holds up. I use this one in storytimes often, and I’m lucky enough to live near the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi and have seen some of the original art. It’s as gorgeous as you think it is.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konisburg won the Newbery Medal in 1997. This is one that I was wild about as a child. I was 9 years old when this book came out, and I was part of a program in my school that was similar to the Academic Bowl Team. Well, not entirely similar. But it felt similar. My fourth-grade self resonated with this one DEEPLY. I actually have not read this one as an adult. A part of me is terrified that it won’t hold up. But it will, right? Because Konigsburg? This is the first time in my life I remember being aware that the Newbery medal is something that was actually awarded, and that the seal didn’t just magically appear on books in my school library. I remember my school librarian telling us that this book had won and being very excited because I had read it and loved it so much. Maybe it’s time for a reread?

 

The Printz Award is a little different. It’s a much newer award. The first Printz was awarded in 2000. I wasn’t really aware of the existence of the Printz until college library school, but I quickly became obsessed. I actually wrote my master’s project on the Printz. In doing so, I read many Printz and Printz Honor titles. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, the 2009 winner, is my favorite, and continues to be my favorite Young Adult title of all time. I understand that my approach to this book was different. I was an adult the first time I read it, upon the recommendation of a colleague at my library, unlike the other two titles, which I came to as a child. But this book, like the other two, changed me and stayed with me. Marchetta is now one of my favorite authors. I’m fond of telling friends that if she wrote ingredients lists on the side of cereal boxes, I’d have them shipped over from Australia to read.

That’s the thing I love about award winners, and all books. Remember this when you’re putting award seals on books next week and when you’re teaching classes about the Caldecott and Newbery and when you’re excitedly handing your tweens and teens the Printz Honor book you’ll know they love: these are the books that will stay with them forever. And we get to be a tiny part of that.

*
Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with kids ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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16. Giveaway winner... and some Newbery love

First, I have a winner to announce...

According to randomizer, the winner of the signed hardcover of The Inquisitor's Mark (The Eighth Day Book 2) by Dianne K. Salerni is...



JESS HAIGHT


Congratulations, Jess! Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address. I'll be attending Dianne's book launch this Saturday, January 31st and will buy your copy then.



_______________________________________________________________

Now for some Newbery talk in honor of the 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards, which will be announced one week from today, at 8 am Central Time on Monday February 2nd. 


Back in October, I mentioned in this post that I had read 60 Newbery medal winners. (Here's a link to the Buzzfeed Newbery test if you haven't taken it).

Well, I'm happy to report that I can update that total once again. Thanks to my local library, I've now read 67. I believe Ms. Yingling has read all 93 of them (Congrats, Karen!), though I don't know how she did it, because some of those older books are, um, a bit slow (I tried to read Hitty, The First 100 Years. I really did. I think the cramped font put me off too).

Here's a brief look at some favorites from the seven Newbery medal winners I read in the last few months, all highly recommended:





Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum, 2004, for ages 10 and up, winner of the 2005 Newbery Medal)

Katie Takeshima's big sister, Lynn, makes everything seem kira-kira, or glittering, shining. It's the 1950s and the family moves from Iowa to rural Georgia, where Katie's parents work long hours in a poultry plant and hatchery. This isn't so much a book about prejudice (although that's a big part of it) as it is a haunting and achingly beautiful look at how the death of a loved one tears apart an entire family. It's up to Katie to remind her family there is still kira-kira in the future.




I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965, for ages 10 and up, winner of the 1966 Newbery Medal)

I'd always put off reading this because I was afraid it would be dry and boring. I was wrong. Told in first person, this novel is based on the life of the painter Velasquez and his slave, Juan de Pareja, who became a respected artist in his own right. In seventeenth-century Spain it was forbidden for slaves to practice the arts, so Juan resorts to stealing colors and painting in secret, despite knowing he could be killed for it. A great novel about the injustice of slavery. I also loved the richness of the writing, with a tapestry of colorful details that brought Juan's world vividly to life.




Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum, 1991, ages 8 to 12, winner of the 1992 Newbery Medal) 

According to Wikipedia, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor completed the first draft of this novel in a mere eight weeks! Yet it's become a modern classic. Published in 1991 and set in West Virginia, this touching story of Marty and the dog he rescues must be one of the first MG books to talk about animal abuse (unless you can think of another?). And don't worry, it has a happy ending.  


What book do you hope will win this year's Newbery medal?

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is getting a lot of Newbery buzz, so I won't be at all surprised if it wins. I've only predicted the gold correctly one time (the year When You Reach Me won). Maybe I'd have better luck trying to predict honor books. This year, I'm hoping the Newbery committee gives some love to Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera, The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer, and El Deafo by Cece Bell. 



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17. Revisiting The Trumpeter of Krakow (1928)

The Trumpeter of Krakow. Eric P. Kelly. 1928. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

It was in late July of the year 1461 that the sun rose one morning red and fiery as if ushering in midsummer's hottest day. His rays fell upon the old city of Krakow and the roads leading up to it, along which rolled and rocked a very caravan of peasants' wagons. 

In the summer of 2011, I read and reviewed Eric P. Kelly's The Trumpeter of Krakow. I remember really enjoying it though I found it plot-driven instead of character driven. Because I had good memories of reading it, I thought I would reread it for Hope Is the Word's Newbery Through the Decades. Unfortunately, I didn't end up enjoying it as much as I did the first time.

I'm not sure if this was because I wasn't in the right mood for this one. Or if it was because since I knew how it ended there just wasn't enough to keep me reading.

The first time I read it: action, mystery, suspense, what will happen next?!

The second time I read it: this is boring, so boring, when will I get to the good part?

I was surprised by my own reaction this time since in my review, I wrote "There is never a dull moment in The Trumpeter of Krakow" and "The novel is exciting."
 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Reread #49 Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux. Kate DiCamillo. 2003. Candlewick Press. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

There are so few rereads left in the year, yet, I couldn't miss rereading Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux. (I first reviewed this one in September 2007). I've also made a point of rereading Because of Winn Dixie and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

I tend to like talking-mice books. I tend to like animal fantasy when it's well done. And in The Tale of Despereaux it is very well done. DiCamillo is a GREAT author. She is. She has a way with words, with phrasing things just so that happens to appeal to me. She's a good, solid storyteller. Her characters are always unique and memorable. That is definitely the case with The Tale of Despereaux.

Do you have a favorite Kate DiCamillo book?

Quotes:
“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”
“There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman. Such was the fate of Chiaroscuro. His heart was broken. Picking up the spoon and placing it on his head, speaking of revenge, these things helped him to put his heart together again. But it was, alas, put together wrong.”
“Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.”
“Once upon a time," he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.”
“Despereaux looked at his father, at his grey-streaked fur and trembling whiskers and his front paws clasped together in front of his heart, and he felt suddenly as if his own heart would break in two. His father looked so small, so sad.
"Forgive me," said Lester again.
Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love - a powerful, wonderful thing.
And a ridiculous thing, too.
Isn't it ridiculous, after all, to think that a son could forgive his father for beating the drum that sent him to his death? Isn't it ridiculous to think that a mouse ever could forgive anyone for such perfidy?
But still, here are the words Despereaux Tilling spoke to his father. He said, "I forgive you, Pa."
And he said those words because he sensed it was the only way to save his own heart, to stop it from breaking in two. Despereaux, reader, spoke those words to save himself.”

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Reread #16: A Year Down Yonder

A Year Down Yonder. Richard Peck. 2000. Penguin. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved A Year Down Yonder so much more than Richard Peck's A Long Way From Chicago. And I definitely enjoyed A Long Way From Chicago! While A Long Way From Chicago was told from Joey's point of view, A Year Down Yonder is told from Mary Alice's point of view. Because of the Depression, Mary Alice has been sent by her parents to live with Grandma Dowdel. Mary Alice has spent more than a few summers with her Grandma, alongside her brother, but this time she'll be there all year long, and without her brother.

While A Long Way From Chicago is fun, in many ways, it is a bit disjointed as well. Each chapter tells the story of a summer vacation. In A Year Down Yonder, the plot is more traditional. The book follows the course of an entire year. Readers get a better chance to KNOW the characters, to appreciate the characters and the small town setting. And Mary Alice is a great narrator!!! I loved her story. My favorite chapters were "Rich Chicago Girl," "Vittles and Vengeance," "Heart and Flour," and "A Dangerous Man." I loved the slight traces of romance. 


I would definitely recommend both A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. Both books do stand alone, but, they do go together well.

I first reviewed A Year Down Yonder in May 2008.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. 2014 ALSC Election Results

Many thanks to all of the candidates who ran for division office this year. These folks put their time and talents up for the division and we thank them. Here are the results from the 2014 ALSC Elections:

Vice President/President-elect

Andrew Medlar

Board of Director

Doris Gebel
Julie Roach
Kay Weisman

2016 Caldecott Committee

Lauren, Anduri
Alan Bailey
Brian Fahey
Jill Bellomy
Karen MacPherson
Sarah Bean Thompson
Tess Prendergast
Tessa Michaelson-Schmidt

2016 Newbery Committee

Allie Jane Bruce
Cheryl Lee
Christine Scheper
Destinee Sutton
Eric Barbus
Joanna Ward
Shawn Brommer
Ty Burns

2016 Sibert Committee

Alan Bern
Eric Gomez
Grace Ruth
Nick Glass
Susan Lempke

2017 Wilder Committee

Maria Gentle
Carolyn Phelan
Kathleen Isaacs

To learn more about ALA’s election results, please visit the ALA Election Information page.

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21. Experience the Book & Media Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches (image courtesy ALSC)

The 2014 ALSC book and media award acceptance speeches evoked plenty of emotion. Some were funny and warm. Some were emotional and informative. You can read them yourself on the ALSC website! Download a copy of the PDF of each of the speeches:

You can also watch reaction videos from the 2014 ALA Youth Media Award winnersVideos of the award speech presentations and inspiration videos that concluded the banquet will be posted soon.

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22. Reread #34 Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust. Karen Hesse. 1997. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first reviewed Out of the Dust in March 2008. Out of the Dust is a historical verse novel that I likely would have avoided at all costs as a kid. It is set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and Depression.

Billie Jo is our piano-playing heroine. Life was hard enough for Billie Jo and her family BEFORE the tragic accident. Multiple crop failures in a row. Worry and doubt weighing down whole communities, and, not without cause. But after the accident, things are even worse.

Added to despair and doubt is anger and bitterness and regret. Billie Jo doesn't know how to talk to her father anymore. She doesn't know how to be in the same house with him. Things are just off between them. Both are suffering souls. Both have needs that aren't being met. Both need time to heal at the very least.

The novel spans two years, 1934 and 1935. These two years are very hard emotionally for almost all the characters. Out of the Dust is a great coming-of-age novel. I think I liked it even more the second time.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Thoughts on Newbery: Flaws, Fatal or Not?

Heavy Medal has started up again and some fascinating conversations are well underway.  One aspect of the conversation that has struck me is the idea of flawness (my made-up word). That is, are all books perfect? And if not, how do we grapple with perceived flaws? Can we reach consensus on the degree of their significance?

This came to mind when in her Heavy Medal post on Deborah Wiles’ Revolution, Nina noted that “There is a fatal flaw that I find in REVOLUTION, and that is that Raymond is not as fully realized a character as Sunny, not by a very long shot.” She goes on to thoughtfully articulate why she thinks this and others of us have been discussing this concern in the comments. Now I adore Revolution (you can read my review here) , but had noticed that Wiles has been able to write Sunny through her own personal experience while she couldn’t with Raymond resulting in a more cautious presentation. If I were on the Newbery committee this is something I’d want to explore long and hard. I’d pester a huge range of people, those with different racial and regional backgrounds and historical experiences, to read the book and tell me what they think. I’d have to stand back from my first love of the book to honestly attempt to figure out if this is a flaw and if it isn’t, why not. And if it is, is it fatal? How would I argue that it was or was not when in my deliberations with the Committee?

Then there is Jonathan’s post on A Snicket of Magic which has generated a fabulous conversation about vernacular, about so-called folky literature. By attempting to categorize a collection of titles as being this, Jonathan provoked a wonderful series of comments. For some, I know, a certain sort of voice and heroine are tough going. So when you are on the committee, how do you keep a personal distaste from turning into a fatal flaw?

Thinking about this fatal flaw business made me go to my goodreads Newbery list and add a few more personal favorites, some of which also have flaws…er…blemishes…er..imperfections… (Roget, I need you!)… I’m wondering about. As a result, I’ve now got ten books there, three more than I’d be able to nominate if I were on the committee.  I’ve added Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover as I thought it fabulous –except for the ending.  And I’ve added Cece Bell’s El Deafo even though I have no clue how to make a case for it as it is a graphic novel.  Similarly I’ve added Patricia Hruby Powell’s picture biography, Josephine, although I haven’t figured out how interlaced the text is with the art.  This review of Dana Alison Levy’s The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher got me to add it on as well as I’d love it and just needed Rachel’s push to get me to acknowledge that it belonged on my long list. Does it have a fatal flaw? Not so noticeably that I can figure out.  Finally, I added Jack Gantos’ series finale, The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza. While I don’t think it is flawed, I’m sure there will be some absolutely horrified by Joey’s circumstances as they were with the previous books.

Fatal. Flaws. Fascinating.

 


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24. Watch for it: DASH


 
Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home – or her beloved dog, Dash when she’s forced to move to an incarceration camp.

Kirby Larson  swings by readergirlz to chat with Janet Lee Carey  about her new middle-grade novel, DASH.

 

 
JLC - Welcome Kirby. Congratulations on your new historical fiction book and on the 2014 National Parenting Publications Gold Award (NAPPA) for DASH!

KL –  Thanks, Janet! It’s an honor to visit with you. And I am so delighted about the NAPPA award, as well as the two starred reviews, for my new book.

JLC - Tell us what inspired you to write Dash.

KL – I grew up on the West Coast and did not learn about the “evacuation” of 120,000 people of Japanese descent – most of them American citizens – during WWII until I was in college. I was shocked that something of that magnitude could have been omitted from my education. So I began to try to learn as much as I could about it; when I became a writer, I wanted to tell stories from that time period in hopes that no other child would grow up in ignorance about that shameful slice of history. One of the texts I read, Strawberry Days by Dave Niewert, had a short snippet of an interview with a woman named Mitsue Shiraishi, who told about being so heartbroken at the thought of having to leave her dog behind during the “evacuation” that she wrote to the man in charge, General John DeWitt, asking for permission to take her beloved Chubby to camp. He said “no,” so now Mitsi had a few days to find a home for Chubby; fortunately, a kind neighbor, Mrs. Charles Bovee, agreed to take him in.
 
Mrs. Charles knew how much Mitsi loved her dog so she kept a diary, in Chubby’s voice, of his first weeks in the Bovee household, and then mailed it to Mitsi at camp. Mitsi died as a very old woman and when her family was cleaning out her apartment, they found that diary in her nightstand. I was struck by the fact that of all the horrible things that had happened to Mitsi, the thing she held onto was a symbol of kindness and compassion. That heart hook into the story, plus the fact that I am madly in love with my own dog and couldn’t imagine having to leave him behind, lead me to write Dash.

JLC – Would you tell us a bit about your research, and give us a peek into your writing process?

KL – Do you have all day? ;-) As a researcher, I leave no stone unturned. For example, when I read that snippet about Mitsi in Mr. Niewert’s book, I began to reach out to everyone I knew in the Japanese American community to see if I could find Mitsi’s family. I did and they generously provided me with stories, photographs, and other ephemera to help me understand what Mitsi went through. I listen to music of the time period I’m researching, dig up recipes, put together outfits my characters might have worn (Pinterest is great for this!), and even scour second hand stores and eBay for old journals, letters and diaries to give me insights into the past. What I work hardest to find are primary resources – they are essential for helping me conjure up those delicious details that bring the past to life.

As for my writing process, it is a huge mess! I just jump in and start writing – no outline. No plan. What I do first, however, is get to know my character as thoroughly as possible. My work is very character driven.

JLC – The Kirkus starred review says: “Mitsi holds tight to her dream of the end of the war and her reunion with Dash. Larson makes this terrible event in American history personal with the story of one girl and her beloved pet.”
Would you share the secret of writing historical fiction in a way that makes it personal and real for young readers?

KL – I’m so flattered by this lovely review. I wish I knew the secret! What I do know is that if I don’t do my homework – really get myself grounded in a past time and place—I would never stand a chance of making history personal.

JLC – #WeNeedDiverseBooks is an important and long-awaited topic in the book world right now. Thoughts?

KL-   I am thrilled this conversation is taking place. Children need to see themselves – deserve to see themselves! -- in literature of all kinds. I do have a worry, however, that “diversity” could come to mean only ethnicity. It would be a shame to set such limits.

I’ve said this elsewhere: as a kid who grew up wearing hand me downs and sometimes finding the kitchen cupboards completely bare, I would have died and gone to heaven had I found books like Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog or Janet Lee Carey’s The Double Life of Zoe Flynn, in which the main character is homeless. I hope and pray this #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign leads to an even richer and broader range of the kinds of kid characters and stories we’ll see in children’s and young adult literature.

JLC— What would you like readers to take away from this book?

KL – I want readers to take away their own meaning from all of my books. But if Dash made readers stop and think about what it means to be a decent human being, I wouldn’t mind that one bit.

By Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 10/2014


 

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25. Three Newbery winners

Recently, I've been trying to catch up on my Newbery reading. Having taken this test for fun, I was surprised to learn I'd only read 57 out of 93 of the medal winners (I've read far more of the honor books).

So I hustled down to my local second-hand book shop and bought what they had. Now my total's up to 60. Not bad, but nowhere near a perfect score. Naturally, I've read more of the recent winners, plus the ones from my childhood, but not as many from the decades before 1960. Still working on that.





Sounder by William H. Armstrong (originally published by HarperCollins in 1969; this paperback released 1972)

Newbery Medal Winner 1970

Synopsis (from HarperCollins)During the difficult years of the late nineteenth century South, an African-American boy and his poor family rarely have enough to eat. Each night, the boy's father takes their dog, Sounder, out to look for food and the man grows more desperate by the day. When food suddenly appears on the table one morning, it seems like a blessing. But the sheriff and his deputies are not far behind. The ever-loyal Sounder remains determined to help the family he loves as hard times bear down on them.

Why I recommend it: The writing has a lyrical and timeless quality, helped I'm sure by the simplicity of calling the characters "the  boy" and "his father" and "his mother". The only character with a name in the entire story is the dog, Sounder. 







Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (hardcover published in 1964 by Atheneum; this paperback edition from Aladdin, 2007)


Newbery Medal Winner 1965


Synopsis (from Indiebound)Manolo was only three when his father, the great bullfighter Juan Olivar, died. But Juan is never far from Manolo's consciousness -- how could he be, with the entire town of Arcangel waiting for the day Manolo will fulfill his father's legacy?


But Manolo has a secret he dares to share with no one -- he is a coward, without afición, the love of the sport that enables a bullfighter to rise above his fear and face a raging bull. As the day when he must enter the ring approaches, Manolo finds himself questioning which requires more courage: to follow in his father's legendary footsteps or to pursue his own destiny?

Why I recommend it: Despite the dated subject matter, this is a quiet and inspiring little book about courage and facing one's fear. I totally fell in love with Manolo as a character. 






The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (hardcover published in 1973 by Bradbury Press; this paperback edition published 2008 by Aladdin)

Newbery Medal Winner 1974

Synopsis (from Indiebound)One day, thirteen-year-old Jessie Bollier is earning pennies playing his fife on the docks of New Orleans; the next, he is kidnapped and thrown aboard a slave ship, where his job is to provide music while shackled slaves "dance" to keep their muscles strong and their bodies profitable. As the endless voyage continues, Jessie grows increasingly sickened by the greed, brutality, and inhumanity of the slave trade, but nothing prepares him for the ultimate horror he will witness before his nightmare ends -- a horror that will change his life forever.

Why I recommend it: I thought I knew a lot about slavery in the U.S., but then I read The Slave Dancer and learned a lot more. This book would be excellent for starting classroom discussions.

How many Newbery medal winners have you read?




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