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Archive for the ‘Newbery’ Category

Title: A Gathering of Days

Author: Joan Blos

Newbery 1980

A very interesting slice-of-life look at New England in the 1830s.  Even though it was written in the 1970s, it is pretty historically accurate (to my untutored mind at least) – dealing with distances, snow, and the isolation of a community in New Hampshire.  The characters are believable, and the story is wonderfully understated.  While there are major events in this book, they happen in and among normal and small events – just like real life.  The book covers somewhat less than two years, and you are left wanting to know more about this girl’s life after the diary ends.

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Title: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices

Author: Paul Fleischman

Newbery 1989

Having got it out of the library originally, I actually went and bought a copy of this book.  I love it!  The concept of poems written to be read by two people simultaneously is really cool, the poems are so much fun to read aloud, and the illustrations are beautiful – anthropomorphized insects that manage to be still buggy and not too cute.  Some of the poems are quite a challenge to read aloud – you need good rhythm, some practice, and a sense of humor.  He did two other books of poems for two voices, and I want them, too.

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Title: The Slave Dancer

Author: Paula Fox

Newbery 1974

What an absolutely brutal book.  I rarely unrecommend books, but this one I can’t, in good conscience, suggest that anyone read.  While brutality is not necessarily a bad thing in a book about illegal slave trade in the late 1800s, it seemed like it was horrific with very little information or redeeming value given in return.  If you want to know more about that time period, read something like Roots, watch Amistad, read just about anything else.  I am guessing there are some more recent books that show the reality of the time more accurately with less unnecessary horror.

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HittyTitle: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Author: Rachel Field

Illustrator: Dorothy Lathrop

Newbery 1930

Ah, books of a certain era – I recommend this one with a ‘but…’ similar to Dr. Dolittle – there is rampant American/European superiority throughout this book, which is not surprising, but needs to be addressed nonetheless.  Hitty is an engaging character, and her story is also a nice gloss over American history from the early 1800s to early 1900s.  The conceit of a doll who is able to control her limbs enough to write is nice – as a child, you always suspect that your toys are able to do things when you’re not looking.  A sweet, if odd, story.

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21 BalloonsTitle: The Twenty-One Balloons

Author: William Pène du Bois

Newbery 1948

I ended this book with a very large question mark over my head.  It made very little sense, and was not even a good enough ‘rollicking adventure’ to make its nonsensical nature okay.  An American ex-pat community on Krakatoa is based on a socialist restaurant system whose premier technology is hydrogen balloons and steam engines?  This community is saved from the eruption via balloon?  You see my problem.  If you like imagined cultural systems with strange provenances, read The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder – his is pretty strange, but a lot more fun and a lot better thought out.

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doorinthewallTitle: The Door in the Wall

Author/Illustrator: Marguerite de Angeli

Newbery 1950

This is a sweet story, but doesn’t have very much meat to it.  It follows a sort of classic ‘disabled people have something to contribute to society’ format, with the slight twist that it takes place in the Middle Ages.  However, I don’t get the sense that the author did very much research before placing her story in that time period – there are details that don’t ring true with better-researched books I’ve read.  The ambient religiosity may be uncomfortable for some readers, though it is historically accurate.  There are better historical fiction books with more accurate representations of this time.

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Higher Power of LuckyTitle: The Higher Power of Lucky

Author: Susan Patron

Illustrator: Matt Phelan

Newbery 2007

This book is significantly more heartbreaking to read as an adult than it would be as a child.  Lucky’s fears are those of a ten-year-old – an orphan in uncertain circumstances, but a child nonetheless.  To an adult, her clear poverty, abandonment, and other hard times are well-written and therefore hard to read.  I recommend this book, but with caution for some children, because losing one’s parents is one of the largest fears out there.  On the other hand, the life of her tiny town and the beauty of the desert around her is woven with care and gentleness.

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