Thursday, January 7, 2016

Newbery hopefuls

I've finally had a chance to double back and look at some of the lists people have been generating for other book awards.  Reading for CYBILS was awesome and I hope I get a chance to do it again next year.  I was a little surprised that this title didn't make it onto our middle grade fiction list.  It's been coming up as a short list possibility for the Newbery and I can see why.  It's called "Full Cicada Moon" by Marilyn Hilton.  It's written in free verse, which makes you think of previous year's great books "Brown Girl Dreaming" by Jacqueline Woodson or "In and Out and Back Again" by Thanhha Lai.  This one also has a terrifically interesting storyteller-Mimi.  Mimi's mom is Japanese and her dad is African American and so Mimi is herself and not like everyone else.  People are constantly asking her, especially since her family just moved to Vermont from Berkley, CA and in 1969, being bi-racial was a pretty big deal.  Mimi misses her cousins and her friends but she wants to learn new things and build things and become an astronaut.  It's nice to see how Mimi moves into the town and expects to be treated with respect and how she deals with that when it doesn't happen.  It's also very interesting to watch how her parents try to guide her and how that looks really different because each parent comes from a very different cultural background.  I really loved her voice and I loved the choices she made.  I'm not sure that kids will love this one as much (it was sort of slow at the beginning and because the words are so widely spaced, it looks like a bigger book than it really is) but it's definitely a worthy choice.

The second one is called "The Marvels" by Brian Selznick.  You might remember him as the author who brought us Hugo Cabret.  This book looks scary.  It's a brick.  It's almost 700 pages long.  But probably the first half of the book is entirely pictures.  The pictures are black and white pencil drawings (much like Hugo) and they are beautiful and detailed and tell a story in a way that words couldn't possibly touch.  The story is interesting and a bit confusing and doubles back on itself in a completely charming and interesting way.  I don't think I dare tell you anything about it for fear of spoiling the plot, but I really liked it a lot.  I'm not sure if it's really Newbery material (of course, I'm always wrong) and I'm not sure I'll buy it for my elementary school library but it's gorgeous and thought provoking and awesome and stretches the boundaries of what we consider to be great storytelling.  Here's the book trailer, which will give you a better idea of the art work as well as the plot.

The last one is a non-fiction book.  It's been nominated for the National Book Award so lots of people are paying attention to this one.  It's called "Most Dangerous" by Steven Sheinkin.  It's about the career of Daniel Ellsberg, who worked in the Pentagon and for other government agencies in the 1960s and 70s.  He helped to formulate policy on the Vietnam War and was then instrumental in releasing the Pentagon Papers, which detailed how key administrators showed that they understood that the Vietnam War was essentially not a winnable war and continued sending troops there and dropping bombs.  Sheinkin has a strong, clear voice that makes it easy to understand the narrative thread of the story, while carefully explaining the details.  This story is so tightly wound that it was really hard to put down.  I think this one is going to be great in high schools (it's way too big for my elementary school students) and I think it will be great to compare this book with some of the events that are still unfolding with people today (like Edward Snowden) who also believe that the American people have the right to know what the government is doing.  It certainly raised a lot of those issues with me.  I thought it was terrific.  

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