Here’s something to chew on in your spare time. It has occurred to me that now that the year is half over, we should step back and take a look at the books we’ve seen thus far. This is the perfect time to find out what everyone else is reading so that you can hone your To Be Read shelf accordingly. Predicting the Newbery and Caldecott Awards is an impossible affair. Once in a while you get lucky, but there’s a reason bookies don’t take odds on children’s literary winners. Still, I think I have some thoughts as to who I would like the front runners to be. Feel free to throw in your own opinions as well. I’d love to hear what you guys think of as serious contenders. Without any inside knowledge, voila.
The only book that’s raised enough buzz thus far has got to be the Peter Sis title The Wall. I’ve got it at home right now, ripe for review. Other than that, though, I’m a little stumped. What else is out there? The only thing that comes to mind is the Alice Walker book Why War is Never a Good Idea, which I haven’t had a chance to go over here yet. A little help? I’ve many more suggestions in terms of the Newbery.
1. The Baptism by Shelia P. Moses – You needn’t read the two books that preceed this book in the series by Moses. Just know that the author’s writing is crisp, her characters clear, and the story engaging.
2. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt – Funny. Really funny and fun and smart. Some are questioning the child-appeal of this title, but I think it has a real shot at the Newbery gold. At the very least it may get an honor.
3. Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis – A magnificent debut novel. Don’t let the awful cover fool you. This book is winning fans left and right and may sweep the Newberys this year.
4. Eggs by Jerry Spinelli – It’s the ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ for kids. Is that a compliment? Dunno. A memorable book just the same.
5. Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor – Okay. Fine. It doesn’t have a chance. What fantasy with fairies would ever win the Newbery? But if one DID win, it would have to be this one. Best. Book. Ever.
6. Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson – Yeah. There’s a reason I haven’t reviewed this yet. I have no friggin’ idea what to do with it. Seriously, I’m stumped. No opinion whatsoever here. Which, come to think of it, is what makes it a prime Newbery candidate.
7. On The Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck – Peck dips deeply into the realm of nostalgia yet again. Some people think he’s phoning this one in, but I disagree. It’s nostalgia of the best possible kind and a fun read (after the slow start). Definitely has legs on it.
8. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies – More than just a business model for kiddies. This book has blood, sweat, and tears in it. It’s not just a fun read, but an emotional roller coaster as well. Could well be my top pick for 2007.
9. Elijah Of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis – I’m not joshing you when I say that this is Curtis’s best work so far. And yeah, he’s already won himself a Newbery before, but doggone it if this isn’t one heckuva book. Funny with a historical setting that I, for one, have never seen in a children’s novel before.
10. No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer – Bauer’s a first time author, but you’d never know it from reading this book. This story is the perfect balance of magic and realism. The characters stick with you, the message isn’t messagey (a good thing, in my eyes), and the first page is suitably gripping. A book kids would actually enjoy reading.
11. No Talking by Andrew Clements – Well why not? It’s not like Clements has ever won before, and I personally think this book is much better than "Frindle" anyway. It seems to supremely simple, but there’s an undercurrent of rebellion to it that comes across beautifully. Quite frankly, I think that this is a great example of what makes a children’s book good.
12. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz – I’ve saved the best for last. This book doesn’t fall neatly into any one category. It straddles non-fiction and fiction so perfectly that it would be hard to group it. Fortunately, the Newbery Award can go to a work of fiction AND non-fiction. Perfect, no?