Let me see… what were the exact words of a faithful reader when I did this about a year ago? Ah yes, here we go. One person said:
"Let’s stick with just enjoying the stories and pictures for a little while longer before beginning to polish the medals."
Well put. Another lamented:
"Are you kidding me? Is this what it’s all about? Or is there some attempt here to start altering the river’s course? Let it flow a while. Let’s just enjoy the stories as Mole rows our boat down this lovely river, wherever it might lead us."
Ach, ye puir wee babes. But since this reader invoked Wind in the Willows, let me follow this metaphor to its natural end. You can be Ratty and Mole if you like. I, on the other hand, will play the part of Toad with a boundless amount of ill-begotten enthusiasm. The time has come, ladies and gents!!! Last March I mentioned the books I had read that I thought were particularly good and I can see now that [takes a gander] NONE of them won a Newbery, award, honor, or otherwise. I did a bit better in the Caldecott arena, predicting at least that How I Learned Geography might get something.
So if you hate the idea of predicting award winners a good 9 months ahead of time, consider this instead to be a list of books I just happen to think are really really remarkable, with definite award-winning potential. For those of you who worry that I’m attempting to "alter the river’s course", so to speak, I think my lamentable track record speaks for itself. And we’re off!
Newbery Predictions (Spring Edition!)
I am only including the books that I have read. There are a couple non-fiction titles out there that I think have a strong shot, but until I read them I ain’t gonna mention them. Which leaves:
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick – I’m in the process of reviewing this one right now. It’s just the right mix of exciting story, great characters, and an elaborate plot that ties everything together beautifully by its end. I’m a fan.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – Finished reading this one yesterday. Kelly’s working with a strong debut novel here, no question. Of all the middle grade novels on this list, this is the one with the most buzz around it. The book that I’ve been asked if I’ve read more than any other. There’s one plot hole I’d need to discuss with someone before I gave it an unrestrained double thumbs up (can someone tell me why we don’t ever hear what the grandfather said to the odious young lady who made a play for Harry’s heart?). Just the same, it’s beautifully honed. A corker of a novel.
The Problem with the Puddles by Kate Feiffer – The most debatable of the titles I’ve listed here. Initially I read about four chapters of it five months ago and then failed to get back to it. When I returned recently I found it to be a pretty charming piece. It’s not your usual fare, but it’s possible that the quirky writing is just exactly what this year’s Newbery committee is seeking. Mightily recommended.
Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson – Let’s do the math. If Jacqueline Woodson finally gets a Newbery Award proper and she gets it for this book, how many years in a row will she have won a shiny sticker from ALA? Answer: Three. And if it weren’t for the gap in 2007 she could have possibly have gotten it an unprecedented four or five years in a row. As it stands, I think this book has some legs on it. Let’s see how far it can run.
Caldecott Predictions (Spring Edition!)
I admittedly haven’t read all of these. But Caldecott buzz is lots of fun and I’ve picked up on some real favorites amongst the general public. To wit:
Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberley – Man oh man, I loved this book. Mr. Emberley already has a lovely little golden beauty for Drummer Hoff (I’m surprised they haven’t done a big fancy reprint of that, what with our current overseas affairs). This book is utterly wacked, in the best possible sense. Crazed fowl and funny writing.
A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Michael Wertz -As you could probably tell from my review, this book kind of caught me off-guard. I loved the integration of text and image, and the wild colors as well.
Dinotrux by Chris Gall – Because this man needs to win an award at some point, consarn it. I mean, the fact that it’s a really fun book helps and all, but that’s just an offshoot of his great pictures as well. Gall gets a little goofy with this book and I think it suits him.
Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young – My Ed Young track record is off, but I thought this was a real stunner. I’m still haunted by the wall of black water rising above the tiny helpless village. *shudder*
One Beetle Too Many by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman – This is Trueman’s year! I can smell it in the wind. I mean, he’s got such a great style and presence that all he needs is a little push in the right direction with the right book. And since Lasky’s title has been such a hit, I think we’ve got our match.
All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure – The web has been ooing, cooing, and gooing (so to speak) all over this book. Like the 2009 Caldecott winner it evokes an old-timey classic feel. But would the Caldecott committee this year also feel inclined to reward retrospective nostalgia? Only time will tell.
Remember too that by the end of the year I’ll have edited and rejiggered this list to death. But this is what I’ve enjoyed thus far, and I don’t mind saying so. Now what have I left off the list that you think is particularly noteworthy?