I’m feeling good. Feeling pumped. Got the wind at my back. So before I begin I’m just gonna see how I did this time last year when I made my 2009 Halfway Mark Predictions. Let’s see, let’s see . . .
Out of the one Newbery Award winner and the three Newbery Honors I correctly predicted . . . one book. The Underneath.
Could be worse. But that gives you a pretty good feel for how haphazardly I am able to come up with the correct winner (though I fared considerably better in 2007). I’m feeling lucky right now though, so let’s check out my newest crop! Alphabetically by author’s last name:
Newbery Predictions (Summer Edition!):
Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle – The danger when I make up these lists is that I’m going to be so influenced by the last thing I read that I’ll put it on the list willy nilly without proper time and consideration. But Margarita Engle has the advantage of being the kind of person that is underestimated. She quietly bides her time with her little verse novels, their lines a shocking collection of pinpointed emotional accuracy. Then BOOM! She’s gets herself a Newbery Honor outta left field. And Tropical Secrets is completely middle grade appropriate. That means one thing to me. It’s got a clear shot at taking home the gold. Give it a read. You’ll see what I mean.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – Also a Henry Holt title. Those HH folks are really firing on all cylinders this year. Calpurnia has been a longtime favorite from the minute the galleys came out. There has been some argument that the Newbery committee might see this as the kind of book that appeals more to librarians than actual children, but I don’t think that debate will go very far. With its gorgeous cover and smart prose, this debut novelist might find herself thrust into the spotlight without warning.
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick – I had this on my springtime predictions and I’m damned if I’m going to remove it now. This is a great book. I had to convince someone the other day to get past the cover (which didn’t appeal to them) and to check out the meat inside. Generally, it has gotten favorable buzz but nothing too significant. We’ll see how it fares in the long run.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – Anyone who reads this blog with regularity knows how I feel about this novel. Take a gander at the Goodreads reviews of it sometime if you like. The term "one of the best children’s books I’ve read in years" pops up with frightening regularity. Now the Newbery might decide that some tiny element or another didn’t work of them and then they’d attempt to discount the book altogether. This happens sometimes. And with a story containing this amount of backing and forthing within the narrative, it’s more vulnerable than most. That said, it’s an amazing book and deserves everything everything everything.
Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson – Still hanging in there. Don’t discount the Woodson. This one was released in January, so the danger is that folks forget about it by the end of the year. But it has her customary style and grace intact and she’s been edging closer and closer to outright Newbery Award status with every year. Could 2010 be hers?
Caldecott Predictions (Summer Edition!):
Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham – Aside from the fact that I would like to see someone pronounce the name "Fotheringham" in front of a large crowd anyway, I think this dude has a shot. His fame has been steadily rising. His technique is superb. His style well-suited to the picture book genre.
A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Michael Wertz – Part of what a Caldecott committee looks at when they consider a picture book is how well the text integrates with the image. And brother, this text doesn’t just integrate with the images. It becomes them. Just the perfect mix of style and substance, I will insist on this book being considered until the last minute. Consider me a big big fan.
Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young – Ed Young may have been passed over last year in the old Wabi Sabi corner (remember what I said about my haphazard predictions?) but that isn’t to say he doesn’t have a shot with this new beaut. Plus it’s kid-friendly, which may or may not be important to this new crop of Caldecottians.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney – Well. This might be it. Might be the one. The one to push Pinkney over and above the top. No Caldecott Awards are in his name quite yet, but this is the book that could change everything. Almost wordless. Meticulously researched. And this is the kind of Pinkney book that will make converts out of people who weren’t Pinkney fans before. Expect to be astounded.
All right. So amongst my Newbery picks one subject area is grossly underrepresented. Non-fiction. So while I’d love you to comment here with your own selections and suggestions, if you have any idea of a non-fiction that work that strikes you as Newbery-worthy, I ask you particularly to go to it. Tell me what it is. Maybe you’ve a penchant for that Claudette Colvin biography. Maybe the Candace Fleming Barnum book took your fancy. Perhaps you think Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude has a crazy shot at it. Tell me.
In the Caldecott arena, I’m a terrible predictor of folks when it comes to aaaht. What have I missed that tickles your fancy? Speak!