Normally I’d do this kind of post for June 15th but there’s a possibility that I might be a bit busy on that date, so we’ll do it now for kicks. It’s time for our mid-year Newbery/Caldecott querying. I’ve already indulged in some Spring Predictions, but I prefer the Summer ones because at this point I’ve read and heard about a lot more. So with that in mind, here are some of the titles that may at least get a fair amount of discussion around the old Newbery/Caldecott tables:
Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott – I would greatly appreciate it if you all read this one and then told me what you made of it. This year I’ve read a fair number of titles that have made me scratch my head, but not one of them is more head scratchier than this. My notes in the back of the book could only be described as a jumble. I just couldn’t figure out if it was genius or something else. Please. Somebody tell me. I seriously haven’t a clue what to say about this book, except that I know it’ll be on all the discussion lists before the year is out.
The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill – If I am allowed one dark horse Newbery candidate a year, then I would like to make Barnhill’s debut my dark horse. I’ll admit to you right here and now that the title inspired no confidence in me. Then I read it. This has got to be one of the creepiest middle grade titles of the year and I absolutely adore it. There’s a really nice mystery, and Barnhill has the ability to dole out facts and clues in a slow manner that somehow keeps the reader from going crazy. Keep a very close eye on this one and, while you’re at it, on Barnhill.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall – Ah, the competition is building and so I wonder if the third book in any series, even one as fun as the Penderwicks, can withstand the onslaught. I’m keeping this title on here because I do feel that it’s a standalone and that the writing is more than above par. That said, I’ve just preceded it with books about 1959 race relations and horror/fantasy. Can a sweet tale of siblings remain visible against such subject matter? Time will tell.
Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming – This is still my favorite nonfiction of the year. In fact, the more I think about it the more I like it. I’ve had librarians tell me that though they usually hate it when an author splits a narrative into two, Fleming did such a good job that they didn’t mind. I would add an additional point in its favor: It’s fun. I know that fun shouldn’t count for anything. Fun is irrelevant. Nowhere in the Newbery criteria is there a call for “fun”. But I figure nonfiction titles need as much help as they can Newbery-wise, so I call the fact that it is fun a definite step in the right direction.
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos – This is undoubtedly wishful thinking on my part. Gantos has never gotten the gold, and he deserves it someday. This book, of course, has a weird undercurrent to it that may turn off a certain breed of Newbery committee member. Not everyone is going to find Jack’s constant brushes with death as interesting as I do. Still, I hold out hope that maybe this’ll be a Gantos-luvin’ committee year. Stranger things have happened.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai – Probably one of the books with the best bets behind it. If I were to make my absolute list of probable winners, Lai would be on there. With an Honor, hopefully. I think it has the power to win people over too. Dunno. Certainly it’s been a while since a verse novel won a Newbery proper. Can’t help but wish it had a different title, though.
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt – Still the one to beat and the number one choice of the year. I’ve seen nothing that comes close to bumping it off its about-time-we-gave-Schmidt-a-gold-award pedestal. Yes, I have heard the objections to the ending. But I have also heard such objections 9 times out of 10 followed up with “but it’s so good I don’t care about that”. Folks aren’t fond of the father’s sudden reversal, it seems, but it’s not a deal breaker. Whew!
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – Ooo. We haven’t even begun to discuss this one yet, have we? I’ll go into it soon, but this is one fantasy novel that is definitely going to get a lot of talk in the next few months. If A Tale Dark and Grimm gave us new insights into the world of the Grimm brothers, Ursu’s novel may shed a lot of light on the legacy of Hans Christian Andersen. If you haven’t heard of this one yet it’s a modern take on Andersen’s The Snow Queen and it’s remarkable. More soon, I promise.
Now, by this point you may have seen that this is an unusually strong year for fantasy. One fantasy novel I have not included, however, is the debuted-at-#7-on-the-New-York-Times-bestseller-list title The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente. The reason for this is simple. It’s ineligible. You see, to win a Newbery a book must be an “original work”. And according to the Newbery criteria on the subject, “Further, ‘original work’ means that the text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form. Text reprinted or compiled from other sources are not eligible. Abridgements are not eligible.” The problem? Valente published her book in its entirety free and online for the masses before it was picked up by Feiwel and Friends for a printing. This was quite nice of her, but it scupped her chances of ever getting a big time literary award. Them’s the breaks, folks.
As for you Chime fans, I hear your pain and I sympathize. However, Chime is destined for Printz greatness, not Newbery. It’s a lovely book but even its biggest defenders concede that it’s YA, not children’s.
Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman – I still love it to pieces. There’s something really pleasant about the storytelling on this one. Something simple, but still complex enough to give it a little rise above the pack. Gentle surrealism, let’s call it.
Perfect Square by Michael Hall – And not because there are ads for the bloody thing all over my blog as of this writing. No, from the moment I saw this book I felt a buzz about it. Some titles you hear about and you just feel that the book is important in some way. This is one such book.
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka – Here’s one that I’ve heard multiple people rave about, independent of one another. Now I’m not a Raschka follower myself, if only because my preferred form of children’s illustration meanders more towards the thin-lined/tiny details school than the somewhat Impressionistic vibe Raschka cultivates. Yet with this latest Raschka captures not just a doggy story, but an emotional journey. It’s bright. It’s cheery. It’s bouncy. It may yet win him a second Caldecott Award. Keep your eye on the doggy then.
A Nation’s Hope by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Kadir Nelson – Even I couldn’t help but hear the buzz surrounding this one, and I see that as a good thing. Nelson’s long since overdue for a Caldecott Award. If he got it for a bit of nonfiction, all the better! This is a good year for Joe Louis (his appearance in Andrea Pinkney’s Bird in a Box makes for a nice complementary title) and Matt de la Pena is definitely showing that he’s more than just a YA man. I see legs on this book. Long legs.
Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell – Someone mentioned this in the comments during my last predictionfest, and I admit that it has some sterling qualities. I do wonder about its eligibility, though. Here’s the kicker: Some of the art in the book consists of original documents by Jane Goodall when she was a little girl. Has the committee ever tackled the question of what to do about primary sources in picture books? Would Goodall be considered a co-illustrator on this book because her art is included? Do we even consider it “art” if it’s sketchbooks rather than images created solely for the purpose of forwarding the text? I would love to get some other opinions on this, because I feel it has a lot of bearing on future Caldecott wins.
Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip Stead – Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast featured Mr. Stead (husband of last year’s Caldecott winner) not too long ago and made a real case for the beauty of this book. It would certainly be amusing to see a husband/wife team win the Caldecott two years in a row. Collage is an interesting medium too. If I’m right (and I could certainly be wrong about this) cut paper hasn’t won a Caldecott Medal proper since 1997’s The Golem by David Wiesneski. And when was the last time collage won? I’m hard pressed to say.
Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg – I still believe. Van Allsburg has Caldecotts to his name, so it’s not like he’s hurting. Just the same, this is his best book in years and years and years and I just want everyone to notice it. After all, it’s a story that needs to be told.
And then there are some other titles that I think have quite a chance to pull ahead in the fall season. Heart & Soul by Kadir Nelson comes to mind, as does Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes. For now, however, I’m just sticking with the books I’ve already seen. There’s time enough for fall predictions in the future.
And just for fun . . . .
Press Here by Herve Tullet – How do you say “shoo-in” in French?
By the way, for more Newbery/Caldecott fun, be sure to check out the recent 100 Scope Notes piece Newbery/Caldecott 2012: Checking In. Good stuff to be found there.