Man, isn’t it nice when the award season has died down and we don’t have to deal with any more crazed speculations about who’s “Newbery worthy” or “Caldecott worthy” or any of that nuttiness? We can just sit back and enjoy some books and not . . . not worry about . . . *gulp* . . . ah . . . . grk . . . .
I CANTS TAKES IT NO MORE!!!!
It’s March. Heck, it’s spring. Practically. And so here we have loads of books, TONS of the things, out there and circulating and taking up brain space and all of them just begging to be speculated upon. If it is too early in the season for this, I more than understand. Skip this post. Have some cocoa. Come back in the fall. But if you, like me, just can’t get enough of this stuff, enjoy.
First up, we are visited by the Ghost of Spring Predictions of the Newbery/Caldecott Past. This is always fun. Check it out:
We could speculate about what this means about the publishing industry and when they choose to release books, but I’d rather get to the meat of the matter. And I should warn you, I’m finding 2014 to be a VERY strong year in contenders. Newbery anyway.
2014 Newbery Predictions
Doll Bones by Holly Black – I am reminded of the year that Silence of the Lambs won an Oscar. That’s the only equivalent I can come up with if this book took home Newbery gold. The writing is superlative, but also creepy as all get out. More so than the relatively recent Newbery winner The Graveyard Book, anyway. But if Gaiman can win . . .
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore – It looks for all the world like a fantasy novel when you see the cover, but what you’ll find inside is just the nicest little science fiction novel. I can’t tell if it’s the first in a series or a standalone book that trusts the reader to pick up on certain clever clues. Whatever the case, it’s a brilliant companion to Tuck Everlasting (which, admittedly, never won a Newbery).
Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli – Already one of two thoroughly divisive Newbery contenders. I was enthralled by it but stepping back I’m interested in the child responses. Will the “Ulysses of children’s literature” be too much for them? Is the writing distinguished regardless? Yes to the latter, not sure on the former. At the very least, everyone’s going to have to read this one.
Courage Has No Color, the True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tonya Lee Stone – She sort of specializes in crushed dreams but in this particular book I think Stone has outdone herself. The sheer subtlety of the writing has to be worth something. Jonathan Hunt brought up a question of whether or not the book sets you up to expect action. I think that’s rather the point.
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake – A book I continually want to call “One Came Back”, for some reason. My brain is weird. If you think Hokey Pokey‘s a divisive topic then you haven’t sat in on some of the Timberlake talks I’ve witnessed. It’s full of life and vitality, and like Gale’s book could also find itself nominated for an Edgar this year. It’s the kind of historical fiction I like to read. The question is whether or not it’ll be the kind of historical fiction the committee likes to read. No clue on that one.
The Center of Everything by Linda Urban – My frontrunner. Maybe. I go back and forth but there’s no denying that Urban gets better and better with each book and that this one is, if you’ll forgive a tired phrase, a gem. Or maybe I was just enthralled by the short page count. Whatever the case, it’s smart and to the point and just lovely from start to finish. ADORE.
2014 Caldecott Predictions
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown – Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I submit to you the following evidence here and here. Now that the man has won a Caldecott Honor we know that he is capable of even more. There’s a distinct Rousseau-like quality to this book. Peter Brown, like Linda Urban, gets better with each passing book. Remember this one when it comes out in the fall.
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham – In an era of Common Core Standards and increased attention on nonfiction, why can’t a book on math and a mathematician win the highest Honor in the land? Sometimes I fear that there are certain talented artists that are passed over by the award committees each and every year without fail for no reason other than the fact that they’ve been passed over before. And if anyone deserves a medal it’s Ms. Pham. She’s a delight. So is her art. So is this book.
Stardines Swim High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Carin Berger – Just a second. I’m trying to envision how Mr. Prelutsky would react upon learning that one of his books had won a Caldecott this late in the game. Wouldn’t that be rad (mentioning a poet from my youth apparently causes me to break out the late 1980s jargon)? Berger, for her part, went above and beyond the call of duty when she created the art for this book. Models do NOT fare well in Caldecott races, but certainly an exception can be made once in a while, yes yes?
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea – But only if there were any justice in the universe. Which, last time I checked, there is not.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen – Like Peter Brown, Jon “I just won an Honor and an Award in the same year” Klassen is now considered verifiable Caldecott bait. Admittedly this book is subtler than his previous fare and there’s a lot of black space. I think a forward thinking committee, however, could have a lot of fun parsing where exactly he chose to put one shadow or another. Worthy of discussion, at the very least.
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner – I’m just going to imagine for a moment what it would be like to hear lofty librarians parsing the merits of something with a name like “Mr. Wuffles” amongst themselves. It’s a return to form for Wiesner, as weird and wacky and funny as they come. However, he may have handicapped himself by making the book in a comic book style complete with speech balloons. A certain breed of adult reader would have some definite problems with the layouts and action. That said, you have GOT to see this puppy. Nothing else out there is like it.
And that’s the long and short of it. Something for your What To Read Next lists in any case. And as ever, be sure to check out Jonathan Hunt’s 2014 reading list, when you’ve a chance.
CORRECTION: Though I originally included it, it appears that The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale may not be eligible. I have learned that it was originally published as an ebook in 2011. Whoops! Sorry about that.