Monica notes that we’ve not yet talked about When the Whistle Blows here. It does bear comparison to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and A Season of Gifts. It is episodic, historical, and told from an adult-perspective looking back [sic, see comments] . It took quick a while to draw me in, but I tried to tell myself it might just be personal taste, and kept on. The third time in I made it all the way through, and found the payoff at the end–the very end–that elevates the book beyond "good" to "maybe distinguished." But I find the perspective from which that payoff happens to be rooted firmly in adult nostalgia, and not in what a child–of up to and including age fourteen–would bring to this reading.
This is not to say that I don’t think this is a children’s book…or even a good children’s book. I do think it has child appeal, and the commenter’s at Monica’s post have begun to attest to that. But considering it for the Newbery: I don’t find enough distinguishing elements in it that speak to a child audience to put it in my, say, top 10… which, at this point, includes mostly nonfiction.
For the record, I have some of the same questions about Calpurnia Tate and Season of Gifts (Kickapoo issue aside). If I were on the committee, I’d ask myself and ask my fellow committee members to ask themselves very carefully: do I feel this is distinguished writing/style/characterization because it speaks to an adult nostalgia in me? What are child readers taking from these books, and are these elements distinguished? I do think there’s strong writing in each of these two, and the answer may be "yes"…but the question should indeed be addressed.