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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Another Crazy Summer

Let’s let Jonathan and me get over our shock regarding the NBA winner. But DaNae’s comment is apt: the NBA award has totally different criteria than the Newbery. In fact, NBA juries develop their own criteria, and the award has a reputation for “upsets.”

We’ve talked about One Crazy Summer already, but I re-read it recently and wanted to address some of the issues that had come up, along with some of the distinguished characteristics that I found ample evidence of.

Skillful setting of time, situation, characters right up front

You should be able to find distinguished elements on p.1 of a Newbery Winner, and here it is evident.   First paragraph tells you when you are, who and where, and something about the character. Emphasis mine just to spell it out:

p.1  “Still, I anchored myself and my sisters best as I could to brace us for whatever came next. Those clouds weren’t through with us yet and dealt another Cassius Clay-left-and-a-right jab to the body of our Boeing 727.”

Voice…Family and Self as Setting

In a recent comment (I lost track of where) someone pointed out that development of setting in One Crazy Summer does not stand out, and I’d agree (and will get to specific geographical issues below).  But I had a strong emotional memory of being “in” this story, so on my re-read I went looking for how that was developed.  And I found it in the voice.  Both in Delphine’s interior voice, and in the interactions between her and her siblings, and the three siblings and Cecile. On nearly every page of this book I have a flag showing where Williams-Garcia uses voice to make her story real, and to communicate a sense of setting, and theme, through it.  Some examples.

The Trio…and Quartet

p.31 “It’s past eight o’clock. We haven’t had real food since breakfast.”

“With Big Ma.”

“And Papa.”

I kept going. “That was”—I glanced at my wrist—“nine hours and twelve minutes ago.”

Vonetta next: “Airline food don’t coun t.”

Fern last: “Surely don’t”

p.65 “Vonetta and I threw our ‘colored’ on top of Fern’s like we were ringtossing at Coney Island.”

p.67 “No one could call Fern White Baby Lover even though Miss Patty Cake was a white baby and Fern loved her. No one could call Fern a Big Baby but Vonetta and me.”

On page 77-9, Cecile/Nzila enters the fray of this three way interaction, with the half-joke about the FBI. Too long to type out here, but read it to see how Williams-Garcia shows us both that the girls take after their mother, and that Cecile/Nzila is making baby-steps at connecting with her daughters, simply through conversation.

Delphine’s  keen insightfulness…

p.81 “Although no one thinks I can, I remember a time when smoke filled the house. Not coughing smoke but smoke from a woman’s smooth-voiced singing, with piano, bass, and drums. All together these sounds made smoke.”

 p.147 “The stool made things different. It was an invitation for me to sit down and be there. Not talk. Just cook. Be. As the spaghetti boiled, pictures flashed in and out of my mind. Flashes of sitting with Cecile and being quiet. It was the welcome that had brought me back. That I’d sat with her before and it was all right….”

…and her sense of vigilance and ethics

p.50-51  “I opened Peter Pan,  one of the books I’d checked out for a two-week loan before we’d left Brooklyn. I had it all worked out and counted the pages I’d read each night, dividing that by twenty-eight days. I had two dollars and eighty cents in my drawer at home to pay for the late fees for the remaining two weeks when we returned to Brooklyn.”

p.92 “I kept the two dimes from the change to save up for our phone call. I was sure we’d need at least a dollar in change. Cecile wouldn’t miss two dimes. If she asked for them, I’d give them to her, although I didn’t think she’d ask.”

p.99 “Since the Black Panther newspaper cost a quarter, I told myself I’d only skim the front and back pages as I stacked the apeprs. I would read what I could see. I knew if I flipped a page over and read it line by line, I was officially reading someone else’s paper. Or as Pa would call it, stealing.”

The Name Thing

What is the theme of this book anyway?  Mr. H asked:

I have trouble finding RWG’s message or theme. It’s okay to leave your family behind, if you’re fighting for “the greater good”? As long as you’re semi-nice once or twice to the children you ran away from, they will forgive you and learn all sorts of things about themselves in the process? Nina, you said this is a story about a girl and her family first. So, what distinguished message or theme for children did you take away from it?

First, let me say that I believe the Newbery criteria ask us specifically not to attach value to the theme, but to its presentation. The question should be how well does Williams-Garcia interpret her theme or concept.

I think there are a multiplicity of themes throughout this story, but one that stands out for me is the name thing. It sneaks in. The first time we really understand is p.55:  “I never fully believed it…That Cecile left because Pa wouldn’t let her pick out Fern’s name. But I saw and heard it with my own ears and eyes. She refused to call Fern by her name, and that made Big Ma right about Cecile.”

Later, Delphine remarks on her mother’s name, p.80 “I didn’t care what Cecile called her new self or how much dust she blew off paths with her poems. She was Cecile Johnson to me, and I didn’t appreciate her so-called new self or her new name.”

 …and gives us the wonderful chapter about her own name, revealing to us one large source of her animosity about her mother.  p.84 “My mother hadn’t reached into her poetic soul and dreamt me up a name. My mother had given me a name that already was, which meant she hadn’t given me a thing. Not one thing.”

Notice that Delphine only ever calls her mother “Cecile,” throughout the entire story? Even after Fern/Afua speaks up for herself, and Delphine sees clearly that she may not always need to be the one to stand up to Fern, especially against her mother?   I walk away with a wonderful sense of Delphine taking what she can from this summer to allow herself to both love and hate her mother for who her mother is and what she does, rather than just going on memory and hearsay.  She  also seems to be able to let go just a tiny bit–a realistic tiny bit–of the responsibility she feels to her sisters, and learn to be a little selfish…an extremely valuable lesson that only her mother could seem to teach her.


Some have raised the question of the likelihood of a Japanese-American kid being named “Hirohito.”  A teacher who had read the book and had Williams-Garcia visit his school emailed me directly with her response to his posing that question:

“The point that she wanted to make with Hirohito was that identity is trickier if one is “two things”, like Japanese and black. She also said that when she was growing up in northern California she went to school with one boy named Hirohito, another named Hiroshima and another named Yamashita!”

I’m good with that. It might have been interesting to have that context fleshed out a little for readers, but I’m not sure it makes the book weaker without it.


I’ve mentioned before my questions about accuracy in the geography of the story…and later that I felt these did not undermine the story’s distinguished qualities.

In an exchange with Garcia-William’s editor, I’ve learned that they plan to change the references from “Orchard” street to “Adeline” street in the next printing, which does resolve the street layout issue.  

Regarding the hill (there is one in the story, but not in actuality)…Williams-Garcia and her editor considered it, having learned of the “mistake”. But it plays such an important part in Delphine’s character development, about “how big the world looks through a child’s eyes, and how things come more into focus as they mature” that it was impossible to remove, and I recognize and support that.  “We’d gain fact accuracy, but would lose a good deal of what the character and reader ultimately gain.”  These quotes are  from Williams-Garcia, with thanks to her and her editor Rosemary Brosnan for sharing.

….Complexity versus Strength…

We’ve been getting a little bit into how to measure each book for what it is, and only against the critieria it speaks to; and then how to try to compare that to another book with totally different strengths.    Conspiracy of Kings stands out for literary gymnastics and elegance, intricacy of character and plot. I’m not sure that One Crazy Summer is as developed or complex in these areas.  But is has enormous strength in the character and voice.  Not sure where the scale tips, yet, for me with all of our eight shortlisted titles, but trying to see where the balance points are.

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at


  1. So…if you were on the Newbery committee this year and someone at the table brought up the “Hirohito” question, would you be able to respond that you’d been in contact with someone who met Rita Garcia-Williams and “The point she wanted to make” was….

    And if anyone questioned the geography of the book, would you be able to say that you had an exchange with the novel’s editor and that Ms. Williams-Garcia explained, “We’d gain fact accuracy, but…etc.”

    I admire your enthusiasm for ONE CRAZY SUMMER, but it seems to me that you are bringing all kinds of outside elements into your spirited defense of the book — things that would probably not be allowed in any official Newbery discussion.

  2. I recently reread this one (on audio) to see how it held up, and I came away with a really strong sense of setting the 2nd time around. The first time, I noticed the characters, the way Delphine both grew up a little and became more of a kid, and I noticed the plot development. This time, I noticed how much the setting came to life. Not in incredible detail, more as a sense of place – the girls are out of their element in Oakland, but they get a sense of the neighborhood the way kids do. Cecile’s stucco house, the walk to Ming’s, their trip out of the neighborhood and the way they sort of hold themselves differently outside of “black Oakland.” I could imagine myself there, even without all the details of what everything looked like.

    On the issue of accuracy – I tend to assume that authors place characters in slightly imagined places in real cities, taking details of a neighborhood but inserting a fictional street, for example. Knowing how much the author tried/failed to be accurate for things like that doesn’t matter to me as a reader, and I see that more as literary license and not an error on the scale of completely misrepresenting the Panthers, for example.

  3. I think the characters are so strong. It’s partly that Cecile is so tremendously flawed that makes her such an amazing character. No, she’s NOT a role model, by any means. I think, as Nina says, that Delphine both loves and hates her. But she knows her better as she really is after the summer.

    As I said before, my heart wrenches when a kid has to be an adult, responsible for younger siblings. Rita Williams-Garcia portrays this so realistically, and I do love that it’s not presented as a good thing, even though Delphine is totally admirable for doing it. But she needs a chance to be a kid.

    I guess I’m trying to say that this book had so much depth, so many shadings. You can discuss it forever — it’s as nuanced as real life. I think it is amazingly distinguished in that way.

  4. I also loved this book. No, it’s not a model family. But, there’s many families like this one where an adult abandons his/her children for a life of freedom and where children are left to fend for themselves. Not many children’s books dare to have scenarios like this in their books (and characters like this in their books) and I believe this book is great at filling that void in representation. Children need to at least occasionally see themselves and their families in the books they read; to know that they aren’t the only ones on the planet that are going through what they go through.

    And, Delphine is acting as the responsible adult here. She KNOWS Cecile is not a mother-figure. Never once does she call her “mother” or “mom”. By still calling her Cecile, even at the very end, we know that though she accepts her mother a little more than she had before, but Delphine still recognizes that Cecile is not really a “mother” to them.

    The “Hirohito” name didn’t bother me – at our school, we have kids from all different races, many with unique names, many that are more “out there” than Hirohito. So I honestly didn’t even think twice about it.

    If this were a nonfiction book, I think the geography problem would be more of a problem. However, this is fiction. While it is based on some true events / a time period in American history, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with there being a street named the wrong thing and a hill cropping up where there isn’t one. I think the only readers that will notice that are the ones that are familiar with Oakland. Secondly, I don’t think it significantly detracts from the story.

    As others have said, this novel’s strengths are in its strong characterizations and voice. While the plot isn’t as complex as Conspiracy of Kings, it is still beautifully executed.

  5. Peter, I’m sure Nina will respond to your question as she both chaired the committee I was on (2008) and also served on the Despereaux one. But I do know that I did a lot of research, finding out about such picky little things. For example, I loved The Wednesday Wars, one of our honor titles, but was dubious about duck and cover drills still going on in 1967-68. I’m not sure I was ever convinced that it was historical accurate, but was able to get past that because I loved, loved, and still love the book.

    And while I can’t recall whether any of it came from a publisher or writer I I don’t recall anything that said we couldn’t bring it in to our discussions.

  6. Monica,
    It might not have been common practice everywhere, but I went to a public school in the early 70’s, and we still had fire drills, tornado drills and air raid drills. We even prayed before snacks and lunch (until third grade) — yes, really.

    As for One Crazy Summer. I liked the book quite a bit, but it wasn’t a Wow! book for me.

  7. Monica, I wouldn’t be surprised if outside factual research was allowed (i.e. checking to see if duck-and-cover drills occured in 1967-1968) but I would be very, very surprised to learn committee members are allowed to discuss the book with the author and/or editor and find out the intent of certain scenes and events. I thought the book was supposed to be judged on its own merits. I’d have no problem with a committee member saying (as Angela K does above) that “Hirihito” and the geography issues do not detract from the story or hurt the book. I would have a problem with a committee member saying, “Well, I talked to Rita and she told me….” or “I sent an e-mail to Rita’s editor and she says….”

  8. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I remain somewhat ambivalent about ONE CRAZY SUMMER in terms of the Newbery; I feel that way about all of the middle grade fiction, though, with the notable exception of KEEPER. I still need to reread ONE CRAZY SUMMER for the mock discussion, but I did think it was clearly the best of the National Book Award finalists.

    Regarding the geography, I think it’s nice that HarperCollins has decided to fix one error and completely understand the reasons for leaving the other one alone, but I see that as being completely irrelevant to the discussion, and I personally would be a little frustrated, and quite possibly offended, if it was broached at the Newbery table. Which is why we have this blog: to say all the things that can’t be said elsewhere. 😉

    The question really becomes this: How big is the flaw? Both Jess and Angela have sought to minimize the flaw by implying different rules apply to fiction and nonfiction, but I do not find that distinction in the Newbery criteria, and therefore the rules ought to apply evenly across genres. If you want to forgive ONE CRAZY SUMMER this peccadillo (or forgive MOCKINGBIRD the Eagle Scout thing)–fine–just make sure that you bring the same soft standard of accuracy to the nonfiction.

    I, too, seek to minimize these kind of flaws, not by excusing them, not because “Hey, it’s fiction!”, but rather my own personal philosophy is that the Newbery Medal should go to the book with the strongest strengths rather than the one with the weakest weaknesses. When we’re talking about the most distinguished contribution to literature, literature being those books that seek to more fully explore the human condition (i.e. What does it mean to be human?), then bogus Eagle Scout projects and phantom streets and phantom hills seem less important flaws.

    Angela, it’s not that the name Hirohito is a weird one. It’s that in the aftermath of World War II, would a parent really name their child Adolf, Benito . . . or Hirohito? Would they saddle them with that baggage? I would find it very difficult to accept Nina’s hearsay at face value around the Newbery table because I would have no way of verifying it except by contacting the author directly, and it hardly seems fair to do that. But I also don’t want to see an author justify all her choices in an afterword either (so bonus points for MOCKINGBIRD, OUT OF MY MIND, and whatever else could have milked sympathy, but did not). So, again, I think the name is a fair criticism, but a minor one.

  9. I think one of the major themes of One Crazy Summer is change: personal, social, political. Cassius Clay has become Muhammad Ali; Idlewild Airport has become JFK; “colored” is changing to “black.” And the Black Panthers are serving up revolution (ie, change) along with breakfast. On the personal level, it’s definitely a summer of change for Delphine: in her relationship with Cecile, with her sisters; with her peers (including boys); and most of all herself.

    The first chapter foreshadows all of this beautifully. I can’t think of a better encapsulation of Delphine’s personality and outlook on life than that third sentence: “I anchored myself and my sisters best as I could to brace us for whatever came next.” And it’s not a heavy-handed use of symbolism at all – Delphine is just reacting to the turbulence in the airplane. It’s only on a re-read that you pick up the nuances – of Delphine’s self-imposed role as mother substitute; of the turbulence she and her sisters (and the country) will soon be encountering.

    I also greatly admire the voice in One Crazy Summer; for anyone who isn’t “hearing” it, take a listen to the audiobook, narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson.

  10. Nina Lindsay says:

    Peter, if I were on the committee this year, I’d first of all beat the bushes to get some outside “expert” opinions on the Hirohito thing, in order to help form my own opinion. (For instance, Japanese-Americans who were the same age at that time. They don’t have to know anything about children’s lit or the award. They’d just have to be willing to read the book and let me know their reaction to it).

    I wouldn’t take an author or editor’s words to the table as evidence, but I might use them to inform my own opinion. Extremely circumspectly. The book is what it is, published, and it’s the readers reaction that matters at this point. But I personally found comment from Williams-Garcia to be helpful in thinking about these issues in different ways.

    In general, a chair of a Newbery committee will instruct members that all opinions at the table need to be their own. They can use reviews, expert content reviews, and child reader comments to inform themselves…and they *should* do this, in order to remove as much personal bias from the process as necessary (and I see my feelings about Oakland as a personal bias….) … but you can’t just quote from them as evidence to justify a book. You could say, “after reading so and so’s comments, I’m convinced that X because of Y….”

  11. There are people that DO name their children those names. In New Jersey a few years ago, a widely-published news story was that a Walmart bakery refused to print “Happy Birthday Adolf” on a birthday cake for a six-year-old. Is it a common name? Certainly not. But can we assume that it’s completely unheard of?

    Granted, in the “Adolf” instance, more time has passed, but is it any more socially / politically acceptable now than it would have been then?

  12. Jonathan, I’m waiting for your stirring defense of Keeper, which I liked better than some people I know but did not find particularly distinguished. That you think it’s better than One Crazy Summer or Kneebone Boy is inexplicable to me.

    I’m kind of ambivalent about the level of author-interaction that’s possible these days, where we don’t have to puzzle over these questions of motivation or meaning, but can ask the author. Part of that is, maybe, my education in art history, where to most scholars “what the author intended” is a secondary consideration at best (to the frustration of college freshmen and amateur art historians). I like to consider the questions, but I want to be able to consider the book as a whole/complete text, in which the author’s original intent doesn’t particularly matter. Basically, I want to be able to talk about my feeling that Cecile is mentally ill without anyone running off to the author, having her say “no, that wasn’t what I intended”, and having to accept that as the final word.

  13. Speaking of Keeper, can we revisit it? I hadn’t been able to read it when you discussed it back in September and it seems others have an interest in discussing it again as well.

  14. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Angela, I think your example sort of illustrates my point. World War II was over 50 years ago and the name still carries a negative connotation. Is it unreasonable to expect that Hirohito would be problematic just 10 years later? So I think the name choice improbable, but not impossible.

    Wendy, I still need to reread KEEPER, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, and THE DREAMER for the mock discussion. Maybe you will get a stirring defense of KEEPER; maybe you won’t. I feel more strongly for the stuff for grades 1-3 and 7-9 than for the middle grade fiction. Maybe rereading these books will help me sort them out. I find them all particularly distinguished, but I don’t know that any of them stand head and shoulders above the rest. We’ll see.

  15. I think the name “Turtle” from Turtle in Paradise annoyed me more than Hirohito this year (though I know it’s not the character’s given name). “Hirohito” didn’t grate on me as much, though I know it’s just as improbable a name choice (or maybe more so). Perhaps this is because Hirohito isn’t a main character in One Crazy Summer, while with Turtle I had to read it on almost every page. I know “Hirohito” has more political and social implications than “Turtle”, so they’re not really comparable, but while we were talking about names, I thought I’d bring it up.

  16. Angela, did you ever read the 1979 Newbery winner, THE WESTING GAME?

  17. It wasn’t until someone brought it up on this site that this started nagging at me and now I really do see it as a major flaw, especially given comments on this post like the following:

    Angela K: “No, it’s not a model family. But, there’s many families like this one where an adult abandons his/her children for a life of freedom and where children are left to fend for themselves.”


    Sondy: “As I said before, my heart wrenches when a kid has to be an adult, responsible for younger siblings.”

    What bothers me still is that these three girls did NOT have to fend for themselves. They were left with a loving father and a loving grandmother, who cared for them, taught them life lessons, and fed them. Delphine didn’t HAVE to be responsible for her younger siblings. She CHOSE to.

    I got no impression from the author that the father or grandmother were lacking in the way they cared for these girls. In fact I took away from the text that the father and grandmother were the sense of reason in the girls’ life. In no way, did I get the impression that the family unit of the three girls, their father, and their grandmother was lacking in anything. So then WHY did Delphine need to take on the caretaker role? It’s something she put on her own shoulders, and I don’t think that’s made clear in the book.

    I don’t think you can have a loving father and a loving grandmother, in the book and make a realistic case for Delphine NEEDING to take on the role of being responsible for her sisters. It doesn’t make sense.

    Maybe this isn’t as big a deal as I think. It’s just that I’ve taught plenty of students who have lost parents and you can almost always spot which ones have a loving support system at home and which have a large amount of responsibility placed on their shoulders because of the loss. Delphine appeared to have a large amount of responsibility on her shoulders, caring for her sisters, yet as far as we were led to believe, she had a pretty loving support system at home. It just didn’t ring true to me.

  18. Peter, yes, I did read the Westing Game – Turtle’s name bothered me there, too. But, it’s even more annoying in Turtle in Paradise because it’s not only is it a stupid name, but it’s not even original since they took it from Westing Game.

  19. But, Mr. H, the book is about the summer they spent AWAY from their loving father and grandmother and went to see their mother in Oakland. A mother who has really no desire to be a mother. Cecile doesn’t watch out for their safety or well-being. She said if they wanted to eat breakfast, they had to walk to the Panthers’ meeting place and eat there. I know Delphine technically “chose” to be the parent figure to her younger sisters that summer, but what was the alternative? If Delphine didn’t budget their money, would they have something to eat?

  20. Mr. H, I look back almost fifty years ago to the responsibilities my older sister had in caring for us, even though we were in a solid two parent family, and I wonder if you are just mistaken about the role of the oldest sibling, especially the oldest girl, in some families.

  21. Let me clarify the whole “Turtle” business. I thought Turtle was a stupid name in the Westing Game – it was an improbable name and any animal/pet name for a human generally annoys me. I know it was probably used in The Westing Game to show that everyone underestimated her and still viewed her as a stupid kid. In that sense, it may have helped add to Turtle’s character, but why did it have to be “Turtle”? I love the book and love the character, but do so hate the name.

    Just because “Turtle” is used again in Turtle in Paradise, doesn’t make the name any more plausible in the real world. Has anyone even heard of kids with the nickname of Turtle? Am I alone in hating the “Turtle” name?

  22. I know someone named Turtle. He’s a boy.

  23. Nina Lindsay says:

    And I know someone whose nickname–used by everyone–is Turtle. She’s a girl.

    Angela, I’m a little confused, I have to say. What’s the problem with any odd nickname? Bunny? I’m not fond of it, but I’m not sure I’d let it get in the way of enjoying a character.

  24. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I really like Martha’s idea of listening to ONE CRAZY SUMMER on audiobook. I liked BUD, NOT BUDDY well enough, but I was absolutely knocked out by the voice on audiobook; it completely changed my opinion of the whole book. Perhaps I do have trouble “hearing” the voice and need to listen to the audiobook. My library does not have it yet, so does anyone know of a place online where we might listen to a snippet of it?

    I would never use an audiobook as a first read for the Newbery committee, wanting to form my first impressions from the text alone, but I would listen to one as a second or third read, particularly in an instance like this where I can appreciate the voice as written in the book, but can’t quite “hear” it.

  25. Nina Lindsay says:

    Mr. H…
    Something I didn’t put in my post above but noted in my re-read were the coupe of places where Delphine feels her father’s “voice” strenghtening and calming her. I assume that this supportive side of her is something that she takes from her father. And it may not be so much that she HAS to, but that she’s wired that way…and that she WANTS to be like him. I really appreciated the fact that this came through in the story with only very little allusion.

    Did I, as a kid, have to be obsessive about my piggybank and the bus schedule and the shower time limit and the laundry rotation because no one else was watching it for me? Nope. Did it cause I couldn’t help it…because my parents did it, and I copied them.

  26. I know kids with all kinds of improbable nicknames, and I don’t consider Turtle to be either particularly “out there” or in any way stolen/borrowed from The Westing Game. Also, I think it’s funny that you’re arguing for Hirohito being a fine character’s name even if it is so unusual as to border on unbelievable, and yet you’re arguing against Turtle as a name because you’ve never heard of a kid with that name. In any case, I think getting bogged down in such details would make anyone crazy.

    As for Delphine and the parental role thing–this came up in the original One Crazy Summer comments, but I’ll reiterate my thoughts–and I also agree with Faith about the role of the oldest daughter in many intact families, especially back in the day. The book talks about Big Ma going away to visit relatives at least twice for what sounds like extended periods; Delphine would have already been accustomed to taking the lead role then. And since Big Ma viewed Cecile’s lack of responsibility as one of her biggest failings, it seemed logical that she would be doing everything she could to instill that sense of responsibility in Delphine.

    (Also, anytime I was away from home with my older sisters, you’d better believe they told me what to do and how to do it. Hi, sisters!)

    The most improbable thing *I* found in One Crazy Summer was that Delphine could pull off that San Francisco field trip with an accuracy and aplomb lacking in all but the most seasoned tourist, but I decided to let it go because pages of explaining “and then they got lost, and then they got lost again, and then they missed the bus, and then they never found the place they were looking for”, which is how it really goes in real life, would not have done anything to strengthen the book.

  27. I’m not saying that Hirohito is a lovely name for a character or anything, I’m just saying that I think it’s possible for someone to name their child that, just as the parents in New Jersey named their child Adolf. It may not be likely, but it’s possible. I wouldn’t call it a major flaw of the book. I just personally hate all “animal” names for human characters like Bunny, Kitty, and Turtle, to name a few.

  28. Not to go off on a tangent, but I think the name “Adolf” is common enough in both literature and real life that it shouldn’t raise eyebrows. The reason that bakery refused to use the boy’s name is that his middle name was Hitler and the parents wanted that on the cake as well. His sister’s name was “Aryan Nation,” so that kind of tells us everything we need to know about those parents!

    Regarding Jonathan’s comments on audiobooks…I dunno. The farther one goes from the written text, the more one might rely on those outside factors for determining quality. Say you had two titles that were basically equal in quality, but after listening to the audiobook version of each, you decided Book A was superior. Could that be simply because the audio version of Book B wasn’t quite as good in performance? I think we’ve all had the experience of seeing different productions of the same play and loving one version but disliking the other — same script, but different actors and directors giving voice to each one.

  29. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Peter, I understand the reticence . . . but I think if you’ve read a text once or twice then you can appreciate how an audiobook enhances or detracts from the text, just like you can tell a good or bad production of a play that you are already familar with from multiple viewings. I wouldn’t make a practice of doing it often, but if I kept hearing that voice is such a distinguishing factor of book A, but I didn’t “hear” it, then I might make an effort to listen to some or all of an audiobook. Would I reference an audiobook in Newbery discussion? Never.

    Now that I think about it, I actually listened to the promotional CD of Marilyn Nelson reading A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL quite a few times during my Newbery year, well before I got the physical book to look at. She gives a goosebump-inducing performance of the poem, but I’m not sure that it was ever released commercially . . .

  30. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Okay, I’m rereading this one now, and I only just finished the second chapter, but I have a couple of questions.

    First, Delphine says she learned about the Golden Gate Bridge, the California Gold Rush, and Chinese Immigration for the Railroad in class, but these are all topics from California History (fourth grade CA curriculum). Brooklyn students would have learned about New York state history. There might be fleeting references to the Gold Rush and the Railroad in U.S. history (which we teach here in fifth grade). Our U.S. History curriculum goes up to the Civil War (not that any of our teachers actually ever get there, being lucky to make it to the Pioneers), so it might include fleeting references to the Gold Rush, but not the Railroad. Of course, this is CA now, not NYC in 1968. Thus, a grain of salt.

    Second, I’ve flown in and out of Oakland numerous times, and question whether it’s really possible to see the Golden Gate Bridge in the manner described in the book.

    Petty? Sure. Problematic? No. Not unless there is a cumulative effect of all the petty things.

    On the other hand, I am enjoying the voice, and the humor.

  31. Nina Lindsay says:

    Huh, well the curriculum thing hadn’t occured to me, but really I think it fits in the category of “plausible.” Those three things all had national significance.

    The view from the plane…that one tripped me too for a sec. But I was also willing to pass over this one; maybe plane technology was different then…I’ve never flown into Oakland from Denver and maybe there’s a certain path…maybe the plane was held up in traffic and so had to circle …

  32. Nancy Werlin says:

    I grew up in Massachusetts, born 1961. I don’t remember where I learned about the Golden Gate bridge (only that I knew about it). But I do remember studying the California Gold Rush and the building of the railroads in some depth in school. Important points in California history also have had an outsize importance in U.S. history, as Nina says. I suggest you take a look at MITCH AND AMY by Beverly Cleary, where the kids study panning for gold.

    >.Brooklyn students would have learned about New York state history.

    Really? Back in the 60s and early 70s, I don’t believe we did a specific unit on our own state history … perhaps because Massachusetts was important enough in national history that nobody felt a lack? But I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that mandated study of state history instead of US history in elementary school entered most state curriculum later.

    >>Our U.S. History curriculum goes up to the Civil War (not that any of our teachers actually ever get there, being lucky to make it to the Pioneers), so it might include fleeting references to the Gold Rush, but not the Railroad. Of course, this is CA now, not NYC in 1968. <<

    Indeed. Back in the day, my various US history courses went all the way to the present, but we never made it past WWII…. so the topics you mention were covered easily. So, why can't you laggards get past pioneers?!

    Anyway, I don't think you can pick these particular nits, Jonathan.

  33. While I do remember a state history unit in 4th grade Michigan (mainly that the state animal is a wolverine) I also think that I could easily have learned about the Golden Gate Bridge, the Gold Rush, and Chinese Immigration (as a matter of fact I teach that in my NYC 4th grade today) in that 1962 East Lansing classroom.

    I’m with Nancy as to these critters.

  34. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Thanks for your input. I do agree that the curriculum stuff is plausible. I’m going to post soonish on why I liked the book, but allow me one more nit.

    Did this quote from page 63 perplex anyone?

    “I found us a place on line behind Puerto Ricans who didn’t look like Puerto Ricans but who spoke Spanish. Then I remembered our study of the fifty states. They were probably Mexicans.”

  35. Nina Lindsay says:

    Uh…no. Probably the only Hispanics she’d met, previously, had been Puerto Rican Americans.

  36. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, it’s clear that the author is trying to show that Delphine is contrasting her experience with Puerto Ricans in NYC with Mexicans in Oakland–and I like that, but I think it’s kind of clumsy. Can you tell the nationality a person simply by looking at them? I mean, I have lots of Mexicans in my classes. Some of them look white, some look Latino, some Indian, some Asian . . . I’m also not following the logic that a study of the fifty states would clue you into Puerto Ricans and Mexicans . . .

  37. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Now the accent of their Spanish would clearly indicate Mexicans vs. Puerto Ricans.

  38. Nina Lindsay says:

    Maybe not the most elegant, but clumsy? I think you’re nitpicking Jonathan. No, you can’t tell the nationality of a person by looking at them, but that’s not really what’s happening here. Delphine is standing in line behind people who look like, to her, based on her experience “Puerto Ricans who didn’t look like Puerto Ricans” speaking Spanish. It gives her pause–it’s unfamiliar. Who knows exactly what she learned in her lesson of the 50 states, but regarding California she probably learned that the state used to belong to Mexico. And/or that it currently still had a lot of Mexican immigration.

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