Maybe you thought you’d seen the last of this one here..but it just barely didn’t make the cut on our first shortlist, and we’re happy to bring it back now. I haven’t been a vocal supporter of this one; I feel like it suffered from early-over-hyping, which can happen to strong spring titles. Publishers, it’s rumored, save their award contenders for the fall so that there’s not quite so much time to tear them apart and get tired of them. But I’ve found the opposite is often true…that given enough time, and tearing a book apart enough, one can find newfound appreciation in its buoyancy and staying power.
Wiles has a strong command of setting, voice, and character. I like Anne Quirk’s comment in her Horn Book review: “the dialogue is often rat-a-tat sharp”; I found that Wiles ability to place me instantly in a scene might come the closest, on this list, to Megan Whalen Turner’s. Though I’d forgotten a lot of this story after reading, I found on diving back in that I was quickly transported back. That is, the place still existed in my mind, just waiting to be revisited.
I’m impressed, but disappointed, with the visual “documentary” aspect of this novel. I don’t think it quite works…the quotation and pictures lack enough context to actually be informative to readers. They do give a very interesting “flavor” to the reading…kind of a surround-sound feeling…that is unique. I’ll be curious to hear how you all think these sections fit in with this item from the Newbery Criteria:
The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.
What do you think?
Last shortlist title to be announced this weekend. Stock up on your books for the holidays and start commenting. We’ll be posting to move the discussion along, but don’t wait for us.