Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Fall Nonfiction Newbery Contenders

aronson41 Fall Nonfiction Newbery ContendersSince I loved SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD, and I like Marc Aronson’s books in general, I was really looking forward to reading his latest book, TRAPPED: HOW THE WORLD SAVED 33 MINERS FROM 2,000 FEET BELOW THE CHILEAN DESERT.  I was impressed with how he incorporated geology, economy, mining, and mythology into this compelling, dramatic current event, but I felt like the X factor was still missing.  Wendy mentioned that could have been a larger human element, and I think she’s on the right track.   The miners were depicted collectively as a single entity or as types (the leader, the spiritual guru, etc.)  rather than as distinct individuals.  I also craved more depth on everything in general.  So while this one doesn’t rise to the very top of the nonfiction heap for me, it’s still worthy of discussion and consideration, especially relative to some of the mediocre novels people have been touting.

DRAWING FROM MEMORY by Allen Say is a memoir of his journey to becoming an artist.  Say’s texts always have an say42 Fall Nonfiction Newbery Contendersunderstated elegance about them, and this one is no exception.  Don’t let the simple sentences fool you.  Notice how, in the first paragraph of the book, each one logically follows the next one, making one great chain of causality.

I was born in 1937 by the seashore of Yokohama, Japan.  Our house stood near a fishing village.  My playmates were the children of fisherman.  Mother constantly worried that I would drown in the sea.  She tried to keep me home.

In spite of my bias against memoirs as “fake” nonfiction, I still find this one distinguished.  I just don’t think that understated elegance + brevity of text = strong Newbery chances.  Now I think the Sibert a more likely possibility–and they’ll be able to take the illustrations into account–but even so I still think it’s an honor book.

nelson2 Fall Nonfiction Newbery Contenders WE ARE THE SHIP was one of the most decorated books of its year–Sibert Medal, Coretta Scott King Award for Author, Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustrator.  It’s no surprise, then, that this follow up should generate quite a bit of excitement.  This time around Kadir Nelson has tackled a larger historical subject: American history through the lens of an African American viewpoint.  The illustrations, as always, are fabulous, and Nelson still employs a colloquial first person narrative that somehow manages to be scholarly at the same time. And yet, I wasn’t as enamored with this one.  Perhaps I need to dismiss the ghosts of Walter Dean Myers (NOW IS YOUR TIME), Virginia Hamilton (MANY THOUSAND GONE), and Tonya Bolden (various nonfiction books).  Perhaps I just know too much about these periods of history to be quite as impressed.  And perhaps Nelson has bit off more than he can chew.  I think he is prone to oversimplification and overgeneralization, at times, but I’d have to comb back through the book to find those instances.  I also have a slight concern about the book design which highlights the illustrations, but leaves huge, impenetrable blocks of text for child readers.

BLIZZARD OF GLASS: THE HALIFAX EXPLOSION OF 1917 will not be published until late November, but the distinguished writing begins on the first page.walker Fall Nonfiction Newbery Contenders

Halifax, the largest city of Nova Scotia, Canada, has a story to tell.  Fourteen bells in a memorial tower ring part of the tale.  In the city hall clock tower, the locked-in-place hands on the clock that faces north freeze a moment of the story, left as it was on that long ago day.  A museum containing grim reminders and libraries filled with age-old pages share more.  The people of Halifax add chapters to the story each time they speak the memories of those who lived–and died at the time.  Old scars are hidden by sturdy stone houses, and tall trees line remade streets.  But the roots of the story are still there, and they grow deep.

Here’s another display of true artistry.  Walker has chosen to tell this story, in part, through the eyes of five families.  This reads like a simple list here, but by this point in the story, the reader knows each of these characters.  Note how the clipped staccato delivery heightens the sense of urgency, panic, and suspense.  At 9:04 AM . . .

Vincent Pattion, inside the sugar refinery, watched the Mont-Blanc burn.

On Barrington Street, his sons, Gordon, James, and Alan, ran toward the fire.

His wife, Annie, went into the backyard to see what was happening.

Katherine Pattison stayed inside the house.

Albert O’Brien stepped off the ship in the dry dock.

His son Gerald skipped toward the store.

At home, Albert’s wife, Bertie, and his daugher Evelyn watched smoke fill the sky.

Vincent Coleman, his warning telegraph message sent, started to run.

At home, his wife, Frances, and daughters Juanita and Eileen heard sirens.

In school, Eleanor Coleman headed toward her classroom.

Gerald Coleman finished lighting candles in St. Joseph’s church.

On the waterfront, driver Billy Wells tightly gripped the Patricia’s steering wheel.

In the harbor, Horation Brannen and other seamen continued their rescue efforts.

Across the harber, Rose MacDonald and her son Murray watched the cloud grow.

Her sister Hannah Lonecloud stood nearby.

Little Mary peeked from the doorway of the house.

Rose’s son Harvey, following her order, climbed back into bed.

Gertrude Hook, following her mother’s order, turned back to get her mittens.

Pilot Francis Mackey and Captain Aime Le Medec ran into the nearby woods.

Thirty second later, Mont-Blanc’s main cargo exploded.

For me, BLIZZARD OF GLASS is the best of this fall crop, and while I’d still rank AMELIA LOST as my first choice of nonfiction, this one and BOOTLEG rank a close second.  So, tell me, have we missed anything?  CHARLES DICKENS AND THE STREET CHILDREN OF LONDON by Andrea Warren and MUSIC WAS IT: THE YOUNG LEONARD BERNSTEIN by Susan Goldman Rubin have got good reviews, but I’d be hard pressed to rank them higher than the titles in these two nonfiction posts.  Kathi Appelt mentioned CAN I SEE YOUR I.D.? by Chris Barton on a previous thread.  Any others we should take note of?

share save 171 16 Fall Nonfiction Newbery Contenders
Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the County Schools Librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at hunt_yellow@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. Elle Librarian says:

    AROUND THE WORLD by Phelan has four starred reviews already, but since it won’t be released until Oct. 11th, I haven’t seen this one yet to weigh in on its merits.

  2. Eric Carpenter says:

    AROUND THE WORLD world is indeed fantastic (at least the B&W galley I read is, I can only assumed the full color version will be even better), but I can’t figure out how a graphic novel could possibly earn a newbery, simply too much reliance on the imagery. A Sibert makes a ton more sense for Phelan here (a caldecott wouldn’t be to surpirsing either).

  3. Elle Librarian says:

    Okay – wasn’t aware it was a graphic novel. I just read the Booklist review of it so far and it didn’t make it clear that it was a graphic novel. If it is as good as the stars / buzz point it out to be, I hope it can get some recognition. Though, the format, as you stated, may limit award committees’ discussion of this title.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I actually think a graphic novel text could be sufficiently distinguished for Newbery consideration. I’ve tried to suggest THE ODYSSEY and STITCHES in recent years as the best available options, but I don’t think we’ve quite found the right one yet. I liked AROUND THE WORLD, too, but . . . you quoted a great piece of writing, Elle, for QUEEN OF THE FALLS. Which piece of text would you quote for AROUND THE WORLD? I do think the Sibert is a more likely possibility. I’ll look at CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER? It also has a BG-HB Honor in addition to all those starred reviews.

  5. Blakeney says:

    I am interested to have these new titles pointed out for my consideration, but I have two issues with the above discussion. First, we are told that it is not appropriate in talking about books for the Newbery to refer to books from previous years. Since this blog takes the terms and criteria quite seriously, I think the focus should remain on the merits or detractions in the current year’s books.

    Secondly, I personally do not like to hear people placing books for various awards, thus in some way dismissing them from serious consideration for the award at hand. Great – let the book win both the Newbery and the Sibert. I understand that for Sibert the illustrations count, so a book might rise higher from the pack when the full package is examined. All books on the ballot where honor books are selected are supposed to be someone’s pick for the medal, so I think all books under consideration should be discussed from that point of view. Otherwise, placing it in a possible honor book category seems a backhanded way of eliminating it from real consideration for the medal. That might be true for one person but not for everyone “at the table”.

  6. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Blakeney, your points are well taken. We say lots of things on this blog, sometimes in the posts, but quite often in the comments, that we would not say around the table.

    We cannot assume that other committees will “catch” books. SHOW WAY, an honor book from my committee, was widely believed to be a Caldecott frontrunner. We never considered what that committee may do with that particular book during our deliberations. I’d imagine the same could be said about last year’s committee in regard to DARK EMPEROR.

    Honor books probably receive first place votes, but not necessarily. A book with only second and third places votes can attain honor status, but it would need broader support.

    I am guilty of introducing some of these nonfiction authors with their previous books and accolades. I do that, and will probably continue to do that, because I’m frustrated with the way that nonfiction is perceived in terms of the Newbery. I’m frustrated that superstar nonfiction authors hardly seem to generate any Newbery buzz while very mediocre novels generate it easily. Then, too, none of the nonfiction books from this past decade had less than four starred reviews (THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION, AN AMERICAN PLAGUE, HITLER YOUTH, and CLAUDETTE COLVIN), but the committee routinely picks novels out of left field (too many to name). It’s a respect problem, and it frustrates the hell out of me.

  7. Mark Flowers says:

    Jonathan – did you see Marc Aronson’s post about Informational VS Nonfiction books the other day (http://blogs.slj.com/nonfictionmatters/2011/09/26/information-vs-nonfiction-or-the-element-of-surprise/)

    I often wonder whether Newbery committee members think of nonfiction just in terms of this “informational” frame instead of narratives in themselves.

  8. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Mark, I did see that post, and I’m really not sure whether that is part of the problem. It could be. Ultimately, I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and some people just don’t like it, and if you put enough of them on the committee, then you handicap genres (not just nonfiction, but poetry, easy readers, etc.)

    My favorite group of books to illustrate this point is the 2009 Printz books, which you’ll remember were JELLICOE ROAD, OCTAVIAN NOTHING: THE KINGDOM ON THE WAVES, TENDER MORSELS, NATION, and THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS. Now I think THE LINCOLNS by Candace Fleming was easily a top five book, and should have been a Printz Honor, but . . . I couldn’t fault any committee member who picked three of the aforementioned novels over THE LINCOLNS. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with their ballot, but the field of novels was so strong that year that you could play to your bias toward novels (if, in fact, you had one) and not feel like you were shirking your duty one bit.

    I do not believe that the top five books, year in and year out, are novels.

  9. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Since 2002, every committee has recognized either poetry or nonfiction with the exception of 2003 and 2007.

    2002 (CARVER)
    2004 (AN AMERICAN PLAGUE)
    2005 (THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION)
    2006 (HITLER YOUTH)
    2008 (GOOD MASTERS! SWEET LADIES!–dramatic monologues)
    2009 (THE SURRENDER TREE)
    2010 (CLAUDETTE COLVIN)
    2011 (DARK EMPEROR)
    2012 (????)

  10. KT Horning says:

    Jonathan, I love your optimism for 2012!

  11. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Could 2012 be the year we have one of each? Say, AMELIA LOST and NEVER FORGOTTEN?

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’m also going to add that it’s not just *enough* to like nonfiction. The real question is this: At the end of the day, when all is said and done, can you put at least one nonfiction title in your top three? Not your top three favorites, necessarily, because we are not charged with picking our *favorite* books, but can you stand in an objective place and say, yes, this is one of the best three books of the year?

    We don’t always have strong nonfiction books to consider, but for the third year running, we have a very strong group–AMELIA LOST, BLIZZARD OF GLASS, BOOTLEG, DRAWING FROM MEMORY, FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEAP, HEART AND SOUL, TRAPPED, and QUEEN OF THE FALLS, among others. These books encompass a range of subjects, styles, and ages. I’ve read them all and think each has distinguished features worthy of Newbery consideration, some more than others, and by an objective standard each of them has received just as much critical praise as any of the novels this year. I would suggest, then, that if *you* cannot find a nonfiction book to place in your top three, that the problem is not the books, the problem is not the critieria, but rather the problem is, in fact, *you,* the reader.

    Now whether we can all put the *same* nonfiction book(s) in our top three and build consensus around it/them . . . Well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. That’s the gauntlet that *every* book, regardless of genre, has to pass through.

  13. Wendy says:

    That’s a pretty bold statement, Jonathan. I am not finding this a particularly strong year for nonfiction so far–certainly not compared to the last two or three years. I can easily think of three novels that I think are better than any of the nonfiction I’ve read so far. I’d find it a little questionable if people can’t put a couple of nonfiction titles in their top TEN, but top three? That isn’t necessarily a problem with the reader. As for “just as much critical praise”, no journal uses the Newbery criteria when deciding which books to praise and how much to praise them. The journals are great for suggesting which books I want to look at, but one has to start over with each book, no matter how much Horn Book likes it.

  14. Elle Librarian says:

    So far, I think I could put QUEEN OF THE FALLS in my top 10. AMELIA LOST was distinguished as a whole, but I do have problems with the fact Fleming never mentioned the theory that Amelia could have survived for awhile on an island (where a few years ago, scientists discovered makeup from Amelia’s time period). I’m not sure yet if it bothers me enough to keep it out of my top 10.

    I have yet to read HEART & SOUL and SWIRL BY SWIRL. (HEART & SOUL was just delivered yesterday)!

    For fiction, I’m loving JEFFERSON’S SONS, TROUBLE FOR MAY AMELIA, INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN, and OKAY FOR NOW. Just finished SPARROW ROAD, which I could maybe put in my top 10 as well.

    For fiction, I still have the following on my reading pile: WONDERSTRUCK, BREADCRUMBS, and MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK, among others.

  15. Nina Lindsay says:

    I finally looked at QUEEN OF THE FALLS and am not quite seeing the text as distinguished. What am I missing?

  16. Jonathan Hunt says:

    It is a bold statement, Wendy, and I stand by it. In regard to whether this year is particularly strong for nonfiction . . . Well, first, have you read either BOOTLEG or BLIZZARD? And second, I think we have been spoiled by the past 2-3 years, but, for example, when I was on the 2008 Printz committee (and Nina chaired the 2006 Newbery), I looked really hard for good nonfiction: THE WALL by Peter Sis, WHO WAS FIRST? by Russell Freedman, RACE by Marc Aronson, and THE REAL BENEDICT ARNOLD by Jim Murphy were the most obvious suspects, but only the first two had more than a single starred review. Not that I am correlating starred reviews to award criteria; I’m simply using it as a more objective starting point for “good” than simply stating my opinion alone.

    Now I know that we are not supposed to compare books from year to year, but my point is that we each have a preconceived idea of what Newbery greatness looks like (shaped in large part by examples from the canon, thus: we know it when we see it). You say it’s not a good year for nonfiction; I say it’s not a good year for novels. When I take the nonfiction Newbery from this past decade–THE VOICE, AMERICAN PLAGUE, HITLER YOUTH, CLAUDETTE–then AMELIA LOST clearly feels at home among this group. Whereas if I take the four best novels from the same time period–THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX, CRISS CROSS (heh heh), THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and WHEN YOU REACH ME–do I see anything on the landscape that is worthy of standing with them? Nope. I think Schmidt comes the closest. I’d love to hear which novels you’d rank over AMELIA LOST. I think you can probably build consensus around OKAY FOR NOW and THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA, but what else? THE QUEEN OF WATER? NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT? THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU? Good luck with those.

    Elle, I asked Candace Fleming about the make-up (which was in the news again when I got my ARC last winter). Her response was that she had consulted with some leading Earhart authorities about it, and had concluded that it was just too speculative to include, that there is lots of speculation, and she had to draw the line somewhere.

  17. Wendy says:

    Heh. Have you been spying on my Goodreads votes, Jonathan? I might sometimes use that list for my own purposes. But I really do believe in NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT as a contender, though no one seems interested, and I think LUCY WU is as good as or better than some of the novels we’ve discussed. But you make a compelling argument. Maybe (I whisper)… is it possible that this is kind of a weak year?

    (I would sub in A Single Shard for Despereaux, myself. Or just add it.)

    I haven’t yet read either of the nonfiction titles you mention, and I’m looking forward to Swirl by Swirl as well. I have about twelve novels in my to-read pile and on my hold list. I’m halfway through Wonderstruck and might be interested in making a case for it. But last year, though there weren’t any books I was really passionate about, there were several that seemed perfectly deserving of the Newbery. I’m not there this year–at least, not yet.

  18. Wendy says:

    Also, I was thinking about this more, and I’m going to take issue with that dismissive “good luck with those” about those novels. Why shouldn’t there be consensus around them? Heavy Medal can get misleadingly echo-chambery. We’ve talked about OFN and MAY AMELIA quite a bit. But actually, THE QUEEN OF WATER and LUCY WU have gotten good journal and blog reviews and are well-liked on Goodreads. (Those reviewers may not use the criteria, but that says to me they do have a shot at building consensus.) I don’t think last year HM thought there was a good chance of building consensus around HEART OF A SAMURAI, either.

  19. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Yes, Wendy, I spy on everyone’s goodreads votes. :-)

    I’m sure there’s an excellent chance that the committee will recognize, if not QUEEN OF WATER and LUCY WU, then some other book that nobody has considered very much. You are right that we didn’t discuss HEART OF A SAMURAI or MOON OVER MANIFEST much here, but at least those did have great reviews. Often we’re treated to such yummy things like HOMER P. FIGG and HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY which did not.

    So, again you are coming right back to my point. What do you think the chances are that the committee will choose a nonfiction book out of left field? Do you think they will choose one that is not among the eight books I have listed in these two nonfiction posts? Too often when they pick an idiosyncratic book, I hear things like–Oh, they didn’t listen to the buzz–or–Oh, they did the hard work of reading all the books. I never hear–Oh, they screwed over MARCHING FOR FREEDOM in order to pick HOMER P. FIGG. Which is, of course, exactly what happened. I get why we can build consensus around novels more easily than nonfiction, especially in lean nonfiction years (2007 for 2008 awards), and strong novel years (2008 for 2009 awards), but I’m still mystified why we can build consensus around mediocre novels at the expense of excellent nonfiction.

  20. Nina Lindsay says:

    Wendy, neither QUEEN OF WATER or NO PASSENGERS stand out for me. What make them seem distinguished to you?

  21. Wendy says:

    QUEEN OF WATER: unobtrusively detailed setting, both in the rural and the urban areas. Vivid characterization of protagonist, if not necessarily the supporting characters. I thought the plotting was excellent for the first two-thirds or so, up until she actually got away; there it might have gotten lost a bit. Above all, I found the style compelling. None of the readers of this book know diddly about Ecuador in the 1980s–you can see in the Goodreads and blog reviews that several people expressed this setting as being out of their comfort zones or similar–and yet the book lives, retains its readers, doesn’t lapse into didacticism or paragraph after paragraph of world-building.

    NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT: I’ve read several books with alternating narrators recently, and this is the one that does the best job of having actual distinct voices for each character. Plotting, characters, and style all serve the theme brilliantly. This book is a bit confusing, but it’s meant to be; it’s more tightly written than, say, THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK. I wish I had a copy to quote from–I remember this one having a hooky intro–but it looks like you can’t even get the first pages online. Anyone?

    KT mentioned that she wished she could read OKAY FOR NOW with a fifth-grader’s understanding, and I wish the same about NO PASSENGERS. This is a book that kids will understand differently from adults, and it’s one of a few books this year that feels very authentically written for the child reader (rather than the parent or teacher or librarian). No pandering to either group.

    Now, if I were just laying odds, rather than looking for distinction, I would also suggest that this has several markers of a Newbery winner/honor: it’s divisive, it’s written by an author with a previous honor to her name, and it’s weird.

  22. Nina Lindsay says:

    I think QUEEN OF WATER stands out in the areas that are decidedly outside of the Newbery criteria: for bringing a subject and perspective that hasn’t been much portrayed for this audience. But the weaknesses you mention stand out starkly for me.

    I think that Choldenko is a talented storyteller. And I like “weird”. I’ll take another look at NO PASSENGERS, but “confusing” was my reaction too, and I DON’T think it was meant to be in the way it was. Also, the allegory of the ending just seemed to me to undermine the trust that had been built with the audience.

  23. I’m redoing this as I realize it should be here rather than under the Spring Nonfiction post.

    I reread TRAPPED today and the same thing came to mind as it did the first time around: why are the miners themselves so buried in the story? Yes, the subtitle is “How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet below the Chilean Desert,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t make those 33 visible and active in this rescue effort. Indeed, there is something of the cavalry coming in to save the day that makes me uncomfortable. There is just so much about all these experts coming in and I’d have liked to see the miners, who have a great deal of expertise too just not the book kind, to have been brought more to the fore. Of course, all 33 couldn’t have been brought in this way, but I think even one of the leaders could have been a stronger presence in the book than is the case. I suspect one problem was that Aronson interviewed some of the rescuers, but none of the miners. There is a different sensibility in the sections where he is writing about actions on the part of those he interviewed from the sections when he is relying on news accounts.

  24. Sam Bloom says:

    If, hypothetically speaking, I was on the committee and had to vote right now, Amelia Lost would be my #1. Sadly, this post has me realizing just how much I need to catch up on the ones I’ve missed… Bootleg, Trapped, etc. But Jonathan, noble though your intentions to help rise up the underdog nonfiction titles may be, I disagree with your claim that there should *always* be a nonfiction title in our top 3. And I strongly disagree that there is an inherent “problem” with someone who can’t fit a NF title in their top 3. Sure, as we’re discussing (and reading) and debating (and reading) within the blogosphere we have the luxury of choice in our reading. Do I want to read Okay For Now next, or Around the World, or Swirl by Swirl, or…? (You get my point.) We’re all going to try to hit as many of the buzz titles as we can, but as a passionate champion of nonfiction you’re naturally going to want to shine a light on more of those books than on the “mediocre” novels out there. No arguments with you on that point, believe me! But as a committee member, you… or I, or whomever… can’t afford to get bogged down in lifting up one genre over another. We’re reading EVERYthing many times over, and scrutinizing everything down to the final period in the book. After 9 months of that, you go to choose your nominations, and maybe all 7 of your nominations are nonfiction… maybe you’ve got 5 nonfiction and 2 novels… or maybe (gasp!) you don’t have a single nonfiction title in your top 7! I don’t consider that a character flaw. As long as you’ve read everything, and used the criteria as your bible, more power to you no matter what you’ve picked…. even if I don’t agree with it!

    I’m reading Heart and Soul right now, and let me just state that I’m probably the biggest Kadir Nelson fanboy EVER. But, about midway through, I must (very sadly) agree with Jonathan that the writing doesn’t quite cut it. I can definitely also see that the book design is a detriment to its Newbery chances, but personally, I think it is gorgeous. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on Caldecott for this one.

    Hey, it was hard last year not to be able to join the conversations. This is good stuff!

  25. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Sam, I didn’t say that you must *always* put a nonfiction in your top three, or that there is an inherent problem with someone who can’t put nonfiction in their top three. In fact, I gave specific examples where you should not or could not put them in your top three (e.g. a weak year for nonfiction, a strong year for novels–or another genre). I did say that we should be able to find one *this* year, especially with the quality, quantity, and diversity of nonfiction available this year, but perhaps I did overstate that a bit. I personally think AMELIA LOST is Newbery worthy, and BOOTLEG and BLIZZARD are, too, but they will be harder to build consensus around–I’m not sold on the others I’ve listed, but that doesn’t mean somebody else can’t be. It’s still a relatively weak year for novels, however, and when we discuss AMELIA LOST in more depth later on, I look forward to comparing its excellence to all the mediocrity out there.

  26. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Okay, I just went back and reread some of my comments on this thread. In an effort to clarify. When I said that you should be able to put a nonfiction in your top three, I’m sure that came across very aggressively. I was really speaking to the depth and quality of this particular crop. I find AMELIA to be the most distinguished, but you may find, as Eric does, for example, that DRAWING FROM MEMORY is the best of the bunch, and for somebody else it might be something entirely different. We may be able to build consensus around a nonfiction title–or we may not. One of the problems with nonfiction is depth and quality, having a variety of excellent titles to choose from and consider. That shouldn’t be a problem this year. Doesn’t mean we’ll see nonfiction recognized, however.

  27. Sam Bloom says:

    Okay, I apologize for misquoting you in the first part of my statement… and I look forward to comparing Amelia to everything else as well. That’s one of the few books I’ve actually read twice this year, and it held up quite well to scrutiny.

  28. Jonathan Hunt says:

    No need to apologize. That’s how we play this game. I say something outrageous, provoking a response, and then I quickly retract my original statement when people call me on the carpet. ;-)

  29. Sam Bloom says:

    Hey, looks like we were typing simultaneously there, despite the weird/inaccurate time stamp. And let’s be honest here – if you didn’t overstate (as you said) your opinion from time to time, this blog wouldn’t be quite as colorful! I still haven’t seen Drawing From Memory – as I said before, looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me in terms of catching up on my NF reading.

  30. KT Horning says:

    Really enjoying this intelligent discussion — thanks, all!

  31. Mr. H says:

    Wendy, I’ve had NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT falling lower and lower in my stack of books on my desk. But I’m intrigued. I like Gennifer Choldenko and when I’m finished reading OKAY FOR NOW to my 5th graders (which they still LOVE), then I am going to read NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT to them. I always like reading books with them that I’ve never read, so we can learn and practice thinking together.

    You’ve got me intrigued.

  32. Mr. H says:

    I actually think that what Jonathan is speaking about relates more to the way the criteria are written. It’s almost as if whoever wrote the Newbery criteria clearly had FICTION titles in mind and then tweaked a few of the criteria to make sure NONFICTION could be included as well.

    I’m not an avid reader of children’s nonfiction, but I love Jonathan’s passion for it and I trust him when he champions for some of these books. However, it makes me wonder, when people of similar “kidlit stature” are reading the exact same books, often even multiple times, like Jonathan says, why is it so darn difficult to build consensus around them, but easy to do so around a book like HOMER P FIGG? I think there’s got to be something to the fact that the way the criteria certainly favors fiction titles.

  33. Wendy says:

    OK, I read Drawing From Memory last night, and it’s absolutely going in my top choices. I didn’t think it was overly dependent on the illustrations in the slightest–far, far less than the Elephant and Piggie books, for sure.

    I also reread the first chapter of No Passengers Beyond This Point and was blown away again. (Not that that’s a fall nonfiction title, but I see that we discussed it here briefly.) I wish the first chapter was available online so I could make you all read it and see how perfectly it starts off with characters, theme, setting, and plot-building.

  34. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I don’t think DRAWING FROM MEMORY is overly dependent on the illustrations at all. I worry that people will not appreciate the deceptively simple prose style and the short length of the text (as I wrote above). Of course, even if DRAWING FROM MEMORY were overly dependent on the illustrations it would still be Newbery worthy (see Elephant & Piggie discussion). Eric likes this, you like it, and I like it. Let’s start the bandwagon!

    I put NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT on hold along with a couple of picture book recommendations from the blog, THE MAN IN THE MOON and PASSING THE MUSIC DOWN. THE QUEEN OF WATER is checked in, but I forgot to pick it up when I was at my high school site.

  35. Wendy says:

    Oh, but OTHER people have said so, Jonathan. I need to look at Drawing From Memory again from my approximation of a child’s perspective; I was so wrapped up in it last night that I wasn’t thinking about presentation for a child audience. My seven-year-old niece will read it, but she likes everything. (I spent an afternoon telling her stories of the Chilean miners, which she loved, and then she demanded Trapped. I expected her to give up after a few pages–it’s pretty dry and technical in places, and didn’t think it would really be of interest–but she thought it was great. Kids is unpredictable.) The Man in the Moon is on hold for me, too. I’m glad to know it was recommended here, because when it turned up in my “ready for pickup” notifications, I hadn’t remembered putting it on hold and wondered what on earth possessed me to seek it out. It looks like something I’ll hate. We’ll see.

Speak Your Mind

*