If you haven’t yet, read Maria Tatar’s opinion in the New York Times, “No More Adventures in Wonderland.” (And Monica Edinger’s discussion of it here.) Tatar contrasts the “luminous promise of magic” in Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the “unforgiving…savagery” in The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and The Graveyard Book. To her credit, she’s not denouncing the latter–just noting the shift, and her nostalgia.
However, I have to wonder if she really read The Graveyard Book, which I found to be much more in tone with the books-of-yore she misses, ones in which “danger is balanced by enchantment.” She sums up Gaiman’s plot as: “It is up to the hero, Bod–short for Nobody–to find the killer.” I read a different Graveyard Book, in which Bod is delighted and sheltered by magic…the enhantments of his unusual home giving him the tools he’ll need to face the danger, when–because he grows older, like everyone except Peter Pan–the danger can no longer be ignored.
What does this have to do with discussion of this year’s Newbery contenders? I just appreciate the chance to step back and see that what each of us most wants out of a book can change the perspective with which we read. One book is a different book for each of us. A possible mark of a Newbery winner might be that it can succeed for readers in multiple ways.