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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

A Passel of Poetry

We’ve already discussed a couple of poetry books (SWIRL BY SWIRL, NEVER FORGOTTEN) and a couple of verse novels (INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN and EDDIE’S WAR) and I think they stand the best chance of Newbery recognition in their respective genres, but there is actually a rich, diverse field of books published this year to choose from.

POETRY BOOKS

EMMA DILEMMA by Kristine O’Connell George  . . . A charming collection of poems about being a big sister.  Three starred reviews, SLJ list.

greenfield2 A Passel of PoetryEVERY THING ON IT by Shel Silverstein . . . This posthumous collection will undoubtedly be the biggest hit with children, but the quality of poems is uneven, the drawings provide the punch line for many of them, and they do not tend to reward multiple readings with new insights and appreciation.  Three stars, SLJ list.

THE GREAT MIGRATION by Eloise Greenfield . . . We’ve already discussed the Great Migration in the context of HEART AND SOUL, but Greenfield’s poetry cycle also honors the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North.  Four stars.ADOFF2 A Passel of Poetry

ROOTS AND BLUES by Arnold Adoff . . . Adoff’s signature shaped speech poetry is not the most accessible style, but this book is a perfect marriage of form and subject.  Four stars, Kirkus and SLJ lists.  It’s a nice companion book for BLUES JOURNEY by Walter Dean Myers, and speaking of Myers . . .

WE ARE AMERICA by Walter Dean Myers . . . One of our most decorated children’s poets, Myers’s latest poem is a patriotic paean that celebrates America even as it acknowledges her shortcomings.  Two stars, Kirkus list.

VERSE NOVELS

ADDIE ON THE INSIDE by James Howe . . . This one has a lot of things working against it–it’s a sequel, it’s a school story, it’s political–but it’s definitely worth a read.  Two stars, SLJ list.

HIDDEN by Helen Frost . . . Frost always creates these complicated forms and then writes really good verse novels.  For me, the forms are so complicated that it’s hard for me to truly appreciate them in a literary sense.  I do marvel at her skill, but in the same way that I marvel at the skill of a good maker of crossword puzzles.  I had the same problem with MIRROR, MIRROR last year.  One star, Kirkus list.

HURRICANE DANCERS by Margarita Engle . . . Since winning a Newbery Honor for SURRENDER TREE, Engle’s subsequent verse novels get mentioned regularly as Newbery possibilities, but it’s been a relatively buzz free year.  One star.

wolf2 214x300 A Passel of PoetryPLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL by Nikki Grimes . . . BRONX MASQUERADE is one of my all-time favorites so I make a dilligent effort to read her stuff.  This is another strong effort, but I don’t think it separates itself from this pack of verse novels, let alone the entire field.  One star.

THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Allan Wolf . . . This is probably the best verse novel of the year, but it’s size (400+ pages) and questions about its audience will make it difficult to build consensus around.  Three stars, Horn Book list.

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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. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Sylvia Vardell has some video clips of Adoff, Greenfield, Grimes, and Sidman reading or discussing their recent work at NCTE.

    http://poetryforchildren.blogspot.com/2011/11/ncte-2011-4-big-poetry-events.html

  2. Jess says:

    Hidden is the only one of this bunch that I’ve read, and I thought it was excellent. The complicated form just acted as a fun extra – it was the characters and sentence-level writing that made it stand out for me. The first part also has fantastic tension right from the first page.

  3. DaNae says:

    I was also happy to find HIDDEN. I have a list of girls who will love it. Perfect for 6th grade girls who like to read but have trouble finishing books, who like drama and a dash of romance.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I thought that THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT was a tour de force. I was astonished by the way the author could tell so many different stories–(there are twenty-five different points of view, with each character’s story having its own tensions and climaxes)–while building the cumulative tension and climax of the big-picture disaster. The quality of the verse is strong, and the different stories are told so skillfully that they’re easy to follow. I am not a big Titanic fan, and despised the movie, but this book is something else entirely. When all the stories drew together, and the ship sank, I was appalled and moved to tears.

    I don’t think the fact that the book is 400 pages long should be considered a liability. And in this case, the page count is somewhat deceptive, as some of the pages contain short poems. Could the author have told the story faster, with fewer characters? Undoubtedly–but not without losing richness, complexity, and force.

    And the book reads FAST. You feel the pull of it–you’re heading for that tragic climax as inexorably as the ship steams toward the iceberg. It’s a fantastic read.

  5. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I read about a third of THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT, but had to put it down because of review deadlines. I plan to get back to it soon. I like what I have read so far, and I could easily jump on this Newbery bandwagon if it holds up. It has 76,000 words (which probably includes the extensive back matter). Even so, that’s 5,000 words less than MOON OVER MANIFEST or THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE and without the back matter it’s probably closer in size to THE GRAVEYARD BOOK (67,000) or HATTIE BIG SKY (70,000). So I do agree that the length is deceptive and that the book does read *very* quickly.

    I think it’s primary audience would be grades 7-9, but motivated/precocious students in grades 4-6 would be fine with reading it, too, although it doesn’t look/feel like your typical juvenile book. If SURRENDER TREE can win a Newbery Honor, I see no reason why this one can’t either. Of all the books we’ve mentioned for the older end of the range, namely CHIME and BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, this is the one that I think I could actually get behind and place in my top three.

  6. Wendy says:

    I started reading The Watch That Ends the Night at a restaurant and thought the first two poems so wonderful that I should put it away until I could concentrate on it properly. I haven’t found the right moment yet, but am looking forward to it.

    I didn’t find Hidden very strong (particularly in development of plot and theme), but I know it has several strong supporters here. I look forward to hearing specifics about why you think this book is a Newbery contender, since most of the Goodreads reviews have given high marks more to the idea behind the book than the writing–what I think of as “reviewing the Wikipedia article” instead of the book. (Another example of “reviewing the Wikipedia article”–that is, I think, what quite a few people thought was going on with those of us who like Jefferson’s Sons. Hope we were able to convince you otherwise.)

    The hidden-messages idea worked better, I thought, in the author’s Diamond Willow (although I liked that book even less). They were easier to read, added more to the story, and, I felt, made for less of a sort of artificial manipulation of the text that I sensed in Hidden. Some of the sentences seemed very awkward, ostensibly to allow for the hidden-message feature.

  7. Alyson Whatcott says:

    LOVED The Watch that Ends the Night, and kept sharing things I learned from it with my family. It deserves an award.

  8. Dean Schneider says:

    I, too, loved THE WATCH THAT END THE NIGHT, and I’ve had a few of my 8th graders read it and like it, so it definitely works for its intended audience and the award’s audience. I like what Anonymous said about it reading fast. Giving a voice to the iceberg was a stroke of genius, offering an almost primordial sense of fate…and doom.

  9. Jay says:

    Great list! Personally, among the ones I have read, I find Roots and Blues the most intriguing.

  10. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Booklist Editors’ Choice came out today, and the following poetry books and verse novels made their list: SWIRL BY SWIRL, NEVER FORGOTTEN, INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN, NEVER FORGOTTEN, ROOTS AND BLUES, and THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT. Here’s the complete tally (with only Bulletin Blue Ribbons to come on Jan 1) . . .

    five lists

    CHIME
    HEART AND SOUL

    four lists

    SCORPIO RACES
    BLINK & CAUTION
    INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN
    DRAWING FROM MEMORY
    A MONSTER CALLS
    BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY
    MOUSE & LION
    ANYA’S GHOST
    WONDERSTRUCK

    three lists

    BLACKOUT
    CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER?
    ORANI
    DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE
    WHERE’S WALRUS
    PRESS HERE
    DEAD END IN NORVELT
    AMELIA LOST
    WHY WE BROKE UP
    THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND . . .
    FLESH & BLOOD SO CHEAP
    AROUND THE WORLD
    OKAY FOR NOW
    BOOTLEG
    ME . . . JANE
    LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM
    BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY
    THE HOUSE BABA BUILT
    ROOTS AND BLUES
    PAPER COVERS ROCK
    SWIRL BY SWIRL

    two lists

    WHITE CROW
    HOW TO SAVE A LIFE
    SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS
    BEAUTY QUEENS
    GRANDPA GREEN
    STAY WITH ME
    TITANIC SINKS!
    CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT
    UNDERGROUND
    A BALL FOR DAISY
    BONE DOG
    I WANT MY HAT BACK
    NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT
    BREADCRUMBS
    THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT
    AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK
    A NATION’S HOPE

  11. DaNae says:

    Can you give us the link, please? Thanks.

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:
  13. Jen B. says:

    It’s fascinating to me how much of what’s on the Booklist list is nowhere else. I count 53 titles total and of those I think 26 have only been recognized by Booklist. That’s just about half! So this got me interested in how that ratio plays out on the other lists: Of the 30 books Horn Book recognized, only 7 are unique to their list. 28 of the 66 SLJ titles are unique; 15 of the 40 PW titles; and 70 (!) of the 108 Kirkus titles are unique. Those numbers are all over the board, but it’s kind of cool to see what a variety of things are considered best across the different journals. I also find it interesting (and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me) that the smaller the list, the less likely there will be outliers. In order from smallest list to largest: Horn Book has about 23% unique; PW has 37.5% unique; Booklist has 49% unique; SLJ has 42% unique; 65% of Kirkus is unique. Only Booklist and SLJ switch places in terms of percentages as the list numbers increase. Yea for fun with numbers! Also – I show Swirl by Swirl on 3 lists – Booklist, Horn Book and SLJ, but I have made mistakes in my spreadsheet before and this could be another!

  14. DaNae says:

    Thanks

  15. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Jen, nope, the SWIRL BY SWIRL mistake was mine, and the division between nonfiction and picture book probably confused me. I’ve changed it above. I was really happy to see some of the Booklist titles finally make a list. NEVER FORGOTTEN got five starred reviews, but no list–until Booklist. THE GREAT MIGRATION had four. THE SILVER BOWL had three. So some of these unique titles got a fair amount of starred reviews, but were passed over by the other journals. You make a good point about the number of choices on a list. For example, SLJ and Kirkus probably have more books on their best of the year list than either Horn Book or Bulletin starred all year.

  16. Jonathan Hunt says:

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