This one hasn’t gotten a stand-alone post from us yet. Jonathan headlined it at his Louise Erdrich post, but most of the resulting comments ended up being about THE ROUND HOUSE (which will be the first thing I read following this Newbery season). He brought it up again at 2012 Best Books Outliers, but no one bit. Following our Mock Newbery, as I look at my shelves and think back to our discussion, this is the one title we passed over for our shortlist that I think would have stood its own. So let’s talk about CHICKADEE.
In our first blogging year at Heavy Medal (then with co-host Sharon McKellar), we chose THE PORCUPINE YEAR as our Mock Winner. I wrote, of our discussion:
An incredible example of historical fiction, with totally believable characters–some of the most memorable and convincing characters of any of our books. The intertwining of daily details with a strongly emotional long arc allow humor and minor triumphs to support the readers through the transformative narrative. …[this book] stayed with me more than others, and months later I continue to think about it. It’s strengths are palpable, even from a distance.
I feel the same way about CHICKADEE, though I think it’s even stronger than the PORCUPINE YEAR. It is a “fully satisfying” book in every respect: plot, pacing, voice, character, setting… we talked in our discussion Sunday a lot about whether any given book did everything well that it was supposed to do, and this one does. I appreciate the humor with which the not-very-funny plot is developed, setting an approachable tone for young readers. I see the audience for this book as reaching from that precociously-reading younger set… the 8 or 9 year old who is still emotionally very young but can eagerly down a chapter book…to the 11 or 12 year old who will appreciate the humor (in which kids sometimes best adults) and strong sense of adventure, and may be well-served by the approachability of a predictable story structure and arc.
Compare this to STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY; THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE; THREE TIMES LUCKY; SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTHS…in each case I feel like this one is stronger in at least one regard (in characterization, in plot, in setting, in theme) and ultimately holds together in “every element pertinent to it“. In the end though, what stays with me most is Erdrich’s voice, the sentence level writing: it is lyrical but natural, fluid, evocative, funny, and pleasurable to read aloud.