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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice

DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL

spinelli 214x300 If You Cant Say Anything Nice

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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. TeenReader says:

    Let the battle begin.

  2. DaNae says:

    Mums, the word then. (And I had such high hopes.)

  3. I felt the same way. Very disappointed.

  4. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    I used to read Spinelli religiously. The last good book of his I remember reading is LOSER. I’m not sure why I stopped after that, but when people started mentioning JAKE & LILY as a darkhorse last year, and when this new one got a couple starred reviews in early January, and when Monica Edinger mentioned how fabulous it was–well, I decided I needed to read it.

    I know some people love the fable-cum-magical realism quality of the book. I’ve heard it described as James Joyce meets Roald Dahl–an apt description, I think. While I applaud Spinelli for taking a risk and writing something different, I hardly think he needs Newbery recognition for it. In fact, I don’t think this book could have been published by a mid-list author or picked out of the slush pile for publication. It’s a nice writing exercise and it could have made a great short story or possibly even a novella, but at 304 pages it just becomes indulgent.

    • DaNae says:

      Okay, as long as Jonathan is breaking the taboo on negativity. My love for Spinelli is ancient and deep. Last January, on Newbery Eve, I was at a Random House event with a panel of Newbery alum. The stage held Christopher Paul Curtis, Jennifer Holm, Louis Sachar and more, but the fact that I was in the same room with Jerry Spinelli kept me questioning my state of wakefulness. That being established you can imagine that I was more than a little interested that his new book was getting early Newbery buzz. How expectations can break a heart.

      A writer deserves to write any book he wishes and can get published, but like Jonathan said we don’t need to talk about all of them here. This is not to say that the writing in HOKEY POKEY wasn’t lovely and the descriptions inventive, but again quoting Jonathan, it seemed more like a writing challenge than a story. The heavy-handedness, the cliché, and length of the metaphor were simply brutal. Standing on my non-criteria soapbox, I long for books that will connect with kids. If a kid is going to be subjected to the predictable metaphor that growing up is inevitable then there better be a great road trip by bus and stolen sailboat with a clandestine overnighter in the library to accompany it. And, by gum, it better not turn out to be a dream.

      • Sondy says:

        Love it, DaNae!

      • Brandy says:

        *applauds* (applause gets louder on those last few sentences)

      • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

        (Danae, sneaking insertion of DOLL BONES there, but I don’t think Black pulled off the metaphor any better than Spinelli. Just differently. It’s a predictable metaphor for sure but one that never seems to grow old. )

      • DaNae says:

        But Nina, Black’s story is much more satisfying.

      • Mark Flowers says:

        I actually completely disagree that Black and Spinelli are working on the same metaphor/theme. I think Black’s title defends childhood and the desparate importance of play against the creeping encroachment of adulthood, whereas Spinelli seems to be saying that there is absolutely nothing we can do about or prepare for the coming of adulthood – it’s just a random occurrence one day. Bizarre. If you need more of my thoughts,check here: http://crossreferencing.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/hokey-pokey/

      • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

        Danae: Satisfying? In what way? Wasn’t for me. It was just as predictable as the Spinelli. I think these are just for totally different readers. You object to Spinelli’s ending (“it was all a dream”); but for me that was the only satisfying part of the story b/c unless the allegorical significance add some connection to reality I would have felt completely cheated.

      • DaNae says:

        I personally found DB satisfying in a way that showed a concrete quest story arc and not a surreal metaphor wrapped up in an allegorical dream world. Satisfying in the way my students respond to both books. HP with WTF eyes of betrayal and DB with delighted pleas for more of the kind. I absolutely know I am straying from criteria here, but subliminally I will always champion books that elicit love from my students.

        I do agree with Eric that Spinelli’s sentence level writing is sublime. But pull back from it and all I felt was frustration.

  5. Brandy says:

    Well here’s me not saying anything then.

    Except how happy I was to see this show up in my reader today. Errr….despite my still being woefully behind in my non-fiction reading. (It’s my library’s fault!)

  6. Sondy says:

    Yeah, welcome back! And I pretty much agree with you. But does this mean I can’t talk about Navigating Early?

  7. Benji says:

    Getting myself ready to defend Early (Navigating Early not Hold Fast Early) with everything that I have.

  8. Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

    Welcome back everyone! Somewhere out there one of you is ready to defend this title, and I read Jonathan’s post as an invitation to jump into the fray.

    I was not the right reader for this book. But going on to Goodreads to log my rating, I read some pretty convincing arguments about why it works for certain readers…. which is all the Newbery asks for. So I’m convinced that it works, but not sure yet that it rises to Newbery standards for me.

    We’re all just warming up, so get in there! We’ll get to Navigating Early soon, but as a head’s up the next cover you’re going to see in a post is The Center of Everything. We’ll also be reviewing what the heck this blog is all about.

  9. Eric Carpenter says:

    So happy to see the return of Heavy Metal!
    I love Hokey Pokey but it isn’t hard to see why it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Say what you will about the length, the metaphors, the cliches, or whatever but in terms of sentence level writing this book is the cat’s pajamas. I know a statement like that needs to be supported with textual examples but my copy is at home….
    Needless to say I am super excited about this year’s discussion!

  10. Amanda says:

    I was a great defender of Hokey Pokey at our staff Newbery discussion, but despite my personal enjoyment of the book I’m more excited to discuss The Center of Everything. And to compare the quests in Navigating Early and Doll Bones. I think Hokey Pokey does have its readers, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list.

    That said, I must disagree with the assessment that “it was all just a dream”. Just because there’s a literal waking up does not mean that all the preceeded it was a dream rather than magical realism. I recall the bell from the conclusion of The Polar Express, and have no trouble believing that the world is transformed every time someone transitions from childhood.

    • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

      Amanda, good clarification re the literal waking and magical realism. That’s what I was trying to get at; for me, the waking at the ending was crucial to making everything that preceded it *real,” rather than totally imagined.

  11. samuel leopold says:

    I agree with DaNae…..The Newbery criteria is essential to our discussion here, but if a book does not resonate with my students, it is not “distinguished” in my classroom world.

    On that note, my students have come up with their list of favorites so far and we cannot wait to watch the discussions unfold……

    Their list of their 7 best so far…..

    THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING
    ONE CAME HOME
    ADVENTURES OF A SOUTH POLE PIG
    CANARY IN THE COAL MINE
    THE LAURA LINE
    HOLD FAST
    COURAGE HAS NO COLOR

    Cant wait to see the talks unfold.

  12. Brandy says:

    This is in reply to several comments at once so I’m putting it down here.

    Mark: I don’t think the theme of Doll Bones and Hokey Pokey is that different at all. In both books there is a sense of desperation as the characters try to cling to vestiges of the childhood they know is coming to an inevitable end. The whole train scene in HP followed by the waking up seemed very symbolic of a sort of death to me, which mirrors what Poppy says in DB, “I hate that everyone calls it growing up when it seems like dying.”

    I agree with Nina that a reader’s satisfaction with either of these books is going to depend a great deal on what sort of reader they are and their personal preferences and biases. I will admit that, like DaNae, my preference lies with the quest story in Doll Bones. That being said, if two books deal with a similar theme and do so differently but both with distinction, how does one tip the scales? For me it comes down to which speaks to the audience more, so Doll Bones comes out ahead. I’m not saying there won’t be children who will enjoy HP, but hold both these books up to a room full of kids, show them the covers, read the summaries and the first few pages, and which one are the majority of them going to want to read? Now NORMALLY I wouldn’t use that in determining where books fall for the Newbery. This is a special case where two well executed books are doing much the same thing. What are we supposed to use as a tie breaker if we are trying to leave our bias aside?

    I thought Jonathan’s point about whether or not this would have even been published if it had not been written by Spinelli was a good one. I had a similar thought, but mine was would it have been published as a children’s novel? (I had this same thought about Creech’s new one too.) My oldest child is 9. Her primary group of friends range in age from 7-12, and I can say after hours of hanging out with these kids (and working with the 4th-12th graders at our homeschool co-op) that they wouldn’t get at least half the references in this book. It bears very little resemblance to contemporary childhood. So not only can kids get lost in the metaphor, they are also going to be lost with many of the references. While I did get the references, it bears little resemblance to MY childhood. (I was a child of the 80′s, but the half that decade I remember the best I was living in England so my perspective may be different than someone who grew up in the States.) I think that Spinelli is writing about his own childhood experience here, and while there is nothing wrong with that I don’t really know that it’s best audience is today’s children.

    Eric: I see your point about the sentence writing. It is well crafted. For me it was the type of well crafted that had me picturing the author sitting at his desk all caught up in self satisfaction about his brilliant sentence structuring. Beautiful words and structure have to something for me to be impressed, and here they didn’t. It felt like I was reading an intentional exercise in how brilliant someone could seem rather than a story that was brilliantly constructed. Am I making any sense? I’m trying to not just throw out the p word.

  13. …puff…puff…puff…here I am! It’s been a hell of a week what with getting ready for school and I didn’t even see this till last night. Whew.

    So anyway, here are some nice things I want to say about this book.

    First of all, about it being published at all. Here’s the thing, I think in another time it would indeed have been published even without the author having name recognition. In another time the publishers could take risks even with unknowns doing something different. Now though I do agree that it probably wouldn’t have made it out of the gate if it had been you or me who had written it.

    Secondly, yes, I’m one of those who loved it. I read it almost a year ago and was smitten by the lush and wild language, the way the theme of growing up was represented, and just a particular vision of childhood. My blog review is here:https://medinger.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/coming-soon-jerry-spinellis-hokey-pokey/ I wrote that “I see this as a book that will be just perfect for a certain sort of child-becoming-a-teen who is as confused and bothered as I was, as Jack is in this book. Someone who absolutely doesn’t want to grow-up, but is.” And I turned out to be right for a least one student. He read it at the end of 8th grade and adored it — he came and spoke about his enthusiasm for the book at our faculty book club last spring. I wish I could remember exactly what he said (as well as what my colleagues said), but I can’t too well. Just that he loved it just for the reasons I thought certain kids would love it. So I think it won’t make a lot of sense to a younger kid not there yet, but a kid just there or out of Hokey Pokey, it does resonate.

    About the ending — it felt a little flat for me, but I didn’t care as the rest was so exhilarating. For me it is like Alice in Wonderland; it has a horrible ending, but I just ignore it and love the book. I thought the development of the world of Hokey Pokey like Wonderland was thoroughly and beautifully realized. The details do seem to be that of Spinelli’s own childhood, but the feelings and activities seem timeless to me.

    So there you are, something nice. And one more nicety: Welcome back! Even though I’m late I’ve missed you, Heavy Medal.

    • Betsy says:

      I’m with Monica and the other fans of HP. I also thought of Alice (which I LOVE) and even The Wizard of Oz–that madcap style of fantasy/magical realism just works for me. But I know others (*coughs* Brandy :-) ) for whom this style of writing is NOT right at all. I liked the sentences and words and images and the whole bit. I read this in ARC form almost a year ago, so I’m afraid I don’t have any specifics. I just remember enjoying the actual experience of reading it so much.

      BUT I came away thinking that I would enjoy this book far more than most kids I know. I “get” the references and the allusions and the depth of the transition. But are kids really the audience for this one? I’ve read some books this year since HP that I think are much better fits and which are also distinguished. So, I’m looking forward to the discussions to come!

  14. Alys says:

    The line-by-line writing is amazing. The images are sharp, and the word choice is precise and excellent. The characterization of the main characters is good, and the secondary characters are recognizable as well.

    The setting…it’s hard to really decide about the setting. On the one hand it is highly inventive and original. On the other hand if you think about it for more than thirty seconds everything falls apart. Do kids really leave Hokey Pokey so rarely that it is only a legend? And if not, how does no one recognize what is happening to Jack?

    The ending back in the real world was a sour note for me and detracted from the impact of the themes of the rest of the book. Jack’s part of the story should have ended on the train, it would have been more satisfying. I think the readers would be savvy enough to realize what was going on without it being pounded on their heads, or implying that it was all just a dream (a narrative trick that has always annoyed me.)

    • Amanda says:

      Alys, I would argue that everything only “falls apart” if we’re trying to make Hokey Pokey behave by the rules of the real world. That it runs headfirst into logical considerations so quickly is exactly what sets it apart from suspiciously convenient quest resolutions in other titles – HP isn’t trying to make sense. Even in the real world, aren’t children the center of their own personal universe? I see Hokey Pokey as a manifestation of Jack’s personal perception of his universe.

      “Do kids really leave Hokey Pokey so rarely that it is only a legend? And if not, how does no one recognize what is happening to Jack?”- If bikes run wild in herds, and the Hokey Pokey man always has your favorite flavor, why shouldn’t each child forget that anyone has ever left before until it’s their turn? Whether by magic or mind control or the mysterious chemistry of growing up?

      I appreciated Monica’s comparison to Wonderland – this is a setting where the usual rules just don’t apply.

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        thanks amanda, that is a great explanation of exactly what I love about Hokey Pokey.
        Some of my own half thought through thoughts:
        HP depicts the world of preadolescence. We (adults) understand that children go through different levels of brain development and with these changes come changes to their world-view and their ability to think (logically or otherwise). I think what Spinelli is doing is attempting to create a vision of what a particular world view might look like if taken to its extreme. The ending isn’t waking up from a dream so much as seeing the world through a new lens. No longer does the world exist solely for play, rivalry, cartoons, and junk food. At some point we grow up and begin to view the world differently. (yes we know it doesn’t happen over night, but this is allegory not realism.)
        In terms of criteria, HP shines brightest in its development of setting- for this reader, the land of hokey pokey is the most fully realized setting of all the novels I’ve read this year. Of course the geography is crazy and doesn’t make sense but that makes perfect sense to me. If you’ve ever had recess duty and watched students playing imaginative games on the playground you’ve seen this kind of fluid geography develop from the combined imagination of the participants. They create places and rules that exist only for as long as that moment of play.
        The characters all seem better delineated here than in a book like Doll Bones or One Came Home where characters exist solely to move a plot point along.
        Again the sentence level writing is superb (will pull the book off the shelf sometime soon and find some quotes if I must) and overall I thought the style, as in your face as it is, helps announce both the book’s tone and it’s ambition.

      • Mark Flowers says:

        Eric says “No longer does the world exist solely for play, rivalry, cartoons, and junk food. At some point we grow up and begin to view the world differently. (yes we know it doesn’t happen over night, but this is allegory not realism.)”

        This has been one of my biggest problems with the novel–it is just not my experience that childrens’ worlds “exist solely for play” etc. except in the imagination of adults. Children are obsessed with being adults–my kids are 3 and 5 and they already want to be grown up, play at having jobs, being married, etc. Not only that, but children (even privileged ones) have intensely dramatic interactions with the real world.

        Spinelli’s world just feels way too much like “good old days” thinking–wouldn’t it be swell to go back to when everything was cartoons and candy? But that’s not the lived experience of children – that’s our rose-colored memory of what it’s like to be children.

      • Nina Lindsay Nina Lindsay says:

        Mark, this was the nut of my discontent with the book too. I think his allegory is internally sound, and the narrative structure works for what he intends it to do. But I don’t feel that the *basis* of his allegory is convincing. I doubt how well it will resonant for a *child* audience. I think that adults, even teens, who have left childhood fully (as, perhaps, Monica’s 8th grade advocate) may find it convincing but i’m not sure at all that children will.

      • Brandy says:

        YES MARK! This is why it didn’t feel meant for a “child audience” to me either. The tone of the book is nostalgic and idealized. You can’t look back on your childhood with nostalgic idealism until it’s already behind you. I see Monica’s point below about it also being possible when you are moving out of childhood, but I think by the point you can be nostalgic you are far enough out to not be considered a child anymore.

        Eric, I agree with you on the setting. This book is so far from being my cup of tea as to be gasoline in comparison, BUT I can still see the arguments for it being distinguished, and this is the area that I could be convinced it is most distinguished. (Right now a couple of others have it beat. Convince me!) I’m afraid I can’t get behind any argument on delineation of character in this one though. If all of these characters had died in the end I would have though it a strange way to end a book and rejoiced I was finally done reading. I cared about none of them. They all seemed like cardboard cut outs Spinelli was moving around his fantastic setting and slipping between the spaces of his well constructed pretty words. That’s what I meant up above about the words not doing much for me. I can barely remember the characters in this one, even forcing it now.

  15. busparking says:

    I really enjoyed this book, especially as a sort of introduction to surrealism.
    I concur with much of what Monica says about the book, but disagree with her on the ending.
    On this point I agree with Nina in that, the ending was much more satisfying seeing the “real world” corollaries of the people we meet in Hokey Pokey.

    Additionally, I take issue with those who insist that “It was only a dream.”
    From Little Nemo’s Adventures in Dreamland to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Chronicles, the Dreamworld is a well established literary location.
    Would it change your opinion of the story if I were to suggest that the Hokey Pokey Man might be Gaiman’s Sandman, sent to Hokey Pokey to check-in on all the child minds present there?
    What if one of the reasons they’re so shocked about Jack leaving is because the sno-cones the Hokey Pokey Man gives them causes/allows them to forget about the other kids who have left?
    Notice how it is the Hokey Pokey Man who gives Jack the nudge he needs to move on to the next adventure?

    Just a couple of random thoughts bumping around my brain.
    (FWIW, I also thought this book was better than Doll Bones, but I’ll wait for the “official discussion page” to register my thoughts on that one)

    • I’m intrigued by the different reactions to the ending. As I wrote above, it did fall flat for me and I suspect a major reason is that those real life corollaries that makes it work for Nina and others don’t for me. In fact, they made me feel the same way I feel about the MGM movie of The Wizard of Oz — a little too much of the man behind the curtain. Almost as if Hokey Pokey was in vivid technicolor and that last bit was in mundane gray with “there’s no place like home” swirling around Jack as he gets ready to go off and get the paint.

  16. Jonathan Hunt Jonathan Hunt says:

    I’m still not convinced that the sentence level writing is as wonderful as most people are saying it is. Sure, we can all spot things Spinelli does well on a technical level, but the prose unneccesarily calls attention to itself. I don’t have a copy of the book on hand, but if others do then I’d love to have quotes.

    • fairrosa says:

      I agree with you somewhat here. The book does feel like an exercise but it has a lot of genuine emotions as well — I think in the hand of the right readers (definitely not 9-11 year olds,) the imagery and the feelings the scenes convey can be quite powerful and truly engaging. As Monica mentioned, our 8th grader absolutely saw what Spinelli was trying to do and I think he was quite pleased that he detected all the little literary devices, on top of the fact that he felt the story captured his own recent, immediate, and internal experiences.

  17. fairrosa says:

    Just a quick note to say that simply because a book is not a crowd pleaser for a lot of middle grade students does not make the book not distinguished. I think it is really important to remember that no matter how many students we personally work with (being a middle school librarian, I am in contact closely with about 500 kids from 9 to 14,) we are NOT working with all of the potential readers of any particular book. Out of my 500 kids, I will say that perhaps only 10 to 20% of them are truly IN LOVE WITH Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy because for many of them the reading is more challenging than what they are willing to put their time in. And perhaps a lot higher percentage is enthusiastic about WONDER or PERCY JACKSON — because more of them can competently handle the texts. And NO one can ever convince me that the latter two are in any form or shape superior or more distinguished than Lyra and Will’s journey. — not really a quick note any more.

    • Sam Bloom says:

      Roxanne, this is friggin’ brilliant. Please, people, PLEASE, don’t give me this “what kid is going to like this” stuff. I’m SO tired of it, and this is the FIRST POST of the Heavy Medal season! I’ve had at least 5 kids (4th graders, btw) come and find me at my Library to tell me how much they loved HP – we had just read Maniac Magee at the end of the school year with the book club at their school, so we all had Spinelli on the brain. So, just to repeat, these were real, living, breathing 9- and 10-year olds who loved this book enough that they had to seek me out to tell me about it! No complaints about misplaced nostalgia or sentimentality to be found.

      Having huffed and puffed my two cents, though, I find myself – quite sadly – agreeing with Johnathan that Spinelli’s writing was at times a bit too self-indulgent. Not enough to knock this one from my top 5, though.

      • fairrosa says:

        All that said, I want to clarify that I think it really is VERY important that a book considered for the Newbery BE a book that is intended for children, that is “quality” presentation for a child audience, and that showcases the author’s ability to handle the unique challenges writing for young readers poses. The award should honor those special writers who stretch the imagination, the minds, and the emotional depths of child readers and to offer them a profound literary experience at the same time. That is why I can’t applaud (when it comes to Newbery — or actually in most situations) a book simply for its thematic significance. (Yes, I know certain historical events or social phenomenon are important to bring to the attention to young readers, but if the book does not also have polished language, great progression of events, clearly delineated characters – real or fictitious, and many other positive literary elements, it just won’t rise to the top for me.)

  18. Mark, I disagree strongly about this. I was an avid fantasy player as a child — I recreated Wonderland, Oz, Neverland all over the place. And when I started to learn what growing up was about (say getting my period — after seeing the cutesy movie about that in 4th grade I spent the night on the bathroom floor freaked out about bleeding once a month — growing up sounded hellish to me), I didn’t want to, mostly. I both read romances about first kisses and the like and dreaded changing. It is that moment in life (for some, at any rate) that I feel Spinelli captures beautifully. But since we don’t all experience that time the same way — some indeed want to grow up desperately out of not-so-idyllic childhoods — we are not so likely to experience this story the same way.

  19. I tried to listen to this one on audio and an audiobook Hokey Pokey does not make. I was lost, confused and so completely turned off that I just did not end up enjoying it. That’s a different reading experience than what the real committee is going through, as they read each book, but I felt very confused and the metaphors did not work for me as a reader. I was not the right audience for this book and I struggled to think of who would be, which was disappointing.

  20. Laurie Schneider says:

    Spinelli is in my pantheon for sure, but this one was too twee for me.

  21. Sam B. says:

    @Roxanne, fair enough – I get why you’re clarifying. But honestly, the majority of comments about a book not having child appeal when we’re talking Newbery talk are (in my experience) misguided. More often than not the real issue with the book in question is that it is, as you said, challenging. And I get it… I get why people make those comments. They come from a good place, a position where they care about the kids they’re working with and they want to give them the right books. But I think a lot of times these comments actually show a lack of respect for the very child audience folks are trying to “defend.” And I think this book, and some of the comments on this post, are indicative of that. And yes, I absolutely have a chip on my shoulder because my Newb winner was one where many, many people were wringing their hands, crying, “But what about the children? This isn’t a book for children!!” And I call B.S.! Okay, end rant. I officially need to stop!

  22. Amy says:

    I loved this review! I hated this book.

  23. K. Gillis says:

    I’m in the minority here I know, but I loved Hokey Pokey. I wouldn’t give it a Newbery though, because it doesn’t read as a children’s book. I found the book moving from my adult perspective and I appreciated the language and extended metaphor. I suppose because I spend my days with 10-11 year olds and I see the beginnings of this transition into young adult land unfold in my classroom each year, I bought it all- hook, line and sinker. I thought it was beautiful -despite the clunky ending. However, I don’t see the story resonating with children so it sits on my bookshelf, out of the classroom library I’ve curated for my students. In fact, Hokey Pokey sits there with other books (such as Dead End in Norvelt and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland…) waiting for adults who might enjoy them.

    • fairrosa says:

      It might not resonate with 10-11 year olds — but how about 13-14? How about those who can see these hook/line/sinker that Spinelli created for readers? Are they not also valid readers specified in the Newbery Criteria — those upper end children? I definitely don’t see this book as YA (nor as Adult). I’m not advocating for Newbery here but if we are sticking to the award criteria, then, we cannot dismiss a book because it’s not a Middle Grade pleaser.

  24. Amy says:

    I liked how they printed “Newbery Medalist” under his name right on the cover, like they knew people were gonna need some convincing.

  25. TK says:

    I really enjoyed this book (as an adult) and I give Spinelli a lot of credit for the sentence-level writing. And I’m sure there are a number of kids who read it and enjoy it (as Sam has attested). But I really, really wondered about the intended audience for this book. I couldn’t stop thinking about it throughout. Of course that will happen every time an adult (us) reads a book intended for kids. The theme of the end of childhood and the manner in which Spinelli wrote the book made me wonder, what kid wants to read about the end of his/her childhood? What tween will nod in self-awareness? Would any teens want to read this? It seems to me to be for such a small subset of a sliver of an age range that makes me skeptical, even if none of that is Newbery criteria.

  26. Mr. H says:

    I’m wondering were our judging of “self-indulgent” writing falls into the Newbery criteria and discussion. Isn’t good writing, good writing? What’s self-indulgent to Jonathan may not be self-indulgent to me.

    I guess all I’m saying is that if you are looking to knock the sentence-level writing in this book, hanging your hat on calling it self-indulgent may not fly for long. Because like I said, good writing, is good writing.

    Jonathan, I’m finding you some quotes!

  27. Mr. H says:

    I had a bunch of lines and phrases post-it marked in my copy, knowing this would need defending, so here it goes. Not saying my examples are Newbery worthy, just some descriptions I personally really dug. Dissect them as you will:

    “They cannot see yet but they can hear: the chittering chain and axles, the stone-pocked crunch of rubber, the thief’s crazed scream unfurling. They can feel the speed, feel it accelerate with every wheelturn, feel the hill snuffle and grin and stiffen its spine, feel the air split like a snapped stick as into the bow-bend they lean.” (p. 19)

    “And out of the bow-bend they come as the sun at last thrusts its bristling fist into the sky and blinds the boys to all but the high sonic scream of chainsong and a hissing shadowblur of steed and she-demon blasting out of the sunfire.” (p. 19)

    “Beneath their sneaker soles the trail is warm. The air smells of girl and burnt rubber.” (p. 20)

    “The word has long since passed through his outer ear, speared the drum and inner ear; now it burrows deeper, deeper into his brain–and still makes no sense.” (p. 71)

    As I said, maybe not perfect examples, and there are clearly more, but these are the early ones. I loved the whole description of the missing bike and when the boys finally see Jubilee with the bike.

    As I said, dissect as you will. And I will dig up more!

    • Thank you, Mr. H, for reminding me why I loved this book. And I agree wholeheartedly about all the stuff about the bike. Still remembering their horror at it being pink.

      These quotes make me think of this famous one by another lauded author (who, some might argue, would not have gotten his latest book published if not for his name): “A screaming comes across the sky.” Anyone know the book?

      • Judy Freeman says:

        Not pink–yellow. And she names Scramjet Hazel. I’m just rereading the book now, and am finding it brilliant the second time. There are certain authors, including Kate DiCamillo, Christopher Paul Curtis, and, yes, Jerry Spinelli, whose books never fully release their delectableness for me until the second reading. The first time I was skeptical and perplexed. I’m half through right now and am enthralled.

      • Oops — yellow, of course!

  28. Cecilia says:

    Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon.

  29. Sarah says:

    I have been waiting to see how the discussion on this one would go. I don’t feel like I can be a true defender of this book because I did not enjoy it for the majority of my reading time – and then I got to the end. After I read the end, I wanted to immediately start from the beginning again, now that I truly knew what Spinelli had been doing all along. That being said, it’s not hard to see why many people are not in love with this book, and I think it would take a truly impassioned committee member (or members) for this book to garner any sort of medal.

    And to the person who mentioned the Creech book – yes! How/why is that a book for children? I’ll be waiting to see if we have that discussion here.

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