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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Which “Moon” Book will make the 2020 Newbery List?

In the storied history of the Newbery Award, five books with “Moon” in their titles were celebrated: 2017 Medal Winner: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill; 2011 Medal Winner and Honor: Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool & Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin; 1995 Medal Winner: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech; and in 1971, Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell received an honor citation as well. This year, Heavy Medal readers have already suggested three “Moon” titles for consideration:

Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd, How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons, and The Moon Within by Aida Salazar. All three have received starred reviews. Set in different times and places: the Great Depression to WWII to current days; in the coal country, the highly segregated South, or the city of Oakland, all three feature strong-willed, identity and destiny seeking characters who tell their stories in first person: in prose or in verse, in singular or multiple perspectives. And all three use moon metaphorically. (Many other 2019 “moon” titled books are about the real exploration of the moon.)

All three are effective and present much thought provoking questions for the intended middle grade readers. I especially appreciate How High the Moon, for Parsons’ ability to capture different main perspectives in different tones/voices: you can easily tell whether it’s Ella, Henry, or Myrna relating the events. The “mystery” of the identify of Ella’s father serves as a strong through line that maintains readers’ interest and the “answer” is handled masterfully — especially since it might be quite different from the readers’ guesses. The author shows so much: the interior life of Henry and the kindness of Mr. Parker are palpable in the fishing lure incident — and I love how Parsons loops back and ties it all up beautifully toward the end of the book.

What lingers most for me is the authorial choice to incorporate the real trial and subsequent execution of the 14-year-old George Stinney as part of the story. By embedding George into the lives of our three protagonists without making this historical event the main driving force of the plot AND by relating the story as it might have gone down without changing the outcome, Parsons drives the notion of how injustice could just happen to anyone you know and how when the system is set up against you, there’s little one could do to break the chain. The unflinchingly realistic treatment of the characters and the events (including Ella’s unfulfilled dream of attending school up north and other uncertainties) set How High the Moon apart as distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature.

What do you think the chances of these three “Moon” books joining The Girl Who Drank the Moon or Walk Two Moons on the Newbery Winner/Honor list in 2020? How do the other two compared: in character development, plot delineation, presentation of theme, style and appropriateness of the intended audience?

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Roxanne Hsu Feldman About Roxanne Hsu Feldman

Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at roxannefeldman@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Leonard Kim says:

    Could there be a potential issue with Criteria: “Presentation of information including accuracy” or “Appropriateness of style” in that one of the fictional POVs (Myrna) has an invented romantic relationship with a historical figure? I am not sure how I feel about it. It certainly bothers me more in some cases than others — I actually kind of admire the audacity of it in ANTHEM. Overall, HOW HIGH THE MOON felt to me like two different books squished together (Ella’s and Myrna’s — I didn’t much see the point of including Henry’s POV), and I wasn’t convinced it makes an integrated whole.

  2. Annisha Jeffries Annisha Jeffries says:

    I thought How High the Moon could have been written for a young adult audience as well. Roxanne, thank you for mentioning the uncertainties that Parsons included in her story. And realistic characters made this piece of historical fiction a little different then other books about that time period especially for African Americans. Having Henry’s POV, I believed helped the story flow and gave it a satisfying ending. I applaud Ms. Parsons on her debut novel for children. She has a solid future writing children’s fiction.

  3. I enjoyed all the “moon” books I’ve read this year. Over the Moon impressed me by having a disabled protagonist with an authentic and memorable voice. While I believe How High the Moon might be the stronger contender for the Newbery, I think Over the Moon has potential as well. The Moon within was excellent, too, although the novel-in-verse book that resonated the most with me was Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga.
    I could see Over the Moon winning a Schneider Honor, although Song for a Whale, by Lynne Kelly would seem to be the middle grade winner, in my opinion. There are so many good books this year, and it will be interesting to see which ones receive recognition.

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