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Battle of the Books

Round 3 Match 2 Marching for Freedom vs Tales from Outer Suburbia

Marching for Freedom
by Elizabeth Partridge
Tales from Outer Suburbia
by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books

Judged by Walter Dean Myers

Shaun Tan invites the reader to go along with him on a journey full of surprises. It is soon clear as we go through these very brief stories, illustrated by Tan with intelligence and humor, that we are not likely to end up anywhere we would expect. In ‘Stick Figures’, for example, he gives life to the imagined reality of the fallen tree branches we see around us and the reactions to those sometimes human like figures. In another story a deer appears on a roof and, in a reversal of the Clement Moore story, takes gifts instead of bringing them. A story which encapsulates both the wit and weakness of the book is called ‘Our Expedition.’ In this story Tan tells of two brothers who find a directory in which one of the maps ends abruptly. A debate ensues as to whether a page has fallen out of the book and the two brothers decide to follow the map to find out exactly what should have been included. They discover that the landscape is exactly as the map indicates, a sheer cliff beyond which there is nothing. A different approach to a story? Absolutely! An interesting approach? Mildly. Compelling? No. After The Arrival I expected great things from Shaun Tan. I still do.

Although billed as a book which emphasizes the role of children in the Civil Rights struggle, in my mind the outstanding aspect of Marching for Freedom is the way, through words and images, the author puts a human face on the participants.  Most books are content to show the marchers/protesters as either openly defiant or aloof from the dangers involved as they sing hymns and hold hands.  In this carefully compiled collection of photographs and precise text, the author revisits people who were clearly worried about their safety, who knew they might be beaten or even killed, bringing the real experience of the marches into sharp focus.

I’m often told by young people who have always lived in northern schools that they would have done things different had they lived in the South of the sixties.   What they don’t realize that it was in the South, in places like Selma and Montgomery, that the depths of individual courage was most sorely tested.  Elizabeth Partridge brings that courage to these pages.

— Walter Dean Myers

The Winner of Round 3 Match 2 Is…

It’s odd how the books with the strongest visual aspects ended up in this bottom bracket, and how they keep bumping in to each other.  To be sure, LIPS TOUCH and CLAUDETTE COLVIN have striking visual elements, but they didn’t seem to be an issue in either decision, whereas in MARCHING FOR FREEDOM, THE STORM IN THE BARN, SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM, and TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA the visual elements have been mentioned in every single decision.  It took me a second read to warm up to TALES FROM OUTER SUB URBIA, so I figured it was only a matter of time until its odd quirkiness didn’t resonate with a judge.  Then, too, MARCHING FOR FREEDOM has that accumulation of story that Gary mentioned (and that Tobin mentioned in relation to CHARLES AND EMMA), while Chris and Walter have mentioned the wonderful humanizing quality of Partridge’s story.  So we now know two of our finalists—THE LOST CONSPIRACY and MARCHING FOR FREEDOM.  Which book will join them in the finals?  Hmmm.

— Commentator Jonathan Hunt


  1. Well, that burst my bubble. I’m still in love with Tan’s book. Not sure why we have to wait until 4/5 for the big reveal, but at least The Lost Conpsiracy is still in the running, and I’m interested in hearing what the zombie book will be. Always fascinating to learn about other people’s opinions and reasons for caring about one book more than another.

  2. I’m a big fan of TALES, but I couldn’t imagine Walter Dean Myers deciding against MARCHING FOR FREEDOM. He did a good explanation of why. Though TALES was compelling to me, but that again points out how different readers respond to different things.

    As for the Zombie book — I have no idea! I voted for FIRE, but I’d be equally happy if MARCELO comes up. (I had expected MARCELO to make it this far on its own.) Funny — If MARCELO is the Undead book, it will be a rematch between it and MARCHING FOR FREEDOM. Will Katherine Paterson decide differently?

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    The zombie book will be revealed on Friday, Peanut Gallery on Saturday, and Sunday is our day off. Hence, Monday. I know it’s frustrating! You’d figure that either BOB or Top 100 Novels would run on the weekend, but no! Arrgh!

  4. I keep reminding myself that this entire “battle” is about choosing between two fantastic books! After all, it wouldn’t be very suspenseful if Walter Dean Myers had to choose between something like The Giver and My Dear Little Puppy Poppy Who Learned a Lesson…

  5. I was torn on this one for Myers. I’m saddened that he chose MFF because I really wanted Tales to win. Oh, well, I give up. Not really, zombies tomorrow!

  6. lisanne says:

    I think it is a great decision! Tales seems to let each reader take something different away while March draws you in to the emotion of the story. Can’t wait for tomorrow…

  7. Genevieve says:

    This is exactly how I felt about Tales: “A different approach to a story? Absolutely! An interesting approach? Mildly. Compelling? No.” And I thought Marching For Freedom was a tremendous achievement, extremely compelling, and criminally underrated, so I am thrilled by this decision.

    Can’t wait to see the zombie book tomorrow?

  8. Updated leader board for the Bracket Contest. The leader is one of only three participants who correctly guessed the outcome both semifinal matches. Excited to see what brain-eating titles emerges from its grave tomorrow morning!

  9. “A different approach to a story? Absolutely! An interesting approach? Mildly. Compelling? No.” I think that sums up Tales from Outer Suburbia very well, but I just couldn’t get into Marching for Freedom, so I am saddened by this decision.

    But there’s always the zombie round!

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