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Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: CHANCE: ESCAPE FROM THE HOLOCAUST by Uri Shulevitz

Introduced by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Elizabeth Nelson

Beloved author and illustrator Uri Shulevitz presents another evocative, autobiographical portrait of his life.  Detailing the eight-year journey of Shulevitz and his family from the terrors of Nazi Warsaw to starvation in Soviet Russia, freedom in Paris, and relocation in Israel, Shulevitz carefully brings the reader through this tragic period by showcasing the power of creativity in art and story.

A Holocaust memoir for this age group could be problematic. Much about that horrific time might frighten an 8 to 10-year-old.  Shulevitz keeps the young reader keenly aware of the troubles that surround him and his family with sharp, clear prose while the illustrations provide just enough detail to illuminate the sadness and desperation of the time, his progression as a young artist, and some childhood pathos, humor and childhood truths at the front.

On September 1, 1939, Nazi planes burst into the Warsaw skies, some dropping incendiary bombs and spreading fires throughout the city, others dropping high-explosive bombs and turning buildings into dust.

Nature responded with heavy rains angrily pounding the pavement.

Terrified people ran in all directions.

Streets were ripped into deep canyons.

Faucets ran dry. Between bombings, people dragged heavy buckets of water from the Vistula River for drinking and cooking.

Smoke from the fires painted everything gray. Not far from our building, amid this grayness, were big mounds of brilliant pigments–reds, yellows, blues–in the courtyard of a paint factory in ruins.

I watched from our window in a daze. I didn’t fully realize what I was seeing, although it was all happening right in front of my eyes. It seemed unreal and distant.

Later that day, I sat on a table, and as Mother was putting a pair of new boots on my feet, she said, ‘We’ll need to walk a lot.’

I was four years old.  [pp 2-5]

Shulevitz’s family story develops much as his illustrations do.  Beginning with sticks in the mud, Uri drew on anything he could.  At first, his drawings were stick figures facing forward.  As the story progresses, Uri learns to draw faces in profile.  Just as these stick figures begin to see other sides of the world, so does young Uri begin to see the complexities of his surroundings.  As the story progresses we see him supported by his parents both emotionally and artistically, soothing the terror of his situation with stories and art supplies.

A spectacular introduction to memoir for the young reader, a detailed but not grizzly account of one family’s journey through hell and back, and an outstanding combination of story and illustration should bring many awards this season.

Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!:

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Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

Steven Engelfried is the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at sengelfried@yahoo.com.

Comments

  1. Meredith Burton says:

    The simple sentence structure and short chapters should make this memoir appealing to children. I was particularly impressed by Shulevitz’s ability to paint evocative word pictures that explored the hope during a time of such devastation and horror. This book was truly inspiring and relevant. Finding his voice through his art, Shulivitz’s memoir is solid and strong. I loved the beginning imagery of the missing stairs and how Shulivitz described the gaping hole left in the house. This attention-grabbing image should spur readers on to read about Shulevitz’s life. Chance is an excellent memoir that gives readers much to ponder.

  2. Courtney Hague says:

    When we talk about Newbery criteria we talk about the appropriateness for the intended audience and I think that the short sentence structure and the large illustrations make this an excellent memoir for the intended audience. He alludes to much of the horror but in an age appropriate way. I love how art is incorporated through out this work really reflecting Shulevitz’s journey as a young artist.

    • Emily Mroczek (Bayci) says:

      I agree with how the short sentence structure really makes this appropriate for child readers. I also think it’s important to note how well Uri maintains his child voice, well still writing from the perspective of an old man. He combines the two voices pretty beautifully.

      Uri describes how sick he became from a grass cutlet on pg. 127-128 and at the end his older wiser self states “was the grass cutlet worth it?”

      You also see this voice, when he describes father returning from being simply gone. pg. 154-155
      The child voice “It took a long time for us to forgive him. We considered it a betrayal.” then the adult voice… “To this day the incident remains amystery to me. I still kick myself that I failed to ask him about it.”

  3. Emily Mroczek (Bayci) says:

    Thanks for the the intro post Elizabeth!

    I was very impressed with the delineation of setting. Shulevitz does a phenomenal job strongly conveying the setting of all of his steps on the long journey. That is shown in the passage Elizabeth highlighted.

    Also when he describes how there was a hole in the stairway in Poland:
    “The staircase had a large gaping hole all the way through it, from top to bottom.
    On each floor, a narrow wooden plank made an improvised bridge over the hole to the next floor, wide enough to walk up or down but too narrow to cover the hole completely.” pg. 7-8

    to Bialystolk
    “The store windows in Bialystolk were full of all kinds of delicious-looking food: sausages and other meats, bread loaves and rolls, vegetables and fruits. But when we entered the store and asked to buy what we saw in the window, we were always told, “Sorry, it’s been sold out,” Later we found out that all the beautiful food we saw stuffed in the store windows was made of wood or plaster, painted in appealing colors.” pg. 38-39

    to Turkestan
    “The Kazakh women wore long, thick skirts. They’d squat for a few minutes in the middle of the street, their their skirts providing privacy, then get up and walk away. I saw the small puddles they left behind. At first we were shocked with how they dealt with the call of nature. In time, we stopped paying attention.” pg. 121-122

    To my point, I could pull a passage from every location Uri went too and we could imagine ourselves at that location and picture everything vividly. That is truly impressive writing and is consistent throughout the entire book.

  4. Thank you for bringing attention to CHANCE. I don’t know what to add; I have already commented on HM about this book. Yes, the integration of art and text is outstanding. The repeated motif of art is subtle. I am thinking of the explosion in the paint factory, and Uri’s wonder at beauty in the midst of destruction. Then, later, he is given a set of oil paints and feels that he has passed a milestone as an artist. Literacy is also a repeated motif, from his mother narrating stories to him to his opportunity to hear The Wizard of Oz read in Russian, which requires bravely avoiding a terrifying dog. It is true that Holocaust themed books for this age range need to avoid many parts of that horrific event. Often, they focus on people who survived, or on resistance. I agree with these choices. However, I can’t help noticing that books about child abuse, some with graphic content, are not currently held to the same middle-grade standard. Now for my question; can this book win? In spite of lavish praise in all the major journals, it seems to be receiving less attention as a possible winner. Obviously, no one knows the answer; I’m just speculating. I think that this book is remarkable.

    • Rachel Jamieson says:

      I also think this book is remarkable, and it will stick with me awhile after I read it. I do have a question for this book and another on this list: do we need to judge based on the text and not the illustrations? I am not sure how the Newbery committee usually does it. With the illustrations the book is truly suburb. Without them it is very good, but not the same level of excellence.

      • Rachel Jamieson says:

        I meant “superb,” of course.

      • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

        Rachel’s questions about judging text and not illustrations is a key one. It will likely come up with SNAPDRAGON and OVERGROUND RAILROAD as well. The Newbery Terms and Criteria state that “The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text.” But there’s room for interpretation within that statement. You can argue (and some have over the years on Heavy Medal) that “text” can expand beyond simply written words to “meaning.” For example, we can judge the drawing of four feet and a head on page 69 as an illustrator’s creation, but also as an author’s decision: the choice of inserting this slightly lighthearted but also literal image as part of the narrative. I’m not fully convinced that this always rings true, but it’s worth considering.
        It’s also important to note that the Criteria don’t say anything about text standing alone. So we don’t have to say: “how good with this book be without pictures?” Instead, we can look at how excellent the words are, within a book that includes pictures. The illustrations may provide some powerful moments within a book (and CHANCE has many examples), but that’s okay. Words don’t need to do everything, and in a book like this they certainly shouldn’t. Instead we focus on what the words do accomplish. It’s challenging to evaluate, though, for sure…

  5. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    It’s such a challenge to convey experiences like his in ways that younger children can relate with. He does that partly by being specific in his memories. He describes drawing on his father’s newspapers before the war, then contrasts it to the a time when he had to use charcoal, “a piece of torn cardboard if I was lucky,” and crushed leaves and flower petals for “a faint suggestion of color.” [136] A reader can connect with that love of art, the intimate details, and the practical challenge, but can’t forget the war, as he adds, matter-of-factly: “Being malnourished, I quickly grew tired, and I’d have to stop.”

  6. Courtney Hague says:

    Ok, I now that we are at the point where we can talk about flaws. I want to know. Would this have been better suited as a graphic novel? Uri talks a lot about his love for graphic novels in this memoir and it is heavily illustrated. I just want to know why the choice was made to write an illustrated memoir rather than a graphic memoir.

    Is this a negative? Does the choice of style come into play in our discussions?

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Good question, Courtney. And not all comments are either positive or negative…in fact it’s the questioning ones that can often do a lot to take the discussion further. I’m not sure we can say it would be a better book with a different style…we have to evaluate the book we get. But the question helps us to analyze the style he did choose, and where it succeeds or possibly falls short. I don’t doubt that Shulevitz has the artistic creativity to write a great graphic novel…but I really enjoyed his words. With a more heavily illustrated approach, he may have had to hold back on some of the description and imagery that is so effective. I feel like the illustrations flesh out the story and add some powerful moments and even humor, but it’s the author’s voice that carries the book most of all…

  7. Rox Anne Close says:

    I have long been a fan of Uri Shulevitz’s picture books, and reading his own memoir of his Jewish family fleeing the Nazis makes me appreciate his talent even more, I now realize that this time of Uri’s life was his awakening of himself as an artist. His first person narrative creates an intimacy between the author and the reader that I think will captivate middle school readers. The many illustrations in this book, both scary and humorous at times, captured the horror of civilians caught up in war. The illustrations also showed me, how Uri escaped the horrors through his art and showed me that during difficult times, we all can find ways to cope that give us hope. My question is: Should this book be nominated for a Newbery award or a Caldecott Award instead?

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      As far as Newbery vs. Caldecott for CHANCE, it could well be under consideration for both awards. The Committees keep all of their deliberations confidential, so neither group knows what the other is looking at, and they have to proceed with only their own award in mind. In recent years, we had UNDEFEATED, which won the 2020 Caldecott Medal and a Newbery Honor, and LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET was the 2016 Newbery Medal book and also earned a Caldecott Honor.

  8. So many good points already made! To the praise of those short sentences (and their suitability for the young reader), I’d add praise for the short chapter. Shulevitz employs short zinger chapters throughout, and it is always so effective. The longer chapters stretch the story in good ways, too, but my favorite parts were the tiny sections that packed a punch (see section 7 ch. 4 for one example).

    To Rox Anne’s question, I would support the Newbery designation over the Caldecott for all the text-based reasons already mentioned. Of course, Shulevitz is a hugely talented artist, but this book feels more about the expression in words with illustrations to enhance. That said, I would be hard-pressed to argue for it as the “most distinguished” in a large field of incredible books this year.

  9. I completely agree with everyone else’s assessments of the authors’ style: his simplicity works. So do the short chapters, and his knack for putting us in his young child’s head.

    I do wonder if some middle-grade readers will be confused without more contextual background detail, though? While it’s easy to understand Shulevitz’s personal experiences, he drops mentions of bigger background things (like the Warsaw Ghetto, Communism, etc.) that many young readers might not be that familiar with. They are things we WANT them to be familiar with, but different kids learn about different historical topics at different times. Other biographies published for kids this year (THE BOY WHO BECAME A DRAGON, for example, or even BECOMING MUHAMMAD ALI, which is a novel) did more to explain their subjects’ historical settings. WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED, the other memoir we’ll be discussing, held more exposition, too, I feel: the authors knew that most of the kids’ reading the book probably won’t have first-hand experience with refugee camps (hopefully), and so they made sure that if something was mentioned, it was also explained. I think that for many kids, especially for those any younger than 12 or so, to really grasp this book they might also have to check out a book about WWII on the Western Front that talks a lot about Soviet Russia. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but, because of this, it almost felt, to me, like it was not necessarily a memoir for kids so much as it was a memoir for people in general, and that audience might also include children.

    Or perhaps I was just a very odd child. I would become extremely frustrated when I couldn’t make a clear historical picture in my head, or when I felt like there were things I was missing. Maybe this wouldn’t bother most kids. I’m willing to be talked out of my qualms.

    • Rachel Jamieson says:

      Since Uri is telling this story from the perspective of a young child, I can see why he wouldn’t have added too much extra historical context. He wouldn’t have understood what was happening either. If you add too much exposition, the voice would have felt false. I could see why an editor might want to include a couple of pages of historical explanation at the end though, like in When Stars are Scattered.

      • I think it’s more that he seems to expect his readers to already know and understand the historical context, enough so that he adds in the off-hand mentions of larger events without anything else, that stood out to me and made me think that it wasn’t necessarily a book written specifically for children but for anyone who might be interested, and that audience might include some kids.

        For the sake of debate: he did add at least one two episodes that were written from his father’s point of view (the tobacco story and when Uri was very sick in the Parisian hospital) – a very short chapter here or there could have been added for context. Or those off-the-cuff mentions could have been left out or expanded on slightly (footnotes?). Or there could have been some back matter. I agree that plopping a bunch of exposition right in the middle of a child-centric episode would have felt bulky. But an off-handed mention of something big the audience is already supposed to know doesn’t make this feel like a book written with just kids in mind.

    • Courtney Hague says:

      I actually agree with you here, Aud. I think maybe some back matter or the inclusion of more context for young readers would have been useful. I do wonder how much a child would get from this book without that context. There is definitely still the survival story which is harrowing, but if a child doesn’t already know about the Holocaust, will they be able to fully appreciate this book?

      He definitely makes asides from his perspective as an adult so I don’t think the argument that he’s writing from his perspective as a child holds up completely here. This definitely reads as a memoir of a man remembering what it was like as a child living through that experience but also with the ability to look at those experiences from the future and know the historical context.

  10. Amanda Bishop says:

    Thank you Elizabeth for your introduction to this wonderful book.

    I agree with others that the short sentences and the overall structure of the book is appealing for younger readers. While reading I could vividly imagine what the young Shulevitz was experiencing. I felt as if he was writing with his younger self in mind, and not necessarily from an adult perspective, which I feel will allow younger readers to connect with the author and his life.

    I think young readers will be inspired by how Shulevitz continued to hope and find beauty despite living through such terrifying conditions. The setting and experiences in this book are truly dismal and heart-wrenching, but despite this, Shulevitz interweaves moments of beauty and humor, particularly through sharing his artistic inspirations and growth.

    While I am unsure whether this book will be able to able to win the Newbery this year, I do think it is one that should be read and shared.

  11. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    As far as Newbery vs. Caldecott for CHANCE, it could well be under consideration for both awards. The Committees keep all of their deliberations confidential, so neither group knows what the other is looking at, and they have to proceed with only their own award in mind. In recent years, we had UNDEFEATED, which won the 2020 Caldecott Medal and a Newbery Honor, and LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET was the 2016 Newbery Medal book and also earned a Caldecott Honor.

  12. Leonard Kim says:

    When I started this book, I thought it was going to be a quick read because of the short chapters etc. I think the book is excellent, but it ended up feeling long to me. I haven’t analyzed why, so this is just an impression for now. I do think there is a shift once we get to France towards the end of the book, and that section I was definitely less engaged by. That reaction is perhaps similar to the one I had to the end of ON THE HORIZON where Lowry introduces her personal story. I don’t believe most young readers care about Lois Lowry or Uri Shulevitz to the point that they will read a book because it is about them as opposed to the extremes of World War II. So though I think both books are great, I think they are also both a tad self-indulgent (as memoirs can be) in the inclusion of material such that I am not sure they deserve particular praise for “excellence of presentation for a child audience.”

    • Leonard, that is a perfect way to put it. It DID feel long even though I tore through it. And I kept wondering if children would even give it a chance (pun not intended). My guess is many will not, which is not, of course, an exclusionary trait for the Newbery. Just a curiosity on my part.

  13. Emily Mroczek says:

    Going off of what Leonard said– I felt the book had really strong pacing until the France portion when the details did not seem as well fleshed out. I then felt that the book ended rather abruptly. I understand that this was a story of his refugee days and not his adult// USA experiences but the ending really seems to leave readers hanging. I have a lot of questions about what happened to the parents etc.

  14. Thank you for the introduction post to CHANCE Elizabeth! I found Uri Shulevitz’ vivid recounting of his experience during the Holocaust – heart-wrenching, harrowing and heartbreaking. His ordeal is a testament to his will to survive using art and remembering stories. The themes of survival, family, loss, separation are intimately experienced through his childhood lens. I found his writing immersive, except when he used questions/sarcasm to transition to another part of his journey.

    I agree the brevity and short sentence variations found in most of the chapters made for an easy read, however, it still felt long at 300+ pages. The black and white illustrations were wonderful. I think the author captured his childhood emotion well, especially on pps – 138 – 141. Overall, I don’t think this book is really targeting the MG audience. The word choices, use of language, and historical context felt more adult. But I think a tween would be able to read this book as long as they understood that time period or with the help of an adult. I think CHANCE is an important piece of work and merits recognition. I’m truly sorry Mr. Shulevitz and his family had to suffer through such atrocities.

  15. Carrie Bruner says:

    Thank you for introduction, Elizabeth. Of all the titles on this year’s Heavy Medal list, this was one of two that I had not previously read. After tearing through it today, I continue to be struck by the beauty in Shulevitz’ writing. And despite the simplistic tone of his words, he has such a knack for vividly describing his surroundings. As others have stated, the brevity of the chapters, I feel, were a good choice for the target audience and for such a heavy topic.

    Despite greatly enjoying this book and appreciating the difficulty it must have taken the author to detail such a painful part of his life, as Sarah Beth stated in her post, I doubt most children would seek out or pick up this selection on their own. Although, it might be a great source of inspiration for budding illustrators, seeing the passion Uri held for art despite the horrific circumstances that surrounded him. That passion, that hope clearly helped him survive.

    • I would like to respond to both Carrie and Nadia. If we limited award winners to books which a certain percentage, not stated, of middle grade readers would pick up on their own, many other books under consideration might be excluded. We are considering books with child abuse, as well as other very difficult topics. I am sure that there are some middle-grade readers who will not be interested in CHANCE; is there a putative critical mass of readers before we can consider a book?

      • I would like to respond to Emily. Please note my assessment of CHANCE does not suggest this book not be a contender or considered. All the books being assessed including the picture book, OVERGROUND RAILROAD, all carry heavy/difficult subject matters. However, if these books are not made available – I don’t think any young reader would pick up without some form of encouragement from an adult in their lives. It is our responsibility to note the merits of each book and make it available. And I’ve noticed, a majority of the books on this list, heavy subject matter aside, share a common theme of survival.

        I am looking at the overall book not just the subject matter. I will also reiterate – I don’t feel this book specifically targets just the MG audience (age group) like some of the other contenders on this list of 15. But “I do think CHANCE is an important piece of work and merits recognition.”

        CHANCE should still be a contender – along with some of the other books to be discussed. CHANCE serves as a reminder of an experience of what could have been in our current climate, but happened in the past. CHANCE is worth reading to understand what happens when people are too afraid to speak up and how fortunate and ‘privileged’ children in current times are. As a parent, I would want my children to read this book to know the hard truths about the human condition and other people’s experiences that are different from their own.

        Hopefully, this clarifies any concern or confusion you may have about my thoughts on CHANCE.

  16. Tamara DePasquale says:

    Thank you, Emily, for your thoughtful introduction and for the follow-up responses. There are a lot of great points to ponder. When I opened this book, I admit that I was surprised by the illustrations, the font size, and the white space between lines. Each of these design choices support a younger reader as the targeted audience. I was immediately intrigued by future choices on what would be included — and excluded — in the storytelling. I do believe that this is a story shared with no particular audience in mind. It is a story for everyone, and we are the fortunate ones, sitting in the front row listening to Mr. Shulevitz share his family’s escape and survival during World War II. The book’s strengths lie in the author’s ability to recall place, time and circumstance and then to relay these memories to the reader in a relatable, organized manner.

    The memories are enhanced by the author’s illustrations; the illustrations do not tell a cohesive story. It is for this reason that I do not believe that the book would be included in Caldecott considerations.

    I do agree with those who felt a pace change in the final chapters. I believe it was a question of where to end the story. I would have been quite pleased with the story ending in Paris. At that point, the reader recognizes the “escape” has indeed happened. To go on from there felt like a tidy wrap up with too many adult details. The inclusion of literary “friends,” movie choices, and moves to Israel and eventually NYC took a grand leap to adulthood that would be lost to most readers.

    Overall, I felt that “Chance” was a solid addition to Holocaust collections. However, I do not feel that it meets the “distinguished” requirement of a Newbery contender. I’m also going to play the “bad guy” here and ask my fellow bloggers the following: would you be more critical of the title if the book was written by someone other than this beloved children’s author/illustrator?

    • Tamara, it seems quite belittling to reduce this book to “a solid addition to Holocaust collections.” What does that even imply? If this book is not distinguished, I think it ‘s time to go through all the other books on the list and be quite specific about the meaning of that adjective. I can understand if you personally do not consider CHANCE to be the most distinguished book under consideration,but to deny it that quality is baffling. As for your “bad guy” question, I’d like to respond with an old saying of Yiddish origin, although I assume that other cultures have their own version: “If grandma had wheels, she’d be a trolley.” Uri Shulevitz wrote and drew this brilliant memoir because he is brilliant and because he has drawn on his long life and experience as an author and artist.

    • Tamara DePasquale says:

      Oops…I meant to thank Elizabeth for the Intro, sorry!

  17. Tamara DePasquale says:

    Emily, thank you for your passionate response to my post. I believe the points you have raised are truly what we should be considering and discussing as “mock” Newbery committee members. We are charged with reading the best of the best children’s books published during 2020. From that list of great titles, we are asked to select “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Attempts to define “distinguished” have been discussed and debated for years by many great brains of children’s literature. Kathleen T. Horning wrote a great article years ago discussing this very topic: “The Search for Distinguished.”

    What does “distinguished” mean? Even the Newbery criteria tries to define the term, but falls somewhat short of the goal. Over the years I have tried to come up with my own definition of what distinguished means for myself and for participants in my library’s mock book discussions. Defining “distinguished” continues to be elusive. “Distinguished” for me, right now, assumes that the title under consideration has met all of the highest literary standards, and on top of that stands out among the titles being considered. The book must surprise me, make me pause unexpectedly and say, “Wow, this is a book like no other.”

    For me, it is without question that Shulevitz’s “Chance” is a noteworthy title, and that is why I recommended it as a solid addition to collections. I do not take that recommendation lightly, and by no means does it diminish the book’s merits. It does not mean that I do not consider it a “brilliant memoir.” That said, I stand by my opinion that the book does not reach the highest level of “distinguished.”

    My question regarding criticism and Mr. Shulevitz was merely asking my fellow readers if they, too, found it hard to say anything negative about the book. I hold Uri Shulevitz up there with the greats, and because of this struggled with the criticism I shared. The question was more of a human curiosity and goes more to the question of subjectivity in writing responses to literature.

    • Even your assumption that readers are somehow finding it “hard to say anything negative” reveals an odd assumption about this book, or perhaps its subject matter. In fact, some participants have commented critically on CHANCE, within a framework of respect. Would you segregate the other authors on the list and diminish their accomplishment by calling their works not distinguished, but a “solid addition” to collections about racism, or any other weighty topic? I don’t think so. Your question about whether anyone would consider this work worthy of a Newbery if it were not by Uri Shulevitz is incredibly patronizing. Finally, I need to question why someone would relegate CHANCE to a ‘Holocaust collection.” Think about what that means. We are having a national conversation about racism and the need to raise everyone ‘s consciousness about its deeply damaging effects on society. CHANCE is a book for everyone,

      • I perhaps took Tamara’s comment a bit differently because I understood her to say she struggled to criticize the work of someone she has so long admired as an artist and a creative – separate entirely from his experience with the holocaust.

        For perspective, I had the same feeling about another book this year by a figure I have loved for ages. It simply wasn’t very good, but I struggled to articulate that, even to myself.

        The other important difference I took has to do with “distinguished” versus “most distinguished.” I thought Tamara was saying, and I would agree, that CHANCE is a wonderful book, even a distinguished one, but not the “most distinguished” this year and thus, not the one she was considering for the Newbery.

  18. Aud Hogan says:

    I have to second Tamara’s stance, here, regarding our mock committee’s relationship to the word “distinguished.” My understanding is that that each committee debates the meaning of that word every year, using aspects of that year’s kidlit offerings as examples, until we all reach something close to a consensus of which books fit that word best. If we didn’t think these books had merit, if we didn’t they were excellent and worth discussing, they wouldn’t be on the list and we wouldn’t be talking about them at all. But not all of them will be medal or honor winners, either in our mock race or in real life (in which books we’re not even discussing could very well win!).

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Aud’s statement that “each committee debates the meaning of [distinguished] every year, using aspects of that year’s kidlit offerings…” is exactly right. It highlights the reality that conversations like we’re having, but involving 15 different people, can go very differently than ours will. And also reminds us that those 15 could have chosen different books to look at as well. With our first four books so far, we’ve seen very divergent opinions, backed up with thoughtful and credible arguments. Which is just how it’s supposed to work. But that doesn’t mean final choices will be easy…

  19. Emily Mroczek says:

    After reading thru all of the comments, there are a few things I would like to add:
    **Uri’s voice is what truly makes this book “distinguished” specifically how he combines the innocence of a child with the wisdom of an old man.
    **Looking at the Newbery criteria, it mentions illustrations at the end– “Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.” These illustrations do NOT make the book less effective (and I think everybody would agree with this one!
    **I think another reason this book is phenomenal is because it is a refugee book and a Holocaust book and portrays a part of this brutal history that has not been written about a ton.
    **Personally speaking, I did not realize this book was written by Uri Shulevitz until I was halfway through and had not read many of his books (though I just put a bunch on hold)– So he did not influence me!

    Thanks for a good discussion!

    Thanks for a good discussion

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