Newbery Reads

Every winter I anticipate the Caldecott announcement. This highlights five or so books that have been selected to receive the coveted Caldecott medal, or several honors, for excellence in children’s picture books. Can I just say that to even think about Caldecott books, my hands feel electrified. I would LOVE to produce a Caldecott- winning book someday. At times, this goal seems as far off as the moon, other times I think, yeah, I could do that. Who knows. We’ll have to see.

Another coveted award is the Newbery Medal, awarded to children’s literature, usually chapter books. I hadn’t more than glanced at these lists in the past, other than to give my kids something to go by when picking books to read. But this year the winner was an author we had read last year, so my interest was piqued. I reserved Echo at the library, and searched the shelves for other titles that looked promising.

For the most part, I was not disappointed. These books are geared toward a younger set, but I was heartened by the cleaner language, the introduction to deep subjects like war and racial discrimination and ethics, and the great writing styles these authors had. Here is a list of the ones I have read lately, with a little opinion thrown in.

Echo has to come first. I love the time period, World War II, and I love the way Pam Munoz Ryan weaves three different stories together. Excellent! I am recommending it to our homeschool literary club for next year.

Number The Stars is also set during WWII. It tells the story of Denmark and their response to Hitler’s invasion and attempt to anhilate the Jews there. Great read.

The Underneath was strange, but really wonderful when I finished it and saw such redemption for the characters. An animal story (which some of my kids sneered at) that can be applied to humans, too.

Lions of Little Rock was terrific. I do not know much about the time when schools in the South were fighting desegregation. This was illuminating. I found the heroine very endearing, as well.

Wonder was thought-provoking. It is about a boy who has a severely disfigured face, and the time he starts going to public school (he was homeschooled, but his parents decided it was time to learn in the real world). There was more potty/youth humor in this one that I could do without, but I appreciated being challenged: how would I would behave toward someone who was hard to look at. I don’t often have that experience.

We also just discovered 101 Dalmations! It isn’t just a movie, it was a book first! I started reading it to the kids, and some of them have taken it to finish. It looked to be delightful.

…And Miguel (can’t remember the full title) was kinda interesting. It is about a boy anxious to be old enough for all of the responsibilities on a sheep ranch in Mexico. I only skimmed it, but came across a story that sticks in my mind, you’ll see why. Miguel knows a lot about sheep, and is describing what happens when they are bearing their young. He states that normally the female has a look on her face that is a blank stare. For whatever reason, when she is about to give birth, her eyes become very focused and she is all about finding a place to lay down. She is in the zone. Then, once the lamb is born, her eyes glaze over with a stupid look again. Isn’t that funny? Another cool story- when a mother loses a lamb, the shepherds will shear the dead lamb and put the toupee on another orphaned lamb, in the hopes that this mother will ‘adopt’ this one in her lost lamb’s place. It works, apparently. I am sure both of these sheep stories have spiritual implications, as Jesus was always talking about sheep, and us being just like them, but I am at a loss at the moment. Just enjoying a good story is enough.