Friday, October 20, 2006

Newbery Ramblings

Nina, over at Nina's Newbery, wants to know if GOSSAMER is or is not an adult book.

Here's my two cents.

I read GOSSAMER aloud to my 5th graders. We had great conversation during the opening of the book about trusting an author and allowing yourself to revise your understanding of what's going on in a book as the author gives you more and more clues. Case in point: when you start reading, you have no idea what kind of creatures the Dream Givers are. Lowry gives the reader a character -- Gossamer -- who has no idea what kind of creature she is, and it's through her questions and explorations that she and the reader simultaneously learn what she is and what she does.

There were great connections between the fight of good vs. evil in GOSSAMER and in the BONE series, and between the somewhat flighty (pardon the pun), playful, simultaneously immature/deeply mature characters of Gossamer and Grace in COUNTING ON GRACE.

As early Tweens, my students really wanted to believe in the magic of the Dream Givers, but they could also talk about them in a very practical, no-nonsense way as well. This is where they're at right now in their development with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and The Great Pumpkin: they believe in spite of the evidence.

I did have to give them some background information on foster care (happily, there are no students in this class who have experienced this first-hand).

The day I was out with laryngitis so bad I could not make a single sound, my sub read the ending. After I returned, and as soon as I had enough voice to read aloud again, my students insisted I re-read the ending.

The idea of "gathering fragments" has become a metaphor in writing workshop for the kind of short entries we do in our writer's notebooks when we want to hold on to a moment (memory, scent, emotion, taste, etc.).

So is GOSSAMER an adult book? I say, "No." It's a great story for readers to connect to with heart and mind. It's a finely crafted short text for writers to study. I think it should be considered for the Newbery.

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