Friday, December 07, 2007

Newbery Hopefuls From Our Reading Friends, Day 5: A Friend from Canada

Today's predictions come from our friend, Larry Swartz. Larry knows books! Larry Swartz is an instructor in the Elementary Pre-service Program at OISE/University of Toronto.He reads a ton and always has great recommendations for amazing books. Larry has written several books for teachers about books, literacy, drama, etc. One of his newer resources is The Novel Experience--a great flipchart on using fiction in the classroom. And, he is an expert on Books for Boys.


Hey folks

For what it's worth.. here's an opinion (north of the border) about possible NEWBERY winners...

The two best books I read this year haven’t' got a 'chance'

knocked me out.. but if 'they' couldn't handle the word scrotum.. I don't think 'they' would take to this...I think too the word 'Indian' might be jarring for some nitpickers... I also hesitate to recommend books when 'adult' authors cross-over into young people's territory.. (Carl Hiassen, Roddy Doyle, Nick Hornsby)...But I loved this book for its' humour and honesty... and really wish it could replace (ok maybe not replace.. but be read alongside) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to help young folk understand contemporary issues with social justice, diversity and equity... life on the rez.. poverty… hope.. belonging… funny…. I loved this book! (and there’s pictures too)

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS was a knockout read.. I think best suited for over 11 year olds...The voice of innocence and irony... puts readers against the fence of a concentration camp...JOHN BOYNE is not American (i.e. IRISH).. this book is being translated throughout the world.. and needs to be read!!!! Soon to be a motion picture (YIKES!!!)

Jerry Spinelli gets my vote (ALWAYS)... bravo to him for the sequel to STARGIRL (a great love story).. but EGGS is a special read.. As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking about the novels that I recently read that featured characters whose parents have died. . Give me a fifth grade class and I would love to organize Literature Circles (when all titles are available in paperback ) around The Higher Power of Lucky, The Meaning of Life According to Jeremy Fink, Wing Nut and Eggs not only because one or more character has a missing parent, but because they get inside the skin and hearts of these kids who are coping with life’s rotten eggs and hoping make omelettes out of life’s dilemmas large and small. …boy girl protagonists..... a quirky character or two.. and how bad could a book be that highlights the read aloud experience. Hooray for Mr. Spinelli... the best, the best, the best
(Best cover of the year too)
(See Larry's Guest Review of EGGS here!)

Early in the year, I predicted that THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick should win the Newbery.. It would be a brave choice.. but one that supports the reading session of graphic texts...I noticed that it was one of the top ten books featured as best illustrated books in the NEW YORK times list... but this is a novel... (isn't it?) and one that would hook a buncha readers.. (hey miss, can you believe I read a 530 page book?).. and yes.. appeal to those BOYS...

THE CASTLE CORONA by Sharon Creech (a good adventure)
JACK PLANK TELLS TALES by Natalie Babbitt (great storytelling)

Sort of liked LARGER-THAN-LIFE LARA.. the kids were too mean .. by dandi daley mackall

Next on my book pile is ELIJAH OF BUXTON by Christopher Paul Curtis... a colleague declared 'it' should be the winner.. another friend at work.. said he needed an editor....

But end of discussion.. the award goes to HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate...
A beautiful beautiful read...
Wow! Let’s give ‘em a strong book that deals with refugees
And a strong first person (male) voice
And (exquisitely) written in free verse
And lets us care about ELL learners
And fills our hearts about the plight of longing and belonging

Here’s what my (smart) friend Nancy says about Home of the Brave…
The story is told through in the voice of the main character who speaks English in the way someone from a very different culture would speak it. The peculiarities of his speech draw you into the world he has left behind in a way that telling you about that world never would

We believe everything about his story. Having read memoirs written by children who have escaped similar situations I found everything I was being told rang true.
He and his cousin are real boys we've known.

As with all important stories about tragedy, you are not spared the details of the terrible evil of which humans are capable but you find hope in the acts of kindness that are shown. The story would have worked even if his mother had not been found but I enjoyed that little gift at the end.

So.. if the author’s won before do we* want to give another author a chance?
Do we want a novel that will get the BOYS reading and caring about a book?
Do we want a book that will be popular with boys and girls and not a hard sell?
Do we want a book that will lead them to other books?
Do we want to be brave about choosing a book with outside of the box format?

Do we care about ‘certain’ words / themes? Is safe the way to go?
Do we care about the cover?
Do we care what the kids think?

* we = the awards committee


  1. Franki and Mary Lee, I am thoroughly enjoying this series. Thanks so much for putting it together. For me it's been a middle-grade version of How to Talk About a Book You Haven't Read, as I read a lot of nonfiction and picture books.

    Susan T.
    Chicken Spaghetti

  2. I agree that Home of the Brave should be on the list. I have used it in my classroom to teach many different things from writer's craft to inferring to social studies. Who would guess that the author is one of the co-authors of animorphs?


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