Newbery Challenge: Ginger Pye

The fun, contemporary art work by Arthur Howard on the updated cover of Eleanor Estes’ book Ginger Pye had me all excited to read this one.  Sadly, I felt cheated!  Once inside the book, the illustrations were the original ones by the author and I’m sorry to say they missed the mark.  Very primitive by today’s standards.  Admittedly, perhaps not as much of a problem, though, for chapter book readers.

I so wanted to like this book.  And I did, basically, imagining myself back in elementary school.  This is the type of thing I did like to read on a summer afternoon under the tree in the front yard.  But there were too many things about it that today’s students simply can’t relate to.  Probably best if read with an adult who can appreciate its context and explain lots of the details (trolleys, tramps, etc.)  It does harken back to a simpler time….

Newbery Challenge Update: Onion John

Finally, summer’s here and I can get back to the Newbery Challenge.  I finished the 1960 winner recently (Onion John, by Joseph Krumgold) and here’s my rating:

3 of 5 stars for the writing

2 stars for relevance for today’s students and my ability to “sell” it to 3rd graders  (I’m in a K-3 school)

Up next:  Ginger Pye


Newbery challenge update: A Gathering of Days

Joan Blos’s A Gathering of Days:  a New England Girl’s Journal  sits on our shelves year after year without being touched, but I’ve always been curious about it. (Maybe it’s because I’m a New Englander!)  Because of this challenge I FINALLY read it.

The verdict?  I enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away.  I do like books with an old-fashioned feel, and this certainly had that.  The language was authentic for the time period and the portrayal of daily life, with all of its ups and downs, was well done.

This being a K-3 school, I can see why I haven’t had too many takers over the years;  the vocabulary and writing style is challenging.  I have an older edition, too, with a cover that isn’t terribly attractive.  Would I recommend it?  To the right girl (yes, I think it’s a girl’s book) at the right time–yes.  To most of my students now?  Probably not.

100 Days, 100 Years, 100 Posts!

Today is officially the 100th day of school for me.  I’ve been saving this post for today even though Hitty:  Her First 100 Years was the first book I decided to read for the Newbery Challenge.

Besides the obvious connection in the title, this is also my 100th post!  I began this blog in July 2010 and I’ve stuck it out for 100 posts.  Thank you, readers, for hanging in there with me!

Hitty was a bit of a surprise.  I was  skeptical, wondering if it could still appeal to today’s readers, but after reading it I definitely think it can.  The idea of following a doll (or some other toy) through many years and owners and circumstances works.  (Toy Story, anyone?) I still have students who enjoy Holling’s Paddle to the Sea, and Emily Jenkins’s books about toys are quite popular in my library right now.  Then there’s The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  Ann Martin’s Doll People series will serve as companion books as well.

Maybe it’s time for a new display–dolls, dolls, dolls! Ask staff members to bring in their vintage dolls, find some old matryoshka nesting dolls, sprinkle in the books mentioned above, and voila!

What other books would you include in this display?

Newbery Challenge update: Sounder

I am not a lover of dogs, but give me a good dog story and I’m all over it.  I cannot remember if I read William Armstrong’s Sounder as a kid, but somehow over time I’ve had the notion that this is a book worth reading so perhaps I did.

This is a story of loyalty–of a dog to his master, a boy to his father, the  boy to the dog.  In a desperate attempt to feed his family, the father steals a ham and life for these sharecroppers only gets bleaker.  Sounder, the coon dog who never disappoints,  is gravely wounded by the sheriff as the father is hauled away for his crime.

The boy (it’s interesting that Armstrong doesn’t name the human characters;  they are simply “the boy” or “the man”)  spends the next few years following the chain gangs hoping to get a glimpse of his father.  The voice of the coon dog is reduced to a whine and all life seems to have left him.

My heart ached for these characters, and that has a lot to do with Armstrong’s writing.  There is a lot that is worthy of discussion in this book, and lots of opportunities to teach the writer’s craft.  Kids today might need some context of the Jim Crow south and of sharecropping, but in the end this is a story of the bond that exists between dog and man, and students can certainly appreciate that.

Newbery Challenge Update

I wrote recently about the Newbery Challenge.  And even though it’s supposed to be stress-free, I’ve been feeling stressed because I hadn’t actually started yet.  SO, at least for now, here’s my strategy.

I took out my latest glossy poster of Newbery winners and I decided I’d read one from each row on the poster (at a minimum;  but remember–no stress!)  Many are not available in my own school library since we’re pre-K to 3, but from the first two rows I do have Hitty:  Her First Hundred Years and The Twenty-one Balloons.  So that’s where I’ll start.

More in my next post.  Have YOU signed up for the challenge yet?  I figure it will give me lots of options for the weeks ahead.  Anything to battle cabin fever in Vermont!


Newbery Time

There’s been a lot of “best of” lists floating around the blogosphere in recent weeks as we approach ALA’s Midwinter Conference and the annual awards on January 23.  A recent post from SLJ Mover and Shaker Jon Schumacher has me thinking that it’s time for me to re-invest some reading time in past Newbery winners.

Mr. Schu has issued a no-stress challenge.  Read :

a. in chronological order from the award’s inception to the present

b. by decade (one from each;  two? You decide)

c. the winner and one “honor” for the time frame you choose

d. only the ones you’ve never read

e. whatever no-stress way you’d like.

Sounds terrific!  Even though I’m firmly entrenched in a pre-K to grade 3 school and I put more energy into the Caldecott winners, I know there are a lot of great Newbery books to be read and recommended to students, so I’m in!

What are some of your favorite Newbery books?  What title is your choice for this year’s medal?