Newbery update: The Hero and the Crown

Still working my way through this challenge.  Fantasy/dragonslayers, etc. isn’t really my cup of tea, so this one was a bit of a stretch.  The verdict:  2 out of 5 stars for the writing. In terms of selling this book to my students, my population is still too young (K-3).  Even my most capable readers are probably not ready for Aerin and Luthe.


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.

Up, up, and away with the Newbery

I began my reading for the Newbery Challenge with books from the early years of the award.  My strategy is to read from each row of my most recent Newbery poster from Follett.  For convenience I also decided to start with books that are available in my K-3 school collection.

In somewhat random fashion (though I really do have a plan!) I write today about William Pene du Bois’s The Twenty-One Balloons.  This book has been signed out exactly one time since its purchase, which was before I came eleven years ago.  Why is that, I wonder?  It’s got a jazzy spine design (though that does make the title difficult to read) and the jacket is colorful.  A peek inside shows quite a few illustrations for a chapter book, and some very intriguing ones at that.  So what gives?

Perhaps it’s because I’d never read it and recommended it before.  Now that I’ve read it, I know a few more things:

1.  I can probably drum up some interest because of Hugo

2. It will appeal to both boys and girls–the right boys, and the right girls, of course

3. It is worthy of a booktalk.  There are parts that will most definitely “sell” the book

4.When I booktalk it, I’ll have other “invention” books as companions

5. I’m totally on board with a society/government that is based upon restaurants and cuisines from around the world.

Have I convinced you to dust off its cover and give it a go?  I was glad I did.  Next up…Sounder.

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