Thursday, January 31, 2008

Newbery Honor Books

The second tier of books or honor books, are usually wonderful books that just didn’t make it into the top spot. Reading this year’s honor books I can see wonderful stories. I am pleased by these choices, proud of the committee work, and happy to recommend all three titles without reservation.

In Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis, Elijah is the first free-born child in Buxton, a Canadian community of escaped slaves, in 1860. With grand storytelling, humor, and poignant insight into the realities of slavery and the meaning of freedom, Curtis takes readers on a journey that transforms an 11-year-old boy into a courageous hero.

In The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, seventh-grader, Holling is convinced his teacher hates him. Through their Wednesday afternoon Shakespeare sessions she helps him cope with events both wildly funny and deadly serious. “To thine own self be true” is just one of the life lessons he learns. This, too, is historical fiction that takes place in 1968 on Long Island.

Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson, tells the story of how a new boy's arrival in a sixth-grade classroom helps Frannie recognize the barriers that separate people, and the importance of hope as a bridge. Transcendent imagery and lyrical prose deftly capture a girl learning to navigate the world through words.

Each one of these authors has won Newbery Honors before, as well as the Newbery Medal for Curtis. They write characters that stay with the reader long after the book is finished. Check out Jacqueline Woodson’s web site to learn more about this author and her other books. It’s a great site!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Newbery and Caldecott Announcements

It was the like Golden Globes - only better!! ALA held their press conference to announce the winners of all Youth Media awards. That includes picture books through middle grade readers to young adults, plus film and audio books. There was a webcast of the event, which I had trouble getting, but I did get some of the slides and felt a part of the proceedings.

I'll be giving you my feedback on the awards for the next couple of days. I'll start with the two top awards. The Newbery and Caldecott medal winners were both bold and excellent choices. GoodMasters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village is a fabulous book, so different in style from most winners. I read it a couple of months ago and have been mentioning it to everyone as a potential winner. What makes it so unique is "the voice." You can picture a real medieval town. Imagine Voorheesville residents telling us about their jobs and their life. Through the monologues you observe a town, the adults, the peasants, the children, and the upper class. The design of the book is beautiful,too. The illustrations help define the times, and there are definitions and explanations of words and phrases. It does not need to be performed. Reading it was a delight!
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a book to carefully read the text and the pictures. You can't have one without the other. The book begins with many illustrations as Selznick brings you into the book, into the story, into Paris, into the world of a young boy. The black and white illustrations have a softness about them that gives the characters a vulnerability. And there is wonder in the broken down machines we discover. It is a very different type of Caldecott medal winner. I think young people from third grade and up will enjoy this book, and look at it over and over again. Joyce Laiosa

Thursday, January 03, 2008

So Many Books, A New Year to Read

I haven't made any new resolutions for this new year. I tried very hard in 2007 to create routines/habits that should stay with me forever. I have been swimming fairly diligently at the Y. I'm up to a half-mile swim, now. I am reading more than ever. This isn't hard to keep because I love to read, but sometimes I sit in front of the TV and forget to actually turn it off, even when there isn't a single thing I am interested in watching!

I finally finished Sharon Draper's new historical fiction, Fire From the Rock. It is about the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. I think Draper captured the time period very well. I liked Sylvia Patterson, the protagonist in the book. She is a good student, a typical eighth grader, and a girl who has the opportunity to be one of the first African-Americans to integrate Central. Will she do it? Or will pressures from her family and friends make her choose to stay in her own high school? Check out the book, and look for other books by Sharon Draper. Her web site is where you can check out her other books, and the area (under homework help) where she answers lots of questions about herself, writing and her books. Draper is considered a YA writer. I consider her appropriate for middle school students and up.
Joyce Laiosa