Tag Archives: award winners:Newbery Medal

Kira-Kira Review

kira_kiraKira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004. 978-0689856402

Winner of the 2005 John Newbery Medal

Synopsis: Katie Takeshima has always looked up to her sister, Lynn, and the way she makes the world seem kira-kira: glittering, shining. Katie relies on Lynn to help her make sense of the world: their move to Georgia, the reason people stare at them, why it’s important for her to go to school. But when Lynn gets sick, Katie is forced to begin to make sense of things on her own and to make the world seem kira-kira again.

Why I picked it up: I snagged it at a used book store in Newport, Oregon while I was on vacation.

Why I finished it: The two very strong themes that run through this book are the strength of family bonds and the power of positive thinking. Katie and Lynn have a friendship that is unique to sisters, and the ways in which they support one another have a lasting impact on the characters and the reader. Katie might not be as smart as her sister, but Lynn knows that if she works hard and applies herself that Katie can succeed, an idea that becomes more apparent to Katie as she watches her sister decline. Speaking from experience, it can be hard to see the world as kira-kira when everything around you seems so dark and desolate; it can be hard to move on even when it feels like the world is stopping or speeding ahead without you. But what Katie and the reader slowly begin to realize is that Lynn desires for Katie to make her own magic. Katie has the potential to make the world kira-kira for her younger brother and her family in the same way Lynn made the world kira-kira for Katie. Yet, Kadohata’s story runs deeper, mixing grief and helplessness with humor and the special brand of drama that is specific only to families. The first-person narrative gives us a window into one family’s struggle to keep themselves together even though their lives as they know them are changing in ways they could have never imagined. It’s a sweet and heartbreaking story that will leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Other related materials: The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata; Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata; Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata; Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata; Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff; Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm; Criss-Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins; Under the Mesquite by Guadaulpe Garcia McCall; The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin; Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech; Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell

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Flora and Ulysses Review

flora_and_ulyssesFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Winner of the 2014 John Newbery Medal; A 2014 Junior Library Guild Selection

Candlewick Press, 2013. 978-0763660406

Synopsis: When Flora Belle Buckman observes a squirrel meet an unfortunate fate at the hands of her neighbor’s out of control vacuum, she steps in to save the day. But when this cynic realizes that she has witnessed the birth of a superhero, both girl and squirrel find themselves with a new bond that will change them in unanticipated ways. Seal blubber!

Why I picked it up: My grandmother passed recently, and I remember DiCamillo talking in her acceptance speech about her mother being worried about what would happen to her vacuum when she died.

Why I finished it: This book had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and in light of what has been going on in my life recently, it’s provided a sort of comfort for me. Flora has been told that she is a cynic by her romance novel-writing mother, and she does view the world with some cynicism, but I don’t think Flora is as cynical as she believes herself to be. She proves to be a hero in her own right when she revives Ulysses after his encounter with Mrs. Tickham’s birthday present. She continues to nurture and encourage him, reminding him when he s unsure what to do: “You are Ulysses”. And when she must leave the house in the middle of the night to find her squirrel who has been kidnapped by her mother, she understands the power of friendship and family. Campbell’s illustrations bring this story to life in a format that blends comics with the traditional novel format. The hybrid format is engaging for the reader, bringing the characters and the story to life, and it ties in with Flora’s favorite comic that plays a key role throughout the plot: The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incadesto! Yes, it is about a superhero and a cynic, but it is also about love and relationships and poetry and food. It’s about the unknown connections we make with each other and the people around us. It’s a beautifully written story that will connect to readers of all ages.

Other related materials: The Tale of Desperaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo; The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo; The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline; The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Donna Diamond; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

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Bud, Not Buddy Review

bud_not_buddyBud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1999. 978-0385323062

Winner of the 2000 Coretta Scott King Book Award; Winner of the 2000 John Newbery Medal

Synopsis: Bud’s been with half a dozen temporary families since he’s been at the Home. Ever since his mother died four years ago, Bud has dreamed of finding his real family, the key to which he believes lies in the fliers which fill his suitcase of Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!! And once Bud decides to skip town, there’s no stopping him until he finds his father.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed Elijah of Buxton and I wanted to read more of Curtis’s work.

Why I finished it: The way Curtis writes takes historical fiction to a new level for me. This particular story, as detailed in the afterword, is inspired by Curtis’ own family history. His grandfathers were a band leader and a railroad porter, much like two of the characters in the book, adding another layer of realism to the story. Bud’s story may be fictional, but everything about the story feels so very real to the reader. We are angered and frustrated by the treatment Bud receives while in the foster homes. We are scared for him when he decides to take matters into his own hands and venture out on his own to find his father. We cheer for him when he makes friends with the members of the Dusky Devastators. And while what he finds is much more unexpected, through Bud’s narrative we discover another meaning behind family. The reader gets a little slice of American history, as with most historical fiction, but I find that so many books about the depression don’t often focus on African Americans. I found it refreshing that Curtis explores this period through different eyes, much like Hesse did in Out of the Dust. Though Curtis explains that most of the research for his book came from other books, he laments not listening to the stories of his grandparents, missing out on the wealth of knowledge and the perspective that his elders offered to the future generations. So much like Curtis, I would encourage you to sit down with your parents and grandparents, to listen to their stories, write them down, save them up either in writing or as audio, because those memories are precious. We can read all we want about history in a book, but I would argue it is these personal histories that have a larger impact than anything we learn in an academic setting.

Other related materials: The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis; Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis; The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia; Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse; A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor; Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred D. Taylor

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A Visit to William Blake’s Inn Review

avisittowilliamblakesinnA Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen

HMH Books for Young Readers, 1982. 978-0812404661

Winner of the 1982 John Newbery Medal, 1982 Caldecott Honor Book

Synopsis: Come traveler, and stay a night at William Blake’s Inn. You’ll meet a fine collection of animal friends, learn about some of the magic of the stars, and be told a story by William Blake himself. When it be time for you to leave, you will not leave the same.

Why I picked it up: It was on the list of Newbery Medal winners and I decided to check it out as part of my poetry binge for National Poetry Month.

Why I finished it: Inspired by William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, Willard takes us on a trip to a mythical inn where all manner of creatures and people rest their heads and visitors can experience everything from the ordinary to the magical. Part of the magic of the poems is that it makes something that would be otherwise illogical and makes it perfectly normal – otherwise we might not believe that a bear could be a piece of furniture, a cat could take his breakfast on the roof of the inn, a hike could be taken among the stars, and a tiger would ask for a bedtime story. Blake’s inspiration and Willard’s love for Blake’s poetry comes across in the work, with each poem blending together to form a story of a young and inexperienced traveler that has come to stay with other, perhaps more experienced, travelers. The Provensen’s illustrations bring the magic of the poems to life, taking us on a journey through the pictures as well as the words. The stylized but realistic pictures show us the world of William Blake’s Inn, and leave the reader wishing they too could be spirited away to such a wonder-filled place.

Other related materials: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Eric Beddows; Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd; The Provensen Book of Fairy Tales selected and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen; Poetry for Young People: William Blake edited by John Maynard, illustrated by Alessandra Cimatoribus; Poetry for Young People: Animal Poems edited by John Hollander, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani; Poetry for Young People: American Poetry edited by John Hollander, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport; The Random House Book of Poetry for Children compiled by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel; Rhymes and Verses: Collected Poems for Young People by Walter de la Mare, illustrated by Elinore Blaisdell

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Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices Review

joyfulnoiseJoyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Eric Beddows

HarperCollins, 1988. 978-0060218522.

Winner of the 1989 John Newbery Medal

Synopsis: Designed to be read aloud, Fleischman’s poems recreate the booming, boisterous noise of the insect world. Explore the songs of water striders, fireflies, cicadas, whirligig beetles, and many others.

Why I picked it up: I came across the title while I was researching Newbery winners and I thought it would be fun for National Poetry Month.

Why I finished it: Because poetry is designed to instill feeling and create images using only a few select words, it’s often difficult to create a stirring image that will remain with the reader long after they have read the poem. This book explores poetry by creating for the reader poems with the familiar rhyme scheme and breaks them up to create a bigger picture for the audience. It’s a melodious, discordant, and wonder-filled look into the world of insects that comes alive with Beddows’ illustrations. Read it with a friend or use it in the classroom to introduce kids to the joys of read-aloud poems.

Other related materials: I am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleishman, illustrated by Ken Nutt; Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Beppe Giacobbe; insectlopedia by Douglas Florian; Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange; Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen; Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices by Theoni Pappas; Messing Around on the Monkey Bars and Other School Poems for Two Voices by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Jessie Hartland; Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse; Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse; A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Alice Provensen and Martin Provensen; A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems edited by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka; Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds; The Random House Book of Poetry for Children compiled by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel

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The Tale of Despereaux Review

the_tale_of_desperauxThe Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering

Candlewick Press, 2003. 978-0763617226.

Winner of the 2004 John Newbery Medal

Synopsis: Despereaux Tilling is not an ordinary mouse. Not only is he smaller than a normal mouse and has larger ears than a normal mouse, but he taught himself how to read, he doesn’t like to scurry around the castle, and he is in love with a princess named Pea. Roscuro is no ordinary rat. True, he does live in a dungeon as most rats in the kingdom do, but he has long held a fascination with the light and the world above the dungeons. Miggery Sow is a girl who has a secret wish, a wish to be a princess and live in a castle with servants and ladies in waiting, without people that will hit her on the ear. How do all of these characters fit into each others lives? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Why I picked it up: I’ve heard conflicting reviews from friends and classmates – some loved it, others not so much – so I thought I would read it for myself.

Why I finished it: DiCamillo’s book has a number of things going for it: she is a talented author that has crafted a tale of an unlikely hero, but something about the story lacks substance and while I did finish the book, I didn’t feel particularly attached to the characters or engaged in the plot. Not much is done to develop the characters beyond what makes them stand out. We know that Despereaux has large ears, loves music, behaves in a most un-mousely like manner, has a plethora of brothers and sisters, but even his oddities weren’t enough for me to root for him – but that might also have been because I knew how it ended the whole time. Roscuro is portrayed as slippery and conniving, obsessed with his plot for revenge, but it merely came off as a sort of cookie-cutter villain that is struggling with his own morals. And while Miggery Sow has a role to play in the story, I found her, well, boring. Pea is arguably the least fleshed out: she’s a princess with a love for music and whose mother died when a rat fell in her soup…and that’s about it.  I wanted this to be so much more than a book about the sort of casual acquaintances one could make in an office and it could have been. DiCamillo infuses the plot with a lot of heart and humor, creating a delightful soup of forgiveness, love, and redemption, but it was missing the flavor I have come to expect from her storytelling.

Other related materials: The Tale of Desperaux (movie), Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo; Lousie, the Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo;  The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo;  The Borrowers by Mary Norton;  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien; The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary; Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary; Stuart Little by E.B. White; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

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Dead End in Norvelt Review

DeadEndinNorveltNewberyDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011. 0374379939

Winner of the 2012 John Newbery Award

Synopsis: Jack is in big trouble: he borrowed his father’s Japanese rifle that he brought back from the war in the Pacific and accidently fired a shot at the multiplex screen. Now, he’s grounded for the summer and his mother has loaned him out to their neighbor Miss Volker, who writes the obituaries for the local paper. Jack is sure he is in for a bummer summer, but after a few weeks with Miss Volker, he begins to realize just how much these three months will change him.

Why I picked it up: It was on the list of Newbery winners and I thought it would be worth a read.

Why I finished it: Unfortunately for me, I got sidetracked by Olympic Curling and it took me a while to finish the book, but when I did, I was pleasantly surprised. Gantos clearly remembers what it was like to be an eleven-year-old boy, evidenced by the mischief and mayhem of his younger self. I’ve never been grounded for an entire summer, but I rather imagine that it’s just as much ‘fun’ as Gantos makes it out to be. He’s in a town that’s slowly being shipped off piece by piece as its residents die off and he’s been sentenced to three months of chores – not an ideal way to spend the summer – but he’s finding that there is more to the town than meets the eye. Yes, Norvelt isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis, but his friendship with Miss Volker changes the way he sees the town, its inhabitants, and history as a whole. The story is full of heart and humor, mixing reality with fiction, and it takes the reader back to a simpler time when children could still drive cars down the street without fear of being pulled over and there was always something more to learn about the people we had thought we had known for years.

Other related materials: From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos; Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue by Jack Gantos; Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade by Jack Gantos; Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade by Jack Gantos; Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool; The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate;  Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt; One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins; A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg;  Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

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