Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New books, new date

Our official reading list now has 3 more titles, for a total of 7--over there on the right. Notice also that I've changed the date of the discussion! The actual annoucement of award happens late enough this year that we can have the mock discussion after the holiday season, instead of before. I hope to add one more title to the list before Thanksgiving, then call it "complete"...though leaving room for one or two late arriving contenders.

I finished Victory and found it had the same problem as Bread and Roses Too...that by splitting the story between two characters (to broaden the audience?), neither character ever came fully to life. In the case of Victory, Sam has by far the more interesting story, and the tie to the present-day through Molly weakens the tension.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Three to read, but not for Newbery

Year of the Dog, The Green Glass Sea, Bread and Roses Too. All great books, but just not up to par with other contenders. I could go into quibbles, but they're all symptomatic of the authors' hand being just a little too present in the characters. I didn't quite believe in these people the same way I do in Meg or Sumiko or Gen.

(BTW, Powell's still has the orignal cover art on their page: clearly a bad idea that Clarion fixed before going to press. So I'll deign to direct you to the dreaded amazon for the new cover--)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Time to build the reading list

I need to add a few more titles now to my official reading list for the discussion on the 10th (over there on the sidebar). I need your help. I finished Bella at Midnight and American Born Chinese, and as much as I love both, neither seems quite like a Newbery. I'm currently re-reading Year of the Dog. I have yet to put my hands on Bread and Roses Too or Victory or Yellow Star, but those sound like possibilities. Nothing much else rises in the field, so I'm shuttling those to lower priority.

Here's books I'd like to consider adding to our list, those none seem sure-fire. Please let me know what you think. I'll decide in a week.

A nonfiction title to or two. Freedom Walkers seems strongest to me. Dear Miss Breed and Team Moon not quite as much.

Octavian Nothing or King of Attolia for the sake of the sequel issue...though everyone argues with me about age range on this. I do think King of Attolia is probably too old (fuse#8 tells us why); and I really think Octavian is for 10-14 year old history buffs more than for any teenager: but everyone looks at me like I'm crazy when I say so.

Penny from Heaven or The Loud Silence of Francine Green. Both exhibit great writing, but both fail a little for me. They do both have the recent-historical fiction thing going on--could compare with Weedflower.

Gossamer. Could be interesting for discussion--is it or isn't it an adult book?

Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. For fun!

Any of the three aforementioned I haven't read yet if you can convince me why: Yellow Star, Bread and Roses Too, or Victory.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Octavian Nothing

If you haven't read The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation (Volume 1: The Pox Party), you should check out the online reviews to try and get an idea of the scope of this amazing story. Beyond Anderson's talent with a turn of phrase, what I find most remarkable about his achievement here is his use of character. Octavian starts as a blank slate in such a unique position that readers are allow to "imprint" with his perspective...and yet he becomes an individual drawn to a depth that many writers aspire to and will never achieve.

The issue of whether it "stands alone" will of course come up in award discussion...so again I ask: where is that in the Newbery criteria?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Freedom Walkers

Fabulous nonfiction by Mr. Freedman. I know this story, but remember it as most schoolchildren do: "....Rosa Parks...Martin Luther King, Jr....." Freedman makes the walkers the heroes here, and shows how the grassroots movement created the figures we remember. He also sets the boycott within an historical context making it clearly a milestone, but within a longer journey that is not yet over. All this in a narrative that reads so smoothly you think someone's reading it to you. Nice big type, good white space and photos: very approachable and welcoming, the book itself an inviting and comfortable space, which it must be for such a story. I had to stay up late to finish because who can sleep through it? It made me cry: with horror and joy, humility and pride.

(Now, to put some emotional distance between myself and the story. Gushing does nothing at a Newbery discussion. If I can show you how Freedman achieves this reaction through his text, and persuade you that it will do so for its intended audience: that's a winner. To work.)