Thursday, July 31, 2008

Miracles on Maple Hill

Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen, was selected as the Newbery Award winner in 1957. While some of the older Newbery winners seem to be outdated in today’s world, this book is filled with relevant historical and emotional topics.

As I read the book, I was struck by the imagery and sense of place which was strongly developed by Sorensen. I have never been to visit the northern United States, but I feel like I have been there – visited four times in a year and caught a glimpse of each season.

The story revolves around a family. The father has returned from the war (which is unnamed) and is having difficulty returning to the civilian life. How appropriate is that in the lives of children today? The mother and two children are concerned about the father and wish that he would return to his old self. To help with this process, the family visits the grandmother’s old place in rural Pennsylvania – a place called Maple Hill, where miracles happen!

The story is told from the perspective of the daughter, Marly, who immediately falls in love with the mountain and the wonder of the rural life. The father stays on fulltime at Maple Hill, while the family visits every weekend. The strength of the novel is the descriptions of the flora and fauna in the area and especially the gathering and processing of the maple syrup.

Other reviewers have talked at length about this spirit of the place, and I invite you to read them here!

TITLE: Miracles on Maple Hill
AUTHOR: Virginia Sorensen
PAGES: 180
TYPE: fiction, Newbery Award Wimmer
RECOMMEND: I loved this book.
Flusi the LibrarysCat

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

From Adventures in Reading:

Preparing to read Seth Lerer’s Children’s Literature, I decided to first delve back into my own childhood and reread Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle and by incident this also kicks off my first book for the Newbery Project. Recently at work, various aged co-workers and I were discussing the excitement surrounding the fast-growing young adult section and reflecting on our own young adulthoods which had far less reading fodder. When I was a young adult literature was certainly available, but I often found myself searching for something to read and one of these conquests led me to Lofting.

It’s difficult to not be familiar with some aspect of Doctor Dolittle even if it’s only that he was a character who could speak with animals. This 1923 Newbery Award winner is told in hindsight from the somewhat fatalistic viewpoint of young Tommy Stubbins. After becoming more or less apprenticed to the good Doctor, the two and their human and animals friends begin a voyage to Spider Monkey Island off the coast of Brazil. Various adventures ensue including stowaways, bull fighting, floating islands, and a shipwreck.

Central ideas in the book are fairly representative of the time; particularly Dolittle’s interest in natural history (the popular scientific study of animals or plants) and the Dawin-esque feel of exploration stealthily lodges Doctor Dolittle into a bubble of historical consciousness. Lofting’s sketches illustrate the quite diminutive Tommy exploring Dolittle’s world. The back story is also quite interesting, as apparently Lofting wrote these tales out as letters to his children when he was a soldier during the World War.

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is problematic however in its representation of race, indigenous culture, and colonialism. Two characters in particular stand out: Bumpo an African prince being educated at Oxford who incorrectly uses lengthy words and prefers going about barefoot and Long Arrow a stoic South American indian who venerates Dolittle. So imagine my surprise when I finished the book and learned in Christopher Lofting’s afterword that the Yearling edition is actually an edited version from the original text and that some socially questionable illustrations had also been removed. I confess my interest is peaked more than ever to reread this book in its original format.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle - 1923

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Illustrated by Sonja Lumat
Doctor Dolittle, Book 2

Pages: 276
First Published: 1922
Genre: children's animal fantasy, adventure
Awards: Newbery Medal 1923
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

All that I have written so far about Doctor Dolittle I heard long after it happened from those who had known him -- indeed a great deal of it took place
before I was born.

Comments: In this second book of the series we meet Tommy Stubbins, the boy who becomes Dolittle's assistant. Once again Dolittle sets off on a voyage this time to meet the great botanist Long Arrow, son of Golden Arrow and along the way they meet many side adventures. Dolittle becomes set on learning the shellfish language, meeting the Great Glass Sea Snail, ends up on Spidermonkey Island, saves the island from floating into the Antarctic and helps the natives build a thriving city and society.

Both the 8yo and I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this book. Everything a child could want in a book is here: adventure, fantasy, science and animals all rolled into one. The action starts in the first chapter and is non-stop right to the very end which comes to a heart warming ending that leaves the reader with the feeling that there most certainly must be a sequel.

The edition I have is unaltered from the original text. At least I can find no indication that it has been altered, though the spelling has been Americanized. This edition is part of the Grosset & Dunlap Illustrated junior Library which has been in publication since the 1950s so I am fairly confident the text has not been edited. Since these books are often cited as being racist by PC fanatics I will note that I found absolutely nothing offensive in the book at all. The original illustrations have been omitted and replaced by a handful of full-colour plates illustrated in a cute fashion which I am not fond of. I will look for an original edition with Lofting's illustrations to replace this one someday.

Having read the first two together I can say for certain we will continue on with the series. The 8yo thought it was one of the best books we've read together and we both agree it is even better than the first book. Having read this as a child myself it is great to see that it lived up to my expectations and then some. Recommended!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rabbit Hill

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson is another classic children's book that I never read as a child. And I thought I was well-read!

I think I would have really enjoyed Rabbit Hill, since one of my favorite children's books was another talking animal one - the original Bambi, by Felix Salten. And a few years after that, I also loved Watership Down. I wonder if Richard Adams read Rabbit Hill as well as The Tale of Peter Rabbit as a child or young man?

Anyway, Rabbit Hill is definitely an old-fashioned story, and rather slow-paced, as Alicia noted. As an adult, I didn't mind the wordiness and lack of action so much (especially since the story is only 128 pages long). But the things that I really enjoyed in this book as an adult are probably things that a lot of kids would not be interested in or wouldn't even notice.

I loved the comparisons between the different people that lived on Rabbit Hill (which was also the name of Lawson's country home in Connecticut, I gathered), especially the difference between "planting folks" (gardeners) and others:
Then evil days had fallen upon the Hill. The good Folks had moved away and their successors had been mean, shiftless, inconsiderate. Sumac, baybery, and poison ivy had taken over the fields, the lawns had gone to crab grass and weeds, and there was no garden (p. 14).
I spent a little time wondering if the animals were really better off with people living on the hill and actively managing the land. I know that many of the animals in the story (like rabbits, groundhogs, moles, and fieldmice) do benefit from human agriculture, and especially like to eat some of the species in lawns and gardens, but is there really that much of a gain? What if the new folks didn't plant a vegetable garden? And what about today's suburban enclaves of asphalt, golf-course grass, and gravel with a few yew bushes or yuccas and day lilies? These landscapes must produce a huge net loss when it comes to biodiversity and small creature population. Though I have heard that vegetable gardening is getting more popular again.

I really enjoyed all of the descriptions of ecological succession, with wars and economic changes and people and farms, factories, and gardens coming and going, and the rabbits continuing on, adapting to the Black Roads and various folks' dogs and cats.

Although Father Rabbit's verbosity did occasionally get on my nerves, in general I really liked the language and the tone of the story. The "free garbidge" that the skunk loved was a nice touch, and I squealed when Phewie the skunk goes on to mention that Deer was "not above a mess of garden sass* now and then" (p. 24). The discussion of "Reading rots the mind" was fun, and I thought it was cute that the woodchuck (i.e., groundhog) was named Porkey. I did think the story got more exciting as it concluded.

I wonder if Rabbit Hill won the Newbery in 1945 because Americans really needed comforting stories of home at that point in time. It is a comfortable book, with its vision of little creatures living in harmony with (at least a couple of well-read) humans on a picture-perfect farm. I want to go spend a quiet weekend there, eating garden sass and watching the animals come out at dusk.


*garden sass = garden sauce, an old-fashioned term for vegetables that I blogged about a few years ago. A little more research on the term shows that "garden sass" (instead of sauce) was already being used by 1856, as in this Lea & Perrins ad for Worcestershire sauce:
Lexicographers tell us there are various kinds of sauce, some of which are exceedingly appetizing, while others are difficult of digestion. The old Colonists, and even modern Yankees and Virginians, speak in their quaint rustical way of “garden sass,” under which term they include all culinary vegetables.
In 1947, in the Secrets of New England Cooking, Ella Shannon Bowles and Dorothy Siemering Towle noted that:
Garden sauce and green sauce were old English terms dating from the time of Beaumont and Fletcher and perhaps before. Corrupted in New England to garden sass, it included all the vegetables raised in the garden. At one time some of the vegetables were classified as short sauce, others as long sauce, but these finer distinctions have been lost, and in northern New Hampshire and Maine, even today, garden sass is the accepted term for all garden vegetables.
I think this sentence in Lawson (and Bowles and Towle a few years later) are around the last print references I've found to "garden sass," except for the recent works that refer to it as an antiquated or no-longer-used term.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sounder - 1970

William Armstrong's story about a family of black sharecroppers and their dog, Sounder, is very sad. It is bitter cold, hunting is poor, so the father steals a ham and pork sausage to feed his wife and four children. When he is arrested and hauled away in a wagon, Sounder breaks free from the oldest son to chase it and is shot, but survives. The father is sentenced to many years of hard labor on a chain gang. His oldest son takes over his work in the fields, providing for the family and even learning to read. He looks for his father when he is not working, encountering more prejudice and cruel treatment. Both Sounder and the father return but are badly maimed and die before the end of the book.

Sounder has earned some criticism in the ensuing years, primarily because a white author is writing about a black experience. Armstrong says in an author’s note at the beginning of Sounder that it is the story of an African American teacher (Charles Jones) who worked for Armstrong’s father after school and in the summer, and who taught Armstrong to read.

In an interview in the March 1978 Writer's Digest, Armstrong said race was not a factor when writing the book. "I was writing about people's hearts and feelings. There's no color to feeling. There's no color to heart. There are a lot of white people who have suffered indignities, but they strangely hold out against it and save themselves. And there's a lot of black people who have done the same thing."

Many of these same critics take Armstrong to task for not naming any of the characters other than the dog. For example, Albert Schwartz (in MacCann and Woodard’s The Black American in Books for Children: Readings in Racism, 1972) says leaving them unnamed “raises the issue of white supremacy” and “deep-seated prejudice has long denied human individualization to the Black person.”

In the Writer’s Digest interview, Armstrong states, "If the boy's age was not given the reader could become a part of the story: 'The boy must be about my age.' Place and time kept vague, no name or description of the boy. . . . And no names for the family. With names they would have represented one family; without names they became universal--representing all people who suffer privation and injustice, but through love, self-respect, devotion, and desire for improvement, make it in the world." Indeed, the setting is vague enough that it could be anytime between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression, and anywhere walnuts grow (which is most of the eastern half of the United States, not just the South).

According to Lois Kuznets (in the Spring 1978 Illinois English Bulletin), the original manuscript of Sounder was much longer. Armstrong's publishers split it into two novels; the second is Sour Land (1971) and tells the story of the boy (now named Moses Waters) as an adult.

Well-known actor Avery Brooks (Star Trek DS9’s Captain Sisko) did a marvelous job narrating the audiobook, even singing some of the hymns in the story. His bass voice was perfect for that and for everyone but the mother. He gives the white characters deep southern accents, not necessarily reflected in their words in the book.

Although Sounder is written at about a grade 4.9-5.3 reading level, its subject matter is more appropriate for middle grades (6-8) and up. It is hard to fathom such a harsh punishment for stealing a ham and sausages, and the cruelties the black family and the dog endure. There are also some scenes (on pages 59-61) where the boy imagines, in grisly detail, what he would do to the deputy who shot Sounder (drag him behind a wagon) and the jailer who destroys a homemade cake the boy brings his father, awaiting trial (choke him with a chain).

[Cross-posted at my book blog, Bookin' It.]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Year Down Yonder - 2001

There’s not a lot I can add to the great reviews by Sandy, Flusi, and DebNance. I listened to the audiobook, and was laughing so hard I was inspired to read Richard Peck’s prequel, A Long Way from Chicago as well. The latter book stars Grandma Dowdel as well as a younger Mary Alice and her brother Joey, and is written from his viewpoint, but it’s not necessary to read it before A Year Down Yonder.

This book gives a wonderful view of small-town life during the 1937-8 recession following the Great Depression. It’s an uplifting story, one that doesn’t deny the hardships of the time, but doesn’t dwell on them either. Even though it’s set in southern Illinois, I feel the book could have been located in just about any rural small town in the country at that time. I think the book would be enjoyed by both boys and girls about age 9 and up (reading level is about grade 4.5-4.9).

American actress Lois Smith narrated the audiobook. She did a marvelous job creating unique voices for Grandma Dowdel and other interesting characters such as Wilhelmina Weidenbach, Mildred Burdick, Miss Butler, Effie Wilcox, and Aunt Mae Griswold. I only had a couple of complaints. One was her voicing of Mary Alice – it sounded too whiny and too immature for a 15-year-old.

The other complaint was the way she pronounced pecan. Okay, I’m from Texas, and it’s our state tree, and they grow all over the Brazos and Colorado river valleys where I live, and most everyone here pronounces it “puh-kahn,” with a little more accent on the second syllable than the first. Smith pronounced it as “pee-can,” with almost equal accent on both syllables. I’ve also heard “pee-CAN” and “pi-KAHN” (heavy accent on second syllable in both cases) and even “pee-kahn,” and dictionaries give a variety of pronunciations, so all are right. Since she was voicing rural residents of southern Illinois, I would appreciate any insight from Newbery Project readers who might know how those folks typically pronounce pecan.

[A variation of this post, including a review of the sequel, A Year Down Yonder, appears on my book blog, Bookin' It.]

Monday, July 14, 2008

1980 - A Gathering of Days

A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-32 by Joan W. Blos won the Newbery Medal in 1980. As you might guess, the book is written in the form of a diary which was kept by thirteen year old Catherine Hall who tells about her life in rural New Hampshire in the early 19th century.

I liked the opening of the book which was a letter from Catherine to her great-granddaughter who was turning fourteen. She writes, "Once I might have wished for that: never to grow old. But now I know that to stay young always is also not to change. And that is what life's all about - changes going on every minute, and you never know when something begins where it's going to take you. So one thing I want to say about life is don't be scared and don't hang back, and most of all, don't waste it."

The beauty of this small book is in the descriptions, both of the physical places and the emotions of the young girl who loses her mother and her best friend to fevers. Until her father remarries, she must take care of her younger sister. Young children (we have it with a recommended reading level of grades 4-8) might appreciate Catherine's emotions as her new "mother" moves in with them and brings many changes to their home!

In addition to winning the Newbery Medal, this book also won the American Book Award (Children's Fiction) in 1980.

TITLE: A Gathering of Days
AUTHOR: Joan W. Blos
PAGES: 144
TYPE: Fiction
RECOMMEND: I really liked this book and would recommend it to children who are interested in New England history or how young people lived in the past.


The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

7 of 12 for the 2008 Young Adult Challenge
2 of 3 for the tl;dr challenge
1 of 6 for the Classics Challenge
5 of 11 for the Summer Reading Challenge

This is a breathtaking book. It takes us to Puritan New England, in the colony of Connecticut. Sixteen year old Katherine (Kit) arrives in America after having been brought up by her grandfather in Barbados. Her liberal Shakespeare-reading, ocean-swimming, silk-dress wearing upbringing did nothing to prepare her for the inflexibility and piousness of her aunt’s family that takes her in. In fact, Kit’s free thinking and outspoken ways create suspicion and irrational fear.

Speare’s characters are fleshed out and conflicted and it is a pleasure to watch them learn and grow throughout the book. Kit’s constant impulsive decision making and the inadvertent consequences never felt contrived. The time period and its rigid culture played a huge part in the plot of this novel – where seemingly harmless gestures and friendships can somehow make a person seem like a Satan-worshipper and be put on trial for witchcraft. It was a tremulous and frightening time, where politics were a constant topic of conversation as the colonists were just beginning to decide that they no longer wanted a king.

Kit’s indecision about what and who she loves, and where she belongs, rang so true to me. The descriptions of New England itself and of the traditions and chores of the time were expertly woven into the prose. The sprinkling of romance throughout the story fit just right and I loved the ending. If you are a lover of young adult historical fiction, this Newberry Award winner is a must-read.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Waterless Mountain - 1932

This book is set in Navajo country in northern Arizona in the late 1920s or 1930-31. The main character is referred to as Younger Brother (his unused Navajo name means “Dawn Boy”, but his family often calls him Little Singer). At the beginning of the book, he is eight, and he is at least 12 by the end. The Waterless Mountain of the title may be the Kaibab Limestone formation north of the Grand Canyon, which was porous and had few sources of water.

As described in the New York Times shortly after the book’s publication (“Book Notes," 9/2/31, page 17), “the narrative deals with the experiences of a Navajo boy who is learning the lore of the medicine man. Various Navajo ceremonies, chants and beliefs are worked into the background of the account of Younger Brother as he develops from boyhood to youth. These tribal customs and legends are all authentic, according to the author,...,who lived long among the Indians...[Armer] went to Arizona to devote herself to an artistic and literary career. She painted pictures and acquired a wide knowledge of the Navajo chants and legends.”

In contrast to Shen of the Sea, the Navajo stories told in Waterless Mountain do appear to be authentic. I was unable to find any evidence contradicting information in this book, and lots of references on the web to yays (gods), chindi (ghosts), Spider Woman, Turquoise (aka Changing) Woman (or Estsanatlehi), and Whirling Logs sand paintings.

Contemporaneous reviews generally praise the book, but note some weaknesses. Anne T. Eaton, in the October 18, 1931 New York Times (“New Children’s Books, page 70), wrote, “Nothing in the book is finer than the author’s presentation of the poet of a primitive people and his response to the beauty and mystery with which he feels himself surrounded. The beauty and mysticism may appeal primarily to adults, but there is sufficient incident and action to hold the attention of younger readers, and they, too, will feel the book’s atmosphere.” “In Brief Review,” The English Journal (published by the National Council of Teachers of English, Vol. 20, No. 9, Nov. 1931, page 785), stated, “Good authorities pronounce it authentic Navajo, but the charm of the primitive is marred by the author’s unsuccessful attempt to write in the mental language of the unschooled boy.”

By the time of the book’s reissue in 1993, opinions varied. The Horn Book Guide (Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1993) rated it “marginal, seriously flawed, but with some redeeming quality,” explaining: “In these days of multicultural awareness, this novel, with its mysticism and its painfully condescending treatment of the Diné [Navajo], should have been allowed to fade into obscurity; reissuing it only calls attention to its flaws.” “A Critical Bibliography on North American Indians, for K-12” (compiled by the Smithsonian Institute’s Anthropology Research Office somewhere around September 1996 and last updated 8/30/01) rated it acceptable (not exceptional nor questionable), saying, “There is a somewhat patronizing attitude of the 'do-gooder' non-Indians in the story. The author attempts to put us in the mind of the youth to understand his reactions to the world.”

But Mary Lystad wrote in Twentieth-Century Children's Literature (4th edition, 1995) that Armer was praised for her "authentic and humanistic portrayal of Navajo life, within its own context and within a larger American context," concluding: "Armer's books are beautifully and sensitively written. They are not easy reading [but children] should be encouraged to read them. For Armer's meticulous studies of Indian personality and culture are important for an understanding of the human spirit."

I think, for the time it was written, that this book is a better example of one about another culture than most. Although the author is not Native American, she spent many years observing them and grew to be accepted by them. It is appropriate for older children, ages 9 and up. It rates anywhere from grades 5 to 9 on various readability scales, so it may be difficult for some children, particularly since it is episodic rather than plot-driven. There would be numerous ways to tie the book in with a study of Navajo culture, legends, ceremonies, and arts (Younger Brother’s mother weaves and his father makes silver and turquoise jewelry, while sand painting and pottery are also discussed).

There is a fascinating biography of Laura Adams Armer, author/photographer/artist, with further links at the Women Artists of the American West Women in Photography Archive. I didn’t realize that Armer’s The Forest Pool was named a Caldecott Honor book in 1939. The book is out of print and unfortunately my library does not have it; but you can see illustrations from the book at the Humboldt Arts Council website. The Forest Pool followed Armer's visit to Mexico. The color tempera paintings reflect the influence of painter Diego Rivera.

In the case of Waterless Mountain, there are four illustrations by Armer, eleven by her husband Sidney, and one by them both (the plate opposite page 26 in my 1936 edition, similar to that pictured below right), of which Armer wrote: "The deer are mine and the background is Sidney's." The dust jacket (pictured at the top of this post) and the frontispiece are the same, a painting by Armer, based on a composite of two of her photographs. Her other works are (in my 1936 edition): the plates opposite pages 20 (of the Bumble Bee), 128 (“The Sun Bearer and the Turquoise Woman,” my favorite), and 174 (of the Pack Rat) all signed by her and more similar in style to those in “The Forest Pool,” although all are in black and white. The endpapers of my 1936 edition have a Whirling Logs design similar to this.

[Also posted on my book blog, Bookin' It.]

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Joyful Noise/I Am Phoenix

This is another of the Newbery audiobooks I’d purchased for my library’s collection. It has the 1989 winner, Joyful Noise, as well as an earlier, similar book by the same author, read aloud by anywhere from two to five voices.

The most effective poems, though, were those read only by two (as the author intended) that also had few or no contrasting words spoken simultaneously. I found the overlapping in the latter often difficult to understand, especially when read aloud by more than two voices. In Joyful Noise, poems about insects, five voices were used on “Cicadas” (its concluding line is the source of the book’s title) and “Whirligig Beetles.” All this did was make the poems too loud (they seemed to be shouting) and too difficult to understand.

One of my favorite poems was “Fireflies.” I enjoyed the metaphors (”Light is the ink we use, Night is our parchment,” “Insect calligraphers practicing penmanship,” “Six-legged scribblers of vanishing messages, fleeting graffiti, Fine artists in flight adding dabs of light, bright brush strokes Signing the June nights as if they were paintings”) and the alliteration.

The other favorite was “Honeybees.” The two voices here were quite successful, even when overlapping, and particularly as voiced on the audiobook by a boy (the worker) and a girl (the queen). The boy was especially effective in expressing the malcontent of the worker bee’s life, portraying frustration in lines like “then I put in an hour making wax, without two minutes time to sit still and relax,” “..I’m on larva detail feeding the grubs in their cells, wishing that I were still helpless and pale,” and “Then I build some new cells, slaving away at enlarging this Hell, dreading the sight of another sunrise, wondering why we don’t all unionize.”

I also enjoyed “Book Lice” for the humor and author references (although I agree with Sandy D.’s review that most children won’t get them). “Water Boatman” was funny for the repetition of the word “Stroke!” evoking images of a racing boat.

The running time of this audiobook would have been too short with only Joyful Noise, so Fleischman’s 1985 I Am Phoenix, poems about birds, was included. Even then, running time is only 35 minutes. I thought the poems in I Am Phoenix were less effective; most seemed to simply be naming species of birds.

Nevertheless, both books benefit from being read aloud; neither book would be as effective if read silently by a single person. The only plus of the paper books are the lovely penciled illustrations by Eric Beddows (working as Ken Nutt on I Am Phoenix).

I would recommend this audiobook for a poetry unit in a classroom, combined with the print version so the students could both hear and see what the author intended.

[Also posted on my book blog, Bookin' It.]

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lincoln: A Photobiography

The 1988 Newbery winner Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman is an excellent and informative book about the life of our 16th president. What makes this book amazing is not only the pictures, but the writings of Lincoln which are provided and the small details of his life which perhaps are not as well known.

One amusing detail of his writing is from his home-made arithmetic book. In his own writing, Lincoln says:

"Abraham Lincoln

his hand and pen

he will be good but

god knows when" (p. 13)

Freedman provides many stories about Lincoln's childhood and family. The details of the day Lincoln was killed are very touching. The war was over and Lincoln and his wife, Mary, were trying to come to terms with the death of their second child. During a carriage ride early in the day, Lincoln told Mary, "We must both be more cheerful in the future. Between the war and the loss of our darling Willie, we have been very miserable." (p. 121)

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in one of our most honored presidents.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Author Comments upon Winning the Medal

This is a nice collection of author responses following the phone call informing them that they'd won the prestigious Newbery award (from 1996, so don't expect more recent authors' comments): Newbery Authors

I found the site Googling "getting your kids to read Newbery", wondering if there was a trick to convincing my son to read something that I recommend. His friends, even the school librarian, random advertisements - they all carry more weight than my opinion. :(

We still do a little "read aloud" to wind up the day, so I've been picking Newbery winners that I want to read for that. He does admit that some of these are pretty good. But except for The Twenty-One Balloons, I've only been doing books that I've already read that I really know he'll like. I'm good at picking out books that people will enjoy, why won't he believe me when I say it's something he'll like? It must be a tween thing.

On a related topic, I have a whole stack of "girl books" that I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to read. It's interesting dividing the Newbery winners up into "girl vs. boy vs. either gender will enjoy" categories.