2009 Newbery and Caldecott Predictions – Halfway Mark
All right! Half the year over and it’s time for a new assessing. More books have come out. We haven’t seen the glut of fall titles, but already things are beginning to slot into their respective categories. Let’s see how things have changed since the last time I looked at the books out there and, what’s more, which titles are getting more buzz than others. If I’ve left anything off of this list that you think has a chance, please tell me so that I may read it. I want to cast a wide net:
Newbery Predictions (Summer Edition!)
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt – I swear to you that I’m listing these books alphabetically by author and not in order of how likely I think they may be to win. That said, Appelt is clearly the forerunner at this point. Her book has been met by a chorus of congrats, stars, honors, and smooches. The writing is undoubtedly superior, so the only question at this point is how well it relates to the child reader. I have received emails from people informing me that kids dig it, but is that enough? Will a committee feel that the book’s literary make up for the darker qualities? It’s an interesting question to ponder. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Mock Newbery Awards around the country vote on this one.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Sci-fi getting a Newbery? It’s happened before. Think of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or, more recently, the Newbery Honor that went to Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion. True, science fiction probably has the worse Newbery track record of any genre (even poetry appears more often) but I’d like to say that I was a fan of Collins work here. The writing won’t blow you away with pithy sentences, but in terms of suspense, conflict, succinct points of interest, background, characters, and motivation, this book excels. I’ll be reviewing it fairly soon anyway, but until then know that I think Collins has a winner on her hands, award or no.
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor – I’ve mentioned this one before and I’ll keep it on here, if only because it’s getting some nice slow building buzz. Nothing fancy or flashy. Just a slow murmur of enjoyment from the reading masses.
Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell – This was my number one pick until I realized that people weren’t sharing my glee. I still say it deserves to win it all, but I’ll be content if it can carry away an honor of some sort. Here’s hoping.
The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Sid Fleischman – Generally non-fiction doesn’t fare well in the Newbery game. It’s not that the committees don’t like and appreciate it. It just doesn’t call to them as strongly. Not since Lincoln: A Photobiography have we seen a non-fiction title win the big award (unless, of course, you count last year’s winner) but if any non-fiction has a shot this year I’d like to hope that it would be Fleischman’s book. A good biography does best when it captures the soul of its subject, and in this way Fleischman has excelled. I’ve rarely had this much fun reading facts. Two thumbs way up.
Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse – Hesse has the home team advantage in terms of having already garnered an award before. She knows the score. And certainly this is a whip-smart title with a great deal of beauty to it. Once the reviews start appearing we’ll get a better sense of what the professional community thinks of her effort.
We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League by Kadir Nelson – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think he has a chance at getting more than one shiny medal on the cover of this puppy. We’ll see. The competition, as you can see, is growing stiffer day by day.
Caldecott Predictions (Summer Edition!)
Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton by Catherine Brighton – I’m not giving up on this book. It’s good. It’s really really good. Look at it! Appreciate it! Enjoy it! Extol its virtues! AMENDMENT: I have just learned that Ms. Brighton may indeed be British and not an American citizen. If this is true, no award can be given. Consarn it.
We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League by Kadir Nelson – If I were a betting woman (the word "bet" is indeed in both my name and my nickname, you know) this would be the frontrunner. And if he did win the Award proper then he’d be an honorary member of the It’s About Bloody Time Club. I am convinced that the only reason he hasn’t won outright in the past is that the text he illustrates has been merely good while his pictures excel. Now the text is extraordinary. Let’s see where it takes him.
Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu – Saw this at a Penguin preview and was mighty impressed. A first time author/illustrator’s work and boy is it beautiful. Stunning even. Could be a dark horse contender (though it would take a certain kind of committee to appreciate this kind of artistry fully).
Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex – What? Dude, he totally deserves to win. Look at the range of formats he’s employing here! Photography. Thick paints. A graphic novelist style. Engravings. Even an homage to Charles Schultz. I know that silly or funny works of art never get the awards they deserve (and I’m including ALL awards in that generalization) but can’t we just forget the hoits and the toits and give this guy some lovin’? Puh-leeze?
A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann – Early in the year all you heard was people talking about how lovely this title was. I liked it perfectly well but wasn’t really paying much attention. That buzz hasn’t died I see, and a second Rohmann win would certainly be a safe choice by the committee. That is, if this committee feels like even playing it safe.
How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz – Still has as good a chance as Nelson. Shulevitz packs great artistry with emotion. Few do so much. Few do it so well.
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes – I wouldn’t include it if I didn’t think it had a chance. Krommes deserves an award in any case for all her past books. I know that she’s gotten an Honor here and an Honor there, but why not feed her the whole enchilada right now?
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young – Well, it has a great background story. Artist makes pictures. Pictures are stolen. Artist has to completely redo pictures and they are MUCH better. Pictures resurface and the comparing and contrasting is magnificent. Young won already for one of my favorite Caldecott books Lon Po Po. I wouldn’t shed a tear if he happened to take home another award. In fact, I might be quite pleased.
Your turn! What have I missed?
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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