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Drumroll, please… the new Newberys are here February 14, 2009

About a month ago I wrote about complaints that the American Library Association’s prestigious Newbery award was stuck in a time warp. Does this still hold? Read on for the newly announced 2009 winners (and the Honor books, which often surpass the “winner” in terms of quality and sometimes even commercial success:

Here it is, direct from the ALA:

“The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

2009 Medal Winner
The 2009 Newbery Medal winner is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean, and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

A delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing, the tale of Nobody Owens is told in magical, haunting prose. A child marked for death by an ancient league of assassins escapes into an abandoned graveyard, where he is reared and protected by its spirit denizens.

“A child named Nobody, an assassin, a graveyard and the dead are the perfect combination in this deliciously creepy tale, which is sometimes humorous, sometimes haunting and sometimes surprising,” said Newbery Committee Chair Rose V. Treviño.

2009 Honor Books

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)

Underneath the canopy of the loblolly pines, amid the pulsating sounds of the swamp, there lies a tale. Intertwining stories of an embittered man, a loyal hound, an abandoned cat and a vengeful lamia sing of love, loss, loneliness and hope. Appelt’s lyrical storytelling heightens the distinguished characteristics of this work.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt & Comapny)

The Surrender Tree utilizes compelling free verse in alternating voices to lyrically tell the story of Cuba’s three wars for independence from Spain. Combining real-life characters (such as legendary healer Rosa La Bayamesa) with imagined individuals, Engle focuses on Rosa’s struggle to save everyone–black, white, Cuban, Spanish, friend or enemy.

Savvy by Ingrid Law (Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group in partnership with Walden Media, LLC

This rich first-person narrative draws readers into a wild bus ride, winding through the countryside on a journey of self-discovery for Mibs Beaumont and her companions. Newcomer Law weaves a magical tall tale, using vivid language and lively personalities, all bouncing their way to a warm, satisfying conclusion.

After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Books for Young Readers)

This tightly woven novel looks back on two years in a New York City neighborhood, where life changes for two 11-year-olds when a new girl joins their game of double Dutch. Bonded by Tupac’s music, the three girls explore the lure of freedom and build a friendship that redefines their own identities.”

And here’s my take: wow, sounds fresh, exciting and eclectic all around, doesn’t it? And the winner… incredibly creative and intriguing. Can’t wait to check it out.

Posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

 

Turning Back the Clock: James Thurber’s classic The 13 Clocks Revisited January 10, 2009

 “Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda. She was warm in every wind and weather, but he was always cold. His hands were as cold as his smile, and almost as cold as his heart. He wore gloves when he was asleep, and he wore gloves when he was awake, which made it difficult for him to pick up pins or coins or the kernels of nuts, or to tear the wings from nightingales…”

So begins James Thurber’s classic The 13 Clocks, a fairy tale originally published in January of 1950 and recently reissued in a spiffy new hardcover edition by the New York Review Children’s Collection. Best known as a humorist for The New Yorker, Thurber only penned a few children’s titles. This one, perhaps the best known (though his Many Moons (A Harcourt Brace contemporary classic) won a Caldecott award for Louis Slobodkin’s original illustrations, in 1943), spins the story of a wicked duke who thinks he has stopped time. It has been called “the best children’s book of all time” by more than a few critics… so why did it take so long to revive?
The L.A. Times ran a thoughtful review. And Wikipedia had this to say about Thurber’s style: “The Thirteen Clocks is a fantasy tale written by James Thurber in 1950 in Bermuda, while he was completing one of his other novels. It is written in a unique cadenced style, in which a mysterious prince must complete a seemingly impossible task to free a maiden from the clutches of an evil duke. It invokes many fairy tale motifs.[1]… The story is noted for Thurber’s constant, complex wordplay, and his use of an almost continuous internal meter, with occasional hidden rhymes — akin to blank verse, but with no line breaks to advertise the structure.”
 The new edition features an intro by British author Neil Gaiman, who calls it ”probably the best book in the world.” Clocks is on par with any modern children’s classic. It’s worth handing a child who’s mooning over the end of the Harry Potter series, to show there is life after — as there was before — Potter.

posted by Janie McQueen author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

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