Friday, March 25, 2011

Eat Your Newberies!

When I was a kid, my local library had a poster that listed all of the Newbery Medal winners. If they had it, I read it (except Jacob Have I Loved, because that sounded like it might have kissing). Some of my favorite books were The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. The library didn't have the enticingly titled The Door in the Wall (which I thought was fantasy, not medieval historical fiction) but I never thought to ask for it. I'm really glad they had the poster. In a time before Internet, I'm not sure how I would have otherwise found so many good books.

I recently looked up the list of Newbery winners to see what's won since I've grown up. I somehow had already read Holes by Louis Sachar, which is an imaginative, funny, modern fable and instant classic, and The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo ("the adventures of Desperaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin") and loved both of those.

I started with The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, which mainly I had heard of because it was banned from some libraries. Lucky is eavesdropping on the Alcoholics Anonymous, one of whom found his "higher power" after a snake bit his dog on the scrotum and the dog lived. Lucky doesn't understand the word, and only at the end of the book does she ask what it is. It does seem like the author was hoping for some controversy, since where the dog got bit is incidental, but this article says it's the sound of the word that interested her and shows that she's growing up. I liked it, but it just wasn't exciting like my favorite Newberies. I'm thinking of trying Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi next.

Are there any other adult readers of children's lit out there? Isn't it satisfying how you can finish a book in just a few days?


Anne said...

Hi Ellen,
My mother gave me award winning books each year for Christmas which I still own.
From the 1920's awards, I liked The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting; I liked Laura Ingalls Wilder's books which won several Newbery awards; I own a rare copy of Floating Island by Ann Parrish about dolls stranded on a tropical island. Loved it. Speaking of dolls, I read my mother's copy of Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. More Recently, I loved A Long Way from Chicago (1999) by Richard Peck and the Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman (1996) and I recommend those authors to a lot of children these days. Good memories!

Anonymous said...

Ellen - I totally agree with your comment: "Isn't it satisfying how you can finish a book in just a few days?"
I too enjoy YA books and especially good after I've read a very long book - refreshing to get to a story line right away, and get to the ending in less than 600-800 pages.