Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Tenth (And Final) Round-Up

This will be my last Newbery round-up. What a wild-ride it has been folks! I'm pretty awful at project follow-through so I'm so amazed that I made it this far (there was a really rocky section there a few years back). We've reached the end of the trail, forded the last river, and are headed into the sunset...
Let's have a celebratory song:


Gay-Neck  - A surprise hit! I loved this story of a homing pigeon from India that served in World War ! and was then able to return to the boy who raised him. It was a surprisingly spiritual and introspective tale that was a nice book to read during the holiday season.

The Grey King - A great entry into children's fantasy. This book cranked the Arthurian ties up to 11 and really propelled The Dark is Rising books into lasting classics. It finally brought the main character to a stage where I actually liked him.

The Bronze Bow - On paper this doesn't sound like a Newbery book. It sounds extremely niche and I imagine if it was published today it wouldn't be as popular - rather it would end up being sold in Christian bookstores around Easter and Christmas.

A Single Shard - A good book that managed to subvert my expectations and teach me something along the way. I really loved the setting being something different and the fact that it was a fictional story tied to a historic artifact, similar to one of my favorite movies, The Secret of Kells.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - A classic that is as loved decades later as when it was first published. I've read this book a couple times now and it always strikes me how timeless most of it is but a few things just get more and more dated (especially now that I'm an adult).

To Trap a Tiger - A good idea for a story that felt a little half-cooked to me. I'd really have liked the characters or plot to be more developed, unfortunately everything felt too forced for me.

Invincible Louisa - A nice way to follow-up Little Women, it is fascinating how much of that book was inspired by Louisa May Alcott's life.

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years - The great-great-great-grandmother to Toy Story. A book with a decent concept and execution that fell into tropes that fueled racism. Overall fell into a small niche of doll books that don't really interest me.

Roller Skates - This book's biggest sin came in being a highly episodic book that never really wanted to conclude anything, there is a sequel... but it takes place in a completely different location so I wouldn't get any wrap ups I wanted anyway...

Waterless Mountain - A book that I think was written with the best of intentions but missed the mark. Sadly, it was just a little too dull for me to give it much in the way of forgiveness.

  1. A Wrinkle in Time
  2. Number the Stars
  3. Crispin: Cross of Lead
  4. Island of the Blue Dolphins
  5. Julie of the Wolves
  6. Maniac Magee
  7. Bud, Not Buddy
  8. King of the Wind
  9. The Trumpeter of Krakow
  10. Out of the Dust
  11. When You Reach Me
  12. Crossover
  13. Merci Suárez Changes Gears
  14. ...And Now Miguel
  15. The Tale of Despereaux
  16. The Door in the Wall
  17. Holes
  18. Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon
  19. Caddie Woodlawn
  20. The Grey King
  21. Kira-Kira
  22. Sounder
  23. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village
  24. The Giver
  25. The High King
  26. The Westing Game
  27. Bridge to Terebithia
  28. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
  29. The View from Saturday
  30. Sarah, Plain and Tall
  31. Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
  32. Call It Courage
  33. The Bronze Bow
  34. Miracles on Maple Hill
  35. Moon Over Manifest
  36. A Single Shard
  37. Carry On Mr. Bowditch
  38. The Wheel on the School
  39. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  40. The Cat Who Went to Heaven
  41. The One and Only Ivan
  42. The Midwife's Apprentice
  43. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  44. The Twenty-One Balloons
  45. The Hero and the Crown
  46. Onion John
  47. Shiloh
  48. The Graveyard Book
  49. New Kid
  50. Adam of the Road
  51. The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  52. Hello, Universe
  53. To Trap a Tiger
  54. The Summer of the Swans
  55. I, Juan de Pareja
  56. Dear Mr. Henshaw
  57. Missing May
  58. Dead End in Norvelt
  59. Invincible Louisa
  60. Tales from Silver Lands
  61. A Year Down Yonder
  62. The Higher Power of Lucky
  63. Last Stop on Market Street
  64. Voyages of Doctor Dolittle
  65. The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  66. Jacob Have I Loved
  67. A Gathering of Days
  68. The Whipping Boy
  69. The Slave Dancer
  70. Dicey's Song
  71. Walk Two Moons
  72. Shen of the Sea
  73. Shadow of a Bull
  74. The White Stag
  75. Rabbit Hill
  76. Strawberry Girl
  77. Flora and Ulysses
  78. Miss Hickory
  79. The Matchlock Gun
  80. A Visit to William Blake's Inn
  81. Thimble Summer
  82. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years
  83. Lincoln, a Photobiography
  84. Roller Skates
  85. M.C. Higgins, the Great
  86. Waterless Mountain
  87. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
  88. It's Like This, Cat
  89. Ginger Pye
  90. The Secret of the Andes
  91. Criss Cross
  92. Up a Road Slowly
  93. The Dark Frigate
  94. Rifles for Watie
  95. Amos Fortune, Free Man
  96. The Story of Mankind
  97. Johnny Tremain
  98. Dobry
  99. Daniel Boone
  100. Smoky, the Cowhorse

I have one last trick up my sleeve... stay tuned!

The Complete 2021 Newbery Read-Through

 Here it is, the 100th Newbery review! A century of award-winning children's literature brings us to this point - there have been undisputed classics to win the Newbery (A Wrinkle in Time, Sounder, The Giver) and there have been some duds that only the most devoted will have even heard of - lookin' at you Dobry!

How does this year stack up? Let's find out!

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I read this one months ago as a potential winner. It absolutely deserves its accolades! When I read I immediately recommended it to a co-worker saying that I felt it was an absolute must-read for all teachers about the importance of trauma-informed teaching. This is a book that falls on the upper end of the Newbery spectrum simply because of content. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley once again proves that she is a master of emotions and character development. Not one scene in this book feels out of place or written solely for shock.

Della and her older sister, Suki, are put in to foster care at the very beginning of the book. Though you think you know why it is still heartbreaking as you learn chapter by chapter what they suffered at the hands of their step-father over the years. Suki not only endured neglect and emotional abuse but sexual abuse as well - her journey, as witnessed by Della is so raw and emotional that I found myself tearing up several times. This book also shows that simply being in a good situation now doesn't heal the wounds caused by the past. 

Again I recommend this for all teachers - really anyone who works with kids, people who are looking for an emotional read, and older children that can handle the subject matter.

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Once again Kelly writes in a style very similar to my own. She gives several characters a chance to be the focus. In Hello, Universe she chose a group of loosely interconnected children - in the book she chooses the three Nelson-Thomas siblings. Personally I liked this one even more that Hello, Universe which erred on the side of making its characters a little too quirky. Here the characters are more believably flawed though still a touch clichéd. 

I didn't actually read the description before jumping into this book. Which means that at the very first mention of the space shuttle Challenger my heart dropped. I wonder what it would be like for kids that know absolutely nothing about the Challenger disaster reading this book the first time. The entire story is overhung with a sense of dread, the feeling of impending doom. A good book makes you react emotionally - a great book makes you react physically. When I reached the part where the auditorium of students is watching the space shuttle launch I had some of the strongest goosebumps I've had in a long time.

The Nelson-Thomas siblings are trying to make their way in their dysfunctional family; Cash - the older brother repeating 7th grade with his siblings, Fitch - a video gamer with anger-management issues, and Bird - the budding scientist that feels unnoticed and invisible by those around her. I like that Kelly did not cop out at the end by having the parents reconcile or even acknowledge their own problems. Sometimes kids end up just having to make their own way forward and that was realistically depicted.

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

A non-fiction title! It can be tricky to determine what the last non-fiction honoree was - I'll eliminate memoirs and poetry because they really fall into different categories. I think the last 'hard' non-fiction title was Bomb in 2013. There are two things that can turn a non-fiction book into a good read: passion for the subject matter or learning something new.

This one falls squarely into the later for me. I was only passingly familiar with the rescue of the boys soccer team so found this book both informative and enjoyable. Likely if I was more familiar with the story I wouldn't have enjoyed it quite as much; though competently written it does the job of presenting facts without dressing them up exceedingly well. Something I was pleased by was that it was well-balanced in focusing on the efforts below and above ground and also in mentioning just how many countries and organizations came together to save these boys. Things were never sugar-coated, the rescue effort was constantly tempered with the knowledge that so many things could go wrong that it would be pointless to be too hopeful.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

Set in a land inspired by Thailand, this book examines social justice in an incredibly powerful manner. Several sources mention that this is inspired by Les Misérables - one of my favorite musical films and a pretty decent novel. I don't know if this is true (although it is cited on the author's website) but I can certainly see some parallels. However, this is inspiration done right! Nothing seems overly derivative and things fall into a natural rhythm all their own.

Pong was born in prison and sentenced to remain there until his 13th birthday. He manages to escape and join some monks in the countryside. That all changes when the warden's daughter recognizes him and vows to recapture him. His flight returns him to the city where he discovers an imbalance between the rich and poor that only serves to make the poor - poorer. 

This is such a great story for discussion and deep thinking. I highly recommend this book for any and all readers with the skill to tackle the text. Note: yes, Soontornvat did recieve two honors this year! That is such a difficult feat that she joins only two other authors (E.L. Konigsburg winner and honor 1968, and Meindert DeJong two honors 1954).

BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

I actually circumvented the problem of evaluating this book while also trying to ignore the pictures by just listening to the audiobook. Honestly... it holds up on the strength of its writing alone pretty well. I'm interested to get my copy and see how the pictures enhance things. 

This is a poetic first person telling of the story of Henry Box Brown, a slave that mailed himself from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I had briefly heard about him before, but really I learned quite a bit with this relatively brief text. I think this will be a great addition to elementary libraries because it doesn't shy away from the reality of slavery while still remaining appropriate for younger kids.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Well... I wasn't wowed. This book features Lily, her sister Sam, and their mother moving from somewhere in California to live with Lily's Halmoni (grandmother). Motivations for the move are not really explained until partway through the book - which might have worked if handled differently. Halmoni is sick and Lily wants to help her. A tiger appears and Lily is convinced this is the key to helping her Halmoni. Korean traditions and storytelling are woven throughout the text, this is probably the book's strongest attribute.

I think that this style of magical realism just doesn't work for me. There was a lot of symbolism inserted into the story through fantasy that seemed to exist solely for the purpose of being symbolic. In short, I could tell while reading that I was supposed to be drawing all these connections - they never felt organic. 

The characters were good starts but aside from Lily they didn't feel fully developed. Sam's story is only half-told with far too much being subtext, the mother is very underdeveloped, and Halmoni is just a catalyst. There are a few characters outside the family, but they too suffer from being just there to move things along. 

Final thoughts...

I'm disappointed with the final selection. Perhaps I had built it up too much because it is number 100, but also I feel like it just falls short and I really have no idea where the committee was going with it. I would much rather have seen either A Wish in the Dark or Fighting Words given the win. A Wish in the Dark has great plotting and examination of social justice through the setting and events of the story. Fighting Words is by the master of character Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It examines tough subject matter through character interactions and growth. Both would have been an excellent entry into the line-up of winners and would have been in my top 20, possibly top 10. As it is I'm glad they received honors so that other people will have the chance to discover them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The 2010s... A Very Short Look Back

My last look back (for now or forever I do not know)! This time I will look at the 2010s, this is the decade when I started my goal of reading all the Newbery books so many of these books I read when they were still newly published.

I really like this batch - the books aren't quite tops for me but a few break the top twenty. I can't really get a grasp of the decade as a whole, style and themes seem to bounce all over the place.

When You Reach Me (2010) - 5 Stars - There's a lot of nuance in this book, and you're going to need to bring prior knowledge of A Wrinkle in Time. Stead has wonderful characterization that ties her characters together in complex ways that need to be taken in slowly.

Crossover (2015) - 5 Stars - I was flummoxed when I heard about this book. Poetry and basketball??? But Kwame Alexander is one of my favorite contemporary authors now!

Merci Suárez Changes Gears (2019) - 5 Stars - I identified so hard with Merci. I love how this book approaches Alzheimer's Disease in a caring and explanatory fashion that had me crying for several pages.

Moon Over Manifest (2011) - 4 Stars - A well-crafted narrative intertwining the past with the 'present'. This book could have been truly great if the present of the story was just a little bit fleshed out. I never did solve the publication date mystery - but fewer sites seem to show that 1995 date.

The One and Only Ivan (2013) - 5 Stars - This proves itself an enduring favorite nearly a decade later; I still see this one frequently recommended in groups I follow. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I did read the sequel and, frankly, was underwhelmed.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2017) - 4 Stars - I'm surprised more people don't talk about this one. It has the hard fantasy elements found in many popular works, there is something just so perfectly crafted here that it is hard to explain.

Hello, Universe (2018) - 4 Stars - This one is very similar to my own writing style in that the point of view character keeps changing. I like the way this is done to give us as much of the whole story as possible.

Dead End in Norvelt (2012) - 4 Stars - A book that I had to stop and wonder, isn't this supposed to be a memoir? What does autobiographical novel even mean? Where does fiction start and reality begin, or vise versa?

Last Stop on Market Street (2016) - 4 Stars - This book is good... as a picture book. I never will be satisfied with this one winning a Newbery especially in a year with Echo and The War That Saved My Life.

Flora and Ulysses (2014) - 3 Stars - The book that proved to me that Kate DiCamillo can, in fact, write something below average. The quirkiness and whimsy felt overly forced and didn't mesh well with her writing style.

Recommendation of the Decade

Crossover is a book that I'm forever recommending to anyone that will listen. I've yet to meet someone that doesn't like it once they've read it. One of the biggest surprises in all of the Newbery winners. I hadn't heard of it before it won, and I distinctly recall being unenthused by the concept... however, after beginning I simply couldn't stop. In the last few years, I've read so many of Kwame Alexander's books and they never fail to please!

The 2000s... A Look Back

A whole new century! This time I will look at the 2000s, the second half of my childhood is contained here. This decade, though not as nostalgic as the 90s, is still written in a way very accessible to me.

Books that I read longer ago I may wish to give a different number of stars to because in the early days I had a tendency to give books 5 stars no matter if I liked them or adored them.

Crispin: Cross of Lead (2003) - 5 Stars - I rated this the best book I read in 2012 and I still thick highly of it years later. Let's also recognize that this kicked off a reading trend for me going strong a decade later. M to the E to the D to the I E V A L, what does it spell? MEDIEVAL!

Bud, Not Buddy (2000) - 5 Stars - Another absolute gem, Christopher Paul Curtis has proven to me multiple times that he is not only phenomenal at creating a scene but also crafting believable child characters. 

The Tale of Despereaux (2004) - 5 Stars - A charming little tale. Certainly fits the mold of a classic fairy tale better than the other books. I believe this may be the best bedtime story from the list.

Kira-Kira (2005) - 5 Stars - This is such an emotional book, here we have another classic example of Death by Newbery. The familial relationships depicted in this story are so realistic and form the the strength of the story.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village (2008) - 5 Stars - These monologues are fun and perhaps the best 'outside the box' Newbery. Written by a teacher whose students all wanted an important role in a play this collection provides a look into the life of Medieval peasants and royalty alike.

A Single Shard (2002) - 4 Stars - This book feels like it was written in the 80s or early 90s. I thought it when I read it, and I think it now. It is always great to add books set in new times or places to the reading line-up. (That's how I discovered Medieval England after all!)

The Graveyard Book (2009) - 5 Stars - I should really only have given this 4 stars. The themes were interesting and Gaiman's world creative. But I find that years later I'm still confused as to the antagonist's motive. 

A Year Down Yonder (2001) - 3 Stars - Very much like books from 20s - 50s in that it is very vignettey - but the modern writing moves it along for me. Peck also manages to avoid falling into tropes with his characters that would have been all too easy.

The Higher Power of Lucky (2007) - 3 Stars - Here we find a delve into the question of 'what makes a family?' The eventual resolution is predictable enough but then again - I'm above the target age range.

Criss Cross (2006) - 2 Stars - The only thing I remember about this one is wanting it to be over. Even the professional reviews make me want to roll my eyes: "A tenderly existential work that will reward more thoughtful readers in this age of the ubiquitous action saga." - Kirkus Reviews, "In idiosyncratic, wistful prose, Perkins mines every moment of missed connection and near-change with a hypnotic hyperawareness reminiscent of adolescence itself." - The Horn Book.

Recommendation of the Decade

It was always going to have to be this book. The only other one that even comes close to being the book of the decade was Crispin, and as much as I love Crispin, when faced with both of them I must tell you to read Bud. An eloquent tale that examines every hard hitting theme imaginable through the eyes of our young narrator. This was my first book from Christopher Paul Curtis and I'm glad it was so good because it led me to checking out his other works.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The 1990s... A Look Back

Hooray, the 1990s! This is totally my favorite decade which makes a lot of sense because I was a kid during this decade - these books were geared towards me like none other, the next decade also holds a lot of appeal but none of the nostalgia.

Books that I read longer ago I may wish to give a different number of stars to because in the early days I had a tendency to give books 5 stars no matter if I liked them or adored them.

Number the Stars (1990) - 5 Stars - I love this book just as much as I did in fourth grade. No matter how often I read it or how old I am, my heart gets racing whenever Annemarie faces off against the soldiers.

Maniac Magee (1991) - 5 Stars - I read this one for school in fifth grade and really enjoyed it. I maintain that it fails to deliver on the race aspect. But as a story about home and family I'm absolutely in love.

Out of the Dust (1998) - 5 Stars - The best of the verse winners. This is my favorite of the 'darker' Newbery winners. Sad and depressing - but in the right amounts and with the best realism.

Holes (1999) - 5 Stars - I read this one within just a couple years of it being published. It weaves together mystery and coming of age in such an engaging way!

The Giver (1994) - 5 Stars - This seems to be a love-it or hate-it book. I fall squarely into love-it. I think this is both the best and most realistic dystopian fiction I've read. In fact, I don't really care for the dystopian genre as a whole.

The View from Saturday (1997) - 4 Stars - Easily the most realistic of the books on from this decade - a decade that skews more towards contemporary realistic fiction than the others. I liked the concept of looking at a trivia team and how they can to learn some of their various trivia.

The Midwife's Apprentice (1996) - 4 Stars - Medieval England is back! I remember feeling that this book was very short and deserved to be fleshed out a bit. The research in this book is probably tops in this very specific sub-genre.

Shiloh (1992) - 4 Stars - One of the Newbery dog books - but incredibly the dog lives! A classic boy and his dog story that brings up great moral debate for its young readers.

Missing May (1993) - 4 Stars - A great book for examining loss and the emotions that follow. I remember being so touched by the grief that teared up a little reading this book.

Walk Two Moons (1995) - 3 Stars - I love the way the two parts of the story weave together. I really love the idea of a road trip examination of conscience - but I really cringed a few times while reading, hence the lower score.

Recommendation of the Decade

Once again I'm spoilt for choice! In the end I returned to a book that I read in my youth without being told to. Even though I read a few of these when I was younger Holes was a book I picked up because I wanted to read it. This book sets out with the goal of telling a great story and setting up a small mystery. Louis Sachar adds in his odd sense of humor but scales it way back to the realms of realistic fiction. 
In parting let me post this bit that is probably one of the ten funniest moments in TV history. (Subjective)

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The 1980s... A Look Back

We've reached the 1980s!  I must say that, though I had heard of a few of these only one really comes close to the superstar status achieved by the previous decade.

Books that I read longer ago I may wish to give a different number of stars to because in the early days I had a tendency to give books 5 stars no matter if I liked them or adored them.

Overall a pretty bleh decade - there was a heaping helping of angst and I'm not down with that.

Sarah, Plain and Tall (1986) - 4 Stars - A pleasant little love story. Perhaps an odd choice as a Newbery but nice none-the-less. I find it a bit predictable but imagine it is less predictable to children.

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices (1989) - 4 Stars - This is a great read aloud - in fact I'd say that is really the only way to enjoy it properly. After all it is for TWO voices. This makes it both a great choice and an odd choice for an award. Great because it was experimental with pushing the boundaries of children's literature; odd because it isn't really a book kids can just sit with and enjoy.

The Hero and the Crown (1985) - 5 Stars - I would give this 4 stars now. Again I find that I don't remember a whole lot except for the complete and utter creepiness of immortality.

Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984) - 3 Stars - I'm not not a big fan of Beverly Cleary, nor a fan of gloomier works. The writing and theming of this book were fine, but not enough to have me clambering for more.

Jacob Have I Loved (1981) - 4 Stars - This one is the poster child for Newberry angst. The writing is really-really good (hence four stars) actual enjoyment of this book is definitely 3 Star. I have a film of this book that I'm interest to give a try.

A Gathering of Days (1980) - 3 Stars - A really well-written and researched diary style historical fiction. Unfortunately it is part of the most average year imaginable. I feel like Joan Blos could have really grabbed me if the historic backdrop was more interesting.

The Whipping Boy (1987) - 3 Stars - One of the books undoubtably geared toward the younger end of the target age range for the Newbery. Sort of fun, but I think has a fairly limited field of kids that are really going to enjoy it.

Dicey's Song (1983) - 3 Stars - Another angsty one - though possibly the least frustratingly so. I can understand Dicey's angst more than the others- I just don't particularly care to read it. However, I can see how this might be an important book for teens dealing with hard issues in their own life.

A Visit to William Blake's Inn (1982) - 3 Stars - This is obviously a children's book. Short, fancifully colored, and basically geared towards kids... I just don't know why. The author is very talented (and prolific) I understand writing this book for kids but it is so niche I just don't understand how the committee selected it as a winner. After a quick glance at the other books published in 1981 two titles immediately jump out as having more kid-appeal: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and A Light in the Attic.

Lincoln, a Photobiography (1988) - 2 Stars - The most outright biography in the entire line-up. The book is well-researched and decently written. Problem is Abraham Lincoln is the most written about president and likely American. I felt like I was reading an exceptionally well written research paper, but then, I'm an adult. If this was my introduction to Lincoln it probably would have been more interesting.

Recommendation of the Decade

No contest here. Sarah, Plain and Tall is not only my favorite from the decade but easily the most popular. Outside of this book and Jacob Have I Loved, the other options are much more niche and not really what I would consider timeless literature.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The 1970s... A look back

Here we are in the 1970s!  This is THE decade - almost all of these books have achieved super star status. If you have even a passing familiarity with children's literature you know these books. When I look at the list as a whole the only decade that even comes close is the 90s (which may be a personal bias since that is when I grew up...

*Okay, because I'm a little bit crazy I used Goodreads to determine how popular each book is. I made a table showing how many times each book had been rated and them ordered the list top to bottom. Obviously newer books have a slight edge based on the average website user and the fact that if it is newer you likely read it either during the lifespan of the website or closer to your first log-in. Sixteen books have more than 100,000 ratings. Of those sixteen the most represented decade is the 1990s (5 books) and the second is the 1970s (4 books). (Bridge to Terebithia, The Westing Game, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry)

Books that I read longer ago I may wish to give a different number of stars to because in the early days I had a tendency to give books 5 stars no matter if I liked them or adored them.

Overall, an above average decade full of the classics! 

Julie of the Wolves (1973) - 5 Stars - I'm older and hopefully wiser now. I've been led to some research pointing out factual errors in this book that are a little more disappointing now that I've lived in northern Alaska. Saved mostly by the fact that since it is a survival story so rather than exploring a culture we are seeing an individual.

The Grey King (1976) - 4 Stars - A great foray into Welsh folklore. Among the better books in the series I felt that this is where Cooper finally made the main character worthwhile.

Sounder (1970) - 4 Stars - One of the most serious offerings on the list. I'd be more inclined to offer this book to adults than children.

The Westing Game (1979) - 4 Stars - A mystery that had some twists that actually got me! Children's mysteries can be hard to pull off but this one easily rises to the top of its genre.

Bridge to Terebithia (1978) - 4 Stars - A classic that really cements the idea of 'Death by Newbery Medal'.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1977) - 5 Stars - This book is often found on 'best of' lists and with good reason. The Logan family is so heart-breakingly real you spend the entire book begging the author to let them all make it through.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1972) - 4 Stars - This book is very different from the movie, if that is your only exposure then you should really tuck in to this book. One of those books that makes you ask yourself tough questions.

The Summer of the Swans (1971) - 4 Stars - This is a book I was nervous to read considering the subject matter but really found myself enjoying. Even if the title in no way delivers.

The Slave Dancer (1974) - 4 Stars - Pushes about as far as a book for children can push in exploring the horror of slavery. The very existence of this book makes it more frustrating to read Amos Fortune or I, Juan since it does not give everything a happy ending. I'd argue that the ending is the biggest downer in the Newbery line-up.

M.C. Higgins, the Great (1975) - 2 Stars - The only book from the decade that doesn't hold much in the way of reread value for me. What could have been an interesting time and place to explore just feels like so many missed opportunities.

Recommendation of the Decade

This was the hardest choice yet, not for lack of choice as with the 1930s, but because there were so many choices. In the end I narrowed it down to my two middle of the pack choices. I think Bridge to Terebithia is the better choice for the casual reader because you do not need to bring any background knowledge with you to this book. This coming-of-age story perfectly encapsulates what it means to be friends, the pain of not fitting in, and the shock of loss. While most of the books for this decade are good reads this is the one I would say most truly defines great children's literature.