Sunday, January 2, 2011

Newbery 2011 Hopefuls

Be sure to stop by your favorite monkey's hangout and pick up a copy of any of these books which are sure to be valuable award winners by the end of January! These titles are favorites from this year across the staff here at Curious George. Many of the following have already received critical attention and accolades, and I think therefore are all serious contenders for the 2011 Newbery Award doled out by the American Library Association in just a few short weeks...

My award this year would definitely go to ... Keeper. A lilting, lyrical book with a story that unfolds slowly until you're completely engrossed. Kathi Appelt already has a Newbery Honor under her belt for The Underneath as well as a National Book Award. Appelt has a clear and distinct love of beautiful words and layered characters. The book follows 10-year-old Keeper whose mermaid mother swam out of her life at age 3. The novel begins with Keeper's decision to find her mother at a blue-moon mermaid gathering. Below its fairy tale-esque surface the book deftly layers powerful topics. This book feels, smells and reads like a classic.

And, because I'm too indecisive to be on the actual judging committee, here are my four picks for Honors!

First, there's The Dreamer, written by Pam Munoz Ryan & illustrated by Peter Sis. The whole packaging of this book is enough to draw a reader in. The beautiful prose that unfolds the story of poet Pablo Neruda's childhood--in which he comes of age as an artist despite his father's demands for a more "practical" calling--make it a book that will resonate with readers for generations.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier is an engrossing, light-hearted graphic novel depicting the author's pre-adolescence dominated by dental drama at every turn. The San Francisco setting and early 90s cultural references give it a unique feel, but the highly idiosyncratic experiences of Raina will find resonance with a lot of readers. I LOVED it! Its reception of a Boston-Globe Horn Book Award just underscores how engaging and noteworthy this book is!

Oh, how I loved Grounded by Kate Klise. A book that isn't afraid to treat heavy subjects, yet intersperses the growth of its protagonist with well-paced humor, this book feels like one that could stand the test of time. I wrote a staff pick very quickly after receiving this one in the store: "A book that alternates dark humor and tenderness and is beautifully written and incredibly smart. Daralynn loses brother, sister and father in an instant. When her mother takes a new job at a funeral home, Daralynn has to learn how to cope with a new life and an entirely new surrounding."

The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge is a beautifully-written, well-sourced and inspiring biography of an American woman author with a rather interesting life. Edith Wharton cast off the charmed life of privilege in America she was born into, for a life that was rather Bohemian in Paris. She supported herself through her writing and lived her own way. This was a delight to read and serves as an amazing reference as well. The photographic illustrations throughout offer a glimpse into a distant time, and a woman who was well ahead of hers.

NBA Winner & Honor that I think might have a shot:

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia received a honor nod from the National Book Award committee, thereby offering this excellent book some well-deserved attention. One Crazy Summer pits a realistic story in the midst of some potent historical forces. 11-year-old Delphine was abandoned by her mother, but grew up just fine despite the circumstances. In the beginning of the eponymous crazy summer of 1968, Delphone moves into her mother's Oakland apartment, which also serves as a meeting place for the Black Panthers.

Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine took the NBA for Young People's literature this year. I read the advance copy long before it came out and was struck by the rich characterization and clean, understated prose. It follows a 12 year old with Aspberger's as she navigates a new phase in her life without her older brother, who until his untimely death was her closest confidante. It is well-deserving of the National Book Award and I believe a strong contender for a Newbery.

Other buzzworthy books:

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
George staffer Morgan read and loved this book. Her staff pick says: "A gorgeously written story about a New Orleans girl with a special power, fighting to survive Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Readers who live for interesting characters will love the relationship between Lanesha and her Mama Ya-Ya, and fantasy fans will love the hint of magic behind the gritty story."

Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez was another book I staff-picked earlier this year: "This book took me a while to get immersed in, but I’m glad I worked through it. I’d recommend it for really strong readers, or even adult fans of young adult literature. It’s a beautiful, literary book about a young girl trying to escape Fidel Castro’s regime as it takes power in 1960s Cuba. A powerful read!"

Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole is a sweet fairy tale of a book that evokes Hugo Cabret and Kate Dicamillo with its simple pencil drawings and understated tone. Celeste is a mouse living in the floor boards of a Louisiana plantation weaving beautiful baskets. When John James Audubon moves into the house to study local birds, Celeste is intrigued by his artist assistant. Celeste flits around helping the assistant with his painting and nursing the injured birds that Audubon brings back to the home.

Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth follows 11-year-old Gopal and his family in contemporary India. The family's onion farm is held under the tutelage of a merciless moneylender. When the hope of a better paying job in a factory in Mumbai crops up, the family sells everything and moves. From there the trials only get harder. Gopal loses his father, and the factory turns out to be a cramped sweatshop where Gopal and other children his age work many hours for little pay. The characterization is subtle, the story engrossing and it's a book that will stick with the reader.

Sir Charlie Chaplin by Sid Fleischman is a book that I observed customers of all ages and backgrounds picking up and perusing. It melds a lot of universal themes with great visuals and a great story about one of America's enduring cultural icons.

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord is a book that fellow George-ian Michelle is pulling for. Her recent staff pick reads: "To keep their school open, families on a Maine island take in foster kids, some with more complicated lives than expected. Tess has visions of going lobstering, playing Monoply, and climbing trees with her new brother, but it may take more than a few lucky charms and a sea breeze to make him feel at home. For fans of When You Reach Me."

Any of your favorites that you think I forgot? Let me know in the comments!

No comments: