Sunday, December 4, 2011

Books #73 and #74: For a Mock Newbery Discussion

All of the children's librarians in the library district at which are work are busy reading what have been called Newbery Medal contenders for this year. In an effort to all be aware of some of the best titles to come out for kids this year, at our December meeting we'll share with the group the details and our thoughts about these books. My two follow.

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris is a really laugh-out-loud funny retelling of the classic tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Lots of folks read SG&tGK in high school or college, and for that very reason we tend to forget that the story itself is perfect for elementary school kids. After all, the Arthurian tales originated as oral stories--why not tell them in a way that not only is accessible to children but appeals to them as well? The author takes us with Sir Gawain in the year preceding his fateful meeting with the Green Knight, and along the way we meet the somewhat incompetent other Knights of the Round Table, some odd characters throughout the kingdom, and the idiosyncratic Sir Gawain himself. The tale is true to the traditional telling with the added benefit of the type of humor kids love. I can't wait to use this as a read-aloud at some sort of school-age program.

The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm is something completely different. This historical fiction sequel to the Newbery Honor Book Our Only May Amelia is definitely funny in its own way--after all, children being terrorized outside their school house by a bull wrongly-named Friendly is a humorous situation. But the depth of May Amelia's character makes for a really compelling read. Being a part of an immigrant Finnish community in the Pacific Northwest is struggle enough, but when misfortune seems to settle on May Amelia's family, we're left to wonder if her spirit can be enough to see everything through. This novel displays some wonderful historical background, moving family dynamics, and a flat-out good story of a really likable heroine. I'll definitely be recommending these books for readers asking for something historical besides American Girl and Dear America.

Have you read anything this year meant for juvenile readers through grade 6 that you think might be in the running for a Newbery? Please share!

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