Monday, May 14, 2007

Something Old, Something New (Gonna Go Back + A New Book)

Since 1967, The Horn Book Magazine and the Boston Globe have recognized outstanding children's literature. In 1971, the committee awarded the Fiction award to Eleanor Cameron's A Room Made of Windows. I can certainly understand why (although I much prefer one of that year's honor books, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH). Characters are unique and three-dimensional, and the writing is quite refined. However, this is a very s-l-o-w moving book. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." Some of my favorite children's books might be thought s-l-o-w. But this book has a dreamy literary quality that might be off-putting to some readers. Quirky characters and a budding writer as the main character make this an enjoyable read, but not something you would give to someone who prefers heavily plot-driven books.

Will Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam be on this year's Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards list? I certainly hope so, and I hope it is on other lists as well. I approached this book quite reluctantly; although I admire the work of Newbery Award winning author Cynthia Kadohata, I was sure that she would break my heart with this tale of a 17 year old Vietnam soldier and a German Shepherd army dog.

Boy, was I ever right!

Do I regret reading the book? Not on your life! The involvement of dogs in wartime is fascinating subject, and this tells a side of the Vietnam War story that is not well-known. Kadohata does anthropomorphize Cracker (we read about her thoughts and feelings), which may bother some readers. Read this and recommend it to preteen boys and reluctant readers.

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