Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Some Old and Some New

I just returned from the American Library Association's annual conference in San Diego. 5 hour flights give you plenty of concentrated reading time.

Gary Schmidt is one of my favorite YA authors. I was rooting for The Wednesday Wars to win last year's Newbery Medal (it received an Honor citation). Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy received an Honor citation in 2005. Could his latest novel, Trouble, win the big Medal?

Although it is quite early for Newbery speculation (the Medal and Honor books are announced in January), some have already touted this as a contender. While the book is magnificently written, I have my doubts as to its chances of winning.

Henry is the youngest son of a highly connected family, and the younger brother of Franklin, a superstar athlete at the town's prestigious academy. Tragedy befalls the family when Franklin is struck by a car.

Tensions between the largely Caucasian town of Blythbury-By-the-Sea and the largely Cambodian neighboring town escalate when it is revealed that Chay Chouan is responsible for the accident.

Although some eventual revelations are easily guessed before they actually happen, there is enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing (and turning the pages).

Some may have problems with the amount of coincidences in the story (me!me!me!me!), but the writing is so intensely well-crafted and skillful that it is possible to overlook them. Trouble would be a great conversation starter on issues relating to race relations and the legal system.

But is it likely for a Newbery?

I've been surprised by Newberys before, but I think this is more firmly in the YA camp than was The Wednesday Wars. Although the maturity of medalists and honor books have been on the older side of the age range (which includes books for children up to and including fourteen, although the more mature books are probably too young-ish for fourteen year olds).

We shall see in January! There are many more books to be published before the year is over!

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH won the Newbery Medal in 1972 and is one of the most enduring novels that have won the Medal. I'm currently working my way through the Elementary Battle of the Books list and was curious to find how the book held up 35 years after its publication (I read it in elementary school and haven't read it since).

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is definitely just as relevant-if not more so-today than it was in the 1970s. Genetic engineering of animals was just a science fiction fantasy in 1972; the cloning of Dolly the Sheep made it a reality.

I've managed to convince myself that I'm not a huge animal fantasy fan. However, Babe: the Gallant Pig and Poppy have recently convinced me otherwise! Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is an exciting and compelling tale that will be remembered by the reader long after the final page.

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