Monday, August 29, 2011

#88 - A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

2002 Medal Winner

This book takes place in 12th century Korea. Tree-Ear is an orphan living in a potter's village with Crane Man, who took him under his wing as a young boy. Tree-Ear is very interested in how pottery is made, and one day while spying on a potter named Min, Tree-Ear accidentally breaks some of Min's pottery. He offers to work off his debt, and Min accepts. After the agreed upon 9 days of work, Tree-Ear begs Min to allow him to keep working for him, hoping that he can possibly learn the trade. Min does allow him to work, without pay, but to Tree-Ear's great disappointment, does not seem interested in teaching him how to throw a pot.

In the meantime, Tree-Ear and Min's wife, develop a bond - much like mother and son. She even asks him to call her "Ajima" which is similar to "auntie". She takes care of the poor boy, making sure he is well fed and clothed, and even taking care of Crane Man.

One day the royal emissary comes to the village looking for a potter to hire on commission - this is the dream of all potters in the village. The emissary is interested in Min's work, but Min is not willing to travel to the palace many towns over to bring his work. But Tree Ear offers to take it for him. It is a long, dangerous journey, and on the way there - the pottery, which took months of hard, detailed work, is destroyed by robbers. Will Tree-Ear return to Min with shame? All he has is one single shard of the work of Min. Will this be enough for the emissary?

As I've mentioned before, I have a hard time with literature that takes place in this time period. It's just hard for me to get into. And I'll admit, I had to alternate between this book, and a "nonNewbery" to get through it. But, overall, the writing was well done, and it did have a good story to it. I loved the relationships between Tree Ear and Ajima, and between Tree Ear and Crane Man. And the ending was very satisfying.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I haven't forgotten...

Just wanted to give an update...yes, I've been a bit neglectful of my project here, but I haven't given up on it! I've been trying to get my review blog and facebook page up and running, and it's been pretty successful! I've already been approached by some authors and publishing companies to review books for them, and I've been getting so many books in the mail, I'm starting to get a little bit buried, lol! I am seriously going to try to finish my goal of 100 Newberys by the end of the year though! *crossing my fingers* I have 13 left. Here is what I plan to read to make it to my goal:

1. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
3. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
4. Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
5. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
6. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
7. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
8. Whittington by Alan Armstrong
9. The Wanderer by Sharon Creech
10. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
11. The Underneath by Jean Appelt
12. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
13. Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#87 - Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

2007 Honor Book

"For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana , to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim. "At least now my letters will be more interesting," she writes to her good friend Charlie, who is fighting the Kaiser in France.

Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove. Her quest to make a home is championed by her new neighbors Perilee Mueller, her German husband, and their children. For the first time in her life, Hattie feels part of a family, finding the strength to stand up against Traft Martin's schemes to buy her out and against increasing pressure to be a "loyal" American at a time when anything - or anyone - German is suspect. Despite daily trials, Hattie continues to work her uncle's claim until an unforeseen tragedy causes her to search her soul for the real meaning of home."

I loved this book - it definitely had a "little house on the prairie" feel to it. Hattie was a very strong, brave, generous, and hardworking girl. I can't imagine what it must have been like to make your own way far from anyone you know, and create a home, and farm with no experience at all. I love that the ending was left open - does she and her long time friend (who have written letters back and forth while he was at war) reunite once he returns home? Do they get married? I would love to see a second book!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

#86 - After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

2009 Honor Book

"When D Foster walks into Neeka and her best friend's lives, their world opens up. D doesn't have a "real" mom constantly telling her what to do, and the girls envy her independance. But D wants nothing more than to feel connected, and the three girls form a tight bond - and a passion for the music of Tupac Shakur. D's the only one who understand Tupac's songs best, and through her, his lyrics become more personal for all of them.

After Tupac is shot the first time, the girls are awed by how he comes back stronger than ever. And seeing how Tupac keeps on keeping on helps when Neeka's brother is wrongly sent to jail and D's absent mom keeps disappointing. But by the time Tupac is shot again, the girls have turned thirteen and everything's changed, except their belief in finding their Big Purpose."

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the bonds between the three girls and the bonds of family illustrated in this book. The story also illustrates how strongly music can affect one's life.

Neeka's brother, who was wrongly accused of a crime and imprisoned, is openly gay and it was nice to see how, although his family may not have approved of his lifestyle, they still accepted him for who he was, and showed him unconditional love.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

#85 - A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard

1982 Medal Winner

'Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

The author of these much-quoted lines is William Blake, who painted and wrote his marvelous books nearly 200 years ago. Inspired by Blake's work, Nancy Willard has written a book of magical poems about life at an imaginary inn, run by none other than William Blake himself.

The inn is staffed by two mighty dragons that brew and bake, two angels that wash and shake the featherbeds, and a rabbit who shows visitors to their rooms. Among the remarkable guests are the Man in the Marmalade Hat, the King of Cats who writes his wife not to 'grow fat like a common kitchen hat,' and two sunflowers who demand a room with a view."

Sigh. Another poetry book. I'm going to be brutally honest here. When books like this win the Newbery medal, it is just proof that it is adults that choose the winning book, and not the children who the book is targeted towards. I don't imagine books like this making the best seller list.

If you are a fan of poetry, you might like it...but for me, it was boring.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

#84 - Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

1989 Medal Winner

"In this remarkable volume of poetry for two voices, a companion to I Am Phoenix, Paul Fleischman verbally recreates the "Booming/boisterous/joyful noise" of insects. The poems resound with the pulse of the cicada and the drone of the honeybee. Eric Beddows's vibrant drawings send each insect soaring, spinning, or creeping off the page in its own unique way."

This book was meant to read aloud by 2 people, some parts in unison, so it was hard to just read through. And if you've read my other posts, you know that I am not a big fan of poetry. Yawn.

Friday, July 1, 2011

#83 - Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi

2003 Medal Winner

" 'Asta's son' is all he's ever been called. The lack of name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in fourteenth-century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less - no home, family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he didn't commit, he has been declared a 'wolf's head.' That means he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name - Crispin - and his mother's cross of lead.

His journey through the English countryside is puzzling, amazing, and terrifying. Especially difficult is his encounter with the juggler named Bear. A huge, and possibly even mad, man. Bear forces the boy to become his servant. Bear, however, is a strange master, for he encourages Crispin to think for himself.

Though Bear promises to protect Crispin, it becomes clear that the boy is being relentlessly pursued. Why are his enemies so determined to kill him? Crispin is gradually drawn right into his enemies' fortress, where - in a riveting climax - he must become a different person if he is to save Bear's life and his own."

Ok. See, I posted on facebook yesterday that I dreaded reading this book (which was true), and that I disliked reading medieval period stories (also generally true). Well...guess what? I liked this book! I should've known with Avi being the author (I like many of his other works). It was well written, and very exciting! My favorite character was Bear, although I truly disliked him at first. He ended up being a loving "father figure" and protector for Crispin.

This is one of the great things about this project. I am being "forced" to read books that I wouldn't normally choose to read, and it is making me much more open to other genres!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#82 - 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola

2000 Honor Book

"The 'Big Hurricane of 1938' roars into town...the first day of school takes an unexpected turn for does Mr. Walt Disney's Snow White, the movie everyone had been waiting to see.

All of these events (and more) happened to young Tomie dePaola during the year his family went through the ups-and-downs of building their house at 26 Fairmount Avenue. Adventures with the neighborhood kids and his wonderfully funny extended family will have young readers ready for a first chapter book racing from one episode to the next..."

This was a short, but sweet, book that is a true story of the author's childhood. When you read it, it feels like he is right there telling you his story. My favorite part was when he talked about how he took some "chocolates" from his downstairs Nana and shared them with his upstairs Nana...they weren't chocolate - they were laxatives! lol

Saturday, June 25, 2011

#81 - The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

1997 Medal Winner

"Meet the Souls:

Noah, who quite by accident was best man at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfatherItalic

Nadia, a hybrid with a halo of red hair, a dog that's a genius, and a fondness for baby turtles

Ethan, the silent second son of one of Epiphany's oldest families, who discovers he likes halos

Julian, the strangest person on the school bus, who starts everything by inviting the others to a tea party

How did Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching ten years after being paralyzed in an automobile accident, choose these four to be her sixth grade Academic Bowl team? And how did this unlikely foursome become even unlikelier champions, in far more than just the state middle school competition? The View From Saturday is a rich and rewarding journey that answers these questions and raises many more."

I really liked all the characters in this book; they were very colorful. The story was good, but the writing was rather disjointed. It didn't flow very well, in my opinion. I don't know, there was just something missing. I was a little disappointed because Konigsberg's From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my childhood favorites.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

#80 - Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

1977 Newbery Medal

"With the land to hold them together, nothing can tear the Logans apart. Why is the land so important to Cassie's family? It takes the events of one turbulent year - the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she is black - to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family's lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride - no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away."

I really, really enjoyed this book. Reading about how black people were treated years ago always makes me sad and angry, but the way that families, like the Logans, handled it - with strength, grace, and determination - is extremely inspiring.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#79 - Nothing but the Truth by Avi

1992 Honor Book

"Ninth grader Philip Malloy has one thing on his mind: running. When a failing English grade keeps him from joining the track team, he believes his teacher, Miss Narwin, has it in for him. One morning during announcements, he disregards the school's policy of observing "The Star Spangled Banner" in respectful silence and hums along, hoping to get transferred out of her class. Little does he know that his minor infraction will make him the subject of national media attention. What truly happened that morning in Miss Narwin's class? Examine the events and reach your own conclusion. But - can you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth."

This book was written with the purpose of having the reader examine every side of this story from a legal viewpoint and decide what really happened and whose case would win if brought to court. My 7th grade daughter said that her class did this, and she enjoyed it. I think it is a really interesting idea for a book. This would be MY conclusion: I think that Philip did what he did not out of patriotism, but with the purpose of annoying his teacher so that he could get out of her class. When things didn't go the way he planned, he claimed that his rights to express patriotism were violated. Things kind of blew up from there. What happened on the very last page of this book puzzled me though, and I truly don't understand how it fits into the story...

I do recommend this book - very interesting!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

#78 - Abel's Island by William Steig

1977 Honor Book

"With inimitable style, Steig tells the story of a mouse, Abelard Hassam di Chirico Flint, who gets swept away in a driving rainstorm while rescuing his wife's scarf and winds up stranded on a river island for a year. Abel isn't just any mouse. He's a fastidious Edwardian dandy whose inherited wealth ensures the leisurely comforts he takes such pleasure in. But Abel's high-toned life of leisure conceals a soul full of true grit: once faced with the necessity of surviving. Abel rises to the challenge."

Yawn....another survival story...seems this is a popular theme for Newberys. Some of them, like Hatchet, I really like because they are written in an engaging way. This one...not so much. Although I was able to start and finish it on the same day, I found it very hard to stay focused on it.

There was a part in this book that really amused me. Hee hee, ok, so it's really immature...but, here goes...

"This time he proceeded to methodically, not in nervous haste. He went first to defecate, behind a rock, though no one was watching."

Hee hee, defecate. First, the word is funny....especially in a kids book. We all know it means poop - yet he uses the word defecate. Second, it just kinda comes out of nowhere - not something necessary to the story line. Lol, stuff like this stands out to me when I find the story boring, I guess.

Kids who love animal stories might enjoy this book - my ten year old for example - but I'm not a big fan.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#77 - Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Coloumbis

2000 Honor Book

"Willa Jo is up on the roof at Aunt Patty's house. She went up there to see the sunrise, and Little Sister followed her, like she always does. But by mid-morning, Willa Jo is still up on that roof, and she knows it wasn't just the sunrise that brought her there.

The trouble is, once she climbs up, Willa Jo can't seem to come down. Coming down would mean she'd have to explain. And how can she explain?"

This was a really sad, but good, book about grief. Willa Jo, Little Sister (JoAnne), and their mom are grieving over the loss of Joy, otherwise known as Baby, Willa Jo's baby sister. Their mom is so overcome with grief that she can't properly care for Willa Jo and Little Sister. So, their Aunt Patty takes them in. Aunt Patty means well, but does not understand their ways of coping.

Although it was sad, it was also very sweet. And the ending is one that warms your heart. Highly recommend this one!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

#76 - Magic Maize by Mary and Conrad Buff

1954 Honor Book

"Fabian, and Indian boy of Guatemala, grew up in the old Mayan beliefs. He shared his father's fear of the new, and the ways of the gringo (white man).

Every spring, he and his father spent the entire night praying to their Gods of Nature before burning last year's dry brush from their field. Every spring before planting seed, they offered hot corn mush to their Gods hoping their field might become fruitful. So did many other Indians in Guatemala.

Yet, this boy had the courage to secretly plant twenty kernels of maize (corn) which his brother had given him. It was a new maize, developed by the feared gringo.

While planting, Fabian uncovers a rare jade earplug of the Ancients. On his way home he is frightened as he watches the moon go into an eclipse, thinking the Gods are angry at him for his deed.

But the earplug and the magic maize lead to adventures so unusual that even Fabian's stubborn father is convinced the old and the new can live in peace."

I really don't have much to say about this book. It was nicely written, but didn't really hold my interest.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#75 - Honk the Moose by Phil Stong

1936 Honor book

"Two small boys had been huntingon the outskirts of a little Minnesota town one cold winter's day. They skied back to the livery stable where Ivar's father boarded horses and mules, and Waino pinged his air rifle at a fence. 'I wish,' he said dreamily, 'that had been a good old moose I shot.' Ivar then fired his air gun down the corridor between the stalls to show what he would have done. All at once there was a very sad sound. It went 'Haawwnnk-hawnk-hawnk-haawwnnkk!' The two boys dropped everything.

'What do you think that is?' Ivar asked. 'Maybe it was a moose,' Waino replied softly.

And it was a moose - though it was a while before Ivar's father or Mr. Ryan, the policeman, or the Mayor or any of the townspeople believed it.But what do you do with a moose?What can you do with a moose? Honk was hungry. He ate about a ton of Ivar's father's expensive hay. Then he went to sleep. Something had to be done, but Honk was naturally such a sad moose, you couldn't help feeling sorry for him."

It is interesting to me the changes throughout the years of what makes an award winning book. More recent award winners tackle a lot of really tough topics. But books like this were so simple and innocent! Cute story. My son actually read it before me, and he really liked it too! I guess the simple books can still appeal to today's kids!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

#74 - One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

2011 Honor book

"Eleven year old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned here and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education."

I really enjoyed this book, from start to finish. The protagonist, Delphine, is very likeable, and the story was so well-written. I was angry at how Cecile treated her own daughters...but the ending was very nice. I definitely recommend this book!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

#73 - The Fairy Circus by Dorothy Lathrop

1932 Newbery Honor

The copy of the book that I got from my library, was a VERY old copy. This edition was printed in 1931. The pages were brittle, taped together in many places. I couldn't help but wonder exactly how many little hands had held that book and liked it.

The story itself....meh. A bunch of fairies gather animals of the meadow to put on their own circus, after the real one leaves. They run into some troubles but it all comes out okay.

It's a cute story, but it might be difficult to get a child of this generation to read it.

#72 - Millions of Cats by Wanda Ga'g

1929 Newbery Honor

This is an unusual choice for the Newbery as it is actually a picture book. Part of me wonders, "why the Newbery, why not the Caldecott?" Maybe because choices were fewer in the 1920's? Who knows. It is a cute story though. An old man and his wife are lonely, so the wife suggests they get a cat. The man goes out and comes across a hill that is covered by "hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats." He can't decide which one he wants, so he brings them ALL home! Obviously, they can't feed all those cats, so they ask the cats which one of them is the prettiest. Well, they all think that they are the prettiest, and pretty soon they are all fighting. Eventually, they are all gone - except for one scrawny, homely little kitten who was ignored by the others. She becomes the couple's pet, and becomes the prettiest cat they've ever seen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Willow by Julia Hoban

This is not a Newbery book, but its psychological themes caught my attention...

"Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow's parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it - Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed.

Now seventeen, Willow is living with her older brother, who can barely speak to her. She has left behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life: She is secretly cutting herself.

And then she meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is. When Guy discovers Willow's secret, he pulls her out of the solitary world she's created for herself, and into a difficult, intense, and potentially life-changing relationship."

Overall, this was a good book. However, I found it painfully slow in some parts, and awkward in others. But then, dealing with this kind of topic with a person that you truly barely know, yet have feelings for, would have to be kind of awkward.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

#71 - Holes by Louis Sachar

1999 Medal Winner

"Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day, digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment - and redemption."

This book was completely unexpected to me. I had heard about the movie and knew a LITTLE about the plot based on movie trailers. But it was not what I expected at all! It was a great book with many plot twists that kept me turning the pages. Lots of fun! I am going to have to watch the movie now and hope that it stays true to the book!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

#70 - Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

2010 Newbery Honor

"That moment came on March 2, 1955, when on her way from school 15-year old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. But instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks was when she took a similar stand nine months later, Claudette was shut out by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Still, her brave, spontaneous act laid the groundwork for the Montgomery bus boycott; and a year later she helped end that boycott by testifying as a key plaintiff in the landmark bus case Browder v. Gayle.

Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, and many others, Phillip Hoose's National Book Award - winning work is the first in-depth account of a major, but little-known, civin rights figure, a girl who dared to make an early and profound cry for justice."

First - YAY, I reached another milestone number - lol!
Second - This is one thing I love about this project that I've taken on - I am introduced to books I probably would never have discovered or thought about otherwise. I don't read a lot of non-fiction.
Third - This book was a wonderful portrayal of the horrible injustices that our nation's black people experienced. I, personally, am very ashamed of that time in history - that white people could treat people that way simply for the color of their skin. It makes me sick. It was truly eye opening, and a very interesting account.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Firegirl by Tony Abbott

Not a Newbery book, however it is a winner of the Golden Kite Award.

There is...," Mrs. Tracy was saying quietly, "there is something you need to know about Jessica..."

From this moment on, life is never quite the same for Tom and his seventh grade classmates. Despite Jessica's shocking appearance and the fear she evokes in him and most of the class, Tom slowly develops a tentative friendship with Jessica that changes his life. Firegirl is a powerful book that shows readers that even the smallest of gestures can have a profound impact on someone's life."

I agree with the above - It is a book that shows children that the smallest things can make the biggest differences. Like in this case, where Jessica had been ignored by everyone, or jeered at - but Tom took the time to REALLY talk to her, and made her finally feel good about herself. I will be passing this one on to my kids with a lesson about being nice to everyone, no matter their circumstance.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

#69 - Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

1945 Medal Winner

"'New Folks coming, Mother - Father, new Folks coming into the Big House!' shouted Little Georgie the Rabbit. All the animals of the Hill were very excited about the news and wondered how things would change. Would the new Folks bring dogs, traps, and guns? Or would they be planting Folks who would care for the land and grow rich crops? It had been years since there had been a garden at the House."

Aww, this was such a cute book! Any animal loving kid would love this one! An unexpected sad twist almost made me cry, but with another twist, everything was okay, and even better than expected! Very heartwarming story. I will be passing this one on to my animal-story-loving Emily!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Not a Newbery book, although it was predicted to at least get an honor.

"A time that changed the world, a time that changed Franny's life. Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that's hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall.

It's 1962, and it seems that the whole country is living in fear. When President Kennedy goes on television to say that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, it only gets worse. Franny doesn't know how to deal with what's going on in the world - no more than she knows how to deal with what's going on with her family and friends. But somehow she's got to make it through."

I REALLY enjoyed this book. The whole book takes place in the 13 days of the Cuban missile crisis. What makes this book really stand out, is the numerous photographs, ads, and pieces of historical information from this time in history throughout the book. In the last few chapters, there is a really exciting part that made me stay up way too late to find out what happens. I definitely think this was worthy of a Newbery.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#68 - On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

1987 Honor Book

"'On your honor?' Joel's father said. 'You won't go anywhere except the park?' 'On my honor,' Joel repeated."

"During a bicycle trip to the state park, Joel dares his best friend Tony to a swimming race in the dangerous Vermillion River. The boys have been warned never to go near the river, but Tony can't let Joel think he's scared. Both boys jump in.

When Joel reaches the sandbar he turns and looks for Tony and finds that he has vanished. Joel is stunned. How can he face their parents and the terrible truth?"

Oh gosh. What a depressing book. Especially after the recent deaths of a couple of my daughter's young classmates. It was well-written and engaging....just very sad. Don't think I'll be passing it on to my girls to read for awhile...

Oh, and a heads up...use of the "d" word, and the father expresses doubt of the existence of Heaven...I didn't like that either.

Monday, April 18, 2011

#67 - Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman

2011 Honor Book

"Welcome to the night, when mice stir and furry moths flutter. When snails spiral into shells as orb spiders circle in silk. When the roots of oak trees recover and repair from their time in the light. When the porcupette eats delicacies - raspberry leaves! - and coos to its mother. Come out to the cool night woods, and buzz and hoot and howl - but beware, for it's windy way out in the woods!"

Sigh. As I've said a hundred times before - I'm just not a poetry kind of gal. Luckily, this was a very short book - a 32 page picture book. To be 100% honest, this book is kind of an example of proof that it is adults that choose the Newbery titles, and not the kids. While I'm sure there are kids out there that would enjoy this, I just don't see it as being a big hit among kids. Each poem is about a nocturnal living creature in the woods, and it was neat that on the opposite page was some factual information about the creature the poem was about. All in all....not a favorite of mine.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#66 Turtle in Paradise By Jennifer L. Holm

2011 Honor Book

"Life isn't like the movies, and eleven year old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes dreams are scarce.So when Turtle's Mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off

to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what' happening, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she's spent her life building, and as she does, her whole world opens up in the most unexpected ways. "

This was a cute book - quick read, however somewhat predictible

Thursday, April 7, 2011

#65 - Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

2011 Medal Winner

"Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it's just a worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to "Leave Well Enough Alone."

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest's history is full of colorful and shadowy characters - and long-held secrets. And as those secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town."

This is the first book to be named winner since I started my project. I followed all the "predictions" of who would win the prize back in January, and apparently this one came as a surprise. So, I've been anxious to read it. It was so good, and so interestingly written. The story alternates generations - it begins in 1936, with Abilene's story, but alternates with what happened in the town in 1918. Sometimes when authors do that it gets confusing, but this was written in such a way that it was only natural. It had a surprise ending that tied the whole story together, and I am always a sucker for things like that. This is Clare Vanderpool's first novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future!

Monday, March 28, 2011

#64 - The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer

1952 Newbery Honor

"Ronnie and his aunt are tending the Tern Rock lighthouse for 2 weeks in December while its keeper takes a much-needed vacation. Ronnie learns to love the slap of the waves against the Rock, sleeping in a bunk, climbing the winding staircase, and lighting the great lamp each night.

When the lighthouse keeper doesn't return on the appointed day to take them home, Ronnie and his aunt are surprised but patient. But it doesn't take long before they realize the lighthouse keeper is not going to return in time for Christmas. Ronnie's love for the Rock soon turns to hate. After all, how can anyone have a merry Christmas in such a barren place?"

This was a short (62 page), but sweet Christmas story. It never did say if they got off the Rock though...

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

"The powerful story of the boy who loved Anne Frank"

"I look out the window into the street...I'm meant to be at Mr. Frank's workplace in a few hours. We're arriving separately, all of us. We'll walk into the building just like it was any other visit - only this time we'll never walk out again.

What was it like hiding in the Annex with Anne Frank? To be with Anne every day while she wrote so passionately in her diary? To be in a secret world within a world at war - alive on the inside, everything dying on the outside? Peter Van Pels and his family have lost their country, their home, and their freedom, and now they are fighting desperately to remain alive. Look through Peter's eyes.

He has a story to tell, too.

Are you listening?"

I originally started this blog to only keep track of my ongoing Newbery project progress. But, I DO read OTHER books too, and sometimes I just HAVE to say something about them. Sometimes they touch me in some way. This was one of them. I read The Diary of Anne Frank a LONG time ago. This book grabbed my attention, since it is the same story but from a different point of view. It IS a work of fiction - something to keep in mind - but it is an interesting idea of what might have happened. The Holocaust was such a HORRIBLE time in history - I just can't even begin to imagine. The last part of the book is not for the faint of heart - just a warning. I was in tears.

This book is meant for older teens, fyi. My 10 year old daughter read Anne Frank last year, and loved it, so when I first saw this on the YA shelf, I thought "ooh, Emily might enjoy this!" No. It is definitely not appropriate for her age group. I would say 14 and up.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen

This is not a Newbery title, but...well, I don't like to go too long without posting, lol. Just haven't had that much free time this week, so this is the only book I've read this week!
"Twitch, Jerk, Freak...Sam Carrier has been called them all. Because of his Tourette Syndrome, Sam is in near constant motion with tics and twitches and verbal outbursts. So, of course, high school is nothing but torment. Forget friends, forget even hoping that beautiful, perfect Naomi will look his way. And home isn't much better with his domineering stepfather reminding him that the only person who was more useless than Sam was his dead father, James. But then an unexpected turn of events unearths the truth about his father. And suddenly Sam doesn't know who he is , or even where he'll go next. What he does know is that the only girl in the world who can make him happy and nervous at the same time is everywhere he turns...and he'd give anything to just be still."
This book started off kinda slow. I even considered stopping and going on to something else. But after about page 100 or so, it got much more exciting. It's basically a story of self - discovery. Something interesting is that the author has Tourette's and so part of himself is written into the character of Sam.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

#63 - Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

1988 Honor Book
"Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother has given him as a present - and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart ever since his parents' divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self-pity or despair - it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive."
My almost 10-year-old daughter read this book last year and she loved it. The whole survival theme is not usually her cup of tea as far as reading materials (nor is it mine), so I thought, if she liked it, it must be good! I pushed it to the front of my reading queue because on March 30th, the author of this book - Gary Paulsen - is coming to one of our local libraries for a book signing!! I am taking the kids (Emily was so excited when I told her, she ran to her room and pulled the 3 books of his that we own off the shelf and put them by the front door, so we can remember to bring them for him to sign!). I am even more excited to meet him after reading this book! I could really care less about meeting movie stars and music stars - authors are MY kind of celebrity!!
Ahem, got off on a tangent there...Hatchet WAS a very good book. I started it last night, and basically couldn't put it down. Full of nail biting adventure. Paulsen says that everything that happened in this book has happened to him at one time or another - just not all at once. There are 2 more books in this series (and we have them), so I will be reading those eventually!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#62 - Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

2005 Medal Winner
"Kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering; shining
Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people's eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it's Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare. And it's Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering - kira-kira - in the future."
I think this is one of my favorites so far, quite honestly. Lynn and Katie's relationship is so sweet and special, it reminds me why I always wanted a sister. The parents are extremely hard-working despite the adversities and prejudice they encounter being minorities in the South in the 1950's. I'm not going to give away the ending...I'll just say that it is equally heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Definitely keep a box of tissues nearby!

Friday, March 11, 2011

#61 - Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

1992 Medal Winner

"When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it's love at first sight - and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun - and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty's secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd's anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?"

Loved it! Marty has a huge heart, especially for this beagle, and will do anything for him to keep him safe. His determination pays off! Very heartwarming story!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#60 - The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

2010 Honor Book
"The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia's sleepy Texas town, and there aren't a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spendsa lot of time at the river with her grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life - all you have to do is look through a microscope! As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century."
What a sweet book! What was most sweet was the relationship that developed between Callie and her grandpa, because they had a mutual love of science. He was the only one in her family who truly understood her and appreciated her for who she was. Being that this was the turn of the century, her parents expected her to spend her time knitting, embroidering, cooking, etc - none of which interested her. She wanted to be a scientist! Her grandfather was the only one that encouraged her and told her that she could do anything she set her mind to!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#59 - My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannettt

1949 Honor Book
"A group of lazy animals on Wild Island have captured a baby dragon and put him to work. The little dragon can fly, so they are forcing him to act as a flying ferry across a dangerous river. The dragon doesn't like it.
So goes the story that reaches a kind-hearted boy named Elmer Elevator ("my father"). Elmer, carrying a bag of most unusual supplies, sets out on a secret journey to rescue the dragon. How Elmer uses these supplies to beguile the nasty inhabitants of Wild Island and free the dragon is one of the most exciting adventures ever."
This was a short but cute little story that young children will enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

#58 - Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

2008 Medal Winner
This book was a complete surprise to me. Honestly, I didn't want to read it - it combines two things I really don't care for in reading material - poetry and the medieval period. But, guess what? I really liked it! It was written by a school librarian for her students to perform - it is actually made up of 22 monologues. The monologues are in first person, spoken as different members of a medeival village. The book also contains many footnotes with interesting facts, such as "dog" referred ONLY to male dogs. Female dogs were called brach. This book also had beautiful illustrations! This book just proved to me that I need to branch out more, and not to "judge a book by its cover!"

Friday, February 11, 2011

#57 - King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

1949 Medal Winner
"The Sultan has called for six of the best horses in the kingdom to be given to the King of France! Agba, the mute horseboy, just knew that his horse Sham would be chosen. Sham was the King of the Wind! But neither Agba nor Sham knew what was in store for them. When a corrupt boat captain steals the food for their journey, the horses nearly die by the time they arrive in France. And the King of France sends Sham to be a workhorse for the palace cook! Agba is heartbroken. Is this Sham's fate? Will he ever be able to prove himself the champion that he is?"
This book was a pleasant surprise for me. I wasn't really looking forward to reading this one, despite the fact that I read and enjoyed other books by this author as a child, when I was horse crazy. But, I really enjoyed it! The boy and horse in this book had such a tough life, but rose above it, and triumphed. Very heartwarming! Definitely a must read for horse lovers!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

#56 - The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

2004 Medal Winner
This was a cute fairy tale type story about a mouse, Despereaux, shunned by his family and friends, because of his love for the Princess who inhabits the castle in which he lives. He is sent to the dungeon where he learns about a plot to kidnap the princess - by the dungeon rat! Despereaux cannot let anything bad happen to the princess that he adores. He must come up with a plan to save her!
We are also introduced to a host of other characters: Gregory, the dungeon master; Miggery Sow, the servant girl; Roscuro, the rat; and, of course, the Princess Pea.
If you like fairy tales, you will enjoy this book!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

#55 - Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

2002 Honor Book
"Primrose Squarp simply knows her parents did not perish at sea during a terrible storm, but try convincing the other residents of Coal Harbour on that score. For all practical purposes, at least for the time being, Primrose is an orphan, and there's no great clamoring of prospective adopters. After realizing the impracticality of continuing to pay Miss Perfidy (a mothball scented elderly lady) an hourly wage to babysit her, the town council is able to locate a relative, Uncle Jack, who reluctantly takes Primrose into his care. Primrose does warm up to living with him and in his home, despite the eerie noises resembling a hockey game that haunt her in the night. But true sanctuary can always be found at a restaurant called The Girl on the Red Swing, where everything - including lasagna - is served on a waffle, and where the proprietor, Miss Bowzer, offers a willing ear, as well as sage advice. Through a mixture of eccentric humor and probing philosophy, author Polly Horvath makes Primrose's search for peace and understanding a most memorable one."
This was a cute story, however there were many times I felt so bad for Primrose. She was treated terribly by her classmates, her babysitter, and even her guidance counselor, who was supposed to have her best interests in mind. But, there were people on her side - Uncle Jack and the restaurant owner, Miss Bowzer. The theme of this book was hope and not giving up on something you believe in, even when everyone else around you believes otherwise.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a Newbery book, nor is it a children's book. It is considered a "young adult" book, but I will not be letting my 13 year old young adult read this. Very mature themes, and disturbing material.
"Kristina is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. Then she meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild ride turns into a struggle for her mind, her soul - her life."
This is the first in a series. I decided to read them for a few reasons: #1 - the interesting writing style; it is written in poetry form. I'm not a big poetry fan, so I wasn't sure how if I would be able to get through it, but it read very smoothly. #2 - I know this is a very popular young adult series right now, and well, I like to keep on top of what young people are reading, and #3 - I am interested in most stories of a psychological nature. I won't lie - this was not a light, fluffy read. It was dark, disturbing, sad, etc. And, no happy ending here. But, all that said - I am glad to have read it. Unfortunately, drug addiction is becoming more and more common in teens, and at a younger and younger age. My hope is that novels like this will show youth how extremely dangerous drugs are and help to deter them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

#54 - When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 Medal Winner
"By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious not arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late."
Wow. That is the first thing that comes to my mind after reading this book! Amazing!! One of those books with a twist of an ending that just leaves you amazed! I am afraid to say too much and give it away. I did not expect this to be a sci fi type book...Think Time Traveller's Wife - children's style. Highly recommended - as a matter of fact, my daughter is going to start it tonight after I raved about it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#53 - Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

1993 Medal Winner
"May stopped by beside the trailer - May who was always 'a big barrel of nothing but love,' May who had been Summer's mother for the last 6 happy years, May who was dead. But only old Ob, her sorrowing husband, sensed her visitation.
Summer was none too pleased at the news. Wasn't it enough that she missed May terribly, that she was singlehandedly trying to keep Ob from dying himself? She needed to hear from May directly. And now, to confound all, crazy Cletus Underwood, from Summer's seventh grade, had become involved.
Cletus, like Ob, believed in the spirit world. He was mightily pleased to wait in May's garden while Ob and Summer cocked their ears and scanned the sky of West Virginia for a sign.
Word came, but from a source different than expected when finally Summer, Cletus and Ob set off to Putnam County to see The Reverend Miriam B. Young, Small Medium at Large, who Cletus had read about. Word came for Summer a night later, direct as could be."
Missing May is a sweet, but heartbreaking story about a grieving family. I think that anyone who has lost a loved one can identify with searching for signs of their lost loved one in everything around them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#52 - Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

2006 Honor Book
"Soonie's family makes Show Ways - quilts with secret meanings that are maps to freedom. Her family tells stories of bravery that inspires courage. Each generation passes on to the next the belief that there is a road to a better place."
This book is an unusual choice for a Newbery as it is a picture book. However, it is a very inspiring book about African American history showing the road from slavery to freedom. The illustrations are beautiful as well.

#51 - Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

1961 Medal Winner
"In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building a shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery."
This book was a little tedious for me, as I have a little trouble getting into certain historical fiction. Add to that the fact that there is very little dialogue in the book as the girl is completely alone. However, by the last few chapters I was almost on the edge of my seat. A little hard to get into, but I'm glad I read it. An interesting fact - this is based on a true story of an Indian girl who had spent 18 years alone on an island before being rescued.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#50 - Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos

2001 Honor Book
Halfway through my first goal of 100 books by the end of 2011!
"Joey Pigza really wants his six-week visit with his dad to count, to show him he's not as wired as he used to be, to show his dad how much he loves him. But Carter Pigza's not an easy guy to love. He's eager to make it up to Joey for past wrongs and to show him how to be a winner, to take control of his life. With his coaching, Joey's even learned how to pitch a baseball, and he's good at it. The trouble is, Joey's dad thinks taking control means giving up the things that keep Joey safe. And if he wants to please his dad, he's going to have to play by his rules, even when the rules don't make sense."
This book showed an interesting extreme case of ADHD, both in a child, and in an adult. I really felt sorry for Joey - he tried so hard to be good, but his hyperactivity made it so hard! When the dad, took his medication away and flushed it all down the toilet, saying it was just a crutch, I wanted to punch the living daylights out of him.
Overall, a good book!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#49 - The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois

1948 Medal Winner
"Professor William Waterman Sherman, a disillusioned schoolteacher, sails in a giant balloon over the Pacific, lands on the island of Krakatoa, and witnesses a stupendous explosion in which that notorious island blows up. When Professor Sherman is found adrift in the Atlantic clinging to the debris of twenty balloons, all America rocks with curiosity. Much of the story is based on complete truth-scientific principles behind nineteenth century balloon inventions and the history of the amazing civilization found on Krakatoa. The rest, agrees the author, is absolute nonsense."
Let's just say...this wasn't one of my favorites. The middle of the book was fairly interesting, with its descriptions of outlandish inventions (and keeping in mind this was written in the 1940's), but otherwise, I had a hard time getting into this one.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

#48 - Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

1990 Medal Winner
"Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think about life before the war. But it's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching in their town. The Nazis won't stop. The Jews of Denmark are being "relocated" so Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family. Then Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission. Somehow she must find the strength and courage to save her best friend's life. There's no turning back now."
This book was reminiscent of The Diary of Anne Frank. It made me so sad to think of how, even if this particular story is fictional, this really did occur in our world's history. To think of how horrible life was for the Jewish people...I just can't even imagine. But, this story was heartwarming as much as it was heartbreaking. It was also suspenseful in true Lois Lowry form. She also added an afterword explaining which parts of the story were true, and it had a lot of very interesting information that I did not know. Highly recommended!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

#47 - Sounder by William H. Armstrong

1970 Medal Winner
"It was like a horrible nightmare...The boy's father taken away by the sheriff...Sounder racing after them, hit by a shotgun blast...The boy has to save Sounder. The beloved dog risked his life for his family. But the boy's mother says Sounder has crawled away to die!"
This book was very sad. A family torn apart by the unjust arrest of their father, poverty, mistreatment, a beloved dog terribly injured and thought to be dead. Not the most uplifting of stories. But, there is an underlying story that has a good ending. The boy (and interestingly, he is never named in the book) longs for education. He desperately wants to learn to read, and is eventually taken under the wing of a kindly school teacher, and his dream is fulfilled.
I know this book has been made into a movie, and I would love to see it. The book was quite brief (only 116 pages), so I am interested to see how the story was expanded. Definitely a classic!