Newbery choices are tough. There are so many great books to choose from, so many rules and various criteria to consider, so many helpful opinions to process. But, in the end, I have to stick with the books that have left the greatest impression on me this year.
True, the Newbery committee doesn’t always pick the same titles I do, but I really think they should. Fingers crossed for 2013!
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Candlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-16
I’m rooting for this book so hard! Code Name Verity is my favorite book of the year, but this one’s a close second. Baltimore librarian and previous Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz dazzles with lush descriptions, hilarious dialogue, and an utterly engrossing setting. I didn’t want this book to end. Brilliantly done.
Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead; Random House; 15.99; Ages 9-13
A classic mystery in so many ways, but it feels fresh. And disagree if you like, but I prefer this title to Stead’s previous Newbery medal winner, When You Reach Me. The plot flows effortlessly, the characters are endearing and engaging, and the storyline has layers of poignancy and emotion that are handled with just the right amount of restraint. A strong contender for the medal!
Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh; Hyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 14-adult
The rules for the Newbery dictate that books written for readers up to the age of fourteen can be considered. In that case, Jepp has to be part of the discussion. The title character’s voice was one of the strongest I’ve read this year, and Marsh’s ability to make period fiction feel both historically accurate and fresh for a modern reader is commendable. This one’s a wild card for me, as it’s also a strong choice for the Printz Award, which recognizes achievement in young adult literature.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker; Balzer & Bray/Harperteen (HarperCollins); 15.99; Ages 9-12
Pennypacker weaves a story that packs a hefty emotional punch without feeling manipulative or forced. She handles an often overused theme in middle grade fiction—the “unlikely friendship”—in a way that is natural and engaging. I couldn’t get this novel out of my head after I read it. I still can’t! Gypsy Moths is a Newbery dark horse that I’d like to see get some (much deserved) recognition.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Harper; 16.99; Ages 8-12
A moving story of a silverback gorilla’s quest to find a better life for the baby elephant that arrives at his dilapidated zoo. Applegate handles the themes of conservancy and animal welfare with a deft hand, and it is to her credit that she writes both her animal and human characters without judgment. Even the “bad guy,” we discover, has a tender side. What could have been a heavy handed sermon is, instead, a lovely exercise in control.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; Dial Books for Young Readers; 16.99; Ages 9-12
Like Liar and Spy, this is a mystery that’s more than just a formula. Hilarious prose and a small town full of wonderfully zany folk make this one of the most entertaining middle grade picks this year. The Newbery committee doesn’t always go for humor, but I think they should give it a go this time around. Turnage’s story is utterly fantastic.
Others to watch: Wonder, The Lions of Little Rock, The Great Unexpected
What are your picks for Newbery? Comment and let me know which titles I missed!