Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I Can Stop Now! ("From the Mixed-Up Files...)

My son and I both finished "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" this morning. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I could stop my Newbery reading right now satisfied that I'd gotten something out of it. If I hadn't embarked on this project I probably would never have read it. What a loss that would be.

This had all the suspense, relationship drama, character growth and plot of an adult book. Yet it was accessible to children, too, without being condescending. There were even a few unexpected plot twists in the final pages. They weren't necessary to polish the story, but were delightful nonetheless.

I think my favorite take away quote was this:

"Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around."
How true.

And, honestly, my happiness with this gem of a book makes me nervous about reading other Newbery winners. I can't imagine any will match this.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Joanne's Book List

I've been working my way through the list of Newbery Medal Winners, but got sidetracked in the midst of moving last summer. I'm excited for this change to get back on track.

I have loved every one of the books I've read from the list so far. (By the way, some libraries or bookshops have lists of the winners, so it's easy to tuck in pocket and check off titles you've read.)

*Roller Skates, 1937
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, 1959
Island of the Blue Dolphins, 1961
*The Bronze Bow, 1962
A Wrinkle in Time, 1963
It's Like This, Cat, 1964
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, 1968
Julie of the Wolves, 1973
Bridge to Terabithia, 1978
*Jacob Have I Loved, 1981
*Sarah Plain and Tall, 1986
The Giver, 1994
The Midwife's Apprentice, 1996
The Tale of Despereaux, 2004

*Think these are my favorites so far.

It's surprising to me that I only read a few of these as a child--Island of the Blue Dolphins, From the Mixed-up Files... (somehow taking a bath in the fountain stuck with me my whole life, so when I read this as an adult, I thought, so that's where that came from!).

So, what to read next? Think I may go with Shiloh (1992), since I know there's a copy upstairs on the bookshelf. I've read many of these from the library, but think it would be great to have my own copies--especially for my girls to read as they search for books to love.

(Sorry I haven't put titles in italics--can't seem to figure out the shortcuts on my Mac!)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Story of Mankind

Originally I had thought it would be fun and perhaps educational to start at the beginning, but now that I'm a few chapters into The Story of Mankind I'm having some doubts. And Melissa's comments about The White Stag and Invincible Louisa haven't exactly whetted my appetite for more. Anyway, now that we have the list in the sidebar we can see what's been read already, and we can either choose to read along, or go for variety and see if we can get a post on each book! :)

So, The Story of Mankind. It actually has a certain dry charm, if you like this sort of thing. Here's an example, from the foreword:
History is the mighty Tower of Experience, which Time has built amidst the endless fields of bygone ages. It is no easy task to reach the top of this ancient structure and get the benefit of the full view. There is no elevator, but young feet are strong and it can be done.

Here I give you the key that will open the door.

When you return, you too will understand the reason for my enthusiasm.
Awww! I mean, isn't that kind of cute?

The book starts at the very beginning, with the primordial stew and the evolution ("ascent") of Man:
This creature, half ape and half monkey but superior to both, became the most successful hunter and could make a living in every clime... It learned how to make strange grunts to warn its young of approaching danger and after many hundreds of thousands of years it began to use these throaty noises for the purpose of talking.

This creature, though you may hardly believe it, was your first "man-like" ancestor.
And it goes on in this vein. Subsequent chapter titles are "Prehistoric Man Begins to Make Things for Himself" and "The Egyptians Invent the Art of Writing and the Record of History Begins." And so on. I assume it won the award because of its breadth -- he makes a point of including non-Western civilizations -- and its friendly tone. But reading it today, it feels like nothing more than a curiosity, and I don't see much point in finishing it. But I'm glad I took a look.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky

I just now finished reading the newly awarded Newberry Award winner for 2007, The Higher Power of Lucky.

It's about a girl whose mother has died. Electrocuted after a storm in the desert. Brigitte, Lucky's father's first wife, comes to all the way to California from France to take care of Lucky. All goes well until one day Lucky notices that Brigittes' suitcase is packed. Lucky is afraid Brigitte is going to move back to France and leave her at an orphanage in L.A. So Lucky decides to run away. She decides that the best, most perfect day to run away is the day there is a terrible windstorm in Hard Pan, California.

I'm not sure what to think of this book. I did enjoy it. It was beautifully written. The illustrations were wonderful. It made me cry a little at the end. But was it Newberry Medal good? I don't know. I think I need to brew on that for awhile.

Have you read it yet? If so, what did you think?
Cross Posted at Blatherskite.

Why are Kids always the protagonists?

I ask in jest of course. But in thinking about "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" yesterday, I wondered whether there are any children's books whose characters are primarily adult. Or at least whose protagonists are adults and children play only a minor role.

Obviously much of the appeal in reading, perhaps especially so with younger readers, is identifying with certain characters. Good children's literature is so validating for kids because it captures their feelings of curiosity, fear, injustice, elation. Children don't know what it's like to BE adult yet, so it makes sense they'd have less interest in adult characters and wouldn't know authentic adult characters if they read them.

On the other hand, children must wonder a lot about why adults do the things they do, act the way they (we) do. Imagine a book written for kids that gave insight into the adult view of the world.

Perhaps such books exist. I just couldn't think of them off the top of my head.

As for "From the Mixed-Up Files...," it's delightful. So far a woman on my bus and a mother at school have come up to me while I'm reading it to say it was their favorite childhood book. I can't believe I never read it.

My son is reading it, too. We haven't discussed it much yet, largely because he's on page ninety-something and I'm on 38.

I know there was a lot of discussion about what to read. It seems there are (at least) two groups: one that wants to read in Chrono order and another that is reading independent selections. That's great. I'll see if I can figure out a way to post a photo of "The Story of Mankind" on the right-hand panel for those who are proceeding as a group. Others, read and post as you see fit.

Monday, January 22, 2007

2007 Newberry winner

Hi guys! I just now went online to see if the latest winner was anounced. And it has been! The Newberry winnter for 2007 is The higher power of Lucky by Susan Patron. I hadn't read that one yet so I requested it through my library. It's funny because there were already two people ahead of me on the request queue. I can't wait to read it!

Click here for more info.

Introducing myself

My name is Bekah and I'm a homeschooling mom to 5 kiddos, apprentice midwife, occasional doula, and avid reader of juvenile fiction. In my personal opinion, juvenile fiction is often more well-written than adult fiction, and I also am on the cautious side of what to expose my children too, so I pre-read a lot of material for them. My oldest son is nine, followed by our only daughter who is seven, then the three littles ages four, two and one in a few days.

After looking at the Newberry list, I'm surprised to see that I've read more of the listed books than I thought. I read many a long time ago, when I was a young adult myself and will enjoy rereading with a different perspective.

1986: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (Harper)
1983: Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt (Atheneum)
1981: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (Crowell)
1978: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Crowell)
1972: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (Atheneum)
1971: Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (Viking)
1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum)
1963: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Farrar)
1961: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (Houghton)
1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Houghton)
1950: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (Doubleday)
1936: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (Macmillan)
1934: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs (Little, Brown)
1930: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (Macmillan)
1923: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (Stokes)


I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself. My name is Moni and I'm a Youth Services Libarian. I've only been doing this for a little over a year and before that I was a science librarian. So, as you can imagine, I hadn't read very much juvenile fiction before I started my current job. So when I started I decided that I was going to start by reading through the Newberry winners. I havent' been reading Newberry winners exclusively (and sometimes I need to read an adult fiction book) but here are the ones I've managed to read so far:

1. Criss-Cross 2006
2. Kira Kira 2005
3. Crispin; cross of lead. 2003
4. The Giver. 1994
5. Maniac Magee. 1991
6. The Slave Dancer. 1974
7. A Wrinkle in Time. 1963

I think my favorites have been:
Criss Cross
Maniac Magee

I would love to hear what others have read :)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Where to begin?

I am not sure what book to start with? And if I know I've read it, even if I can't remember the plot or characters, does that count? Decisions, decisions.