Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Boy-friendly Newbery Medal Winners-Gold, Silver and Bronze!

Newbery Award winning books are considered the best of the best in the middle-grade division of childrens' books. Each January, one Newbery Medal book is chosen as the winner. One to three Newbery Honor books may be chosen as well. The judges are librarians from all around the country who know their middle-grade fiction like a cat knows a canary, so when a new crop of books come on the scene each year, and a few rise to the top, the books are scrutinized and thoroughly dissected.

That golden seal means a lot. It means little dreamy girls who journal a lot will rub their fingers over the bas relief circle and dream that some day someone will cozy up in a corner somewhere and read her words (oops, that slipped out). Out of my dream state and back to reality! What it really means that every book store and library in the United States and beyond will order and shelve that book, and although many will agree with all the accolades and hearty praise, there will also be voices of dissension claiming that book had no place as the King of the Hill. The voices will try to push the book off its throne, dirty its knees and make its author cry.

In my recommendation of awesome boy-friendly Newberys, I do in no way mean to make this list exclusive. I am sure there are many Newberys able to make a boy smile and giggle. But this summer my son happened to read three that made his heart soar. Yesterday his fourth grade teacher announced that each person in the class needed to be on the look-out for a Newbery to read this year. He said boys moaned and groaned around the room and he was hoping that he could slip them a copy of his favorites so they could know that this task wasn't nearly as painful as they were anticipating.

So, in keeping with the 2010 Summer Olympics, here are the Gold, Silver and Bronze of Boy-Friendly Newberys according to my favorite fourth-grader:


HOOT by Carl Hiassen

Hoot is an eco-adventure starring an imminently likable main character, Roy, and a barefoot boy who catches fish with his bare hands. Their quest involves saving a species of burrowing owls from certain extinction by fighting the corporate machine, Paula's Pancake House. Paula's company is trying to build on the owls' sacred breeding ground. Some people feel "boy" books do not have the character-development offered in "girl" books. Not true with Carl Hiaason. His characters jump off the page, wave you toward them with enthusiasm, twinkle and don't let you go until the very last page. My son says Roy is his favorite character in a book, ever! He says if the other two books in the trilogy, Scat and Flush, were Newberys, they might bump the other two out of their medals. Maybe.

*Both Hoot and Holes are movies (no surprise there). Fortunately we hadn't seen either movie before we found these books. After reading both books, we rented the movies. Of course neither movie lived up to the movie he'd "already seen in his head"! 

The Silver

HOLES by Louis Sachar

Stanley is sentenced to hard time at a labor camp/detention center for boys. His days with his fellow inmates are spent digging holes for the warden. This one is hard to sum up without getting into anything that might take away from the experience. There is a wonderful historical component Sachar weaves in back and forth along with Stanley's story. It sounds confusing, but it's not. And my son seemed to enjoy both storylines which eventually blend to create a satisfying and exciting read. Stanley and his buddies were phenomenal characters, creating the perfect blend of people and plot to keep you hooked!

The Bronze

MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli

I love Jerry Spinelli. Star Girl is one of my all-time favorite books, so I had high-hopes for Jerry's ability to connect with my son. Jeffrey Maniac Magee has a lot of the sweet, naivete and allure I found in StarGirl and my son warmed up to him just as I had hoped. This is the oldest book of the three, having won the Newbery in 1990. This book deals with racial tension, prejudice, tolerance and acceptance. After reading this one, the whole family listened to the audio book while on a trip and not only did it have us all laughing, it created an opportunity for open and important dialogue about stereotyping and cultural differences. I personally think Jerry Spinelli is one of the greats in middle-grade fiction and I am surprised this one is not a movie along with Hoot and Holes.

Caveat: Once you hear the audio book, your family may have a hard time not chanting the jump rope song written about the legendary Maniac Magee by young girls who lived in the neighborhood! 

Now that I've completed this post, I realize that all three books were penned by male authors. Hmmm.


Post a Comment