Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork Arthur Levine Books Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge Viking Judged by Gary Schmidt
Many, many thanks for having me be a part of this wonderful contest. But I think that sometime in the past, I must have done something awful to you, to have you send me two magnificent books, one a novel for young adults, one a non-fiction work aimed at a middle school audience, and then have you ask me to choose between them. Dang. This is nearly impossible, you rats.
Well, first to Marching for Freedom.
Partridge’s is an astonishing achievement. Powerful, insightful, moving, inspiring—a perfect example of what a work of non-fiction for young readers (for any readers) should do: not merely present information, but capture the reader intellectually and imaginatively, and ask the reader to respond to what she has just learned. Partridge does this is so many ways. Her choosing to tell the story through the eyes and experiences of the children and young adults who experienced it immediately communicates to her audience, and makes even old folks like me see the whole event in new ways. Her format—the interspersing of the Freedom songs with the text, for example—is stunning. Her honesty about fear and failure and doubt evokes “characters” who are real and compelling. Her choice of illustrations makes the book visually stunning, but informs in extraordinary ways. (The cover!) And her own authorial voice calmly, yet earnestly, creates the tonality that …