MARCHING FOR FREEDOM by ELIZABETH PARTRIDGE
published by Viking Children’s Books Penguin Young Readers
16 books. One winner.
MARCHING FOR FREEDOM by ELIZABETH PARTRIDGE
published by Viking Children’s Books Penguin Young Readers
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge HarperCollins The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner Houghton Mifflin Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge Viking Judged by Katherine Paterson
If you have been following the Battle, you know what a pickle I found myself in. As I told one of the Battle Commanders when I learned the titles of the three finalists, “This is not a choice between apples and oranges, it’s a choice between apples, orangutans, and orchids.” The good news is I was given three fine and worthy books. The bad news is that I had to eliminate two of them.
I read The Lost Conspiracy first. It was by far the fattest and would take the longest to read, and besides, it was fiction, and I love fiction. Even though I usually prefer realism to fantasy, I was fully taken in by the strange island world of Gullstruck that Frances Hardinge created and the twists and turns of plot that left me gasping for breath. Hardly any character, with the exception of little Hathin, was what he or she seemed to be initially. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years guessing what was going to happen in a book, but I couldn’t guess this time, which is why I initially thought, nothing can beat this.
And then I read, the Undead winner, Pamela Turner’s, The Frog Scientist. I was enchanted. Here is a non-fiction book for younger readers that teaches the methods of …
Here’s what we’ve come across this week:
Kara Schaff Dean caught up with the Battle here, considers the finalists here and also reflects on how the Battle brings new readers to the contenders. “As the 2010 edition draws to a close, I look forward to the opportunity to pass on the results with the same enthusiasm as last year.” Yes! Caroline Parr did a great piece on us at fredericksburg.com. Laura stayed abreast of the Battle considering color, safety, and self-reflection. Liz calling out “CharMa, CharMa” finished out Round Two here and here and attacked Round Three here and here. Sondy did a second round round-up. Glad RachReads has been enjoying the Battle! Charlotte noted Megan Whalen Turner’s match. As did her fan community. Judge Shannon Hale reflects on her decision and the inner reader. Eric’s Leader Board as of April 1.
Well, the winner of the Undead Poll is sure to be a big surprise. During the first week of polling, WHEN YOU REACH ME opened with a comfortable lead, FIRE was gaining ground, but then . . . the post. Scientist PZ Myers posted a glowing review of THE FROG SCIENTIST followed by a plug for Battle of the Books and a direct link to the Undead Poll ballot. Whether it was that direct link or the extraordinary passion of science advocates, votes for THE FROG SCIENTIST came in so fast and furiously that we first wondered what the heck was happening. FIRE did eventually overtake WHEN YOU REACH ME with THE LAST OLYMPIAN trailing in its wake, but it didn’t matter by then because THE FROG SCIENTIST had already run away with it. While this was a missed opportunity for THE LAST OLYMPIAN, WHEN YOU REACH ME, and FIRE, we can take away lessons on how to more actively and aggressively campaign for our favorites. Then, too, given the strength of the nonfiction this year, there is something fitting about having two of the final three books represent the genre. So . . . THE LOST CONSPIRACY vs. MARCHING FOR FREEDOM vs. THE FROG SCIENTIST. Place your bets!
– Commentator Jonathan Hunt
Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge Viking Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan Arthur A. Levine Books Judged by Walter Dean Myers
Shaun Tan invites the reader to go along with him on a journey full of surprises. It is soon clear as we go through these very brief stories, illustrated by Tan with intelligence and humor, that we are not likely to end up anywhere we would expect. In ‘Stick Figures’, for example, he gives life to the imagined reality of the fallen tree branches we see around us and the reactions to those sometimes human like figures. In another story a deer appears on a roof and, in a reversal of the Clement Moore story, takes gifts instead of bringing them. A story which encapsulates both the wit and weakness of the book is called ‘Our Expedition.’ In this story Tan tells of two brothers who find a directory in which one of the maps ends abruptly. A debate ensues as to whether a page has fallen out of the book and the two brothers decide to follow the map to find out exactly what should have been included. They discover that the landscape is exactly as the map indicates, a sheer cliff beyond which there is nothing. A different approach to a story? Absolutely! An interesting approach? Mildly. Compelling? No. After The Arrival I expected great things from Shaun Tan. I still do.
Although billed as a book which emphasizes the role of children in …
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman Henry Holt The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge HarperCollins Judged by Megan Whalen Turner
So I am not good with suspense. I’ll save you others who are like me from skipping several paragraphs to see who the winner is and I’ll tell you right out. I picked The Lost Conspiracy.
While we were strolling through the topiary with Tobin, he laid out excellent arguments for Charles and Emma. They’re all still there, so I hope that you will go read them if you haven’t already. Charles and Emma is a wonderful, valuable, cherished piece of work. I just happen to love Frances Hardinge’s book more. Charles and Emma held my interest and warmed my heart, but The Lost Conspiracy stoked my imagination and rather set my brain on fire.
Both books take an oblique approach to events in our own world. Heiligman doesn’t bring in the present day controversy of religion versus science and Hardinge is careful to subvert any one-to one correlation between her fiction and historical events. We can draw parallels on our own.
Their expectations of their readers are radically different. As Tobin said, “[Heiligman] is … trying to narrate events as clearly as possible while keeping us emotionally and intellectually engaged.” Heiligman does all the heavy lifting as she introduces you to wonderful people and tactfully suggests that we are not the first to debate the primacy of science and faith. I love the quotes from the Darwin family …
The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan Candlewick Press Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan Arthur A. Levine Books Judged by Shannon Hale
First up: Matt Phelan’s graphic novel Storm in the Barn. I loved the feel of this book. It’s 200 pages, and they flow effortlessly. The washed out blues, grays, and browns evoke the famine-striken land, a town in Kansas waiting years for rain in 1937. His style is so accessible, and he communicates action and emotion with simple lines and shading and minimal color. A flashback section and a story-within- the-story apply richer color, bringing the context of the setting into sharp definition.
The story itself is highly readable. Jack is one casualty of the drought. At age 10 or 11, he should be a farm hand, but there’s no farm to work unless rain returns. Other stories intertwine with Jack’s — Dorothy in Oz, Jack of fairy tale fame — adding meaning and texture.
The boy’s story bends from historical fiction to fairy tale when he sees flashes in an abandoned barn and believes a rain monster is hiding inside. Text is minimal, and the illustrations tell what needs to be told. A wonderful medium for this story, and a wonderful story. Well done, Matt Phelan!
The second contender is Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. He wowed me with The Arrival, and I was excited to lay my hands on this lavishly illustrated collection of short stories. What a treasure.
Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge Viking A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck Dial Books Judged by Christopher Paul Curtis
Richard Peck gives readers another glimpse into the life of Grandma Dowdel, the wonderfully quirky heroine of his Newbery recognized novels A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way From Chicago. In this story Peck treats us to Grandma Dowdel in a more peripheral way through the eyes of new-kid-in-town and next door neighbor, Bob Barnhart. In addition to facing the horrors of trying to adjust to new settings, Bob is also burdened with being the “preacher’s kid” and suffers accordingly.
As in all of Richard Peck’s books the writing is meticulously well-crafted and enjoyable. A Season of Gifts does, however, lack the emotional kick of Chicago and Yonder. I think this may be due to the fact that while Bob is the narrator of the tale, Grandma Dowdel is its emotional center. Peck is at his best when presenting us with the feisty woman’s world, the reader recognizes this and at the end longs for her to be a more integral part of the story. The storytelling is, as always with Peck, a pleasure to read, he has painted an enjoyable portrait of Americana.
Elizabeth Partridge’s Marching For Freedom is one of those books that sneaks up and ensnares the reader. Even though we all know how the story ends, (it is a re-telling of the Selma voter’s rights struggle) Partridge gives us a fresh perspective as …
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Julie Larios Peter Sieruta Joel Singerman This Grrl Reads Jessica Leader Christina Rodriguez Danae Miriam Genevieve M.anda Sam Kris Marie1163 Karn Tricia (Miss Rumphius) Lisanne
Julie Larios got in a tad late for last week, but she’s paying attention!
Peter Sieruta thinks that next year “Fuse #8 and the BOB folks should join forces and run competitions to select the top Newbery title of all time.” He suggests some intriguing matches and a lot of the competitors would be Undeads….hmmm….
“If you prefer to limit discussion of basketball in class, you might use School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books bracket” so said the New York Times Learning Network in a post about March Madness (the basketball kind).
Caroline Parr has a terrific piece about the Battle on fredericksburg.com.
Liz B is back with terrific posts on all the matches. See them here, here, here, here, and here.
Joel Singerman is following carefully.
Happily, Laura still has plenty to say here, here, and here.
Here’s Betsy of Fuse#Eight with her recap of week two!
This Grrl Reads is paying attention she weighed in thoughtfully about Round 1 Match 8.
Christina Rodriguez gave us a shout-out.
Jessica Leader pointed out Julius Lester’s decision as an example of the Battle.
Brain Lair’s Round Two Picks.
Sondy considers the first round.
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan Hyperion Press The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge HarperCollins Judged by Angela Johnson
Okay, I have to admit I didn’t have a stellar beginning with all of this. Sometimes I actually wonder how I get myself into these predicaments. I don’t of course mean the fun predicament of reading books and picking my favorite. I mean my ongoing predicament in not reading enough divergent literature genres. I do have problems getting comfortable with dystopic literature. Yes, I’m one of those. I usually only read contemporary fiction.
Well I try—I swear, to read the urban fantasies my niece leaves on the couch. I try to get into the sci-fi and adventure books kids tell me I should be reading. I used to read more non-fiction . . . I’m stubborn (yeah right) and find it difficult to get out of my book rut. So at the start I held my breath and imagined I wouldn’t have to put my toes in too deep off my usual reading pool. I’m not proud of it, mind you. I’m not adventurous by nature, or did you already guess that?
But I must say The Last Olympian was an easy thrill ride. There was not one time that I was confused by plot or anything that came before in the previous books (which I’d never read). I giggled and laughed out loud while rudely reading it instead of talking to my house guests. I loved Percy and his …
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman Henry Holt The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly Henry Holt Judged by M.T. Anderson
DARWIN VS. TATE: MANO A MANO (with opposable thumbs)
In last year’s Battle of the Books, judges fretted about comparing apples to oranges. That’s not my problem. I’m forced to compare apples to apples: two books about scientific investigation, Darwinism, and large families, both with yellow foolscap covers ornamented with Victorian silhouettes. One book is fiction (Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate) and one is non-fiction (Charles and Emma: Darwin’s Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman). So here they are – if not the same species, then at least, er, a case of convergent evolution resulting in paired traits appearing in separate clades. So let’s hit it, kiddies: Darwin vs. Tate! ** Survival of the fittest! ** Mano a mano with opposable thumbs!
How do we make a comparison and choose a “winner”? A judge from last year told me that the purpose of this exercise is to show people what authors talk about when we talk about books. (??? Because, you know, we have that obtruse way of talking about books, as we stroll together in our vast estates, murmuring, surrounded by topiary clipped into the forms of our characters … I, myself, sit in a gazebo under a box-tree that’s in the shape of Octavian Nothing.)
So when authors talk about Literature, what are our probing literary questions, typically? Well, they go something like …
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan Arthur A. Levine Books When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead Wendy Lamb Books Judged by Julius Lester
Reading is subjective. What one experiences in a book, how much of a book one understands depends on what one brings to the act of reading. This is often illustrated in book reviews. One reviewer of a recent novel of mine wrote that the characters were stereotypes. Another reviewer of the same book wrote that the characters were brilliantly drawn. Book reviews often say much more about the reviewer than the book being reviewed.
This prelude is my way of saying that I am not the ideal reader of the 2010 Newbery winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. For me, reading is relational, an act in which I spend time with the characters in a novel and its author. Essential in creating this relationship is the voice(s) in which the story is told. The first person narrator of When You Reach Me, is Miranda, a sixth grader growing up in New York City. For whatever reasons Miranda’s voice did not engage me, and thus, neither did the story Miranda is telling. I did enjoy the descriptions of growing up on the upper West Side of Manhattan in 1979, and what it’s like to be a child growing up in such a milieu. I enjoyed that there was a black character whose race is mentioned in passing. I suspect that my inability to …