Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Newbery Thoughts

My oldest daughter mentioned today - in disbelief- that I had not blogged since Wednesday. Honestly, I was in disbelief myself. It hasn't felt that long, and I've been busy at school basically keeping my head above water. I also noticed I have a lot of books due at the library and not many of them have even received more than a glance.

For some reason I decided to actually sit down and read this year's Newbery winner right away. Moon of Manifest, last year's winner, is still waiting to be read, so it feels good to be reading this while everyone is still talking about it. And, as I finished Dead End in Norvelt on Friday, I can now say I have read all three Newbery award books that were announced on Monday.

Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos' Newbery award winning book has been and will continue to be reviewed everywhere. I doubt I can add much to the reviews out there, but there were a few thoughts I had while reading:

1. First of all, a colleague also read this book, and was commenting to me on how surprised she was that this was "the one." She has noticed that in many of the new childrens books being published authors have an agenda....yes, these books entertain, but there is vocabulary being taught in a more blatant way (not just included in the text, but often as part of the story or as a chapter title), and Dead End in Norvelt also made a point of teaching history as well.

2. When I started reading I had visions that this was a Bill Bryson book for kids. While Bryson writes non-fiction and Dead End in Norvelt is fiction, the main character is Jack Gantos. The setting is Norvelt, the town the real Jack Gantos grew up in.

3. I found this book very funny, but I don't think kids will. A lot of this book would totally go over my students' heads. In fact out of the five classes I book talked this to, only one student new what an obituary was. (I was explaining that Jack helps an elderly lady write obituaries because her hands are arthritic he becomes her typist). One class actually thought that the word obituary was a bad word which was sort of distracting since each time I said the word a group of boys was nearly beside themselves.

4. The Newbery selection committee did select a book that will stand the test of time. I can see people fifty years from now reading and enjoying this book. I just don't think this will be elementary students.

5. I would even happily re-read this book (a rare occurrence) because I feel like there is plenty in this book that I missed or could appreciate more by re-reading.

6. Norvelt in 1962 is an interesting town full of an eclectic group of people that were fully captivating to me.

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