We started off in September by talking about the Newbery Award, what it is and how we look at books. Each year, librarians gather to discuss all of the books published for children in America that year and select the most distinguished. It isn't a popularity contest, but rather a chance to see which author creates distinctive characters, an engaging story, nuanced themes, a memorable setting. We talk about how they must look only at the words -- and so this means many of the graphic novels my students love won't be particularly eligible.
After reading throughout the fall, our students started nominating the eligible books they felt were most distinguished. It is creating terrific buzz around many amazing books. I just love the way kids are championing some books, convincing friends that they just have to read them. Below is our list of nominated books and a slideshow I share with all our classes.
- The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods
- Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
- The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
- Dash, by Kirby Larson
- The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm
- The Great Greene Heist, by Varian Johnson
- Half a Chance, by Cynthia Lord
- Life of Zarf, by Rob Harrell
- Magic in the Mix, by Annie Barrows
- Nest, by Esther Ehrlich
- The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier
- Nuts to You, by Lynne Rae Perkins
- The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney
- A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd
- The Swap, by Megan Shull
- The Witch’s Boy, by Kelly Barnhill
- The Zoo at the Edge of the World, by Eric Kahn Gale
Wow! Our students have nominated seventeen terrific titles. I particularly like how diverse this range of titles is--covering a wide range of writing styles, genres, and characters. We will work hard to compare books as different as The Crossover with Life of Zarf! But throughout our discussion, we will keep bringing it back to the qualities of good literature: characters, plot, setting, dialog, themes and language.
In early January, we will help them narrow this down to the books with the most readers -- so we can have an in-depth discussion comparing different books.
I hope you enjoy trying out some of these titles. They are books that speak to readers and create conversation. I couldn't ask for anything more.
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©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books