March 11, 2011

Newbery Watch List

The question from Crazy for Books this week is:
"If I gave you $80 and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the checkout?"
Funny, last night I made a list of all the books that I think might become Newbery contenders this year- and you know, my opinion is taken very seriously (see Bizzaro Newbery).  So, of course, these are the books I would buy.  I would take advantage of my 20% discount and tax free teacher discount! 

Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow
Devastated by Germany's conflict with the Soviet Union at the end of WWII, Mikhail, 13, and his family are struggling to survive in their rural Russian community, where everything German is hated and Mikhail's father is missing in action. When the family shelters a beautiful German shepherd (they call her Zasha), they know they will be called traitors, but they bond with the beautiful dog, and they save her life by hiding her. Then they discover that she is pregnant. Can they build a safe shelter for her and her pups without being detected? What about the spies who see dog hair on Mikhail's clothes? Mikhail's first-person account will grab readers with the physical details of training and protecting his beloved pet as well as the history of the devastating war and its aftermath. Mikhail's family does have a happy reunion, but Barrow reminds readers that so many others were not as lucky. A long historical note tells more about the abuse and misuse of dogs in warfare. Grades 4-7. --Hazel Rochman (From Booklist)

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Ever since Jack can remember, his mom has been unpredictable, sometimes loving and fun, other times caught in a whirlwind of energy and "spinning" wildly until it's over. But Jack never thought his mom would take off during the night and leave him at a campground in Acadia National Park, with no way to reach her and barely enough money for food. Any other kid would report his mom gone, but Jack knows by now that he needs to figure things out for himself - starting with how to get from the backwoods of Maine to his home in Boston before Social Services catches on. With nothing but a small toy elephant to keep him company, Jack begins the long journey south, a journey that will test his wits and his loyalties - and his trust that he may be part of a larger herd after all. (From Amazon)
The Visconti House by Elsabeth Edgar
Quiet Laura feels decidedly different from her classmates. Though an outsider herself, she initially lacks the courage to be seen with newcomer Leon, who lives near her home (known officially as the Visconti House and unofficially as the haunted house). Vacant before her parents bought it with plans to restore its faded grandeur someday, the shabby mansion begins to give up its many secrets when Laura and Leon join forces to explore the place and research its history. Convincing dialogue and well-drawn characters, both major and minor, bring energy to the story, which focuses on Laura, her slowly developing friendship with Leon, and the changes brought about by the experiences they share. The house's history tinges the quiet story with faded romance and sadness, but that tone is counterbalanced by the increasing vividness and confidence of Laura's character. A fine, sensitive first novel by an Australian writer. Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan (from Booklist)

War & Watermelon by Rich Wallace
It's the summer of 1969. We've just landed on the moon, the Vietnam War is heating up, the Mets are beginning their famous World Series run, and Woodstock is rocking upstate New York. Down in New Jersey, twelve-year-old Brody is mostly concerned with the top ten hits on the radio and how much playing time he'll get on the football team. But when he goes along for the ride to Woodstock with his older brother and sees the mass of humanity there, he starts to wake up to the world around him-a world that could take away the brother he loves. (From Amazon)

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone
Because of the bombing of London, 11-year-old Felicity is taken by her parents to live with relatives in Maine in 1941. She slowly adjusts to her new family, including Uncle Gideon, who teaches sixth grade at the local school; Aunt Miami, who lives and breathes Shakespeare; “The Gram,” Felicity’s grandmother; and Derek, a 12-year-old adopted orphan whose dreams of military service have been dashed by a bout with polio. Felicity’s engaging personality and curiosity about letters arriving from Portugal written in code “stir up the soup” of life in the Bathburn household, but only time will tell if that’s a good thing. In lyrical prose, Stone conjures up America on the brink of WWII through the eyes of a delightful British girl. The apprehensions of impending war are intermittently broken up by humor, mystery, romance, and literary allusions. Truly charming, this coming-of-age historical novel has an old-fashioned feel and will resonate with fans of Frances Hodgson Burnett and Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks books. Grades 5-8. --Melissa Moore (From Booklist)

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
Born with a cleft lip, Zulaikha struggles to feel worth in a society that values women by their marriage prospects: “What bride-price would Baba get for me? Maybe one Afghani?” Then, by chance, Zulaikha meets Meena, a former professor, who begins to teach her to read and write just as American soldiers arrive, bringing the chance for both more education and surgery to correct Zulaikha’s birth defect. Reedy based his debut on real people and places he encountered while serving with the National Guard in Afghanistan, and the extensive detail about Afghani customs gives the story the feel of a docu-novel while also creating a vivid sense of place and memorable characters. Reedy skillfully avoids tidy resolutions: the grim fate of Zulaikha’s sister, who is married to a much older man, offers a heartbreaking counterpoint to Zulaikha’s exciting new possibilities. A glossary of Dari phrases, an extensive author’s note, suggested-reading lists, and an introduction by Katherine Paterson complete this deeply moving view of a young girl caught between opportunity and tradition in contemporary Afghanistan. Grades 5-8. --Gillian Engberg (From Booklist)

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  1. Thanks! I'm sending this list to my teenage daughter, I think there are several on here she would really like.. and I want to read Small As An Elephant!

  2. Happy hop. What a great list. I'm not familiar with any of them.