Archive for February, 2019

Sonderling Sunday! The Party Was Over.

Monday, February 18th, 2019

Believe it or not, it’s time for Sonderling Sunday!

Sonderling Sunday is that time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

But you may well ask, Sonderling Sunday, where have you been? Hasn’t it been almost a year since your last post?

That’s right — it’s been far too long. But in case you hadn’t heard, last year I had this little activity of being on the Newbery Committee and basically that was eating up every minute, forcing me to read children’s books whenever I could find the time. (I know, twist my arm!) But one very good thing that did go by the wayside was Sonderling Sunday.

And I didn’t even manage to finish going through Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge before I went on hiatus!

This book, with the original title The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy, is the book that started it all. And I am so close to the end! Last time we left off on page 334 in the original edition, Seite 424 auf Deutsch.

There are some fun ones on this page. Surely you can find a reason to say these things, right?

“fawning psychoanalysts” = kriecherischen Psychoanalytikern

“guffawed” = johlte

“a venerable therapist” = ein ehrwürdiger Therapeut

“you hit the nail on the head!” = Sie haben den Nagel auf den Kopf getroffen!

“cooed a spinster nurse” = gurrte Eine altjüngferliche Krankenschwester

“Take it down a notch.” =
Schalten Sie einen Gang runter.
(“Switch you a gear down.”)

Okay, I need to see how they handled this one:
“Why, you’re a regular ding-a-ling ding-dang-doodle, Belgian Prankster!” chirped a young doctor. “A first-class, blue-ribbon, dippity-doopity ding-a-ling ding-dang-doodle, and you can take that to the bank! Huh, fellas?”
=
»Also wirklich, Sie sind ein echter Kni-Kna-Knüller, Belgischer Scherzkeks«, zirpte eine junge Ärztin. »Ein erstklassiger, ausgezeichneter Kni-Kna-Kno-Knüller, darauf können Sie Gift nehmen! Stimmt’s, Jungs?«

(Hmmm. They seem to have translated “dippity-doopity” as Kno. Doesn’t seem quite as creative to me.)

“Esteemed doctors” = Hochgeschätzte Doktoren

“You got us that time, I’ll give you that!” = Sie uns aber wirklich drangekriegt, das muss ich Ihnen lassen!

“zinger” = Hammer

“What have you done to them?” = Was haben Sie mit ihnen gemacht?

“rigors of the workday” = strapaziösen Arbeitstag

“at random” = willkürlich

The German is so much more specific:
“She bit her cheek.”
= Sie biss sich auf die Innenseite der Wange.
(“She bit herself on the inside of her cheek.”)

“empty jest” = hohlen Witz

“unnecessary” = überflüssig
(“superfluous,” “over-fluid”)

Let’s finish with that important sentence:
“The party was over.”
= Der Party war vorbei.

That’s all for tonight, and I must say, it’s good to be back! One of the things that I think is so much about this pseudo-phrasebook is that we’ve gone through almost the entire book — and I’m guessing I haven’t given away the plot at all. I have given away how much James Kennedy likes to play with language, though.

Here’s wishing my readers a Kni-Kna-Kno-Knüller of a week!

Review of Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Blood Water Paint

by Joy McCullough

Dutton Books, 2018. 304 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 16, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.
2019 Morris Award Finalist
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 General Teen Fiction

Wow. This book is amazing.

Now, the central event of the book is a rape – so I, personally, don’t think that’s “presentation for a child audience” [though that is only my personal opinion and I haven’t discussed it with anyone else on the Newbery committee]. But by the time I figured that out, there was absolutely no way I was going to stop reading.

This is a verse novel, which usually I don’t have a lot of patience with. But this verse spoke with a compelling voice that pulled me in immediately.

We have the perspective of Artemisia Gentileschi, who was seventeen years old in 1611 in Rome. Her mother died when she was twelve. She worked for her father, an artist, grinding pigments, preparing paint – and creating paintings for him, even though they bore his name.

In that world, women were used by men. Her mother had told her stories of the ancient heroines Susanna and Judith – they stood up to men and were vindicated, though it was not easy for them. Those stories, woven through the book, are the only parts that are not written in poetry. Yet they quickly make you feel what it must have been like for those ancient women – in a way that men who have never felt powerless cannot understand.

And then a young man hired to teach Artemisia perspective rapes her. And she tells the world what he did – but the resulting trial comes at great cost to Artemisia.

The powerless woman, used by men, stands up to the powerful, like Susanna and Judith before her. Though none of them spoke up without cost.

And the amazing part is that Artemisia is an actual woman, an artist, and her trial in 1611 actually happened.

Being verse, this book is not long. But its effect is long-lasting indeed.

They tell me I know
about perspective now.
Too well.
They say I’m standing
at the start of a long road,
looking out into the distance.
What do I see?

joymccullough.com
PenguinTeen.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/blood_water_paint.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Girl Who Drew Butterflies, by Joyce Sidman

Friday, February 15th, 2019

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies

How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science

by Joyce Sidman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 144 pages.
Starred Review
Review written March 7, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.
2019 Sibert Medal Winner for best children’s nonfiction book of the year
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

This book has a prologue, with the heading, “The Girl in the Garden.” Quoting from it will tell you the background of Maria Merian’s life.

A girl kneels in her garden. It is 1660, and she has just turned thirteen: too old for a proper German girl to be crouching in the dirt, according to her mother. She is searching for something she discovered days ago in the chilly spring air. As she combs the emerald bushes, she looks for other telltale signs – eggs no bigger than pinpricks, or leaf edges scalloped by the jaws of an inching worm. . . .

But for years she has gathered flowers for her stepfather’s studio, carried them in, and arranged them for his still-life paintings. She has studied the creatures that ride on their petals: the soft green bodies of caterpillars, the shiny armor of beetles, the delicate wings of moths. She has looked at them closely, sketched and painted them. In learning the skills of an artist, she has learned to look and watch and wonder.

Imagine this girl, forbidden from training as either a scholar or a master artist because she is female. Aware that in nearby villages women have been hanged as witches for something as simple as showing too much interest in “evil vermin.”

Yet she is drawn to these small, mysterious lives. She does not believe the local lore: that “summer birds,” or butterflies, creep out from under the earth. She thinks there is a connection between butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and the rumpled brown cocoon before her, and she is determined to find it.

This is her story.

The biography that follows tells of a woman far ahead of her times. She was both an artist and a scientist. She was an artist because she assisted her father and her husband and learned from them – she wouldn’t have been able to study on her own merits. She was a scientist by virtue of her own patient observations. She learned which caterpillars transformed into which moths or butterflies and which cocoon or chrysalis went with each.

She made her observations known by painting them. She would paint creatures on the same plant where she found them, and she would paint a butterfly with its egg, caterpillar, pupa, and chrysalis in the same picture.

This book is lavishly illustrated with Maria Merian’s own paintings as well as photographs of caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. Quotations from Maria’s writings are included, set off in a box and printed in script. Every spread has something colorful to catch the eye.

The structure of Maria’s biography follows the life cycle of a butterfly, with chapter titles: “Egg,” “Hatching,” “First Instar,” “Second Instar,” “Third Instar,” “Fourth Instar,” “Molting,” “Pupa,” “Eclosing,” “Expanding,” “Flight,” and “Egg” again. Joyce Sidman has written a poem for each chapter, placed next to a photo of a caterpillar or butterfly at that stage.

Maria’s unique combination of observation plus art left a mark that affected scientists after her. After her death, Carl Linnaeus used her book to classify and name more than one hundred insects – names we still use today.

The exquisite paintings and detailed photographs make this a beautiful book worth browsing – even if it weren’t packed with facts about an important scientist, a woman far ahead of her time.

joycesidman.com
hmhco.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/girl_who_drew_butterflies.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book sent by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Dreamers

by Yuyi Morales

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2018. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2018, from an advance F & G.
2019 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 General Picture Books

Oh, this is such a gorgeous and timely book.

Mixing English and Spanish (without a glossary), Yuyi Morales tells her immigration story with glorious paintings and collages loaded with symbolism. A note at the back fills in the details.

She came to America with her baby, to get married. She felt bewildered and an outsider. She didn’t understand the language.

But almost the very center spread of the book is the place that changed both her and her child’s lives – the public library.

We see specific books on the shelves, but also wonders pouring out of the books she opens. All the rest of the spreads are about libraries and the wonders of books.

Thousands and thousands of steps
we took around this land,
until the day we found . . .

a place we had
never seen before.
Suspicious.
Improbable.

Unbelievable.
Surprising.

Unimaginable.

Where we didn’t need to speak,
we only needed to trust.
And we did!

Books became our language.
Books became our home.
Books became our lives.

We learned to read,
to speak,
to write,
and
to make
our voices heard.

The text alone doesn’t do this book justice. The joy of the mother and child as the world and imagination opens up is glorious to behold.

In the note, where she fills in details of her story, she explains that her child was not a Dreamer in the political way the word is used today, about undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Kelly and I were Dreamers in the sense that all immigrants, regardless of our status, are Dreamers: we enter a new country carried by hopes and dreams, and carrying our own special gifts, to build a better future. Dreamers and Dreamers of the world, migrantes soñadores.

Now I have told you my story. What’s yours?

She includes a list of books that inspired her at the back.

Oh, such a lovely book! And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a song of thanks to libraries.

HolidayHouse.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/dreamers.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Flight of Swans, by Sarah McGuire

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

The Flight of Swans

by Sarah McGuire

Carolrhoda Books, 2018. 441 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 30, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
Mock Newbery winner at City of Fairfax Regional Library
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Children’s Fiction – Fantasy

Wow. Most of my readers know I love fairy tale retellings – this is a wonderful one, completely pulling me into the fantasy world, getting my very heart beating along with the protagonist, who tried to be silent for six years.

The fairy tale it’s retelling is the Grimm tale, “The Six Swans.” That was never my favorite fairy tale – but I think it’s interesting that my favorite fairy tale retelling for adults, Daughter of the Forest, is based on the same tale. This version is written for children, and doesn’t have quite as brutal things happen to the silent sister, but it’s equally powerful.

I reread the fairy tale after reading this book, and almost wish I hadn’t. The author retained the main elements – six older brothers turned into swans by the witch who enchanted and married the princess’s father, and she has to stay silent for six years, while knitting them shirts made out of nettles. But oh! The way she tells the story! I want to start reading it all over again. I’m actually a bit resentful that I need to keep reading other books. But the Newbery process being what it is – I know that I will read this book more times, and that’s a comfort to me.

Okay, I should tell about the book, not just rave about how good it is.

The book begins with Andaryn trying to fight her father’s enchantment:

The exile of the princes of Lacharra didn’t begin with swords or spells.

It began inside the castle kitchen with a quest for cloves.

It began with me.

Cooks mistrust anyone with empty hands, so I darted to the nearest table and snatched up a bowl of chopped leeks. Then I shouldered between scullery maids and undercooks as I moved toward the spice pantry.

Perhaps I was foolish. Maybe Father was just sick after being lost so many weeks in the forest. Maybe it was normal for a man newly married to hardly speak to the daughter he’d loved –

Then I remembered last night: Rees, the stable master, and the stable boy being beaten while Father looked on with empty eyes.

Something had happened to Father in the forest. He never would have allowed a beating for violating such a small edict, even if the woman he’d married had issued it.

Whatever she banned must be important – even if it was something as simple as cloves.

Andaryn secures some cloves and brings her father out of the enchantment – for a little while. But the Queen comes upon them together and quickly destroys Andaryn’s efforts. When Andaryn breaks the glamour her six older brothers feel for the Queen, her victory doesn’t last. The Queen locks them up, burning down the oldest brother’s castle with the brothers locked in the dungeon.

Andaryn bargains for their lives with her silence.

Finally, she spoke. “It would be a great sacrifice to release your brothers. I would expect something great in return: one year of silence for each of them. Not a word spoken,” she raised a finger, “and not a word written, either, for a word that’s written can be spoken. The moment you consent is the moment they are free.

Andaryn consents, and the Queen does set them free – but turns them into swans. They will take human form again only on the night of the full moon each month.

And so begins Andaryn’s journeys, in silence. It turns out it’s not enough to find a place to shelter, because the Queen sets otherworldly Huntsmen out after her.

The journeys aren’t as solitary as in the fairy tale, for her oldest brother’s wife accompanies Andaryn for some of the years. And there is a child to tend, as in the fairy tale – but the baby is her oldest brother’s son, the heir of the kingdom. And yes, the princess is discovered by the king of another country, but she still can’t speak.

Andaryn starts out as a 12-year-old determined princess. She ends the book as an 18-year-old young lady who has learned to be strong as steel through her suffering. A magnificent story.

lernerbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/flight_of_swans.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of West, by Edith Pattou

Friday, February 8th, 2019

West

by Edith Pattou

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 514 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 13, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Speculative Teen Fiction

I was so excited when I found out West was coming out! I still remember, approximately 15 years ago when I was working at Sembach Library and a shipment of new books came in that included East, by Edith Pattou and The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale – two fairy tale retellings that ended up being my two favorite books of the year. I ordered my own personal copy of both of them, I liked them both so much. The Goose Girl has become the start of an entire series since then, but this is the very first follow-up to East.

Since this is my Newbery committee year, I didn’t get to reread East before reading West as I would have liked to do. But I remembered the basics, from the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” Rose went off with a white bear to save her family, but used a candle to try to see his face and then had to travel east of the sun, west of the moon. In the end, she had to defeat the Troll Queen in order to save him. They were supposed to live happily ever after.

But in this book, we learn that the Troll Queen is not dead. And she’s ready to get revenge, not only on Rose and Charles, but on the entire human race.

Like the fairy tale it all began with, this book is something of a saga. Rose and Charles now have a baby boy and an adopted daughter. As the book begins, Rose was visiting her family in Trondheim while Charles was performing as a court musician in Stockholm. But word comes that there has been a shipwreck of the ship Charles was taking home. There’s something off about the report.

In this book, it’s very much a case of one thing leading to another. Rose ends up taking a journey every bit as taxing as the one that took her east of the sun, west of the moon. Again her quest requires ingenuity, perseverance, and resourcefulness.

But it also requires help from others. Once she finds Charles (that’s the first difficult part), he helps. But so do her brother Neddy and her friend Sib, and so does Estelle, the little girl they adopted, who is kidnapped by the Troll Queen along with their son and watches over him. It turns out she also needs help from the Fates themselves.

The journey takes Rose in every direction on the compass in her quest to save her beloved husband, then her son, and even all humankind.

The Troll Queen is a formidable opponent and frightening in her power and her hatred. But Rose has something stronger in the power of love.

This is another gripping adventure saga with all the resonance of a fairy tale.

edithpattou.com
hmhco.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/west.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Announcing the 2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

This year, I’ve got to explain myself. Most years I post my Stand-outs from all the books I read the previous year on January 1st. But this year, I was on the 2019 Newbery Committee, and could not say one word about eligible books online until after our announcement was made.

I did, however, make my list of stand-outs on January 1st. So this list was made before I had discussed any books with the committee or even reread very many — after which, I gained new appreciation for many of them and noticed new drawbacks in others. Thus, the opinions are mine and mine alone. And I was only one-fourteenth of the committee.

Also, please don’t think that you can figure out from this list which books I nominated or voted for when the committee met. I’m making absolutely no claim that these books are the most distinguished books of 2018. These are simply my personal favorites after a year of reading — the books that stood out in my mind after reading like never before, and the books that won a place in my heart, even though they might have some flaws that would keep them from being declared to have the most literary merit.

I’m posting more Stand-outs this year than ever before. That’s because I read more books than ever before! In fact, I made more categories than ever before, the better to honor more books. I’m of the Spread the Book Love Around persuasion, so I like to honor lots of books — but this is still only a small fraction of the books I read this year.

In fact, as usual, I’ll post my stats. In 2018, while serving on the Newbery committee, I read:

4 novels for adults (all on audiobook)
38 nonfiction books for adults (some on audiobook)
49 novels for teens
174 children’s novels
207 books of children’s nonfiction (many picture books among them)
595 fiction picture books
13 books reread

So you can see I’m actually being very choosy in naming all these Stand-outs!

And I highly recommend every single one of these books.

Here’s the list of 2018 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

Of course, not all the books will be reviewed on the day I post this, since I also couldn’t post any reviews until after our announcement was made. My plan is to keep posting reviews of these books until I have them all posted — then start in on posting 2019 reviews, but fill in with 2018 reviews as needed. Since I have 314 reviews of 2018 books not yet posted (That was how I took notes on the first reading of books), I will not lack for reviews for a long time to come!

So if you want to read reviews of all these Stand-outs, just keep checking back for the next few weeks. I think you’ll find books you’ll enjoy very much!

Review of The Book of Boy, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Friday, February 8th, 2019

The Book of Boy

by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
illustrations by Ian Schoenherr

Greenwillow Books, 2018. 278 pages.
Starred Review
2019 Newbery Honor Book
Review written March 7, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.

[Disclaimer: This review was written before I ever discussed the book with the Newbery committee and after only my first reading. The opinions expressed are only mine, and only my first impression.]

After reading the first few chapters of this book, I thought I’d stumbled on a book that had the same basic story as The Journey of Little Charlie, by Christopher Paul Curtis – except in Little Charlie the young innocent was forced to journey with and help a slave catcher, and in The Book of Boy the young innocent was forced to journey with and help a relic thief.

But I was quite wrong. Although The Book of Boy started out this way, the story that followed was completely different from anything I’d read before.

Yes, Boy is young and innocent. He’s a hunchback and doesn’t like the way people are afraid of him and call him a monster. The book is set in medieval Europe, just after a Pestilence has gone through the land. A pilgrim demands his aid in carrying a pack. Boy thinks they are going to protect a relic of Saint Peter, but it turns out the pilgrim will use Boy to steal more relics.

We learn some interesting things about Boy and about the pilgrim along the way. The pilgrim can’t touch any relics of St. Peter, but for Boy, the relic already in the pack warms him and makes it so people don’t notice his hump. Every morning when Boy wakes up, no matter where they have camped, animals curl up and sleep with him. What’s more, after a while we realize all the talking Boy does to animals isn’t just rhetorical. Animals understand Boy and talk to him as well.

Secundus the pilgrim wants to gather seven relics of St. Peter, and he has a compelling reason. And although he is indeed a thief, he grows under our skin as their journey continues.

But Secundus the pilgrim doesn’t win us over as fully as Boy does. He is indeed a young innocent forced to help with thievery – but he learns things along the way about his own true nature which are most surprising.

This is ultimately an uplifting book, full of details about life in medieval times. You’ll enjoy the company of the good-hearted Boy, who can talk with animals and is very surprising.

Here’s what the Newbery committee had to say about this book: “From Murdock’s first line, readers are swept into an epic quest across Europe in 1350 with Boy and a mysterious pilgrim, adventuring to recover seven relics of St. Peter. Layered characters from goats to nuns, lyrical language, and multiple reveals combine to create this powerful story of redemption.”

catherinemurdock.com
epicreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/book_of_boy.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Newbery Notes – Choosing the Winner!

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

I’m back from ALA 2019 Midwinter Meeting in Seattle – and the culmination of more than a year of work on the Newbery committee! So it’s time to give some last notes about the process.

The content of our discussions is top secret, and I can never reveal what was said. But an outline of how things went is fine.

I arrived on Thursday, January 24. That evening, those of us who were there met for dinner. We learned that we were down one person, so only 14 of us would be deliberating. But we did learn that the member who’d had a baby the previous Saturday was still going to make it! She left her baby with her husband and mother and was coming only the minimum possible time, leaving Sunday before the announcement.

Friday morning, we met in a locked room beginning at 8:00 am. ALSC sent a copy of all the nominated books in a locked trunk. Only our chair, Ellen Riordan, had the key.

The rest of us were assigned some books to bring a second copy of. Only books nominated by the committee were discussed. But we each had 7 nominations. That was a lot of books! (But I won’t say how many. Minimum possible was 7 and maximum 98. We were somewhere in the middle.)

We put all the books on the table. Our mission that first day was to reduce the number. We did discuss all the books. Then we decided which ones to eliminate.

I wasn’t actually well-prepared for that step. It is in the manual — but the procedure isn’t as defined ahead of time, so I had overlooked it. It was hard to let some of the books go, though we made clear that we honored all of the books and appreciated what wonderful books they were. In fact, some of us channeled Marie Kondo and thanked the books as we put them back in the trunk.

Fortunately, we had a Deliberation Giraffe on hand to hug when we were mourning the departure of a loved book.

The next day, we had far fewer books to discuss. Again, I can’t say how many. But discuss them we did! In much greater detail than the day before.

And eventually, we made our choice. It was not easy, and we were there from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. We ordered lunch in and only had a short break for dinner. But before the day was done — we had chosen a winner and two honor books.

The next day, we wrote our press releases. We put stickers on the winning books and took them to the ALA Press Office, heavily wrapped up. I loved the “Ooooo” that came out of the woman who received the books.

We got a picture of the full committee including Emily, who was going home to her baby that evening.

Then Monday was the day of celebration, the reward for all our labor. We arrived at 5:50 am to call the winning authors. I was very glad to still be on east coast time!

They first put us in a tiny closet, but the phone there didn’t work, so they moved us to a beautiful conference room. We called all the authors and got to hear the moment when their lives changed. (We didn’t consider this, but I loved it that all three are first-time honorees.) It took three tries to reach Meg Medina, the Medal winner, and she was heart-touchingly eloquent, so thankful, realizing that there’s not much separating all the books, and so happy that we loved Merci, and excited for what this would mean to Latino girls and boys.

The wonderful thing about the conference room was that we stayed there after the phone calls were done. Many times during the process, Ellen had gone around the room and asked us how we were feeling. We did that one more time — and it was especially meaningful, talking about the journey we’d been on all year. Some members of the committee had an especially challenging year, and we were so glad they made it through. (We were missing the two who started the journey but weren’t able to finish, even though the person who stepped into the gap had done a fine job.) Ellen expressed appreciation to each one of us, and we were all feeling so thankful to be part of this distinguished group of people.

Then came the Youth Media Awards, beginning at 8:00, when all the awards were announced, Newbery last.

Remember how I was sad to see books go earlier? Well, the Youth Media Awards really mitigated that sadness. Remember that we read lots and lots of children’s and young adult books this year. That meant that a huge percentage of books that won awards — for both children’s and young adult — were books we had read and loved. And also a very high percentage were ones we had seriously considered for the Newbery. And, yes, some were ones I was personally a bit sad had not been chosen by us — and seeing them win other awards mitigated that sadness. Yay! Just because they weren’t in our committee’s top three didn’t mean they weren’t magnificent books.

This year there weren’t a lot of books that got multiple awards. And that made me happy. It shows that there were many wonderful books published this year and lots and lots of book love to spread around. In fact, our winners didn’t get any other awards — which makes me all the more glad they were chosen by us.

And finally came the moment we’d been waiting for — the announcement of the winner of the 2019 John Newbery Medal and two honor books.

After the announcement, I went to the publishers’ booths in the exhibit hall and got pictures with “our” winners.

I am so happy about our choices! And looking forward to the banquet in June in Washington, D.C., when the awards will be presented and we’ll get to meet the authors.

Review of The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

The Night Diary

by Veera Hiranandani

Dial Books for Young Readers, March 2018. 267 pages.
Starred Review
Review written December 3, 2017 from an Advance Reader Copy.
2019 Newbery Honor Book

[Disclaimer: This review was written before I ever discussed the book with the Newbery committee and after only my first reading. The opinions expressed are only mine, and only my first impression.]

The Night Diary is set in a time I knew nothing about: 1947 India, the part that became Pakistan.

Nisha and her twin brother Amil live with her Papa and his mother Dadi and their beloved Kazi, the cook. Their mother died when giving birth to the twins. They are twelve now, and Nisha is writing letters to her Mama in a diary that Kazi gave her.

Nisha’s Mama was a Muslim, but her Papa is Hindu and they live as Hindu, but Kazi is Muslim. Many didn’t want her parents to get married, but they moved to a place where all religions lived together peaceably. That is about to change.

When the British left India, it was decided that they should partition India into two countries – Pakistan for Muslims and India for the remaining religions, particularly Hindus. So Nisha and her family need to move.

Nisha’s father is a doctor and he listens to the ideas promoted by Gandhi. He lingers in their town probably longer than they should. Eventually, their journey to cross the border into India is fraught with danger. They have many brushes with death.

On top of this, Nisha has trouble speaking to anyone who is not family. This will add to her challenges on the road.

This book is based on the author’s father’s family’s experiences at the same time. It adds power that this story of refugees is based in truth.

Sadly, refugee stories are always timely. As are stories about conflict between religions. I like the way Gandhi’s ideas of religions living peacefully together are included – though still showing the nonsensical side of hatred based only on religion.

This is a powerful story, including brushes with death, but it’s all told from a child’s eyes and in a way a child can understand.

Here’s what the Newbery committee said about the book: “Following introspective Nisha and her family as they flee their homeland for an uncertain future, Hiranandani illuminates the 1947 partition of India with unprecedented balance and sensitivity. Through spare evocative diary entries addressed to her late mother, Nisha discovers the complex beauty of her Hindu-Muslim identity.”

veerahiranandani.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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