Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The 2017 Newbery Winners!

Yesterday I shared my (and my students') reactions about the Caldecott Awards announcements, so today I'd like to celebrate this year's Newbery winners.

Newbery Honor Books 2017

Freedom Over Me: eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryant. This unique book fuses reality with historical fiction, as author, poet, and artist Ashley Bryant creates personalities, backgrounds, and dreams from a list of 11 slaves from an actual historic document. My one critique is that I would have liked more details for further reading for kids interested in his research and documentation.

The Inquisitor's Tale: or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (2016) by Adam Gidwitz and illuminated by Hatem Aly. The ARC for this book was one of the big events at #nErDcampMI this summer, and I devoured the book almost immediately upon getting home. The big downside of the ARC however, was that it was missing most of the incredible illuminations, which pack a powerful punch along with the story.

The Inquisitor's Tale is told as an homage to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with various narrators picking up the story while sitting around in an Inn. Each narrator brings something different to unfolding tale of three very different children who suddenly find themselves together (and eventually facing off against the King). There are many important lessons about friendship, religious tolerance, and the power of words and books ... plus much hilarity (and a flatulent dragon).

Wolf Hollow (2016) by Lauren Wolk. Another from my TBR pile for our Mock NewberyWolf Hollow has all the classic hallmarks of a Newbery-winning book: a strong, young protagonist, dangerous situations, and evocative settings and language. I just still can't make up my mind whether it worked or not. The book has very strong overtones of To Kill a Mockingbird with a bit of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate thrown in (or is it just that cover?). I wanted to like it (and I really did at times) but at other times I just felt like I'd read this story before. This one was not on my personal Newbery short list.

Newbery Winner for 2017 is ...

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2016) by Kelly Barnhill was far-and-away my favorite book of this past year. I received an ARC of this book at #nErDcampMI and proceeded to devour it almost immediately. It is an incredibly well-crafted tale set in a familiar fantasy setting - the small town, the downtrodden inhabitants, the problematic ancient traditions. But as soon as the perspective shifts from the villagers to the feared witch in the woods, the reader realizes that there is quite a bit more going on within this story.

The characters are delightful, and there were so many lines that made me laugh out loud. Expectations are overturned, and the more of a background you have in fairy tales and folktales, the more there is to appreciate. The book is being marketed to the upper half of middle grade, and I think that it will find readers and fans among a wide-range of ages and grade levels.

In addition to the book, Entertainment Weekly published a brief, two-part prequel: read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Which was your favorite book this year?

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