Monday, October 01, 2007

The next Newbery honor book...

Okay, I've said enough bad things about the Newbery that this might not seem like a compliment. Gennifer Choldenko's If a Tree Falls at Lunchtime was too enjoyable to WIN a Newbery, but quirky/dysfunctional/navel gazing enough to win an honor. I liked the themes of self-acceptance/not fitting in, identity, and acceptance of others, but the big "surprise" plot twist was a bit over the top for it to be believable. (Won't give it away, and since I worked at a school where a man's daughter and his illigitimate twins were in the same grade, it shouldn't be beyond belief.) I did like the well-developed characters, which went beyond stereotypical "fat kid" or "high acchieving black student" sketches. We'll see how it circulates.

Jerry Spinelli's Love, Stargirl didn't have the charm of the original, mainly because it is from Stargirl's point of view and felt a bit labored. If I remember Stargirl correctly, the charm there was that we could see the quirky things she did through the eyes of someone who slowly got to know her and understand her, and realize how she didn't fit into society. It made me think of all the quirky people I knew, and made me feel that perhaps I should have taken time to get to know them better. Love, Stargirl has Stargirl meeting a host of even quirkier characters-- an agoraphobic neighbor, a five year old named Dootsie, a deaf man who spends his days at the cemetary at his wife's grave, a well-to-do thief. All a bit much. Still, readers always love a sequel.

Karasyov and Kargman's Summer Intern was frothy fun, about a girl who interns at a fashion magazine. Since I recently was forced to watched The Devil Wears Prada, I could see some similarities. This book was not much different from some of the career romances from the '50s (I'm thinking Hatbox for Mimi in particular). There are some serious issues, character development, some values, but people are meaner now, and that ruins some of the enjoyment. The evil characters never really learn, although they do get their comeuppance. Cool cover.

My favorite was Cathy Cassidy's Sundae Girl. As always, this author does a fabulous job of showing children in tough circumstances, who nonetheless perservere and make it. Jude's grandmother has Alzheimer's and her mother descends once again into alcholism, while her father is getting remarried. Girls love problem novels, and I appreciate ones that show problems, but also strong girls dealing with them in the best way they can. I just wish that an American publisher would put out all of Cassidy's work in hardcover. I have to have the paperbacks rebound.

It looks like I need to read some "boy" books tomorrow, although If a Tree Falls... is not completely girly. Good unisex cover, and alternate chapters are from the boy's point of view. (I started Strasser's Boot Camp this morning, so that's got a very masculine cover!)

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