So yesterday, the ALA Book awards were announced. For me, this is a more exciting event than the Oscars, The Golden Globes or the Super Bowl. I was pleased that two of my favorites were chosen as Newbery Honor Books. (more about the Newbery Award later)
The War That Saved My Live. by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is a powerful novel that takes a unique focus on the second world war. Many children were being evacuated out of London and sent to live with families in safer areas of England. It’s a good novel for 4th-7th grade.
Ada narrates her story. She has a club foot and knows that she is different from other children. She can’t remember ever leaving her small London flat where she spends her days gazing out the window at the other children and families on their way to school and work. She knows that her mother is ashamed of her. Most people assume that Ada is slow minded. Ada has been gradually teaching herself to walk but it is a painful process.
When Ada learns that her brother Jamie’s class is being sent away from London to escape the bombs, she sees this as a grand opportunity. Ada and Jamie have lived in squalor for years. They catch the train with only the clothes on their backs. When they arrive at their location, all the children are lined up. People from the community arrive to take the other children into their homes but nobody choses Ada or Jamie.
The woman in charge takes them to the home of Susan Smith. Ms. Smith has been a recluse for years. She lets everyone know that she doesn’t like children or anyone else for that matter. She reluctantly agrees to take the children out of a sense of duty.
There are big changes for Ada and Jamie. They have to get used to things like baths, changes of clothing, underwear and pajamas. Susan takes them to the doctor where they are diagnosed with malnutrition and impetigo. Ada is granted greater mobility when she is given a pair of crutches. Since they are eating three meals a day, Jamie and Ada decide that Susan must be very rich.
Ada is a gutsy little girl. She and Jamie thrive under the care of Susan who immediately recognizes that Ada is intelligent even though she is not allowed to attend school. Susan teaches her to read. “That foot is a long way from your brain,” Susan tells her.
Ada becomes a valuable volunteer and makes new friends. She falls in love with a pony and learns to ride him using an old fashioned side saddle. She even helps capture a spy.
After years of neglect, Ada and Jamie have many struggles with their new life and there is always the threat of their mother who might come to claim them. This is a wonderful story of three people becoming a family even as the war wreaks havoc all around them.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a well-written graphic novel about the Roller Derby. Roller Girl is a good book for upper elementary and middle school.
When Astrid goes to the Roller Derby, she is instantly hooked. She is so excited about attending Roller Derby Camp. She is disappointed that her friend doesn’t want to join her. The camp is harder than she ever imagined, but Astrid pushes on in spite of falls and bruises.
Astrid also learns about friendship when she and her closest friend seem to be moving in different directions. Astrid learns to appreciate old and new friendships.
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan was also named a Newbery Honor Book. I have read two excellent books by this author, Becoming Naomi Leone (upper elementary) and Esperanza Rising (middle and high school). I am going to reserve this one today.
The Newbery Award is given to the book selected as the most outstanding contribution for children’s literature. This year’s winner is Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena. This story about a boy and his grandmother has lots of critical acclaim. Many predicted that it would win the Caldecott Award or The Coretta Scott King Award. Traditionally Newbery awards go to juvenile fiction and occasionally Young Adult Books. So I imagine this choice was a surprise to almost everyone. I will talk about it more when I get more time to look at the book.
The War That Saved My Life won the Odyssey Award for the best audio book production and Echo won the Odyssey Honor Awards. I highly recommend audio books. They can be great on long car trips. They are usually narrated by actors.