Monday, January 9, 2012

SLJ's Heavy Medal Shortlist Vote

Tomorrow morning, thousands of children's literature enthusiasts and regular Heavy Medal contributors and participants, will flock to the site and place their "Top 3" votes for the 10 titles on Heavy Medal's Mock Newbery shortlist. Okay, maybe not thousands but maybe hundreds . . .!

The three I will be voting for . . .

First Place: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt. I read this book before I read many others this year and the bar was set very high. Troves of criticisms (many of which I personally found a bit trivial and trite) were brought to the table and upon two rereadings, the book's strengths were only strengthened in my eyes. Nothing else I've read this year even comes close in terms of style and voice. I will be enthusiastically giving this my first place vote tomorrow morning.

Second Place: THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA by Jennifer L. Holm. I fought as hard as I could to get TURTLE IN PARADISE the attention it deserved last year on Heavy Medal, that I think I approached my first reading of THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA with a little bias. Maybe I had my mind made up before I even opened the book. Rereading the book with my 5th graders confirmed that like OKAY FOR NOW, Ms. Holm's voice and character development here are as good, or in my opinion, better than any of the other shortlisted titles.

Which brings me to my third place vote . . . I really only felt strongly about my top two, and had mixed feelings about the remaining eight titles. There were some titles I could remove immediately from consideration, like THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE, which I finished last night. I recognized areas of strong writing, but overall, it's hard for me to argue this book's strengths when I feel that writing like this is all too often classified as "distinguished" when I'm not so sure it's not just "good".

I also can strike WONDERSTRUCK from the list (which I will get to in a whole other post). I had lots of issues with this title. At least when considering it for the Newbery Medal. In my opinion HEART AND SOUL was far too big and I can't bring myself to vote for SIR GAWAIN when I don't even feel that it's in the top 3 of books of its own kind (easy readers like THE TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS, TOYS COME HOME, and CLEMENTINE AND THE FAMILY MEETING).

That left me with four titles:

While I feel that Jonathan Hunt valiantly argued I BROKE MY TRUNK's rightful place in this discussion, I still feel like a vote for it would be settling for diversity in genre and titles and not necessarily a vote for the most distinguished text. Same with THE MONEY WE'LL SAVE, which I did find to be very smart and cleverly paced, but maybe I'm bothered by the reliance on pictures in both texts to really back either as a finalist.

Of the remaining two titles, I had to go with AMELIA LOST over A MONSTER CALLS. Patrick Ness is a brilliant writer. Parts of A MONSTER CALLS are beautiful. What tipped the scale toward Fleming's biography to me, is readability. I think the Newbery Medal should reward books that all children should read. I cannot say that A MONSTER CALLS is a book that all children should read. It's dark. Some of it's deepest themes, would mean nothing to a large population of children readers. AMELIA LOST, is a book that all children should read because it is a riveting, unique look at one of the most revered women our society has ever seen. Therefore I'd give my third place vote, to AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming.

Can't wait to see how the results turn out.

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