Saturday, January 8, 2011

My 2011 Newbery Award Winners

Last night my son's mock Newbery Book Club made their selections for what book they thought should win the 2011 Newbery Award.  I didn't want to influence his decision, so I've been keeping my opinions to myself.  However, since the actual awards will be announced Monday morning, I thought I would share my choices for this prestigious award for the best American book for middle school children published in 2010.

There are so many good books that it is hard to chose, but I finally came up with the following decision:

1.  Countdown by Deborah Wiles
This book gets my nod for the best book of the year because it does such a wonderful job of not only helping young readers experience a particular moment in American history (the Cuban Missile Crisis), but it explores a number of other societal issues (the aftermath of war, civil rights, individuality versus conformity) as well as the typical questions worrying the average middle schooler (Does he/she like me?  Is he/she really my best friend?  Can I fit in with the popular crowd?).  The characters are well drawn and interesting, the author does a great job of juggling and eventually tying together the multiple plot threads, and the conclusions of the different threads are satisfying and not predictable.  I also loved the pictures and quotes scattered through the book that also try to give the reader a better picture of life in the 1960's.  This book has stuck with me, and gets my vote for top book of the year.  (Click here to read my original review of the book.)

Then, in no particular order, my choices for Newbery Honor awards are:

You can see the reasons I liked these books in my original reviews, so I won't repeat them here.  Most of these are on many of the short lists of Mock Newbery clubs and others who are trying to predict the Newbery winner.  The one that isn't usually mentioned is The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.  I chose it over two other books that most people see as top Newbery contenders--Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (see my review here) and  Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper (see my review here).  Both of those are also great books; Mockingbird won the National Book Club best children's book award for 2010, and Out of My Mind was the favorite of both of the two area library Mock Newbery clubs.  However, I felt Mockingbird was really a teen read, but is a superior book to Out of My Mind.  But Origami Yoda contains a similar message, but delivers it in a lighter, humorous, much more accessible way.  Especially if you are trying to reach boys who aren't great readers...I just don't see them picking up books about dealing with the grief of a school shooting or trying to get into the head of a girl with Asperger's or quadriplegia.  And the concept is so original and appealing--I mean, who doesn't like Yoda?  And who ever imagined a talking origami puppet?  I think middle school students can really appeal to the situation of the kids in the book, and even the casual reader will be drawn in by the style and humor and stick around to the end for a great lesson.  Origami Yoda isn't the lengthy, serious tome that apparently is generally preferred by the Newbery Committee, but I think it is a terrific little book and deserves some recognition.  The other thing that sticks out is that I seem to have a thing going with the 1960's, since three of my five books deal with that time period.

Other than Origami Yoda, my top picks and my son's don't overlap (OY was one of his top five, but you can see his top three by clicking here to see his blog post).  He had a tougher job than I did, because he read three times as many Newbery possibilities as I did.  I have to say that I am really proud of him, because he read 42 potential Newbery books in his 8 months in the Newbery Club (which works out to about 1 1/4 Newbery book every week).

Now we just have to wait until Monday, when the official winners will be announced.


  1. You really nailed the quality books! You should be a judge next year! Thanks for your post; it's always fun to see what experts feel are front runners and it helps us moms get great new books for our kids!

  2. Thanks for your kind comment. This was my first year in even trying to read potential Newbery books, and it has been a really fun and valuable experience for me (even though my taste in these books and those on the committee seem to be on totally different tracks). But I'm realizing that it is good to read some Mom reviews in this 10-14/middle school range of books, because as I noted in quite a few of my book reviews, some of the content of some of these books is darker and more mature than I know my pre-teenager is really ready to deal with properly.