If a book wins an award, you might feel more comfortable recommending it to your students for book reports or just reading for fun. What about this year’s Newbery and Prinz award winners? Do you think you might want to add them to your classroom library? Read on and see if I can help you decide.
The Association of Library Service to Children awards the Newbery Medal each year to the author of the book that it feels is the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. It defines children as those up to and including age 14. This year Jack Gantos won the medal for his book Dead End in Norvelt.
Dead End in Norvelt is a story about a town whose residents are fleeing in droves, a bunch of mysterious deaths, and a boy who gets nosebleeds whenever he is upset, scared, or overly emotional. The 12-year-old main character of the book, who shares the name “Jack Gantos” with the author, is a sweet kid who tries to follow his heart but who constantly gets into trouble.
Much of Jack’s trouble is a result of the adults in his life, who often do all kinds of crazy and often illegal things, dragging Jack along with them. The book is definitely full of humor that might appeal to boys—the very detailed description of the nosebleeds, for example—though the same boys might be less interested in all the historical information. I enjoyed reading the book, although it felt like the kind of book I could take my time on, and I never felt that I just had to know what was coming next.
The American Library Association awards The Michael L. Prinz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature to the book that it feels is the year’s best written for teens. These books are generally intended to appeal to young adults ages 12 to 18, so are definitely meant for an older audience than the Newbery Award winners. This year’s Prinz award winner is Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.
Now this is the kind of book that I had a hard time putting down. Part of it was that in the story, the brother of the main character has gone missing, and I really, really wanted to know what happened to him. Where Things Come Back is another book that takes place in a small town, a town in which the sighting of a long-extinct woodpecker is poised to change the lives of everyone in it. It is a book that would probably be more appropriate for older teens, as there are a number of adult situations. It’s a story of loss and family and friendship. The main character, Cullen, is flawed and very much a teenager, and I found myself really hoping his life would get better.
Where Things Come Back begins with two different stories from two different points of view. At the beginning, it seems like the stories couldn’t possibly have anything to do with one another. One begins in a small Arkansas town while the other begins with a missionary in Ethiopia. It is not until the end of the novel that these stories come together, and it all begins to make sense. The book is sad and tragic at times, but I found myself really rooting for Cullen and hoping for a happy ending.