Mock Newberys abound at this time of year. Libraries, schools and bloggers all over the country are discussing books, trying to understand the Newbery criteria and, ultimately, picking a winner. The actual Newbery award will be announced on January 10, and then everyone can cheer or boo or scramble to get a copy. Some years, there’s an obvious frontrunner – many correctly picked Rebecca Stead‘s When You Reach Me in 2010. Other times the committee goes for an unknown – 2011′s winner, Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool wasn’t even in some library’s collections.
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt is many people’s front runner and is my personal pick. It’s 1968 and Doug Swieteck and his family have moved to a new town after his hard-drinking father was fired. Times are tough and Doug is struggling with many personal and family issues. The townsfolk are suspicious of Doug and his older brother after some break-ins. But Doug finds redemption at the local library and through the bird paintings of John James Audubon.
But like many popular things, there has been a backlash about Okay for Now. Some feel that there is one plot element too many, and there is a general feeling that the ending is unrealistic. I agree and this means the book is not perfect. But as far as I’m concerned, it is by far the best children’s book I’ve read this year. (Or at least the best eligible book – my favorite book, Frances Hardinge‘s Fly Trap cannot be considered for the Newbery as the author is British and does not live in America).
So what are the other books with buzz this year? Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming is a marvelous biography in a strong year for nonfiction, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (which Jessica wrote about recently) is an artistic tour de force and Icefall by Matthew Kirby and Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu are both extraordinary fantasies. A strong latecomer in the race is the almost unbearably moving A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – I worry that this lacks kid-appeal, though to be fair this is not, surprisingly, a Newbery criterion.
For those interested in mock Newberys, the Heavy Medal blog is a great place to get the feel for the discussion of a real Newbery committee.
Do you have any favorites for the 2012 Newbery?