Mer, rhymes with bear (merriehaskell) wrote,
Mer, rhymes with bear

Newbery Reading II

Skipping around. (Newbery Reading Post I)

Honor Books:
* Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The only book I read so honored in the 2000s, I didn't even realize it had been so until today. I would have liked the book well enough as a kid, though I would've felt shorted on magic, somehow. As an adult, I thought it quite good. This might be a prime example between kids tastes and adults, or at least, my tastes as a kid and an adult. I had a number of conversations with my stepdaughter when she was younger, starting when she was about 7, regarding what made a book just good. Magic, queens, talking animals. Later: animals, animals, animals. And so forth. But I would not say nuance is lost on younger readers; I read eagerly (and re-read and re-read) books for the scraps of romance in them, just a sentence here or there of an admiring tone from a handsome boy towards the main character, for example (the seeds of the romance reader I've become today?). However, the same things are not interesting to kids and adults. I feel I should re-read this book, and try to keep an eye on what it was that I loved about this book as an adult when I read it four years ago, and what I could have loved about it had I found in 1986.

* 1948 Medal Winner: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

I read The Twenty-One Balloons probably half a dozen times in my tween years, always fascinated by the different house styles that the eccentric rich folks of Krakatoa thought up, and perhaps even more fascinated by the volcanic explosion and the diamond cufflinks-twist ending (spoiler!). It was a magical and weird book, and felt extremely archaic at times; I rather thought the book was written in the 1890s or 1900s until, well, today. The old-fashioned feel didn't bug me; I didn't think it was actually a children's book, either, so the weird stuff that happened didn't feel like being condescended to and clowned for the way I occasionally felt whilst reading other gonzo children's books. (I naturally did not think the book was for kids because the main character was a grown man!)

Honor Books:
o Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
I read this in a haze of "why am I reading about g******ed horses all the time when animal books make me cry?" emotions. I was such a bibiophile, it never occurred to me to avoid books that caused me pain (or even ones that bored me! I think The Dark Frigate was the first book I didn't finish, and the only one I didn't finish in the 80s). I remember reading this and obsessing about the exact location of Chincoteague as well. My favorite Marguerite Henry book is without a doubt Brighty of the Grand Canyon, but again, I associate an unhappy haze of emotions with reading animal books, so favorite here is relative. I think there are too many books in the Children's Classic Canon that are just ridiculously painful that I would not subject myself to now; I was occasionally totally unperturbed by those things, and occasionally utterly perturbed, and I don't know how I actually feel about that kind of book. For the record, I don't remember sobbing over this book. It's possible that I did--I don't remember if Misty dies (I think not, since there's a book called Stormy, Misty's Foal--but I DID weep copiously over Brighty when Old Timer was murdered. (The book is about a BURRO INVESTIGATING A MURDER, basically. In retrospect, damn you for anthropomorphizing animals, Marguerite Henry. Damn you.)

* 1946 Medal Winner: Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
I read it in the fourth grade; I remember reading it, remember the cover, remember putting it in my backpack at school, remember taking it out and opening up at home--remember nothing about it. Reading the Amazon entry makes me remember NOTHING. So. What does this all mean? I don't know. I've forgotten more books than I remember--well, sure; I've read more books than most people (not more than most people who are friends of this LJ, but that's a different matter).

* 1945 Medal Winner: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
Another forgotten book--third grade. I remember the old media center I checked it out from, even, but not the book. Maybe a little bit of the rabbit stuff, but how much have I confused with Watership Down?

Honor Books:
o The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
I do vaguely remember this. I also vaguely remember feeling uncomfortable while reading it--I don't think I could figure out which characters to identify with, either the victim or the bullies.

* 1944
Honor Books:
o These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Read this numerous times from age 7 to 9. If I recall correctly, this one has the long engagement to Almanzo in it, and inspired the rather lengthy engagement featured in my very first short story, "The Story of a Princess" (written when I was 7, also). (The princess was engaged to her prince for three years. Also, she had a dragon named Draggie.)

* 1942
Honor Books:
o Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Is it weird that I don't remember this one as well as any of the others? I could tell you all about Little House, Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Plum Creek... The Long Winter is SEARED into my memory. But this one is a cipher for me, though I know I read it as often as any of the others.

* 1941
Honor Books:
o Blue Willow by Doris Gates
I read it, and I remember the importance of the blue willow china, but that is like ALL I remember. And I do remember thinking that there were really only two kinds of books in the world: the kind where animals make me sad, and the kind where People Face Hardships Without Technology. Oh, man. No wonder I jumped in bed with science fiction and romance as soon as I realized they existed.

o The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
See above and above that: hardships and seared into my memory. Blizzard ropes. Grinding wheat in a coffee grinder. Trains that can't get through. Endless snow. False walls. Avoiding frostbite...

* 1940
Honor Books:
o By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
There's only one Wilder book I know less well... this one has a slough in it, yes? I remember getting excited about sloughs when I saw them finally, so many years later. As a young kid, I was so impressed with myself for reading these books. They were my First! Thick! Books! With real chapters! I kept them all; I still have them, though I nearly read them to tatters at one point. (Not my oldest to-me books, though; I have some Little Bear books my grandpa saved for me for years, and a very old Treasury of Disney Golden Books, too.) In any case, they represent a feeling of accomplishment, and that is much of why I kept them all these years. Sentimental value.

* 1938
Honor Book:
o On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I feel like I'm out of things to say about Wilder, except this: I haven't re-read these since forever. Now, as an adult who is aware of the world, at the very least I am quite troubled by the treatment of Native Americans and the whole issue of westward expansion in them. Also, Pa seems like kind of a jerk in retrospect. Michael Landon put a patina of loveliness to a character who is often deeply unsympathetic; but Pa's behavior never seemed meaningfully challenged in the text, beyond an eyeroll or two from Ma. (Maybe I *should* re-read them, to see if that's true.)

That said, they had a profound effect on my early life, and Laura-as-character's aspirations to write seeming successful by the evidence of her name on the spine of the book--! I'm not so sure that's not where I got the idea to become a writer. (I didn't know then about the endless fighting/editing/etc. Laura had with her daughter, who was a silent co-author.) The one thing I did to honor that connection in my current situation was to have my main character in The Princess Curse call her father "Pa." The Princess Curse was troubling to write at points because my viewpoint character and her quest and the length of the book made it impossible to do more than glancingly reference the plight of Gypsies in proto-Romania, or to discuss the implications of the Turks and Christians fighting, or even the issues between the Orthodox and Catholic churches in the area.

The only other topic to bring up about Wilder is that I often re-read them aloud to myself when I was little, I think since my grandparents and I read them out loud to each other over one long summer. I would sing the songs to my own tunes as I came across lyrics in the text. Guess what! Some of the songs in the Wilder books are STUPID-RACIST! My mom put the kibosh on that immediately, but it rather soured my feelings about the books, and perhaps that's actually why I haven't re-read them since puberty.

* 1936 Medal Winner: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Read this one quite a while after Laura Ingalls Wilder (age 11?), and thought it was a ripoff of her. I'm amused by this, and also slightly troubled that I leaped to the conclusion of ripoff so easily.

* 1934 Medal Winner: Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs
Read this as an adult when I was on a Lousia Alcott kick, mostly reading her fiction for adults; wanted to know more about her, this was floating around the house, seemed like not the worst idea. Of course, this is the softest of softball biographies, and I don't know what I was expecting--Antonia Fraser with really small words?
Tags: reading: award winners

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