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Newbery Reading III

I'm examining my experiences reading the Newbery list winners/honorees, trying to dissect how I read things as a child, and how that differs from reading as an adult.

Newbery Post I
Newbery Post II

* 1969 Medal Winner: The High King by Lloyd Alexander
See The Black Cauldron for how this all started--but this was the book that I loved the most in the Prydain series. This is the one that I slept with underneath my pillow--open--so I could dream about it. I would fall asleep every night with the last scenes playing in my head, dreaming about the kingdom that would one day be mine--yes, they were little self-insertion Mary Sue fantasies. This book is the epitome of everything I loved when I was 10-12. I have not read it in probably ten years, and perhaps I should--I would probably learn something.

* 1968 Medal Winner: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
This book sparked my love of filing, but otherwise didn't make such a huge impression on me. I liked the idea of the book more than I enjoyed the reading of it. I remember that from all these years away--I wonder why? Perhaps I should re-read it and see what I can learn.

* 1967 Medal Winner: Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
While I know I read this, I remember nothing about it.

* 1966
Honor Books:
o The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
I found this at the mall in Saginaw, Michigan when I was probably 9, maybe 10. I had a five-dollar bill in my pocket, and used it to pay for my copy. And though I enjoyed the HECK out of it, the cover was scary enough that I could only sleep when it was face down on my bedside table at my grandparents. Like A Wrinkle in Time, this book changed my world--my imaginative world. All my imaginary play from that point on revolved around kingdoms and lost princesses and glowing swords.

* 1963 Medal Winner: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I read this for the first time sprawled across the back seat of the car on the way to the beach (it was about a 3 hour drive). I finished it at the beach, so the memory of the book is forever linked with sand and salt: giant, throbbing brains and starry skies--and seawater up my nose and sand between my toes. This book probably changed my life; this was the first book that let me understand that science fiction was a genre, and I could find more of that stuff if I looked in the right spots. I read and re-read and re-re-read ALL of L'Engle's books for the entirety of my childhood. She was the author I used to fantasize about meeting. To understand where this book fits into my life is to understand my whole childhood. I have not re-read this book since I was about 22ish, and I'm a little afraid to, even though I bought pristine hardbacks to replace the completely disintegrated copies I'd owned. Not reading these books is a way to preserve them. So many other books have been disappointments when revisited. I might not be able to breathe for a while if I found disappointment in this book.

* 1961 Medal Winner: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
This book sparked a rash of interest in survalism books, particularly girl-alone books. I read this as an adult and found it horrifyingly harsh, like a waking nightmare of isolation. As a kid, I found it fascinating and wondrous--to be alone on an island with my dog!

* 1959 Medal Winner: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I did read this as a kid, several times, and once for class. Of course, reading it for class made me like it less. That has not always been the case for me--sometimes, reading a book for class has made me like it a thousand times more because I have some perspective that I didn't have approaching the material on my own, or... something. In any case, this was a book that was more magical for what my brain filled in the spaces in between the narrative (like caulk!) than for what was on the page, and reading things academically, even in the sixth grade, makes it hard to caulk books. I read this again in adulthood, and was astonished to notice how much less horrible the adult characters were than when I was a kid. It makes me wonder, even now, how adult writers who write adults from kids' perspectives--are we getting it right? Is the way to get it right to be able to think through the adult perspective and yet make it opaque to children?

* 1953
Honor Books:
o Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
This is maybe one of the few animal stories that doesn't bother me--oh, sure, I cry for Charlotte, every time, but the fact is, that the pig knows death is imminent, and something about that very practical thing--and the efforts to save himself--make the anthropomorphizing bearable. Why is that different? I DON'T KNOW. But I did not read this book in a fog of misery like every other animal book out there (except maybe Wind in the Willows and that variety of story where the animals drink tea out of cups and are basically humans. I don't know. I think my animal book thing is a psychological condition, and maybe I'm not going to sort this out here, so I don't know how I should discuss Charlotte's Web--so I won't.

* 1950 Medal Winner: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
I read this as a kid (on my own, not for school). The medieval setting seemed interesting, though--as with all things medieval--I kept waiting for the magic (which never showed up). I don't think I was terrifically bored with the book (it's too short for that), but neither was I excited. I re-read it a few years ago, and even then it seemed a bit dull, though nice.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 13th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
When I think about it some children's books are really harsh, almost as if children have a better capacity to deal with pain than adults do. Rereading Roald Dahl books still freaks the heck out of me. He's terrifying.

"seemed a bit dull, though nice"

That was a perfect description for Door in the Wall. For some reason it was the book I always heard about, appeared on all these reading lists and I had high expectations but it was just...meh.

Irene Hunt's "Up a Road Slowly" was painful. Adult painful too, not the kind of delightful cruelty of Dahl or Scot O'Dell where it was a harsh world, but awesome because someone your age was dealing with it! (Dell had a lot of books where children were abandoned thinking on it).

Who chooses the Newberry? And how are they chosen? I wonder if a board of children would pick different books.

Also, I thought that was a wonderful point (Witch of Blackbird Pond), you come back to a book and suddenly the adults aren't horribly evil anymore. Maybe the only way to do it is to write just the way you think reality works. When I was little somehow all the adults in books that forced their children to move or got divorces were EVIL and rereading those books...well no, they aren't, but the point of the book is you get the kid's point of view uncomplicated by all the personal crud going on between the adults.

Your description of L'Engle was poetry. Maybe because I wasn't the brightest kid, but I actually found that I enjoy her more when I come back to her--there's a lot about grief and staying true to yourself that I zipped right through as a kid.

but I hear you...I came back to one of my favorite Montgomery's, one that has stayed with me for years, and discovered that the main character had turned into a whiny brat while I wasn't looking. Heart breaking. Especially because I didn't expect Montgomery--of all authors!--to fade.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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