Staff Reviews of Award Books: Newbery Medal/Honor

Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Medina, Meg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Merci Suárez Changes Gears just won the esteemed Newbery Award last month. Merci is a new sixth grader attending a private school. Her Cuban family lives in three small houses that sit in a row. Grandparents, aunt, twin nephews, mom, dad and brother are part of Merci's daily life for better or for worse. Merci's schoolmates, however, are mostly mean to her, maybe because Merci does not come from the same affluent neighborhoods with pools and parks galore. Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a gentle story of how Merci's sweet family and school intersect, all while Merci is growing and changing. In fact, Merci's household is changing quickly and somehow Merci has to learn to change gears to keep up.

Reviewer's Name: Betty
Book Review: The Higher Power of Lucky
Patron, Susan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very good book. I listened to it on audio and the narrator was fantastic. The climax of the book takes place during a dust storm, which is a classic case of the natural elements reflecting the story line. A bit contrived, yes, but good for young readers. The conclusion was textbook, but also okay for younger readers. If you'd like to read a good story with no surprises, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Sounder
Armstrong, William H.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I've been on a children's book about dogs kick lately. I started with Shiloh, went to Where the Red Fern Grows, and ended with Sounder (I may read Old Yeller too). Sounder is the winner of the Newbery Medal, but it was the least powerful book out of the three. I almost feel like I may have read an abridged version of the book. The characters weren't well developed and there wasn't really a sense of desperation and overt class stratification that the book's summary promised. Overall, it was underwhelming. I'm being nice and giving it 3 stars instead of 2.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Shiloh
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Shiloh is a sweet story about a boy's love for his dog. Well, Shiloh isn't actually his but is owned by an abusive neighbor. Marty's devotion and determination to save Shiloh is touching. The narration is spot on. Well done!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Cleary, Beverly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a sweet book. It's not so mind-blowing as to warrant an in-depth review, so I'll just leave it at that.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Island of the Blue Dolphins
O'Dell, Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is about a girl who lives by herself on an island. It's a story of empowerment, as the main character learns to live and thrive alone. She doesn't seem to let her circumstances get the best of her. I'd recommend this novel to young girls in particular as the narrator is a strong and capable girl.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Number the Stars
Lowry, Lois
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a powerful quick read with an engaging story line. Yes, Holocaust books are a dime a dozen, but this one is on top of the heap. The location of the book in Denmark also separates it from the rest. I was struck by the idea that it's easier to be brave when you don't know more than you need to to complete a task. Well done.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Tale of Despereaux
DiCamillo, Kate
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I started off in love with this book. However, as it progressed I lost a little bit of interest in it. I guess Miggory Sow and Roscuru didn't appeal to me as much. But it finished strong. Great narrative voice and well paced. Well done overall.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: My Brother Sam is Dead
Collier, James Lincoln
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When I started this book I could not understand why it had been banned. It seemed so innocuous. I only read it because it was in the free pile where I work. I looked it up and it was for violence, language, and an unpatriotic view of the Revolutionary War. Fair enough. It is violent and unpatriotic for sure, which is why I liked it. It's also a very good story and is about as accurate an account of the Revolutionary War era as can be reasonably expected from a work of fiction for young people.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved
Paterson, Katherine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You know, I love Katherine Patterson. Bridge to Terabithia is my all-time favorite children's book. This book just didn't affect me the same way. Maybe it was the subject matter, I don't know. It was well written, just was missing the magic. But it's still worth a read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Great Gilly Hopkins
Paterson, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Very good, as all Katherine Paterson novels are. A quick read, and like her other novels, it shows rather than tells. My only problem with the book was the ending was too abrupt for my taste. I would have liked for it to be longer and show her life with her grandmother and the effects of Courtney's visit.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Kira-Kira
Kadohata, Cynthia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was so beautifully written. It was sparse and clean, but so powerful. It made me cry. I highly recommend this quick read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming
Woodson, Jacqueline
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This autobiography written in free verse by Jacqueline Woodson is an excellent insight into growing up as an African American girl in the 1960's.
It is a very moving portrayal of the role of family (grandparents, parents, uncles & aunts and siblings) in a life of a child. The author also gives the reader a definite sense of place, whether it is Ohio, South Carolina or Brooklyn, NY. Highly recommended.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
DiCamillo, Kate
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Oh, Kate DiCamillo, you have done it again! Flora is a little girl, a cynic in fact, but the day that her neighbor Tootie vacuums up a squirrel and he comes out with magical powers her cynicism is shaken to its core. Ulysses, as Flora names him, is a sensitive superhero of a squirrel who has a penchant for poetry and is always hungry. In fact, Ulysses is responsible for all kinds of wonderful things, including bringing Flora closer with her mother and father, and giving her a healthy dose of optimism.

Lovely, short comic strips flesh out the major action in the story. All in all, a heartwarming tale that will engage listeners and readers alike.
Younger children will enjoy listening to this story, say first to second grade. 4-6 graders will be able to read this on their own.

Reviewer's Name: Evan
Applegate, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This was such a great novel. So sweet and life affirming. I loved Ivan and Ruby and wanted them to be happy. I thought the novel might have gone a darker route, but I'm glad it didn't. A sweet, quick read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Taylor, Mildred D.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. This book was amazing. It was so well-written that I felt like I was there experiencing everything with Cassie. I wonder if I could be as brave as the Logans when faced with bodily harm. The courage of all civil rights activists blows my mind. My mother's family lived in Mississippi in the 1930s and were white. I hope they were sympathetic to the plight of African Americans, and not racists. But in reality, they were likely racists like most other whites during that time. What would I have been like if I was born during that time period? I like to think I'd be sympathetic and would stand up for what's right, but if you're raised with inequality as your reality how do you overcome it? I guess with education and experience and a knowledge of right and wrong, justice and injustice. But still, would I have had the bravery to stand up for what's right if it means physical harm? I hope so. Brilliant book. Perhaps my favorite children's novel of all time.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn