Monday, January 23, 2012

Newbery Award Winner 2011

They just announced the Newbery Award winner this morning and the title goes to...drum roll please.... "Dead End in Norvelt."  I read this book a few months ago and thought it would be fun to post my review for you today.  It will be apart of a longer post on books for boys in the upcoming months.

What do I think of this winner...well, it is a good book, so for that I am grateful, but I was still rooting for OK for Now, one of the most powerful and heartfelt books I read this year.  I have posted that one again as well, funny how similar their jacket covers are!

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Name:          Dead End in Norvelt
Author:       Jack Gantos
Target:         Grades 5-8

What this book is about:
This is a semi autobiographical book about a boy names Jack Gantos.  It takes place in 1962, and Jack is grounded for the summer.  He is loaned out by his mother to the next door neighbor to help write obituaries for the local paper, which sets a series of adventures in motion.  There is a possible rash of murders, Hells Angels who make their way through town, bloody noses, and a WWII shotgun that all play a role in the story!
Why I love this book:
I had no idea this book would be so funny, and not funny in a ha ha sort of way, but a funny that just kind of creeps up on you and all of sudden you are laughing when you least expected it sort of way.  A nice coming of age story for a boy with a series of quirky characters.
Who this book is for:
I worry a little about this book because it is not a face paced adventure.  While I liked it, I was concerned that a kid would not find it as intriguing. I asked my 7th grade son to read it to get a kid view and he read it in two days straight and gave it 8 1/2 out of 10 stars.  So while it may not have some of the intrigue and action of other books, it is still a strong story that sucks you in.  The one thing that still bothers me is the rather creepy picture of the author on the back cover.
Final thoughts:
Boys can like a quieter story .....really!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: Dead End in Norvelt

Title:          Okay for Now
Author:      Gary D. Schmidt
Target:       Grades 6-10

Series:         No
What this book is about:
Doug is an eighth grade boy whose family has just moved to “the dump.”   His father is abusive, his brother is suspected of robbery and his oldest brother returns from Vietnam in a fragile state.  Still Doug finds refuge in the library, not with books but a set of Audubon prints, he gets involved in the community with his Saturday delivery job (where he is known as Skinny Delivery Boy) and finds a teacher who understands that he is not his family, but his own person.

Why I love it:
Wow, I was blown away by this story.  The writing is superb and I was thoroughly invested in this character.  This book made me laugh, it made me cry - sounds silly I know but it is just that good!  I could not put it down.

Who this is for:
I am really hoping that boys will love this book!  It is absolutely fabulous and draws you in pretty quickly, with a middle school boy facing family strife during the Vietnam era.  It is a character driven book and not action focused which makes me nervous, but I am hoping that this character is so compelling that boys will also get lost in the story, since this story is written for them.   However, don’t be afraid to give it to a girl.  It is just that well done, that both genders will get caught up in this amazing story.
I would recommend that children wait until sixth grade to read this book.  While there is minimal violence and no sexual content, the issues of abuse, coming home from war and the subtleties of the relationships are not appropriate for a younger age.  
Final thoughts:
Ok for Now is better than ok (too punny?)  

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: Okay for Now

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