Wednesday, 20 November, 2019



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Early Guesses@Your Library

Tracy Kampa, Children’s Library


I can hear winter knocking at the door. While I might put off answering for a few days, if I don’t ultimately invite it in, I’m sure it will just blow my door down. I might as well welcome it, and at least earn brownie points for my hospitality.

One of the best things about winter, though, is that we often think twice before venturing outside for things that are not absolutely necessary. Instead, perhaps, we justify our need for warmth and read just one more chapter.  As the American Library Association announces their children’s literature awards in deep mid-winter, giving us something to look forward to in January, I have a few book suggestions for you. (For those of you who have been reading my stuff for a couple of years now, what I really meant to say was: it’s only three short months until NEWBERY MONDAY!!! Can you even believe it??? It’s time to play the game! Who’s gonna take home the medal? Eeeep! I’m so excited!) (I trust you appreciated my restraint.)

Trying to pick the winner beforehand, of course, is a bit of folly. Each individual on the committee has their own standards and biases, and, although they are guided by a binder of rules several inches thick, those personal biases cannot be discounted. (Nor should they be.) That doesn’t mean, though, that the game is any less fun. Indeed, this year I found a new angle. I looked at the Newbery award winners of the last 20 years to determine if month of publication had any weight on a book’s chances of winning. Turns out, it might. While the sample size is small, and statistical significance is doubtful, it is true that nearly one third (6) of the last 20 winners were published in September, and three more in August. The first 6 months of the year saw 7 winners published, while the last 6 months saw nearly twice that. Just something to think about when staring into my crystal ball of Newbery guesses.

So, which titles stand out so far? Let me start with two graphic novels. (A graphic novel is similar to a novel-length comic book, where the story is told in both words and pictures. If you or your kids enjoy reading them, bravo! Far from being “easy,” they actually require more brain involvement than just reading a novel. Way to grow your brain!) “New Kid” by Jerry Craft is about a 7th grade boy trying to fit in. (I loved this book.) “Queen of the Sea” by Dylan Meconis is all about queens, and exile, and convents, and orphans. What more could you want?

Erin Entrada Kelly, winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal, has written another great story, “Lalani of the Distant Sea.”  Lalani, age 12, undertakes a quest that has killed generations of men and boys before her. How can she possibly succeed? Jason Reynolds, one of my favorite authors, gives us “Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks.”  Each of these stories take place in the same day, about students walking home from school.  This book has already received many well-deserved starred reviews. Just read it. Another favorite author, Dan Gemeinhart, has written “The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.” Coyote and her Dad must rush cross-country to save a memory box buried in a park. This is road-trip fiction at its finest. For you science fiction fans, don’t miss “Sal and Gabi Break the Universe,” by Carlos Hernandez. In learning to meditate after his mother’s death, Sal learns that his powers go far beyond the average. Like he might be able to reach through time and space into other universes. Cool skill, right?

Non-fiction has a harder time winning the Newbery Medal, but I’d like to mention a possible contender. “This Promise of Change,” by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy, tells Boyce’s own story of being one of the “Clinton 12,” who broke the color barrier in Tennessee one year before the famous incident in Little Rock. This is a well-written account of a terribly difficult time in our nation’s history, and a book that is very relevant for today. Who belongs?

Of course, all of these, and more, can be found at your Grand Rapids Area Library. Happy Reading!

P.S. For fellow Gary Schmidt fans, his new book “Pay Attention, Carter Jones,” is great!


This Week at Your Library

Monday, November 4, at 9:30 and 10:30 it’s Book Time! Join ECFE teachers in the Story Circle for books, songs, finger plays, flannel board stories, and all other sorts of fun! Then move to the Community Room for a snack, a craft, and a time to play and visit.

Tuesday, November 5, at 6:00, join us for Passport to Morocco! Hear about the life-changing experiences of students and advisers from the Grand Rapids High School Interact Club who traveled to Morocco last summer. While there, they taught and participated in English, art, music, theater, and sports classes with underprivileged youth at the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center near Casablanca.

Saturday, November 9, it’s time for the Annual Friends of the Library Holiday Book Boutique! From 8:30-2:00 you can shop for holiday items, baked goods, near-new books, games, and puzzles, plus enjoy refreshments and enter to win a gift basket! Don’t miss this fun extravaganza!