Friday, October 24, 2014

RI Mock Newbery 2015 - November Reads

I will be adding to the list as I make my way through the nominees ... favorites closest to the top.

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am highly critical of novels in verse ... this one passes the test. Woodson delineates her childhood - and her struggle with her family's North v. South identity - through more than 300 pages of often searing poetry.

Choice lines:

p. 69
"As the switch raises dark welts on my brother's legs / Dell and I look on / afraid to open our mouths. Fearing the South / will slip out or / into them."

p. 129
"But are hearts aren't bigger than that. / Our hearts are tiny and mad."

"It's hard to understand / the way my brain works - so different / from everybody around me. How each new story / I'm told becomes a thing / that happens, / in some other way / to me ...!

Keep making up stories, my uncle says.
You're lying, my mother says.

Maybe the truth is somewhere in between / all that I'm told / and memory."

p. 226
"But I don't want to read faster or older or / any way else that might / make the story disappear too quickly from where it's settling / inside my brain, / slowly becoming / a part of me."

Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous!Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous! by J.B. Cheaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Different viewpoints, interlocking stories, a sort-of mystery ... I really enjoyed reading this book. Be warned, though, as other reviewers pointed out: The kids on the cover may be smiling, but their stories are not the happiest. However, I like when the reader is reminded that all is not what it might seem from the outside; it fosters empathy.

The Riverman (The Riverman Trilogy, #1)The Riverman by Aaron Starmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First off, I have to say that the writing was brilliant. Wow. A plus to Starmer for his command of language.

And the plot was sophisticated and fascinating; I was full of delicious dread for a lot of it. Perfect for middle schoolers - eerie and hints of illicit activity.

But the ending. Meh. I don't want to have to read two more books to have explained. So 4 stars in terms of Mock Newbery consideration.

But 5 stars for the reading experience. Please don't let me down with the sequel.

Upside Down in the Middle of NowhereUpside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Powerful stuff. Talk about delineation of setting ... will definitely recommend for RI Mock Newbery.

The CrossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strong voice, lots of true emotions.

A Hitch at the FairmontA Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting and fun, with lots of clues and twists (several of which I figured out, but then I've been reading mysteries for decades ... the story was structured in a way that could teach kid readers a thing or two about plotting). Naming each chapter after a Hitchcock film was a nice touch.

West of the MoonWest of the Moon by Margi Preus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first two parts had an Angela Carter-esque feel to them. Squalor! Rapaciousness! Lost-in-the-woodedness! But then they got on the ship and the tone changed and I was disappointed.

View all my reviews Boys of BlurBoys of Blur by N.D. Wilson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really really really liked the first 100 pages. Unsettling setting lyrically evoked, spookiness, and strong characters. But then Charlie woke up at Mrs. Wisdom's, and she started talking about "the swirling Charlie-shaped dance that is your body," and I started rolling my eyes.

"Boys of Blur" does fill a nearly vacant niche - literary zombie fiction for middle-grade boys. But I felt there were some plot holes that also needed filling.

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