We don't do stars...
We don't do thumbs...
We read children's books and grade them in 10 categories:
literary quality
descriptive ability
humor (if attempted)
illustrations (if present)
believability of characters
believability of situations
overall reading enjoyment

There is no grading curve. There are no points for classroom participation. There is no extra credit.
If you disagree, come speak to us after class.

The Grading System

A+.....this means (guess what) we think it's great. So great it surprised even us.
A.....this means it's pretty darn good. A book we'd recommend to just about everyone we know.
B.....better than most. Not exactly Shakespeare for kids, though, if you get our drift.
C.....mediocre. Like the color beige, it didn't stand out.
D.....we didn't like it. There were more bad aspects than good ones.
F.....it reeked of badness. We read it over and over when we are in dire need of hysterical laughter.
F-.....We're pretty sure Dante had a circle of hell for the people who wrote these...and a lower circle for those who published them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My comments on various awards...

You may have noticed that When You Reach Me was not on my list of Newbery predictions, even though it was on practically everyone else's, and I've been asked to explain why...
Well. I did read the book, and was very impressed (as were most readers) by Rebecca Stead's deft handling of character development and relationship growth. She crafted a tight plot—however, one that I felt fell short. It gives the semblance of falling perfectly into place at
the climax—like another Newbery winner, Holes, for example. My problem, which I am surprised no one else brought up, is that the plot is too forced. So many problems could have been solved very simply: Why can't the notes be more direct? Why can't the time traveler at least give his name? Why can he warn the characters through ambiguous notes, yet not simply tell them in person? Furthermore, the rules of time travel are highly ambiguous, a big rule-breaker for anyone immersed in the SciFi genre, and the only explanation given sounds technical but is really philosophical—unfortunately, any philosopher could find several holes in it. I find it ironic that the author took the best philosophical argument against travel into the past (that is, the impossibility of free will if one's actions have “already happened and therefore must happen”) and used it as the premise for her explanation of time travel and her “Aha! moment” in the plot.So, that's what I think. I'd be thrilled to carry on a lengthy philosophical argument with anyone who disagrees, however.

Onto the Printz award... I can't decisively comment on the winner because I didn't finish it. I started it, loved the humor, was very disturbed by the constant crude language and casual drug use, and finally had to stop when I realized my list of “possibly objectionable topics” would be longer than my review. I do think Francisco X. Stork deserved to win this award (though he has my congratulations on winning the Schneider Family Award)... I will reiterate now that Marcelo in the Real World was one of the most beautiful and relevant books I've read in my lifetime. Though it, too, had its share of difficult topics, I believe the grace with which they were handled may be unparalleled.

Finally, it's not really my field of expertise, but I did think Pinkney deserved his Caldecott for The Lion and the Mouse—beautifully done. However, it was pointed out to me that his lovely, dramatic cover was hardly original...a talented Welsh artist by the name of Jackie Morris has done it before, twice. Compare, and enjoy:

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