OK, so I’ve finished Gay-Neck, and I guess I see why it was in the Newbery discussion. I don’t think it was better than Downright Dencey, though. For some reason, the Newbery Committees of the 1920’s only saw it fit to give the award to men. Some will say, “But not so fast. Several women won honors those years. The problem with that is, there were no honors back then, they just gave a list of a few runners-up. They weren’t back-labeled as Newbery Honors until much later. You and I both know that runner-up is really just another way of saying “loser.” Interestingly, something happened in the 30’s. I don’t know if ALA was getting some heat for only picking men for an entire decade, but only women won for the entire 1930’s. I have never heard this discussed, and it amazed me when I saw it. Only men for the 20’s and only women for the 30’s. Interesting.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about Gay Neck, really. It wasn’t as good as Dencey, but it was better than all of the previous winners except for Doctor Dolittle. I liked the freedom that the author took with the narrators, switching back and forth from boy to pigeon. It almost felt kind of magical, like we were actually entering Gay-Neck and taking over his body for a few pages. Gay-Neck was a pretty good storyteller, too. I liked the WWI scenes. 1928 wasn’t that long after WWI, so I felt like a lot of the action was probably accurate. I liked the India descriptions. I actually felt kind of sad that Everest isn’t this holy place anymore untrodden by humans like it was when this books was published, and like the narrator comments. I wondered if the peoples of Nepal and India lamented while the rest of the world was celebrating when Edmund Hillary achieved his great feat.
Gay Neck was definitely one of the least difficult books of the 20s. The language is still pretty accessible, and it’s really short, especially if you just read Smoky the Cow Horse. I still don’t think I would have much luck getting one of my students to read it, unless I just happen to come across one someday who happens to be obsessed with pigeons.
Next up would have been Trumpeter of Krakow. I’ve read that one pretty recently, back in 2012. I don’t remember a whole lot about it except for the basic storyline, and the fact that it was dry and boring like most of the other 20’s winners. I can’t force myself to read it again, right now. I’m eager to move on the the 30’s and the era of the women. In my opinion, by far, the best American children’s book of the 1920’s was Downright Dencey.
On to the 30’s! First, though, Jake and I will BOTH be reading and reviewing one from the 60’s, Onion John. He picked up a copy at his school library, and wanted to read it, so I’m game to skip ahead a few decades in order to have some company.