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Newbery Pie

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December 2015

Bridge to Terabithia: The 1978 Winner

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Hi! Welcome to this week’s Newbery Pie. We’re be discussing Bridge to Terabithia today. We’ll start with Sara’s Review.

My Newbery obsession began back in Fall  of 2001 during my Materials for Children class in Library School. When I got pregnant with my daughter in 2002, I bought that year’s Newbery winning book, Linda Sue Park’sA Single Shard and read it aloud to her as a newborn. She turned 13 about week ago and I finally read the Newbery winning book from the year of my birth, Katherine Paterson’s A Bridge to Terabithia.  Amazingly, the only things I have heard about this book before now is that a girl and boy are friends and they have an imaginary kingdom.

Jess is ready to start school as the fastest boy in 5th grade. He starts his heat in recess, and pulls in the lead, but is at the end is beaten…by a girl, the new girl, Leslie Burke. He is a sore loser at first, but eventually they become friends. They hang out at school and on the bus, taking on 7th grade bully, Janice Avery. At home, they travel across the creek by a rope swing to a magical land called Terabithia, where they are King and Queen.

Then comes the moment there I could no longer breathe. Jess is invited by Ms. Edmonds to a museum and purposely does not invite Leslie. I must say, as  a public school teacher, I had to majorly suspend my disbelief that she would call up a child and take him somewhere without speaking to the parents and guaranteeing permission, even in the late seventies.  It definitely would never have happened now as it did in the theatrical version set in the present. When Jess returns home, he finds out that his parents have assumed that is dead because Leslie drowned in the creek after the rope swing breaks. Jess world is shattered, as was mine. I cried, especially as a mother of three elementary-aged girls. The fact that Leslie could transform from a child going to school and living a normal life one day and to a cold, lifeless corpse the next was heart shattering. This part of the text in particular got to me: “Cremated. Something clicked inside Jess’s head. That meant Leslie was gone. Turned to ashes. He would never see her again. Not even dead. Never. How could they? Leslie belong to him. More to him than anyone in the world.”

I joked with Benji after Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH that I was going to violate his rating system. Well, I am doing it this time because this one has bumped Mrs. Frisby to my #2 in terms of favorite Newbery winners. I give Bridge to Terabithia 6 Newbery Pies.

Benji’s Review:

This week, I find myself agreeing with Sara wholeheartedly. This is definitely my favorite up to this point, and it my be my favorite of them all, (Charlotte’s Web is my favorite book, but is it considered Newbery canon being only an honor?) It’s definitely a close race between Ivan and Terabithia.

I’ve read this one several times, and I thought I could make it through this time without crying like a baby, and I ALMOST made it. Not quite though. I got through all of the really sad parts with dry cheeks. I almost cried when Jess hurls the paints and stuff that Leslie gave him into the creek, but I held it in, but then on the very last page, where Jess is taking his sister to Terabithia for the first time, I lost it. I just love that part.

That’s kind of what being a children’s librarian is to me, or at least, that’s the part of it that I love: introducing kids to magical places for the first time, and getting to see the looks on their faces as they each fall in love with their own Terabithia.

I’ll give it six pies too, just because I can’t let Sara outdo me. (How high do our pies even go?

 

M.C. Higgins, the Great: The 1975 Newbery Winner

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Welcome to Newbery Pie. This week, we’re discussing M.C. Higgins, the Great, winner of the ’75 Newbery Medal.

Sara’s Review: Oh my, oh my, where to begin? This book feels impossible to summarize. Every chapter, I felt as if I were trudging up the mountain with the characters and trying to not to fall off it into a reading coma. It still wasn’t as bad as I, Juan de Pareja, which I should have given 1 pie. The Higgins family lives on “Sarah’s mountain,” an important part of the family’s heritage. It is so important that the patriarch of the family, Jones, ignores the dangerous spoil heap left by irresponsible strip miners that threatens collapse on his home. M.C. isn’t as oblivious, and finds hopes for escape in the arrival of “the dude,” who comes around with a  tape recorder to record his mother, Banina’s singing voice. M.C. thinks he will make her a big recording star and the family will leave the mountain. M.C. has a pole in his front yard that he sits on stop of and surveys the land. Two other important characters in the story are Lurhetta Outlaw and Ben Kilburn. One part of the story that I did like was confronting the prejudice of assuming that Ben’s family are witches because they were born with the deformity of having six fingers and toes. The Kilburn family sells ice to the Higgins family and in one scene, Jones acts like M.C. has the plague because he allows one of the Kilburns to touch him. At the conclusion of the story, M.C. stands up to his father about both Ben and the spoil, deciding to build a wall to save their house.

I feel like I am missing something with this story. Not only did it win the Newbery in 1976; it also won the National Book Award in 1975. I would definitely say the book is distinguished in terms of setting and M.C.’s character development (and that of Jones to a certain extent). It was a tough read though. I rewatched Mr. Schu’s and Colby Sharp’s Newbery Challenge videos about the book. Mr. Schu says, “Blah about M.C. Higgins, the Great, and you can quote me on that.” Colby said, “I didn’t like it.”  I didn’t like it either so I’m going to give it 2 out of 5 Newbery Pies.

Benji’s Review: I’m kind of conflicted about this book. I see some good in it, but I really didn’t enjoy reading it, especially the first 50 pages or so.  As an adult novel, it might have been decent, but I think most kids would have some trouble following the Faulkner-like steam of consciousness writing. The only thing that really makes this book a kid’s book is the fact that M.C., our protagonist is a teenager.

 

M.C.’s guide to getting the girl: First stalk her a little while she’s walking by herself through the woods, then jump out and scare the bejezus out of her. Next, climb up on your pole and burn something. Wave it around a lot and make construction-worker-type cat calls at her. Then jump down, and stalk her through the woods again, this time at night. Jump out and scare her again. This time, take your knife out and stab her, just a little.  The next morning, approach her tent, hoping that she’s forgotten all about your nighttime assault with a deadly weapon. Ask her if she wants to go for a swim. Invite her over for lunch. In the end, when she leaves, don’t worry about it too much. You can always have conversations with her in your head.

Jone’s guide to being a good dad: Slap, punch and kick your kid every time you see him. This will make him tough. It’s all in good fun, right? Even when you hurt him. Can’t afford a good birthday/Christmas present? Give him a pole. Poles make great gifts. Pass down your superstitious, ginger- fearing ways to your children. I mean gingers are just WEIRD, right? IGNORE the giant mountain avalanche heap that everyone  says will fall on your house and family one day. For real. Don’t do anything about it. It will take care of itself. When your son finally mans up and decides to build the wall to stop the heap, something you should have done years ago, don’t offer to help. Just go get him a shovel. That’s enough.

I also give the book two out of five Newbery Pies. It still wasn’t as bad as Smoky the Cow Horse or The Dark Frigate, though!

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