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Newbery Pie

A review site

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January 2016

A Gathering of Days: The 1980 Newbery Winner

We made it to the 80s! This is the decade in which Sara and i spent a lot of our childhood, so we’re excited. We’re kicking the decade off with A Gathering of Days by Joan W. Blos.

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Sara’s Review: The 1980s started off with a difficult read: a journal of a young girl, Catherine, growing up in New Hampshire during the 1830s. The language was very stilted and old-fashioned; as an English major, I adjusted to it easily, but I can’t imagine any of my students or my own children persevering. In addition to the language, the book is quite boring at first. Events like losing one’s lesson book are not going to entice today’s young readers to continue with the book.

Fortunately for Benji and myself, some exciting things eventually happen to Catherine. She encounters a runaway slave, whom she chooses to assist by giving him a quilt. Her father decides to remarry so she finds herself with a new stepmother and stepbrother. Tragically, she loses her best friend Cassie due to illness. However, since the beginning of the book feels like watching paint dry, most readers will likely abandon the book before the more exciting events occur.

I give A Gathering of Days 2 out of 5 pies.

Benji’s Review: I agree with Sara on this one. It was pretty boring. It would be really hard to write a good novel in journal format, I think, especially one that’s supposed to be written by a girl in her tweens. I feel like a journal like that would have to be full of random facts about her boring day to be believable at all. The one excellent thing this novel did, in my opinion, was portray the days as kind of random, but still brought them all together into the bigger story in the end. I always felt like I was reading the journal of a young girl from the 1930s, but there wasn’t a whole lot thrown in there that got wasted in painting the big picture. That’s kind of remarkable to me.

That being said, I didn’t really enjoy reading it. By the time that Cassie died, I didn’t really have any kind of connection with any of the characters. Then Blos goes out and kills off one of the characters that I didn’t really care about. It kind of felt like the author was trying to manipulate me into caring. Kind of like a last second hail mary to try to save the novel.

This could have been published in the 20s or 30s, and I might have question that it was really the most distinguished book of the year. But the 80’s? Come on Newbery committee. Let’s hope that the rest of the decade is better.

I also give it two out of five Newbery Pies.

 

 

 

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The Westing Game: The 1979 Newbery Winner

We’re back! We took a few weeks off for the Christmas break, but today we’re returning with a very popular Newbery winner, Ellen Raskin’s  The Westing Game.

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We’ll start things off with Sara’s Review, as usual.

16 heirs. Millions of dollars at stake. 1 murderer. I was very frustrated with this book. The action seemed to unfold very slowly in the beginning. All the characters had flaws, and many of them appeared to be terrible people. I couldn’t figure out the mystery so I was surprised throughout the book, right along with the characters. The judge was my favorite character because she isn’t greedy and shows concern that one of the heirs might be harmed by the game. With 3/4 of the characters being adults and the rest being teens, this stretched the limit of the Newbery age criteria quite a bit. The ending was satisfying and I like that I was updated on what happened to all the heirs. However, I felt like I was reading the novel version of the Clue movie, based on the board game. “Miss Scarlett did it in the library with the candlestick?” The comparison isn’t quite fair since this book predated the movie. I give the book 3 Newbery Pies.

Benji’s Review:

I have to disagree with Sara about the characters. None of them were really terrible to me. Not many of them were good per se (Side note: I think that was my first time ever to write the phrase per se.) but they all had their reasons for acting the ways that they did.

I had recently read The Westing Game, so none of the mystery was very mysterious to me this time around. I already knew what all of the clues meant, who the “murderer” was and all that, so it kind of weakened my enjoyment of the novel, and made it more of a chore to get through this time.  I did have a flash of inspiration, though. This book needs to have a graphic novel version made, so somebody get on that. I do agree with Sara, that this book does have a Clue feel to it, but I think it was intentional. (mimicking the board game, not the movie).

This time around, I give it four out of five Newbery Pies.

Our final Newbery, Caldecott and Geisel predictions.

Sara and I made our final Newbery, Caldecott and Geisel predictions. You can read the post here.

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