It's that time of the year - Newbery Predictions

On Monday, January 10, 2011, the American Library Association will announce all of their Youth Media Awards at their Midwinter Conference in San Diego.  Last year, the announcements were made from Boston and I woke up at 5 a.m. (on my day off) to listen to as they were reported as well as watch the Twitter feed.  I was thrilled to have read WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead prior to the announcement of it's selection as the Newbery Medal winner.  And I was shocked that I actually recognized the winner of the Caldecott Medal - Jerry Pinkey's THE LION & THE MOUSE.  However, I have to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to what might end up on the short list for the awards that year.

This year, I started paying attention to the buzz around mid-year as to what books might be considered.  As a result, I started reading several of these much discussed books.  And thanks to the Midwinter Conference being closer to home, I am hoping to be present for the Award's Press Conference.

Here are the five books that I expect to be walking away with the prestigious John Newbery Medal or one of the Newbery honor medals given "to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia
This coming of age, historical novel set in 1968 in San Francisco tells the story of Delphine and her sisters as they spend the summer with their mother who abandoned them 7 years earlier.  A powerful look at a time filled with protests and social turmoil through the eyes of a young girl. ONE CRAZY SUMMER is a beautiful story which I am excited to say recently received the Scott O'Dell Award for best historical fiction. 

 OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M. Draper
This touching story of a 10 year old with severe cerebral palsy who discovers her voice through the use of an assistive communication device is my personal favorite for an award.  I would be super thrilled if it received both a nod for a Newbery as well as a Schneider Family Award. 

COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles
This seems to be the year for 1960's historical fiction.  Whereas, One Crazy Summer is looking at Civil Rights in San Francisco in 1968, Countdown is set in 1962 in Washington D.C. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Countdown is told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl living in Washington, D.C. at the time.  It also is filled with amazing photos and media images from that time period.

THE DREAMER by Pamela Munoz Ryan
Told in a poetic and lyrical manner portrays a young boy (Neftali) who overcomes shyness and a harsh life under the rule of his father to become the widely known poet, Pablo Neruda. Though a fictional portrayal of Neruda's childhood, this book is filled with the poetry of one of the world's most famous poets.

MOCKINGBIRD by Kathryn Erskine
This story of a young girl with Asperger's who after a tragic event must learn to deal with the loss of her brother and how to navigate her world has already been awarded a National Book Award for Young People.  As a result of the significant interest in this book, I expect that this will be a strong contender.    

For another peek at several of the books listed above, click here to check out Mr. Schu's, a K-5 Librarian, post on his Newbery Predictions. 

Book Review - Tortilla Sun

Author: Jennifer Cervantes

Publisher:  Chronicle Books (May 5, 2010)

Reading Level: Grades 4th to 8th

Source: Personal Copy

Rating: 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

A tender, magical story about 12 year old Izzy Roybal who is sent to spend the summer in her nana’s New Mexico village where she is soon caught up in the foreign world of her own culture, from patron saints and soulful food to the curious and magical blessings Nana gives her tortillas. In Nana’s village she meets Mateo, the adventurous, treasure seeking thirteen year old boy who lives on the other side of the bolted door in Izzy’s bedroom and six year old Maggie who is raising her cat, Frida, as a dog and sees marshmallow ghosts float out windows. When the wind begins to whisper to Izzy, she is soon led on an adventure to learn about her father’s mysterious death, who she really is, and to connect the hidden pieces of her past.

Several months ago, I signed up to participate in The Story Siren's 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  I will add admit that Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes was a late addition to my list of Debut Authors.  However, I am so thrilled that I found this absolutely lovely book.

If you hang around me for any length of time, you will know that trying to find books that my students will relate to is a big concern of mine.  The majority of my students are from Hispanic backgrounds.  Many are Mexican American.  There are some but not enough stories that feature Latino characters.  I was barely a chapter into Tortilla Sun when I knew that this was a book that I not only wanted to share with my students but that I would use as a read aloud with my fifth graders.

By now you may be wondering, what is so special about Tortilla Sun? Cervantes has created a story filled with well-developed characters, a vibrant setting, and a message of loss, love, family, and hope (pull out your tissues when reading this - I sobbed for nearly the last 1/4 of the book).  Twelve year old Izzy never met her father who died before she was born.  Her mother and she have never settled into one house or an apartment for any extended time.  After moving into yet another new place, Izzy uncovers a box of things that belonged to her father including a baseball with the worn words "Because____ ____ magic".   Shortly after this discovery, Izzy's mother is called away on a research trip and sends Izzy off to spend the summer in New Mexico with her grandmother.  At first Izzy is unhappy with this decision but shortly after arriving she discovers that the summer may be a time where she can learn about who her father was and what are the missing words rubbed off from the baseball.  From her Nana, she discovers the magic of homemade tortillas, and learns that the past needs time to be revealed.  From 13 year old Matteo and 6 year old Maggie, she learns about friendship, adventure, and caring about others.  From the adults that surround her in this small village, she learns to embrace the magic around her and discovers who she is.  Cervantes also weaves together Spanish words and phrases along with wonderful references to food and activities that further embrace the Latino culture.

This coming of age story is beautifully and masterfully told.  Cervantes has hit her own home-run with this debut offering and I am eager to read any future books from her.

You can find out more about Jennifer Cervantes and her book at:

You can find Jennifer on Twitter @jencerv or on Facebook:!/jennifercervanteswriter?ref=ts

You can purchase a signed copy (while they last) of Tortilla Sun at Borders Glendale: