July 7th, 2007

chaco

Newbery

For summer fun and as instruction for my own middle-grade work-in-progress, I'm reading all of this year's Newbery award and honor winners. I mean, I figure these folks know a thing or two about plotting and dialogue and backstory and the like.

So I just finished Cynthia Lord's Rules and it's a beautiful little story that is kind of about autism and kind of about rules but more than anything is about kindness or the lack thereof. Plus, there's a thread of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad running through the whole thing and that's just delectable. If you haven't read it, do. And tell me if you don't think the running in the parking lot scene is just really, really vivid and moving and exhileratingly sweet.

Now I'm half-way through The Higher Power of Lucky. There's an appealing bit about how Lucky is all one color -- from her eyelashes to her arms, from her hair to her lips -- all sort of "mushroomy". And I really like the notion that she's living with her father's ex-wife because of what it says about how tenuous and random families can sometimes be. And dang if that whole "scrotum" controversy isn't just as ridiculous as I suspected it would be. I read the first 20 pages of the book just thinking, Really?? That's it??? This is what everyone was so freaked out about? Not Short Sammy being so drunk he fell out of his Cadillac? Not the fact that Lucky spends a good chunk of life eavesdropping on hard luck 12-step stories? But this??? Sigh. Moving onto a higher note, the ex-wife/guardian is French and makes some really charming language missteps like when she talks about almost driving into "a cow and her little veal."

Hattie Big Sky is next on my pile. And I'm as grateful as ever for all you inspired, smart, creative, careful, passionate writers out there, building good books...