Monday, April 11, 2016

Newbery Award Book Mini-Reviews - March Reads

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice5 out of 5 Robots!

Claudette Colvin, Twice Towards Justice by Phillip Hoose
Release: January 9, 2009
Hardcover: 133 Pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
“When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’” – Claudette Colvin
On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge segregation again as a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South.
Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
This book was SO good.  Everyone knows Rosa Parks, but before Rosa was Claudette, who refused to give up her seat.  But as the summary mentions, Claudette was not embraced like Rosa was.  This book details the reasons why, gives a lot of history on the Montgomery Bus Strike and includes many famous civil rights characters.  I was fascinated by it and appalled too.  You learn a little in school, but this book really dives into it.  I loved the first hand accounts from Claudette and others.  I think this book should be a part of school curriculum.  I also happened to listen to this on audio and loved the narration.  It felt very authentic and like I was really apart of the story.  I cannot recommend this book enough.


Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night4 out of 5 Robots!

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
Release: September 6, 2010
Hardcover: 32 Pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
come smell your way among the trees,
come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.

Welcome to the night, where mice stir and furry moths flutter. Where snails spiral into shells as orb spiders circle in silk. Where the roots of oak trees recover and repair from their time in the light. Where the porcupette eats delicacies—raspberry leaves!—and coos and sings.

Come out to the cool, night wood, and buzz and hoot and howl—but do beware of the great horned owl—for it’s wild and it’s windy way out in the woods!
This Newbery Honor-winning picture book combines beautifully written poetry with facts of the forest and elaborate illustrations to form a marvelously engaging collection.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
This book is illustrated, but since I listened to it on audio I cannot speak to the illustrations.  I will say I found it very charming and interesting!  Each chapter gave a short and interesting description of a nocturnal animals followed by a poem.   The little write-ups were very well done and engaging. I think I will check the physical book out to read to my 5 year old daughter.  

Turtle in Paradise4 out of 5 Robots!

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Release: May 11, 2010
Hardcover: 177 Pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:

In Jennifer L. Holm's New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor winning middle grade historical fiction novel, life isn't like the movies. But then again, 11-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple

She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935 and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she's never met. Florida's like nothing Turtle's ever seen before though. It's hot and strange, full of rag tag boy cousins, family secrets, scams, and even buried pirate treasure! Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she's spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. Filled with adventure, humor and heart, Turtle in Paradise is an instant classic both boys and girls with love.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
This book was very enjoyable with fun characters that stick with you.  The ending takes a heartbreaking turn, but ultimately ends on a hopeful note.  I tend to like stories set during the Depression featuring plucky characters and this one does not disappoint.  I also liked the setting of Key West, which is not an area I know much about other than it is a popular vacation spot.  I think this would be a great book for middle grade readers.

One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1)4 out of 5 Robots!

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Release: January 16, 2010
Hardcover: 244 Pages
Publisher: Amistad
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
This book was one of those that doesn't really have a happy ending.  It doesn't end sadly per se, but there isn't a happily ever after either.  It's a little heartbreaking watching the Gaither sister be routinely spurned by their mother.  It's a situation with no easy answers.  I liked the sister dynamic quite a bit and I appreciated the complicated relationship with their mother.  It may be a bit hard for younger children to understand why the girls' mother does not want them, but I think older audiences will do ok with it.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg4 out of 5 Robots!

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
Release: January 1, 2009
Hardcover: 224 Pages
Publisher: Blue Sky Press
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
A dramatic, witty Civil War tale from bestselling author Rodman Philbrick

Master storyteller Rodman Philbrick takes readers on a colorful journey as young Homer Figg sets off to follow his brother into the thick of the Civil War. Through a series of fascinating events, Homer's older brother has been illegally sold to the Union Army. It is up to Homer to find him and save him. Along the way, he encounters strange but real people of that era: two tricksters who steal his money, a snake-oil salesman, a hot-air balloonist, and finally, the Maine regiment who saved Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg and won the war for the Union.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
I don't actually have much to say about this one. I liked it, but it didn't really stand out for me.  Homer is a fun character who sets out to save his brother and meets a lot of interesting people along the way, some good, some bad.  He is prone to exaggeration which provided a giggle a time or two.  But overall, the story is a little predictable.  I do think middle grade boy readers will like this book.  

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon3.5 out of 5 Robots!

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Release: January 1, 2009
Hardcover: 282 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
I'm of two minds about this book.  On one hand, I loved the fairytale elements to it.  But I had a hard time coming back to the book each time I set it down.  Part of it could be the audiobook narration.  The narrator's voice annoyed me for some reason.  She had a very low and clipped voice.  I find strong enunciation to be irritating.  But I also wasn't a big fan of stopping the main story to tell side stories along the way.  I think this would make an absolutely charming movie though!  And the dragon was by far my favorite character. 


  1. I want to read each and every one of these! Do you have these bundled on a page of links? How many of these mini-Newbery review posts have you dine so far? I would love to link them on the sidebar of my MG blog. In fact I would like to throw a blog post together about your Newbery journey. I think I will have time this summer because I have kept my ARC requests down to almost zero for July and August. :)

    1. I am going to add them to my monthly recap under my Newbery Challenge, I think. I've only done two so far, but I'm planning to do one once a month. I want to acknowledge them, but I don't always have a lot to say about them. Plus I go through them relatively quick, even considering they are audios. They one cool thing about reading a bunch of Newberys back to back is I am definitely starting to see trends and themes. Plucky characters? Check. Kooky townfolk? Check. Children growing up during tumultuous historical times? Check.



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