by Lois Lowry
(Coach J’s Choice)
The 73rd winner of the Newbery Award, The Giver follows the life of young Jonas, a twelve year old selected for the most revered job in his community: Receiver.
In a -topian-styled future (dis- or u-, you be the judge), the Community Elders (government) regulate every part of its citizens’ lives. Dreams are repressed, color removed from the world, and careers, spouses, family units, and virtually a person’s entire schedule are provided by the government. As Jonas begins to “receive” the memories of the past to aid in the Elders’ decision making, he begins to plan a future that is much more colorful.
“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”
I read this book in elementary school for the first time (and almost every year since). I was introduced to it in one of those classes the luckiest of us were able to call our own. I had that class (and ELA teacher: Mr. Mason at PME) two years in a row. Those are years in the classroom in which I have modeled my entire teaching career, and hope to recreate those experiences in our new endeavor. Speaking of our, The Giver gets a special shot out from my spouse Jo, who also loves this book, so much so that we intend to name a son Jonas. We have two daughters, so that dream lives on! Additionally, Lois Lowry is in a prestigious class of having won more than one Newbery (Number the Stars, 1990). This book might make you rethink what freedom really means.
The Cross of Lead
(Books Awarded Between 1972 and 2021)
The 82nd winner of the Newbery Award, Avi’s novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead is a story of a thirteen year old peasant in Medieval England. “Accused of a crime he did not commit, he has been declared a “wolf’s head.” That means he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name—Crispin—and his mother’s cross of lead.” (Avi’s website)
“Lose your sorrows, and you’ll find your freedom.”
Prior to reading this novel written by Avi, I was familiar with another one of Avi’s stories: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (A Newbery Honor Book, 1991-stay tuned for next week’s 1991 winner, a Coach J favorite!). I found Crispin to be interesting and entertaining, and I wonder how my interpretation of it was affected by having just read another Newbery winner set in Medieval Europe immediately preceding this one (The Door in the Wall). The stories had some overlap, but Crispin reads a bit like a blockbuster film. A youngster loses everything, befriends a few interesting people who help him stay alive, and then finds not only what he is, but who he is in the end. “He discovers that by losing everything, he has gained the most precious gift of all: a true sense of self.” (Avi’s website)
by Lois Lenski
(Books Awarded Between
1922 and 1971)
The 25th winner of the Newbery Award, Strawberry Girl centers around a family moving from the Ocala-area to rural Central Florida (think what Disney World looked like before Disney), a place where if you were from anywhere to the north you were a Yankee! This book highlights the challenges families faced living together on the frontier, where times were tough, and attitudes were even tougher. The most memorable scene from this book may seem a bit far fetched, but it reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s biography (as written by Michael Burlingame, 2008) where frontier educators were not much more than burly teachers coveted for their ability to physically control a group of frontier kids and demand rote memorization from either outdated or inappropriate learning materials.
”Fence cutting!” cried Miss Liddy, standing outside on the plank sidewalk. “So that’s it! No thin’ like fence cuttin’ for causin’ trouble. Florida won’t never be a peaceable place to live till that question gets settled.”
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that it is one in a series authored by Lenski intended to give children of the time a look into regional similarities and differences between their lives and the ones portrayed in this book. In historical terms, it would take about a decade after WWII for Florida to really more visibly change from how it was depicted in this story to how we think of it today. As an historian and native Floridian, this book reads a bit like some other Florida favorites: The Barefoot Mailman, and A Land Remembered.