Of course I wouldn’t expect anything less from E.L. Konisburg.
The View from Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg; Audiobook narrated by Jan Maxwell and Jenna Lamia
1997 Newbery Medal
AR Book Level: 5.9; Middle Grades
Praise be to all that is sunny in Florida. I was not wrong. I did remember correctly that Turtle in Paradise was a great book. Funny, even. Okay, yes, there is a sad part in the end. But this sadness is nowhere near as overwhelming as the heart-crushing grief caused by Our Only May Amelia (Just last night I got teary-eyed trying to describe that book to my husband. In fact, it’s making me a little melancholy AGAIN just thinking about it.)
I listened to Turtle on audiobook in 2011 and LOVED it. But after reading Our Only May Amelia and listening to Penny From Heaven, I wondered if my memory deceived me. Amelia, of course, plunged me into a mini-depression. Parts of it were just that sad. Penny wasn’t quite as mournful, but it certainly didn’t live up to my memories of Turtle. Turtle is just funny.
“We got babies today.”
“I don’t like babies. They’re like Shirley Temple. Everybody thinks they’re cute, but all they do is scream and make messy diapers.” — I’ve been trying to remember for two years where I got this line from. Have to admit, I thought our own clever E. had said it, but then I kept wondering how she knew about Shirley Temple. Of course E. didn’t say it — Turtle did.
And yes, I LOVED the diaper gang.
Plot Summary from Jennifer L. Holm’s website:
Life isn’t like the movies, and eleven-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 stay with relatives she’s never met.
Florida’s like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It’s hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what’s happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.
Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm, Audiobook narrated by Becca Battoe
Newbery Honor: 2011
A.R Level/Points: 3.7/4.0; Middle Grades
No toys in the fishtank!
A boy takes off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts.
So many of my fears for Owen actually happen to David in this book.
My fear that other kids will make fun of him, and he’ll think they’re his friends.
My fear that his big sister, who currently thinks he is the most awesome baby ever, will one day be embarrassed by him.
My fear that he won’t have any friends and will drive his brother and sister crazy by tagging along with them all the time (okay, my own little brother did that, and he didn’t have a disability).
My fear that our lives will sometimes feel like they revolve around his disability instead of around our family as a whole.
Rules is the story of 12-year old Catherine’s constant frustration with her brother David’s autism, even as she loves and protects him. We see how embarrassed she is by him, while at the same time stoutly defending him. Catherine isn’t a perfect sister, and I’m grateful for that. I think sometimes we work so hard in the disability world to emphasize the positive that we make it feel abnormal to have feelings of regret, sadness, and fear.
Cynthia Lord has a son with autism, and you can tell her writing comes from a real place. The real experience — not what we wish it could be. And she does this with a great deal of humor, mixed with enough Arnold Lobel quotes to send me to B&N and Amazon looking for the complete Frog and Toad collection.
I laughed a lot, and I cringed more times than I can count, and I knew deep down that I was no better than Catherine.
And, I suppose, no worse.
Rules, by Cynthia Lord; Audiobook Narrated by: Jessica Almasy
Newbery Honor – 2007
A.R Level: 3.9; Middle Grades
This book is AMAZING! The narration by Graeme Malcolm was beautiful and moving and entrancing. Or maybe that was the gorgeous writing by Linda Sue Park. It was hard to separate one beautiful thing from another while listening to this book. And it was even harder to break away from. In fact, A Single Shard has inspired me to start a new ranking methodology, with the highest ranking being “Audiobooks So Good I Start Hoping for a Traffic Jam to Make My Commute Longer.” Congratulations, Linda Sue Park, for being the first awardee.** I’m sure you’ll print this out and hang it right next to your Newbery Medal.
A summary, from Linda Sue Park’s webpage:
Tree-ear is an orphan boy in a 12th-century Korean potters’ village. For a long time he is content living with Crane-man under a bridge barely surviving on scraps of food. All that changes when he sees master potter Min making his beautiful pottery. Tree-ear sneaks back to Min’s workplace and dreams of creating his own pots someday. When he accidentally breaks a pot, he must work for the master to pay for the damage. Though the work is long and hard, Tree-ear is eager to learn. Then he is sent to the King’s Court to show the master’s pottery. Little does Tree-ear know that this difficult and dangerous journey will change his life forever.
If this doesn’t sound fascinating to you, it’s because you haven’t read the book. Even my husband, who is currently reading about how the SEALs nabbed Bin Laden (surely the opposite end of the literary spectrum), got so into this story on a short drive we took together, that he asked to borrow the CDs so he could listen to the rest before I returned it to the library.
This is the right way to do historical fiction. By the time I finished the book, I was doing research on celadon and Korea and cranes. I couldn’t help myself. All of the sudden, all of those things were deeply fascinating. I still have a strong desire to go out and buy some beautiful ceramic pots, but I’m afraid they wouldn’t be up to potter Min’s standards, so I hold off.
I was interested to see that Ms. Park is also the author of a number of 39 Clues books. Impressive diversification. Kind of reminds me of Lois Lowry. Not bad company to be in.
**NOTE: To be fair, if I’d thought about it at the time, I would also have granted this august award to Grace Lin for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I know, I know, you’re saying “Enough about that book, already!” But it really was wonderful. You should read it. Or, better yet, listen to it. Today.
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park; Audiobook narrated by Graeme Malcolm
Newbery Medalist – 2002
A.R. Level: 6.6; Middle Grades