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Mock Awards 2009

In the runup to the announcement of the prestigious Newbery and Caldecott Award winners on January 26, libraries around the country are holding “mock award” meetings where participants discuss a short list of children’s books worthy of the prizes.

Here in Fredericksburg, librarians from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library will be considering five books for each award. The public is invited to join us next Tuesday afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00 in the Headquarters Library theater to hear more about the books and, if you’ve read them, to vote for your favorites. This week, our choices for the Newbery Medal.

Waiting for Normal” by Leslie Connor. Addie is still close to her stepfather, even though he’s divorced from her mother, Mommers, and has moved away to live with Addie’s half sisters. As Addie says, “my family is hard to follow—like a road that keeps taking twists and turns.” Addie and Mommers live a precarious life, punctuated by Mommers’ frequent absences and volatile moods, while Addie does her best to wait for normal – whatever that may be. This is a hopeful portrait of a young girl who makes the best of whatever circumstances she’s been given. Ages 12 and up.

The Underneath” by Kathi Appelt. Southern Gothic meets magical realism in three interwoven stories. An old hound dog is kept chained beneath the front porch of a bitter recluse who lives in the swamps of the east Texas bayou, but longs for freedom. Two happy-go-lucky kittens born under the porch have no idea of the danger they face if the man discovers them. Then there’s Grandmother Moccasin, a spirit in the form of a snake who’s been buried beneath a loblolly pine for a thousand years. Ages 10 up

Keeping Score” by Linda Sue Park. Set in 1950s Brooklyn, this baseball story also deals with friendship, loss and war. Nine-year-old Maggie likes to hang out in the fire station where her father used to work and listen to the Dodgers games on the radio. A new firefighter, Jim, teaches her how to score the games, and the two of them form a bond over their favorite team. Then Jim is drafted to fight in Korea, and he returns a very different man. Like any true Dodgers fan who says, “wait till next year,” Maggie learns to find hope in the worst circumstances. Ages 10 up

Outside Beauty” by Cynthia Kadohata. Four sisters are fiercely loyal to each other and to their mother, despite the fact that each has a different father. Their glamorous mother teaches them to rely on their looks to get by, but when a car accident leaves her scarred and confined to the hospital, the girls are forced to separate and live with their fathers. Through narrator Shelby’s eyes, readers meet a flawed but strong mother who still shows love for her daughters. Ages 12 up.

Diamond Willow” by Helen Frost. Willow is more comfortable with her family’s sled dogs in rural Alaska than with the other girls at her school. When she mushes the dogs alone to visit her grandparents, she has an accident that results in the revelation of a family secret that changes everything. In diamond-shaped verse Frost tells a story rooted in the snowy Alaskan landscape but haunted by the spirits of Willow’s ancestors.

Next week, a look at our Caldecott choices.

Originally published in the 1/6/09 Free Lance-Star newspaper.