Medal Winner: A Single Shard
Tree-ear, an orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated–until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself–even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.
I found this story interesting and engaging when I read it several years ago, but I remember almost nothing of the plot. Unfortunately, that is the case with so many of these Newbery books that I read in my childhood.
Rating: Good but Forgettable
Everything on a Waffle
In the small Canadian town of Coal Harbour, in a quaint restaurant called The Girl on the Red Swing, everything comes on a waffle–lasagna, fish, you name it. Even waffles! Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp loves this homey place, especially its owner, Kate Bowzer, who takes her under her wing, teaches her how to cook, and doesn’t patronize or chastise her, even when she puts her guinea pig too close to the oven and it catches fire. Primrose can use a little extra attention. Her parents were lost at sea, and everyone but her thinks they are dead. Her Uncle Jack, who kindly takes her in, is perfectly nice, but doesn’t have much time on his hands. Miss Perfidy, her paid babysitter-guardian, smells like mothballs and really doesn’t like children, and her school guidance counselor, Miss Honeycut, an uppity British woman of the world, is too caught up in her own long-winded stories to be any kind of confidante. Nobody knows what exactly to think of young Primrose, and Primrose doesn’t quite know what to make of her small community, either.
This book is so sweet and funny. I love stories with quirky characters, and this book is chock full of them. I would love to reread Everything on a Waffle again soon.
Rating: Reread Worthy
Carver: A Life in Poems
George Washington Carver was born a slave in Missouri about 1864 and was raised by the childless white couple who had owned his mother. In 1877 he left home in search of an education, eventually earning a master’s degree. In 1896, Booker T. Washington invited Carver to start the agricultural department at the all-black-staffed Tuskegee Institute, where he spent the rest of his life seeking solutions to the poverty among landless black farmers by developing new uses for soil-replenishing crops such as peanuts, cowpeas, and sweet potatoes. Carver’s achievements as a botanist and inventor were balanced by his gifts as a painter, musician, and teacher. This Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book by Marilyn Nelson provides a compelling and revealing portrait of Carver’s complex, richly interior, profoundly devout life.
I don’t typically think of biography or poetry as my favorite forms, but I greatly enjoyed this book which combines the two. I would definitely recommend it to kids who are interested in learning more about this important historical figure.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good