Granted, with recent shake-ups in the norm (yes, I'm referring to the picture book that won last year, and the recent graphic novel honorees), it's pretty hard to get a good feel for what the committee might be eyeing. But I'm still going to take a stab at it. Or at least share some of my favorite middle-grade fiction from the last year, anyway.
And no, I know, I've never been spot on right, but I've gotten an honoree or two (see my mock 2015 and mock 2016). This year, there's a lot of good, but not one that just totally stands out to me like the last few years. It's a hard selection this year. I seriously spent a lot of time thinking about these.
But here are what I would call "the most distinguished contribution[s] to American literature for children"
(click on book cover for associate Amazon link for summaries, etc.)
Newbery Medal Winner
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Ghost right now is my top choice (maybe because it's my most recent read?). Really, though, to me, it's definitely distinguished. I haven't read much in the way of track stories, which makes this pretty unique. But it's also so much deeper than just a sports story, what with different family issues, bullying, class, and race. What's most impressive to me, though, is the voice—very authentic and consistent (the character voice seems like a big theme among Newbery winners). Also (a big also), is that it actually would appeal to its target audience. I think kids would enjoy it without much cajoling from adults. You can see my original review back here.
The Newbery Honors
Wolf Hollow is also a major contender because I am not sure I have read such amazing writing from any children's author ever. Seriously. But MAN, the topic is...rough. It's hard to say it's for children when there is so much evil, and heartbreak, and harsh reality in this book. I mean, it's not just bullying, it's sociopathic behavior. I have a love-hate relationship with this book. Really, the committee could go either way with this one. See my long-winded, original review here.
Katherine Tegen Books
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. This one is my personal favorite, but I'm not sure if it's quite distinguished enough for the committee. I, for one, loved that it wasn't another depressing novel as it dealt with serious issues--Perry faced his injustice with sadness, yes, but eventually conquered it. And plus the characters, the variety and such, were just so awesome. But, in the end, some gaps in the story might keep it from the gold. See my original review here.
Balzer + Bray
Pax has been a popular Newbery pick for sure. It's on a lot of peoples' lists. Indeed, the whole half of the book that takes place from a fox's point of view is fascinating—so well done and (yes) distinguished. I honestly thought the writing in those parts were really quite amazing. And, the universality of the setting (by which I mean the author never really outlines a year or place) makes the underlying themes and messages (the horrors of war, family relationships, etc.) pretty poignant. But the other half of the book, from the boy's perspective, did not quite do as well. I would even say it was drab and boring. And then the fox theme kept coming up in other books this year, taking away from its uniqueness. I don't know that it will win the gold, but it definitely deserves recognition. Here's my original review.
Little, Brown Books
Wild Robot was distinguished for its story. A robot crash landing on an island and befriending its animals? Yeah, funky. Great for kids (especially with the illustrations), and yet, he still manages to work in some heavy-handed topics as well, such as environmental issues and robot ethics. I liked it, I think the committee just might, too. See my original review for more thoughts.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
(that I haven't read and can't really say much about but other people have and so it's on my to-read list)
Ah well. Speculation, speculation. We'll just have to wait until January to see! But hey. What about you? What book do you think should win the Newbery?