My Newbery Challenge Update for March

I am continuing my march through Newbery winners during my treadmill time at the gym. One of the winners that I highlight today (A Year Down Yonder), made me cry during my workout. Now I am the odd lady who always is reading children’s books at the gym and who is known to weep on the machines.

Book: Ginger Pye

Author: Eleanor Estes

Something about the author: Eleanor Estes, born in 1906, grew up in West Haven, Connecticut. By all accounts, her childhood was as idyllic as the scenarios she created in her books. Her hometown’s website describes Eleanor’s view from her  bedroom window. She could see her school, trains going to places far and near, and fishing boats in the harbor. Eleanor grew up to become a children’s librarian at the beautiful New York Public Library and when she contracted tuberculosis, she began to write fictionalized accounts of what it was like growing up as she remembered.

What it’s about: Jerry Pye and his sister fall asleep each night telling each other stories and talking through the walls of their bedrooms. One night, he asks Rachel if she thinks it would be okay to bring a dog into their house, in that they already have a very entrenched family cat. They decide that their cat can take the change, and after some providential fund-raising, Jerry buys a cute little puppy they name Ginger. The story pursues the kidnapping of Ginger, the quest to find him, and his eventual reunion with the Pyes.

Year it won: 1952

Somethings about that year: The New York Times article reporting on the awards’ dinner where the Newberry was presented to Estes, recounted a talk given by the editor of The Saturday Review. The speaker had words of warning for the “youth of today, reared in the blare of radio and under the influence of television.” Amy Lovemann told the audience that books must not be cast aside for the “conglomeration of facts that (radio and television) provide.” Familiar.

Favorite part: At one point, Ginger is in the family yard and wondering where the kids go most days. He decides to use his dog skills and follow his master’s scent to find his boy. Ginger’s trailing of Jerry’s smell and the shenanigans that he manages to get into before triumphantly appearing in the window of Jerry’s classroom, were very sweet. I recently read The Art of Racing in the Rain, and this section made me think of that book quite a bit.

Favorite character: Sam Doody is the neighbor boy who seems to have it all. He has enough money to buy a purple suit, gives Jerry the opportunity to earn money to buy a puppy, takes photographs, and drives a swell jalopy. All that and his name is Sam Doody!

Book: A Year Down Yonder

Author: Richard Peck

Something about the author:  I think that Richard Peck must be kind of a superman. He was a marine, has written books, screenplays, plays, poetry and he has been the president of three universities. His website now lists his activities as “restrained meddling in the lives of his children and grandchildren, golfing at a level far below his aspirations, and writing.” I am charmed.

What it’s about: In 1937, because money is tight, Mary Alice needs to leave her parents in Chicago and go live with her Grandma in the country. Grandma is as independent, clever, mischievous, tough, gold-hearted character as you will come across. Mary Alice’s year at Grandma’s starts out shaky, but ends with connection and devotion – both to her Grandma and the town.

Year it won: 2001

Somethings about that year: The year that this book won, was the year that Wikipedia was launched on the web. What did we do before then?

Favorite part: It is hard to pick out my favorite prank of Grandma’s, but I am going to have to go with her wielding her way into hosting a tea party for the Daughters of the American Revolution in her parlor. She is able to do it because she is the best baker in town, but she is also the most willing to take hoity-toity people down a notch. She invites some non-DAR ladies to the gathering and the upset that ensues is quite funny.

Favorite character:  So easy! Grandma. She is fantastic.


Next up on the Treadmill: The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong, 1955 winner