Friday, January 12, 2018

Newbery Reading Challenge Pair # 3

To be read by February 4th, 2018
Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
I actually think I will enjoy this. For a change of pace, I'm writing this as I work my way through the book. I'm currently 44% of the way through this and enjoying it so far. It does leave me wishing that I had the time to read the first book before reading this one, I can definitely tell I'm missing some important plot points. This is one of several Newbery winners that are part of a series and NOT the first book. Ugh!
I was surprised by how many there are that fit that description. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is book two in the series. The Hero and the Crown is also the second book in a series. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is book number four in its' series as is The Grey King. The High King is book five in the The Chronicles of Prydain series. A Year Down Yonder is yet another sequel. Those are just the ones that are noted correctly on Goodreads. I feel like there's still a couple more books that I'm missing.

*That's 14 additional books to read if you want to read the books that come before the Newbery winners in the series.*  😣

Edited to add final review:
Really excellent. If I would have known how good it was going to be, I would have gone ahead and read the first book before reading this one. I'm just working through the Newbery winners and in the interest of getting the list done sometime soon I decided to skip earlier books in series.

Dicey's Song was a contemporary fiction back in the early 80's when it won the Newbery. If you are looking for pop references though, you will not really find them in this book. At the end of the book, the kids are getting ready to try their first pizza. Man, I remember that! Back in the early 80's, there were still people who had never tried pizza. I was something like 7 years old the first time my parents got us a pizza. My mom had tried to make us pizza before that, but, it was just spaghetti sauce with cheese on bread dough. A good attempt, but, this was the age before the internet. They got a pepperoni pizza and I still remember being shocked by how amazing it was.

Anyways, I digress. This book is somewhat about mental illness, Dicey's mom is at a hospital far away in a catatonic state. The first book was apparently about their journey to their grandmother's house after their mom abandoned them. This second book does fill in enough detail where you don't have to read the first one, but, I was left wishing that I had. They are a family of oddball characters, some prone to fighting, some with learning disabilities and a grandmother who is the town's strange character.

Parents will appreciate the 'be yourself' message. There's no romance in the book, but, you are left with the idea that there will be in future books. Dicey is a great character, she's self-sufficient and complex. She both wants alone time but also feels some discomfort when her siblings need her less. She doesn't want friends or connections but, then realizes that she shouldn't hold people at arms length. She learns this from her Grandmother's mistakes with a childhood friend.

I didn't really pick up on anything problematic in this book. Grandma tries to initiate a talk about the 'birds and the bees' and Dicey stops her, tells her what she already knows and says she will ask when she's ready to hear more.

I really liked the home ec class portions. The teacher is a bit of a witch, but, there is one speech in there that is just great. Dicey didn't want to take home ec, she wanted to take mechanical drafting but there wasn't room for her in the class which Dicey knows is partly due to gender bias, boys take drafting and girls take home ec. The teacher makes a point that everyone should learn home ec and she laments that more boys don't take the class because it's information that everyone needs. I really feel that a lot of parents have done their boys a disservice by not insisting on some skill in that area.

A lot of award winning children's books are more fun for adults to read, but, I feel like Dicey's Song would be appealing to children who like an emotional adventure.


The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds

Yay! I finally read this book and now I can donate it and never look at it again.

This book has crossed my path many times. I owned it as a child and didn't read it. I owned it as a young adult and donated it before a cross country move. Now, as an adult, I ended up with one again in a lot of other books. This book has never appealed to me. I don't like the illustrations, I don't like the story.

Remember the 1950's books where the 'noble' cowboy shoots the 'no-good thievin' injuns'? Well, this sort of felt like a more eloquently worded and historical version of exactly those tales. It's like the author sat and thought to himself, "I really want to write a story where a 10 year old boy kills an Indigenous person, how can I make that happen?"

There is not much in the way of other daily life details, the whole tale is just the setup for how a 10 year old would get to be the one pulling the trigger.

The version I read felt like there were parts missing. Somehow, the story jumps from him killing all three indians in one shot to the whole house being up in flames with no explanation for how that happened. One day I may thumb through an older version just to see what was supposed to be there.

Now, I'm not a fan of censoring books. That being said, I still see no reason to read this to your kids. This is something you read because you are reading all the Newbery books.

If you want to teach your kids about the racism experienced by the Indigenous, then read something written by an Indigenous person. You don't need to read something glorifying the 'great white male hunter' to teach your kids about racism. You can read a fictionalized account of life in a residential school instead. If you want to teach your kids about the French-Indian war there are plenty of options.

Now, if this book held a special place in your childhood, I can see reading it to your kids. There are just too many other better books out there to bother with this one.

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