Sunday, January 7, 2018

Newbery Reading Challenge Pair # 1

Woohoo! Reading the first pair was not as bad as I thought at all, they are both already read with several days to spare. The first book I read was the shortest Newbery I had left to read. I read this one first because I had attempted Doctor Dolittle before and just didn't want to. 
A Visit to William Blake's Inn Poems For Innocent and Experienced Traveler's by Nancy Willard

Here is my review from Goodreads:
Well, that was a heck of a strange book. This one won the Newbery the year I was born and I can't say that I mind at all that no well-meaning aunt or grandparent gifted this to me.

To enjoy this book, I feel you really must first be familiar with William Blake. A lack of knowledge is easy to rectify by simply searching for William Blake and Songs of Innocence and Experience. This book is known for the lack of moral resolution in the stories as a sort of rebellion against the morality tales popular at the time. 

Now, I didn't read the entirety of Songs of Innocence and Experience, I simply don't have time at the moment, but I did peruse around 10 pages or so and they were all fairly thought provoking things. This contrasts strongly to this book which is more silly and ridiculous than thought provoking. However, I did not read all of William Blake's book, so, who knows? Perhaps this is strongly reminiscent of his work and I just happened to read the somber one. 
The thought that comes into my head though is "would a child enjoy this?" No, I don't really thing so. There are probably some exceptions, but, my daughter would tolerate a few pages of this book and that would be about it. I would have enjoyed the original based on the 10 pages or so I read, but, I was a someber child at times and I did like poetry. I would have preferred Blake to Mother Goose. 

I am glad this exists. While it will likely only appeal to adult readers and a very tiny subsection of strange children, it is still nice that it's around.

Additional Thoughts:
I will say that this book definitely confirms my suspicions that people selecting these books for the Newbery just do not spend enough time asking themselves if a child would actually enjoy the book. I was a serious book nerd even as a child and I would not have liked this book at all. I just cannot even imagine what sort of child would enjoy this. One of the honor books for this same year was Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary. I think we all know which book the kids prefer. At my public library, William Blake's Inn hasn't been checked out since 2015 while half of our copies Ramona Quimby, Age 8 have already checked out in 2018 despite it being only January 8th. 

Continuing on to book two:
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

  Here is my review from Goodreads:

* Not appropriate for the modern classroom due to rampant stereotyping and overall colonialistic attitudes.

If this book isn't for children, who is it for? People trying to complete the Newbery winners list or people who enjoy reading older literature and who are old enough to understand why big portions of this are inappropriate. 

Obviously, that stuff is a big deal and I can't picture myself recommending this book to kids. However, if not for all that rubbish this would be a sort of simplistic adventure story with animals that kids probably would like. Lofting's Dolittle character was a bit ahead of his time in the animal rights department, opposing bullfighting and the keeping of lions in small cages.

Additionally, while pretty much all the minorities are steeped in stereotype, you are meant to like them. I guess that's why I still gave if three stars. I left the book with the impression that Lofting really liked the Indigenous and African people in his book; he was unfortunately a colonialist all the way through and it felt like he thought he was being complimentary. Intent matters to me even if it doesn't change the fact that you can't recommend this book to children. 

On the bright side, I finished it early and I am going into my next Newbery book five days ahead of schedule. Hopefully that one is better. 

Additional Thoughts:

I am so thrilled to have Doctor Dolittle finished. As a child I was recommended this book a few times and attempted to read the first one, The Story Of Doctor Dolittle which I found too simplistic and didn't finish. I really did not want to read another Dolittle book. The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle can absolutely be read without reading the first one and is a lot less simplistic for the adult reader. I cannot picture ever reading another one. I would be interested in reading a modern rewrite of this series though. 

That does bring to mind an interesting point though, several of the Newbery winners are part of a series and often not the first book. Last time I attempted reading the Newbery's, I was trying to read the whole series up to the Newbery winner. This time, I've decided to just start reading the Newbery and if it seems really amazing I will put it to the side and read the previous books. I am so glad I didn't make myself read The Story Of Doctor Dolittle first. 

So, what pairing is next? The next pairing consists of the following two books. Unfortunately, I learned an important lesson in checking these out ahead of time. I am waiting on BOTH books. Oops! I will say I already reserved the next pairing too, so, this shouldn't be a problem going forward. 

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

1 comment:

  1. Bah! I still haven't gotten my week 2 books, may have to jump to week 3 and do them a bit out of order.