Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults

Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Nominees


MCBAThe nominees for this year’s Massachusetts Children’s Book Awards (MACBA) cover a range of topics and reading levels. It is always interesting to debate the appropriateness of a book for a specific child. Two of the books on this year’s list are perfect examples of the fact that basing a selection on an “anointed” reading level shouldn’t be the mitigating factor in choosing to read a book. One of the strengths of this voluntary reading incentive program (MACBA) is that the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders are exposed to books that they might not gravitate to on their own, perhaps because of the level. Yet, after reading some of the novels, they are eager to talk about them.

liarThe narrator in Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2012) is a seventh grade boy named Georges, with a silent “s”. He is a target for one of the school bullies who looks for other students’ weaknesses. It isn’t much easier for him at home. His mother is working extra hours as an intensive-care nurse because his father lost his job. Their new apartment is in Brooklyn, and he forms a friendship with Safer, who has a warm, eccentric family and proclaims that he is a spy. The author tackles the courage and fortitude that it sometimes takes to navigate childhood and adolescence with insightful compassion. Readers learn that what they may believe is truth could be based on a lie. In the MACBA program, Liar & Spy is listed at the fourth grade reading level, but it clearly also deals with themes for older students.

orangeOne Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin (Abrams, 2011) doesn’t have just one protagonist. A different neighbor on Orange Street tells each chapter, and each character has a unique voice and perspective. The children on the street puzzle over a heart-shaped stone, a stranger with a sketchpad, and a bright orange traffic cone. They learn about each other, but more importantly, they gain insight about themselves. In the MACBA program, this book is listed at the advanced sixth grade level, yet the cover attracts younger readers. The two quotes on the very first page immediately appealed to me.
The street I lived on was like a book of stories, all different, but bound together.
-The Memoirs of Ethel Finneymaker

They all believed in magic, but everyone’s magic was different.
-Stories and Lists of Mormidable Words, by Ali Garcia

The author shares her ideas and the background of the book.

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