2019 Newbery and Caldecott books
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Merci Suárez Changes Gears
This Newbery Medal winner centers on sixth grader Merci Suárez as she encounters changing dynamics at school, bullying, and middle-school boy-girl drama. But the real heart of the story focuses on Merci’s family. Her beloved grandfather, Lolo, is also encountering changes as he ages and faces the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Merci has to learn that growing up means not always getting what you want and sacrificing your desires to support others, especially your family. Although the book moves slowly at points, it ultimately offers a satisfying, heartwarming, and bittersweet conclusion. Cautions: language. (Ages 12 & up)
The Night Diary
In this Newbery Honor book, 12-year-old Nisha and her family must leave Pakistan for India after the British relinquish control of the country during the 1940s. Both sad and hopeful, the story wrestles with questions of war through the words and thoughts of a child. Because Nisha’s father is Hindu and her mother is Muslim, the book also tackles questions of religious differences. A historical note and discussion questions at the end make this book a great way to study a lesser-known period of history. Cautions: descriptions of killings that could be disturbing for sensitive children. (Ages 12 & up)
The Book of Boy
Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Book of Boy, a Newbery Honor winner, is a quirky, medieval adventure story about a boy named Boy and a man trying to collect the scattered relics of St. Peter in order to get into heaven. The book’s plot assumes a medieval worldview, resulting in more than a few theological missteps: Relics are essentially magical objects; people move back and forth between heaven and hell on their own merits; and there are many strange, supernatural incidents. But this is also what makes the book interesting, and it might be a good addition to a unit study on medieval history. Cautions: bathroom humor. (Ages 13 & up)
Alma and How She Got Her Name
This sweet Caldecott Honor book traces the family history behind a little girl’s many names. Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela thinks her name is too long, so her father tells her about her grandparents and great-grandparents for whom she is named. With each story, Alma sees how her ancestors passed along more than just their names as she recognizes their character traits in herself. With warm, delicately colored illustrations, this lovely picture book celebrates the heritage our families have given us. In a world that prizes autonomy and self-determination, it’s a refreshing story, indeed. (Ages 4-8)
WORLD previously reviewed the 2019 Caldecott Medal winner Hello Lighthouse in the March 2 issue, but the other Caldecott Honor books are also full of warmth and color. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018) tells through bright, collage-style illustrations how a grandmother’s generosity and cooking skills make her new friends. Her choice to share what she has not only feeds others but inspires them to be generous themselves.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018) is a fable inspired by the Chinese Moon Festival. The story explains the moon phases by describing a star that eats a mooncake.
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies (Greenwillow Books, 2018) is a gentle tale about what it feels like to grieve loss and find joy through new friendships.—R.L.A.
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