Newbery Contender: “The Shape of Thunder” by Jasmine Warga

Book review: The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga (J fiction)

Jasmine Warga’s Other Words for Home received a Newbery Honor in 2020 for its honest, moving portrayal of the experiences of a young Syrian refugee whose outside perspective provides reflections of not just the Syrian civil war, but American culture. Warga’s latest, The Shape of Thunder, too, gives an honest, if painful, reflection of American culture that is deserving of 2021’s Newbery Award.

Cora misses her big sister Mabel terribly. Mabel was her best friend and the only other person in their small Ohio town who understood what it was like to be a child of the only Muslim immigrants around. Last November, though, Mabel was killed in a school shooting, and twelve-year-old Cora is still learning how to live with her grief and fear. As the one-year anniversary approaches, the pain only seems to get worse. Cora misses her former best friend, Quinn, too, but can’t admit it to herself. It was Quinn’s brother who killed Mabel.

Quinn misses Cora, and she misses her big brother, Parker. She misses who Parker was before he started isolating himself in his room, spending all of his time on his computer, and saying awful things about people like Cora’s family. She misses how things were before Parker did the worst thing a person can do. But Quinn believes she’s found a way that she can fix everything: she has reason to believe that time travel is possible. She needs the help of Cora’s scientific mind, though, for it to work.

The Shape of Thunder follows Cora and Quinn as they attempt go back to that fateful morning and repair what was destroyed. But, even more, this novel follows two families and their surrounding community as they continue to grapple in their own ways with the aftermath of a tragedy that has become all too familiar. Warga skillfully and delicately handles these heavy topics, demonstrating their immensity and complexity as experienced by two twelve-year-old girls.

The Shape of Thunder is the very definition of a Newbery Award-worthy book. Warga has developed an affecting portrait of modern American life that is not just a stunning contribution to children’s literature, but to American literature as a whole.

~ Ms. Louise

Newbery Bingo Challenge:

Help us celebrate 100 years of Newbery Medal winners by competing in our bingo challenge! Download and print off your bingo board and try to read as many of these Newbery Award winning books as you can before January 24, 2022. You can download a copy of our Newbery Bingo Board here:

Newbery Contender: “Amber & Clay” by Laura Amy Schlitz

Book review: Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz (tween fiction)

Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of numerous award-winning books, including the Newbery award-winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, and the Newbery honor Splendors and Glooms. She also wrote the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and a National Jewish Book Award Winner, The Hired Girl, and received a Cybils award for A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama. Her writing is broad in scope and captures many different points in history and styles of writing.

In Amber & Clay, the story follows Rhaskos and Melisto, unalike in many ways, with profoundly different lives, and never truly meeting within the narrative, but whose stories are entwined in many curious ways. Rhaskos is a Thracian slave who is torn from his mother and sold to a wealthy family who, after a series of miserable years, sells him to a Greek potter as a stable boy. Treated badly by those around him, Rhaskos becomes enamored with drawing horses, and strikes up a friend with the old philosopher, Socrates. Melisto is the daughter of an aristocrat, spoiled by her father but hated by her mother and ultimately sent off to serve Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, where she befriends a bear and a kindly monk, and her life takes an unexpected turn. Ghosts, gods, and a wily philosopher ultimately weave the two children’s stories together.

Written in both prose and verse, with the Greek god Hermes chiming in on occasion, Schlitz moves between writing styles with ease. Illustrations by Julia Iredale of imaginary artifacts included with each chapter help paint a vivid portrait of ancient Greek life and will be sure to capture the imagination of any reader who has read Percy Jackson but wants something slightly more grounded but with a definite historical backbone.

Let us know what you think of this one! How did you like the illustrations? Do you think they seemed like things that one might find if you were at an archeological dig in Greece? There’s a certain plot twist halfway through the book that certainly surprised me. Did it surprise you?

~ Ms. Emily

Newbery Bingo Challenge:

Help us celebrate 100 years of Newbery Medal winners by competing in our bingo challenge! Download and print off your bingo board and try to read as many of these Newbery Award winning books as you can before January 24, 2022. You can download a copy of our Newbery Bingo Board here:

Hudson Library Mock Newbery: 100 Years of The John Newbery Medal

In 1922, the Children’s Librarians’ Section of the American Library Association created an award named for an eighteenth-century English bookseller, with the purpose of encouraging original creative work in books for children. It was the first, and is still the foremost, award of its kind.

Now overseen by ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), the Newbery Award and Newbery Honor seals are sure signs of excellence in writing by an American author. From the first – The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon – to the most recent – When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller – the Newbery awards represent both the hard work and passion of the committee members who read hundreds of books to whittle the field down to a handful, and the distinctive connection between an author and their readers as they explore worlds both real and imagined, together.

On January 24, 2022, the current Newbery committee will announce their choices for the Newbery Medal and Honor books of 2021. Join us for the next few weeks as we discuss some of our favorite books of 2021, maybe throw in your own comments and suggestions, and then we can meet virtually for one last celebration of the year’s best books – let’s see if we can predict what the next Newbery winner will be!

Possible Newbery Contenders:

From November 22 to January 17, we will publish a new blog post every Monday that will talk about a book that the Hudson children’s librarians think has a chance at winning. Titles include:

Nov 22 – Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz

Nov 29 – The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga

Dec 6 – The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm

Dec 13 – Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt

Dec 20 – Kaleidoscope by David Selznick

Dec 27 – Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

Jan 3 – The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo

Jan 10 – Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Jan 17 – Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff

Newbery Bingo Challenge:

Help us celebrate 100 years of Newbery Medal winners by competing in our bingo challenge! Download and print off your bingo board and try to read as many of these Newbery Award winning books as you can before January 24, 2022. You can download a copy of our Newbery Bingo Board here:

More Important Dates:

January 21: Hudson Library’s Mock Newbery virtual discussion. Details forthcoming.

January 24: ALA announces the winner of the Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, Martin Luther King, Pura Belpre, and many more annual awards for children’s books.

February – December 2022: Watch for special events, challenges, and opportunities to celebrate the Newbery with your Hudson Library Youth Services librarians!