Newbery Contender: “Too Bright to See” by Kyle Lukoff

Book review: Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff (tween fiction)

Kyle Lukoff is an author, a former school librarian, and a bookseller. He says he writes books for kids and other people. He is most known for his picture books, When Aiden Became a Brother, a Stonewall Award Winner, and Call Me Max, which recently has gained attention due to censorship for its LGBTQ+ themes. His debut middle grade novel is Too Bright to See, a National Book Award Finalist and sure to be a Newbery contender this year.

The start of middle school is fast approaching, and Bug’s best friend Moira has decided that now is the perfect time to start preparing and reinvent themselves a bit. Will they be the suave cool kids, the fun and flirty jocks, or the charming but gorgeous smarties? But Bug doesn’t want to be any of those things and just wants to be Bug. Practicing being a girl by doing makeup, deciding on the cutest boys in their class, and picking out perfect school outfits is just not appealing. There are bigger things to worry about, like the new ghost in Bug’s old Victorian house. Could it be Bug’s amazing, fun, and gay Uncle Rodrick who recently passed away? Or is it some other more sinister specter?

And can Bug and their mom even stay in their perfectly haunted Vermont home now that Uncle Rodrick isn’t around to help? Bug spends the summer striving to straighten out the mysterious new ghost and what message Uncle Rodrick may have left from beyond the grave. 

Kyle Lukoff, an own voices author (more info here and here), spins a beautiful tale of grief, growing pains, and self discovery. At one point, Bug looks in the mirror and thinks, “I’m always self-conscious of how hard I’m pretending.” Why do you think Bug says this? Have you ever felt like you were pretending?

Check out Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff, and let us know how you liked this book.

~ Ms. Christine

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: “Starfish” by Lisa Fipps

Book review: Starfish by Lisa Fipps (tween fiction)

Lisa Fipps is an award-winning journalist who is now a marketing director for a public library. She loves dogs, traveling, art, and collecting rocks. Starfish is her debut novel, and it is our next contender for the upcoming Newbery Award.  

In Starfish, Ellie wore a whale swimsuit for her fifth birthday and made the biggest splash with her cannonball – earning her the nickname, Splash, from her older sister. Little did she know that nickname would be picked up by everyone in her grade and would continue for years.  

Ever since that party, Ellie lives by her own “Fat Girl Rules” to help her survive at school and at home. Her mom is constantly updating her diets, getting her into a new exercise routine, and decorating their fridge with new diet fads and tips on how to become skinnier. Ellie’s one safe space is her pool where she swims for hours, because she feels weightless. With the support of her new neighbor/friend Catalina, her therapist, and her dad, Ellie starts to realize that she is amazing exactly as she is. She starts to stand up to the bullies at school and even to her mom.   

Starfish is a wonderful story about how hard it can be to accept yourself and learn to feel comfortable in your own skin. Ellie is having trouble with people accepting her, not only at school but at home as well, which makes life exceedingly difficult for her as she struggles with accepting herself. 

I loved this book because it was about standing up for yourself, learning about who you truly are, and being your own person. This is such an important message that I have learned because it is something that my own dad, like Ellie’s, had always taught me.  

Ellie likes to take a nice swim to feel weightless and relax. What do you do to de-stress after a tiring day? 

~ Ms. Mariam

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: “The Beatryce Prophecy” by Kate DiCamillo

Book review: The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo (tween fiction)

Kate DiCamillo is the author of many award-winning books, including The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, which both won the Newbery Award, Because of Winn-Dixie, a Newbery Honor winner, The Tiger Rising, a National Book Award Finalist, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. She is one of only six authors to have won two Newbery Award medals. She is known for covering themes of love, loneliness, and emotional change.

In The Beatryce Prophecy, there is a girl, a goat, a boy with a sword, a strange old hermit, and a monk. When the monk, Brother Edik, finds a girl (Beatryce) ill and asleep, curled up with the monastery’s resident troublemaking goat, Answelica, he realizes a prophecy he made might come true – that a girl will one day unseat a king – and thus the girl is in danger.

Brother Edik goes against the wishes of his abbot to nurse the girl back to health and finds that Beatryce can read and write, which is something that is against the law for girls to do. As Beatryce’s memories slowly return to her, and she realizes just why the king is looking for her, she sets out from the monastery to try to find her way home to her mother, bringing the hard-headed goat with her. Along the way, she meets a boy who lost his parents to a highway robber, a strange hermit with a secret, and discovers that through stories, all can find their way home.

Simple yet powerfully written, in The Beatryce Prophecy, DiCamillo tells a lovely tale about stories and family, with a memorable cast of charming characters in a medieval setting. The book also contains wonderful illustrations by two-time Caldecott medalist Sophie Blackall, making it something akin to the illuminated manuscripts that appear in the book itself.

How did you like this book? Would you like a hard-headed goat as a companion? Have you ever written a story like the tale Beatryce tells about the mermaid?

~ 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:

Newbery Contender: “Red, White, and Whole” by Rajani LaRocca

Book review: Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca (tween fiction)

Our next Newbery contender is Red, White, and Whole, a novel in verse that is a coming-of-age story set in the 1980s. Reha is in eighth grade at a private school in her midwestern American town, where she is one of the few people of Indian descent. As an only child, she is expected to be a stellar student and make something of her life. After all, her parents moved from India to the United States before she was born, to give their family a better life, and Reha feels the weight of their choices. But can she really become a doctor when she can’t handle the sight of a little blood on a skinned knee? Will her parents understand if that is not the path she wants to take?

Not everyone in the town treats her with respect either, simply due to her culture, but she learns to tolerate their ignorance with grace. She is strong but quiet, and works hard to juggle her Indian heritage with the American lifestyle that she wants to be a part of: Reha is learning to balance the expectations of her parents, who she is very close to, with her own need to be a regular American teenager, listening to popular music, going to the school dance, and wearing dresses from the mall. She hopes so desperately to live a whole life, instead of two seemingly very separate halves.

Then, all of a sudden, her mother becomes gravely ill, and life changes completely. Reha tries to be the very best daughter she can be, in hopes of being able to somehow save her ailing mother’s life. In her grief, Reha learns the value of family and of friends who become family.

In Red, White, and Whole, the author introduces a variety of characters, all of whom help to shape Reha’s life. Her parents are loving though strict, and she truly wants to make them proud. She loves school, especially science, and has a small but sincere group of friends. Her family members in India help keep traditions alive. And ultimately, everyone comes to her aid when Reha and her father need it the most.

This book is written in verse, but reads much more like a novel than a poem. It is full and descriptive, well-written and evocative in its themes of family, friendship, and home. Despite some sadness, it is ultimately an uplifting story. A few of its appeals include its effortless storytelling, relatable characters, and universal messages of hope, love, and acceptance. I appreciated how powerful the story is, without needing to include overdone teenage angst or rebellion, or unnecessary language or references, making this a wonderful choice for tweens of all ages. The characters and storyline are very real, and Reha is inherently likable and relatable. I really enjoyed how Reha grew to realize that she really does have a whole life that includes both her Indian side and her American side.

The author herself was born in India and moved to Kentucky as a baby. She drew on some of her own experiences and cultural awareness to give an authentic voice to this beautiful story.

I am pleased to present Red, White, and Whole as my choice for the upcoming Newbery Award. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Reading!

~ Ms. Nicole

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: “Kaleidoscope” by Brian Selznick

Book review: Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick (tween fiction)

Brian Selznick has won numerous awards for his previous books, including the Caldecott Medal and National Book Award Finalist for The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Best Book of the Year by six national literary groups for Wonderstruck.

His newest work, Kaleidoscope, is a set of short stories written during the pandemic while time seemingly stood still or ceased to make sense altogether. Each short story acts as one shard of glass in the kaleidoscope that is this book. Each incorporates themes of friendship, loss, memories, dreams, love, sadness, apples, ships, keys, stars, growth, and nature. Focused around an unnamed narrator and a boy named James, the stories twist and turn, a work of art on their own and as part of the whole.

In common Selznick style, the beginning of this book leaves readers wondering what is going on. Much interpretation is left to the reader, which allows individuals to glean the meaning important to them from each tale and potentially different meanings each time the book is read. My advice to readers is to sit back and enjoy the ride. Try not to overthink, just feel. By the end of the book, the stories will all have woven together, spanning time and space and circling back around again and again.

Take a peek through this Kaleidoscope and let us know what you think. Did it help you? Did it confuse you? Did you enjoy the beauty of the images portrayed? I can say yes to all three. I hope that you will give it a chance and see where each turn takes you.

Happy Reading!

~ Ms. Marcia

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: “Just Like That” by Gary D. Schmidt

Book review: Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (tween fiction)

Gary D. Schmidt received the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor award for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy in 2005. He received another Newbery Honor in 2008 for the The Wednesday Wars. In his most recent book, Just Like That, Schmidt ties in challenging topics of loss and grief that show why he is an excellent choice for 2021 Newbery award.

After her best friend passes in a tragic accident, Meryl Lee Kowalski’s parents feel it is best for her to move schools in order to help her grieve easier. Meryl Lee is ready to face St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for Girls, but she is not ready for the challenge of new social groups and the other classist challenges that she will encounter.

Meanwhile, Matt Coffin is on the run from a gang leader after “finding” his bag full of money. When the headmaster of St. Elene’s takes him in, Matt finds that his past connections will stop at nothing to get back what belongs to them. Matt and Meryl Lee’s paths end up crossing, and the two of them try to break down the social structure of St. Elene.

Just Like That begins in Hicksville, Long Island, the town where The Wednesday Wars takes place, but then readers follow the Kowalski family to St. Elene in Maine. Taking place in 1968, readers are able to see the effects the Vietnam War has on the characters. This book provides many storylines, and the way that Schmidt is able to weave them together is something to praise.

Readers who enjoy historical fiction, The Wednesday Wars, and even realistic fiction will enjoy Schmidt’s attention to detail and the connection of these stories. Schmidt takes the difficult subjects in Just Like That and is able to sprinkle in some comedic relief, making this book an excellent choice for the Newbery Award!

~ Ms. Leeah

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: “The Lion of Mars” by Jennifer Holm

Book review: The Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm (tween fiction)

Jennifer Holm has already received Newbery honors for three previous novels – Our Only May Amelia, Penny from Heaven, and Turtle in Paradise. In addition to her novels, she collaborates with her brother Matthew on several graphic novel series: Babymouse, Sunny, and Squish. She is sure to be a Newbery Award contender for her latest novel, published in January 2021, The Lion of Mars.

This sci-fi adventure is about the life of Bell, an eleven-year-old cat lover who lives on Mars. His days are taken up with assigned chores such as collecting the extremely fine Mars dust from all the vents in the underground compound, school lessons, helping the community’s gardener with the algae and vegetable farm, and taking care of Leo, the only cat.

The Americans on Mars are not alone – there are also French, Chinese, Norwegian, and Russian communities, but because of wars and disagreements on Earth, they have been told not to communicate with the others. The children of the U.S. colony have only heard that the others are dangerous and not to be trusted. When all the American adults come down with a mysterious illness, Bell becomes an unlikely hero and manages to reach the French colony and enlist their help. He and the other children are very surprised to learn that … well, I won’t spoil the story here.

Holm has once again woven a unique and compelling tale for the adventurous middle grade reader. There is just enough intrigue to keep the pages turning, and more than enough sentiment for us to welcome Bell and his comrades into our hearts. Its speculation about what life on Mars would be like for earthlings is funny, informed, inventive – all the elements of a great book for kids.

Check out The Lion of Mars and let us know what you think – what was most interesting about life on Mars? Is it what you imagined? Were you as surprised as I was when you read the truth?

Happy Reading!

~ Ms. Laura

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: “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!