Tag Archives: Newbery honor books

Rules, by Cynthia Lord, 2006, Book Review


This was part of my goal to read every Newbery book (this one took honors), and I finished it in one sitting. I started it the last evening of 2012 and enjoyed it enough to forego watching the ball drop. I turned the last page in the earliest hours of 2013. I knew this book had won wide acclaim, but had no idea what it was about. Turns out it shares a similar theme with Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine.

Catherine is a normal twelve-year-old girl who would like a normal life, but having a younger brother with autism means nothing is normal. David blurts out odd phrases at inopportune times. He opens cupboard doors at other people’s houses and hunts for their cellars to make sure the door is closed. He embarrasses Catherine and makes a simple thing like inviting the new neighbor girl over not so simple at all. He must be taught the social graces that the rest of us so naturally assume. So Catherine takes it upon herself to help him by creating a list of rules.

Chew with your mouth closed.

Say “thank you” when someone gives you a present (even if you don’t like it).

If the bathroom door is closed, knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!

No toys in the fish tank.

A character like David can easily alienate a reader with no basis to relate, but David actually became my favorite. He evokes a great deal of sympathy with a few cute quirks. For instance, every time he puts a toy in the fish tank, he burst into Catherine’s room and tells her, “No toys in the fish tank!” (See, he hates to be wet, and he needs her to take it out.) And every time Catherine’s guinea pigs squeal, he covers his ears and yells, “Quiet pigs!” And my favorite, my absolute favorite quirk is that whenever he can’t find the words he needs, he quotes Frog and Toad, a classic easy reader written by Arnold Lobel.

“‘“What are you laughing at, Frog?”’” David asks, worried lines cutting his forehead.

I touch the tiny frog stamp on his hand and show him mine. “‘“I’m laughing at you, Toad,” said Frog, “because you do look funny in your bathing suit.”’”

David smiles. “‘“Of course I do,” said Toad. Then he picked up his clothes and went home.”’

I feel like I got to know David, and I loved him. But the story focuses on Catherine and her changing emotion from anger and embarrassment to acceptance. And she does this with the help of Jason, a wheelchair-bound boy she befriends who can’t talk. The person under the handicap, she realizes, is a person worthy of love and respect. Rules is a moving, well-written story any way you look at it, one I’d highly recommend.

The Black Cauldron (Chronicles of Prydain, book two), by Lloyd Alexander, 1965, Book Review

The wonderful group of companions that overcame danger and evil in book one of the Chronicles of Prydain return for a second bold adventure in The Black Cauldron. This time, Taran is called away by Prince Gwydion on a quest to seize the cauldron that belongs to the evil Lord Arawn. Within this vessel the Dark Lord creates his cauldron-born, those “mute and deathless warriors who serve the Lord of Annuvin. These are the bodies of the slain, steeped in Arawn’s cauldron to give them life again.” To diminish the evil that threatens all of Prydain, the cauldron MUST be destroyed.

Taran, ever ready to prove his budding manhood, leaps at the opportunity. So, too, does the ever-faithful Gurgi with his poor tender head and Princess Eilonwy whose mouth never does stop running, even though the two have been commanded to stay behind. They join Fflewddur Flam, who is still having a great deal of trouble with snapping harp strings, and the dwarf, Doli, who has at last mastered the art of becoming invisible, though it does make his ears buzz something terrible. (“Hornets! Wasps! A whole swarm of bees!”) Yet our companions soon learn the Black Cauldron can only be destroyed at the highest cost, that of a life willingly given.

And so, Taran Pig-Keeper’s second adventure proves as dangerous, fun and rewarding as the last. Maybe it’s even meant to be, “for there is a destiny laid on everything; on big, ugly Crochans as well as poor ugly ducklings, and a destiny laid even on us.” And through it Taran learns some valuable lessons about friendship, honor, betrayal and forgiveness. “It is easy to judge evil unmixed,” Gwydion tells him, “but alas, in most of us good and bad are closely woven as the threads on a loom; greater wisdom than mine is needed for the judging.” Wisdom, perhaps, that we all need to keep in mind when we’re wronged.

The Chronicles of Prydain is turning out to be absolutely remarkable and worthy of its legendary status. (And they’re all newly on Kindle!) This volume won Newbery Honors in 1966. This series is highly, highly recommended–my very highest recommendation–for middle readers 8-13.

My reviews of the other books in this series:

Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm, 2010, Book Review

turtle in paradiseTurtle in Paradise is just the kind of book I love to read best. Sweet and clean, well-crafted, beautiful, with a host of characters I wish I knew, and an open-armed family at the end. It claimed Newbery honors last year.

Turtle grew up in New Jersey with her single mother. She’s the steady one in the family. “I think the color of a person’s eyes says a lot about them. Mama has soft blue eyes, and all she sees is kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are.” When Mama takes a job as a housekeeper for a rich family that will not allow children, Turtle travels to the Florida keys to the home of her aunt and uncle and a host of cousins. Seems everyone in town’s related to the Curry’s of Curry Lane.

“Where’d you get that name of yours?” she’s asked. “Mama says I’ve got a hard shell,” she replies. And it’s true she’s made of stern stuff. She adapts quickly to a new way of life. She outwits the ice cream man, charming a scoop for free after her cousins fail. She’s not afraid to speak her mind or give advice to grown-ups, the “ones who need it most.” And when her cantankerous, bed-ridden grandmother swipes her dinner onto the floor–twice–Turtle doesn’t jump to get her more. Instead, she sets down and enjoys every bite of her own meal right where Grandma can watch her. But by the end, Turtle learns she’s no less a dreamer than her mother, and no less vulnerable. Thank goodness for family in hard situations.

Jennifer Holm writes a lovely story. I highly recommend this book.

Newbery Honor Books, 1990-1999

Here’s another batch of Newbery Honor books and links to where to find them as well as to my reviews. Asterics indicate books I’ve read but not reviewed. How many have you read?











Newbery Honor Books, 2000-2010

Here’s where to find Newbery Honor books and my reviews. Asterics indicate the books I’ve read for my ongoing Newbery challenge but not reviewed.