"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Past National Book Award winners---two more reviews

In my personal quest to read at least two National Book Award winners for each of the past ten years, I am closing in on that goal with only two books to go. Below are two winners in the Young People's Literature category.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Freedom by Phillip Hoose won the award for best Young People's Literature in 2009. It is a nonfiction account of an unknown hero of the Civil Rights Movement, Claudette Colvin. She refused to give up her seat on a bus and was arrested long before Rosa Parks' more famous arrest for the same thing. In addition, she became one of four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle which ruled that Montgomery's bus segregation policies were unconstitutional.

Colvin was only fifteen years old when she refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. She said in an interview for Newsweek magazine that she felt like "Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing on the other." So she stayed glued to her seat. The NAACP briefly thought about using her case to bring a lawsuit about the bus segregation, but decided against it because she was so young and she was pregnant.

Little has been written about this hero and her contributions to civil rights, so it delighted me to learn about her from this well-written and highly readable book by Hoose. In addition to this book, Rita Dove, a US Poet Laureate, wrote a poem titled "Claudette Colvin Goes to Work" about this young girl's contributions to civil rights. Her former attorney said that, "Claudette gave us all moral courage. If she had not done what she did, I am not sure that we would have been able to mount support for Mrs. Parks."

I love learning new information about contributions made to important historical events. I recommend this book for that reason.

The Thing About Luck By Cynthia Kadohata is a middle grade book and the National Book Award winner for Young People's Literature from 2013. I listened to the audiobook read by Joy Osmanski which ended up being a great choice. I'll explain why in a minute.

Summer and her Japanese-American family have been experiencing a year of rotten luck. To start with Summer nearly died from malaria after receiving a bite from an airport mosquito in Florida. Next her parents had to return to Japan to care for elderly relatives, leaving Summer and her brother, Jaz, in the care of their grandparents, Obaachan and Jichan. Jaz loses his only friend and becomes invisible to everyone except his family. And Obaachan and Jichan are forced out of retirement to work the harvest season: Jichan to drive a huge combine, and Obaachan to be the camp cook with help from Summer. Age and infirmity has affected both of them leaving Summer to help out more than she ever has had to before.

The book is a sweet coming-of-age story about a slice of Americana I've no prior knowledge about---groups of farm helpers who travel around the country to harvest the wheat at just the right time before moving on to the next farm. It is grueling work and one that attracts workers from all over the world. Summer uses a journal to make observations about her summer, and possible young love. She also finds a way to shift the family from bad luck to good luck!

As I was reading reviews by other readers on Goodreads so many of the comments were about how boring this book was and how slow the plot with no huge points of excitement or drama. I, on the other hand, delighted in the story and I suspect it is because of the audiobook. Joy Osmanski did a great job reading the parts. The voices she used for Obaachan and Jichan were spot perfect and I found them to be quite humorous. At times as I listened I would laugh out loud. I was very touched by Summer's narration and found the plot interesting and a bit enlightening. I can recommend this book wholeheartedly in this format.


  1. I read the Claudette Colvin book and enjoyed it. I haven't heard of the other one, but it sounds like a great middle grade book.

    1. The comments on Goodreads about The Thing About Luck often focus on target audience. It is written for 10-14 year-olds, yet the interest area for this audience might be lacking. I loved it, but I can see their point.

  2. I think Sam Hell might be a bit that way too for many people (boring coming of age story) although I was fascinated with about 2/3 of the book. Then it got a bit too much.


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