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Award-winning summer reads

July 12, 2010

by Jenni Sebora

Summer gives me the opportunity to do some leisure reading and to actually finish a novel. Of course, I have gravitated to some great literature for youth.

I have just finished two Newbery award books. This prestigious award is given “for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

I enjoy reading these books for a variety of reasons. I am a teacher, so delving into some children’s literature allows me to overview some work that I may share with my students.

I am also a mother of three children. Reading literature that they may have read, may read in the future, or that I can recommend to them is exciting for me. We can actually have conversations about characters, the plot, the lesson, or theme of the story.

But mostly, I read the literature for pure enjoyment. The Newbery books most always carry a moral or lesson to ponder. We’re never too old to be reminded of life lessons.

I have always dreamed of being a children’s author and working in, or owning, a hands-on book store with a coffee/ice cream shop. In my book store I would offer reading instruction. You are never too old to dream.

Back to the books. “The Family Under the Bridge,” was written by Natalie Savage Carlson and illustrated by Garth Williams, who also illustrated the “Little House on the Prairie” books. This Newbery honor book is about a hobo (as the book titles him) in Paris, named Armand. In this story, Armand finds a family consisting of a mother and her three young children who must also live in the streets because of circumstances.

The family becomes Armand’s adopted family, so to say. Armand takes on the role of grandpapa. In this discovery of family for Armand comes with it a sense of responsibility for their well-being, but more importantly, a sense of belonging, security, and “home” in its greatest sense, and love. This book certainly is deserving of the Newbery Honor book award.

The second piece of literature, which I just completed during the Fourth of July holiday, is E.L. Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” This newest revised cover edition of the book contains a 35th anniversary afterward from the author.

The story plot centers on two children, a sister and a brother, who run away from home. Actually, it is not so much that they are running away from something as they are running to something, a discovery of sorts. In fact, they don’t live in a terrible family situation; quite the contrary – they are loved children.

Their chosen hiding place: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They find themselves in the midst of a mystery. The greatest discovery and journey for the children, as the author puts it, was a journey inside.

Claudia, the sister, wanted to return home “different.” By the end of the story, Claudia and her brother discover a secret. She could return home with this secret, feeling “different,” but yet safe and keeping it herself, an old woman and her brother.

As the author so eloquently weaves throughout the story, the discovery was really of something inside or within – an emotional journey. One of my favorite paragraphs contains this statement, “Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”

There are many reasons why this book remains a modern classic and a favorite of both children and adults.

Reading is always an adventure, and it doesn’t cost anything except some time, and even some imagination. What is gained along the way may be adventure, a laugh, a cry, and lessons worth keeping.