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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 Newbery Award Winner

Did you hear that the American Library Association just announced their 2009 children's literature award winners? And among them was Neil Gaiman, author of “The Graveyard Book,” illustrated by Dave McKean and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Gaiman won the coveted 2009 John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to children’s literature.

Have any of you read this book yet?

I have read only the first few pages. I am confused. A book written for children... begins with a man and a sharp knife who has broken into a house and has killed the mother, father, and oldest child. And so the youngest child, is the only survivor and I'm not sure why at this point, but he must live in a graveyard.

Like I said, I have not read this book. It strikes me as inappropriate for this young age group and so I want to hear from those of you whom have read it. Please fill us in. Would you have given it your vote for a Newbery? Is it less gruesome than its beginning? Is it gruesome in an appropriate way - seems an oxymoron to me... Very paradoxical - writing a tale of a heinous murder for kids. At first glance, I put the book down, deciding I didn't want my kids to read it, but clearly I have missed something very huge! And now I am intrigued and filled with wonder...



Have you read it? What do you think? And let's share our views on when we think we've gone too far and have crossed that line that maybe we shouldn't cross in children's literature... Or maybe we have to cross - to make big, bold choices - in order to say something just as big and as bold...

18 comments:

Jeanie W said...

In today's Washington Post article on the Newbery winners, Neil Gaiman is quoted as saying he didn't think the book was appropriate for children under 10 because of that opening scene. While there is more danger and suspense in the rest of the story, I didn't think there was anything quite as chilling as those first few pages. I certainly wouldn't hand the book over to a kid who frightens easily or is disposed to getting nightmares. But for kids who can handle those opening moments, there's a lot of fun to be found in the rest of the novel.

beth said...

I haven't read this yet, but totally plan to...I'll let you know when I read it!

PJ Hoover said...

I have read it. After the first two pages I had the same thoughts are you. But they SWIFTLY changed and it became a very nice read which only glanced on the loss very minorly.

I would not have a problem with my son reading it if he wanted to, though really he probably won't want to until next year.

Amy Tate said...

I'll see if I can find a copy at the conference this weekend. It sounds extremely disturbing. I remember when the Invention of Hugo Cabret won several awards, and I didn't understand that either. Although the book wasn't violent, it had several rough sections that my son struggled with. He was seven at the time, and I stopped reading after chp.3. It was too intense. For what my peon opinion is worth, children grow up fast enough as it is. They'll have the rest of their lives to witness that sort of violence.

Sheri said...

Jeanie, I suspected that was the one and only scene as gruesome as that. But I guess I still wonder if I'd WANT my 10 year old, 11 year old to even read something like that? I think I'd have to read it first. Did you read it, Jeane?

Beth, I think it will have to go on my MUST READ LIST too. I am completely and totally intrigued. And as a writer, I want to see how he did this for children and learn what I can from the Gaimanmaster.

Thanks PJ. I so much value everyone's opinion, but I really also wanted to hear from those of you who read it. I have heard in the attached interview, that adults weep at the ending.

I will share... on You Tube they have Gaiman reading excerpt of this book for 45 minutes. My daughter sat (my 10 year old) and listened with me for about 10 minutes. She was intrigued too and asked what it was. I said a book written for children. And her eyes popped open and she said, No WAY! And I said yes. Then she asked if she could read it when she's done with Harry Potter. HOWEVER!!!!! Last night (or I guess I should say this morning) at around 2 AM, she climbed into bed with us and said, Mommy can I sleep with you? I just had a nightmare about that book and the man with the long, black knife.

... ... ...

Sheri said...

Amy, you popped on just after I left my last comment...

I, personally, LOVED Hugo Cabret and thought it was revolutionary. My daughter - the same one who climbed into bed with me - also loved it. In fact, she loved it so much, she wrote Brian Selznick a letter and was THRILLED beyond belief when he not only wrote her back - but in his OWN HANDWRITING (insert screams and giggles of glee) But you bring up a solid point - know your child and his/her limits and you'll know if Hugo or Graveyard is a good book for them. I do agree, btw, that I wonder most if this is just exposing them to things (even if for a brief page or two or three) to something that, well, why expose them to that at all?

Jeanie W said...

Sheri - Yes, I did read it. I loved it, but I'm sure it's not for everyone. If you're thinking of offering it to a sensitive kid, at the very least be sure you read it first.

Lapillus said...

Congrats to him! I think he deserves it.

The beginning IS disturbing. I haven't actually read it in print, but I watched most of the reading tour he did. I almost turned it off because of the beginning but I'm so glad I didn't. I couldn't understand how it was a children's book at first... I mean, I'm an adult and I don't even read stuff like that!

Anyways, it becomes exceedingly charming and addictive. It continues to have a dark edge but nothing like that first bit that I can recall.

If you have the time, you can listen to him read the whole book here.

http://www.mousecircus.com/videotour.aspx

Amy Tate said...

Sheri, my curiosity got the best of me, and as if I had nothing else to do today, I trudged down to B&N to check out this book. I read through the first couple of chapters, and put it back on the shelf. Yes...it's creepy. It may get better in the middle, but the beginning turned me off. Especially with this L.A. family massacre in the news. I mean, where do we draw the line? I have so much I want to say, I'm going to blog about this! I'll put a link to your blog in the post. I'm with you, I just don't get it.

Sheri said...

Jeanie, I agree abotu screening certain books before allowing your children to read them. I read Twilight before I let my tween-er read it.

Lappilus, that's what everyone is saying - disturbing at first but then so entertaining and charming. I thought I could be a thriller writer at one point. When I was a teenager I LOVED horror movies. I really loved the thrill of feeling scared. I could tell gruesome tales, myself. But then once I had kids. I just couldn't allow myself to go to the violent, bloody places in everyone's imagination anymore.

Amy, I have no doubt it's not for everyone. And I am still with you (or with me) that I wonder what's too much... when have we crossed that line... however, I do recognize that Gaiman is a very talented and gifted writer and that kids seem to really love his scary stories. I am happy for him and say Congrats to Mr. Gaiman!

Oh - Amy, good luck at the NY SCBWI conference!

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh my goodness ... that's just disturbing to me! We'd pass on that one with my kids!

Sheri said...

Kelly - everyone is sayin gthe book as a whole is worth the gruesome beginning. What do you think? Do you think there is a line that must not be crossed in literature for children of this age?

Gottawrite Girl said...

I read that same article that Jeanie did... I now MUST read this book ~ after hearing this point of debate...

: )

Keri Mikulski said...

Haven't read it yet.. But, it's on my TBR. Interesting opening scene.

Sheri said...

Very, Keri. The only way I will know where I stand on this issue, is if and when I read it. I WILL read it... just when?

cindy said...

i just finished it. i loved it. i thought it was frightening at times. i would say age 11 would be appropriate...

cindy said...

i do agree the beginning made me =O but it was all hinted at. the latter parts were scary from supernatural scary, tho there was the threat again when jack found him once more.

the idea is certainly very gruesome, but it depends on the kids. i think 12 is def old enough. 11 borderline...and you know, there are LOADS of scary ghost creepy books out there on the shelves in middle grade that i've seen. maybe not murder as a start ...

i do think it is worthy of the newbery.

Sheri said...

Thanks, Cindy for your comment and I really vaule your opinion (all of your opinons!)

And do I recall, you had met Mr. Gaiman and maybe even interviewed him or something like that on your blog a while ago???

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous