Friday, January 20, 2017

Lancaster Middle School Mock Newbery

Students from Lancaster Middle School applied to be members of the first Mock Newbery Club in May 2016.  An early list of possible contenders was generated and students verociously started reading. We were able to meet during our WIN time to discuss books and debate Newbery merit. Students were given a taste of the authors' thoughts and writing reflections when we skyped authors Melanie Conklin, Lois Sepahban, Dan Gemeinhart, and Susan Vaught.  This personal connection with the authors has really transformed the book club experience.

Wednesday we held our final vote and chose our Mock Newbery winner. We are thrilled to share our reading recommendations with you!

Receiving the LMS Mock Newbery Award was Paper Wishes by  Lois Sepahban.


During World War II, Manami and her parents and grandfather are forced to relocate from Bainbridge Island in Washington to Manzanar, an internment camp in California for Japanese-Americans.
As they’re about to leave behind everything they own, Manami snatches Yujiin, their beloved dog, into her coat before anyone sees. Sadly, a soldier catches Manami, and Yujiin is left behind in a crate. Heartbroken, guilt-ridden over Yujiin, and fearful of their Manzanar “prison-village,” Manami loses her voice. The relentless, swirling red dirt that coats her throat with mud worsens her silence. Her parents try to make a home in their one-room barrack, while their son, Ron, leaves college to join them. A breath of fresh air is felt when Manami meets her teacher, Miss Rosalie, who doesn’t make her speak but offers Manami plenty of paper and pencils. When Manami sends hand-drawn messages via the wind to Yujiin, she hopes that the little dog will get them and find his way back home. Hardships, injustice, and the emotional truth of Manami’s camp life are thoughtfully portrayed through simple and heart-rending prose. Despite the barbed wire fence and harsh climate, Mother’s garden, mounds bearing garlic and onion seeds, becomes a symbol for resiliency. Graceful moments between Manami and Grandfather shine, giving hope to an unbearable situation.
This historical debut speaks volumes of love and longing. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Receiving Mock Newbery Honors from our Lancaster Middle School Mock Newbery Club were 
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart and Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin.


Twelve-year-old Joseph Johnson searches the Northwest frontier for his missing horse and a new family.
When first his mother and beloved little sister die of typhoid, and then his father dies in a wagon accident, Joseph is left in the care of a drunkard, his Indian pony, Sarah, his only remaining family. When the drunkard sells Sarah to a swindler, Joseph reclaims his father's pistol, takes the money given for the horse, and sets out in pursuit, on foot, through unforgiving wilderness. He wants Sarah back more than almost anything—but he sees the stars as the campfire his family members sit around, and he plans to be the person they taught him to be. So when he finds a starving, abandoned Chinese boy, Ah-Kee, Joseph spends part of his horse money to feed him. Ah-Kee joins him on the trail, and together they battle grizzly bears, survive river rapids, cling to the outside of a steam train, and deliver a pioneer woman's baby—all without speaking a word of each other's language. Told in Joseph's authentic voice, this is true adventure with strong underpinnings of moral courage and love. Gemeinhart shines truth on difficult situations, such as Joseph’s shooting an outlaw, and the ending brings Joseph home: "There was plenty of sadness in the story, I reckon, but it wasn't sad all the way through."
Poignant and real. (Historical fiction. 8-12)


Her younger brother’s critical illness and a transcontinental move create upheaval in 11-year-old Thyme’s life.
In the nine months since her brother, Val, was diagnosed with cancer, Thyme’s family life has been in turmoil. Her family’s relocation to New York from California, for a new treatment to prevent the recurrence of Val’s cancer, leaves Thyme feeling conflicted. Conklin sympathetically addresses Thyme’s struggles to reconcile her longing to return home with her growing awareness of the significance of Val’s new treatment. While depicting the complexity of the family members’ reactions, from older sister Cori’s increasing rebelliousness to their mother’s distracted preoccupation, Conklin also reveals their unwavering support for Val. Despite her determination to remain aloof, Thyme soon becomes attached to her life in New York. She joins work on the school’s spring performance and develops fledging friendships, including one with Jake, who she learns has also experienced grief. Thyme’s efforts to cope with the constant uncertainty and her feelings of insignificance in light of Val’s health issues illuminate the emotional impact a sibling’s serious illness has on the family. Although Thyme may feel invisible next to Val’s illness, when a medical crisis occurs, she realizes her vital importance to her family. Though Thyme and her family appear to be white, her classroom is realistically diverse.
Thyme’s remarkable perseverance and resilience will inspire readers of Conklin’s compassionate tale. (Fiction. 10-14)

The following books were part of our Mock Newbery List. 
We enjoyed discussing characters, plot, authors, and storyline of each of these books. 


We are eager to watch the live broadcast of the Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 23, 2017. Students will be arriving at school at the early hour of 6:20 a.m. to celebrate with breakfast in their pajamas! 

American Library Association Youth Media Awards

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