Norman Public Library
Miss Denilyn of the Norman Public Library offers these reviews of several books from this year's crop of Sequoyah Children's Book Award nominees!
According to the Oklahoma Library Association, who sponsors the award, the Sequoyah is the third-oldest children's choice award in the nation, the first prize having been awarded in 1959. The most recent winner was Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon.
The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
Trisha is a slow learner in special classes and transfers to a new school so no one will know. She is devastated when she is put into a special class in her new school. All of the other kids call her class the “junkyard class”.
The remarkable teacher of this class is able to appreciate the genius in each of the junkyard class students and to help them understand that where see some people look and see junk, others look and recognize the treasure. The students in the class become best friends and appreciate the strengths of each individual as they work together on projects.
The “junkyard class” faces hard realities including the ridicule of other kids at school and the death of a classmate. This heartwarming tale of moving from feeling like an outsider to belonging will be appreciated by 3rd – 5th graders. The accompanying illustrations are delightful and enhance the delivery of the story.
On The Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells
Rosemary Wells' time travel adventure is packed with surprising plot developments. Oscar Ogilvie is the 11-year-old boy who has lost his mother and because of depression-era financial issues, his father has headed to California from Cairo, Illinois and left Oscar with a less-than-nurturing Aunt.
He befriends a drifter, who teaches him many things including an introduction to time travel. In his time traveling adventures, he befriends famous historical characters and a girl who is also time traveling. He meets his father in the future, himself in an older body and resolves a crime. The action throughout the book centers on model trains and the train system."
This is a good, fast-paced adventure read for upper grade readers who enjoy historical fiction. The time traveling can be a bit confusing and may not appeal to readers who are not open to this stretching of reality.
Star in the Forest by Laura Resau
Star in the Forest is a very engaging story addressing the grim realities faced by illegal aliens, true friendship and spirit animals. Zitlally is the middle child of a Mexican family. The entire family immigrated to the United States when there were no work opportunities in their village. Zitlally has a great affection for her father who speaks to her in an ancient Aztec language. Her father is arrested for speeding and deported to Mexico.
He attempts to return to his family but needs financial help from his family in the U.S. Zitlally finds and nurtures a dog she names Star. Her friend, Crystal, supports Zitlally as she feeds and trains the dog. When Star goes missing and Zitlally's father is kidnapped, Zitlally comes to believe his fate is tied to Star's. The resolution of the story further demonstrates the vulnerability of these immigrant families and the power of caring for others.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Tommy is trying to decide if Origami Yoda, a finger puppet, is a wise adviser or a useless piece of paper. Dwight folded and wears Yoda and speaks for the origami creation. Dwight is goofy and always in trouble. He does odd things like wearing the same shirt every day for a month and repeating the word “purple” over and over when Tommy tries to talk to him."
Tommy gathers evidence by examining the predictions and advice Yoda has offered. He has the recipients of the advice describe the value of the Yoda’s wisdom by telling their stories. Harvey, who thinks Yoda is just a wad of paper, responds to each story with his thoughts about Yoda’s lack of wisdom. Tommy needs advice about a girl and really wants Yoda’s help but isn’t sure he can trust the origami sage.
This book delightfully describes the struggles navigating an incomprehensible sixth-grade social scene. The book has different storytellers and different perspectives, stretching the reader’s appreciation of divergent ways of thinking. The book is funny and would be very appealing to children in the 5th through 8th grades. Yoda is successful enough in his predictions for Tommy to trust his advice and the resolution is satisfying.