Posted: March 25th, 2010 | Author: jenny | Filed under: Chapter Books | 229,334 Comments »
Hands-down, my favorite chapter book is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
It’s the only Newbery Medal winner among my favorite books, and it’s easy to see why it won. As an adult I find this book as witty and brilliant as ever, especially since it reveals the interior lives of not only the children in the story, but the adults as well.
In 2000, School Library Journal named The Westing Game one of “One Hundred Books That Shaped the Century.”
In the front of the edition I currently own (published by Puffin Books in 1992), there is a quote from The Horn Book describing it as “a fascinating medley of word games, disguises, multiple aliases, and subterfuges – a demanding but rewarding book.” I couldn’t agree more!
The Westing Game begins with a great first line: “The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east.” That’s only the first of many strange details in this convoluted and funny mystery. The story opens with an odd man named Barney Northrup leasing apartments to mysteriously selected tenants. But at the end of the very first chapter, the reader learns that something has gone wrong…“Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.”
After this portentous beginning, the book skips ahead several months and begins to follow the lives of 16 residents of Sunset Towers, who soon find out that they may be heirs to the fortune of eccentric millionaire Samuel Westing. According to the dictates of his will, the heirs are paired and set off to play the game, win, and inherit millions.
I love the interactions between the characters (especially the adult-child pairs), and I love the way the children are savvy and, at times, much smarter than the grown-ups. And I love the way this clever mystery unfolds. The Westing Game is just a sharply-crafted, rollicking good read!
Posted: March 21st, 2010 | Author: jenny | Filed under: Picture Books | 242,858 Comments »
I’ve decided to start out my blog with posts on my favorite children’s books. Today I’m writing about The Maggie B., by Irene Haas, which has been my favorite picture book since I can remember (see photo).
My copy of The Maggie B. originally belonged to my older sister, Beth. When I found a reprinted edition on Amazon.com a few years ago, I excitedly bought 2 copies – one for me, and one to give to Beth on her birthday. I wrapped her copy and waited expectantly for the big day.
When she opened her present, Beth said, “Hmm…The Maggie B….” and looked at me inquisitively. I don’t think she remembered it at all! And here all along I’d thought this book was just as beloved to her as it was to me.
I love The Maggie B. for its lush illustrations (color alternates with black-and-white) and the lyrical rhythm of the story. It’s about a little girl named Margaret Barnes who wishes on a star one night before bed…and wakes to find she’s the captain of her own ship (the titular Maggie B.) with her brother James (“who was a dear baby”) along for company. They spend an entire day on the Maggie B. and even make it through a scary storm to fall asleep to “nice steady rain [that] made a lullaby sound on the roof of the cabin.”
I imagine that the absence of any adults was part of the book’s attraction when I was little, but this treasure of a book has stood up well over time. I was excited recently to find it listed as an “overlooked gem” in Elizabeth Bird’s Children’s Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career. She writes, “If comfort could be synthesized and pasted between the covers of a book, then what you’d have is Haas and her wonderful tale of a girl, her baby brother, and their ship filled with animals and good things to eat” (63).
So now I have 2 copies of The Maggie B. – the well-loved paperback copy from my childhood, and a nice new hardcover copy. I think I’ll keep them both.