Last week I did a quick Newbery unit in my 6th grade class. We reviewed the history of the award, the terms, criteria, and rules. We also read articles about the recent Newbery controversy and discussed them as a class. It was amazing to hear my students’ thoughts on the award and the recent controversy and I think we all learned a lot! But my favorite part was the end of the unit- I had my students write me at least a paragraph explaining whether they thought Chains (our current read-aloud) or The Underneath (which we previously read as a read-aloud) deserved to win a Newbery or Honor on January 26th and why.
I was stunned by the responses I received! Some of my students wrote over a page, expounding the virtues of one or both of the books. They were extremely passionate in their opinions, so I wanted to share a few with my readers.
“I think that The Underneath should win because I like how it tells different problems happening with different characters. If you don’t understand one problem that’s going on you may understand another one. I also liked in The Underneath how at the end all the characters come together. “
“I think that Chains should win the Newbery because it is a good book with real info and sometimes you think Wow I have it good.”
“I think that both Chains and The Underneath should be honors. The Underneath should not just be in the honors but it should win…It should win because it keeps you thinking and it keeps you reading.”
“I think that Chains will win the Newbery and The Underneath will be recognized as an Honor book. Both books have great writing in them and the authors really did a good job with the character development. In my opinion, Chains is written better, but The Underneath is good, too. I can’t wait until Jan. 26th!”
“I think Chains and The Underneath both have a chance of winning the Newbery. Chains is very interesting and seems like I am actually in the Revolutionary War. I like this book because it is suspenseful and you don’t know what will happen next. I like how bad things keep happening and Isabelle doesn’t give up. The Underneath is a book that I liked but I thought it was hard to understand. “
“I really believe that Chains should win. I believe there should be a change. Since we now have an African-American president, we should have an African-American book. This books is fantastic because because it has true facts about American history. I feel this book should win over The Underneath because The Underneath is about imaginary things. “
“I believe The Underneath should win the Newbery Award. I think because it has lessons to teach the reader. It tells the stories about the struggles of life and how to get through it. When the animals in the story get into difficult situations they seem to find a way out. It also shows the sacrifices we will make for friends and family. For example, when the mother cat saves Puck from drowning. “
“I think The Underneath should win the Newbery Award. I think because it was a great book and made my class so emotional. I saw and heard crying when the calico cat died. I heard rage when Ranger was beaten. I saw happiness when Garface died. But most of all tears of joy for Grandmother helping Ranger, Puck, and Sabine and when they all ran away together as a family.”
“I think The Underneath should win the Newbery- or at least an honor book- for many reasons. One reason she should get the award is because her book is a page turner for children. I am a child and I know I loved the book. “
Those are just a few of the opinions in my two classes. Between all of my students, the votes are pretty evenly divided between Chains and The Underneath. But every student felt that they both fit the criteria and deserved to at least win an honor on January 26th! I just love how passionate they are about both books and how invested they are in the award ceremony.