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Posts Tagged ‘Newbery Honor

Hope. Remember the name. It’s important to both the main character and to those whom she meets in the realistic novel Hope was Here by Joan Bauer. This Newbery Honor book is about sixteen-year-old Hope, who seeks a permanent place to call home. It’s also about the townsfolk Hope meets, whot need hope in the face of political corruption.

Stories of parent desertion are not uncommon in the world of literature for young people. What sets Hope was Here apart is the quirky details. For example, Hope is the new legal name chosen by the main character to replace her birth name of Tulip. Hope’s mom had seen a movie in which an actress was running happily through a field of tulips. She decided that she wanted to remember her daughter this way, happy and free. Also, while there might not be a dad in the picture, Hope has faithfully created a scrapbook for each year of her life to show to him when he does finally swoop in to rescue her.

Hope was Here also contains its own unique twists. For example, after bestowing her daughter with the questionable name of Tulip, Hope’s mom made an even more serious choice. She leaves Hope with her older sister, Addie, and then takes off to find her own life. Addie’s presence, therefore, provides Hope with a mother figure, something not always seen in the typical parent desertion fare. Also, although Hope’s mom deserted Hope when only a baby, her influence remains–partly through the waitressing tips she passes onto Hope. That, and her unexpected visits, which causes disruption to the normalcy that Hope both seeks and needs.

Political corruption might not seem like an exciting topic. Bauer makes it work because of sympathetic and pivotal characters whom Bauer puts in the campaign arena. Addie has dragged Hope from state-to-state all of her life, seeking stable employment. Now, as Hope turns sixteen, they’re headed to a rural diner in Wisconsin where they discover their boss, G.T., is looking for new workers because he’s dying of cancer. This medical diagnosis has given G.T. a different perspective on life, including the desire to change his town, which he plans to do by running for mayor.

Bauer juggles two major subplots and it’s a marvel to watch her intertwine them. Hope gets involved in the campaign, as well as in the lives of G.T.’s workers. One young man not much older than Hope owes his livelihood to G.T., and continues to speak out even after being assaulted. He also becomes Hope’s confidant. Another worker, a waitress who is initially jealous of Hope, finds herself reliant on G.T. when in need of a place to bring her baby during the day. Hope begins to use her free hours to care for the baby. Then there’s G.T. He and Addie squabble over food preparation and choices. At the same time, G.T.. becomes a male constant in her life, which is scary because he’s terminally ill.

Joan Bauer tends to write about characters who are down on their luck but who serve as positive role models. For example, Hope deliberately chose her name knowing that others would turn to her for a smile and comfort. And she managed to live up to her name even in the face of being deserted and facing job loss. Bauer’s plots are also fast-paced and fun. Discover her today!

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How would you rate this book?

JoanBauerWhile recovering from surgery after a serious car accident, Joan Bauer began writing a story about a girl in a pumpkin-growing competition. This story became Squashed, a novel that won the Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel. In its aftermath, Bauer finally found her calling as a young adult novelist. Her subsequent novels have earned Bauer many more awards, including the Newberry Honor for Hope Was Here. I’ll review this book here tomorrow. Save the date: March 5!


Born in Illinois, in 1951, Joan Bauer was the oldest of three sisters. She grew up always penning stories, poems, and entries in her diary. She was also a voracious reader and frequent patron of her local library. In her bio, Bauer recalls the feel of her fingers sliding across rows and rows of books and of looking through card catalogs that seemed to house everything that anyone might need to know about the world.

Her other interests included music and comedy. Bauer played the flute, taught herself her guitar, and wrote folk songs. When other friends made career plans, declaring that they would become doctors, nurses, and lawyers, Bauer instead determined to be involved somehow with comedy. Her mom, a high school English teacher, had a great comic sense. Her grandmother too was a funny professional storyteller.

That’s not to say that Bauer could make her friends laugh. She often didn’t laugh at the same things as them either. When one combines this idiosyncrasy with her tall and overweight figure, Bauer writes in her bio that she felt different as a child. Of course, as anyone who knows anything about authors, this means Bauer was building up a lot of material for her to use as a writer.

When Bauer was eight, her parents got divorced. Moreover, her alcoholic father dropped out of her life which, Bauer tells All About Adolescent Literacy cast a shadow that followed her for years. As a teen, Bauer was a self-described “rebel” who was trying to find her place in the world without a father figure. Although Bauer learned things from this loss that have made her resilient, every novel of hers to date has dealt with complex father issues. The theme that Bauer says she tries to carry into all of her writing is: adversity, if we let it, will make us stronger.


Skipping ahead to her twenties, for about ten years, Bauer worked in sales and advertising in Chicago. Her bio reveals that the career choice didn’t make her happy. She even had the ulcers to prove it.

However, in 1981, at the age of 30, Bauer met a computer scientist while on vacation who changed her life. He asked her to dance; She said no. Five short months later they married.

Thanks to her husband’s encouragement, Bauer decided to pursue her passion for writing. It was a slow, slow build. For a while, she wrote articles for magazines and newspapers for not much money. From journalism, Bauer switched to trying to her hand at being at a screenwriter.

Soon though, Bauer was faced with one of the biggest challenges of her life. She was in a serious auto accident which severely injured her neck and back and required neurosurgery. Unable to keep up with the daily demands of screenwriting, Baeur began to write a novel.


Falling back on her childhood roots, the humor in Squashed kept her going. Here too is where, in Bauer’s bio, her grandmother earns the credit for being a significant influence on Baeur’s creatively. Her grandmother never announced, “Now I’m going to tell you a funny story.” Instead, she’d just tell a story, and the humor would naturally flow from it because of who she was and how she and her characters saw the world. She showed Bauer the difference between derisive laughter that hurts others and laughter that comes from the heart. From her, Bauer also learned that stories help us understand ourselves at a deep level.

Bauer explains to All About Adolescent Literacy that she has learned that some of her most powerful writing comes from tapping into the adversity that she has faced throughout her life. Rules of the Road, for example, served as a healing and cathartic experience for Bauer, because she wrote about alcoholism. It also affected readers who struggled with the same dilemma. It was also chosen as one of the top young adult books of the quarter century by the American Library Association.

Today Bauer and her husband live in New York. When Bauer is not writing, she loves to read, watch movies, cook, walk, and travel. The couple have an adult daughter and a dog. Bauer is a member of the Writers Guild of America East, the Authors Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A New York Times bestselling author, Bauer has won numerous awards for her books. She’s been a frequent guest on both local and national radio. Through the State Department’s professional speakers program, she has spoken with students, writers, educators, and children at risk about her life and her novels.

To learn more about Bauer and her books, check out this interview: Author Chat from New York Public Library

Newbery Medal

Newbery Medal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Winner of the 1987 Newbery Honor, On My Honor by Marion Bauer is a short and touching novel about a tragedy that could easily happen in any neighborhood. I appreciate how straightforward the story is, focusing almost exclusively on the events surrounding the drowning accident, along with the tragedy itself. At the same time, the story works on a deeper level, in that it explores how Joel comes to accept his part in his best friend’s death.

When one tells a story in less than one hundred pages, one must be careful to stay focused on the main plot. Bauer does an excellent job. On My Honor begins with a debate between Joel and his best friend about climbing Starved Rock Bluffs, which not only foreshadows the tragic accident that lies ahead but also reveals two typical boys as the main characters. After Joel’s dad reluctantly gives permission for the boys to bike the ten-mile trip themselves, they head out for the bluffs but then decide to stop and take a swim in the dangerous Vermillion River. The action leading up to Tony’s drowning is fast-paced, and remains so throughout the remaining chapters, when Joel has to decide whether to hide out in the bluffs or to report Tony’s drowning to the police. Bauer also takes time for quieter moments, such as when Joel complies with his dad’s order to take care of his paper route and allows his younger brother to join him, but even here remains focused on the main plot. Joel’s emotions are conflicted and he keeps having flashbacks to shared moments with Tony. Through these moments, Bauer shows the magnitude of Joel’s guilt. On My Honor is a tightly-knit story.

When one must be careful to stay focused on the main plot, it can be difficult to create depth. Yet here as well Bauer is successful. First, there is the conflict Joel faces immediately after his friend dies. My stomach tightened with anxiety as Joel came to the realization that he would need to face his parents, Tony’s parents, and the police. Second, there is the conflict Joel faces when he is no longer able to hide out in his room, but must say something about the whereabouts of his friend. It’s one of those chilling moments when one realizes life will keep going whether or not you’re ready to handle it. Last, and just as heart-breaking, is the conversation Joel shares with his dad once the truth has come out. Most of us grow up expecting our parents to save us from every situation. It’s not a pleasant day when we learn that sometimes the best they can offer us is their presence. This actually is an amazing thing, but initially it sucks when we start having to accept our parents are not saviors but humans.

How does On My Honor fit into my round-up on misfit and troubled kids? Before and after the tragic accident that claimed his best friend’s life, Joel remains a good kid. He tries to convince Tony not to swim in the river, but also can’t resist issuing a dangerous dare. When Tony drowns, he considers running away but realizes that doing so won’t solve anything. And even though he initially lies about what happened, he can’t escape his guilty feelings. My favorite line is when Joel’s dad is trying to open Joel’s bedroom door, and Joel thinks to himself, “Bad isn’t something that can be locked out. Bad was something that came inside you when you didn’t know it was there.” Even though I don’t think any of us would really feel that Joel is bad, his sentiments hold a universal truth. We all do reach a place in our lives when we realize that within us exists the capacity for wrong. How we react to that realization defines all of us, including misfits and troubled kids.

Marion Bauer has written over eighty books. If you have yet to discover her, start with On My Honor. It’s an incredible read.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

MarionBauerThe author of more than eighty books, Marion Bauer was born in a four-room frame house in the shadow of a cement mill at the edge of a small northern-Illinois town. Her father was a chemist at the mill, so throughout her childhood, the dusty mill filled Bauer’s world. Her mother loved children and showered both Bauer and her older brother with love.

How I loved it all! The huffing, banging trains delivering coal and carrying away cement. The deep-bellied whistles from the mill itself, announcing that my father would soon come walking home. The wide green yard, the luxuriant woods that took up where the yard left off, even the column of smoke that puffed across my sky from the tall stack.

–Marion Bauer, About the Author

Because she began kindergarten at age four, Bauer was younger than most of her classmates, which put her at a disadvantage in social skills. It also didn’t help Bauer that her mother sent her to school wearing velvet bonnets and high-topped leather shoes. By first grade, her classmates began to notice the attire, causing Bauer to fall in their esteem. As the years passed, it also became clear that she was a nerd, which further made her an outsider. Although Bauer got along well with her teachers, they viewed her as a dreamy child.

Such an experience, while certainly painful, seems to have the capacity to open a door between adult existence and childhood that is more usually left closed. It gives us direct access to a world that most people learn to forget as they move into maturity. And perhaps it gives us a need to return to childhood to fix whatever went wrong the first time around.

–Marion Bauer, About the Author

Her teen years proved to be better, because Bauer joined the yearbook staff. There, she received recognition for her specific skills, and started to thrive as an individual. After graduating, she attended the University of Missouri, with the intention of getting a journalism degree.

Finding that this kind of writing didn’t suit her, she switched to a program that would permit her to teach English. She also married Ronald Bauer, who was preparing to become an Episcopal priest. Besides having two children, they also raised foster children and welcomed exchange students and lots of pets into their home.

About this time, Bauer also decided it was time to become serious about writing. Bauer explains at Author Turf that she was “born with my head full of stories” and so it didn’t take her long to figure out that she wanted to write stories someday. During a college writing class, she wrote a brief description of a memory from her childhood about standing in bare feet on a sunny sidewalk and then stepping into the cool grass of my back yard. That description “came alive for me in a way that nothing else I had ever written had done” helping her realize that childhood was her topic.

After an early failed attempt at writing picture books, Bauer stumbled onto writing realistic juvenile novels and once again knew what she wanted to do. Since then, she has written more than eighty books ranging from board books and picture books through easy readers to middle-grade and young-adult novels. I’ll review her 1987 title On My Honor, which won the Newbery Honor, this weekend.

Now my life is defined, in every way, by my writing. After twenty-eight years, I left my marriage, but that only made the writing more urgent . . . my means of support as well as my passion.

–Marion Bauer, About the Author

Besides writing a guide for children on the craft, Bauer also helped found the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. When asked by Author Turf what she’d like her life to look like in ten years, Bauer replied to be still healthy and to be still writing.

Classroom Guides

Writing Guides

My apologies for this belated post! Normally, author information comes before my review and serves as promotional teasers. However, my husband and I have two pets with health issues, and last week taking care of them took priority. Please take some time to read the below and acquire some knowledge about Kevin Henkes. Then return tomorrow for my write-up about Plum Creek Literacy Festival where Henkes appeared as a special guest.

Kevin Henkes Autograph [315/365]

Kevin Henkes Autograph [315/365] (Photo credit: trustypics)

I’ve been writing and illustrating children’s books for thirty years. It’s the only real job I’ve ever had.

Kevin Henkes almost became an artist instead of an author. Born in 1960 in Racine, Wisconsin, he regularly visited the local public library during his childhood years where illustrators such as Crockett Johnson and Garth Williams inspired him. In high school, a teacher encouraged his writing, making him rethink his writing choice. Henkes came to realize that children’s books would combine both his artistic and literary endeavors.

With this new goal firmly in mind, Henkes became a regular patron in the children’s room at the Racine Public Library. The librarian made sure to point out any new arrivals that he might like. The librarian also directed him to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in Madison, situated on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, about an hour and a half away from his hometown. As a result, when he graduated from high school, he headed for college in Madison.

Henkes’s first book was written, when he just nineteen and still an art major at the University of Wisconsin. Equipped with a list of publishers culled from extensive hours of browsing at the CCBC, he took his portfolio to New York. Within days he had his first book contract with Greenwillow, who has published all of his picture books to date.

All Alone was about a young child who describes the pleasures of occasional solitude, a theme which recurs in many of Henkes’ later books, many of which feature animals. Since that initial publication, Henkes has worked steadily, writing and illustrating more than 15 picture books that have won him a devoted audience as well as considerable critical acclaim.

Henkes told the Cooperative Children’s Book Center that many of his stories are inspired by his family. “Growing up with four siblings,” he says, “teaches you a lot about interpersonal relationships.” His stories are also inspired by the neighborhood full of children where he grew up. Much of what he writes about stems directly from those memories. “I don’t know that I remember details any better than anyone else — I think I remember the feelings.”

In addition to his self-illustrated picture books, Henkes has written a number of novels for young readers. One of those, Olive’s Ocean, won the Newbery Honor for in 2004. I also reviewed it here last week at Allison’s Book Bag.

Henkes lives with his wife and children in Madison, Wisconsin. He enjoys being able to go back and forth between writing and illustrating. Although he never works on illustrating and writing projects at the same time, his mind is rarely still. By the time he has finished a novel, he can count on having several new ideas for picture books.

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