Before my first child was born, I set a goal to read through the Newbery list. I finished the reading, but got way behind on publishing my reviews. In order to finally bring that series up to date, I’m changing my approach. Instead of a separate review post for each book, I’ll summarize by decade, starting with a wrap-up of the 1920s.
Carrying Courage: Review of Gay-Neck, The Story of a Pigeon
Dhan Gopal Mukerji won the 1928 Newbery Medal for Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon. I anticipated reading of Gay-Neck’s humble origins as a rooftop pet transitioning to his heroic actions serving as a carrier pigeon in WWI. Instead, the story focuses more on how Gay-Neck repeatedly has to overcome fear after trauma.
Much of Gay-Neck’s adventures are told though his narration, which we are to have no trouble understanding, “if we use the grammar of fancy and the dictionary of imagination.” I laughed out loud when I read this because I thought it might be the most ridiculous phrase I ever read. But I kind of liked it.
Again, I run into what is becoming a recurring problem for me with Newbery literature. I’m not getting engrossed in the animal characters. I’m missing the emotional connection and relatable attitudes and situations. Gay-Neck is another animal not personified enough for that connection, despite his telling of his own story.
Two out of five dictionaries of imagination for Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon.
Historical Adventure: Review of The Trumpeter of Krakow
The 1929 Newbery win goes to author Eric P. Kelly for The Trumpeter of Krakow. Set in 15th century Poland, it tells of the adventures of the Charnetski family, in charge of protecting the mysterious Great Tarnov Crystal.
I typically enjoy historical fiction, but this tale didn’t captivate me as much. (That likely explains why it found a place on my shelf years ago, but I never finished reading it.) The elements of mystery and suspense made it less of a chore to keep turning the pages over some of its predecessors, however. My rating comes down to recognizing my preference of the fantasy genre for medieval settings. Fan-fiction idea: add dragons?
Three trumpet calls out of five for The Trumpeter of Krakow.