Saturday, February 23, 2008

Early Newbery Watch

With the shiney silver and gold stickers just barely attached to this year's award winners, I'm not sure it's appropriate to jump right back in to the Newbery watch fray, but what the heck. The reason I started down this "super reader" path in the first place was to find the winners before they were announced, so I guess it's really never too early. Afterall, if presidential candidates can throw their hats into the ring two years before the actual election, why can't we start throwing titles out a year in advance. Today I'm throwing Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor into the ring.

The main character Addie is from a very broken family. Her father died when she was young, her mother,Denise, is remarried and divorced after having two more little girls. Addie's step-father, Dwight, is the most stable force in her life, and he has custody of her half-sisters. Dwight takes a job in upstate New York and leaves Addie with her mother in a small yellow trailer, in a parking lot near a highway intersection and a train track. It is really the best he can do since Addie's mom has exhausted his savings to the point that he has to sell his home to pay the bills.

Leslie Connor does an excellent job of bringing the reader into Addie's world of a family with enough "twists and turns" to require a road map to find the way home. Addie has a gruff paternal grandfather that doesn't have any use for Denise, but cares for Addie in his own distant way. The neighbors, Soula, a cancer patient, and Elliot, her caretaker, become Addie's surrogate family as Denise leaves her alone more and more as the story goes along. Addie turns to them in their gas station mini mart for support in Denise's absence. Dwight meets a woman, Hannah, who owns the house he is remodeling and she becomes the catalyst for getting Addie out of her harsh environment.

Addie's character evokes sympathy from the reader without being a helpless victim. She is strong and refuses to let her surroundings defeat her. In the end, things turn out well for Addie but, Leslie Connor develops her story so well that it isn't corny or overly sappy, just satisfying.

The language in the book is full of phrases that keep coming back and tieing everything together. Addie is "waiting for normal" and wondering what that is. Her mom is an "all or nothing" kind whether it's her mood, the amount of food in the pantry, or the amount of time she spends in the internet, none of it adds up to normal. Addie and her little half-sister are waiting for the family to be "all to home" together again.

All in all, a great read. I'm still debating on the age level of the book, everything I see says 10 and up. Overall I agree with that, however, there are some themes that I'm not sure all 10 year olds would understand and be comfortable with. I will probably add it to our library and recommend it to the older readers.

For another review of Waiting for Normal head over to Kids Lit.


  1. I just bought this after I read your review. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Do you think it'd be appropriate to read at the end of fourth grade?

  3. I think fourth grade at any time might be pushing it. I would probably hold off until the end of fifth for this one.

  4. Found your blog today and rambled through. I noticed your list of "Websites We Use" includes two "Mock Newbery" sites. I am inviting you to take a look at a third - Anokaberry
    I've added you to my Google Reader, hope you stop by for a visit.