G.P. Putnam, 2007
This was the only Newbery book (winner and honors included) that I hadn't read before the big annoucement a few weeks ago. So I bought it and read it last night.
Now I understand Fuse#8's comments in her Predict-0-Rama.
Here's my take:
It's a beautifully written book about a young girl named Frannie. She is learning to think for herself and question her friends prejudices. When a new boy comes to their school, everyone calls him "the Jesus boy" because he reminds them of Jesus. He's white, but insists he's not. Frannie wants to get to know him a little better, even though her friends have many reasons why she shouldn't. It makes a quiet, but effective statement about how we all make assumptions about others that we shouldn't make.
Frannie's momma has had several miscarriages and lost a newborn baby too. She feels like Frannie and her older brother Sean, who is also deaf, are her gifts from heaven. Woodson deals with her Frannie's family so openly and honestly. She doesn't gloss over the reality of the emotions of depression and hope that invade her family. I appreciated Woodson's handling of this matter. Frannie talks openly about death and how her family feels about death, babies, sadness, etc.
As someone who has been personally through some of the same things that Frannie's momma went through, this book was honest, authentic, and deeply touching. But I know that sometimes the Newbery awarded books get branded as ones that are more meaningful to adults but not as kid-friendly. Feathers really does see the whole situation through the eyes of a child. Frannie is honest and open, and shares her kid feelings.
A wonderful choice by the Newbery committee.