Tag Archives: 2018 Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge

Sounder by William H. Armstrong

Sounder

Sounder by William H. Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The tall man stood at the edge of the porch. The roof sagged from the two rough posts which held it, almost closing the gap between his head and the rafters.

Somewhere in the deep South, a young black boy lives with his family in a small cabin. One morning, he is surprised to discover pork sausage and ham cooking. For a family of impoverished sharecroppers, this is an unexpected luxury. Even their hound/bulldog mix, Sounder, gets a treat. The joy is short-lived, however, as the white Sheriff and his deputies arrive at their door and take the boy’s father away in chains. The boy grows into a young man with Sounder by his side.

I’ll start by noting the elephant in the room: this book, published in 1969 (and winner of the 1970 Newbery Medal), is a story about a black family written by a white man. The book opens with an author’s note beginning, “Fifty years ago, I learned to read at a round table in the center of a large, sweet-smelling, steam-softened kitchen. My teacher was a gray-haired black man who taught the one-room Negro school several miles away from where we lived in the Green Hill district of the county.” This would have been in the late 1910s; Armstrong was born in Virginia in 1911. He goes on to explain that his teacher told him many stories, including “the story of Sounder, a coon dog.” This book is, says Armstrong, “the black man’s story, not mine.”

Perhaps that is why none of the characters, other than the dog, are given names. For that matter, the place is never specified. Or maybe the vagueness is intended to leave as much as possible to the reader’s imagination.  In any case, our protagonist is always referred to as simply “the boy” – which feels a little awkward and uncomfortable. The particular racist use of the term is touched on in the novel itself: “‘Stick out your hands, boy,’ ordered the second man. The boy started to raise his hands, but the man was already reaching over the stove, snapping handcuffs on the outstretched wrists of his father.”

Throughout the short novel, we see the institutional and casual racism of the place and time through the boy’s eyes. He’s led a fairly sheltered life, rarely leaving the warm circle of his own family. His interactions with the people he encounters over the years reflect the prevailing attitudes.

I think this would be a great book to read with a group (a classroom or a book group) paired with an Own Voices book like Linda Williams Jackson’s Midnight without a Moon or Sharon M. Draper’s Stella by Starlight.

Source: Checked out from the public library

Reading Challenges: Counts for the Old School Kidlit Challenge (published 1969), the Newbery Reading Challenge (Medal Winner: 3 points), and Read Harder (Task 11: A children’s classic published before 1980).

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Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018

The Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge is another challenge that relates to my professional reading interests. In addition to keeping up with the latest trends in children’s literature, it’s good to go back and check out some classic books. The rules are pretty simple: set a goal number of children’s books published in the decade of your birth or earlier. I decided on 12 books as my goal, with this tentative list in mind:

  • Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  • My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth S. Gannett
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton
  • To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
  • It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville
  • The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
  • The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

They’re all Newbery winners or honor books, because I’m doubling-up for these with the Newbery Reading Challenge.

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Reading Challenges 2018

You know what I really don’t need to do right now? Sign up for more reading challenges. I do this to myself just about every December, and the challenges fall by the wayside with alarming speed.

But they always sound like so much fun! And there’s something about the new year that just makes me want to set ridiculous goals. The one that first dragged me down the rabbit hole for 2018 was this one:

The Grand World of Books Book Bingo 2018

The challenge: get a BINGO any way you choose. I tend to like to go for “black-out” or “cover-all” when it comes to things like this. I kind of assume I’m going to read at least 24 books over the course of the year anyway.

2018 is the second year of this challenge, but I didn’t hear about it last year, so I’m jumping in now!

One challenge that I did know about in 2017 was Book Riot’s Read Harder. I didn’t do terribly well at it, frankly, but it’s a new year and a new set of tasks. I’ve put all 24 of the tasks for Read Harder 2018 in BINGO card format, because… well, mostly just because I could.

Mount TBR (hosted at My Reader’s Block for 2018) is another challenge I’ve attempted and abandoned in the past. But I’m here again, aiming for the Mount Blanc level (24 books). We’re not going to discuss how very many books are actually in my personal Mount TBR, thanks.

(Much of my TBR on GoodReads consists of books I want to read but do not own, making them ineligible for TBR challenges. So, you know, the hundreds of books marked “to-read” over there don’t really count. Kind of like sock yarn purchases when one pledges to knit from stash. Right? Right.)

 

I figured that while I was at it, I might as well join in The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader. This is a 12-book challenge, with the requirement that the 12 books (plus two alternate selections, just in case) be specified by January 15th, 2018. I’m working on my list now.

Of course, it won’t be all TBR, all the time around here. I’m also joining in two challenges that speak to my professional as well as personal interests.

The Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018 at Read-at-Home Mom is a very self-directed challenge. Qualifying books must have been “published in the decade of your birth or before.” There are no monthly themes, and you set your own goal. I’m going to aim for 12 books, because one per month seems like a good goal..

Some possible titles:

  • Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  • My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier
  • Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
  • The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth S. Gannett
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton
  • To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
  • It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville
  • The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
  • The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Yes, there is a certain Newbery winner/honor theme going on there. That’s because I’m doubling up with the Newbery Reading Challenge at Smiling Shelves

This is a fun, points-based challenge. You pick a level to aim for (15-75+ points over the year), and books are awarded 3 points (Newbery winner), 2 points (Newbery honor), or 1 point (Caldecott winner or honor).

I’m going to go ahead and aim for the Konigsburg level (75+ points). In addition to the books I’m lining up for Old School Kidlit challenge, I always go back and read the new Youth Media Award books that I didn’t get to before the announcements in January. Caldecott books tend to pop up throughout the year in my Storytime selections, too.

Two challenges that aren’t about quantity of books read also caught my eye.

 

The 2018 Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge at Becky’s Book Reviews seems like a perfect fit for me. There will be a monthly check-in post over at Becky’s site for it. Expect to finally here about some of the new-to-me teas I’ve been trying lately.

 

The 2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge is a new challenge for me, and one I’m hoping will help me perk this place up a bit. It’s been quiet around here for quite some time. My goal is the “Creative Conversationalist” level (11-20, but my personal goal is 12). Who knows: maybe I’ll even pop a new podcast episode in here sometime in 2018!

There is an astounding array of reading challenges out there. I had two or three more I was considering, but I decided that really would be pushing it too far.

One thing I didn’t find: a Sherlock Holmes Challenge. I’d really like to read through the Canon over 2018. My Doubleday single-volume is 1122 pages, which divides into 21-22 pages – about two short stories or a couple of novel chapters – per week. Anybody want to join me on this one?

While you’re thinking about that, I’m going to go sip a cup of honeybush vanilla tea and read something.

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