The characters, of course, were the standout feature of the book for me. They all felt so real, I never got a sense of the author relying on stereotypes. Everyone from protagonist Miranda to the proprietress of the local bodega to the mother's "Mr. Perfect" boyfriend is drawn with respect, empathy and consideration. There's no filler here, just page after page of tightly plotted action interwoven with meditative space for the reader.
I do have to wonder how the book's 70s-era setting comes across to the intended audience. "The $20,000 Pyramid" was a cornerstone of my sick-day viewing as a child, but does it translate as a complicated, hokey relic to today's 10-year-old? What do the kids of the 2000s make of a world without cellphones, of a society where it's accepted that good parents can allow their pre-teens free reign of the streets of New York City? I'm really interested to know. Even if these do stand out as foreign concepts, I suspect that the inspired storytelling forgives the rest.
Congratulations Rebecca Stead on winning the Newbery, but really congratulations to everyone who gets to read this book they might not have otherwise heard of. Now to get my hands on a copy of Going Bovine...
Written material copyright 2010 Dawn A. Emerman