Children's Corner: Award winners produce two compelling novels

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This year, there's a plethora of new novels by authors who have previously won the Newbery Medal, given annually by the American Library Association to the best-written children's book.

Here's a closer look at new novels by Newbery Medalists Jerry Spinelli and Rebecca Stead. Mr. Spinelli won the 1991 Newbery Medal for "Maniac Magee" and Ms. Stead won the 2010 Newbery Medal for "When You Reach Me."

Many novelists have explored the issue of how the onset of puberty frays friendships, often to the breaking point. But Mr. Spinelli offers a unique twist on this theme in "Jake and Lily" (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $15.99, ages 8-12).

Jake and Lily are twins. Lily's the wilder one, while Jake is more of a calming influence. Still, they stick together, and their "twin-ness" becomes tinged with magic when they discover on their sixth birthday that they've had the same dream that has led them both to sleepwalk to a nearby train station. Soon, they discover other ways in which they can sense each other's thoughts.

To name this mystical connection, Jake and Lily coin the word "goombla." Only one adult knows about it: their beloved grandfather, who has finally come back into their lives after years of constant travel.

It seems that nothing can break the close bond between Jake and Lily. Then one day, after they turn 11, Jake begins hanging out with a boy named Bump Stubbins. Lily doesn't like Bump, and she especially doesn't like the fact no girls are allowed to be part of Bump's gang.

Jake contends it's no big deal, that it's time for him to have some friends of his own. But Lily, with Jake as her only close friend, is bereft. Jake, meanwhile, is discovering that these friends might not be the best ones for him after all.

Mr. Spinelli's story of friendship and loss will resonate with young readers. Readers will particularly enjoy the way that he tells the story with alternating chapters by Jake and Lily, each of them trying to convince us they're right.

Ms. Stead offers readers a fascinating look at perception versus reality in "Liar & Spy" (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, $18.99, ages 9-12). The story is told by Georges, a seventh-grader in Brooklyn who is dealing with all kinds of problems: bullies; a new home; an odd new friend named "Safer"; a mother whose double nursing shifts means she is rarely home; and that he is named for a French painter -- Georges Seurat -- and thus has an extra "s" at the end of his name.

But it turns out that Georges is giving us only part of the story, both knowingly and unknowingly.

"Liar & Spy" is an engrossing story of a boy who is learning how to cope with the many challenges in his life. As the book opens Georges is just moving to his new home. It's an apartment, not far from the house in which he grew up, and which had to be sold when Georges' father lost his job.

Georges soon meets Safer, who lives in the same apartment building and is obsessed with spying on another tenant he dubs Mr. X. Meanwhile, school is becoming unbearable, as Georges becomes the favorite target of a bully named Dallas. With both Safer and Dallas, Georges eventually realizes that he must take a stand for the truth.

New books on the way

Other Newbery-winning authors with new books coming include:

• Patricia MacLachlan, who won the 1986 Newbery Medal for "Sarah, Plain and Tall," publishes a prequel of the classic "Boxcar Children" series in "The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm" (Aug. 15).

• Laura Amy Schlitz, winner of the 2008 Newbery Medal for "Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village," publishes "Splendors and Glooms" (Aug. 28).

• Sharon Creech, who won the 1995 Newbery Medal for "Walk Two Moons," publishes "The Great Unexpected" (Sept. 4).

• Karen Hesse, winner of the 1998 Newbery Medal for "Out of the Dust," publishes "Safekeeping" (Sept. 18).

• Lois Lowry, winner of the 1990 Newbery Medal for "Number the Stars" and the 1994 Newbery Medal for "The Giver," publishes "Son" (Oct. 2).

• Karen Cushman, winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal for "The Midwife's Apprentice," publishes "Will Sparrow's Road" (Nov. 6).

Already published books this year: "The Mighty Miss Malone" by 2000 Newbery Medalist Christopher Paul Curtis (who won for "Bud, Not Buddy"); "The Dunderheads Behind Bars" by Paul Fleischman, who won the 1989 Newbery Medal for "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices"; and "Kindred Souls" by Ms. MacLachlan.

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Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at


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