Monday, September 30, 2013

Flora & Ulysses vs. Otter and Arthur: Which Didn't Win a Newbery?

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Okay, I'll acknowledge that one of these books is slightly better known than the other. Kate DiCamillo scooped up her second Newbery Award (given to distinguishd American children's literature, see full list of winners here) for Flora & Ulysses. She is the sixth author to win the prize twice. Stunningly, I have yet to win the award. ;)

Let's see if we can figure out why. Flora is a story of a child who wants a more interesting life and seeks out a relationship with her parents. When she rescues a rodent from certain death, the creature starts exhibiting amazing powers - such as the capacity to communicate with humans - and repays her ten-fold by helping her find the adventurous life she's always sought.

Hey, wait a minute. That's the plot of my first children's novel, Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. Oh sure, mine's only about a mouse who proves instrumental in giving King Arthur his legendary status while DiCamillo's book focuses on a squirrel who gets sucked up by a vacuum cleaner and then learns to type poetry.


That's what I thought. In all seriousness, I the book left something to be desired. DiCamillo populates her series of Mercy Watson books with lovably quirky characters and amusingly silly plots, aided by great illustrations. By comparison, Flora is served by a quirky, but less-endearing cast in a more head-scratching tale. The book has some illustrations, but not enough to lift it the cartoonishly over-the-top, but fun antics of the Mercy Watson books.

I suppose I should concede that Kate DiCamillo is one of the best-known children's authors around. She's even had her books made into movies, including the Newbery-winning Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie. It would be nice to think my little self-published effort could rise above it all and, like the little engine that could or the story of David vs. Goliath, triumph over the big-time works backed by major publishers.

It would be nice, but I'm not counting on retiring on the vast amount of wealth I anticipate accumulating in the wake of my inevitable Newbery win. Sigh.