Move over Man-Booker, Pulitzer, and PEN/Faulkner- the Great Stone Face Book Award is here!
In April, 4th-6th graders all over the Granite State have been reading and voting on their favorites from a shortlist of nominees for the Great Stone Face. While the state-wide winner of the Great Stone Face Award was Buddy by M. H. Herlong, Portsmouth Public Library readers voted for Ungifted by Gordon Korman. Ungifted is a humorous, quirky, story about a boy who finds himself in a school where he doesn’t belong. It is all about that familiar feeling of trying to find your place in a world that doesn’t feel like yours. You will probably see the book around a lot and hear about it at school since it is a GSF nominee so we’d like to introduce you to another title which is similar to Ungifted. (Secret library lingo: We call these “Read Alikes”.)
Growing up on Bethsaida Island — a small lobstering community in Maine — has its pros and cons. For Tess Brooks, though, they are mostly pros. She loves waking up at 4 a.m. on summer vacation to head out on the boat with her dad. She loves that her school has one teacher for every grade K-8 (and oh, by the way, it is her mom). She loves that she knows every crack and crevice to climb the cliff so she can watch the ferry come from the mainland. Her pockets are filled with lucky charms: two pennies from the year she was born, a gift from her best friend, and the most recent addition – a piece of cobalt blue sea glass. After all, as they say, Touch blue and your wish will come true. Tess has a determined belief in luck and does everything to make it work in her favor! Suddenly, though, her life is given an unexpected turn. Her best friend’s family moves off the island and the State of Maine decides to close the island school for under-enrollment which means she and her family would have to move to the Mainland. To save the school, the Islanders come up with a solution — that several families, including Tess’, foster children. They see it as a win-win. Their school can stay open and children who need solid homes find them.
But meeting Aaron, her 13-year-old foster brother, challenges Tess in whole new ways. All of a sudden her lucky charms and superstitions are not cooperating. Even from the beginning, as she climbs that cliff to watch Aaron’s ferry arrive to Bethsaida Island:
Skinny as a spar, he seems too tall for thirteen, with a pinched-sour mouth and red hair. A redhead on a boat is unlucky! Why didn’t I remember to mention that to his caseworker? His hair falls near to his shoulders, bright as October leaves….
Newbury Award-winning author, Cynthia Lord, places this heart-warming and humorous tale in a setting she knows well, having been an island teacher. Readers will have no problem identifying with 11-year-old Tess, who is trying to make sense of a world that she understands but can’t control. Ultimately, this is a story about friends, family and realizing that sometimes everything you really want and need is right in front of you.