Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On the Road (Down Girl and Sit) by Lucy Nolan

Well, that was anticlimactic.

On the Road (Down Girl and Sit) is this year's winner of the Texas Bluebonnet Award. I've now read all but 4 of the books, and this definitely wasn't my favorite. That said, I do see why it would be the popular choice.

The book is very silly, told from the viewpoint of a dog, aka Down Girl. (Sit is her neighbor.) The book did have me chuckling often, and I think young readers would really appreciate the humor. But to me, there's a difference between a "fun" book and a "good" book. Then again, that's why the Bluebonnet Award is kids' choice award and not an adult's choice award!

The audience for this book is early readers, 2nd grade-ish. Not my favorite level.

My daughter and I had an interesting conversation about the Bluebonnet Award over breakfast on Saturday. I told her which book won, and she was a bit incredulous. As we talked, I realized a flaw in the voting system. At least at my daughter's school, in order to vote, kids only have to have read 5 books on the list of 20 books. The voting is done at a special breakfast, where the kids get donuts, etc. The Bluebonnet list is typically a mixture of picture books, early readers, and longer novels. If you only have to have read 5 books to get to go to this special breakfast, and you're not much of a reader, which 5 books are you going to have read? The shorter ones! So the voting is automatically skewed towards the shorter, easier books. My personal opinion is that the kids should have to read books from the list that are in their reading level. For those with lower levels, reading only the easy books would be fine, but the older/better readers should be required to read at least a couple of books more appropriate to their level. That would at least increase the chances of the lengthier novels have of winning. Thoughts?


Debi said...

I can't claim to know anything at all about the Bluebonnet Award, but from your description, I have to agree that the whole process seems inherently flawed. It seems impossible to even compare two such books as On the Road and Weedflower. Especially if say 100 kids read On the Road and only 2 read Weedflower. I don't quite get it. But I have to say you've got me interested in the Bluebonnet...gonna have to go see if I can't find the list.

Amanda said...

Somer, you are correct that in order to vote, students only have to read five books from the list. The reasoning behind this is explained on the FAQ for the Bluebonnet program.

I can see the logic due to the wide span of ages this program is for, and the fact that it is a children's choice program designed to promote pleasure reading and the exploration of a wider variety of books.

Most schools have third graders reading at a second grade or lower level, and fifth and sixth graders reading at middle school level and higher, so a wide range of books is on the list. It would not really be fair to the younger struggling reader to require them to read all of the books on the list. Coupled with the skew towards lower grades with so many Texas sixth graders in middle schools (and thus probably reading from the Lone Star list), I am actually surprised that all the past winners haven't been all picture books and early readers!

If a lot of schools have a reward program like your daughter's school does, I can see why easier books would always win. And it does seem that, especially if there is such a reward, an individual school could require that students read five books from their appropriate reading level.

Somer said...

I'm going to edit my original post to include this, but I wanted to say earlier (but couldn't because blogger is blocked at work) that I read the FAQ and understand a little more. I think, actually, I'll make a separate post.

Somer said...

Debi, here is the link to the TBA list:


Debi said...

Thanks for the link! I think. I'm afraid this is going to lead to a lot of books added to the old wish list :)

Somer said...

I'm *considering* hosting a Bluebonnet challenge...but don't have a clue how to do one or when it would start...

Amanda said...

Well, the new list (for voting in January 2009) is already out. Technically the Bluebonnet year runs February 1 through January 31, so you could start it at any time. I was finally able to obtain the last of the books on the list earlier this month, so I would think most school and public libraries (in Texas at least) would have them all by now too.

I've enjoyed your reviews of Bluebonnet books, by the way, because I haven't had time to read many of them. I've been working on reading Newbery winners when I have any spare time for reading that's not taken up with book club books or advanced reader editions for reviews!

Somer said...

(I'm so excited, because I've discovered that I can comment on posts from work, even though I can't create a new post!)

Yeah, I know the new list is out, but since I still haven't finished the 2007-2008 list yet, I'm holding off. First I was waiting until the winner was announced, but now I'm waiting until TLA maybe? (I'm thinking there's probably a pretty good chance at this point that I will be there, after all.)