Why is Criss Cross a Newbery Winner?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The Newbery Medal is an award given annually by the American Library Association for Library Service to Children. This is a separate branch attached to the ALA (American Library Association). The award is given to the author whose story makes a significant and measurable addition to the benefit of literature for American readers. The award is named after a British bookseller named John Newbery, and it has been celebrated since 1922. 

According to the criteria just discussed, Criss Cross would have met the requirements for the award in 2006. 

The first criterion is that the story deals with the realities and issues of young readers. In Criss Cross , Lynn Rae Perkins explores the small town life of 4 teenagers aged 14. Along the way, the narrative explores in depth topics that are entirely typical of this age group such as first love, personal discovery, and the quest for what is their role in their lives. 

Another criterion is to voice the emotions of young readers. Perkins does this quite effectively even though she uses the third person point of view for her narrative. She is able to become the mouthpiece of her characters by correctly replicating their verbiage and speaking styles. According to the Newbery Award Chair, Barbara Barstow, Perkins does this throughout the entire 38 chapters of her novel and applies: 

.... poetic, postmodern novel experiments with a variety of styles: haiku, song lyrics, question-and-answer dialogue and split-screen scenarios. With seeming yet deliberate randomness, Perkins writes an orderly, innovative, and risk-taking book in which nothing happens and everything happens.”

The craft of the writer is not just to convey a message, but to gift it to the reader in a way that denotes the unique traits of the author as an artist, and as a master of words. The author must also be the driver of the mood, tone, and atmosphere of the story. When an author is able to keep these literary elements true to their grain from beginning to end, the credibility and relevance of the story are much more apparent. Moreover, adding poetic language colors the reality of youth as a beautiful and highly-creative time in life where everything begins to flourish; a time where goals are made and hopes start to surface. 

All of these narrative devices convey the central message of the novel in a way that captures every aspect of it: the point of view of society, the point of view of each youth, and the reader's own point of view. The novel is, therefore, a work of art that embodies completely the experience of youth and makes it worth reading about.

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