Meindert de Jong wrote one Newbery Medal winner and four Newbery Honor books during the course of his writing career, and I have now–FINALLY–read all of them. Hallelujah!
It’s not that they’re bad, mind you. His writing style just isn’t my cup of tea, and it seems to be aimed toward the very young. Shadrach, which I finished last night, is a prime example. There’s a definite charm to it, and De Jong’s ability to capture young Davie’s inner self is impressive, but I have trouble seeing what audience it was written for. By the time a child is old enough to read a 182 page book, is he or she going to want to read a book about a boy who can’t wait to get his pet rabbit and then, once he’s got it, has to figure out a thing or two about what the rabbit really needs? After all, he doesn’t actually GET the rabbit (whose name is Shadrach, by the way) until 94 pages in. And yet–while the intended audience is a murky, awkward problem for me, I was moved. There was some serious tension by the end, and Davie’s relationships with his family are lovely. (Idealized, perhaps, but lovely.) If you want a short, sweet novel about getting your first pet from a child’s point of view, this is perfect. If the plot doesn’t sound fascinating to you, however, I’d skip it. But the choice is yours.