Newbery – Belling the Tiger

This was a sweet tale of two timid mice on a quest. I enjoyed it and will recommend it to second and third graders.

Thinking of this book in terms of the Newbery Honor that it was awarded in 1962 (or technically retroactively awarded, since before 1971 they were “runners up”) forces me to remind myself that being distinguished can be viewed in multiple ways, and that I need to examine my biases. One of which, apparently, is that, like many people, I tend to assign more weight to longer books which have the time and space to flesh things out that an early chapter book does not.

But back to the criteria! The characters of the two mice were well drawn, particularly considering how short the book is. They had a clear character arc, both as a pair, and as individuals, with Asa becoming more proactive over the course of the story. Self-important Portman, while a one-note character, was nevertheless vividly drawn. I particularly liked the section where the mice decide to continue on their quest because while all other fears are theoretical, the fear of Portman, whom they see every day, is tangible and real to them.

Of the Newbery books and Honor books that I have read so far, this one most resembles My Father’s Dragon, both in its relatively light-hearted tone as well as its reading level and episodic adventure quest nature. I liked MFD better, partly I think because I enjoy imaginative romps.

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