If I'm being completely honest, I must admit that I don't have a perfect record with Newbery Medal winners. Many I love, but some, well, not so much. So the fact that this was a Newbery winner didn't assure me that this book and I would hit it off. And there was the fact that I'd seen a few different people saying that they didn't understand how this book had won the Newbery to start with. Now, having read it myself, I have to say that's an opinion I most definitely do not share!
This book was wonderful. Wonderful.
Set in Mississippi during the 1930s, it relates the story of a year in the life of the Logan family through 9-year-old Cassie's eyes. While saying that the Logan children were lucky would be overstating things (it's hard to justify saying that an African American family living in a racist society that not only condoned but in many respects celebrated inequality was lucky), but compared to their friends and neighbors the Logans had one big advantage: land. The land, and all the things it meant, was in one respect the heart of this story. But more profound was the heart of this little girl.
This book sort of had it all, ran the gamut of emotions. It made me laugh, though I wouldn't really call it a funny book. And it made me cry. I cry a lot when I read books, I know. But this book managed to make me cry both in sadness and in pure anger. It was a book full of strength and pride, full of terror and injustice. It was also a book full of love and hope. It was beautiful and it was bittersweet.
And I loved her descriptions of the seasons:
Spring. It seeped unseen into the waiting red earth in early March, softening the hard ground for the coming plow and awakening life that had lain gently sleeping through the colder winter. But by the end of March it was evident everywhere: in the barn where three new calves bellowed and chicks the color of soft pale sunlight chirped; in the yard where the wisteria and English dogwood bushes readied themselves for their annual Easter bloom, and the fig tree budded producing the forerunners of juicy, brown fruit for which the boys and I would have to do battle with fig-loving Jack; and in the smell of the earth itself. Rain-drenched, fresh, vital, full of life, spring enveloped all of us. (p. 195-196)
August dawned blue and hot. The heat swooped low over the land clinging like an invisible shroud, and through it people moved slowly, lethargically, as if under water. In the ripening fields the drying cotton and corn stretched tiredly skyward awaiting the coolness of a rain that occasionally threatened but did not come, and the land took on a baked, brown look. (p. 227)