My dark horse pick for the Newbery--Where Do You Stay, by Andrea Cheng

Edited to add: Nope! not even an honor....the full lists can be found here.

In just a little while, this year's Newbery winner will be announced, and I quickly want to go on record with the book I think should win today--Where Do You Stay, by Andrea Cheng (Boyds Mills Press, 2011, 136 pages). It's not the book I enjoyed most this past year, but it's the one that packed the most emotional punch per word of any book I read (with the possible exception of A Monster Calls), the one whose brilliant writing has stuck with me, so that now, months after reading it, I still think about it.

Where Do You Stay tells of Jerome, come to live at his aunt's house after his mother dies of cancer--it is not home. There is no piano, there is not even a bed for him yet--his aunt and uncle are doing the best they can, but money is tight. There wasn't enough money to pay the movers to bring his piano from his old home. Soon after his arrival, he becomes friends with Mr. Willie, who does odd jobs for people in exchange for food, and who lives as a squatter in the old carriage house of the big ramshackle house next-door.

Over the course of the summer, Jerome and Mr. Willie talk a bit, and become friends...both are pianists, and both, for very different reasons, want the old house to be saved from demolition. And both are asking themselves the question posed in the book's title--where do you stay? Where is home, when the person who made it so isn't there anymore, where is the center of yourself, when everything around you has collapsed....

Cheng creates a wealth of rich back-story with amazing subtlety, and creates three dimensional characters with the exquisite economy. This isn't one for readers who want to zip along from event to event--it's more a painting of its people....There are bits that are warm and moving, there are bits that are heartbreaking in how well they convey regret, and deep loss.

It's not a book with tremendous, in your face "kid appeal" (the cover, also, does little to sell the book to young readers, in my opinion). Many things (the concept of "white flight" for instance), aren't explained, and there's a lot of reading between the lines required (especially in Mr. Willie's backstory). But still, for the quality of the writing, for the memorable characters and the beautifully described, small but significant events of their lives, this is my Newbery pick.


  1. This blog sounds quite interesting. I was searching this kind of information. I will share this information with friends

  2. Wow, thanks for this one. It never made it onto my radar at all but sounds like a compelling read. I will definitely add it to my TBR list.


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