Ever since 2011, when I read all of the Newbery Award winners to date (even the really awful ones), I have made a point of reading each year's winner. I just read the 2021 Newbery Award book: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller.
I finished it yesterday morning, sitting in the parking lot of the nearby Home Depot while Warren went inside. I started crying soon after the start of the 39th chapter (I had teared up a few times just minutes before that) and my tears did not stop until I finished every last word.
Tears all the way to the end. I'm glad we were parked on the far side near the big doors where contractors load so that no one would see me sitting there crying. Not because I am ashamed to cry but because I didn't want anyone knocking on the window to ask me if I was okay.
Why did I cry? Because Tae Keller writes beautifully. Because she captures lyrically and authentically the emotions of loss, of love, of change. Because it is about a young girl trying to save her beloved grandmother, who is dying of a brain tumor, and finally realizing that she can't save her from physically dying (the granddaughter's magical wish) but that the stories and secrets she unlocks can provide relief to her grandmother by letting her know how much she meant to them all. (And yes, I cried because I saw myself and my Ramona in those roles and this book reminded me of how hard it is to leave so much love behind and how I have to continue to keep my hands open to death.)
Back in 2011, I declared the book When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead to be the best of the best when it came to Newbery books. It won those honors in 2010. It too is a stunning beautiful book and I was in tears reading part of it. I still love it. (There are a lot of Newbery books I love.)
But When You Trap a Tiger? Oh, Tae Keller, well done. Stunningly well done.