Mock Newbery 2023 discussion

Betty Before X
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Newbery 2019 > April Read - Betty Before X

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message 1: by Kristen (last edited Apr 01, 2018 09:45AM) (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (sunnie) | 582 comments Mod
Betty Before X is set in the 1940's in Detroit. Ilyasah Shabazz has the perfect setting for a great story. What did you think of it?


Josie Stewart | 19 comments I really liked this book, a quick read, and I loved the glimpse into the time period and the action taking place at that time for Civil Rights. Betty's life was not easy and yet she remained positive and pro-active.


message 3: by Kate (new)

Kate | 184 comments BETTY BEFORE X is a fictionalized biography of Betty Shabazz during her middle school years. It takes place in 1940s Detroit. Betty attends school and church with her friends and family. She is also encouraged to volunteer for activities that target discrimination and racism. The book provides a readable background about growing up before the Civil Rights movement. I particularly like the encouragement of activism for young people.


Reving | 106 comments I really liked this one...I learned a lot...https://revingsblog.blogspot.com/2018...


Beth | 28 comments This was a solidly-written book with an engaging protagonist. The writing definitely read more like an episodic, somewhat disjointed memoir to me rather than a story, which makes sense because it was based on a real person's experiences. It hasn't been my favorite read of the year, but I can definitely see it generating a lot of great discussion in the classroom. It also sparked an interest in me to pursue learning more about Malcolm X and Betty, who managed, after her husband's death, to raise six daughters by herself while also going back to school to earn a doctorate in education and making a career for herself in nursing and higher education. If you get the chance, watch the interview of her just after her husband's assassination; she is well-spoken and thoughtful, very consistent with the portrait of her in this novel, made all the more poignant for me, knowing that her daughter wrote it. Clearly, the adult Betty was a beloved mother and courageous spokesperson for civil rights, and we see here how her childhood experiences helped shape her family values and political beliefs.


Czechgirl | 214 comments I love how the story begins. Then in the middle the story changes into the protagonist thoughts of other people's actions. Then the story ended abruptly to me. I do not think it is a Newbery contender.


Barb | 35 comments I enjoyed the book, and found the protagonist to be an engaging character. The book was a quick read, set in a little-discussed time period - pre-Civil Rights movement. Interesting to get a glimpse of that era and the protagonist’s overcoming personal/family hardship. I felt the book ended a bit abruptly, but found it a worthwhile read overall.


Isaac Reuben (isaacthebookkeeper) | 32 comments Before reading “Betty Before X”, I was not familiar with Ilyasah Shabazz. However, I recently read Renée Watson’s Newbery award-winning book, “Piecing Me Together”.

I liked Betty as a character; she was flawed, but I found her likable and relatable. Her interaction/relationship with her mother, Ollie Mae, was especially interesting. I thought the strain between them was important because, in real life, relationships between children and parents are not always perfect. Sometimes, they are even abusive. Thankfully, Betty escaped physical abuse when Mr. and Mrs. Malloy took her in. More importantly, I enjoyed seeing Betty mature by finding peace and ultimately forgiving Ollie Mae.

Generally, I like historical fiction, but I cannot recall reading a book focusing on the pre-civil rights era and highlighting different organizations, like the Housewives’ League. Also, I was impressed with the authors’ inclusion of many “church scenes” and “religious references”. I think including this material is important. Regrettably, oftentimes, authors and publishers appear afraid, or a least reluctant, to include any kind of “religion” in their books.

Finally, I particularly liked three quotes/phrases from this book. First, I loved the phrase, “My little chocolate drop”. I just think it is too cute! Second, I liked how one character says, “Love is always a big deal”. I agree wholeheartedly; love is totally a big deal!! Third, I appreciated Mrs. Malloy’s positivity and her motto, “Find the good and praise it”. I think this is an important lesson we can all learn from!!

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much, and I think it is deserving of an award. However, should it receive a Newbery award? That is the question…


Briony | 2 comments I think if the book had carried its initial strength through to the very end it would have definitely been a contender. However, I felt like it lost steam and kind of died in the middle. Super disappointing because I LOVED the first half.


Thomas Bell Just started this book. I am a little nervous though, as the author is a social activist. It could be a very good thing, and it could mean she’s an anti-white nutcase. I’ve also heard that parts of the book are really good and that other parts are made-up so the author can make the point she wants to make. Sounds dubious to me... Anyway, I really am looking forward to it. :-)


message 11: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Harrison | 418 comments Thomas wrote: "Just started this book. I am a little nervous though, as the author is a social activist. It could be a very good thing, and it could mean she’s an anti-white nutcase. I’ve also heard that parts of..."

I was lucky enough to meet the author, Ilyasah Shabazz, a few years ago at an event my store was holding in NY. Ms. Shabazz told stories and sang for a good part of the afternoon. The audience was mesmerized. A truly wonderful person (and great writer) in every possible way. I hope you enjoy the book!


message 12: by Kate (new)

Kate (flintk8) | 6 comments Thomas wrote: "Just started this book. I am a little nervous though, as the author is a social activist. It could be a very good thing, and it could mean she’s an anti-white nutcase. I’ve also heard that parts of..."
Just to clarify, it is described as a fictionalized story around real events. I don't believe the author expects the reader to see it as a historical account.


message 13: by Kate (new)

Kate (flintk8) | 6 comments Betty Before X
I enjoyed the book a great deal, though the pacing was uneven. I felt she captured the voice of a young adolescent well. I was fascinated by the housewives league which I had never heard of previously. I think it would be a fun discussion book to introduce kids to the racial inequities in our country and the civil rights movement.


message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimconnett) | 7 comments Thomas wrote: "Just started this book. I am a little nervous though, as the author is a social activist. It could be a very good thing, and it could mean she’s an anti-white nutcase. I’ve also heard that parts of..."

I'm more concerned that you are assuming that just because someone is a social activist it can mean they are an "anti-white nutcase". Also, just because something is Pro-anything other than white, does not mean "anti-white". It simply means from another perspective.


Thomas Bell I mentioned that it could be a very good thing that she’s a social activist. I appreciate people who spend their time and efforts promoting important racial issues. But some ‘social activists’ are not great people. He wasn’t so bad as many others, but for example, the author’s father was very much a pro-segregation black supremacist. I enjoyed the book; I was just mentioning that I was a little concerned. Thank you for misconstruing my words.


message 16: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne | 3 comments I very much enjoyed Betty before X. I'm not sure that it is a Newbery contender, though, mainly due to its abrupt ending.


Shella | 194 comments I did think the content was very interesting- not many books that focus on pre-civil rights. The author's love and admiration for her mother really came through in some amazing prose through-out the book. I agree that the abrupt end of the book takes it out as a contender. I wonder if she is going yo write a Betty with X and a Betty after X book in the future?


Brenda | 57 comments I enjoyed Betty and the story but didn’t feel as connected to this story as Front Desk which is my choice so far this year. I thought the plot was a bit week and kept waiting for something to happen.


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