Half way through book 80 — what a beautifully written, witty, imaginative, original, fresh, intelligent tale of deliberate pacing and intrigue. It demands attention and commands appreciation. I feel as if I’m “cheating” because reading this does not feel like work — it feels like a totally guilty pleasure, because it does not quite seem to fit the Newbery’s appropriate “presentation for a child audience” bill. Not that it has offensive language or scenarios too explicitly sexual for younger readers, but the elements that make me appreciate the book most are sophisticated and worldly and I have a hard time imagining many 14-and-under readers can truly garner pleasure out of those passages. So… with a sad heart, I put it aside for later enjoyment and embarked on another journey — so far, book 81 is Fantastic! Yay.