Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults

MACBA

April4

The winner and honor books for the 2019 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award were announced this month. While our readers at DCD didn’t choose the state winner, they voted for three of the books that are the 2019 honor books.

Jennifer Nielsen’s book, A Night Divided, was this year’s winner. Her thank you letter discusses her novel and her inspiration for it.

“The book’s origin came from Ilona, a friend of our family’s. She was born into East Germany and at age five, her family made the decision to escape. Ilona’s parents planned to escape through the countryside. However, they didn’t want to take a five-year-old running through the countryside, so a different plan had to be put in place for Ilona.

Her grandparents in the west would come over by train, and then return by train with Ilona – not on the seat beside them because she had no papers. Instead, Ilona was drugged, put to sleep, and hidden in the baggage car of the train beneath a pile of hay. The knew the car would be searched at the border, and if Ilona even rolled over in her sleep, she would be sent back to East Germany alone and her grandparents would be arrested, or worse.

In the end, all of Ilona’s family successfully escaped, but when I heard her story, I knew I wanted to tell the story of the people of East Germany. It means so much to me that you then read this book, and loved it.”

To read the rest of Nielsen’s acceptance letter go to the MACBA site here.

The honor books are Ghost by Jason Reynolds, A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, and Framed by James Ponti.

MCBA

February27

This week, we celebrated reading with our annual Massachusetts Children’s Book Award voting party. Prior to choosing their top books, the participating students advocated for their personal preferences. Many of the children commented that they were introduced to new authors and series that have now become favorites.

The winner of the vote is Rain Reign by Ann Martin. Rose is thrilled that her name is a homonym (rows). She names her dog Rain because that also has homonyms (reign and rein). Rose’s autism is evident through the rules that she makes for herself. It is difficult for her father and her teachers to understand her. When Rain disappears in a flood, Rose must break her own rules and overcome her fears to search for him.

There were three books that came in very close in the voting.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds is about a track team from an elite middle school where the main character is not only running on the field but also running from his problems.

Framed by James Ponti is an entertaining mystery about middle schooler who has a knack for solving mysteries, even one that puzzles the FBI at the National Gallery.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes tells the story of three friends from very different cultures whose families are all affected by the event of 9/11 that happened before Déja, Ben, and Sabeen were born.

Newbery 2019

February7

The Newbery Award is presented “…to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” (American Library Association)

The 2019 Newbery Award was presented to Meg Median for her novel Merci Suárez Changes Gears (Candlewick Press). Merci Suárez and her brother navigate their way through an elite private school as scholarship students. Even though she sees the palatial homes, boats, and cars that her classmates enjoy, Merci is comfortable and confident with her own life and close family. Entering sixth grade brings totally new social issues for her as she navigates middle school jealousies. Suddenly, her idyllic family life is turned upside down when her beloved grandfather begins to have memory issues. The author exhibits humor and understanding to Merci’s adolescent issues.

There were two Newbery Honor Books this year:
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (Dial)
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr (Greenwillow)

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Caldecott Award 2019

January31

It’s awards’ season for all of us who are involved with books for children and young adults. On Monday, the American Library Association (ALA) announced their choices for the 2019 Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King Award, and numerous others for outstanding books, authors, and illustrators.

This week, I would like to introduce the winner and honor books of the 2019 Caldecott Award. This award “was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott.” (ALA) An interesting aspect of this award is that it is given to the illustrator of the chosen picture book, and not the author. Many times, the illustrator is the author, but not always. While it’s difficult to judge a picture book without considering the text, the committee is required to evaluate the visual experience of the book and whether the illustrations unite the story-line, themes, or concepts.

There’s often a great deal of discussion among professionals in the children’s literature field about the winner and honor books. Publishers look at the books differently than the illustrators, and librarians and teachers have their own ideas. It’s important to remember that a committee made the choice, and the members compromise to come to an agreement. That’s not to say this year’s choices are not fine selections, but it’s important to understand the process.

The 2019 Caldecott Award was given to Sophie Blackall for Hello Lighthouse (Little Brown). Blackall wrote and illustrated the picture book that chronicles the life of a lighthouse keeper. For her book, Blackall used ideas from logs that she found during her research on lighthouses. While depicting the daily life in a lighthouse, Blackall also depicts the passing of seasons. Throughout all of the challenges that weather brings, the lighthouse stands tall as a beacon to light the way for those traveling on the ocean. Blackall’s Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations are not only detailed, but they also depict the structure from numerous perspectives.

This was the second Caldecott Award for Sophie Blackall. She won it in 2016 for her illustrations in Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear written by Lindsay Mattick (Little Brown).

There were four books that were recognized as Caldecott Honor Books in 2019.

Alma and How She Got Her Name, written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Candlewick)
A Big Mooncake for Little Star, written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little Brown)
The Rough Patch, written and illustrated by Brian Lies (Greenwillow)
Thank You, Omu! written and illustrated by Oge Mora (Little Brown)

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Massachusetts Children’s Book Award 2018

April13

The winner and honor books for the 2018 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award were announced this month. Our readers at DCD chose the same book as the state winner, and they also voted for two of the state honor books.

This year’s most highly rated book is The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial). The setting is Great Britain during WWII. The protagonist is Ava, a young girl who was born with a club foot. Her mother shows Ava no affection. Ava envies her brother who is able to run free and escape the loveless home. When children are being evacuated from London and welcomed into homes in the safer countryside, she sneaks off to join her brother whom her mother put on the transport. When the siblings are sheltered by a recluse who is forced to house them, Ava finally experiences something that she always longed for, kindness. Yet, she does not know how to accept it. The fourth, fifth, and sixth graders who read this novel all enjoyed this book. They have now moved on to the sequel, The War I Finally Won which was recently published.

The two honor books that DCD’s readers chose are Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster) and Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Nancy Paulsen Books). There were a number of quality selections that were nominated for the award this year. Our readers were introduced to some authors and genres that were new to them. We look forward to Salem State University’s publication of the list of nominees for 2019. Those will be announced soon.

 

2018 Newbery Award

February23

The Newbery Award is presented “… to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” (American Library Association)

The 2018 Newbery Award was given to Hello, Universe, written by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow). This outstanding novel is told through the voices of four different characters – Virgil, Valencia, Kaori, and Chet. And then there is Virgil’s grandmother, Lola, who explains about growing up and human nature through her ancient stories.

Virgil had long suspected that his brothers were crafted out of a factory that made perfect, athletic, perpetually happy children, and he was made from all of the leftover parts.

As hearing-impaired Valencia faced summer alone, she thought, There is plenty to do. I don’t need a gazillion friends.I don’t even need one. All I need is me, right? Solo- it’s the best way to go. It’s a lot less trouble.

Kaori Tanaka liked to tell people her parents were born in the high, misty mountains of a samurai village. In truth, they were both second generation Japanese-Americans from Ohio…Sometimes people were just delivered to the wrong birthplace.

Chet Bullens is the neighborhood bully who is taught by his father that Respect came in two flavors, fear or admiration. Sometimes both. Otherwise you’re just a weakling at the bottom of the food chain, ready to get crushed under someone else’s boot.

The judges for this year’s Newbery Committee chose three honor books: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut illustrated by Gordon C. James and written by Derrick Barnes (Bolden), Long Way Down written by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum), and Piecing Me Together written by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury Children’s Books).

 

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Caldecott 2018

February15

The American Library Association (ALA) announced their annual awards given to honor children’s and young adults’ books this week. The Caldecott Award is presented “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” This year, the committee chose more multicultural titles than were celebrated in past years.

 

This year’s Caldecott Award was presented to Wolf in the Snow (Macmillan), illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell. The only writing in this nearly wordless book is of animal sounds. The illustrations are inked in pen and colored with watercolors. The design of the pages varies with some being circular and others depicting more than one picture. A young girl is walking home from school when it begins to snow. She finds a wolf pup who has become separated from his pack. After she returns him to his pack, the wolves follow the girl and protect her when she, too, becomes lost. It’s often difficult to share a wordless book with more than one child at a time, but Wolf in the Snow is an exception. Cordell’s charming book should be enjoyed by young readers for years to come.

The judges for this year’s Caldecott Committee chose four honor books: Big Cat, Little Cat written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper (Roaring Brook Press), Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut illustrated by Gordon C. James and written by Derrick Barnes (Bolden), A Different Pond illustrated by Thi Bui and written by Bao Phi (Capstone), and Grand Canyon illustrated and written by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press).

 

While all of the honor books demonstrate excellence, there is one of the titles that received much recognition  – Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Not only did the ALA choose the title as a Caldecott Honor Book, it was also recognized as a Newbery Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor book. The King Award recognizes African American authors and illustrators, and the Newbery Medal is given for outstanding children’s literature. It’s unusual to have a picture book recognized in the Newbery category. The writing is lyrical as Derrick Barnes describes the importance of a haircut to an African-American boy.

It was worth it. It always is

You know why?

Because you’ll leave out of “the shop”

Every single time, feeling the exact same way…

                        Magnificent.

                                    Flawless.

                                                Like royalty.

Hello, world…

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

January11

Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together.

Growing up in Atlanta, GA, Martin Luther King, Jr. experienced the unfairness of segregation on a daily basis. When he saw “White Only” signs and he wasn’t able to attend a school with white children, his mother reminded him that he was as good as anyone else. He listened to his father’s words as the elder King preached in church every Sunday. During those formative years of his life, Martin understood how powerful words could be.

In Martin’s Big Words (Hyperion Books for Children), author Doreen Rappaport shares important quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. as she narrates key incidents in his life. Bryan Collier’s colorful and detailed illustrations earned him a Caldecott Award Honor. The year it was published, this picture book biography was also named one of the best illustrated children’s books by the New York Times

Massachusetts Children’s Book Award

May16

The Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (MCBA) 2017 winner and honor books were announced recently. It’s always interesting to compare the state-wide choices to those made by our DCD readers. Often, our DCD choices come pretty close to those from all over Massachusetts. This year, we had chosen two of the four top books.

MCBA 2017 winner
El Deafo by Cece Bell
MCBA Honor Books
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Poached by Stuart Gibbs
Loot: How to Steal a Fortune by Jude Watson
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
 

DCD Voting Results
Winner
Poached by Stuart Gibbs
Honorable Mention
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
I Survived: The Great Chicago Fire by Lauren Tarshis

El Deafo is autobiographical, and it is written in graphic form. Don’t let the art fool you into dismissing the book as easy. Cece Bell handles the topic of being hearing impaired with sensitivity and humor.

Caldecott 2017

January27

January is an exciting month for authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, and fans of literature for children and young adults. The American Library Association (ALA) announces their awards for outstanding books. ALA recognizes authors and illustrators in a number of categories, and the most well- known are the Caldecott and Newbery Awards. Both of these deserve their own discussion, so let’s start with the Caldecott Medal. This specifically recognizes an artist of the “most distinguished American picture book for children”.
The 2017 Caldecott Award was presented to Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little Brown). Steptoe introduces the talented artist to elementary school students with sensitivity. He does include some of the challenges that Basquiat faced as a child, and in his author’s note at the back of the book, he mentions Basquiat’s death at age twenty-seven.

Steptoe’s illustrations are truly works of art in their own right. I always tell children that when I was a student, I didn’t read forwards or author’s notes. It wasn’t until years later, when I learned how much wonderful information can be included in them. Across from the title page in Radiant Child, Steptoe has written “About This Book”. The illustrator described his collage…
Like Jean-Michel Basquiat, I used bits of New York to create the artwork for this book. I painted on richly textured pieces of found wood harvested from discarded Brooklyn Museum exhibit materials, the dumpsters of Brooklyn brownstones, and the streets of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side.
What a testament to Jean-Michel Basquiat!

…collage is a means of survival. It is how Black folks survived four hundred years of oppression, taking the scraps of life and transforming them into art forms.” Javaka Steptoe on his website
There were four other books that were named as Caldecott Honor books.
Leave Me Alone! illustrated and written by Vera Brosgol (Roaring Brook)

They All Saw a Cat, illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel (Chronicle)

Du Iz Tak?, illustrated and written by Carson Ellis (Candlewick)

Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Carole Boston Weatherford (Little Bee Books)

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