Read On!

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

Award Season 2

January21

CJ pushed through the church doors,
Skipped down the steps.

The outside air smelled like freedom,
But it also smelled like rain,
Which freckled CJ’s shirt and dripped down his nose.

He ducked under his nana’s umbrella, saying,
“How come we gotta wait for the bus in all this wet?”
“Trees get thirsty, too,” his nana told him.
“Don’t you see that big one drinking through a straw?”
CJ looked for a long time but never saw a straw.

lastThese are the first three pages of Last Stop On Market Street written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). This picture book was just chosen for one of the most prestigious awards that is given by the American Library Association. Yes, it was named as an honor book for the Caldecott Award where the illustrator, Christian Robinson was recognized for excellence in illustration. The book was also named as an Honor Book for the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award which recognizes “… outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.” More importantly, Last Stop On Market Street was also awarded the 2016 Newbery Medal. This award recognizes “…the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year.” The description is taken from the American Library Association’s Newbery Medal page.

Over the past two weeks, there has been much discussion on blogs that are dedicated to children’s and young adults’ literature. I wouldn’t say that the pick is controversial in a negative manner, but it certainly has brought out varying opinions. The writing is beautiful, but we (librarians, authors, publishers, booksellers) usually think of the Newbery Medal in terms of a book for older readers. Although the criteria for the award also states, “Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.” Hmm…this book certainly can be fodder for discussion by our middle schoolers, but would they find this book without being led to it by an adult? Can younger children appreciate it? I don’t have any easy answers to those questions, but isn’t it interesting to ask them?

echoThere were also three books that were recognized as Honor Books this year. One of my favorites is Echo by Pam Muños Ryan (Scholastic), which was also named as the Odyssey Honor given for excellence in audiobooks.  To read more about Echo, go to my previous post about it.

 

 

 

warAnother Newbery Honor book is The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial), also the winner of the Odyssey Honor Medal.

 

 

 

rollerThe third title is Roller Girl, written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson (Dial Books for Young Readers). Roller Girl is a graphic novel.

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Award Season

January15

Award Season

caldecott-medalOn one Monday morning every January, everyone who is involved with children’s books anxiously awaits the announcement of the awards that are given by the American Library Association. Librarians, teachers, students, authors, illustrators, booksellers, and publishers all wonder whether their favorites will be mentioned for the Caldecott and Newbery Awards or whether a little recognized book will be honored. Will we agree with the choices? Will there be controversy? Who will get the awards?

This year, the committees had a number of books from which to choose in many categories. As someone who promotes books to young people, I felt that there were many outstanding books published in 2015. The award that is nearest and dearest to me is the Randolph Caldecott Medal, which is given “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”

WinnieThe 2016 Caldecott winner is Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick (Little, Brown). I have especially shared this book with our third graders as an introduction to my Winnie-the-Pooh unit. This true story chronicles the life of a bear cub that became the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh. Harry Colebourn was a veterinarian in Canada. As a soldier during WWI, his unit was assigned to travel to England and France to care for the horses used in battle. On their train ride in Canada, Colebourn bought a bear cub that was being sold by a trapper at one of the train stops. He named the cub Winnipeg, and she became known as Winnie. Lindsay Mattick is the great-granddaughter of that soldier, and she wrote the story with a nod to the style that A.A. Milne used in Winnie-the-Pooh. She wrote little asides with her son asking questions, just as Milne’s son, Christopher Robin asked his father questions during his story. I am a huge fan of Sophie Blackall’s art and spirit. Her illustrations in the book are in watercolors to depict the history of Winnie. She used Chinese ink drawings for the present day author and her son.

win2It is with a bit of serendipity that there was another picture book written this year about Harry Colebourn and his pet. Sally M. Walker’s fictionalized account of Winnie’s origins is Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh (Macmillan). This version is interesting to pair with the Caldecott winner. The children became book critics as they examine the differences in the art and writing.

 

There were four books that are Caldecott Honor Books this year.

lastLast Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (G. P. Putnam’s Sons)

Trombone

 

 

 

Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
voiceVoice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick Press)

 

 

 

WaitingWaiting by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books)

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s Newbery Award books also deserve a separate and future blog entry.

Gene Luen Yang

January8

Every two years, the Librarian of Congress selects an author to be the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. The author serves a two-year term and uses his/her position as a platform to speak and write about lifelong literacy, education, and using books and reading for personal growth. There are very specific guidelines used by the selection committee when they choose an author. The National Ambassador for the next two years is Gene Luen Yang.

Yang was born in California, and his parents are Chinese immigrants. His background is noteworthy because Yang draws on his family experiences in his work. The seeds for his writing and art began when he was in elementary school. He began drawing comics then, and he wrote his first comic book in fifth grade. On his website, Yang said, “Nowadays any kid can make a movie, but back then, it was impossible for a ten year old to make a movie, but a ten year old could make a comic book.” The fact that Yang writes graphic novels is also an important aspect of his nomination.

When he was interviewed after the announcement of his appointment was made, Yang said, “Every ambassador picks a platform, so some kind of issue that they want to talk about, and a phrase that sums up that issue. My phrase is ‘Reading Without Walls.’ ” The theme aims to encourage young people to read books that scare them. The author continued, “We want kids to read outside of their comfort zone, to pick a book with somebody on the cover who doesn’t look like them, to pick a book about a topic they previously found intimidating.”

americanHis book American Born Chinese won the Printz Award from the American Library Association for best young adult book in 2007. Boxers & Saints was a finalist for the National Book Awards. Yang’s most recent project is a graphic novel series, Secret Coders, which not only tells a story but also teaches children about computer coding.

2015 MA Children’s Book Award

March12

MCBATwenty-two of our fourth and fifth graders celebrated reading at this week’s Massachusetts Children’s Book Award voting party. In order to participate in this voluntary reading incentive, our requirement for the children was that they had to read at least six of the nominated books. While they didn’t vote with us, the sixth graders have been reading many of the titles as part of their English class. The more books the children read, the better they were able to discuss the strength of the plots of the books. Four children read all twenty-five titles on the list. There was a spirited discussion of the merits of many of the titles. It was energizing to hear the girls and boys recommend the books to each other, as well as comment on similar books or other books by the authors under discussion.

flagThe clear winner was Capture the Flag by Kate Messner (Scholastic, 2012). In this contemporary mystery, three seventh graders, who never met previously, join forces when they learn that the flag that inspired The Star-Spangled Banner is missing from The Smithsonian. Anna, Jose’, and Henry team up to try to find this important piece of Americana. When they are snowed in at the D.C. airport, they begin a quest that opens their eyes to more than they expected.

The children also voted for “honor books”. These were other books that also received top votes or might have been a second favorite book. DCD’s honor books are The Familiars, Liar and Spy, and The Son of Neptune.

familiarsThe Familiars by Adam Epstein (Harper Collins, 2010) is a magical fantasy about an ordinary cat that is mistakenly chosen as a young wizard’s pet. The alley cat joins forces with a blue jay and tree frog that have supernatural gifts. They form an alliance to rescue their owners.

liarLiar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2012) is another story about a new friendship that is developed between two very different seventh graders. They track a mysterious man who lives in their Brooklyn apartment building.

sonRick Riordan continues to be a favorite author with The Son of Neptune (Disney, 2011). After many read this volume in The Heroes of Olympus Series, they discussed the strengths and weaknesses of various Greek and Roman gods and their half-blood children.

We look forward to the results of the statewide voting which will be released in a few weeks.

Award Season 2015: The Newbery

February13

NewberyThe Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. (From the ALA webpage)

When the professionals on the award committee review books that are under consideration, they have much to discuss. Among the criteria listed are discussions of the characteristics of theme, plot, characters, setting, and style. Part of the definition of the award that presents a challenge for the committee members is that the books can be published for readers up to fourteen years old. Thus, books that are awarded and honored can represent a range of ages.

This year’s award and honor books are published for our older readers within that age range. It is also an unusual award year because two books, the award book and one honor book, are both written in verse. The other honor book is a biography that is written in graphic form where sequential art tells the story.

crossoverCrossover by Kwame Alexander (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is one of those books that is just plain great. I don’t usually gravitate to novels written in verse, but I knew that I had to read it because of the buzz that it was getting from all of the children’s book reviewers and bloggers. Now, I can’t decide who will enjoy it more – a boy who is a reluctant reader or a girl who is an avid reader. The plot and themes are that gripping. The narrator is Josh, a boy who lives for basketball, but is also always rhyming and rapping in his head. He and his twin brother have been playing with their father, a former semi-pro player, since they could hold the ball. His parents and his brother are as fully developed as characters as Josh is. Adolescence and life present him with challenges that could be insurmountable, but Josh perseveres because of his strong family. While parts of this book are tragic, they are also uplifting because of Alexander’s talented storytelling.

The honor books are El Deafo by Cece Bell (Amulet) and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin). Each of these books deserve a discussion of their own.

brown           el deafo

Award Season 2015

February6

No, I’m not writing about The Grammy Awards or the The Oscars. The most exciting event in the world of children’s literature is the annual announcement of the Caldecott Award and the Newbery Award. This past Monday wasn’t just Groundhog Day, it was also when the American Library Association announced the 2015 Caldecott and Newbery winners and honor books.

calThe Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.  (From the ALA webpage)

It was a banner year for picture books in 2014, and the Caldecott Committee named the winner and chose 6 honor books. 6 honor books!

beekleThe Caldecott 2015 winner is The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat (Little, Brown 2014). Many children go through a stage of having an imaginary friend, and Santat’s story celebrates the joy a young child may have with this special friend. Beekle helps Alice to be brave and venture into the world of real friends, which was previously “unimaginable”.

The honor books are:

Nana in the City, written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo ( Clarion Books)
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock (Alfred A. Knopf)
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (Candlewick Press)
Viva Frida, illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales ( Roaring Brook Press)
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant ( Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)
This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki (First Second)

Great Non-Fiction

February14

While children, parents, and teachers are often familiar with the Newbery and Caldecott children’s book awards, the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award is also announced at the American Library Association winter meeting. The 2014 winner and honor books represent a wide range of topics, but their common denominator is their excellence.

parrotsParrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, illustrated by Susan L. Roth (Lee & Low) is this year’s winner. I can’t rave about this book enough. Do read my post from January 17, 2014 when I wrote about this book at length. The illustrations alone are worthy of a special award. When these combine with the well-written text, the book deserves its special status.

It was a banner year for non-fiction, and the Sibert committee named four honor books this year.

Birds were a bit of a reoccurring theme with the awards as Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick) was named as one of the honor books. Budding birders learn how to identify birds by color, shape, behavior, birdcall, and other characteristics.

Two books about artists were honored this year, one on George E. Ohr and another about Horace Pippin. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan teamed up for The Mad Potter; George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius (Roaring Brook Press). Ohr certainly didn’t lack ego or self-confidence as he described himself as “Unequaled, unrivaled, undisputed, greatest art potter on the earth.”

Jen Bryant celebrates the life of artist Horace Pippin to younger readers in A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin (Knopf). Her story and Melissa Sweet’s art bring this self-taught painter’s art to life.

The other honor book was Locomotive by Brian Floca (Atheneum), which was also recognized as this year’s Caldecott winner.

All of these titles are too good to be missed by children and adults.

look  mad  splash  tlccontent-1

Awards Season

January29

On a Monday morning in late January, fans of children’s books wait expectantly to learn about the winners of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature. This past Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2014 winners.

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.  (From the ALA webpage)

tlccontent-1There were many outstanding picture books that were published in 2013, and I can only imagine the animated discussions that the award committee had. The winner of this year’s Caldecott Medal is Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca (Atheneum, 2013) This non-fiction title might be called an historical picture book, as Floca depicts a family traveling cross country on the iron horse in 1869. Readers will return to this book again and again and discover new details in the watercolor, ink, acrylic, and gouache illustrations.

Three other illustrators were honored – Aaron Becker, Molly Idle, and David Wiesner. Coincidently, all three of the honor books are wordless books, but they are very different from each other.

Becker wrote and illustrated Journey (Candlewick, 2013), and he depicts a lonely girl who draws her way into a magical adventure. The watercolors and pen and ink drawings take the readers from her colorless real world to a colorful imaginative one. Idle’s watercolors with pencil outlines in Flora and the Flamingo (Chronicle, 2013) show a young girl and a flamingo who become friends and dance a pas de deux. I wrote about Mr. Wuffles! (Clarion, 2013) on November 15, 2013. Wiesner’s watercolor and India ink drawings tell the story of a housecat who discovers an out-of-this world toy.

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. (From the ALA webpage)

tlccontentKate DiCamillo received the 2014 Newbery Medal for Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick, 2013). DiCamillo’s title, Because of Winn Dixie received a Newbery Honor Medal in 2001, and in 2004 she won Newbery’s top award for The Tale of Despereaux. To read more about Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, do check out my blog entry for January 10, 2014.

There were four Newbery Honor Books this year: Doll Bones by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2013), The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (HarperCollins, 2013), One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (Knopf, 2013), and Paperboy by Vince Vawter (Delacorte, 2013).

The Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards

October25

There are specific awards for children’s literature that are important to watch. The obvious two are the Caldecott Award and the Newbery Award, which are announced in January. Another important award announcement is made in the fall, and that is the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award list. These awards have been given annually since 1967, and they recognize books in three categories: picture book, fiction and poetry, and non-fiction.

buildingThis year’s Boston Globe-Horn Book winners are outstanding selections. The winner in the picture book category is Building Our House by Jonathan Bean (FSG, 2013). The author chronicles the experiences that his family had while constructing their own home. He tells this charming story through the eyes of a young narrator. The family buys land and moves to the country, and they begin their year and a half long construction project. There are subtle side stories that are told through the illustrations, like Mom’s pregnancy and the addition of another family member. The book is a gem.

electric benThe winner in the non-fiction category is Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd (Dial, 2012). Byrd produced a colorful volume for our intermediate and older readers that chronicles the life of one of our most interesting Founding Fathers. Franklin’s wit and wisdom has stood the test of time; it is as pertinent today as it was over two hundred years ago.

For a complete list of the present and past winners, be sure to visit The Boston Globe – Horn Book site.

Awards Season

February1

Every year, on a Monday morning at the end of January, book aficionados wait with baited breath to learn the winners of the children’s and young adult’s book awards that are presented by the American Library Association. These are the “Academy Awards” for authors, publishers, and librarians. When this year’s winners and honor books were announced, there was a happy buzz among our reading community. Since I was watching the awards on a live feed, some of the fourth graders felt like they were the first to know the winners, and they definitely wanted to get them right off the shelves to judge for themselves.

The Newbery Medal was awarded to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Harper). Applegate’s poignant tale is fiction, but she based it on the life of a real gorilla. Ivan’s story demonstrates the changes that have been made for animals that are kept in captivity. The author wrote about her inspiration for the book on her website.
http://theoneandonlyivan.com/ivan/
Also, do check out this official book trailer.

The Newbery Honor books for 2013 are Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick Press), Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point), and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (Dial Books for Young Readers).

The Caldecott Medal is awarded not to the author of a book, but to the illustrator. In many cases, this is the same person. 2012 was a banner year for picture books, and the judges honored five illustrators as well as the Caldecott Medal winner.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press) won the award. Klassen’s artwork in this book has a simplicity that is both sophisticated and humorous. Klassen’s earlier book, I Want My Hat Back (Candlewick), is equally delightful.

This pre-publication book trailer gives readers a glimpse into this work of art.

The Caldecott Honor books are Creepy Carrots!, illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (Balzer + Bray), Green, illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Neal Porter Books), One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo (Dial Books for Young Readers), and Sleep Like a Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children).

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