Monday, March 18, 2013

Children's Book Award Winners (FAMILY magazine reviews)

At an annual event in late January, not unlike a literary version of the Oscars, the American Library Association grants awards to authors and illustrators of the best books in literature for children and young adults. These medals for excellence highlight outstanding books, now and into the future, extending awareness and accessibility to youngsters and their families in both paper and digital formats.  On these pages are listed the distinguished choices from among the many wonderful books published in 2012.   Read on!!

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:

The One and Only Ivan 
written by Katherine Applegate
illustrated by Patricia Castelao 
HarperCollins, $16.99, Ages 8-12
            This bittersweet tale is told in the voice of an artistic gorilla, who lives in a mall with an elephant and a stray dog.  Ivan’s life changes when a baby elephant named Ruby joins the animals in the mall, inspiring him to act on her behalf. Based on a true account of a mall gorilla, who after being moved to an Atlanta zoo, acquired fame and new friends and family.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

This Is Not My Hat
illustrated and written by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 4-8 
            The story of a hat, a small fish (the robber) and a big fish (the rob-bee/hunter) is a darkly witty tale with minimalist art and text.  While the text follows the thief, who sadly miscalculates the big fish’s abilities and interest, the art traces the hunter, making for an interesting contrast.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children:

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon 
written by Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point, $19.99, Ages 10+.
            A true spy thriller, this carefully-paced nonfiction tale, using well-placed archival photos and told in three parts, covers American efforts to build the bomb, Soviet struggles to steal American designs, and attempts by America to keep Germans from building a bomb. (Includes source notes, quotation notes, acknowledgments, photo credits, and index.)

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults:

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America 
written by Andrea Davis Pinkney
illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Disney/Jump at the Sun Books, $19.99, Ages 10-15.
            Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama are the compelling subjects of this collective biography. An individual portrait of each man serves as an impressive opening for each chapter, a celebration of the lives of these memorable personalities. (Includes timeline, index, and lists of recommended reading and viewing.)

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award recognizing an African American illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

I, Too, Am America 
illustrated by Bryan Collier
written by Langston Hughes
Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 8+.
            Written in 1925, Hughes’ poem is visualized through the experiences of Pullman porters, and concludes with the figure of a young boy and his mother on a subway. The latter is a promising image to accompany the poem’s hopeful conclusion, while the porters offer new meaning and context to the brief poem.  The eloquence of Collier’s trademark mixed media collages, supplies bold visuals to embody Hughes’ beautiful language.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book:

Up, Tall and High! 
written and illustrated by Ethan Long
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $15.99, Ages 3-6.
            In three short humorous stories this lift-the-flap book uses speech balloons, simple vocabulary, and bright cartoon style birds - outlined in black - to convey the meaning of opposing directions, engaging the youngest readers and even early listeners.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino illustrator whose children's book best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience:

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert
illustrated by David Diaz
written by David D. Schmidt
Clarion Books, $16.99, Ages 6-9
            Born into poverty as the illegitimate son of a former slave and a Spanish nobleman, this humble Peruvian man becomes a healer in a Dominican monastery and later, the first black saint of the Americas.  Luminous illustrations accompany lyrical text.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award honoring a Latino writer whose children's book best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Simon & Schuster, Ages 14+.  
            It’s El Paso, Texas in the summer heat of 1987 when Ari & Dante meet at the pool, and discover an easy friendship, enroute from the universe of boys to the universe of men.  Careful plot, seemingly effortless pacing, subtle characterization, and empathetic writing reveal the relationship challenges often unavailable in fiction for young men. (Also won the Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience: 

Awarded for ages 0 to 10:
Back to Front and Upside Down! 
written and illustrated by Claire Alexander 
Eerdmans Books, $16.00, Ages 4-7.
            Puppy Stan is excited about making a birthday card for the principal of his school, until the class is told their cards must also include words.  His unproductive efforts are discouraging until his friend, Jack, advises him to ask for help.  Compassionate assistance, plus others who also need help in the animal classroom, provide a sense of success.  Delightful illustrations.

Awarded for ages 11-13:
A Dog Called Homeless 
written by Sarah Lean
Katherine Tegen Books, $16.99, Ages 8-12.
            Cally thinks she sees her mother, who has been dead for over a year, accompanied by a stray dog that later shows up with a homeless man.  This compelling British novel is nuanced by the relationship she develops with Sam, a blind, almost deaf boy, in a neighboring apartment in the new building, to which Cally and her dad move.  And by Cally’s decision to voluntarily take a vow of silence, to help raise money for children’s hospice, as part of a project in her fifth grade classroom.  This story of loss, bewilderment and healing through unexpected experiences, is gently told.

Awarded for ages 13-18:
Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am 
written by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis
Simon & Schuster, Ages 12+.
            A high school senior who enlists in the army after graduation surprises his parents, autistic younger brother, girlfriend, and best friend.  After an IED explosion sends him home in a coma, followed by brain damage, the emotional effect on his relationships is heart wrenching, demonstrating through well-written narrative, the universal human responses, through the singular personal experience of one US soldier in Iraq. 

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

In Darkness 
written by Nick Lake
Bloomsbury Books, $17.99, Ages 14+.
            Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, teenaged Shorty, trapped under debris, slips in and out of consciousness, considering his own life and that of his country. Moving back and forth in time, Shorty’s street voice alternates with the narrative of an 18th century Haitian revolutionary, Toussaint l’Ouverture, who led a slave revolt.  The two share a soul, and their experiences of violence and black magic are harsh and raw, supplying a powerful picture of a neglected country.  An Author’s Note at the end discloses the real from the imagined.

Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children's book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States:

My Family for the War 
was originally published in Germany in 2007 as “Liverpool Street” 
written by Anne C. Voorhoeve
translated by Tammi Reichel
Dial Books, $17.99, Ages 12+.   
Escaping from Nazi Germany on the kindertransport, one young girl lives with a foster family in London, and shapes a new life.  This is a tightly written and emotionally rich novel, composed in memoir style.

More lengthy reviews (from School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Voya, Publisher’s Weekly, NY Times Book Review, Children’s Literature, Horn Book, Shelf Awareness, and Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books) are available on the Barnes & Noble website ( associated with each of the titles included above.

Monday, March 11, 2013

RAIN (Monday Poem)

by Joanne Ryder

the tall grass
for ant.

from The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So, 1997, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Monday, March 4, 2013

WIND STORIES (Monday Poem)

by Barbara Juster Esbensen

Tell me again
about the spring wind
tell me
it is grey
soft at the edges
its tail
around the steeple

Tell me about the blue gales
that wrestle March
to the ground
the dark
storms shaking rain
out of the night.

I like knowing
the spring wind can pull
out of gardens
and fill the windows
of old buildings
with clouds.

from Cold Stars and Fireflies: Poems of the Four Seasons by Barbara Juster Esbensen, illustrated by Susan Bonners, 1984, Thomas Y. Crowell