Thursday, January 13, 2011

Awards Post Mortem

Here is a rundown on what I know and think about the books honored at the Youth Media Awards this past Monday. Oh what a day of surprises it was.  We were able to watch it live in the library.  I had gotten permission to call the 5th and 6th graders who participated in the Newbery Club out of class.  There were also juice and muffins. 

(Naturally I will only be mentioning books that pertain to an elementary library experience.)

Schneider Family Book Award: given for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

If asked to speculate on the Middle-grade award beforehand I’m sure I would have leaned toward the obvious picks: Out of My Mind or Mockingbird. I was thrilled as a bucket of kittens swimming in cream when Jordan Sonnenblick’s After Ever After took the award. I adored that book, and it led me to go back and read Sonnenblick’s prior book about Jeffrey’s brother, Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie. Such great titles for my shelves and my students.

I should begin giving more prior thought to this award. Looking back on previous winners I find many a cherished title in the list: Becoming Naomi Leon, Waiting for Normal, Anything but Typical, and Marcelo in the Real World. Not only that, I find that many of the books that fill the Schneider awards ranks have a strong appeal to a certain segment of my fifth and sixth grades readers. I really need to check child development charts. I wouldn’t be surprises the find that a heightened sense of empathy develops around the ages of 10-12 based on some of the word-of-mouth runs I have on issues type books.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award:

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia– Did you think it could be anything else?


Lockdown, by Walter Dean – A little on the YA side for this library

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes – A strong little book, with an enjoyable cast. First Children’s book I can think of that puts the reader in Hurricane Katrina. I had a bit of an abrupt ending for this reader.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, written by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke. A graphic novel that has been jumping on and off my order list. This clinched it. It is in my next order.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick – I ask you, is this not a better world for having Collier’s Illustrations? More on this guy later.

Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, written by Gary Golio – A bio of Janice Joplin Bio won the YA non-fiction award, the sixties are very well represented in 2010 children’s lit.

Odyssey Award: for best audio book produced for children and/or young adults. (If the collection developer for The Davis County Library systems happens to read this, will you please put the following audio titles in your next order?)

The True Meaning of Smekday, written by Adam Rex and narrated by Bahni Turpin – I am ready to road trip with Gratuity and J. Lo again, oh yes I am.


Alchemy and Meggy Swann, by Karen Cushman and narrated by Katherine Kellgren - This would be the same Katherine Kellgren who reads the Bloody Jack series? Oh my, what a treat!

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness and narrated by Nick Podehl – I have yet to read this YA series but according to my sister, who is wise to all things YA, it is fast-paced rollicking ride of a series.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly and narrated by Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering – More YA that got lots of attention this year.

will grayson, will grayson, - written by John Green and David Levithan, and narrated by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl – This YA has been on my to-read list, but the same sister as above, assured me I should hold out for the audio. Will do.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award: honors a Latino writer of children’s books

The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan – There was much cheering from my Newbery Club kids when this one. The student who read it felt it was very worthy, proving me wrong on its kid appeal.

Now let us tackle the awards I made wagers on, and by wagers I assure you no money changed hands, my pride was the only thing on the line:

Robert F. Sibert Medal: for most distinguished informational book for children.


Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot, written by Sy Montgomery – I purchased this book months ago, and promptly put it on my too read list. It is still too be read. But it will I assure you. I was told by a friend that it is the best non-fiction bird book ever, and also works as a Wolf requirement in the Cub Scout manual.


Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca – We have a dance teacher at our school. I slipped my copy to her when it first arrived. She was delirious. I don’t know what Magic that Brian Floca guy has, but I would swear he paints in 3-D.

Lafayette and the American Revolution, written by Russell Freedman – Drat, I had the other Freeman book that came out this year. I was tempted to buy this after finishing Forge, now I shall.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award: for the most distinguished beginning reader book. (If you are keeping track you will notice that my picks perfectly match the committees, thus proving that this is the committee I should sit on one day.)

Bink and Gollie, written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile – I will grant you that this book very kid friendly, but really I’m sure it was written just to bring me joy.

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin – This book raised the level of writing Easy Readers from this point on.

We Are in a Book! written and illustrated by Mo Willems – I’ve heard it said that this is the best Piggie and Gerald book to date, and I won’t disagree. Meta fiction at it’s very best.

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

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead. Squeals were heard far and wide when my favorite of the year grabbed gold.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill. Yep, Mr. Collier pulled a twofer. As I was doing my civil rights lessons this week, I pull the Caldecott winners over to the table to catch the kiddos up on the actual winners. Having picked their own winner a few weeks ago I was sure they would be interested. I had Dave nestled among the usual suspect for the week. I wasn’t quick on the draw but a few third graders noticed that other books on the table had medals. They wanted to know what they’d won. I picked up my favorite MKL book, Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by . . . Oh yes, Bryan Collier. Well what do you know? A Caldecott honor and a CSK medal. What’s that glittering on Rosa by Nikki Giovonni? Well looka here, another nice Caldecott honor along with a CSK medal, illustrated by. . . You guessed it, Bryan Collier. Familiar territory for that guy.

Interrupting Chicken, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Didn’t have it, my head hangs in shame. Correcting as we speak.

Newbery Medal: for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature.

Moon over Manifest, written by Clare Vanderpool. Like many I was left scratching my head when this book was announced. If by scratching my head you mean yelping in surprise and crushing disappointment. Not because Moon Over Manifest was going to wear Newbery gold, but because I hadn’t read it, nor did I have it in the library. It was as if I’d failed my purpose in life. I scoured the local bookstores and was able to track down a copy before the day was over. So far, so delightful.

Honors: (My student were quite tickled as each of these titles came up, each book had several readers who could offer a cheer.)

Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm – OH yes, yes, yes, nothing to feel bad about this one and I think it has quite the child friendly cover.

Heart of a Samurai, written by Margi Preus – This has been a big hit with my boy readers, and my girl readers come to think of it.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen – A lovely book of Poetry. Sidman’s books have been collecting quite a bit of bling over the years. I can think of two Caldecott honors, but this may be the first that recognizes her writing. Apparently she is a great big show off because she managed to come out with two stunning books of poetry this year. Be sure to look up Ubiquitous.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia. When my sure-thing sprang up on the screen, a little too early, I went into a state of shock. Other people in the room wanted to know what my guesses were as to the medal. I really couldn’t even say. All cognitive ability left the building.

Regardless of whether the medal is gold or silver Delphine and her sisters will shine in children’s literature for the rest of time. Thank you Rita Williams-Garcia for writing such a marvelous book.

Check out the 2011 ALSC notable list for many other delicious titles.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Guessing Game of 2011: Who Will Walk with Newbery Gold and other Pressing Questions

The time cannot be put off for my annual prediction of the hoopla that will be happening tomorrow, known as the ALA Youth Media Awards. I’ve been gratified to know that I am not the only loon in the coop for whom the announcement of the Newbery, and her sister awards, is the biggest day of the year. Jonathan over at Heavy Medal compares it to waiting for a visit from St. Nick and Peter over at Collecting Children’s books confessed to level of devotion and obsession that is either awe inspiring or commitment worthy. I particularly like the fake journalist ploy.

Back three years ago when I first heard the term Mock Newbery, I dismissed the fact that an entire committee should gather together and agree on a common title to crown with Mock Gold. I merely read a bunch of books, blogged what I thought and guessed at the winner. I have come to accept that is not really how a Mock should work. But who cares, I love the sense of power I get from embodying a committee of one.

I have been participating in a Mock Newbery with some of my students and I will post how that all rolled out soon.

I have to admit, with fake modesty, my committee has done quite well matching its choices with the legitimate committee. Let us take a look.

2008: 50% and I’d read and blogged all the books.

2009: What percentage is 3 out of 5? More than 50! Sadly I have yet to read the two that slipped in under my radar.

2010: 4 of 5, 80% (I’ve suddenly remembered how to do math). This is disputable because last year I attempted to award my own honors and then predict what the real committee would do. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg slipped in when I wasn’t looking. I had love for him early on, but it dimmed as the year went on and he got no love from others. I’m so sorry I doubted you Homer.

Now that the bragging is out of the way, let’s address this year’s awards. I will dispense with my predictions and just award what my committee will honor.


  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I know I’m not original here, but really this seems to be the only choice.

  • The Clockwork Three by Matthew J Kirby. I will confess that this same Matthew J. Kirby ignited the fuse to my Newbery addiction, and in fact was part of the chilly group which watched last year’s awards with me. I’ve known Clockwork's story since it was a sonogram. I may not be terribly objective, but my justifying side claims that it is as strong a contender as many other 2010 books. It has already gotten some Mock love from a King County Library in Seattle.  My sister in Portland just informed me that that behemoth of bookstores, Powell’s, had it crowned with their Mock Medal. She didn’t have a camera on her, or I would offer proof.
  • Countdown by Deborah Wiles. This is here less because of it’s innovative format, and more because I adored every ounce of this story. I would break out words like delineation of character and setting and appropriateness of style, but really it has it all. A very deserving choice.
  • Keeper by Kathi Applet. At first I was grumpy because Keeper did not wear me out in the way that The Underneath did, but there is so much to love and admire in this sweet, heart-rending and sometimes delightfully silly story. There is nothing silly about the Kathi’s glorious writing.
(I usually stop with 3 honors, but as the past few years have given more - why shouldn’t I?

  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm. Look at that? I didn’t think I was going to type that, but there you go. This book was so yummy I’m going to appease my sweet tooth, sorry, How Sugar Changed the World.
(If Jonathan from Heavy Metal ever reads this his eyes will roll up so far into his brain, a surgeon will need to be called in.  Yep, Jonathan all middle-grade fiction.  That's the way we roll here at my committee.)

If, and when, The Dreamer, How Sugar Changed the World or They called themselves the KKK show up tomorrow I will be clapping and content.



  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Christian Stead, Illustrated by Erin Stead. I go all soft and gooey when I speak of this book, so let’s move on before it becomes embarrassing.
  • Art and Max by David Wiesner. It was good enough for the Snowdecott, so why not?
  • City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, Illustrated by Jon Muth. There is not a thing that can be disparaged about this treat, unless you bemoan the short lives of amphibians.
  • Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCammilo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile. I look forward to filling my shelf with the sequels. If the three of you are listening, I am demanding many, many sequels!


  • How Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. If you have yet to read this, prepared to be astonished.
  • A Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, Illustrated by Brian Floca. Who knew words and ink could jump up off the page and swirl around the reader with a soundtrack no less.
  • They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group  by Susan Bartoletti. If you can get past the willies of looking into how terrorists justify themselves, this is worth the read.


  • Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCammilo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile.

  • Ling &Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin. This could easily switch places with Bink and Gollie.
  • We are in a Book by Mo Willems.  What's a Geisel without at least a little Mo.
That will about do it. Just a few hours to go until we get to dive under the tree and rip open the presents.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mocking the Caldecott

With the big awards ceremony just around the corner, it is time to dust off the old blog. Those of you familiar with this blogger’s obsessions will not question which awards ceremony I am referring to. I care very little for The Oscars, The Nobels, or Cub Scout Bridging Ceremonies (although there was a time when those little scarf-wearers figured prominently in my life). Naturally what I am referring to are the ALA Youth Media Awards, more specifically the Newbery, the Caldecott, and many other fine and fancy awards. See the full list here. This Monday, January 10, 2011, a year’s worth of reading and analyzing will come to its final conclusion.

In the next few days I hope to make a few predictions, and talk a little about our School’s Newbery Club. Today however it is long past due for me to post the results of what I hope will be a continuing tradition at our school:

Snow Horse Elementary's first annual Mock Caldecott

Known to its closest friends as

The Snowdecott

A few weeks ago I gave a few preliminary lessons leading up to the event on methods of, and quality of illustration. As much as possible I tried to make the students familiar with the books we would be reviewing, because I knew the day of would be too time-crunched to read each book. I chose 10 likely suspects from the 2010 crop of picture books. I made ballots listing each title. As each class, 1st grade through 6th, came for their weekly 30 minute library visits, I laid out the procedure. They would be put into 10 small groups of 2 to 3, and in a few classes 4 (this is Utah after all). They would get about one and a half minutes with each book. When the timer went off they would move to the next table. Once they had rotated through each book they were told to pick up a ballot and rank their top 3 titles. Every first place vote would garner 3 points, reversing on down. At the end of the week, with my crack accounting team of 6th grade assistants, (AKA the Bookends), the results were tallied and the Medalist and Honors were announced. I know this is far from how the actual committee operates, and for that matter far from how most legit Mocks roll. But with over 650 students in 24 classes to process, this is the best procedure I was able to adapt.

Without further blah, blah, blah here is how it all went down:

Fist the 10 nominees:

  1. Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown
  2. Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman, iillustrated by Beckie Prange
  3. Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile
  4. Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems
  5. The Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
  6. The Boys by Jeff Newman
  7. City Dog, County Frog by Mo Willems, Illustrated by Jon Muth
  8. Art & Max by David Wiesner
  9. Flora's Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan
  10. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Christian Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead

The enthusiasm was palpable:

I couldn't get a still shot of this guy.  I don't think he was aware his feet were off the ground.

The results: There was a clear winner by over 100 votes, but the two honor books shared a mere 20 point spread.

The 2010 Snowdecott Honors go to.

Knuffle Bunny Free written and illustrated by Mo Willems

City Dog, Country Frog written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Jon Muth (What can I say we love our Mo in these parts.)

Your 2010 Snowdecott is:

Art and Max written and illustrated by David Wiesner