Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In praise of children's books

     Its been a good week for childrens books. First, the American Library Associations Newbery and Caledcott medals were awarded, then the late Maurice Sendaks latest (last?) book was released.
     My nieces and nephew are past the age when childrens books are welcome, but I believe in encouraging young readers in the hope that they will become lifelong readers. Many childrens books have amazing art as well. Besides, some children's books are as much or more fun for grownups.
     The John Newbery Medal, named for 18th-century British bookseller John Newbery, is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Caldecott Medal, “named in honor of 19th-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott,” is “awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year.”

     Heres a look at this years winners:


     This year the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, selected The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (HarperCollins), the story of a show gorilla (in his own words) and his friendship with a baby elephant. The illustrations by Patricia Castelao look pretty good, too. Newbery Medal Committee Chair Steven Engelfried wrote that “Katherine Applegate gives readers a unique and unforgettable gorilla’s-eye-view of the world that challenges the way we look at animals and at ourselves.


     This year's Caldecott winner is This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick), a followup or sequel to Klassen's earlier I Want My Hat Back! Caldecott Chair Sandra Imdieke wrote that “With minute changes in eyes and the slightest displacement of seagrass, Klassen’s masterful illustrations tell the story the narrator doesn’t know.”

     In addition to the two main prizes, there are also ALA awards in other categories. 

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards 

     The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to 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.

From Barnes and

     Andrea Davis Pinkneys Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America won the Coretta Scott King award for best children's book text by an African-American. Hand in Hand is a collective biography of ten well-known African American men who dramatically changed history. Each acted with fervor and rose to greatness through education and how they chose to live their lives. Pinkney’s focus on that point makes this a unique and refreshing collection.”

From Barnes and
        Bryan Collier's illustrations for a book edition of I, Too, Am America,  a Langston Hughes poem about Pullman porters, received a Coretta Scott King prize for outstanding artwork from a children's book by an African-American. “(Collier's) trademark mixed-media collage illustrations and visual symbolism engage readers, invoking the sensation of movement and the unstoppable changes in our collective American history.”

From Simon and
The Pura Belpré Award
     “The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.”
From Barnes and
     Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe won the Pura Belpre literature award. “Sáenz demonstrates superb use of language and character development, while gently exploring important aspects of identity without straying into gender or cultural stereotypes,”said Pura Belpré Award Committee Chair Charmette S. Kuhn-Kendrick.The book

also won the Stonewall Book Award for books that have exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered experience.

From Houghton Mifflin

      David Diaz's work on Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert won the Pura Belpre Award for best illustration by a Latino/Latina artist. “The committee was impressed with Diaz’s ability to capture and expand Schmidt’s text, while including references to traditional South American artisan crafts, word carvings and textiles,” said Kuhn-Kendrick.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction
 for Young Adults
From Macmillan

     Steve Sheinkins Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World's Most Dangerous Weapon won the Young Adult Library Services Association's Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults and is an ALA Newbery Honor Book. “In readability, documentation and presentation, Bomb exemplifies the highest quality in nonfiction for young adults, and it as suspenseful as an international spy thriller,” said YALSA Nonfiction Award Chair Angela Frederick.

     Finally, although its  not connected with this years Newbery or Caledcott awards, I have to at least mention My Brothers Book by Maurice Sendak (Harper Collins).

     Sendak had written the poem that forms the story of the book years ago but took his time or had a hard time finding the right illustrations for it. Part biography, part memoriam/tribute to his late brother, part elegy and part homage to William Blake, it should be of interest to all, including once and future readers of Sendak's books. Just don't let Jim Carrey, Mike Myers or Spike Jonze try to make a movie of it.

     If you're interested in any of these books, you can see excerpts from many of them online, but better yet go to your local bookstore. If a trip to Oak Park  isnt out of the question, check out independent bookstore The Book Beat, 26010 Greenfield at Lincoln (10-1/2 Mile Road), Oak Park, 248-968-1190.They've got a magnificent collection of children's books, as well as art/photography, fiction, nonfiction and the just plain bizarre.


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