Saturday, March 21, 2015

Slimy Scaly Stories: Books About Reptiles and Amphibians

I love reading books with animal characters for story time, but I get a little tired of adorable animal antics from time to time. Since my previous story time was all about baby animals, I wanted something that wasn't so sweet and cute. I have many story time plans that I've revised throughout the years, but nothing was really inspiring me until I decided to combine my outlines for a frogs story time and a snakes story time.

I'd only presented these story times once or twice, and frankly, they weren't that successful. Gathering fingerplays wasn't a problem; I had some fun fingerplays for both themes. The truth was that I was really only excited about two books in my list for each theme. Experienced children's librarians know that presenting a book that you're rather "meh" about is a recipe for disaster. You should only include books that you really love to share. I usually include 3-4 books per story time session, so I decided to create a new "reptiles and amphibians" theme. I found new fingerplays and presented the story time this past Wednesday. 

It was a hit! Two stories were a bit longer than what I normally read, but we had no problems sitting and listening to the story. They even elicited impromptu feedback, which is always wonderful. This story time is a keeper! Here's what we enjoyed: 

I introduced Lauren Thompson's Little Quack in my baby animals story time (a bit hit), so I decided to bring back this darling duckling one more time. Little Frog invites the little ducklings to play, but since he's so different (green and says "ribbit"), they're a little hesitant...except for Little Quack! When the ducklings see how much fun they are having splashing, squishing mud, and ducking their heads in the water (the illustration of the ducklings bottoms-up is precious), they know that having friends who are different is super cool. Little Quack's New Friend is not only a super-cute story, but it has a quiet little message about the universality of play and friendship.

Want to add some drama to your story time? Snip! Snap! What's That? will definitely bring it. An alligator invades the home of three unsupervised children; although they are initially scared (who can blame them?), they drum up enough courage to boot the alligator out. One of my all-time favorite read alouds.

I begin story times with my longest story first; Turtle Day was the perfect way to end the read aloud portion of my toddler story time. It's a simple story of a turtle waking up, quenching its thirst, sunning itself, protecting itself from a snake, and crawling inside its shell at the end of the day. It's also a good "cause/effect story"--because turtle is thirsty, it drinks water. Because it is scared, it goes inside its shell, etc.

We have many excellent children's nonfiction books if  you want informational books on reptiles or amphibians.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cute Overload: Books About Baby Animals

Who doesn't love books about baby animals? With spring on the horizon, I have several spring themes lined up for story time: flowers/gardens. rabbits, and baby animals! There are so many adorable and intriguing books about baby animals that I had a hard time narrowing down my selections:

Babies in the Bayou is unique among the "baby animal books" in that it features animals that are not cute and cuddly. Rather, we see a mama alligator (who are very protective mothers--a baby alligator stays with mom for about two years), baby turtles, and even raccoons. Jim Arnosky is a naturalist, so this isn't just an oddly sweet story; the animals are often arranged together to represent their predator/prey relationship (although not remarked upon). I frequently use this to balance the fuzzy-wuzzy titles in my baby animals story time. (If you're reading this outside of  the Gulf Coast, you may want to explain that a bayou is a lake with water that moves very slowly or not at all)

D'AWWWW SO KYOOT. Sorry. Il Sung Na's books tend to do that to me. LOOK AT THE LITTLE DUCKY. If you want a huge dose of adorableness, you need to check out his books. A Book of Babies. A baby duck observes other baby animals is the basic jist of the story. Very simple text and big, bright, and bold illustrations; perfect for babies and toddlers.

Click, Clack, Peep is Doreen Cronin's latest Click Clack saga, just in time for spring! The barnyard animals are stoked over the arrival of a baby duckling....until the baby refuses to sleep. How will they--and Farmer Brown--ever get the duckling to sleep? Funny, cute, and a great read aloud!

Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? is a must for babies and toddlers. Hold off on The Very Hungry Caterpillar if you can (I couldn't when my niece was born; she got the board book and the toy right away) and get this one for your next baby shower (or just get a bunch of Eric Carle board books). A mother animal and her baby are featured on each spread (Does a X have a mother too? Yes, a X has a mother, just like me and you), ending with an assurance that all animals love their babies, just like yours does too. So wonderful. A glossary of scientific names is included at the end of the book if you want to extend this beyond the baby/toddler stage. (Not sure if the board book version includes this glossary.)

Little Quack is not just a darling story about ducklings, but it's also a great little story about facing your fears and trying new things. Mama Duck is anxious for her ducklings to learn to swim, so she coaxes them out of the nest, one by one. Although they are reluctant to do so, they test the waters (literally) and learn that swimming is pretty cool. All except Little Quack, who holds out the longest, until he is persuaded by mom and siblings to jump in the water. And what do you know? He likes it too. A counting activity runs across the bottom of the pages, but it is not crucial to the story.

Owl Babies is one of my all-time favorite read alouds. I have been using it in story times for nearly 11 years, and I never tire of it. Three little owls awaken to find that their owl mother is gone. Although they tell each other that she'll be back soon (except for Little Bill, who repeatedly says, "I want my mommy!"--if you're reading this aloud, start the desperation level low and work it up), their worry increases. Of course, she comes back, and all is well. Although very sweet, the eating habits and perils of owl life are touched upon (they imagine that she'll "bring them mice and things that are nice," and one wonders if "a fox got her."), which adds authenticity and a little drama to the story.

Want books that have a more definite springtime theme? Check out my recent post on the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) blog.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Play Ball!

Baseball season is here! Okay, it's still pre-season, but games are happening! I don't know about you, but my football teams had dismal seasons, so I am so ready to cheer on my Nationals. If you want books that will inspire a future MLB player or fan, we have many fantastic books that you need to read! So grab your peanuts and  Cracker Jacks, and read on.  I had a hard time whittling down my choices, so each book will have a brief annotation.

General Awesomeness of Baseball: 

Baseball Is is a fabulous tribute to the history of baseball and its great stars; it ends with tantalizing the reader with dreams of his/her favorite team winning the World Series. This would be a great read aloud for elementary school students.

Baseball has a great literary tradition, with Casey at the Bat and Take Me Out to the Ballgame being two of the most famous poems/songs.

I love cross-cultural books, so Take Me Out to the Yakyu is a top favorite. Through the eyes of an American child with Japanese and Caucasian parents, readers learn how baseball is both similar and quite different in Japan and the United States.

Sports fans and novel readers should definitely seek out books by Tim Green and Dan Gutnam's Baseball Card Adventure series.

Heroes of Baseball History: 

Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man is a poignant picture book biography of the great player who showed strength and courage in the face of ALS.

Sharon Robinson has written several books about her father, Jackie Robinson;  Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America is a comprehensive and personal account of the great player.

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major League Leaguer William Hoy introduces young fans to William Hoy, the first deaf player to have a lengthy career in professional baseball.

I'm a big fan of the Who Was (and its offsprings) series, as are many patrons; they are ideal for young elementary school students. Who Was Roberto Clemente? is a fine overview of the player/humanitarian who was tragically cut down in his prime.

Jonah Winter's nonfiction titles are witty but with tons of facts crammed into a respectful manner; You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax and You Never Heard of Willie Mays? are two critically acclaimed kid-friendly reads (that would work well as read alouds for elementary school students) about two players that showed integrity in the face of adversity,

Pride Through Play: 

Barbed Wire Baseball, Baseball Saved Us, and A Diamond in the Desert are moving and eye-opening tales of the vital importance of baseball games in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.

The Bat Boy and His Violin, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,  and Fair Ball! 14 Great Stars From Baseball's Negro League are must-reads for those wanting to learn more about the Negro Leagues.

A League of Their Own

The short-lived all-women's league is one of the most fascinating aspects of baseball history. Mama Played Baseball and A Whole New Ball Game: The Story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League are memorable reads perfect for National Women's History Month! And yes, we do have one of the BEST sports movies ever, A League of Their Own (There's no crying in baseball!)

Here's to another exciting baseball season!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oink Oink! March 1 is National Pig Day

When I'm at a loss for topics to blog about, I consult the Brownie Locks website. I'm guaranteed to find something that will inspire a post. When I learned that March 1 is National Pig Day, I immediately knew that I had tons of fabulous children's books to discuss!

If you think Babe (the movie) is adorable and clever (which it is!), you need to read the book upon which it was based. Although a story about a pig saved by the cleverness of a fellow farm animal sounds awfully familiar, Dick King-Smith's tale of a sheep-herding pig is hilarious, charming, original, and has one of the most satisfying endings in children's literature.

Charlotte's Web is inarguably the ultimate children's novel about a pig (and perhaps the biggest upset in Newbery Medal history).  If you reread it, you'll be struck by its timelessness and maturity. E.B. White's recording is worth a listen. If children's literature history is an interest, you need to read The Story of Charlotte's Web  to learn about the creation of this modern classic.

Who's the best pig detective in the world? Mercy Watson, that's who! I regularly recommend the Mercy Watson series for families who want to start chapter book read-alouds as well as independent readers ready for chapter books.

Elephant (also known as Gerald) and Piggie is one of the most consistently funny and clever couples in children's books. Although they are quite different (Gerald is a bit more high-strung and goofy at times), they are forever friends. My favorite is We Are in a Book, which is quite meta.

Olivia (the original is a 2001 Caldecott Honor book) turns 15 this year, but this spunky pig (who's very good at "wearing people out")  is still going strong!

Piggies in Pajamas is one of my favorite "not so sleepy" bedtime stories. This rollicking and rhyming story of a bunch of rambunctious pigs who are definitely not interested in bedtime requires some practice if you don't want to trip over your tongue while reading it aloud.

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! is a great read aloud for preschool and elementary school children; they will love this tale of partying pigs and the hapless man whose house they invade.

Finally, if you're in the mood for some porcine-related nonfiction, check these out:

Dick King-Smith's novels often included pigs, but did you know that he wrote an adorable nonfiction title about one of his favorite animals?  All Pigs Are Beautiful is suitable for newly independent readers who want to learn about the habits of these fascinating creatures.

Gail Gibbons's books are ideal for young independent readers. Pigs teaches readers about the typical characteristics of pigs, their life cycle, and their intelligence.

Although there may not be any pig-related books in this week's edition of Wowbrary, I can guarantee that there are some awesome titles to discover.

I participated in Grace Miller Elementary's Family Reading Night last Tuesday and had a fabulous time. I wrote about several of my read aloud choices in an ALSC post about funny read alouds for elementary school children. Check out the comments for more great suggestions.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ridiculously Good Reads: Early 2015 Edition

How's 2015 working out for you? Have you read any fantastically awesome books so far? As a youth services librarian, I need to read books outside my personal interests. (If I didn't, I'd read nothing but realistic fiction, historical fiction, and biographies). I also need to remind myself to not focus on the bright and shiny new reads, but to go deeper into the collection and find titles that I missed. Happily, this often turns up some welcome surprises!

For 2015, I'm going to start a "Ridiculously Good Reads" feature. This will be similar to Reading Roundup, but it will only focus on books that I thought were outstanding. Not just in a literary sense, but books that, for whatever reason, weren't forgotten the second I returned them. Here are my Ridiculously Good Reads for January and February: 

I recommend Annie Between the States whenever possible for middle or high school historical fiction assignments; not only it is a fantastic Civil War era read, but much of the action takes place in Fauquier County (Upperville and Warrenton) and the surrounding areas. Across a War-Tossed Sea has joined my top recommended reads for historical fiction, as it's a moving, gripping, occasionally funny, and occasionally heartbreaking tale of British brothers living in the Tidewater region during World War II. Not only do the brothers struggle with homesickness and guilt over leaving friends and family behind in Britain, but they have to deal with cultural differences, especially segregation laws and customs.  A subplot involving a nearby German POW camp is tremendously affecting and startling; Elliott's research notes on German POW camps and the importance of the Tidewater region during World War II are informative and fascinating.

I've become more and more impatient with epic 400+ children's/YA novels and endless series. Ugh! Enough! You better have a really good reason for having such a huge book and for extending the story into a trilogy (or more). Thankfully, there are still authors and publishers out there who haven't forgetten about reluctant readers, or readers who just want a quick read every now and then. Bridge is part of the Alternative series, which is set at Rondo Alternative High School. This is Jose's last chance to graduate; family issues such as his dad's unemployment (due to medical issues) and difficulty concentrating in class due to his work schedule make school a challenge. At 92 pages and written with reluctant readers in mind, this is a realistic and empathetic look at situations that befall many high school students. Patrick Jones worked with teens at juvenile detention centers and alternative education centers, so he's very familiar with the issues and situations that these young people face. I'm definitely planning to add more books in the Alternative series. 

I'm a huge fan of Lucy Knisley's graphic memoirs; Displacement, in my opinion, is her finest so far (and I thought it would be hard to top Relish). As always, family relationships play a huge part in her latest graphic memoir (food is also a Knisley trademark, but less so in this one). As her grandparents are dealing with the physical and mental realities of aging (as Knisley includes her musings on twenty-something issues, this is a remarkable juxtaposition), this cruise is probably their last big trip. Her sorrow over their decline, her befuddlement over typical cruise activities, and the differences in her relationships with each grandparent are sensitively, humorously, and achingly depicted in both art and prose. Excerpts from her grandfather's World War II memoir are included throughout the memoir, which adds a poignant and admirable touch. This is graphic memoir writing and drawing at its finest.

I'll bet you're anxious to find spring. (Pitchers and catchers report this week, so it's on its way!) Finding Spring is a charming beauty of a picture book. This little bear cub is dismayed to learn that he has to hibernate during winter before spring arrives; when he sets off to find the mysterious spring, he finds something quite marvelous, indeed.  This sweet book has constantly been checked out since we received it early this year; it's a superbly created book that's perfect for late winter.

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution is one of our staff's early favorites for 2015. 2015's summer reading program is "Every Hero Has a Story," and this unique story ties in perfectly! Christopher Ludwick's story shows that everyone has talents and qualities to contribute, even in unexpected ways. Finding picture books about historical eras that are excellent read alouds is rare; there are plenty of fine historical fiction picture books, but not many that are suitable for reading aloud. This is a terrific read aloud for elementary school students studying the American Revolution.

I was extremely hesitant to read Noggin. I wanted to read all finalists for the National Book Award (Young People's Literature division), but I had a hard time getting past the premise of the story. Once I decided to read it, I was completely engrossed. It's a mature, unsettling, unforgettable, and provocative science fiction novel that raises tough questions about scientific advancements and mortality.

Supertruck is another early 2015 title that has been constantly checked out since we received it (and very appropriate for winter reading!). A blizzard has overpowered the city; luckily, an unlikely hero in the form of a garbage truck saves the day. So adorable and clever!

At 990 pages of text, Truman is an enormous biography (took me nearly seven weeks to get through it), but it's one of the best presidential biographies I've ever read (I've been reading a biography of each president--off and on-- since October 2012). Truman's late-in-life political career, the chaos of the 1944 Democratic convention (where it was an unspoken understanding that Roosevelt would likely die in office, thus making the VP nominee more critical than it had ever been), the decision to launch the atomic bomb, the firing of General MacArthur and the Korean War crisis, the rise of Senator Joe McCarthy, the enormous loss of popularity and calls for impeachment, and much, much more are brilliantly brought to life. Moreover, his undying love for his wife, Bess, and daughter, Margaret, is touchingly depicted. Truman was a complicated character (his views on civil rights did not mean that he was incapable of making unsettling statements) at an extraordinary time. An outstanding biography. The Roosevelt-Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy biographies era is very reminiscent of the Washington-Adams-Jefferson-Madison biographies era; their political careers intertwine with each other on a greater scale than other eras in American history (Roosevelt to a lesser extent, since he was an established icon by the time Truman began his political career) but definitely true for Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy). Very intriguing to observe!

Looking for some brand-new reads! Check out our latest and back issues of Wowbrary.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Celebrate and Remember: Books for Black History Month

History, biographies, and historical fiction are among my favorite things to read, so I'm excited to tell you about some of my favorite books that are perfect for Black History Month. If you're looking for a book to fulfill a Black History Month assignment, or just want some awesome recommendations for personal reading, these books will definitely engage, entertain, and inspire readers from many ages and backgrounds. All books highlighted were published in 2014 or early 2015.

I haven't read this brand-spanking new 2015 book because it's been checked out so many times! (Yaaaay!) 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World covers history-making African-Americans from Crispus Atticus to Barack Obama.

Russell Freedman (1988 Newbery Medal winner for Lincoln: A Photobiography) is a champion writer of young people's nonfiction. Throughout his 85 years, he has created outstanding biographies on Benjamin Franklin, Babe Didrikson Zacharias, Confucius, Lafayette, Crazy Horse, Louis Braille, Marian Anderson, Marco Polo, and the Wright Brothers. His history titles cover well-known aspects of history such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and  World War I, but also investigate the plight of children during the Great Depression, the daily lives of children during the Western Expansion, early 20th century Asian immigration, the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) in the southwest, the fight against child labor, and pre-Columbus explorers of North America. The man is a giant and pioneer in children's informational books, and many of his history books focus on everyday heroes in extraordinary moments in history.  Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America is an eye-opening and powerful look at the struggle to ensure that African-Americans have equal representation at the voting booth. Although it's written for children, teens and adults who have seen Selma and want to learn more about the fight for voting rights will definitely benefit from reading this. If you want more titles about African-American history by Freedman, check out his 2006 account of the Montgomery bus boycott and his Marian Anderson biography (mentioned above).

I've discussed Brown Girl Dreaming many times on this blog; if you haven't read this memoir-in-verse about Jacqueline Woodson's childhood experiences in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York during the days of Jim Crow, you are missing out! It's won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, is one of two 2015 Newbery Honor books, and a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list.

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream is a gorgeously illustrated and told tribute to Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina. Told through the perspective of a seamstress's daughter, this is a touching and memorable look at a little-known pioneer.

If you want Virginia history as well as African-American history, look for The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement. (It's also on the Middle School Battle of the Books list.) Barbara Rose Johns was a teenager when she organized a protest against the deplorable conditions of her segregated school in Prince Edward County. As part of Brown v. Board of Education, the community's fight against segregation helped to bring about integration in the public schools.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker  is a brilliantly (and dazzlingly!) created biography of the fascinating dancer/actress, Josephine Baker. Although Baker was stunningly sophisticated, her poverty-stricken childhood in St. Louis was a far cry from Paris.  The enormous racism during her lifetime is sensitively and factually presented for young readers.

Pre-civil rights history intrigues me. I'm automatically interested in any black history title that's NOT about slavery or the 1960s civil rights movement (as important as it is to keep learning about those eras). The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, And the Fight for Civil Rights is a sobering and difficult read at times, but an important one to read. I reviewed it last August.

We have a number of related 2015 titles on order or just recently received:

Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage 
Mae Jemison (a biography of the first African-American female astronaut)
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March
X: A Novel (YA novel about Malcolm X co-written by daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and acclaimed YA author Kekla Magoon)

For recommendations of pre-2014 books on black history, see these posts.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

Saturday, February 07, 2015

And the Winners Are....(2015 Youth Media Awards)

The Youth Media Awards were announced on February 2; as usual, there were some surprises! (Ahem.)  Let's get to them! 

About the award: "The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." 

Children: Alan Rabinowitz and C'atia Chien for A Boy and a Jaguar 

Middle School: Ann M. Martin for  Rain Reign

Teen: Gail Giles for Girls Like Us 

My verdict: I adore A Boy and a Jaguar. If you want an inspirational book about overcoming enormous obstacles, you need to read it.  Rain Reign is an emotionally difficult read and not one of my favorites by Ann M. Martin (I'm a fan of her lengthy and distinguished career). Girls Like Us is a tremendous and emotionally gripping story featuring young adults with Down Syndrome.  Overall, I can't argue with these choices. Not going to lie to you--I felt a little verklempt when A Boy and a Jaguar and Girls Like Us were announced. Fabulous and important books. 

About the award: "...[T]he Coretta Scott King Book Awards annually recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience." 

Illustrator (Honor): Christian Robinson for  Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

My verdict: Sensational illustrations. And a great read as well.

(We will receive the co-honor Little Melba and Her Big Trombone shortly, along with Firebird, which won the Illustrator Medal.)

Author (Honor): Kwame Alexander for The Crossover; Marilyn Nelson for How I Discovered Poetry; Kekla Magoon for How It Went Down 

My verdict: Some people think that How I Discovered Poetry has been forgotten in the wake of the avalanche of praise and publicity for Brown Girl Dreaming; I agree, so I'm happy it was recognized in the CSK Awards. How it Went Down is a powerful and timely look at a community shattered by the death of one of its youth. I'll discuss The Crossover later in this post. 

Author (Medal) 

Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming 

My verdict: Hardly a surprise. (I'm happy it won!) I'll discuss Brown Girl Dreaming further in this post. That beautiful cover is now crowded with medal insignia. 

The CSK/John Steptoe Award for New Talent went to Jason Reynolds for When I Was the Greatest, which is well deserved (you can read my review here.) Reynolds's latest (just published!) book, The Boy in the Black Suit, is top on my to-be-read list. 

About the award: "...honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens..." 

My verdict: Have not read, but will read ASAP. 

About the award: "...honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18)..." 

Semifinalists (announced in December): Laughing at My Nightmare; The Family Romanov; Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business and Won; The Port Chicago 50

My verdict: Did not see that coming! Can't wait to read it. The Family Romanov and The Port Chicago 50 are both amazing books, so I was surprised that they didn't win. 

About the award: " award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature." Awarded since 2000, this is the top award for YA literature. Because it has so few criteria compared to other awards (it must be published for YA and can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or anthology; unlike the Newbery and Caldecott, books published in other countries and written by authors outside the United States can and have won Printz distinctions), it's very difficult to predict.  

Honor: Jenny Hubbard for And We Stay; Jessie Ann Foley for The Carnival at Bray; Andrew Smith for Grasshopper Jungle; Mariko Tamaki for This One Summer

Winner: I'll Give You the Sun   

My verdict: I was stunned when they announced the Printz...because we had the winner and three out of the four honor books already in our collection. That is rare, friends, because Printz committees are so unpredictable.  And We Stay is a story that will stay with you for some time; it's a mature YA title with lots of issues going on, but they are remarkably balanced. I know This One Summer has had a ton of love and is praised by many smart and knowledgeable people. I'm not feeling the love, though. 

About the award: "...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." 

Illustrator Winner: Yuyi Morales for Viva Frida 

Text Honor: Juan Felipe Herrera for  Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

Text Winner: Marjorie Agosin for I Lived on Butterfly Hill 

My verdict: Viva Frida is remarkable; have not read the others! Will do so ASAP. (We;ll order the Text Winner ASAP.)

About the award: The Batchelder Award has one of the clunkiest award descriptions out there. Basically, it's an award for books that 1) were originally published outside of the United States and 2) were originally published in a non-English language and later translated into English. The publisher is the official winner (the award is intended to encourage publishers to publish titles from other countries.) 

Honor: First Second for Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust (translated from French); Enchanted Lion Books for Nine Open Arms (translated from Dutch; Enchanted Lion publishes many international titles and is well represented in this award's history). 

Winner: Eerdsman Books for Young Readers for Mikis and the Donkey (translated from Dutch; Eerdsman won this award in 2012 for Solider Bear, also by the same author/illustrator/translator of Mikis and the Donkey) 

My verdict: Hidden is eye-opening. Haven't read the others, so adding them to my list. 

About the award: "...awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year." This is another difficult one to predict. Memoirs/autobiographies, history, biography, science/nature, etc are all eligible, ranging from picture books to YA nonfiction, if they meet the initial criteria.

Winner: Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

My verdict: I LOVE The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, so I was thrilled that it won. Gorgeous book. The honors are excellent choices. 

About the award: "The Geisel Award is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year." Books also must be a minimum of 22 pages, but not exceed 96 pages.

Honor: Cynthia Rylant and Arthur Howard for Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page; Mo Willems for Waiting is Not Easy

Winner: Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant for You Are (Not) Small 

My verdict: I...well....okay. I have not seen You Are (Not) Small, so will hold off on that. This award tends to be all over the place due to its criteria. Everything from picture books (that aren't published as easy readers) to short chapter books have won.  Has there been an Elephant and Piggie book that has not been named either an Honor or Winner? I'm glad the award exists, but wish there was a separate distinction for easy chapter books and easy reader/picture book. We'll order the Mr. Putter and Tabby book soon. 

About the award: "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." The illustrator must reside in the United States. Children is defined up to "14 years of age." 

Honor: Lauren Castillo for Nana in the City; Mary GrandPre for The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kadinsky's Abstract Art; Jon Klassen for Sam & Dave Dig a Hole; Yuyi Morales for Viva Frida; Melissa Sweet for The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus; Jillian Tamaki for This One Summer

My verdict: I gee...I...well, this got the chit chat going on Twitter and the blogopsheres.

This One Summer is quite a controversial choice. It's a YA graphic novel that is quite mature. Really mature. Remember that the award is for illustration, and not just for a picture book. However--I can think of others that I wanted to be named. 

My verdict: Did you hear wailing and gnashing of teeth around 10:05 or so? That was me! Because I took a chance on not ordering the titles we didn't have on the nominations list for ALSC's Notable Children's list in December and said," I'll order it when it's finalized! Surely out of the many, many books we've ordered this year, we'll have the winner!" Nope nope nope. So, guess who will be discovering the 2015 Caldecott Medal along with our patrons? MOI. *Waits impatiently*

And...This One Summer. Yes, according to the criteria, the committee met and delivered the criteria. There are no limits on the number of honor books and the eligibility of This One Summer is correct. The criteria does not mean that the book needs to encompass the broad range of "up to fourteen." I'm not entirely happy over its inclusion and wish others had been included, but that's life.  I'm very disappointed that Beauty and the Beast  and other titles were overlooked. But that happens nearly every year. On to 2016! 

About the award: "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." Author must reside in the United States. 

If you know the history of the Caldecott and the Newbery, you'll understand why the creators of the awards insisted that the authors/illustrators be American residents. At the time the Newbery was established in 1922, British children's literature reigned supreme. If you think about what we consider classic children's literature published before the 1940s, you'd probably be able to name more British titles than American titles. The Secret Garden. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Peter Pan.  And so on. The American publishing industry needed a way to focus attention and awareness of American children's literature and to encourage authorship of children's literature in the States (and then named this award after a British bookseller, but that's another story). And thus, the Newbery was born. Some folks have called for the residency requirement to be dropped, as American children's authors and illustrators are popular worldwide (I can attest to that after browsing in an Italian bookstore two years ago), but don't hold your breath. 

Honor: Cece Bell for El Deafo; Jacqueline Woodson for Brown Girl Dreaming 

Winner: Kwame Alexander for The Crossover

My verdict: WHEEEE! Hearing these titles announced was so, so lovely after the mixture of emotions I felt after hearing the Caldecott announcements. Let's talk about the honor books. Love, love, love, AND A GRAPHIC NOVEL. A graphic novel received an honor, when many, many people thought that Newbery committees would not be able to name a graphic novel. If you're not familiar with El Deafo--it's Cece Bell (a Virginia author!)'s memoir of growing up with hearing loss and having to wear a clunky and noticeable hearing aid. 

Brown Girl Dreaming is exceptional, but I'm not disappointed that it received an Honor. (Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and is a New York Times bestselling author for this book. She'll be fine. This is her fourth Newbery honor.)

And The Crossover? Let me tell you why I'm ecstatic that it won. First of all, it's not a 400+ paged epic novel. (237 pages, people.) It's not historical fiction or fantasy. It's a book about basketball. Literary sports books represent! It's a book about twin boys dealing with first crushes, friendship issues, sibling issues, finding their own identity, and growing up in a supportive and loving family. It deals with some serious and sad issues, but it's totally believable. It's a book that reluctant readers will want to read. It's a book featuring African-American characters that is NOT historical fiction. It's a coming of age story featuring middle school guys. It's a coming of age story featuring African-American middle school guys. How often do we see that? Middle school guys, regardless of ethnicity? Rare. Middle school African-American teens? Even rarer.

And Kwame Alexander is also a Virginia author! Virginia authors rule the Newberys this year!

So! Overall, very happy about the awards. (I'll just have to deal with the Caldecott.)  I have a TON of reading to do!

I recently blogged about books for science experiments at the ALSC blog. (Those posts are much, much shorter.)

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library