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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Book awards make good news

January 19, 2010

I'm writing this from Boston where I attended the American Library Association midwinter meeting and where the Youth Awards were announced. Actually, I was part of the process.

I was one of the 15 people on the 2010 Newbery Medal Award Committee. It's been an intense few days. Literally an entire year of reading, thinking about books, and considering what makes one stand out — frankly, how to decide which one book will receive this award — all culminating with with intense, focused, and amazingly stimulating discussion. Actually, hours of discussion from each of 15 very different (though all articulate) voices.

What emerged was one Newbery Medal (you know them by the gold seals on the cover) and four Honor books which now wear the silver. Most of these books are more appropriate for older readers.

The Medalist When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Random) is part mystery, part time travel, and thoroughly intriguing. The Honor books are equally intriguing but way different.

Phillip Hoose's Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (FSG) (recommended on the www.AdLit.org and won the National Book Award as well as others announced today) is an eye-opening, thoroughly researched, and powerful look at a teen and a time in U.S. history. Jacqueline Kelly's first novel, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Holt), introduces a girl who hopes to evolve into a scientist, not necessarily a typical aspiration in 1899. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little Brown) blends traditional Chinese folktales into Minli's exciting journey during which she changes as do all around her. And finally, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Roderick Philbrick (Scholastic) is a gem of historical fiction in which humor is used to introduce the Civil War and its horrors.

Another committee, structured like the Newbery, awarded the Caldecott Medal to the most distinguished picture book. The Caldecott Medal was awarded to a truly remarkable book (which is also one of my personal favorites and perhaps one of the best books ever in my opinion) — The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Little Brown). Three Caldecott Honor Awards were given as well. Marla Frazee illustrated All the World by Liz Scanlon (Beach Tree) and Pamela Zagarenski illustrated Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, written by Joyce Sidman (Houghton) were named Caldecott Honors.

Exciting time for the authors, illustrators, and those of us who had the privilege to work with these people. That's it from Boston. I'll be back home tomorrow and write more about the goings on here. But I do wonder if the 14 others I served with and I will ever quite see books in the same way or if we'll ever have the opportunity to focus so clearly on them. Either way, hats off to those people who make it their life's work to bring the best books to children — and each of us strives to be part of that community!

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