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Forty years strong

Are awards for children's books useful? What can they do in a real sense?

Children's publishing is a crowded field and for many, awards can help identify not only critically valuable books but help identify new and interesting work.

When it first started some 40 years ago, the Coretta Scott King was intended to recognize the work of African American authors and illustrators. It continues to do so and since 1995, the John Steptoe New Talent Award encourages and recognizes new authors and illustrators.

Fabulous February

February is a marvelous month. It's chockfull of all kinds of celebrations and holidays. And happily, there are lots of books for young readers to enhance and extend them.

There's African American History Month which can be celebrated by reading about distinguished leaders like Coretta Scott King. Stunning illustrations by award-winning Kadir Nelson add even more drama to the poetry of Ntozake Shange in Coretta Scott (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins).

Change is in the air

Change is in the air. It was almost palpable yesterday as throngs of people — including lots of young children — witnessed the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Hope and change have become buzzwords, but you can almost feel both. They're certainly apparent in recent books for children (though not for children only), both inspired by the words of Barack Obama.

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"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb