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Friday, January 14, 2011

Perfect timing

This past week, the ALA announced the major literary awards for  children's literature. This year, there doesn't seem to be as much of an uproar as there has been in recent years over the choices. The books aren't all geared toward one sex. There are no anatomically correct names appearing on the first page (at least in those books that one would not expect that), and while the Newbery winner was not one on many (or any??) lists, everyone who has read the book -- including myself-- is not disappointed in this "dark horse" winner.

Usually, what I feel and hear from others is not about what was honored, but about what wasn't honored. Those who love children's books become very attached to our favorites, and it's hard to let go. (I still haven't forgiven the Newbery committees for passing over City of Ember, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and Alabama Moon)

So I thought I'd say congratulations to those who were honored for their hard work and excellence, but instead of writing about the winners, I thought I'd spend a little time recommending some things you might want to read while you are waiting for your copies of the winners of to arrive.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz [Dutton]. This is a true kids' book. Funny, with enough gore (or as Gidwitz puts it "awesomeness") to delight everyone. In addition it makes a great read aloud.
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea [Random House]. Beautifully written. Both funny and tragic, and yet it has such an emotionally satisfying ending. Reluctant readers will like this one (some pages have only  few words on them).
Mockingbird by Kathy Erskine [Philomel]. An amazing and timely book which also won the National Book Award for this year. This really is a masterpiece of writing. (Disclaimer: Kathy and I met at Chautauqua in 2004 and have been friends since. For any author, including Kathy, this does not influence my opinion of their work. However, it does get her books moved up in my "to read" pile.)
Dream of Night by Heather Henson [Atheneum]. When Heather told me what her new book was about, I was a little skeptical. A book told in three voices, including one of a mistreated horse? Could she pull it off? She did. What a wonderful book about acceptance, forgiveness, and healing.
Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve [Dial]. A book about a girl who lives on a magical rhubarb farm. Really. There's mystery. Humor. And anyone who makes a reader care so much about a rhubarb plant named Harry, deserves an award for something.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman [Harper]. Almost nine months after reading this book, it still haunts me. The fine line Shusterman draws between abuse and reason is so thin, readers have a hard time figuring out where they stand.
Dirt Road Home by Watt Key [Farrar Straus Giroux]. This companion novel to Alabama Moon is rough for any reader. But it's so compelling that it can't be put down.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin [Harper]. Not eligible for awards because it was self-published in 2008. This is the best read aloud of the year, and the illustrations are as wonderful as the text.
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt] Again, not eligible because the illustrator is Canadian. A great book on all the types of "quiet" there are. The text is sparse, but the illustrations make it a pleasure to read again and again.
Chalk by Bill Thomson [Marshall Cavendish] This wordless picture book is not only stunning in its illustration, but also in it's concept.

Coretta Scott King
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper [Atheneum] Actually, this could be in the Newbery section too. One of Sharon's best pieces of writing, with a brilliant insight into the world of students who cannot communicate but can learn.

Well, that's about it. There are others of course, but I have to finish reading the only Newbery winner I had not read, The Heart of a Samurai, and then move on to this coming year's selections. (BTW, that may be what I tackle next here. There some great stuff on the way.

Keep reading.


  1. Dave - I couldn't be happier to find you've started a blog! I can already see my to-be-read list growing...

  2. I am glad you started this as well. I just hope this doesn't mean you'll be limiting your Facebook comments. :)