Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 ALA Youth Media Awards

John Newbery Medal

Dead End in Norvelt
Jack Gantos
            School is out and Jack Gantos is planning to have an adventurous summer. It takes him about two days into his summer vacation to get grounded by his mother for the entire summer. Locked in his room, he escapes by reading books. Norvelt is a small town and as luck would have it his elderly neighbor, Ms. Volker, needs his help and is his only escape. Ms. Volker has some strange habits and an even stranger occupation, but Jack likes assisting her and when he does he gets to see his best friend Bunny. Bunny is Norvelt’s mortician daughter, and funeral parlor owner, and Ms. Volker is the medical examiner, so Jack finds himself in the company of the newly dead. It doesn’t bother his friend Bunny at all, but it tends to make Jake’s noise bleed, like almost anything else. His nose bleeding, getting grounded for the summer, his weird best friend, Ms. Volker, his creatively feuding parents, and the soon-to-be, and newly dead provide Jack with a summer with more adventure and fun than he planned for. This is another funny, mysterious and entertaining novel by author Jack Gantos, which will have readers laughing all the way through. 2011, Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, Ages 8 to 14, $15.99. Reviewer: Laura J. Brown (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780374379933

Randolph Caldecott Medal

A Ball for Daisy
Chris Raschka
            Daisy, a frisky dog, plays happily with her big red ball, as full-page illustrations and action vignettes start this wordless tale of the discovery of a friend. Daisy is taken to the park to play with her ball, only to have a brown dog snatch it away and break it. Daisy’s distress at the deflated ball is apparent. Taken home by her young mistress, she is inconsolable. At the park next day, however, they meet the brown dog, his mistress, and her big blue ball. The dogs play happily together until their mistresses’ wave goodbye. Daisy is pleased to get to take the blue ball home. Raschka’s typical ink, watercolor, and gouache almost slap-dash images generate happy emotion as they create just enough background and characters to add conviction to the adventure of this most appealing pup. No words are required to express either her joy in playing with her ball or her depression when it is broken. The double page with eight sequential vignettes depicting her loss is particularly effective, as is the final picture of contentment with the new ball. 2011, Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Children’s Books, Ages 3 to 7, $16.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780375858611

For a complete list of winners visit here. To see reviews and further information about all of these titles use CLCD.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sharon Draper

            As a child, Sharon Draper spent countless hours at the public library. Always an avid reader, her mother would walk her down to the local library in Ohio, where Sharon would check out ten books at a time. Precocious, Sharon once told the librarian that she would need more stickers for that summer's reading contest. As she got older—and had read all the books in the children's section—Sharon got a special library card stating that she was allowed to check out books from the adult section. The librarian, who at this point had come to know Sharon very well, made sure that she did not check out anything too advanced—though she was off every Thursday and couldn't monitor the selections!
            It is no surprise that after college Sharon became a National Board Certified teacher. I heard Sharon speak at Shenandoah University's annual Children's Literature Conference, where she shared the story of her literary history as well as her transition from teaching to becoming a published author. In 1991 a student in her class challenged her to enter a short story contest advertised in Ebony magazine. The great news—Sharon won. Then she began working on what would become her first novel: Tears of a Tiger, published by Simon and Schuster in 1994. A realistic fiction novel, it is the story of seventeen-year-old Andy, an African American boy who is coping with guilt and grief for causing his best friend's death through a drunk driving accident. It was received with instant acclaim, winning several awards including the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Talent.
            Years, and dozens of novels, later Sharon says she is still unable to separate the "writer" from the "teacher" part of herself and describes herself as a lover of language who wants to share that passion. Today, reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear to her grandson she still takes note of the rhythm of the language—which both appreciate even if he is less aware of it. When shopping in bookstores, she has the habit of going up and helping random people with their book selections. As a parent, grandparent, writer, and former teacher she thinks about how to encourage kids to love language and reading and how to keep them engaged. At the conference, she emphasized her feelings about how important it is to help and guide new teachers so they can effectively transfer their love of reading to their students.
            Speaking to a room of teachers, Sharon addressed the need to pay particular attention to students 5th grade and up—the age at which studies show a decline in an interest in reading. Coming up with strategies to keep kids reading should be a priority and she acknowledged the challenges presented to teachers who are forced to teach to the test. Here she recalled a story from a trip she took to Africa. She met a man who, in regard to America's propensity for testing said "here, when we want an elephant to grow we feed it, not measure it."
            Throughout her talk, Sharon emphasized how much of a blessing working with children and writing literature is in her life. While she had no original intention of being a writer, she has now written over twenty books for children of all ages. Her most popular and critically acclaimed titles include the Jericho trilogy, Copper Sun, the Hazelwood trilogy. Recent endeavors including the “Ziggy” series, the “Sassy” series, and the YA novel Out of Mind. No doubt her fans, students and teachers alike, are eagerly anticipating many more books to come. To learn more about Sharon Draper visit her website

Contributor: Emily Griffin

Monday, January 9, 2012

Themed Reviews: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

            An impressive and inspirational leader, Martin Luther King Jr. is honored, and his life's mission of peace and tolerance celebrated, with this federal holiday. It is observed in 2012 on Monday, January 16th (King's birthday was the 15th).

            Students typically study the Civil Rights Movement in their later elementary through college years, but that does not mean their knowledge of figures like Martin Luther King Jr. begins there. The number of picture books—and award winning ones at that—about him is striking. A search in CLCD for "Martin Luther King" with the qualifier ages 1 to 6 brings up 172 titles. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times notes that in a national survey where 2,000 high school students were instructed to list the most famous Americans in history instead of listing musicians and sports stars 67% included Martin Luther King Jr. and other figures from the Civil Rights Movement such as Rosa Parks (60%) and anti-slavery heroine Harriet Tubman (44%).

            This holiday has a close connection with children and teen librarians thanks to the American Library Association's prestigious Coretta Scott King Award, which commemorates the "life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood." Awarded annually, it recognizes an African American author and illustrator's work for its "outstanding inspirational and educational contribution," and boasts an impressive list of winner and honor books like Fallen Angels, Bud, Not Buddy, The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, and Martin's Big Words.

            To discover more books about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement search CLCD where you will also find a complete list of Coretta Scott King Award and Honor winners as well as curriculum guides from

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Kadir Nelson

The fictional narrator, an elderly African-American woman, weaves together family lore and American history to impart to her child listener understanding and pride in his heritage: "You have to know where you come from so you can move forward." The resulting narrative is an intimately styled history lesson in which family members who took part in landmark events, from the Revolutionary War through the civil rights movement, take their rightful place beside players of greater renown. The narration spins out smooth as silk, and that is paradoxically the strength and the weakness of the title—a social studies lesson in which historical episodes are retold more compellingly than in any textbook, yet so ably and unfalteringly presented that the narrator herself seems (despite the frequent, down-homey interjections of "chile") implausibly glib. There is ample reward here, however, even for children who don't read a word of the text. Nelson's monumental paintings portray the humblest laborers, the most prosaic families as heroic figures in the epic drama of their history, and unnamed faces are imbued with the same dignified pride as those of Douglass and King and Parks. A timeline, bibliography, and index will assist students trolling for report material, but it's the powerful imagery that ultimately makes this essential to the American History collection. Review Code: R — Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2011, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, $19.99. Grades 4-7. Reviewer: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2011 (Vol. 65, No. 3)).
ISBN: 9780061730740

Monday, January 2, 2012

Themed Reviews: Snow

            There is so much to do when it snows! Create the perfect snowball to take aim with, construct a snowman or igloo, zoom down hills on a sled, go on a nature walk to try and spot winter animals, and once your toes are numb head inside for hot chocolate where you can cut out paper snowflakes and read, read, read.

            The books highlighted in this year's snow feature beautifully illustrate the different approaches to this singular topic—easy to discover when searching with CLCD. For the more science minded, there is Snow by Bill McAuliffe or Hiding in the Polar Regions by Deborah Underwood; both are nonfiction accounts that provide information about snow, such as how, why, and where snow occurs, and how to adapt to a snowy environment.

            One of the biggest fascinations in snow-themed books is animals. Who can resist cute and cuddly animals covered in powdery snow, like those featured in Baby Snow Animals by Jane Katirgis. Anthropomorphized animals dominate most picture books—bears, mice, kittens, and birds discover and play in winter wonderlands.

            For brave, older readers there is Trapped by Michael Northrop, a survival story of teens trapped in their school during a terrible blizzard. Snow can certainly create dangerous situations. Heroes, like characters found in The Snowshoeing Adventure of Milton Daub, Blizzard Trekker, make sure people have medicine, food, and shelter during harsh winter storms.

            There is something for everyone in our 2012 snow themed feature. For more suggestions search "snow" in CLCD and you will discover over 12,000 results! I suggest narrowing that down by using qualifiers like publication date or age range to get a more specific list. Creating a reading list or finding that perfect snowy day book for a reader is "cool" with CLCD.

No Two Alike
Keith Baker

Two bright red birds fly amid the falling snowflakes trying to prove the scientific fact that no two snowflakes are alike. What they discover on their joyful, soaring journey is that no two comparable things in nature are precisely the same—not leaves, paths, footprints, or redbirds. With digital drawings of bright scarlet birds against a pale, shivery sky, this is a perfect book for winter story time sharing. The words are spare, but the rhymes are infectious and the pictures will give the story leader many opportunities to name the animals and snow-crusted items depicted in the graphics. Baker previously captivated readers with LMNO Peas, and this book similarly (though not exactly) is a charming and exceptionally rendered seasonal tale. This book will provide a great preamble for a pre-school or kindergarten study of snowflakes or differences in nature. Also, there is an evidently easy craft tie-in to snowflake cutting as a craft project. 2011, Simon and Shuster Children's Publishing Division, Ages 3 to 7, $16.99. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 978-1-4424-1742-7