Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Award winners all around

Everyone loves a contest - the competition is exciting, and a lot of buzz is created. This week, the American Library Association announced their award winners - for the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, and many others.  Contests are great for highlighting wonderful books from a vast field. But in order to be meaningful, you need to know what books will appeal to your child.  Instead of going through each award, I'd like to highlight some of the awards that will have appeal to different age groups, starting with the youngest first.

Little kids loving books: preschoolers and kindergartners

The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney - this is a truly amazing, nearly wordless picture book that retells Aesop's fable where the mouse saves the lion from the hunter's trap. It mesmorized our kindergarten class - they were completely silent (!) as they watched the pictures unfold the story. This is the first time an individual African American has won the Caldecott Medal, and is well deserved by Pinkney. Winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal.

My People, by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Charles R. Smith, Jr. - this poem is gracefully simple as it celebrates the spirit and beauty of African-American people. Each page pairs a short phrase with a portrait of one or more African-Americans.  Little children will be drawn in by these photographs full of emotion and life.  Winner of the 2010 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

All the World, by Liz Scanlon, and illustrated by Marla Frazee - this is a delightful book as it transports readers all over a young person's world.  I love the way it zooms into the small scenes of a young child's life, following a busy day with their family from the beach, to home, to a family gathering at night.  The illustrations are radiant as they show the every day magic in the child's life. 2010 Caldecott Honor Book.

Beginning to read: kindergarten and 1st grade

Benny and Penny in the Big No-No, written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes - my kindergartner just loves this book!  It is a graphic novel, written especially for beginning readers.  It's sweet, funny and resonates with kids - a perfect combination.  Winner of the 2010 Geisel Award for beginning readers. (see my review)

I Spy Fly Guy! written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold - this series is very popular at our school, and this newest installment is very funny.  When Fly Guy and Buzz play hide-and-seek, Fly Guy hides in his favorite place--the garbage can. But as Buzz finishes counting, the garbageman drives away with the garbage and Fly Guy, too! 2010 Geisel Honor Book for beginning readers.

2nd and 3rd graders: moving into reading

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin - This is a wonderful, magical tale - absolutely enchanting.  I can't wait to read this aloud with my 3rd grader.  Minli goes on a quest to find the Old Man in the Moon who can tell her the answer to her most pressing question - how to make her parents' life easier and better.  It is a classic quest, but Chinese folk tales are woven throughout Minli's tale in a very unique way.  This is a perfect book to read aloud with 2nd and 3rd graders.  2010 Newbery Honor Book.

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski - although the illustrations and topic will appeal to a wide range of children, I think these poems are perfect for children who are moving into reading and writing more fluently.  Sidman's poetry is full of strong imagery and action.  Describing a hummingbird in summer, she writes: "Red darts, jags, / hovers; / a blur of wings, / a sequined throat."  2010 Caldecott Honor Book.

Older elementary students: 4th and 5th grades

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson - I can't wait to read this story, and I know the students at our school will eat it up.  From the Booklist review: "Young readers first see outlaw Jim Webb bursting through a glass window; then lawman Bass Reeves' eye sighting down the barrel of his Winchester rifle. After that, kids will have no trouble loping into this picture-book biography."  Winner of the 2010 Coretta Scott King Author Award.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly - This story is for children who are fascinated by science and observations, but it does not have a lot of action.  It's a wonderful story for the right kid.  I did not love it, but a good friend adored reading it aloud with his daughter in 5th grade.  2010 Newbery Honor Book.

Perfect for the tweens in your life: 5th and 6th grades

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead - I am thrilled with winner for the 2010 Newbery Medal.  This is a wonderful book about friendship, mysterious notes, and having your world turned upside down in 6th grade.  Add to that a touch of time travel, and you have a mystery that you want to read again and again.  As I talked with friends more and more about this book, I was impressed by how Stead understood the emotional rollercoaster of 6th grade, and how she created a complex but accessible novel.  This is certainly a book that many 5th and 6th graders will love. (my review)

Return to Sender, by Julia Alvarez - I have not read this, but am on my way to the library tomorrow to check it out! In this novel, Tyler is a sixth-grade boy on a Vermont farm who befriends Mari, the daughter of undocumented Mexican workers. Alvarez tells this tale from both sides, using the voices of Tyler and Mari. Tyler's father was hurt in a farm accident, and the family must adjust to having more help on the farm. Mari was born in Mexico and now lives in a trailer as her dad and uncle work on Tyler's family farm. I think 5th and 6th graders will like hearing this story from the point of view of two different characters who are struggling with large and small issues in their lives.  Winner of the 2010 Pura Belpre Author Award.

These books are available at libraries near you, and many bookstores.  If you follow the links to Amazon here, a small percentage will go toward Great Kid Books.  Thank you for your support!


  1. Can you believe that none of the libraries in our system have holdings for "All the World" by Liz Scanlon? I bet the copies will get purchased and catalogued this week, after the recent ALA announcement! Hoping to read that title with the kids, soon.

  2. Great succinct reviews and tips on these titles. I love the breadth of the awards and honorees this year. Gives all of us much to recommend to kids and parents!

  3. I love how you separated these. It really makes a difference and will help when I'm booktalking them.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I'm so glad you liked this way of combining the different awards. Do you have any favorites that you've read so far???

  5. I love the way that you took these wonderful winners and matched them with ages. I even hesitated for a second over Grace's book, thinking that the reading level was high for third grade - but you were right there talking about how it is the perfect read aloud for that age, which it is. Nice job.