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Prize Reads

March, 2013
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It’s been a fantastic awards season, and I am not talking about the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and BAFTA’s. I am referring to the Newbery’s, the Caldecott’s and the YALSA’s – some of the most prestigious awards that can be given in the literary world.

On 28 January, Shanghai American School students eagerly waited for the Caldecott and Newbery Awards to be announced. After holding mock Caldecott/Newbery debates during January, sharing ideas, wish lists and certainties for winning, Shanghai American school students were rewarded with seeing so many of their choices either given the gold or an honor medal. February was then spent getting hands on many of these, reading them over and over again, discussing their merits and sharing a little sadness over ones that missed out.

If you have not had the opportunity to read Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, get your hands on a copy any way you can. This year’s Newbery winner will go down in history as many people’s favorite.

It was exciting to see Jon Klassen, a favorite illustrator and now author, who not only won the Caldecott Medal for his illustrations in Mac Barnett’s Extra Yarn, but also an honor medal for his own delightful story, This is Not My Hat, a sequel of sorts to I Want my Hat Back.

Just days after the announcements, it was thrilling to meet one of the Caldecott honor winners in person, Green’s Laura Vaccaro Seeger, at a terrific children’s literature conference in Singapore. Students eagerly turned the pages back and forth in Green
trying to work out what delights would unfold in her die-cut illustrations. Seeger shared her experiences of nervousness and anticipation leading up to the phone call that would cement her place in literary history, and was eager to pass on the value that reading, writing and art have in our classrooms.

To see a list of all of this year’s winners and check out the winners for the last 92 years for Newbery and 75 years for Caldecott, head to: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedal and http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecottmedal


In the meantime, why not pick up a winner yourself:

“The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate

corner003_t607The One and Only Ivan is a sometimes heart-wrenching story based on a real gorilla in a real shopping mall. The voice of Ivan in the story is pure and true, containing humor, heart and kindness; elements we all yearn for when the story’s subject matter is so sensitive. Katherine Applegate has impressed many in recent years; she has truly reinvented herself as an author. After years of being known for the bestselling Animorphs series, her departure to amazing works of literature such as one of my all-time favorite reads Home of the Brave and now to award-winning The One and Only Ivan, have made her someone to watch, and better still, someone to read.

“Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage

For the slightly older reader, perhaps of upper elementary or middle school age, the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage provides mystery, intrigue and a sassy lead character named Moses LoBeau, or “Mo” who loves to make waves. Turnage’s tale contains several strong adult role models for Mo to look up to, as well as more unsavory characters, and includes something for everyone – a hurricane, car crash, bank robbery and even a kidnapping.

“Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin

bombYou’re really in for a treat with this one. Children this has been recommended to have come back raving, wanting to know more about atomic bombs, nuclear weapons and 20th century history. This is a perfect choice for kids who love intrigue, science and historical non-fiction. It is a great way to have students learn about history without even realizing they are learning as it appeals to their reading style, containing elements of the graphic novels so many of them love.

“This is not my Hat” by Jon Klassen

Children will enjoy this beautifully illustrated work for its cheeky and naughty main character, a small fish. This fish thinks he can get away with doing a naughty thing, stealing a hat from a whale… but hey, the whale was asleep, he won’t even notice his hat was gone… or will he? Klassen is a master at the simple, clever tale and this is recommended to students of all ages.

“Extra Yarn” by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn provides a slightly longer tale than the above and is also illustrated by Klassen and took the gold medal honor for this year’s Caldecott Award. Other books by this author include including Chloe the Lion and It Happened on a Train. Extra Yarn is great because it was slightly ridiculous and had the kids laughing and being silly as they read the story of a girl with an endless supply of yarn. The children also enjoyed recognizing some of the characters they’d grown to love from Klassen’s illustrations in I Want My Hat Back.

One that got away…

One of this year’s sure-fire winners was “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. It received so many votes in the lead up to the award announcements and teachers, parents and students were convinced it would win the Newbery Award. I read this with my now middle-schooler almost a year ago and it is a rich thought provoking story that will make it onto many school book lists for not just book clubs, but for lessons on social issues such as bullying, being new and being different. The short chapters really made it accessible for so many kids, as did the book’s uplifting nature and the author’s great character descriptions.

There are so many reasons why this time of the year is exciting for a librarian. The awards season gets people talking about books and thinking about books. Curiosity is generated as to why books win and lose, questions are asked as to what makes a book great, who chooses the winners and who people think will win. Anything that generates discussions like these has to be a good thing and the lines of students in the library waiting to check out not just the winners, but the ones that got away, make my job the best in the world.

Happy Reading!



By Kimbra Power


The Barefoot Librarian


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