Monday, November 23, 2015

Children's Book Awards Guessing Game

It's that time of year again. You're probably thinking back to all the great children's books of 2015 and trying to decide:

Which are your special favorites? Which ones might win awards at the American Library Association's conference on Monday, January 11, 2016?

Here's a quick list of possible winners and books that can't win, but sure caught my attention:

Great read-aloud that scared my kids and will probably win the Newbery Award: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. The great writing and well-drawn historical setting (World War II in England) sold me. My kids, however, thought I read the role of the (REALLY not nice) mother with too much gusto.

Wonderful first novel that deserves a silver Newbery Honor on its cover: The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. The quiet intense kid at the center of Jellyfish writes stuff in a notebook and is on the outside of her school's social world. Sounds a little like Harriet the Spy to me. I loved this book for being fearless, for allowing its character to stumble badly, and for reminding me of Harriet Welsch.

Inside Spread, Sidewalk Flowers

Best illustrated picture book that can't win the Caldecott Award: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith. Why can't this lovely, wordless meditation on life in the city win? It's Canadian.

Best picture book text, although the artwork is darned good too: Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This rhyming picture book will have you tapping your toes. Miller won a Charlotte Zolotow honor award (for the best writing in a picture book) for Sophie's Squash in 2014. This new Thanksgiving book is just as good, with great illustrations by (Little Blue Truck) Jill McElmurry.

Are children's book awards important? I'd answer a resounding YES.

Great YA Novel I Would Never Have Read Without That Medal on the Cover: Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley. It won a silver Printz Honor Medal in 2015. Every time I think about it, I want to thank the Printz committee. Foley's Carnival is a poignant, bracing look at what happens when sixteen-year-old Maggie Lynch moves from Chicago to Ireland. It's a book that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page--the sure sign of a winner.