The ALA Book Award announcements were broadcast live this morning. As I watched the ALA Book Awards, I was struck once again by how many fantastic books I missed reading this past year…and by how many fantastic books many children must have missed reading this past year.
In the lead up to the ALA Book awards, it has been fun as always for those children’s book fans/fanatics among us to discuss which books are contenders for the Caldecott. At the same time, with all of the attention we pay the Caldecott and Newberry contenders, we miss discussing the breadth of wonderful books that have been published.
Today, I would like to give a big shout out and congratulations to these children’s books that flew under the radar for most of the year and to the bloggers who reviewed them.
I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes and Bryan Collier (CORETTA SCOTT ILLUSTRATOR AWARD). “Hughes was able to write with such spare poetry, that it gives a strong vehicle for illustrations. Collier built an incredible story around those lines, one of porters and a small boy who has new chances in the modern world.” See the full review by Tasha Saecker at Waking Brain Cells. See also Julie Danielson’s conversation with Bryan Collier at Kirkus and The Brown Bookshelf‘s introduction to Bryan Collier published this past February.
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney (CORETTA SCOTT AUTHOR AWARD). “The strength of this collection is the way Pinkney tells the life story of these distinguished men briefly, but full of flavor.” See the full review by Mary Ann Scheuer at Great Kids Books.
Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt and David Diaz (PURA BELPRE AWARD). “Schmidt’s writing warmly celebrates the wonders and miracles of Martin de Porres. It is a story that starts with a boy who is the poorest of the poor, rejected by the priesthood and eventually ends with sainthood and life led in service to others. In a world divided just as much between rich and poor, this story will resonate with modern young readers.” See the full review by Tasha Saecker at Waking Brain Cells. Dr. Veronica Covington also reviewed Martin de Porres at MamiVerse.
Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell (GEISEL HONOR). “Readers who enjoy some silliness will find much to like in this pair of friends.” See Travis Jonker’s full review of Rabbit & Robot at 100 Scope Notes. Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 says of this title: “The world needs more books like this here Rabbit and Robot. Here you have that rarest of rare beasts, the early early chapter book.” Julie Danielson interviewed Cece Bell and shared original artwork from Rabbit & Robot at Seven Imp.
Up! Tall! and High! by Ethan Long (GEISEL AWARD). Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 called this seemingly simple story of three birds “one of the best toddler/preschooler readalouds of 2012 if not THE best.” Up! Tall! and High! also received a positive review from Tasha Saecker at Waking Brain Cells.
Despite the lack of formal recognition, these are still two of my favorite books published within the past year:
We March by Shane W. Evans. We March is a beautiful, powerful and personal look at the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While other books about this march on Washington focus on the leaders, crowds and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, We March focuses on a family with two children participating in the march. This is an excellent book to pair with Kadir Nelson’s I Have a Dream (which garnered a Coretta Scott King Honor).
Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin. In Island, Jason Chin tackles a huge topic — the formation of the Galapagos Islands and evolution of species on those islands — and does so extremely successfully. Chin tells an engaging story about an island forming, the island becoming populated by plants and animals, plant and animal populations changing over time, and, finally, the island sinking into the sea. He describe many huge geological and evolutionary changes in a mere sentence or two and accompanies these descriptions with amazingly detailed series of pictures of, e.g., a seabird colonizing a new island or a finch species’ beak changing shape.
Lastly, I am pleased as punch to see one of my favorite authors receive official recognition: Jon Klassen. (I do not, by the way, count Klassen among those who flew beneath the radar this year. Quite the contrary!) It felt like an oversight last year when Klassen received neither the Caldecott Medal nor the Caldecott Honor for I Want My Hat Back. This year’s result — Klassen took home both the medal and the honor — makes up for that oversight.