Sunday, January 09, 2011


Throughout the world of children's literature comes the call: "Who?  WHO?  Whoooooo?"  No, it it is not a forest full of owls, it is the community of librarians, teachers and kidlit enthusiasts all wondering who will take the coveted ALA/ALSC Library Media Awards,  the Caldecott for best American children's book illustration, the Newbery for best children's book writing, and a bevy of other significant commendations (Sibert for non-fiction, Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpre Awards for African American and Latino/Latina children's lit, Theodore Geisel for early readers).  These are better known the "Oscars" of Children's Literature (and even better known as "Day of Disappointment" for 99.9% of author/illustrators, but oh, well).  You can view the webcast live tomorrow at 7:45 San Diego time (that's 9:45 to you, Midwesterners, and 10:45, East Coast).  Who is going to take the silver and gold?  Please forgive some informal musing to follow...

The horse race for the Newbery points toward THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan, a piece of magical realism that depicts the childhood of poet Pablo Neruda, backed by the ethereal art of Caldecott winner Peter Sis...
The Dreamer
and ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia, the sensitively told story of a girl in the late 1960's whose mother is involved in the Black Panther movement.
One Crazy Summer

Perfectly deserving recipients and original reads, both, but I am still laying some coins down on a few dark horses.  There are other worthy contenders with middle grade readerships who could take it, each using history to tune in to the readership of today, excellent books that will speak to children in this economy.  Namely, THE YEAR MONEY GREW ON TREES by Aaron Hawkins (Houghton Mifflin), a lively story set in the Great Depression about a family who tries to survive by starting their own apple orchard.  Then there is TO COME AND GO LIKE MAGIC by Katie Pickard Fawcett (Knopf), set in 1970's Appalachia in which Chili Sue Mahoney longs to see the world outside of Kentucky, and finds herself living vicariously through her teacher.  Then there is the little gem PALACE BEAUTIFUL by Sarah DeFord Williams  (Putnam) with an unfortunately non-Newbery looking cover and already in paperback (ye of little faith), but inside is the poignant-with-a-capital-P story of a girl who finds a journal of a girl suffering through the flu epidemic of 1918, and finds the worlds of then and now converging; short and sweet, this is the most unassuming heavyweight contender read since Patricia MacLachlan's SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL. You heard it here first.
Palace Beautiful
To Come and Go Like Magic

The Year Money Grew on Trees

On to the Caldecotts.  All eyes and runny noses are on A SICK DAY FOR AMOS McGEE by Philip and Erin Stead (Roaring Brook, reviewed here), a perfectly respectable choice, if a bit old-skool (but don't we love old skool?)...
and illustrator John Muth, coupled with our golden boy (or rather, golden man) Mo Willems in the role of author, for CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG, which is pretty darn timeless and will probably take it...
City Dog, Country Frog
but that can't stop me from rooting for some love to go to G. Brian Karas's artwork in CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE, done with Candace Fleming, two talented children's book workhorses who also deserve recognition.
Clever Jack Takes the Cake 

Luckily for American illustrators, Jeannie Baker (MIRROR) is from Australia and Suzy Lee (SHADOW) is from Singapore, or my oh my, with respect I have to say they would have given this year's crop a run for their money.

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring
Ninth WardBenjamin Franklinstein Lives!These awards are meant to represent the excellence of the larger whole, and so books like these will probably get awards:  BALLET FOR MARTHA:  MAKING APPALACHIAN SPRING, for instance; Susan Campbell Bartoletti's brave and well-researched THEY CALL THEMSELVES THE K.K.K.; Sharon Draper's gotten lots of buzz for her novel OUT OF MY MIND; if David Weisner has any more room on his shelf for more prizes, he might take it for ART & MAX; and BINK AND GOLLY is a shoo-in for a Geisel (who can resist Kate DiCamillo matching wits with Alison McGhee, coupled with David Fucile's work that is as fun as any television cartoon?).  Yes, I am a librarian, and I can recognize the distinguished qualities of some books.  But as a teacher librarian for elementary school kids, I have my own favorites based on what works well in classrooms...I look for distinguished books with a pragmatic edge.  Marilyn Singer's MIRROR, MIRROR for sheer inventiveness. Laura Amy Schlitz's  THE NIGHT FAIRY, short and action-packed, a perfect read-aloud.  THE DARK EMPEROR, so handsome, DOTTY, so wise.  I guess works like THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA and BENJAMIN FRANKLINSTEIN LIVES! are too base and funny to win, but by golly, how funny are they, and will anyone recognize with gold how truly hard it is to write something that funny, and how very very very much children want to read something that is that funny?  And these awards do mean these books will be bought by the thousands and put into probably more classrooms, even, than libraries, and children will be assigned to read I guess my wish is that whoever wins, let it be books that kids really like. That's why I so appreciate lists like The Allen County Public Library Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott (impeccable taste always, by the way, my own nominations notwithstanding; this year, they chose NINTH WARD by Jewell Parker Rhodes for the Newbery, and mentioned the great wordless CHALK by Bill Thomson as a worthy Caldecott contender), and the mighty Cybils, chosen by children's book bloggers across the kidlitosphere, always an eclectic list that offers so many opportunities to connect so many readers.  Our own PlanetEsme Picks will be posted this month, the best of 2010.  I love lists more than prizes.  Motto:  the more the friends, in dishes on a table, in cookies in a jar, and in books. 

Fairly Fairy TalesWhat books did you really like this year?  Who do you predict will win, and who has already won your heart?  Please share in the comments section this week. One lucky winner chosen at random will get a signed copy of my new book, FAIRLY FAIRY TALES.  That way, tomorrow, any way it goes, I can be assured someone I really like will win something. 

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Jenny Schwartzberg said...

Personally I'm holding out for One Crazy Summer for the Newbery and A Pocketful of Posies for the Caldecott. But the winners could totally unexpected books. That has happened before... I'd love a copy of your book so I will keep my fingers crossed!

Dianne White said...

My vote goes to Rita Williams Garcia for ONE CRAZY SUMMER and G. Brian Karas for SWITCHING ON THE MOON. I'd love a copy of your new book, too! My fingers are *also* crossed. :-)

wmsbg301 said...

Hi Esme! Great post! I particularly like to your "dark horses." If I had to guess the choice for Newbery, I'll choose One Crazy Summer. (As I tell the students, it was one of my favorites, since it is so hard to have A favorite from a year! :)I think perhaps Countdown and The Dreamer have the closest chances for honors. For the Caldecott, I'll go for City Dog, Country Frog. I'd love to see a choice from Joyce Sidman included, as her illustrators always support her word beauty with illustrative beauty. Chalk has distinctive illustrations. I know "old school style" A Sick Day for Amos McGee is quite popular and a sweet story. Like Esme said, there are a few out of the competition due to currently residing in different countries. I could go on and on about favorites of the year, other awards, etc. But I thought I'd at least guess the Newbery/Caldecott big kahuna awards. :) Thanks for the chance Esme!

Sharon Creech said...

Intriguing and thoughtful choices, Esme. Love them.

Holly Gomez said...

New here...was intigued by your award choices. I'm smiling now that I saw that Tomie De Paola has won the Laura Ingalls Wilder award for his contribution to American story books. He is always my go to when teaching litugical church stories. He has been an author favorite as well as our four children. Yippee!

lisaghowie said...

I truly loved the artwork in A Sick Day for Amos McGee, so quiet and gentle for young children. There were many great choices this year, but I"m partial to "sweet".
I'm excited to see YOUR first picture book. Congrats on your newest accomplishment and I hope I'm the lucky winner of a singed copy!

Edwin said...

Hi Esme,

What a great're a guru. Which is why I'm getting in touch. Would you be at all inclined to apply your considerable wisdom to a picture book (5-10yr olds) I'm launching this year? It's called 'Skeleton Eater'. Here's a link to a sample.

Very keen to hear what you think!
Edwin McRae

Books That Heal Kids said...

Love love love City Dog, Country Frog!

Keith Schoch said...

I am such a fan of Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! Such an original concept, and funny as well. It deserves some kind of award!

Thanks for brininging some other titles to my attention that I missed!

Alicia said...

Hi Esme, I'm an excited new follower! I can't wait to check out Benjamin Franklinstein Lives and a few of the others listed here. Placing my bet on City Dog, Country Frog, too.

I'm an aspiring author and illustrator myself, and I would absolutely love a copy of your book! What a perfect concept! If I don't win the giveaway it'll be at the top of my shopping list the next time I hit Barnes & Noble :-) Happy Book Birthday!

Katie said...

I was honored to read that my book, To Come and Go Like Magic, was one of your "dark horses" and I'm so glad to have discovered your blog! Many thanks, Katie.

Alicia said...

I just wanted to let you know that I picked up a copy of Fairly Fairy Tales today. My son and I love it!


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