I don’t know which is more fun for me, the time leading up to the annual ALA’s Youth Media Awards or the actual day of the announcements. I love visiting all the mock Newbery and Caldecott web sites, reading about what books are getting buzz, and then choosing those as my next books to read. While many awards are given, the Newbery and the Caldecott are the most coveted. The John Newbery Medal recognizes a book for the most outstanding contribution to Children’s Literature; the Randolph Caldecott Medal awards the most distinguished American picture book for children.
On Monday, I woke at dawn and hurried to my computer with my cup of coffee to listen to the live broadcast of the winners from the ALA Winter Meeting in Philadephia. Although, some of my favorites weren’t recognized, I was happy with the Selection Committee’s choices. I would not hesitate to put any of these books in the hands of our readers:
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
When Flora’s neighbor accidentally vacuums up a squirrel with her new high-powered vacuum, cynical Flora uses the lessons she learned from the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You! to revive him. I couldn’t be happier about this choice: child-friendly, funny, a mixture of comics and text, and so imaginative. This is Kate DiCamillo’s second Newbery, she also won in 2004 for The Tale of Despereaux.
Doll Bones by Holly Black
I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s definitely on my list. Black weaves a spooky story (yes, complete with a ghost, a creepy doll, and adolescent angst) that keenly shows the struggles adolescents have leaving their childhood behind as they enter adulthood. According to School Library Journal, “this novel is a chilling ghost story, a gripping adventure, and a heartwarming look at the often-painful pull of adulthood.” Plus it was one of Molly’s favorites!
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Having lived in Wisconsin for close to ten years, I loved reading a book set in rural Wisconsin in the 1870s. While that probably would have been enough for me, readers will be captivated by 13-year-old Georgia’s strong voice and her determination to solve the mystery of her missing and presumed-dead sister, Agatha. This one was on the list of Lauren’s favorites from 2013.
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
This book follows the life of second-grader Billy Miller. It’s funny and poignant at times, and Billy’s adventures are wonderful in their simplicity and innocence. This is a great read-aloud, especially for first and second graders. Henkes also won a Geisel Honor this year for his wonderful early reader, Penny and Her Marble.
Paperboy by Vince Vawter
It’s the summer of 1959 in segregated Memphis, and 11-year-old Victor is taking over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July. He has a mean fast ball, so getting the papers to the front door is easy, but speaking to his customers is another thing entirely: Victor can barely say his own name without stuttering. You’ll feel Victor’s pain as he not only must collect from the customers on his route, but when he encounters others in the neighborhood that put his life in danger. I hope the Newbery Honor gives this book the visibility it deserves.
Randolph Caldecott Medal
Locomotive by Brian Floca
All Aboard! Every turn of the page of this year’s Caldecott winner will make you feel like you’re riding on the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. Booklist’s review says it best when describing the breathtaking illustrations: “just as heart pounding are Floca’s bold, detailed watercolors, which swap massive close-ups of barreling locomotives with sweeping bird’s-eye views that show how even these metal giants were dwarfed by nature. It’s impossible to turn a page without learning something, but it’s these multiple wow moments that will knock readers from their chairs.” Train enthusiasts new and old will pour over every page. A great read aloud, too, with the booming sounds of the train and the engineer interspersed throughout.
This year the Caldecott Honors went to three great picture books, all of which are wordless! Journey by debut author/illustrator Aaron Becker, Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle, and Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner, who with this book adds a second Honor to his three previous Caldecott Medals (for Flotsam, The Three Pigs, and Tuesday). All three of these appeared on our Staff Favorites List and are truly wonderful books.