Archive for the ‘Award Winners’ category

FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo

February 28, 2014

flora_cvr_usatoday_rev-3_4This year’s Newbery Award, given to the most distinguished book for children by an American author, goes to FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo.  The author of many popular books such as THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX,  BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, and the MERCY WATSON series, this is a smart, heavily illustrated story with a lot of humor and heart.

Flora is a lonely girl.  Her mother spends all her time writing romance novels, and Flora doesn’t see her father very much (her parents are divorced).  Flora reads a lot of old comic books about “the great Incandesto”, a superhero.  One day she looks out the window and sees a squirrel getting sucked into the neighbor’s vacuum cleaner.  Flora saves the squirrel, who now seems….different somehow.   Has he become a superhero?  How will Flora’s lonely life change because of this squirrel named Ulysses?

EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett

January 21, 2014

imgresIt’s winter, and we’re all trying to stay warm…plus have a few laughs. I’ve been reading EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett in lots of my library classes. It is an award-winning  picture book fable about a little girl named Annabelle who lives in a dreary black and white town. She finds a box full of yarn of every color and knits sweaters for everyone in town, plus the pets and the houses, but the yarn never runs out! When a greedy archduke sails in from across the sea and steals her box of yarn, you might think that would be the end of her yarn adventures. The ending puts a smile on everyone’s face, and reinforces the notion that good always triumphs over bad, and kindness can transform a community. EXTRA YARN will give you a warm feeling on a cold winter day.

2012 Newbery and Caldecott Awards

January 27, 2012

The big awards in children’s literature were announced this week by the American Library Association.  I immediately ordered both titles, as sadly I didn’t already have them on the shelves.  I can’t wait to read both, but I wanted to share the news even if I couldn’t give you a personal review.

The Newbery Award, given to the year’s most outstanding contribution to children’s literature,  was given to Jack Gantos for DEAD END IN NORVELT. (Jack Gantos is also the author of the “Joey Pigza” books, two of which were Newbery Honor books.)   Based partly on Gantos’s childhood experiences growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, the reviews I have read describe it as full of humor, history, and charm.

The Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children was given to Chris Raschka for A BALL FOR DAISY, a wordless picture book about an excitable dog who loses her special red ball at the park.  This book was also inspired by  real life, as the author remembered his own son’s reaction to losing a ball when he was young and wanted to write a book about how the young deal with loss.   I was interested to read that Raschka wanted to tell his story in a wordless format so that all children could “read” the book.  The first grade teachers and I recently talked about this very concept, and I have added many wordless books to the CPS library to give our students more opportunities to tell stories using pictures.  This book will be added to the “wordless book shelf” next week, so look for it!

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

March 6, 2011

Wow.  I just finished reading this year’s Newbery Award Winner and I LOVED it.  Set in Kansas in 1936, the story contains flashbacks to 1918 as 12-year-old Abilene tries to piece together the story of her father’s life.  The reader of this beautifully written novel will learn about some interesting aspects of American history:  the Depression, immigration, Prohibition, orphan trains, the KKK, and World War I.  All of these topics are woven expertly into the story of Abilene’s “summer of discovery”.  This book has humor, sorrow, mystery, and excitement. If you’re up for a challenging but extremely satisfying and unusual story, check out this new addition to the CPS Library.

Where the Mountain meets the Moon by Grace Lin

March 16, 2010

Words that come to mind when describing this year’s Newbery Award runner-up: enchanted, elegant, exciting, timeless, beautiful…

Minli (whose name means “quick thinking”) and her parents live in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain, in China. They work hard in the rice fields yet they are still very poor, with barely enough rice to eat. Minli’s mother worries and complains about their hard life, but her father brightens their evenings with storytelling. One day Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon, hoping he will tell her the true secret to good fortune. Along the way she makes new friends including a flightless dragon, an orphan, a group of greedy monkeys, and a king. Interwoven with Minli’s quest are tales told by her father and by those she meets on the way, which are drawn from traditional Chinese folklore. The author’s full-color illustrations are stunning. Grace Lin has created a strong, likeable heroine and a fascinating glimpse of another country.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

February 25, 2010

This year’s Newbery Honor book presents a very charming main character, Calpurnia (“Callie Vee”) Tate , who is growing up surrounded by six brothers on a cotton and pecan plantation in Texas. It is 1899 and girls are expected to learn to sew, cook, play the piano, and dream of getting married someday. What do you think Callie Vee would rather do? Study nature! She loves observing plants, bugs, and animals, and her mysterious old Grandaddy, an amateur naturalist, begins to teach her what he knows about science and the great outdoors. Her favorite brother gives her a notebook to write down her observations, and Callie’s new scientific life is officially “launched”. There are humorous sections where Callie struggles to please her mother and lots of vivid details of family life with her older and younger brothers. (If you liked Our Only May Amelia, you will understand that Callie and May Amelia would be wonderful friends!) Throughout the book there is mounting anticipation: will Callie be able to pursue her dream of being a scientist? Read this wonderfully engaging story even if science and nature aren’t your favorite subjects: it’s a wonderful eye opener about growing up 100 years ago.

Newbery Award Winner!

February 8, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is this year’s Newbery Award Winner.  That’s a big deal in the children’s book world:  it’s like winning the Academy Award for the Best Movie of the Year.  I quickly drove to the nearest book store when I heard the news, purchased a copy, and sat down to read the book in one sitting.  The book is a quick read, exciting and mysterious but also rather confusing because it’s about TIME TRAVEL, a concept that can be difficult to understand, even for adults!

The book’s setting is New York City in 1978.  Miranda, a sixth grader, is learning to navigate school, friendship issues, and life in her city neighborhood.   Her favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time, a classic children’s book from the 60’s about time travel.  One day when walking home from school, her best friend Sal gets punched in the stomach by an older boy who hangs out down the street from their apartment building. Sal pulls away from Miranda after that and stops hanging out with her. Miranda feels completely lost without him.  Walking home alone is no fun, especially as she must pass the crazy old man by the mailbox.  Then, the notes start arriving, notes that tell her things about the future.  Here’s the first one:

I am coming  to save your friend’s life, and my own…

First, you must write me a letter….

You will keep reading to find out WHO is writing the notes, and HOW the puzzle is going to be solved.   Though I’m not sure I would have voted for this book to win the Newbery Award, it is well-written and thought-provoking. I particularly liked the positive relationship Miranda has with her mom, the lessons Miranda learned about friendship and caring about others, and the connection to A Wrinkle in Time.