Posts tagged Newbery

2013 Youth Media Awards Announced

Congratulations to all the winners and honorees of the 2013 American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards! Many thanks to the committee members entrusted with such an important task.

See the full list here.


John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

The One and Only Ivan by by Katherine Applegate


Newbery Honor Recipients:

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage


Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

This Is Not My Hat illustrated and written by Jon Klassen


Caldecott Honor Recipients:

Creepy Carrots! illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds

Extra Yarn illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett

Green illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

One Cool Friend illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo

Sleep Like a Tiger illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue

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In honor of the forthcoming Caldecott and Newbery announcement (on January 28th, 2013) Philip and Erin Stead, author and illustrator of A Sick Day for Amos McGee (the 2011 Caldecott winner) and Bear Has a Story to Tell, announce their Phildecott and Steadbery Awards, aka their “Best of 2012” list.

Includes bonus thoughts on the importance of bookstores and the perseverance of the printed book.



Philip Stead Illustration | A Home for Bird, Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat, Creamed Tuna Fish and Peas on Toast, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Bear Has a Story to Tell

But first, a Short Essay Regarding the Importance of the Independent Bookstore

From the Cluttered Desk of Philip Stead (with Erin sitting close by):

The twenty-first century has had a rocky start for lovers of bookstores and real, paper books. The advent of e-bookery coupled with Wall Street’s unfortunate shenanigans has created an environment in which many stores have had to close their doors. Here in Ann Arbor we lost Shaman Drum, our downtown indie store that had peddled books to students and townies alike for more than three decades. Next was Borders, an Ann Arbor institution that began as a small indie shop on State Street. Long before her career as a bookmaker Erin worked at the downtown Borders. She tended the children’s section. It’s strange now to walk by its empty shell.

Throughout all this I’ve believed (or, more accurately, wanted to believe) that there’s…

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My Brother, Ant: A warm expression of brotherly love in a beginning reader.

My Brother, AntMBAc

Early Reader

(Level 3)

Ages 4-8

By Betsy Byers

Illustrated by Marc Simont

32 pages




Betsy Byers won the Newbery Medal in 1971 for her novel Summer of the Swans. She wrote her first book in 1961 and has published books consistently since. Her writing for My Brother, Ant is funny and sweet with very natural dialogue. Byers is able to be repetitive—giving children the opportunity to practice reading these words—without being boring or didactic. The longer text and slightly more complex words place this book at the more advanced end of the beginning reader spectrum.

In 1950 Marc Simont received the Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in The Happy Day, written by the highly influential Ruth Krauss. He was awarded the Caldecott Medal for A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry, in 1957. He also illustrated many of the perennially popular Nate the Great books. I reviewed The Philharmonic Gets Dressed here, which he also illustrated. His art in this book is wonderfully expressive and relaxed.

Ant, short for Anthony, is the younger brother of our narrator, who is not named. “The Monster Under Ant’s Bed” is the first of four stories, or chapters, in the book. Ant can’t sleep, he’s sure there’s a monster under his bed. Dad calls out from the living room that there is no monster, but Ant wants to know how dad can be so sure without even checking. Big brother to the rescue!


He looks under the bed, has a conversation with the monster and convinces him to move along. It’s all settled—Ant and his brother can go to sleep.


In “Ant and the Spider” big brother is very upset to discover a spider drawn on his homework. Ant insists he did not draw a spider on his brother’s homework and mom insists that Ant does not lie. Big brother knows Ant did it and stomps off to his room. Ant follows quickly behind explaining that he did not draw a spider on his brother’s homework.


He drew an upside down dog.



Big brother tries to read Ant a story in “Ant and the Three Little Figs.”


“No! That is not right. It’s pigs. Three little PIGS. Say PIGS.”

When his brother finally agrees to say pigs, Ant goes outside to play. His brother asks why. Ant replies, “I don’t like the rest of the story. It has a big bad wolf in it.”


“Love Ant” is one of my favorite pieces in any book ever. Though it’s July, Ant asks his brother to help with a letter to Santa.


Though his brother explains that you write letters to Santa in December, to ask for presents, Ant insists, “Just write the words.”



My Brother, Ant is a superb book for a confident beginning reader as well as a warm expression of a brotherly relationship—love, annoyance, and acceptance included.


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Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream: A Family Almanac is a treasure for the whole family.

Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream: A Family Almanac




All Ages

By Nancy Willard

Illustrated by Jane Dyer

64 pages

Harcourt Brace & Company


Out of print



An almanac is defined as an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information. Readers may be familiar with The Old Farmers Almanac. Published annually, it contains—among other things—weather forecasts, planting charts, astronomical data, and recipes for the coming year. As a child I was fascinated by it. It seemed to be able to predict weather for specific days, and general weather patterns for whole seasons with remarkable accuracy. Looking through its pages always made me feel as though I were living in a different time, yet it was full of information pertaining to the future. It was like a book of magic.

This family almanac, created by Nancy Willard and Jane Dyer, is also a book of magic. Willard gathered stories from her grandmother’s family, of life on a farm in the Midwest, at the turn of the century. When Dyer heard the stories, she was reminded of her own family’s past and their roots in Kansas.

Though a snapshot of a different time, there’s helpful advice that can be used today. It’s temperature, not light, that helps to ripen tomatoes; a slice of lemon rubbed on your hands will help rid them of stains. While some of the information is not relevant to current, daily life—like reminders to cut your ice and tips for storing it properly—it’s still deeply engrossing.

Nancy Willard won the Newbery Award in 1982 for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. (That same year Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8 won a Newbery Honor.) Willard is a poet, a novelist and a picture book writer. Her writing is beautiful and full of energy, immediately drawing readers into the life of the characters.

Jane Dyer has illustrated several books, including Time for Bed, written by Mem Fox, one of my favorite books for babies. Her art in this book is superb. It’s delicate and vibrant and imbues the text with nostalgia.

Each month spans four pages and contains several sections. “Dates and Festivals” features fixed holidays, birthdays of notable figures and important dates in history. “Variable Feast Days and Holidays” highlights celebrations that fall on varying days each year.


The “Farmer’s Calendar” offers planting information, tips for the care of livestock and tips relating to nature.  “Worth Knowing” and “Worth Cooking” contain facts and recipes respectively.


Each month closes with “The Voices,” direct quotes from Willard’s family members giving readers a personal glimpse into life on a farm in the early 1900s. Photographs of the people speaking in “The Voices” are featured in double page spreads, which separate the seasons, leaving a more lasting impression of times past.




There’s a section that appears in a few of the months labeled “Cow Facts” where readers learn that thirty-three cows fit in an average classroom! And when milking a cow by hand, a gallon of milk contains 340 squirts.


Amongst all these features are poems, spells, old sayings, birthstone information, etymology of the names of the months, old wives tales, and myriad other tidbits. Dyer’s amazing art is sprinkled throughout—covering a quarter page and accompanying a poem, or as a small detail along side a special date. She’s also created colorful and ornate hand-lettering to break up the traditional black type.


Use this book as a template to create your own family almanac, as a lesson on life in a different era, or as a reference for wonderful old-world recipes. Break it out at the beginning of each month to discuss upcoming holidays, or to aid in your planting schedules. Or just read through it and marvel at a lifestyle of not so very long ago, but far removed from our current way of life. However read, Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream is a treasure for the whole family to share.

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The Twenty-One Balloons: A rollicking adventure.

The Twenty-One Balloons

Middle Reader

Ages 5-12

By William Pène du Bois

192 pages

Viking Press


1948 Newbery Award Winner


I once took a class in Oceanography; the class was incredible and the professor was very energetic and animated. During one of our classes he discussed Krakatoa and its famous volcanic eruption in 1883. I was fascinated! Many years later I found myself picking up a copy of The Twenty-One Balloons, a fictional story which takes place (mostly) on the island of Krakatoa, just days before the famous explosion.

William Pène du Bois (1916-1993) was both a writer and an illustrator. In addition to winning the Newbery award for The Twenty-One Balloons, he also won a Caldecott Honor in 1951 for Bear Party and again in 1957 for Lion. His captivating writing and imaginative stories, combined with his elaborate illustrations, make for absorbing and entertaining books.

Professor William Waterman Sherman has recently retired from teaching. He’s built an extravagant hot air balloon, packed provisions for a year, and plans a nice, long, quiet adventure around the world. His departure is met with little fanfare. In fact, only four of his closest friends arrive to see him off. But three weeks later, when a steamship picks up Professor Sherman floating amongst twenty balloons in the Atlantic Ocean, the whole world wants to hear his story.

Professor Sherman insists he will only reveal the details of his short, but fascinating, adventure in front of the Western American Explorers’ Club in San Francisco, of which he is an honorary member. He even turns down a visit to the White House to share his story with the president himself! Undeterred, the president offers his personal train to transport the Professor to San Francisco. Thus, the whole world must wait the five days it takes to cross the country before they can hear the tale of wonder.

And a tale of wonder it is! Just seven days into his voyage, Sherman’s balloon is brought down by a flock of hungry seagulls. Fortunately, just before the fateful seagull incident, he’d spotted an island in the distance. As it is his only hope of survival, he dumps all his belongings from the balloon, and gains just enough height and speed to reach the island before he crashes. Battered and exhausted, he immediately falls asleep on the beach.

Hours later he is awakened by a well-dressed man, known as Mr. F, who offers fresh clothes and informs Sherman of his whereabouts—he’s landed on the island of Krakatoa, long believed to be uninhabited. Much to his surprise, Sherman soon learns that Krakatoa is home to twenty families.

Eight years prior, after surviving a shipwreck, Mr. M found himself on the island and soon discovered the island’s vast diamond mines. Mr. M gathers some diamonds, fashions a raft and sets sail. A ship headed for the US soon picks him up. He arrives in San Francisco, sells his diamonds and chooses twenty families to bring back to Krakatoa. In addition to having creative talents, each family chosen must have one boy and one girl between the ages of three and eight, and all the families would share the vast wealth of the diamond mines.

The new inhabitants set up a “restaurant government” with every family running their own establishment. Each family is assigned a letter of the alphabet; the corresponding letter becomes not only the family’s surname but also correlates to a cultural style, though technically all the families come from America. The A family represents America, cooking and serving only American food and designing their house in an American style. The D family is Dutch, the E family Egyptian and the T family Turkish.

“We made it law here that every family shall go to a different restaurant every night of the month, around the village square in rotation. In this way no family of Krakatoa has to work more than once every twenty days, and every family is assured a great variety of food.”

Together they have built large, elaborate homes for each family, full of amenities and inventions the world has never seen. They have also made plans for quick evacuation should it ever be necessary to leave the island. That necessity proves true just three days after Professor Sherman’s arrival. As the volcano begins to erupt, the families go into full evacuation mode.

The inhabitants of the island safely depart on a giant platform equipped with twenty hot air balloons, which they themselves have designed.  As they drift over land, one by one, the families jump from the platform, outfitted with carefully connected parachutes.

Professor Sherman, having no parachute of his own, is the last one on the platform as it lands in the ocean, soon to be discovered by a passing steamship.

The Twenty-One Balloons is a fantastic book, whether read aloud and shared with the whole family or read quietly alone.


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The Midwife’s Apprentice: In search of a full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.

The Midwife’s Apprentice


Young Adult

Ages 10 and up

By Karen Cushman

122 pages

Clarion Books


Newberry Award Winner


I love historical fiction because of Karen Cushman. She is a master at drawing readers completely into another time period. Weaving detailed descriptions of the foods, the sounds, the smells, the scenery and the habits of people who lived a much more difficult life, with strong, sympathetic characters readers can connect with. Some authors are good writers, others are good storytellers, Cushman is both. In addition to winning the Newbery Award for this book, she was previously awarded a Newbery Honor for Catherine Called Birdy (Clarion Books, 1994).

This story takes place in England during the 14th century. Brat, the main character, is a young orphaned girl who is maybe 12 or 13. When we first meet her, she’s sleeping in a dung heap, the only warm place she can find. That’s where the midwife finds her. It is also the reason some of the locals take to calling her Dung Beetle, or Beetle for short.

Brat usually moves through towns quickly. However, she convinces the midwife, Jane, that she will work hard and be useful. She becomes Jane’s apprentice and, for the first time in her life, has a reason to settle in. Jane “does her job with energy and some skill, but without care, compassion or joy.” She believes Brat to be stupid, and Brat is scared and timid, making her the perfect apprentice for Jane to exploit and abuse.

When Brat is sent to the county fair to purchase items for the midwife, she’s mistaken for a young woman named Alyce. Brat suddenly realizes that she needn’t be called any of the unkind names thrust upon her by callous people, and changes her name to Alyce on the spot. This transformation marks the beginning of her growth as a person.

Not too much time passes before Brat realizes the midwife intentionally resists actually teaching her the trade and also prevents her from being present at the births. Jane is cruel, especially to Brat. Brat, fearing a return to the streets and an empty stomach, keeps her head down, works harder and vows to talk less. Her only friend and confidant in the village is a cat she rescued from drowning at the hands of some local boys.

It was extremely rare for two births to occur at the same time, but the night it happens Alyce is left in charge of a birthing mother. Jane tends to the wealthier client, who will “pay in silver instead of chickens and beans.” Alyce delivers a healthy baby girl to the bailiff’s wife, and thus finds the courage to sneak into the homes of mothers in labor to learn the skills and secrets of midwifery.

One morning a village boy comes calling for Alyce to help with his mother’s labor. Jane is furious, and Alyce is perplexed, but she follows the boy, while Jane throws pots, insults and curses behind her. The labor is difficult and Alyce is inexperienced. It becomes apparent that she must call for the midwife. Jane delivers a healthy baby girl and Alyce feels ashamed and defeated. She runs away, taking the cat with her.

She soon finds herself at an Inn, and offers to work in exchange for food and shelter. Magister Richard Reese, a guest at the Inn, is kind and gentle, and takes a fatherly interest in Alyce. He’s also educated and Alyce spends extra time cleaning near him in an effort to spy on his writing, though she cannot read herself. Knowing Alyce is paying close attention, but also knowing she is too shy to speak with him, Magister Reese takes to speaking to the cat instead. He even begins teaching the cat to read.

One day Magister Reese directly addresses Alyce and asks what she wants from life. It takes her all day to respond.

“I know what I want. A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.”

The Magister is surprised, thinking she’d ask for something simple, such as a sweetheart or a ribbon for her hair. Alyce continues.

“This is what I want, but it is my misfortune to be hungry, out of humor and too stupid to be a midwife’s apprentice.”

“None so stupid,” he responds. “You can read as well as the cat.”

One night, as Alyce is prepping the Inn for a thunderstorm, a party of riders comes in need of help. One of the riders believes his wife is being devoured by a stomach worm and is seeking a “priest, a magician or a man of medicine.” In fact, the woman is in labor, and Alyce, fighting her own reluctance to help, delivers a healthy baby boy to a very tired and extremely grateful woman.

This event results in offers of work from the grateful couple, as well Magister Reese. The innkeepers offer her a promotion. Alyce, suddenly seeing a world of options before her, realizes exactly who she wants to be.

She returns to the midwife, smarter, stronger, and more determined. She convinces Jane to take her back as an apprentice. And Alyce finds her place in the world.

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The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963: Read before gifting.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham: 1963


Middle Reader

Ages 10 and up

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Not illustrated

224 pages

Delacorte Books for Young Readers


Newberry Honor book


The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This was Christopher Paul Curtis’s first book, and it was awarded a Newbery Honor. His second book, Bud, Not Buddy (Delacorte Books for Young Readers; 1999), won the Newbery medal. The man knows how to write. His characters are genuine and relatable and his storytelling is rich and vivid.

This book is funny. Laugh out loud funny. Here’s a few of the chapter titles.

“Swedish Cremes and Welfare Cheese”

“Every Chihuahua in America Lines Up to Take a Bite out of Byron”

“I Meet Winnie’s Evil Twin Brother, the Wool Pooh”

This book is sad as well. The crux of the story is the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, an atrocity in which 4 young girls were killed. Though none of the Watsons are physically hurt, our narrator, Kenny, is fundamentally changed by the event.

The Watsons are an African-American family of five living in Flint, Michigan in the early 1960’s. Dad is from Flint, Momma was born and raised in Alabama. Byron is the oldest child at thirteen. He is vain, relentlessly teases his younger brother Kenny and is always getting into trouble. Kenny, ten, is smart, funny and an avid reader. Joetta, or Joey, the youngest child and the only girl, is very protective of her older brothers and worries constantly about the trouble Byron causes. When I was little, if my older siblings got into trouble, I would cry and beg my mother not to punish them, even when they were being punished for something they’d done to me. I never wanted there to be any trouble, I always wanted to keep the peace. That’s Joetta all over.

Byron, ever the troublemaker, has pushed his Momma too far and she makes the decision to send him to Birmingham, Alabama. He’s going to live with her mother, who will either straighten him out, or kill him. So, the whole family is going on a road trip to Alabama.

The title of the book comes from the notebook Momma puts together in preparation for the trip. She’s calculated the daily mileage, factored in food breaks, bathroom breaks and drawn up a hotel budget. Dad is very excited about the road trip and purchases an Ultra-Glide for the car. The Ultra-Glide was a turntable that attached to the dashboard of your car so that you could play records in your car. I’ve looked it up. It was real!

Kenny passes the time in the car imagining who will win the impending battle between Byron and Grandma Sands. It would be “something like if Godzilla met King Kong, or if Frankenstein met Dracula, or like when champion wrestler Bobo Brazil meets the Sheik.” But once he lays eyes on Grandma Sands, who “looked just like Momma would if someone shrank her down about five sizes and sucked all the juice out of her,” he believes Byron will destroy the old woman.

It’s September but it’s hot in Birmingham. A heat the children have never experienced before and one they’re certain no human could truly survive. In an effort to get relief from the oppressive mugginess, the children head to a local swimming hole. Despite Grandma Sands’s warnings of the whirlpools (which Kenny mistakes for “Wool Pooh” because of her thick southern accent), Kenny is determined to swim in the forbidden area. Byron and Joey leave Kenny behind to go to the public swimming spot and Kenny soon finds himself in real trouble. He’s pulled under water and comes face to face with the Wool Pooh (who looks nothing like Winnie). Just as Kenny thinks the Wool Pooh will take him for good, Byron dives into the water and saves him from drowning.

The morning of the church bombing, Joey has already left for Sunday school when Kenny hears the noise. Actually, he feels it more than hears it. Word soon spreads that the local church, the church where Joey is, has been bombed. The family rushes to the scene and Kenny walks right up to the demolished and smoldering church. He finds a shiny black shoe among the rubble and is convinced it’s Joey’s. He’s certain she’s dead. In a daze, Kenny returns home, alone, with the shiny black shoe in his pocket. When Joey appears in his bedroom, happy and completely unaware of the tragedy, he believes her to be an angel and refuses to look at her. Joey, irritated and unsettled by Kenny’s behavior, picks up the shiny black shoe and throws it at his head. Kenny finally looks at her and sees that she is unharmed and wearing both her shoes. He then learns that she was too hot in the church basement and went out to the porch for some air, escaping the tragedy.

There’s an interesting mystical connection between Kenny’s near drowning and Joetta’s near death but I want to leave that to the reader to discover.

The tragedy in Birmingham leads Momma to rethink leaving her eldest child behind, and the whole family returns to Flint together. Kenny, however, has clearly changed. He is not at all himself and spends his time in a secret hiding place, reliving the events in Birmingham and hoping that all the bad memories of what happened will magically disappear.

It’s Byron who figures out where Kenny’s been hiding and Byron who finally gets through to him, in the most sweet, patient and caring way. No matter how many times I read this book, or the speech Byron gives Kenny about how everything’s going to be all right, I’m always reading it through tears. 

Though this is a family living in a very different time you can still relate to their troubles, share in their joys and feel their pain. If you purchase this book for someone else, I highly recommend you read it yourself first.

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