Thursday, December 14, 2006

Caldecott discussion

As the American Library Associaton's all-important award announcements loom closer - they'll be announced January 22, from Seattle - discussion has begun to buzz in the children's library community. Who will win the Caldecott medal for illustrated books? Who will win the Newbury for distinguished children's fiction? It is usually a huge and mystifying announcement, no matter how much we discuss and debate the merits of the year's best. Last year's dismaying win by The Hello Goodbye Window, illustrated by Chris Raschka, threw us all for a loop and makes trying to guess all the harder.

I met with a group of children's librarians from around the Denver Public Library and we discussed books with lovely illustrations and some others that we're not crazy about, but feel could win anyway. Some of these may make great gifts, too!

Flotsam, by David Wiesner. Wiesner is an extraordinarily talented illustrator and has numerous Caldecott honors and medals under his belt for books such as The Three Pigs, Tuesday, and Sector 7. Flotsam is not my favorite of his books, but the committee obviously likes him.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Carol Boston Weatherford. I am a fan of Kadir Nelson's rich and gorgeous illustration style, but I wasn't as crazy about this offering. However, the serious nature of the subject might sway the judges. The critics have certainly given this book lots of praise this year. I would love to see Nelson get an honor, but I liked last year's He's Got the Whole World In His Hands better.

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building, illustrated by James E. Ransome, written by Deborah Hopkinson. We all thought that this one could be a contender since the author writes with such detail about the construction site and the illustrations are so beautiful and painterly. It has style.

So Sleepy Story, by Uri Shulevitz. The line and use of color in this one are really amazing and convey the language beautifully. Shulevitz has won awards and honors for others such as The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and Snow.

Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, by Mo Willems. Willems' books are engaging and fun read-alouds, but I'm not really sure why he keeps getting awards for them. This is one of those where we thought we'd throw it into the mix, but weren't too sure about it. This one would be a great gift book, though. His other honor books are the wonderful Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny.

Beach, by Elisha Cooper. The watercolor illustrations in this book really convey the atmosphere and feeling of an East Coast beach in summer. They are fairly impressionistic and fun to look at. A contender? Maybe not, but we like it.

Tiger of the Snows: Tenzing Norgay: The Boy Whose Dream Was Everest, illustrated by Ed Young, and written by Robert Burleigh. I really like Ed Young's unique style. I love the way he characterizes the mountain as an animal. Last year I was rooting for Beyond the Great Mountains. I always like to think his books are in the running because they're unusual and exotic.

Snow Sounds, by David Johnson. This was one of my favorites, partly because it celebrates onomatopoeia and makes a good book for a young one. The illustrations are perfect, grainy and pixilated, like snow. Snow books have a history of winning the award, look at Snowflake Bently; Snowy Day; White Snow, Bright Snow; The Big Snow, etc.

Check some of these out and enjoy some of the best illustrations of the year!

Monday, December 04, 2006

On Judging the National Book Awards

Here is a terrific post on Linda Sue Park's personal blog. She is a Newbery award-winning children's author who sat on the children's literature panel of the National Book Awards and discusses the process in depth while maintaining confidentiality. Very enlightening!

Lois Lenski

One of my favorite picture book authors/illustrators is Lois Lenski. Lenski was most prolific during the 1940's and some of her work is out of date, but much of it has stood the test of time and is dear to me still as an adult.

The Horn Book magazine's website periodically revisits contributions from past issues and this month they're featuring a piece written by Lenski in 1946, titled, "Christmas at Huckleberry Mountain Library." It's fun for me to hear Ms. Lenski's adult voice and opinions. And of course it's fun for me to hear about an old, rural library.

Lois Lenski won the 1946 Newbery medal for distinguished children's literature for her novel, Strawberry Girl. I particularly like her illustrated Mr. Small series, especially Papa Small. Colorized reissues of her picture books have come out recently and her seasonal set, with titles like I Like Winter, are still fun to read with kids.

Lenski also illustrated the Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace, my all-time favorite children's series.

On a side note, the Horn Book just released their year-end fanfare of children's books, so here's their list for your holiday shopping.

Your Friendly Librarian