The American Library Association will announce with winners of the 2012 Newbery and Caldecott awards for children’s books beginning at 7:45 a.m. Central Time (8:45 a.m. ET) on Monday, Jan. 23. A live webcast of the event will begin at 7:30 a.m. Central Time. You can also follow the awards on Twitter at @ALAyma. If I’ve reviewed any winners, I’ll post or re-post my comments after the ceremony. I may also comment on the awards on Twitter at @janiceharayda.
January 20, 2012
2012 Newbery and Caldecott Award Winners to Be Announced at 7:45 a.m., Central Time, on Monday, Jan. 23
February 16, 2008
If the children’s department of your public library has put up a Presidents’ Day display, it probably includes Russell Freedman’s Lincoln: A Photobiography (Clarion, 160 pp., $20). And well it should. In this innovative book Freedman marries the picture-book and chapter-book forms to create a dynamic portrait of Abraham Lincoln that deals extensively with his youth and early adulthood but also covers his presidency and the Civil War. First published in 1987, Lincoln: A Photobiograpy was one of the most acclaimed books of children’s nonfiction of the 1980s, when it won the 1988 Newbery Medal and “Best Books of the Year” honors from School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Freedman has also written other excellent nonfiction books for tweens discussed in an earlier post www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/03/03/ (which recommended them for 9-to-12-year-olds, though they may appeal to some younger children who are strong readers).
(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
January 26, 2008
January 16, 2008
This week I was going to compile a list of 10 great children’s novels that didn’t win a Newbery Medal from the American Library Association www.ala.org, similar to my list of 10 classics that didn’t get Pulitzer (“Famous Pulitzer Losers,” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/04/16/). But I ran out of time, so I’ll just mention two:
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. A 1953 Newbery Honor Book that lost the top prize to Ann Nolan Clark’s Secret of the Andes.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Shut out of all prizes in 1976. Lost to the Newbery medalist, Susan Cooper’s The Grey King, and Honor Books The Hundred Penny Box, by Sharon Bell Mathis, and Dragonwings, by Laurence Yep.
What are the other classics – books children have enjoyed for decades — that didn’t win the Newbery?
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
January 15, 2008
January 14, 2008
[Note: Additional posts about these awards will appear later today.]
Librarians honor one of their own for the second year in a row in giving Newbery to Laura Amy Schlitz
By Janice Harayda
Brian Selznick has won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for his bestselling illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Selznick merges the picture- and chapter-book formats in his tale of a young orphan and thief who lives in a Paris train station and tries to solve a mystery that involves a mechanical man begun by his late father. Books that win Caldecott medals typically have about 32 pages and suit 4-to-8-year-olds. The Invention of Hugo Cabret has 533 pages and may be the longest to win the award. It popular among 9-to-12-year-olds.
The American Library Association announced the award today at a meeting in Philadelphia. The Caldecott Medal honors the most distinguished American picture book for children. A review of and reading group guide to The Invention of Hugo Cabret appeared on One-Minute Book Reviews on April 21, 2007, www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/04/21/.
Laura Amy Schlitz has won the Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, a collection of monologues by characters from an English village in 1255. By giving the award to Schlitz, the librarians honored one of their own for the second year in a row. The 2007 Newbery Medal went to Los Angeles librarian Susan Patron for The Higher Power of Lucky. The medal honors the most distinguished work of American literature for children published in the preceding year.
The Caldecott Honor books are Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson, First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis and Knuffle Bunny, Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems. The Newbery Honor books are: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt and Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson.
March 10, 2007
Do Christian Themes Kill Your Chances of Winning a Newbery Medal? Laura Amy Schlitz’s ‘A Drowned Maiden’s Hair’
A gripping neo-Gothic novel snubbed by the American Library Association
A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama. By Laura Amy Schlitz. Candlewick, 389 pp., $15.99. Ages 10 & up. [See further discussion of these ages below.]
By Janice Harayda
Do Christian themes kill your chances of winning top honors from American Library Association? You might think so after reading two also-rans for the 2007 Newbery Medal for the “most distinguished” work of children’s literature, Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Laura Amy Schlitz’s A Drowned Maiden’s Hair.
The winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, has many virtues discussed in a Feb. 19 review on this site, particularly its vibrant descriptions of the Mojave Desert and engaging illustrations by Matt Phelan. But Susan Patron’s underdeveloped plot helps to make her novel at best a B/B-minus book.
DiCamillo’s Christian allegory, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, doesn’t have that problem. Neither does A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, a gripping neo-Gothic first novel that has more complex themes and shows a stronger command of language and storytelling than the winner.
Then why did Schitz’s novel get shut out of the medals? Consider the plot: In 1909 a high-spirited 11-year-old named Maud Flynn rejoices when she learns she is to be adopted by a trio of unmarried sisters who promise her treats like “ready-made dresses” and bacon instead the gritty oatmeal served at the Barbary Asylum for Orphans.
But Maud grows uneasy when she learns that the women are fake spiritualists who expect her to take part in séances intended to con the rich widow Eleanor Lambert into thinking that she’s hearing from her dead daughter. A sister named Hyacinth tells Maud: “Any minister worth his salt would tell her she would see her daughter in heaven. But Eleanor Lambert doesn’t want to see her daughter in heaven. She wants her now.” Hyacinth adds that Mrs. Lambert “wants to resurrect the dead – which is impossible.”
Anyone who has read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane may see a theme emerging: While DiCamillo’s novel implicitly affirms the possibility of resurrection, Schlitz’s explicitly denies it. And A Drowned Maiden’s Hair goes further by casting the superintendent of the Barbary Asylum as a religious hypocrite who treats children cruelly while displaying a picture of Jesus and the words: “Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me.” The ALA might have snubbed DiCamillo’s novel for fear of appearing to promote Christianity (although many librarians have no trouble recommending The Chronicles of Narnia, also regarded as a Chrisitan allegory). But Schlitz doesn’t promote it. Has even a historically appropriate mention of religious hypocrisy become taboo? Must authors shun any mention of Christianity to win an ALA award? Books about other faiths don’t seem to face the same obstacles. A Caldecott Honor citation went in 2006 to Zen Shorts, a picture book about Buddhism.
A Drowned Maiden’s Hair isn’t flawless. From a literary standpoint, Schlitz makes two big mistakes. Children may not notice one because the story is so suspenseful: Schlitz tells her story from Maud’s point of view but sometimes credits her heroine with ideas that are unrealistic for her. At the orphanage Maud led a life so sheltered that she can’t remember ever having gone outside at night. But she soon encourages one of her new caretakers to wear her hair in a pompadour because it’s “stylish.” How would she know? Maud also reflects that the books at the orphanage were “mostly moral tales.” This is an accurate but adult characterization of what she would have been reading. The problem becomes clear when you compare A Drowned Maiden’s Hair with another novel about a distant era, Little House on the Prairie, which works so beautifully, in part, because Laura Ingalls Wilder never makes such slips: She tells you only what Laura, her young heroine, would have seen or thought. Children love the book partly because they understand – even if they can’t express it — that it shows the world from their point of view.
The second mistake Schlitz makes is that she has Maud’s older brother, Samm’l, adopted by other parents, appear early in the book and promise to send for her after he gets his own farm, though Maud never sees or hears from him again after that. Parents, I ask you: If you promise your child something like this, will your child forget it? No, and the readers of this book aren’t going to forget it, either. Schlitz seems to have inserted a scene involving the brother either because she wanted to add background about Maud without larding the novel with exposition or because she is setting up a sequel. Either way, it’s a cheat.
None of this spoils the pleasure of reading the novel. Schlitz has spent much of her life working as a professional storyteller. And as befits that background, she grabs your attention with a terrific beginning and sustains a level of suspense as high as you are likely to find in any children’s novel of 2006. And A Drowned Maiden’s Hair does more than tell a captivating story. It asks children to consider large questions such as: What does it mean to be “good”? To what degree are you responsible for your own actions if adults require you to act a certain way? Can material comforts – like pretty clothes and ice-cream sodas – bring happiness? And, yes, is there life after death?
“People throw the word ‘classic’ about rather a lot,” Megan Cox Gordon wrote in the Wall Street Journal, ‘but A Drowned Maiden’s Hair genuinely deserves to become one.” Fortunately, when librarians have snubbed worthy books, such as Tuck Everlasting, children usually have the last word.
Best line: The first: “On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was in the outhouse, singing ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’”
Worst line: Maud’s comment: “Pompadours are stylish. And a pompadour would make your face look taller.”
Age level: The moral questions raised by this novel justify the “ages 10 and up” recommendation from the publisher. But the story would fascinate many younger children, too (and has no sex or “bad words” that would rule it out in some homes). One way to think of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is that it’s a good book for children who loved the period details of “Little House” series (typically recommended for ages 6–9) but recently have outgrown it and are ready for a story that is more challenging.
Published: October 2006
Furthermore: Schlitz also wrote the biography The Hero Schliemann: The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy (Candlewick, 2006, ages 9-12), illustrated by Robert Byrd. [Note: I haven't read The Hero Schliemann. Can any parents, teachers, or librarians comment on the book for visitors who might like to know more about Schlitz's work? Jan]
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
March 3, 2007
Russell Freedman’s books help children get excited about the lives of great men and women
By Janice Harayda
If you’re looking for good biographies for 9-to-12-year-olds, I have two words for you: Russell Freedman.
Many authors have written captivating nonfiction for preteens, including the prolific and much-admired James Cross Giblin, who won the Washington Post-Children’s Book Guild Award for his body of work. But Freedman’s work is the gold standard for the sort of book known as the “photobiography,” a heavily illustrated book that takes a documentary approach to history. Along with other books, photobiographies can help 9-to-12-year-olds make the transition from simple chapter books to more complex works that may or may not have pictures.
Freedman is best known for his elegant Newbery Medal–winning Lincoln: A Photobiography (Clarion, 1987). But he has also written many other acclaimed biographies for 9-to-12-year-olds, including Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery (Clarion, 1987), Martha Graham: A Dancer’s Life (Clarion, 1998), Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion (Clarion, 1999), and The Voice That Challenged: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights (Clarion, 2006). Freedman’s books tend to be as beautifully designed as they are well-written, so they make wonderful birthday and holiday gifts.
Parents and grandparents: This post was inspired by a visitor searching for “a biography for a 9-year-old.” If you can’t find what you need, why not leave a comment with your question or send an e-mail message to the address on the “Contact” page? Many teachers and librarians visit this site. So if I can’t answer your question, they may be able to help. Please put your question in the e-mail subject heading. One-Minute Book reviews is a noncommercial site that does not accept advertising or free books, so its recommendations aren’t influenced by marketing concerns.
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
What happened to the review of A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, the children’s novel that many people thought should have won the 2007 Newbery Medal?
A new review of a book for children or teenagers appears every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews with all reviews permanently archived in the “Children’s Books” category. But since Feb. 25 I’ve written more than a half dozen unplanned posts about the uproar over the 2007 Newbery Medal winner, Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, which angered some librarians with use of the word “scrotum” on the first page. These posts have included a book review, a reading group guide, and a list of reasons why the American Library Association might have given the novel its most prestigious award for children’s literature.
So the review of Laura Amy Schlitz’s A Drowned Maiden’s Hair that was supposed to appear today will be posted on Saturday March 10. Comments on other children’s books may appear later today or tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some light entertainment, you may enjoy my two posts about the amusing search terms people have used to find my comments on the The Higher Power of Lucky. My favorite terms include “lucky scrotum,” “a character named scrotum,” and — yes — “janice harayda scrotum.”
(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.