We won’t know the next winners of American Library Association’s Newbery and Caldecott medals until Jan. 18. But if you’re looking for ideas for children’s gifts before then, you might want to print and save this list of books that won the most recent Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for excellence in children’s literature. Only American authors are eligible for ALA honors. But the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards are open to anyone who has had a book published in the U.S., so they can show more diversity than the librarians’ awards. Two examples: The latest winners include Nation, the British Terry Pratchett’s young-adult novel about two 19th-century children who create a society from scratch, and Bubble Trouble, by the New Zealander Margaret Mahy, illustrated by England’s Polly Dunbar. And this month the Horn Book posted its list of the best books of 2009 for children and teenagers, which also includes Bubble Trouble.
December 20, 2009
Gift Ideas for Kids — The Winners of 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature
November 20, 2009
October 15, 2009
Yesterday Deborah Heiligman made the shortlist for the 2009 National Book Award for young people’s literature for her captivating dual biography, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Holt, 268 pp., $18.95, ages 9 and up). And she might win in a walk if the judges gave the prize for the acknowledgments section of a book alone. Heiligman amusingly tweaks the clichés of the genre in her thanks to her husband, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jonathan Weiner:
“You put up with a lot as I wrote this book. You owed me, sure, but you have paid me back in spades. I’m ready for your next one. Jon read the book front to back in many drafts, and if there are any mistakes, blame him.”
Wouldn’t acknowledgements be more fun if everybody wrote like this?
October 14, 2009
David Small’s Graphic Memoir of Throat Cancer, ‘Stitches,’ Makes Shortlist for National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
David Small has made the shortlist for the 2009 National Book Award for young people’s literature for Stitches (Norton, 336 pp., $24.95), his graphic memoir of getting throat cancer after receiving high doses of radiation for a sinus condition while growing up in Detroit in the baby-boom era. The sponsor of the awards doesn’t give a separate prize for graphic novels or memoirs but considers them along with other submissions in the relevant category, so you could easily miss that this one has a different format from other books on the shortlist. Small talks about Stitches in a YouTube trailer that shows a generous number of pages from the book. He won the American Library Association’s 2001 Caldecott Medal for So You Want to Be President?, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker and other publications.
October 9, 2009
Late Night With Jan Harayda — 2009 National Book Award Finalists to Be Announced Next Week, Winners on Nov. 18
Update, Monday, 10/12: The 2009 National Book Awards finalists will be announced on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 12 noon Eastern time.
Yes, it seems we’ve barely exhaled since the 2009 Man Booker and Nobel prize-winners were announced. But next week the National Book Foundation will name the five 2009 National Book Award finalists in each of the four categories – fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. But the foundation may still be making up its mind about the date: One page of the awards site says the finalists will be announced on October 13 and another page says the finalists will be announced on October 14. I will update this post as soon as the organization clarifies this. The winners will be announced at the 60th National Book Awards ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on November 18.
February 29, 2008
2008 Delete Key Awards Finalist #7 – Sherman Alexie’s ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian’
Delete Key Awards Finalist #7 – From Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian:
Yes, Alexie won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for this novel. And, yes, it’s possible that this line has an inner logic discernible only to teenagers. But the rest of us may wonder: Why does this line have five S’s and six P’s instead of six S’s and five P’s? Why does it have eight A’s and ten G’s instead of ten A’s and eight G’s? What, exactly, is the logic behind this manic sequence of letters? Does it help to know that it’s supposed to sound like “a 747 is landing on a runway of vomit”? Or that in the book the letters take up two lines (without punctuation) instead of one? The letters seem intended as onomatopoeia, but their arrangement is so random, you wonder if Alexie’s space bar just got stuck.
This line suggests how the language of e-mail – or perhaps Hollywood screenplays – is infecting novels for all ages. Will we someday get a novel written entirely in emoticons?
The ten Delete Key Awards finalists are being numbered but announced in random order.
(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
February 3, 2008
I don’t review many childrearing guides, partly because most seem to recycle the same dozen or so tips. How many ways can you say, “Set limits” or “Be patient – this stage will pass”? And some of the books are so patronizing that you might wonder: Are their authors writing for children or for people who have them? But I love a comment that the writer and educator Michael Riera makes as part of a broader argument against lecturing children:
“In many ways, it all comes down to what Nobel Laureate Isadore Rabi’s mother used to ask him each day when he came home from school: ‘Did you ask any good questions today?’”
Riera is encouraging parents generally to ask questions instead of trying always to have definitive answers. But the question posed by Rabi’s mother is, in itself, great. Have you ever asked a child, “Did you ask any good questions in school today?” I wonder how this would work with teenagers who don’t aspire to become Nobel laureates.
Michael Riera in Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying (Perseus, 2003) www.perseusbooksgroup.com. Riera www.mikeriera.com is head of school at the Redwood Day School in Oakland, CA.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
January 29, 2008
John Gunther’s Classic Memoir of His 17-Year-Old Son’s Courageous Effort to Survive a Fatal Brain Tumor, ‘Death Be Not Proud’
A sensitive teenager faced a devastating illness with grace and intelligence
Death Be Not Proud: A Memoir. By John Gunther. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 224 pp., $13.95, paperback.
By Janice Harayda
You could argue that John Gunther idealizes his son, Johnny, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 17, in this classic memoir. But parents naturally want to remember the best in children they have lost. So the question isn’t whether Gunther idealizes his son but whether Johnny deserves the near-heroic portrayal he receives in this book. The answer is yes.
First published in 1949, Death Be Not Proud is a slim book that has little in common the sort of memoirs that recently have become fashionable: fat, self-dramatizing stories overstuffed with emotion and incident. Gunther describes with uncommon restraint how he and his ex-wife tried to save their son after he developed a glioma multiforme, a brain tumor that few people then survived.
During his 15-month illness, Johnny endured a series of brutal, long-shot treatments: brain surgery, mustard gas injections, a primitive form of radiation. He showed his character and vivid intellectual curiosity best after the surgery, when father asked if he knew he’d had an operation. “Of course,” Johnny said. “I heard them drilling three holes through my skull, also the sound of my brains sloshing around. From the sound, one of the drills must have had a three-eights of an inch bit.”
A bestseller in its day, Death Be Not Proud appears today on high school reading lists, and many people see it as a book for teenagers. This is a shame. A sea-change has occurred in the advice that parents of sick children get from doctors (who urged Gunther to lie to Johnny to keep him from finding out how serious his illness was). A book club might spend hours talking about just one of the questions raised by this book: Would Johnny really have been better off if his parents had taken the advice of 21st-century doctors instead of their own?
Best line: Many passages attest to Johnny’s unusual intellectual and emotional maturity. His parents once asked him, while he was in prep school, if he wanted to see some home movies taken of him when he was a child. “Only if they’re not too recent – the past is tolerable if remote enough,” Johnny replied.
Worst line: Death Be Not Proud has a scattering of lines such as, “Johnny was as sinless as a sunset” and “Everybody loved him – down to the corner cop.” If these seem too rosy, the book wears them lightly. Gunther is not trying to convince you that Johnny was perfect but to portray his struggle against cancer.
Reading group guide: I can’t link directly to the publisher’s guide, posted at www.harpercollins.com, but here’s a link to it that you can paste into your browser: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061230974/Death_Be_Not_Proud/.
Published: 1949 (first edition) and 2007 (Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition).
Furthermore: John Gunther (1901–1970), one of the best-known reporters of his day, wrote the popular “Inside” series that included Inside Europe, Inside Asia and Inside U.S.A.
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 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.