Category Archives: Coretta Scott King Award

Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson

George Washington Carver has completely captured by imagination, so it is fitting that I picked up a volume of poems about his life this National Poetry Month.  I hardly know what to say about it.  It is good–really good, in that sharp-intake-of-breath kind of way.  It’s written from a multitude of perspectives, from the man hired to rescue George Washington Carver and his mother, also a slave, from their kidnappers to a white school teacher who was apparently in love with Carver (and was rumored to have committed suicide years after they parted ways) to “an Alabama Farmer” who solicits Dr. Carver’s instruction on “what maid [his] cotton grow.”  One of my favorites is titled “Clay.”  Here’s an excerpt:

To Carver’s eye, the muddy creek banks say

Here to be dug up, strained, and painted on,

is loveliness the poorest can afford:

azures, ochres. . . Scraps of discarded board

are landscapes.  Cabins undistinguished brown

bloom like slaves freed to struggle toward self-worth.

Beauty is commonplace, as cheap as dirt.

One of Carver's own paintings, done with paint made from Alabama clay

Marilyn Nelson holds Carver’s life up to the light in this volume and shows what a multifaceted jewel it is.  Reading this Newbery and Coretta Scott King honor book has made me hungry to know more about this man.  Highly Recommended.  (Front Street, 2001)

More about George Washington Carver at Hope Is the Word:

George Washington Carver Museum in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tuskegee University (includes pictures of Carver’s gravesite)

Children’s books about George Washington Carver

I’m adding this book review to this month’s Award Winning Books database at Gathering Books.  I’m also joining in the Poetry Friday round-up at Random Noodling.


ALA Youth Media Awards–60 (ish), Amy–6 (ish)

After a night of broken sleep, punctuated by severe weather alerts that rival air raid sirens in their ability to induce panic in us shell-shocked Alabamians, I got up this morning to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards presentation live via the internet.  I always mean to do this but always also manage to let it slip by unnoticed until I read the re-hash on someone’s blog.  It was nice to have something to look forward to this morning after a rough night, though.

I’m usually surprised at how few of the award winning books I’ve read.  A quickly counted sixty some-odd winners, not including the many books of the authors or illustrators who won a lifetime achievement type award.  I think I’ve read five or so of them.  Here are the ones I’ve read, linked to my reviews when possible:

Caldecott MedalA Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka–I “read” this one but never reviewed it because I have such a hard time reviewing wordless picture books.  I really, really need to bone up on what makes illustrations great, both because I’m interested in it and because it would make my book reviews much better!

Caldecott honorMe. . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Schneider Family Book Award (middle school):  Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Sibert AwardBalloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet–I loved this one and even predicted it to be a Caldecott contender.  I’m so glad it won something!

Sibert honor:  Drawing from Memory by Allen Say, a book I haven’t read all of yet (seems I misplaced it in the middle of reading it). 

Theodore Seuss Geisel AwardI Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Lulu and I are even; she hasn’t read Wonderstruck, but she did read Underground:  Finding the Light to Freedom by Shane W. Evans, which won the Coretta Scott King illustrator award.

These are the new-to-me winners I’m most interested in reading.  The designation is below the book cover.

(Newbery honor)

(Alex Award, though I first read of this book on Mindy Withrow’s blog)

(Sibert honor book)


(Theodore Seuss Geisel Award)


(Both Printz and Morris Awards!)


(YALSA Award)

(both YALSA honors)

(Susan Cooper won the Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, and seeing as I haven’t read any of her books, I think I’ll start with this one.)

Anyone want to chat about the winners and losers?  You can see them all here, and for a fun take on one librarian’s opinion, check out The Lemme Library’s Bizarro Newbery Awards 2012. 

The ALA awards are coming!

They usually sneak up on me, but not this year!  The Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and a dozen plus more awards will be announced at 7:45 a.m. CST on Monday, January 23.  Here’s a little video clip that I received from Open Road Media honoring a couple of Newbery Medal winning authors to whet your appetite.  It’s a little commercial there at the end, but the first 2 minutes or so are interesting.  It’s too good not to share.

I’ve been so consumed with the Cybils that I haven’t given the ALA awards too much thought, but I’m guessing there will be some overlap.

Any predictions?

Books I read in 2011: juvenile & YA fiction (plus top picks)

This year I read a total of forty-four books for my own edification and enjoyment.  Thirty-two of the forty-four were either juvenile or young adult fiction.  Here’s the break-down of categories with my top picks for each one. 

Historical Fiction

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson
The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean

Thursday’s Child by Noel Streatfeild

I’m giving myself three favorites in this category because the list is long and it’s my blog.  ;-). I loved Forge and can’t wait to read the next book in the series. It made a big impression on me–I still remember sitting in a certain restaurant (alone!) and reading it and later sharing the Valley Forge experience with anyone who would half-way listen.   It’s my number one pick.  My number two pick is Heart of a Samurai.   I loved Manjiro’s voice in this book and how Margi Preus captured his enthusiasm for life and how he adapted to the different homes he had.  I learned a lot about life aboard a whaling vessel, too.  Honorable mention goes to Turtle in Paradise, although to be fair I think I probably fell in love with this book partially because of the audiobook readers’ pitch-perfect voice. 


There are actually three subcategories in this category:  plain old fantasy, fantasy-with-anthropomorphized-animals, and realistic fiction with fantastical elements.  Of the first kind I read three books:

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton

On the Edge of the Darks Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (fairy tale retelling)

Of the anthropomorphized animal type I read two:

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Deedy and Randall Wright

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (review forthcoming)

Of the realistic novel with fantastical elements type I read three:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Savvy by Ingrid Law

 This is a tough, tough category in which to pick favorites for me.  I loved every single one of these books with the exception of Fairest, which I thought was just okay, and Keeper, which contains content that I just can’t personally reconcile myself to in children’s literature.  (The writing in that one is superb, though.)  Picking one book from each subcategory that gives me the most warm fuzzies, here’s what I come up with:

I love Andrew Peterson’s wordplay, creatively drawn characters, and story with lots and lots of heart in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.  (Plus, Andrew Peterson includes a very sly nod to one of my favorite authors in this book, so how can I not love it?)  Richard Peck’s creation of a complete mouse society and his sophisticated sense of humor (always!) drew me in immediately in Secrets at SeaWhen You Reach Me is just once of those books that makes you say breathlessly at the end of the last page, “Wow!”

Realistic fiction:

Betti on the High Wire by Lisa Railsback

Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat (not reviewed)

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban

Eight Keys by Suzanne LeFleur

Lucky for Good by Susan Patron

The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes

 With the exception of The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, every one of these novels is a problem novel.  The only other title that I would consider even partially a light, happy story is Lucky for Good, although I get the sense that the reason for that is Lucky has already faced her problems in the previous books in the series; now she is capable of helping others face theirs.  Problem novels are really not my favorite type to read, especially when they seem agenda-driven.   I came by most of these through the Armchair Cybils challenge.  Bullying is a prevalent theme this year, at least among Cybils nominated titles.  I’ll be interested to see how these books fare in the Cybils and the Newberys.  Still, I’m mostly glad I spent some of my reading time this year in this genre.  Of course I love the Penderwicks, but since I tend to think of the books in this series as a collective whole (read my review for my thoughts on this), here are my three non-Penderwickian realistic novel picks:

For a realistic novel to be realistic, the protagonist’s voice has to ring true, and Emma’s does in Camo Girl.  I enjoy reading novels about austistic children, so I was predisposed to like Mockingbird anyway, but it is a heart wrenching story with a tie-in to TKM, points which made me like it all the more.  As I already mentioned, Lucky for Good is a problem novel with a light touch, and the characterization is really, really good. 

Period Novels

I suppose this title will do for novels written during a different time period that we’re still reading today, right?  I suppose I could call them classic novels since most of them have stood the test of time.  Anyway, you know what I mean, right?  Here’s the trio I read:

 Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery

Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery

Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace

Hands down, my favorite of this category is Emily of Deep Valley.  This lovely story just blew me away!  Of course, I am also a die-hard L.M. Montgomery fan, but I have to hand it to Maud Hart Lovelace and Emily–I think it might even rival Anne and the other Emily for my affection!





 I think I can truly say that this was the year for juvenile literature for me!  I really didn’t read a book this year I didn’t like at least a little bit, so any of the titles I’ve listed get at least a half-hearted recommendation from me; many of them get a Highly Recommended.  I also recognize that my categories are somewhat arbitrary; I’d actually like to share some other lists that highlight ways these books are alike, but that will have to wait for another time. 

Of course, I read many, many books to my children this year, too.  I plan to share our chapter book read alouds and top picks on Read Aloud Thursday this week, so be sure to check back!

What’s the best kids’ or YA book you read this year?

The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes

I’m resurrecting an old project here at the tail-end of the year with this book.  Way back in 2009 I decided to read through the alphabet by picking a book from the fiction As, then Bs, and so on.  I kicked it off with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793 back in 2009,  and since then I’ve read

For the Gs, I decided to read something by Nikki Grimes because we enjoyed her Christmas book, Voices of Christmas, so muchGrimes is obviously a very talented author who is capable of handling a variety of genres; Voices of Christmas is poetry, while The Road to Paris is a realistic middle grade novel about a girl, Paris, who learns to trust and love through the care of a loving foster family.  We follow Paris and her brother Malcolm as they experience neglect and abuse at the hands of their mother, their stepfather, and foster parents.  The two are eventually separated, and Paris goes to live with the Lincolns, a family with a “permanent” foster daugher, two natural sons, and lots of stability and love to offer her.  Paris stays in one place long enough to grow a friendship, as well as experience rejection because she is biracial.  In the end Paris grows into her own skin; instead of just being a kid who has to do whatever anyone tells her to do, she realizes that she does have some sort of say-so about her life.  Most importantly, she learns from the Lincolns that she can “keep God in her pocket”–that God is close by her as long as she allows Him to be. 

This is a simple book with short chapters, one that can be read quickly.  It’s not complicated or even particularly beautifully written.  What it is, however, is a book that gets right to the heart of what it is like to be a foster child:  unsure of what the future holds; torn between the “real” mother and the one who actually cares for you; dependent on a sibling as the only dependable person in your life (and then he’s torn from you, too); projecting the behavior of an abusive person onto everyone else, expecting even those who care for you to mistreat you, too; and so on.   Paris’s thoughts here sum it up perfectly:

I wish there were two of me.  That way, both of us could have the family we want.  (130)

Although this is a very difficult subject, Nikki Grimes handles it with a light touch, making this book appropriate for even youngish middle graders.  I have relatives who have cared for children through foster care for many years; this book sheds light on what such children feel like, making it possible for me to have just an inkling of the pain and trauma of their young lives.  I would never presume to know how such a child might feel, but the author biography on the jacket flap states that Grimes lived with a foster family herself in Ossining, NY, the same place that Paris lives with the Lincolns.  This leads me to believe that the book must at least be inspired by Grimes‘s own life.  If you’re looking for a book to broach this difficult subject with a child, this is a good one.  While I can’t say I exactly enjoyed reading it, I did find Paris’s story compelling enough to keep me turning pages long after I should’ve turned the lights out.  I can see why it was awarded a Coretta Scott King author honor award in 2007.  (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2006)