Posts tagged ‘Award Winners’

2 The Point Tuesday The False Prince

I was on the Cybil’s committee that chose The False Prince as the winner for 2012. I’ve held off on posting a review of this because I didn’t want to tip my hand. Now that I’ve reviewed the sequel The Runaway King, I thought I would post a copy of our summary as a To the Point Tuesday. To the Point Tuesday was formed as a 150 word review of a recent read. It’s slightly over the 150 word limit, which I’m okay with because of how much happens in the novel and also how much I loved the book. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

False PrinceTitle: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A Nielsen
Narrator: Charlie McWade
ISBN: 9780545391665 (audiobook), 9780545284134 (hardcover)
Discs/CDs: 7 CDs, 8 hours 14 minutes
Pages: 342 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic, c2012.
Publication Date: April 1, 2012

“You’re a trick to figure out Sage. Would you ever be on my side, even if I chose you above the other boys?”
“I’m only on my side. Your trick will be convincing me that helping you helps me.”
“What if I did?” Connor asked. “How far would you go to win?”
“Th better question, sir, is how far you will go to wine.” I looked him steadily in the eyes as I spoke, although his back was to the fire and his eyes were set in shadow. [...] So we know you’re willing to murder to win.”
“I am.” Conner backed up, speaking to all of us again. “And I’m willing to life, to cheat, and to steal. I’m willing to commend my soul to the devils if necessary because I believe there is exoneration in my cause. I need one of you to conduct the greatest fraud ever perpetrated within the country of Carthya. This is a lifetime commitment. It will never be safe to back down from my plan and tell the truth. To do so would destroy not only you but the entire country. And you will do it to save Carthya.” (28-29)

Sage is taken from his orphanage along with three other boys and thrust into an attempt to save the kingdom from impending war. If he loses, it’s certain death, but Sage is very reluctant to win, since the prize at the end means becoming someone’s pawn and living a lie for the rest of his life. The detailed world Nielsen creates is full of life, populated with mystery, twists and turns, and engaging and complex characters. Readers don’t know who to trust, while Sage knows he can trust no one, especially not Connor, the man who stole them away and has aspirations of his own. Sage’s voice is perfection, reading like a medieval Sherlock Holmes. Unreliable and snarky, Sage keeps his observations, assets, and motivations to himself until he knows he can benefit. Readers can’t help but cheer for him, even as he struggles to come to grips with the ups and downs of a fate he doesn’t desire.

Caldecott Honorees and Winner 2014

The American Library Association Youth Media Awards were announced in January, and I’m slowly working my way through the winners and honorable mentions. The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded for the most distinguished American picture book for children. There was one winner and three honor books named this year.

LocomotiveTitle: Locomotive
Author/Illustrator: Brian Floca
ISBN: 9781416994152
Pages: 64 pages
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, c2013.

I had actually included this title in a local newsletter article about train books, so I will let my earlier comments about the book stand on its own. For older readers, there is the incredibly detailed Locomotive by Brian Floca. Starting with the cover and continuing inside on more than one occasion the watercolor illustrations appear to burst from the page. The book follows the story of a family traveling by rail across the country from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California in 1869. You’ll find this title not with the picture books, but with nonfiction due to the detailed narration. Packed with information, Floca uses short sentences that mimic the steam engine, and his generous use of onomatopoeia means the pages are filled with banging, clanging, huffing, puffing, and chugging. The various jobs on board are distinguished from one another, and the mechanics of the train are outlined not only in the text but also in the back jacket where steam power is explained with words and pictures. Pay careful attention to the little details too, as each station and location are identified by name and small details such as the cowboy’s horse running away at the sound of the train might be missed on first glance.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named, with two out of the three Caldecott honorees this year being wordless and the third one is nearly wordless. Has it ever happened where all the honorees are wordless?
JourneyTitle: Journey
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
ISBN: 9780763660536
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press,c2013.

Bored children have been escaping into other worlds for years, including Max in Where the Wild Things Are, Harold with his purple crayon, Alice and her looking-glass, and the siblings who visit Narnia through the wardrobe. The same applies to this unnamed young lady in Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book. With her dad on the computer, her mom on the phone, and her big sister on a handheld device, the girl draws a door on her bedroom wall with a red crayon and escapes into another world. The red crayon creations, including a boat, a hot air balloon, and a flying carpet, pop against the primarily blue, green, gray and yellow landscapes. The other part of the pictures that is unique is the purple bird that requires the girl’s help to escape its own cage. It is a story of imagination brought to life, and two kindred spirits finding each other at the end.

Flora and FlamingoTitle: Flora and the Flamingo
Author/Illustrator: Molly Idle
ISBN: 9781452110066
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books LLC, c2013.

Personally, this is not my favorite honoree. On minimalistic white backgrounds bordered by pink flowers, a girl in a yellow bathing cap, pink swimsuit, and dark flippers tries to imitate the actions of a flamingo. Initially perturbed by the unwanted admiring copycat, the flamingo eventually extends a wing and they engage in a ballet that ends in a cannonball and a bow. While the fold out spread works for the double page cannonball spread, there are other pages with lifting flaps that I think instead would have worked better as a page turn. But you can definitely see the author’s background with Dreamworks, which is mentioned in the back jacket biography. The emotions are beautifully portrayed through the body language and slight changes in facial features for both the girl and the flamingo.

Mr. Wuffles!Title: Mr. Wuffles!
Author/Illustrator: David Wiesner
ISBN: 9780618756612
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2013.

I talked in my Coretta Scott King post about authors and illustrators whose names have come up for awards again and again and again. David Wiesner is one of those people for the Caldecott. He has won the award three times (Tuesday, The Three Pigs and Flotsam) and this honor now makes three honors (Free Fall and Sector 7). Give someone else a turn already! But I do see the appeal and the reason for the ongoing admiration. This latest title appears to be partially influenced by Wiesner’s own cat, and the observations of the cat’s attitudes and movement show. There is disdain towards a handful of toys until Mr. Wuffles the cat stumbles across a tiny silver spaceship occupied by even smaller green spacemen. We can’t say the work is completely wordless, as the cat’s owner courts the cat with new toys at the beginning and end of the story, spacemen talk in geometric symbols and the ants they encounter communicate with tiny dots. But the thing that really caught my attention was how Weisner conveyed the sense of motion with the cat, especially on the penultimate page where we see multiple tails as it flicks back and forth in anticipation. It’s a technique that is repeated several times in the book, designating motion with the cat’s paws and head. The pictures are vibrant, colorful, oversized, and action packed as the aliens try to repair their broken ship and escape the cat with the help of their new ant friends. And those claws on the cat… Watch out! Give this to any cat owner, as they will be able to relate.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award 2014

The American Library Association Annual Youth Media Awards were announced this month, and I’ve been trying to read through the winners and honorees. The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is given to books geared for beginning readers. Ironically, I actually featured two of the honorees for the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award earlier this year. You can find Ball by Mary Sullivan reviewed here along with several other ball themed books that I used for a story time. Another runner-up, A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems was also featured earlier on this blog. I don’t think anyone was surprised by its inclusion on the list, as books by Mo Willems has quickly become a staple of picture books and early reader libraries.

BallA Big Guy Took My Ball













The other two I had not reviewed yet, and I’m therefore going to review them together.
Penny and Her MarbleTitle: Penny and Her Marble
Author/Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
ISBN: 9780062082046
Pages: 48 pages
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2013.
The third honoree, Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes has been getting an astonishing amount of press since it’s publication in February of 2013. The simple story relates Penny’s neighborhood walk with her doll when she spies a marble in Mrs. Goodwin’s yard. Secretly picking it up and taking it home, Penny is filled with guilt that she took something that didn’t belong to her. After suffering from a hurt stomach and bad dreams, Penny hurries to return the marble, only to get caught by Mrs. Goodwin herself. All ends happily, with Mrs. Goodwin presenting the marble to Penny as a gift.

I couldn’t help being struck by Penny’s outfit, a white, long-sleeved, polka-dotted shirt under a skirt with suspenders and a flowered headband, which she must own in every color combination imaginable if you have been following the series. The bright colors make you happy just looking at them, and even the nightmares maintain that color scheme, proving that they are not menacing but kept age-appropriate distressing for an imaginative girl like Penny. The independence she exhibits will certainly make an impact with readers, as she deals with her issues and comes to her own conclusions of right and wrong without even asking for guidance from her caring parents.

Watermelon SeedTitle: The Watermelon Seed
Author/Illustrator: Greg Pizzoli
ISBN: 9781423171010
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2013.
I was surprised by the winner of the award, given to The Watermelon Seed by first time author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli. The striking pink, green, and black colors lend a monochromatic color scheme to the story of a crocodile who swallows a watermelon seed. After fearing for his life, he thankfully burps out the offending seed. Although swearing off his favorite food, we see that promise doesn’t last long. On the last page an engorged stomach hovers over pieces of rind on the floor as the worried faced crocodile might be in trouble all over again.

Perfect for picnics in the upcoming summer months, I think it’s the simplicity of the drawings that catch readers eyes the most. With no background details, we can focus on the crocodile, who fears vines will grow out of his ears, his skin will turn colors, and he’ll eventually end up in a fruit salad. That last possibility hopefully lends assurance to the readers that his fears are unfounded, as people would never end up in a fruit salad. Although I recognize that I’m biased towards pictures that have more detail than these drawings, I can definitely see the appeal of our poor nameless crocodile’s distressed eyes and the bright pink backgrounds that dominate most of the book.

Bravo to the winners and honorees, and look for more upcoming reviews of books recognized by the various committees.

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

BombTitle: Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Author: Steve Sheinkin
ISBN: 9781596434875
Pages: 266 pages
Publisher/Date: Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, c2012.
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Awards: 2012 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, 2013 Newbery Honor Book, Winner of the 2013 Sibert Award and the 2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, Cybils Top Five Nonfiction Finalist,

This is a big story. It’s the story of the creation — and theft — of the deadliest weapon ever invented. The scenes speed around the world, from secret labs to commando raids to street-corner spy meetings. But like most big stories, this one starts small [...] sixteen years before FBI agents cornered Harry Gold in Philadelphia. (7)

Not only is this a big story, but it’s also a complex and sometimes convoluted story, filled with spies and sabotage, intrigue and ingenuity, science and suspense. In 1938, German physicist Otto Hahn was the first to split the atom, an accomplishment that scientists around the world thought was impossible. Less than one year later, President Roosevelt was appraised by none other than Albert Einstein of the possibility of this discovery being used to build a super-sized bomb, and Roosevelt demanded action. Thus began the race for physical, monetary, and intellectual resources to discover the key and build a bomb before any of their enemies. In the shadow of World War II and into the Cold War, scientists worked tirelessly. Robert Oppenheimer’s team in California was the first to crack the code, but the group was plagued with security uncertainties and the government, military, and scientists involved questioned who they could really trust with this deadly and destructive data.

This book has received many accolades, from being a 2012 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature and 2013 Newbery Honor Book to winning the 2013 Sibert Award and the 2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. One thing that would have helped this award-winning book immensely is a timeline. As readers bounce from scientists to spies and back again across multiple continents and countries, it was almost information overload. It was difficult to differentiate everyone in the beginning, especially when the forward starts in one year and then you zip backwards in time almost a decade and another part where two people on a sabotage team both had the same first name. But for science enthusiasts and detailed orientated people, this will intrigue and enthrall them to have all the pieces of the puzzle together in one concise book. Sheinkin goes beyond the creation of Fat Man and Little Boy and their deployment on Japan, allowing readers a glimpse into the beginnings of the Cold War.

One scene mentioned in the book that particularly struck me was learning how far America went to determine who was spying on us:

While in the United States, Soviet spies had to use an American telegraph company to send information quickly to Moscow. The KGB probably knew that the telegraph company was making copies of every telegram and handing them over to the U.S. Army. This didn’t particularly worry the Soviets–the messages were always written in an extremely complex code.
In 1949, after years of failure, American code breakers cracked the code. Intelligence began decoding all the messages sent to the Soviet Union during the war. That’s when they came across a shocking note sent from New York City to KGB headquarters in 1944. [...]
The 1944 telegram summarized a top-secret scientific paper. The paper had been written by one of the British scientists working with Oppenheimer. A few phone calls later, Lamphere [a FBI counterintelligence agent] had the name of the paper’s author: Klaus Fuchs. (221)

Proving how complex the situation was, the German-born physicist named Klaus Fuchs was working with British scientists in England when his assistance was requested in America, prompting him to spy for the Russian Communist Party. When he is arrested and finally being tried in 1950, his lawyer emphasizes the fact that at the time he was passing secrets to the Soviet Union during World War II, the country and Britain were allies. This made the difference between a maximum 14 years in prison for passing secrets to allies and the death penalty if the two countries had been enemies at the time the crime was committed. Fuchs got out early for good behavior, later moving back to East Germany.

Especially interesting is a peak, however brief, into the political rational of Japan not surrendering after the first bomb was dropped. I would have liked to have read more about the bombs’ effects on the country, but sticking to the facts and not trying to sensationalize the country or its population I feel made a greater impact. The simple statement “Fat Man exploded over the city of Nagasaki with the force of 22,000 tons of TNT. At least 40,000 people were instantly killed, and tens of thousands more fatally wounded or poisoned with radiation.” leaves a power impression. I hope readers considered these stark statistics and allowed them the full attention they deserved. This is not a fast read, but you’ll feel immeasurably rewarded once you get through this dense text that presents the making of the bomb and it’s after effects from all sides.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, check out Sue Heavenrich over at Sally’s Bookshelf.

This book in particular was read as I participate in YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge which challenges readers to finish 25 books by June 22nd from a list of 83 titles that were recognized and published over the last year.

Dead End in Norvelt

Title: Dead End in Norvelt
Author: Jack Gantos
ISBN: 9780374379933
Pages: 341 pages
Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux, c2011.

BLAM! The rifle fired off and violently kicked out of my grip. It flipped into the air before clattering down across the picnic table and sliding onto the ground. “Oh sweet cheeze-us!” I wailed, and dropped butt-first onto the table. “Ohhh! Cheeze-us-crust!” I didn’t know the rifle was loaded. I hadn’t put a shell in the chamber. My ears were ringing like air raid warnings. I tried to stand but was too dizzy and flopped over. “This is bad. This is bad,” I whispered over and over as I desperately gripped the tabletop.
“Jaaaack!” I heard my mother shriek and then the screen door slammed behind her.
“If I’m not already dead I soon will be,” I said to myself. (10-11)

After playing with his father’s war souvenirs when he wasn’t supposed to and mowing down his mother’s corn when his dad told him to, Jack gets grounded for the rest of the summer. Stuck in his house, the only time he’s allowed out is to either dig the bomb shelter his dad is intent on making, or help the neighbor Miss Volker. Helping Miss Volker doesn’t involve the usual things like painting the house or raking leaves. Instead, Jack drives the elderly medical examiner around and types the obituaries as she dictates them to him. The job is much easier than digging in the heat a hole the size of a swimming pool. But when the elderly residents start dying out one after another, suspicion is cast on Miss Volker. Is Jack unwittingly helping a murderer?

This book has garnered a lot of love over the past year, winning the Newbery Award and the Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction. Now I’m not saying that it’s a bad book by any means, but I’m not sure I can whole heartedly agree with the committee’s decision like I did with When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I had a hard time getting engaged and engrossed by it, and I think I’m going to have a hard time convincing kids to read it. The biggest draw is I think the growing number of dead bodies, but although there are some suspicions, it’s not brought up until almost the end of the story, and even then quite suddenly. There is little suspense, if any, and the resolution of this mystery is accomplished quite suddenly, with not even a glimpse into the police work involved in “solving” the “crime” and no real rationale behind it. I found the obituaries that Miss Volker writes somewhat humorous, but I’m not sure how much humor tweens would get out of them.

The best way I can describe this book is odd. Jack does all sorts of “odd” things during his two month sentence, from driving a car and examining dead bodies (his sort-of friend’s dad owns the funeral home) to buying rat poison and digging a bomb shelter. His dad is odd, insisting that Jack mow down his mother’s corn to make room for a runway for an old airplane that Jack’s dad bought at a surplus auction. The chief of police chases people in a tricycle, a Hell’s Angel drops dead from dancing, and the old houses are being bought up and transported to another town. Even the cover of the book is “odd”, with Jack’s missing head behind the sign giving no inclination of the deaths in the book. The whole town is odd, but not in the Gilmore Girls series kind of kooky, just a collection of oddities.

The other thing I would have liked to have seen is an author’s note in the back separating fact from fiction. Obviously it’s semi-autobiographical since the main character shares a name with the author and grows up in a town where the author grew up. An accounting of what is fact and what is fiction would have been much appreciated and could have allowed for a strong connection for readers.

I’m sorry to say that this one fell flat for me.

Heart and Soul

Title: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Author/Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
ISBN: 9780061730740
Pages: 108 pages
Publisher/Date: Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2011.
Awards: Won Coretta Scot King Author Award, 2012
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, 2012

Most folks my age and complexion don’t speak much about the past. Sometimes it’s just too hard to talk about–nothing we like to share with you young folk. No parent wants to tell a child that he was once a slave and made to do another man’s bidding. Or that she had to swallow her pride and take what she was given, even though she knew it wasn’t fair. Our story is chock-full of things like this. Things that might make you cringe, or feel angry. But there are also parts that will make you proud, or even laugh a little. You gotta take the good with the bad, I guess. You have to know where you come from so you can move forward.” (7)

Just as the subtitle says, this is the story of America and African Americans. Narrated by a family matriarch, she takes readers back in time to her grandfather’s time, when he was taken on a slave ship to serve on a plantation, and proceeds to tell her family’s story all the way to present day. Covering the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars and the Great Depression, she concludes with the Civil Rights marches and an epilogue that discusses the accomplishments that movement brought.

Kadir Nelson’s work is a force to be reckoned with. He has been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee a total of five times, but I think this surpasses everything I’ve seen of his. The book is formatted and designed to mimic a photo album, with the cover artwork framed out with scrollwork. The double page spreads primarily consist of one full-page picture and a page of corresponding text. Generous white space, short chapters, and the conversational tone make the book a very quick read, and readers will feel like their listening to their own grandmother telling the story of her youth.

You’ll really need to go through it a second time to truly appreciate the detailed artwork, ranging from unoccupied landscapes to crowded scenes. Nelson even includes imitations of some iconic portraits like Martin Luther King’s Jr. address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Interspersed throughout the book are a handful of double page illustrations that really bring readers to a halt. The book could be called a pictorial history book or narrative nonfiction, but in any case it’s a stunning portrayal of history.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, check out publishers Capstone over at Capstone Connect.

One Crazy Summer

Title: One Crazy Summer
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
ISBN: 97800607960885
Pages: 218 pages
Publisher/Date: Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2010.

“We were a block away from the green stucco house, chatting and laughing. Then we stopped walking. All three of us. There were three police cars parked outside of Cecile’s house. One in the driveway and two along the curb. Policemen lined the walk. Lights flashed on top of their cars onto the streets. Red, white, and blue lights everywhere. We inched up, the happiness knocked out of us.
Cecile and two Black Panthers. Hands behind their backs. Handcuffed. Being led out of the house and down the walkway. I could hardly breathe. (167)

Eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters are being placed on a plane for the first time. Leaving behind their father and maternal grandmother in Brooklyn, they’re forced to spend several weeks of their summer in Oakland, California with Cecile, the mother who abandoned them seven years ago. Cecile is about as happy as her children with the arranged visit. Their mother sends the sisters to a summer camp sponsored by the Black Panthers, where they receive a whole new education about black history and pride. When Cecile is arrested for her involvement with the group, will Delphine, Vonetta and Fern continue to fend for themselves? Or will they finally learn the benefits of having their mother in their life again?

I know some colleagues who have remarked that the experiences the girls go through and especially Delphine’s reactions to the situations seem too advanced for her tender eleven years old. But others have argued that her circumstances have forced her to grow up early, and it’s nice to see a child of questionable upbringing rise to the challenge and take responsibility for not only herself but her younger siblings. It’s overcoming adversity at it’s best. Regardless of how you feel about her circumstances and reactions, it’s impressive how Delphine is able to observe and process her surroundings. Even her uninterested mother comments at the end of the book that Delphine should “Be eleven while you can.” (210)

I have a coworker using this book for her next mother/daughter book group, which I think is a really good choice because of the mature themes of the Civil Rights Movement. Delphine asks some powerful questions regarding the events of that time. There is the story of Bobby Hutton, who was shot multiple times by police two days after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. The Black Panthers are planning a rally in order to honor Bobby Hutton and urge the renaming of a park in his honor. Delphine observes

“Wouldn’t Little Bobby rather be alive than be remembered? Wouldn’t he rather be sitting out in the park than have the park named after him? I wanted to watch the news. Not be in it. The more I thought about it, the more I had my answer.” (133)

The settings and environment are brought to life by Rita Williams-Garcia’s vivid descriptions. When the girls leave for California, Delphine counts how many black people are in the airport, and informs readers that her grandmother expects the oldest black woman boarding the plane to look out for her grandchildren. Also, Delphine relates her awareness of racism and the novelty of her race to some people when she talks about strangers trying to take pictures of her and her sisters. While on the plane she recognizes that they are serving as representatives for the entire race in a way that white people don’t have to worry about.

While it’s a thought-provoking book, I didn’t fall in love with it the way everyone else seems to be embracing it. In one year, this book has won four, yes FOUR, awards.

  • 2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner
  • 2011 Newbery Honor Book
  • 2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction
  • 2010 National Book Award Finalist

You’ll see in the picture that there’s barely enough room on the cover for all the awards stickers that it’s received. I just think that adults might get more out of it than the audience it’s geared for, with the focus being on such an abstract political movement. There are other books with the identity “what’s-in-a-name” focus that I think might ring truer for the younger set. And while there are a very small number of books that deal with the Black Panthers for this age group, I hope that’s not influencing people’s opinions of the book.


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