After all that build-up to the American Library Association awards, I haven't talked about the winners and honor books yet, except for Hugo Cabret. Let's correct that. You can find a full list of all the books that were honored here on ALA's website.
On to the books that I'm particularly overjoyed about...
I'm absolutely thrilled that The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott Medal... in fact, I wrote a whole post on the subject. If you haven't been able to get your hands on this extraordinary book yet, here are a few things you can do. To see the images from the first chapter of the book, go the Hugo Cabret website. And be sure to go to Teachingbooks.net to hear the first chapter narrated by Brian Selznick, and find out that the correct pronunciation of the title character is Hue-Go Cab-Ray. Then, head to the nearest library or bookstore, because you won't want to stop reading.
After I'm done with my standing ovation for the 2008 Caldecott committee, I'd like to give another one to the 2008 Newbery committee for awarding the Newbery medal to Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz. It's a quiet, powerful book that slowly takes hold of you. It's a unique combination of poetry, theater, non-fiction and superb storytelling. The research that went into it is excellent and it has some of the funniest and informative footnotes that I've ever found in a book written for children. I really felt like I gained an understanding of the Middle Ages, particularly what life was like for children, in a way that I never have before. I also felt like I made friends with each character in Schlitz's village and I loved when their stories connected. Most importantly, Schlitz never talks down to her audience. This understated book could have easily been lost in the shuffle. I'm so glad that through the power of the Newbery Medal, kids will have a chance to discover it.
To hear Schlitz read the last monologue from the book (which also happens to be one of my favorite pieces in the book), go to TeachingBooks.net. For Schlitz's reaction to winning the Newbery, see "Children's Book Award Winners Break the Mold" by Bob Thompson in the Washington Post and "Fairy tales do come true at Park School" by
First the Egg by Laura Vacarro Seeger received not one, but two honors. It was awarded a Caldecott Honor and a Geisel honor. I think this book is extraordinary in subtle ways. Through the magic of LookyBook, I can give you a glimpse into this lovely book.
Unfortunately, this doesn't really convey the die-cuts, which I think are the best part. There are strategically placed holes throughout the book (the best example in the LookyBook version is on the title page where you can see the cut-out of the egg). Seeger is a brilliant artist and and I am so happy that she's finally received well deserved recognition.
I'm also quite happy that Henry's Freedom Box garnered a Caldecott honor. It's a straightforward, true and moving account of a slave who literally mailed himself to freedom in a large box. And the pictures are wonderful. Author Ellen Levine has written a number of books I've enjoyed such as I Hate English and If Your Name was Changed at Ellis Island. It's great to see her gripping and engaging text honored. Illustrator Kadir Nelson is becoming a bit of a superstar and picked up a Caldecott honor last year for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.
As for There is A Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems, which won the Geisel Award, I agree with MotherReader (see here and here) that it's the best of the four Elephant and Piggie books. The humor and slapstick in this book is absolutely brilliant. I read it aloud at a storytime yesterday to a group that ranged from 6 months to 6 years old. Kids and parents were hanging on every word, and practically every page was greeted with uproarious laughter. Also, it makes excellent use of white space and contains large text and simple words which combine to make it a terrific early reader. And the jokes don't hurt either.
One last comment... and it's about Harry Potter, of course. I was watching the live webcast of the awards. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was mentioned as an Odyssey Honor, my heart sank. Because that meant that it hadn't won the Odyssey Award. And it's unfair to gripe about, because I haven't heard the winner yet. Jazz, which did win, is based on an excellent book, and I look forward to hearing the audio edition. And, I applaud the Odyssey committee for looking at the entire spectrum and awarding honors to audio productions created from picture books, informational book and traditional chapter books. And really, I'm delighted that Deathly Hallows received an Odyssey honor, so I can't complain.
Congratulations to all the committees and all the award winners. Now that the big moment is over, what do you want to do? Go to Disneyland, of course. The ALA annual convention is in Anaheim this year, and I can't wait to hear the acceptance speeches in June.