As I type this, Thanksgiving weekend is coming to a close. It’s hard to believe the four-day holiday must be consigned to memory so soon, and that tomorrow morning dawns as Monday / back-to-work time! This whole year of 2013 seems to be sailing past like skates on smooth ice.
I’ve been thinking of things I’m grateful for, especially as a writer (this being a writer’s blog). Mostly, I appreciate the time I have available to write, now that I’m retired, and the full and loving support of my husband. I’m thankful for the classes, workshops, conferences I’ve be able to attend, the resources of the Internet that never cease to amaze me, my critique group writing buddies who help me hone my skills, and the books on craft that teach me more every time I delve into them. I am grateful to be an author under consideration by a new publishing house, with the strong possibility that two of my picture books will come out in 2014. And I’m relieved and happy that I’ve completed the first draft of a middle-grade novel–finally! Of course, I know that there are miles to go and revisions, revisions, revisions that will make it a stronger story . . . but for the moment, a satisfied sigh is in order for having reached this milestone.
I can also say, unequivocally, I’m grateful for the challenge I accepted to read award-winning children’s literature this year. It’s been fun, instructive, and just plain delightful. I love books. I love reading. I hope you do, too!
I loved Ninth Ward and was excited to find Jewell Parker Rhodes’ 2013 book Sugar. This historical novel allows the reader to experience life on a southern plantation through the eyes of ten-year-old Sugar, post-emancipation. Life in the fields is still brutal, from early morning to evening, back-breaking labor with little relief. Sugar’s life is complicated by the loss of her parents: her father years earlier, having been sold, and her mother, recently, by death. A rambunctious child, full of desire to play and explore when she has time, Sugar is a handful for the elderly former slaves to handle. She sneaks off with the owner’s son and rides a raft with him, among other adventures, despite rules forbidding such contact. Then, the strong bond between the two children saves a life and overcomes the landowner parents’ fear of intermingling the races. Another layer of complexity in the story arrives with Chinese itinerant workers who come to the plantation with youth, strength, and foreign ways. The former slaves fear losing their jobs and don’t understand the strange culture of the Chinese men. Sugar’s curiosity and childlike trust bridges the divide, creating new friendships and understanding.
Awards are sure to come! Notice is already being taken:
- A Summer 2013 Kids’ Indie Next List Selection— “Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers”
- Starred Review, Kirkus — “A magical story of hope..”
- A Junior Library Guild Selection
Jewell Parker Rhodes’ story Ninth Ward has won an impressive list of awards:
- 2010 Coretta Scott King Honor Author Award
- 2010 Parents Choice Foundation Gold Award
- 2010 Al Roker “Today Show” Book Club Selection
- Best Fiction of 2010, School Library Journal
- 2011 Jane Addams Honor Book Award for Older Children (Jane Addams Peace Association)
- 2011 Honor Books. Judy Lopez Memorial Awards of Excellence in Children’s Literature
- 2011 International Reading Association Notable Books for a Global Society
- 2011-2012 The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, Master List
- Finalist, Best Fiction for Middle Grade Readers, Goodreads.com
- 2013-2014 Indian Paintbrush Award Nominee
We experience Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of twelve-year-old Lanesha as she draws us through the days before and during and after the storm. Lanesha has a warm, loving relationship with Mama Ya-Ya, the woman who has raised her since birth, and develops a great friendship with TaShon, a quiet neighbor and school mate. The Ninth Ward of New Orleans is depicted as a close knit community. Neighbors are part of the family.
We adults remember the images of the hurricane, the horrific damage, and loss of life. Jewell Parker Rhodes has given young readers a story that will honor the people of the Ninth Ward and keep alive the memory of that life-changing time. This is a beautiful tale of friendship, love, courage, and transformation. I highly recommend this book for readers of all ages.
Jack Gantos mixed memories and fiction in this hilarious story Dead End in Norvelt.
A boy named Jack Gantos (that may give us a clue as to whose memories are drawn on here) plans a great summer vacation. His plans are upended when he is grounded for the entire summer, made to dig a hole big enough for a bomb shelter (did I mention this in 1962?), and to become the scribe for the town’s slightly nutty historian who writes obituaries. Can it get any crazier? . . . Yes . . .
Dead End in Norvelt won Mr. Gantos the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year’s best contribution to children’s literature and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.
There is great news for readers who enjoy this book. The sequel is now out and promises to be every bit as zany!
One of the many great features of the Mallory series is Mallory’s own website. If I ever, or rather, when I have a book published, I hope my main character will have a website as fantastic as Mallory’s. Meet the characters, check out other books in the series, print bookmarks or calendar pages . . .
In this story, Mallory McDonald, Super Snoop, Mallory wants to know what her brother and his girlfriend are doing when she’s not invited to tag along or join them. Mallory becomes a detective and sets out to discover for herself what is going on. And so, readers go on another rollicking adventure with our hero.
Award-winning author Laurie Friedman has penned quite a few Mallory books (20 at last count). These chapter books for 7-10 year olds are sure to be remembered fondly by today’s readers, and passed on to their children one day! Happily new books in the series keep coming out. Super Snoop came out in 2013. Jennifer Kalis has illustrated several of the Mallory books. Her art brings even more fun and emotion to the pages.
Kelly Bingham came up with an idea for an alphabet book like you’ve never seen before, and Paul O. Zelinsky illustrated the picture book Z is for Moose as only he can. This book received Starred Reviews from Booklist, BCCB (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, University of Illinois; Graduate School of Library and Information Science), Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. It was a 2013 American Library Association “Notable Book, named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2012, and was nominated for the E.B. White Award!
We all know the alphabet, or might just be learning it. What happens when Moose is so excited about participating that he can’t wait for the “M” page and jumps in ahead of time? And what disaster awaits when Director Zebra chooses Mouse for the M spotlight? This book is fun with a capital F, from beginning to end.
Don’t turn the pages too quickly! There’s much to enjoy cover to cover.
Now, who would think of that? What a creative idea for a picture book, Drew Daywalt, and how delightfully illustrated, Oliver Jeffers!
Who says a rainbow can’t be black? Elephants might have fun with brown skin, and monkeys with green! Duncan wants to color, but his crayons are on strike. Each one writes a letter to lodge it’s complaint about always being used to color things according to “reality.” Blue needs a break (so much sky, etc.), white feels empty . . . each color wants major changes.
So Duncan creates a flying purple dinosaur, Santa in an orange cap, a blue crocodile, an orange whale . . . you get the picture. This book might stir up some creativity. Get out your crayons!