This is the night we discussed all of the year’s ALA and ALSC award winners, which were announced on January 23, 2012.
We had a small group of 5 tonight including me. But we still had a lively discussion. No one had read all the books. So we recapped for each other.
Two teachers thoroughly enjoyed Dead End in Norvelt. They said it was packed with fifth grade boy humor. In fact they read some aloud to us and could hardly stop laughing. They also said they’d read portions to their husbands who also thought it was very funny. We had a discussion about “what is funny” and agreed that since the two teachers had both taught fifth grade, they had probably developed that particular sense of humor more than some of the rest of us. They also appreciated all the interesting historical information included and thought boys would enjoy that as well.
Those of us who read Inside Out and Back Again loved it and highly recommended it to the others. We particularly appreciated learning about another culture. And we found it remarkable that the author was able to convey deep complex emotions with such spare language. We thought the challenges of being an immigrant and the prejudice faced by the characters were done very well and would provide opportunities for interesting classroom discussions.
None of us had read Breaking Stalin’s Nose. But we did look through a copy during the group and were impressed with the illustrations and the subject matter. We commented on the fact that the Newbery committee chose three autobiographical novels this year.
For the Caldecotts, we shared the most enthusiasm for Blackout. We loved the feeling of magic that John Rocco captured during the blackout.
We also shared our appreciation of Me…Jane which we had enjoyed very much in a previous meeting.
We admitted that most of us are more story and text oriented than visual. So the other two choices held less appeal for our particular group.
Only two of us had read Where Things Come Back. We talked about what type of readers might find the two divergent plots appealing. We thought it might be intriguing for readers who like suspense and enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out how all the pieces will eventually fit together.
We were disappointed that some of the books we read this year were not selected for these awards. We mentioned Girl of Fire and Thorns, Wonderstruck, and Okay for Now as all being worthy of honors. We speculated about the process of selection but, of course, will never know.
[Submitted by Linda Glaser, author and group facilitator.]
There were 11 of us last night so we took over most of the Caribou Coffee which shares the space with The Bookcase. Talking over the espresso machine, we worked our way through the ALA/ALSC Awards list posted on the CLN website.
First we talked about the ALA Awards that didn’t get included on the list but will soon be there. The American Indian Library Association selected The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood, written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve; Free Throw and Triple Threat, both written by Jacqueline Guest; and Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School, written by Adam Fortunate Eagle, as recipients of the fourth American Indian Youth Literature Awards.
And somehow we missed the Pura Belpré Author Awards, the list of which Donna Nix brought to the group that night. Those will be added to the Awards list as well.
We had fun sharing what we knew about the award- and honor-winning books that we hadn’t previously read. Of course we felt smug about the books we’d read during the last year that were honored with an award. We also found our heads shaking as we wondered where some of these titles come from.
Wendy Woodfill said she wishes someone would do a study (Are you listening, Somebody? Send us your findings!) of whether the award winners are more likely to be released in the fall rather than the spring.
Our most lively discussion was about Where Things Come Back. Several people had read it but didn’t understand how it would appeal to children or teens. This launched us into the “children’s books published for adult readers” discussion that we’ve had on several occasions.
Many of our members were shocked that A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness didn’t receive any awards and they felt the same way about Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt.
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith is a book that our group has an adult theme and very sophisticated illustrations; our elementary school librarian tried it out with her students and they couldn’t understand the book’s message.
We all enjoyed the art in Blackout by John Rocco but felt that this was a book that children in New York City will resonate with most closely. This being said, the illustrations are beautiful.
We congratulated Donna Nix for choosing A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka as her pick for the Caldecott Medal. Go, Donna!
No one had read Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin before the Awards were announced, but several people had read it afterwards and found the story and illustrations to be top-notch. We felt it would pair well with Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, both books being set in the less familiar Reign of Terror under Stalin’s regime. Our high school librarian said her students are loving Between Shades of Gray.
We questioned inclusion of I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen in the Geisel Award category as an early reader. We felt this was a book you either loved or didn’t love at all but we didn’t feel the text qualified as an early reader.
At the end of the lively evening, we all agreed that our reading lists had grown—we have a lot of catching up to do—and that’s a good thing.
We reviewed our Chapter & Verse process for reading possible award winners and conducting a mock discussion at our December meeting each year. Many people have felt challenged to read so many books for one month’s meeting. Our group suggested that we all nominate at least one book for the awards at our June meeting, thereby giving people a chance to read ahead for the December meeting.
[Report submitted by Vicki Palmquist, group facilitator.]
This month we had a small group of only three people. We discussed the Books for Breakfast event held earlier this month. We also mentioned that the Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference will be held at the end of the month.
Heidi announced to us that she is on the Margaret A. Edwards committee this year. The Margaret A. Edwards is an ALA award given to a young adult author for one or more of their works that help portray young adults and their place in the world. She shared with us the list of potential authors as well as past winners. We quickly discovered this is a hard award to give out as you are looking at various works of literature by authors. We had fun browsing the stacks at the Red Balloon looking for authors and titles we would recommend. We look forward to hearing more from Heidi about her experience throughout this next year.
We really enjoyed Dead End in Norvelt. It was a fun book to read and we are sure that students will enjoy it as well. We also talked briefly about Balloons over Broadway. This is the story of the Macy’s Parade puppeteer. Heidi read Where Things Come Back. This book is told in alternate chapters. She said it reminded her of When You Reach Me in that there are so many pieces that the author has going on in the book and it isn’t until the end that you see how they intersect. Me, Jane has been a favorite of our group. We like how the first illustration of the story matches the end photograph of Jane as an adult with the chimps. Blackout and A Ball for Daisy were also hits. There was some disappointment that Okay for Now did not get an award.
We enjoyed having this month to discuss the books that won the award and comparing it to the books we read in December. It was nice to have a month devoted to reading the new award winners.
We ended the evening by giving away a copy of the book for next month donated by the Red Balloon Bookshop. Thank you to them for generously once again providing a copy of the selections for the following month.
[report submitted by Natasha Thorager, co-facilitator]