Monday, January 23, 2006

ALA Award Winners

The winners are announced! Here in San Antonio, Texas, (a cool, crisp, sunny morning) the Association for Library Service to Children has brought the award winning book and film titles to the attention of the world. The Newbery Award goes to Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins. There were four Honor books: Whittington by Alan Armstrong, Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, and Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson. The Caldecott Award goes to The Hello, Good-bye Window by Chris Raschka. There were also four Honor books: Rosa, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Nikki Giovanni, Zen Shorts written and illustrated by Jon Muth, Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride written and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, and Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems illustrated by Beckie Prange and written by Joyce Sidman.
I haven't read or seen all of these books, but I am delighted by most of the choices. My favorite book this year has been Hitler Youth which also won a Sibert Honor award for nonfiction. It was a gripping story of the children brought up in Germany during 1933-1945. Bartoletti makes you care about these young people and see the world through their eyes. She follows up with interviews and tells us what happened to the young people in the book.
I loved Zen Shorts, Rosa, and The Hello, Good-bye Window. All were excellent choices and wonderful books to share with children. Let me know what you think and come into the library to check these titles and other award winners! I'll be back in the library on Wednesday ready to talk about San Antonio and great books! Joyce Laiosa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Award-winning books

Every year since 1922 the American Library Association, and specifically the Children's Librarians' Section, (now ALSC, the Association for Library Service to Children) has awarded the Newbery Medal to the best book written for children from the past year. The Newbery Medal was the first award. It was followed by the Caldecott medal for best illustrations, in 1938. Recently there have been other awards: the Sibert Award for works of nonfiction, the Seuss award for beginning readers, and the Printz award for Young Adult Literature. It is very exciting to be a youth librarian and be at the news conference when the award-winning books are announced. Some people cheer, others scream with delight, while others look around in astonishment. It is a room filled with energy and enthusiasm for books and reading. I usually know some of the winners, but I rarely have read all the award-winners. During the year I try to read them all, and decide for myself if the committees chose wisely.
This past year I kept putting off reading Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. It not only was a Newbery Honor book, but a Printz honor, too. How can a book appeal to both children and young adults? Well, there is a crossover age to the medals, and when that happens one can say that the book appeals to older elementary kids right through middle school to high school. I hesitated reading this book because I didn't care for the cover. It didn't interest me. But I was so wrong. I finished this book over a month ago, and it has stayed in my thoughts long after it was back on the library shelf. It is historical fiction that takes place in the community of Phippsburg, Maine, in 1912. A new minister arrives from Boston with his wife and son, Turner. Turner knows almost immediately that he is going to be friendless and lonely simply because he is the "preacher's" son. He finally makes a friend of Lizzie Bright, the first African American he has ever met, who lives on Malaga Island, an impoverished community settled by freed or possibly escaped slaves. Lizzie shares her love of the Maine coast with Turner even though he incurs the town's disapproval. The town elders want to attract tourists to their town and destroy the shacks on Malaga island and remove the community. Although the story is hauntingly sad, there is quite a bit of humor, but more than that is the humanity of Turner's character. It is a beautiful book. And now I appreciate the cover art, too. It truly fits the book and the story.
This week I am off to San Antonio, Texas for the ALA midwinter conference. On Monday, January 23rd, the awards will be announced and I will be one of those librarians screaming, cheering, or looking around in bewilderment. I can't wait. Check out the blog on Monday to see the winners and my reactions. Let me know what you've read and if you agree with the committees that chose the books. Joyce Laiosa

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Book Reviews-One for Children & One for Teens

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a stray dog? Squirrel, a stray dog and narrator of Ann Martin's A Dog's Life, recounts her life, a daily existence of loss, fear, hunger, uncertainty, and eventual hope. Squirrel desperately wants the chance to bond with a human in a mutually loving companionship. If only someone would give her the chance! Like Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, A Dog's Life delves into the heart of the animal as the reader hears the story through the animal's voice. Will Squirrel ever find someone to love her? If you are a dog lover, this is the book for you!

Recommended for ages 8-12

Sandpiper is a "bad" girl with a reputation to match! Sometimes she doesn't even know why she does the things she does. Oftentimes, she hates herself for the person she has created and doesn't know how to wipe the slate clean. Sandpiper finds herself in a precarious situation that she feels powerless to contain. Should she tell someone? Is she to blame? With the help of a mysterious new friend, Sandpiper learns to love and respect herself and to stand up for her personal rights. Furthermore, she learns to embrace the young woman she truly is and create herself anew. This book contains a true narrative voice and contemporary teenage issues.
Recommended for ages 14 and up
Some mild sexual content

Books and movies

This holiday season was a bonanza for librarians serving youth as we filled requests for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Hollywood may or may not do a great service to a book, but it causes interest in the book and new readers come to appreciate the written word. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is only one part of The Chronicles of Narnia, a seven part series. Lewis, a noted Christian thinker, author and lecturer, as well as an English literature professor at Oxford, wrote the first Narnia book in 1950. The movie was a fantastic spectacle with great battles, wonderful special effects, and a delightful cast. My favorite was Georgie Henley as Lucy Pevensie. The White Witch, played by Tilda Swinton was also very good. (I especially loved the frost on her eyelashes!) Our library has another version of this book on DVD. It is a production from 1988 done for the "Wonderworks" series for PBS. It was a magnificent production then, but with all of today's special effects, it seems a little tired. If children can't get enough of the story, you might check it out and do a compare and contrast discussion of the two movies and the book.
Want to add even more to the discussion? Look at The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel. There is a copy in Juvenile Reference and a circulating copy in the Oversize books. The Narnia entry tells all about the land of Narnia, the creation of it, the laws, the history of Narnia and even a map. Children who enjoy The Chronicles of Narnia may also enjoy the sweet fantasy of Edward Eager's Half Magic. It also deals with a family and some special magic. Other fantasies to check out are J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Cycle which begins with The Book of Three and, of course, Harry Potter!
The other book-related movie this holiday season is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This latest version is wonderful, although I still love the BBC mini-series with Colin Firth better. For teens who love romance this may be the perfect time to encourage reading Jane Austen and viewing her other novels to movies. Emma can be viewed with Gwyneth Paltrow or Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. And don't forget Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman. Movies and reading go hand in hand for the most satisfactory experience. Enjoy both mediums!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A new year brings thoughts of new beginnings, fresh starts, and organizing ourselves. What about keeping a journal of what you read this year? Don't make it long, just a simple list. Write down the title, author, nonfiction or fiction, and make a code of how well you liked it. I use a code of stars for really great books (I usually only give the very best books two stars), an "OK" if that is the best I can say about it, and a minus sign or "Ugh!" if I really didn't like it. My list helps me remeber all the books that I read, especially if someone asks me what I've read lately. I can never remember, unless the books are outstanding. Also, if I haven't read a book lately, I will notice that I haven't opened my list and that makes me pick out some good books to read, and to actually make the time to read.
A reading list is great for parents to encourage their children's reading and to offer praise in the form of special rewards. It might be a lunch out with a friend, or a museum pick with the family, a family game night (first pick) or something funny like a coupon for leaving a bed unmade. The list will be something to discuss with family and friends and something to save and look over at the end of the year. Start a new tradition today!