For Picture Book Fans: Charlotte Zolotow Award 2013

9780399246524HThe Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced the winner of the 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award, which honors picture book text: Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis. 

CCBC also named some honor books: Flabbersmashed About You, written by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Yumi Heo; Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low; and Sleep Like a Tiger, written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Nine additional titles were "highly commended." That's a lot of good reading ahead for all of us picture book aficionados.

I plan to share Each Kindness with the third graders and maybe with a couple of fourth-grade friends whose class is having troubles getting along. Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher in New York, reviewed the picture book at her blog, Educating Alice, citing its "exquisitely spare and poetic prose."

Listening to Books, January 2013

Over at Booklist's Audiobooker blog, I came across a great roundup of lists of best audiobooks of the year. In the Guardian I see that there's a new collection of Ian Fleming's first seven James Bond novels. Wouldn't that be cool to listen to in the car?

Right now J. (age 13) likes the audio version of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, a highly praised middle-grade fantasy from 2003. (I chose it from The Librariest's Top 20 Children's Audiobooks.) But while I appreciate Lynn Redgrave's narration and accents, by turns tony and sinister, sometimes I think that if I hear the word "book" again I may scream. Books, the love of books, book binding, book collecting, book thievery, etc., all figure into the story. Bookbookbookbookbook. Anyway, the plot is about to pick up, so perhaps that will distract me.

A favorite of ours last year was The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, written by Christopher Paul Curtis and read by LeVar Burton. Funny, sad, and thought-provoking, this autobiographical middle-grade novel details an African American family's road trip from Michigan to Alabama during a troubled time in our country's history. The Watsons was a Newbery Honor book back in 1996.


Inkheart, written by Cornelia Caroline Funke and translated from the German by Anthea Bell
Read by Lynn Redgrave
Random House/Listening Library, 2003
(library copy)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
Read by LeVar Burton
Listening Library, 2003
(library copy) 

Poetry Friday: Walk This Way


In case you're reading this post on a mobile phone, the above work of art reads,

A poem doesn't do everything for you.
You are supposed to go on with your thinking.
You are supposed to enrich
the other person's poem with your extensions,
your uniquely personal understandings,
thus making the poem serve you.

Gwendolyn Brooks, (1917-[2000]), "Song of Winnie"

The sidewalk on the south side of 41t Street leading up to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue is called Library Way, and contains many of bronze plaques like the one above with quotations about literature and writing. Sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Grand Central Partnership, Library Way stretches from Park Avenue to Fifth, and was created by the artist Gregg LeFevre.

The Gwendolyn Brooks excerpt is about poetry, sure, but it's also an extended metaphor, encouraging an active engagement with life and the world around you. That's why I liked it so much, and took a picture one sunny morning last summer.

For other poetry posts this morning, see the roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

Bill Traylor & the Third Graders

MainAt the start of the school year in September, I found out that Ms. B. had moved up from 2nd grade to 3rd. Ms. B. was the teacher in the public school classroom where I read picture books aloud for the last two years, and I insisted on following her she invited me along to Grade 3. I happily made the switch. Ms. B. runs an efficient class in which the children seem happy, and she treats her students with respect. There are 30 kids in this year's group, much too big a contingent for the reading rug, which is both good and bad. No more elbow wars among the back-row listeners, but harder for everyone to see the pictures in the book. I try to walk around alot.

Because of weather and consequent half days, delayed report-card conferences, and so on, I've been lucky to read once or twice a month. (As a volunteer, I aim for weekly.) But we've still had a good time. Well, except for the day I read Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats, a Seussian tale of stray felines, when guffaw-inducing descriptions of dog house-training challenges (completely unrelated to the book) overtook the post-reading discussion. It happens.

Several weeks before, the class and I had had the most fantastic conversation about It Jes' Happened, Don Tate's picture-book biography of Bill Traylor. A self-taught artist and former slave, Traylor (1854-1949) began creating his art in his eighties, drawing from his memories of the Alabama farm where he had grown up and lived. The kids were intrigued, and had lots to say about the book. Since they're citified Northeasterners, I explained what a mule was; the donkey-horse crosses and other animals were some of Traylor's favorite subjects. Ms. B. turned to the computer-connected Smart Board projection system and showed some examples of Traylor's work. 

One boy wanted to know about Traylor's wife: "Is she dead?" (A very third-grade response. I remember my 13-year-old at the same age.) Others wondered what happened to Traylor's children. Were author Don Tate and illustrator Gregory Christie his sons? (No, but wouldn't that be cool?) They puzzled over Traylor's living circumstances; he was homeless at times in Montgomery, AL, and sometimes bedded down in a funeral parlor. Many seemed amazed (and relieved) that museums now held many pieces of Traylor's art.

 As I was leaving the class, one of the girls pulled me aside, and quietly asked, "Are mules really real?" "Yes, " I whispered back. "They are." I loved the idea that someone thought that the hardworking farm animals were in the same magical realm as unicorns and dragons. Maybe Traylor thought so, too.


Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Joan Rankin
Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2001
(from our personal library of favorite picture books)

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
Written by Don Tate; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Lee & Low Books, 2012
(review copy)

For additional information, see  "Guest Post: Don Tate on 'It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw," at the blog Cynsations, and "Jes' a Hit: An Interview with Don Tate," at The Brown Bookshelf.

Norman's Best Books of 2012

Note from Susan: For the fourth year in a row, my husband, Norman, has written about his favorite books of the year. He's the reading-est guy I know, so seeing him hard at work on his list always makes me happy, knowing that I'm about to read—and sharesome great recommendations. Hit it, Norm.

As the year 2012 comes to a close, I am happy to share with Susan’s readers my list of the best books that I’ve read over the last 12 months. The three most powerful were The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, and Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman. These books were so well-written and engrossing that they were hard to put down and stayed with me long after I finished them, despite the difficult topics (the effects of war in The Yellow Birds; the devastating poverty of people living in an Indian slum in Behind the Beautiful Forevers; and the hard life of a young girl growing up in a trailer park outside of Reno, Nevada, in Girlchild). The Yellow Birds and Behind the Beautiful Forevers received the wide critical acclaim and recognition they deserved; one was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award in fiction and the other was the nonfiction winner. I hope that over time more people will read and appreciate the excellent writing and unique storytelling in Ms. Hassman’s book.

Adding two more to come up with my top 5 reads of the year is easy: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz and The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. Díaz’s collection of stories about love and family is at times moving and at times laugh-out-loud funny, but always smart and entertaining. And Colm Tóibín is just a beautiful storyteller, and this novella about Jesus’ mother is both courageous and thought-provoking.

Continue reading "Norman's Best Books of 2012" »

2012 Best: Amanda Craig, NPR's "Backseat" Reads, Pop-Ups, Etc.

More lists for all you list lovers! You'll find another good list of lists at SCC English, the blog of the English department at Dublin's St. Columba's College. The SCC list o' lists is geared toward books for adults.

100 Scope Notes At this fine blog, new to School Library Journal's roster, two school librarians choose the best of the year. 

Amanda Craig. A best list from the Times' (UK) children's book critic. 

Atlantic Wire. YA/Middle-Grade Book Awards.

Booklist's Editors' Choice selections.

Horn Book Fanfare

Ireland's Gutter Bookshop list includes books for children.

Morris Award finalists. Prize honors YA books by debut authors. Winners announced in January.

MotherReader. She knows her picture books.

NPR: "The year's outstanding 'backseat' reads, for ages 9-14"

San Francisco Chronicle. Holiday gift guide for children's books and Christmas books.'s Top Books of 2012. Not a list of children's books, but plenty of good gift ideas for teens and grown-ups.

TimeOut New York Kids: Best pop-up books for pre-K and elementary-school kids

Vogue. Good list of books for adults. (My first job out of college was at Vogue. I learned a lot there!)

You'll find many more at Chicken Spaghetti's page "The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards."

2012 Best: NYC and LA Libraries, Science Books, Comics

Every day a new "best of the year" lineup appears, and our wish list grows. Recent addtions to The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards include the following:

 New York Public Library: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

Los Angeles Public Library:  Children's books and  teen books

New York Times Book Review: Notable Children's Books of 2012

Booklist: Top ten science & health books for youth

Good Comics for Kids' gift guide. New and older titles on this list.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: Gift guide. (2010-2012 titles on list.)

Geek Mom: Gift guide of books for adults and children

The Guardian (UK)

Tablet Magazine: Best Jewish-themed books for children

YALSA [Young Adult Library Services Association] Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young AdultsFinalists

The Goodreads Choice Awards were announced.

Another timely arrival is Hanukkah Read Up!, a PDF file listing the best Hanukkah books, from the Association of Jewish Libraries.  

2012 Best: Science, Comics, You Name It

Recent additions to Chicken Spaghetti's Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards include two favorite annual roundups, National Science Teachers Association (NSTA): Outstanding science trade books for students K-12 and Good Comics for Kids' gift guide. One newsworthy announcement today was the New York Times Book Review: Notable Children's Books of 2012.

School Library Journal begins announcing its best-of-2012 list this evening on Twitter

Also newly added to the Chicken Spaghetti list:

Abby the Librarian (blog): Nonfiction

Boing Boing Gift Guide (long list includes several children's books)

Columbus Dispatch

Costa Children's Book Award shortlist (UK)

Cuyahoga County Public Library. Kudos to the snappy-looking design of this guide.

Drawn Blog: "Favourite comics, art books, and more" list includes some titles for kids (Canada)

Irish Book AwardsScroll down on the page for the children's book categories. See also the shortlists for senior and junior categories of children's books. 

Kirkus Reviews

Slate (one picture book on list; rest of books for adults) 

2012 Best: Nat'l Book Award, Outdoor Books, WaPo, and More


Some recent updates to The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards:

Booklist Top ten religion & spirituality books for youth

Library Journal: Young adult literature for adults

National Book Award for Young People's LiteratureScroll down on page.

National Outdoor Book Awards. A children's book category is included.

Rainbow Book List nominations. GLBTQ books for children and teens.

Washington Post

Bonus list: Three architectural books for kids, at A Weekly Dose of Architecture

Best Books Season Begins! Book Lists Galore

Let it snow! For those of us who love a good list, the last two months of the year bring a flurry of online "best of the year" roundups of books. Starting in 2008, I've been collecting the lists for children's books, including links to various newspapers, magazines, journals, and blogs, as well as different literature prizes and awards given out. I update the big list often.

Here is a link to this year's page:

The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards

Also, David Gutowski collects all the "best of" lists for books (for grown-ups and kids alike) at his blog, Largehearted Boy.

Meanwhile, speaking of snow, don't miss Kids' Science Books for Stormy Weather, at Scientific American's Budding Scientist blog.