February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

On the Radar: Top Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Star-Worthy Choices for Possible Award Contenders

With the ALA Youth Media Awards just around the corner, all bets are on the table. Which authors will win? In 2012, many of our favorite award-winning authors published sequels, prequels, and companions, and new authors made their debuts. Here are a few star-studded titles that are worth every accolade they’ve earned from professional review journals. Which of these is destined to win Newbery gold?

HARTMAN, Rachel. Seraphina. Random, 2012. ISBN 9780375966569. JLG Level: FH: Fantasy/Science Fiction. High (Grades 9-12).

Newcomer Rachel Hartman brings an exciting dragon adventure to the list of possible contenders. Already a winner on numerous best lists, Seraphina is a fantasy novel about a half-dragon heroine who lives in a land where a treaty was made with the dragons 40 years ago. When the prince is found beheaded, villagers are quick to blame the powerful creatures. Seraphina must risk revealing her own identity in order to save the kingdom from those who wish the peaceable agreement to end. Romance, political thriller, mystery, and coming-of-age genres combine in this high fantasy.

Leaving the ending open for a sequel, readers of all kinds will devour this new addition to the star-studded year.

KELLY, Jacqueline. Return to the Willows. illus. by Clint G. Young. Holt. 2012. ISBN 9780805094138. JLG Level: A+ : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3-5).

Over a hundred years after its original publication, Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows (Methuen, 1908) gets a sequel. Written in an amazingly-similar style, Kelly brings back some of our favorite characters in one hilarious adventure after the other. Supplemented by footnotes to translate the English language into American, readers will cheer when Toad is saved once again, and worry as his friends encounter trouble after trouble. New characters enter the Willows (Toad’s nephew) and a once-enemy (Sammy the weasel). The whole story leads to a rousing and satisfying conclusion. Young’s gorgeous illustrations complement the tale.

Kelly begins with an admonishment to read the original before you start. Check your shelves to be sure you have it for your students who will certainly want to read it after they read Kelly’s homage―if not before.

LIN, Grace. Starry River of the Sky. Little, Brown. 2012. ISBN 9780316125956. JLG Level: A+ : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3-5).

A companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown, 2009), Starry River of the Sky begins with a runaway boy who finds work in a village inn. Rendi is harboring secret troubles, but he seems to be the only one who notices that the moon is missing from the village’s sky. He begins to piece things together―missing moon, and also missing sons. When a mysterious guest visits, Rendi joins in her nightly storytelling, and he finds a way to make peace and restore the things that are lost.

Beautiful illustrations, stories-within-stories, and a flowing narrative make Starry River a standout. Though fans of the first work may jump at the chance to read Lin’s latest, newcomers will want to read this one too. Perfect for reading aloud.

MACLACHLAN, Patricia. Kindred Souls. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2012. ISBN 9780060522988. JLG Level: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3-5).

Long known for her heart-wrenching stories, MacLachlan doesn’t disappoint with her newest prairie story. Eighty-eight-year-old Billy has a special bond with his ten-year-old grandson, Jake. Every day they walk the farm where Billy grew up. “Kindred souls, we are,” he says. One day a stray dog makes himself at home with Billy―just about the time that he gets sick. Before he goes to the hospital, Jake promises to rebuild his grandfather’s sod house. The whole family joins in the project, binding them together and granting Billy’s request.

Though the sad ending is inevitable, the magic of the dog’s appearance and the joy found in rebuilding the sod house keep the story from being too painful for young readers. MacLachlan gives the reader hope.

For ideas about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

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