SLJ Reviews of Youth Media Award-winning and Honor Books

Before Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses and Brian Floca's Locomotive won the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, respectively, they had won admiration from SLJ reviewers, as did many more Youth Media Award-winning and honor books. Read some of our reviews here.
Before Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses (Candlewick) and Brian Floca's Locomotive (S & S) won the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, respectively, they had earned admiration from SLJ reviewers, as did many more Youth Media Award-winning and honor books. Several landed spots on SLJ’s Best Books of 2013, and recognition from our sister publications, Horn Book and Library Journal, as well as Junior Library Guild. Below are SLJ reviews for many honor and award books.

Newbery Medal

FLORA & ULYSSES: THE ILLUMINATED ADVENTURES by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick) redstarSLJ Best Book, August star SLJ_Award_2_3_14_FloraGr 4-6–Flora, obsessed with superhero comics, immediately recognizes and gives her wholehearted support to a squirrel that, after a near-fatal brush with a vacuum cleaner, develops the ability to fly and type poetry. The 10-year-old hides her new friend from the certain disapproval of her self-absorbed, romance-writer mother, but it is on the woman's typewriter that Ulysses pours out his creations. Like DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant (Candlewick, 2009), this touching piece of magical realism unfolds with increasing urgency over a mere few days and brings its somewhat caricatured, old-fashioned characters together into what becomes a supportive community for all. Campbell's rounded and gentle soft-penciled illustrations, at times in the form of panel art furthering the action, wonderfully match and add to the sweetness of this oddball story. Rife with marvelously rich vocabulary reminiscent of the early superhero era (e.g., "Holy unanticipated occurrences!") and amusing glimpses at the world from the point of view of Ulysses the supersquirrel, this book will appeal to a broad audience of sophisticated readers. There are plenty of action sequences, but the novel primarily dwells in the realm of sensitive, hopeful, and quietly philosophical literature.—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Newbery Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_DollBonesDOLL BONES by Holly Black (S & S/McElderry) redstarSLJ Best Book, June Star Gr 4-7—At 12 years old, lifelong friends Zach, Poppy, and Alice are ferociously clinging to their childhoods. Using old Barbies, pirate action figures, dolls from Good Will, and their imaginations, they have created an exciting world of characters in an elaborate game. Figuring heavily in their plotline is the Queen, an antique doll of bone china that belongs to Poppy's mother and is strictly off-limits to the kids. She's also incredibly creepy. When Zach's dad throws away his action figures, the boy is so devastated that he ends the game abruptly, leaving the girls hurt and confused. Shortly thereafter, Poppy reveals that the Queen is made of the bones of a dead girl named Eleanor who has been communicating with her at night. The doll appears to be filled with Eleanor's ashes, and she has promised Poppy that she will make their lives miserable if they don't journey to Ohio, find her grave, and bury her properly. After much persuading, Zach and Alice agree to the journey. The Queen gets scarier and scarier as unexplained events begin to occur along the way. Black has created protagonists who readers will care about, and amusing secondary characters, like a pink-haired librarian and a crazy bus passenger who seems to be able to see Eleanor. This novel is a chilling ghost story, a gripping adventure, and a heartwarming look at the often-painful pull of adulthood. Black-and-white illustrations actually tone down the scare factor a little, making this a perfect starter story for budding horror fans.—Mandy Laferriere, Fowler Middle School, Frisco, TX

Newbery Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_BillyMillerTHE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes illus. by author. (HarperCollins/Greenwillow) redstarSLJ Best Book, July star Gr 1-3–The beginning of a new school year brings anxious moments for Billy Miller, a typical second grader at Georgia O'Keeffe Elementary School in a small Wisconsin town. His new teacher, Ms. Silver, uses chopsticks to hold her hair in place and know-it-all Emma Sparks is unfortunately one of his desk mates. Just as a school year is divided into quarters, the book is divided into four parts-"Teacher," "Father," "Sister," and "Mother"-each offering a new perspective on Billy's personality and development through his interactions with these well-developed characters. He begins the school year with a lump on his head from a family-vacation incident and navigates glitter homework fiascos, canceled sleepover plans, and sibling annoyances as readers see the year unfold through funny and often poignant situations. Billy himself might have been daunted by a book with more than 200 pages, but eager young readers will find this a great first chapter book to share or read solo.–Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH

Newbery Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_OneCameHomeONE CAME HOME by Amy Timberlake (Knopf/Random House) redstarJanuary star Gr 5-8–Thirteen-year-old Georgie Burkhardt can shoot better than anyone in Placid, Wisconsin. She can handle accounts and serve customers in her family's general store. What she can't do is accept that the unrecognizable body wearing her older sister's blue-green gown is Agatha. Determined to discover what happened after Agatha abruptly left town with a group of pigeoners, Georgie sets out to follow her route. In return for the loan of a mule, she reluctantly allows Billy McCabe, one of Agatha's suitors, to accompany her. The journey includes a menacing cougar and ruthless counterfeiters, but Georgie's narration offers more than action-packed adventure. She unravels the tangle of events that led to Agatha's sudden departure and acknowledges her own role. By turns humorous and reflective, Georgie's unique and honest voice includes confusion about her feelings for Billy and doubts about her ability to kill even in desperate circumstances. Timberlake seamlessly integrates information about two significant events that occurred in Wisconsin in 1871: the largest recorded nesting of passenger pigeons in spring and devastating firestorms in fall. Georgie's physical and emotional odyssey that occurs between those two events will linger in readers' minds.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Newbery Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_PaperboyPAPERBOY by Vince Vawter (Delacorte) Gr 6-9–After an overthrown baseball busts his best friend's lip, 11-year-old Victor Vollmer takes over the boy's paper route. This is a particularly daunting task for the able-armed Victor, as he has a prominent stutter that embarrasses him and causes him to generally withdraw from the world. Through the paper route he meets a number of people, gains a much-needed sense of self and community, and has a life-threatening showdown with a local cart man. The story follows the boy's 1959 Memphis summer with a slow but satisfying pace that builds to a storm of violence. The first-person narrative is told in small, powerful block paragraphs without commas, which the stuttering narrator loathes. Vawter portrays a protagonist so true to a disability that one cannot help but empathize with the difficult world of a stutterer. Yet, Victor's story has much broader appeal as the boy begins to mature and redefine his relationship with his parents, think about his aspirations for the future, and explore his budding spirituality. The deliberate pacing and unique narration make Paperboy a memorable coming-of-age novel.–Devin Burritt, Wells Public Library, ME

Caldecott Medal

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_LocomotiveLOCOMOTIVE, by Brian Floca (S & S/Atheneum/Richard Jackson) redstar SLJ Best Book, July star Gr 315–It all started with "a new road of rails/made for people to ride" where "covered wagons used to crawl." Almost 150 years ago-just after the Civil War-the completion of the transcontinental railway radically changed both this country's landscape and the opportunities of its people. The book traces the advent of cross-country train travel, focusing on an early trip from Omaha to Sacramento. As in Moonshot (2009) and Lightship (2007, both S & S), Floca proves himself masterful with words, art, and ideas. The book's large format offers space for a robust story in a hefty package of information. Set in well-paced blank verse, the text begins with a quick sketch of "how this road was built" and moves abruptly to the passengers on the platform and the approaching train. The author smoothly integrates descriptions of the structure and mechanics of the locomotive, tasks of crew members, passing landscapes, and experiences of passengers. Simply sketched people and backgrounds, striking views of the locomotive, and broad scenes of unpopulated terrain are framed in small vignettes or sweep across the page. Though a bit technical in explaining engine parts, the travelogue scheme will read aloud nicely and also offers absorbing details for leisurely personal reading. Substantial introductory and concluding sections serve older readers. There's also a detailed explanation of the author's efforts and sources in exploring his subject. Train buffs and history fans of many ages will find much to savor in this gorgeously rendered and intelligent effort.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

Caldecott Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_JourneyJOURNEY by Aaron Becker  (Candlewick) redstarSLJ Best Book, July star Gr 1-4-In this auspicious debut picture book, a lonely girl escapes the boredom of a sepia-toned world by drawing a doorway to a magical realm. Harkening back to Crockett Johnson's Harold, this child uses a red crayon and a lot of imagination to venture across a Venice-like kingdom, fly among a fleet of steampunk airships, and take off on a magic carpet ride. When an act of compassion and bravery lands the heroine in a cage, it's her magic crayon and a bit of help from a new friend that save the day. This captivating wordless story has all the elements of a classic adventure: unknown lands, death-defying stunts, and a plucky lead. Finely detailed pen-and-ink line drawings combine with luminous washes of watercolor to create a rich and enchanting setting. Becker builds a sense of suspense by varying colorful full-page spreads with smaller vignettes that feature the girl and her red crayon surrounded by ample white space. The final page shows the youngster and her new friend riding a tandem bicycle pointing onward. Endpapers spotlight all manner of transportation: ships, trains, cars, and even space shuttles. The strong visual narrative makes this an appealing choice for a wide range of ages. By the turn of the last page, children will immediately begin imagining the next adventure.–Kiera Parrott, Darien Library, CT

Caldecott Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_FloraFLORA AND THE FLAMINGO by Molly Idle (Chronicle) redstar SLJ Best Book, April star PreS-Gr 2–This charming story begs to be an animated short-unsurprising, given the author's animation background-yet it works remarkably well as a wordless lift-the-flap book. Sparely illustrated, its full-spread white backgrounds with delicate pink-blossom borders emphasize the actions of the two protagonists. A lone flamingo lands onto the nearly blank expanse of the title page. Soon, it is joined by little Flora, who provides a sweetly round counterpoint to the angular bird. She furtively imitates the flamingo's moves with utmost concentration and extremely comical poses until it catches on and squawks angrily, driving her away in a sulk. Friendship triumphs in the end, and the unlikely couple dance together and joyously cannonball into water on the last double foldout page. As neither flamingos nor little girls are known for their inherent elegance, the duo's surprisingly graceful moves are reminiscent of dancing hippos and ostriches from Disney's Fantasia. This delightful romp is a worthy addition to most collections and will appeal to flamingo and ballet fans alike.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Caldecott Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_MrWufflesMR. WUFFLES! Written and illustrated by David Weisner (Clarion/Harcourt) redstarSLJ Best Book, September star K-Gr 4–Mr. Wuffles ignores all his fancy cat toys. Still sporting price tags, they line the hallway as he strolls by. But resting quietly among the feathers, balls, and mice is a tiny metal spaceship, and this catches his attention. His playful batting knocks around the alien explorers inside, causing bumps but no injuries. The ship's flying disks do not survive, however, and the aliens set out to explore the house and repair their craft. Barely escaping Mr. Wuffles's claws, they dash behind the radiator and discover primitive art of the cat's previous battles and make friends with the house's insects. The bugs help the aliens repair the spaceship, avoid capture, and fly away. Nearly wordless, the story is told through pictures and the languages of the ants and aliens, depicted by dashes and symbols. The book is fairly complex, best suited for elementary students, who will enjoy decoding the aliens' cryptographic alphabet. Wiesner humorously captures the curiosity and confusion of Mr. Wuffles and his human, who remains oblivious to the drama underfoot. The idea of a separate, tiny world next to ours makes a great premise, and Wiesner's engaging art and lively pacing carry the day. Visual storytelling at its best.–Suzanne Myers Harold, Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR

Printz Award

MIDWINTER BLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick  (Roaring Brook) SLJ_Award_2_3_14_MidwinterGr 9 Up–Beginning in July 2073, Sedgwick's new novel makes its way backward through time, drawing readers into seven stories from different eras. Whether it is a 21st-century archaeologist, a World War II pilot, or a Viking king, there are subtle but tell-tale signs of the threads that bind them together over the centuries-the echoes of particular names and phrases, the persistence of a mysterious dragon orchid, and other seemingly innocuous moments that all hint at the dark mystery at the center of this lyrical yet horrifying tale. The plot is reminiscent of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (Sceptre, 2004), with its themes of love and reincarnation, as well as of the cult-movie-turned-book Robin Hardy's Wicker Man (Crown, 1978), with its setting of remote and sinister island inhabitants. The many characters are vividly real and distinct from one another, despite making only brief appearances. Each of these vignettes seem rich enough to be worthy of a novel of its own, and readers might almost wish they could pause in each fascinating, detailed moment rather than be swept through time-and the novel-on the current of a cursed love. Although fans of the author's Revolver (Roaring Brook, 2010) will likely flock to this book to relish more of Sedgwick's stark, suspenseful writing, new readers might find that there are more questions left unanswered than are resolved.—Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Printz Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_EleanorELEANOR & PARK, Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin) redstarSLJ Best Book, March star Gr 9 Up–In this novel set in the 1980s, teenagers Eleanor and Park are outsiders; Eleanor, because she’s new to the neighborhood, and Park, because he’s half Asian. Although initially wary of each other, they quickly bond over their love of comics and 1980s alternative music. Eleanor’s home life is difficult; her stepfather physically abuses her mother and emotionally abuses Eleanor and her siblings. At school, she is the victim of bullying, which escalates into defacement of her textbooks, her clothes, and crude displays on her locker. Although Park’s mother, a Korean immigrant, is initially resistant to the strange girl due to her odd fashion choices, his father invites Eleanor to seek temporary refuge with them from her unstable home life. When Eleanor’s stepfather’s behavior grows even more menacing, Park assists in her escape, even though it means that they might not see each other again. The friendship between the teens is movingly believable, but the love relationship seems a bit rushed and underdeveloped. The revelation about the person behind the defacement of Eleanor’s textbooks is stunning. Although the narrative points of view alternate between Eleanor and Park, the transitions are smooth. Crude language is realistic. Purchase for readers who are drawn to quirky love stories or 1980s pop culture.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Printz Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_kingdomoflittlewoundsTHE KINGDOM OF LITTLE WOUNDS  by Suzann Cokal (Candlewick) redstarDecember star Gr 10 Up–After a plague fell upon the Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn in 1561, Ava and her father were the sole survivors of their family. Eleven years later, Ava, who has been taught to sew, is sent to the royal palace as a seamstress to the queen. Work there is coveted, but it is also beset with danger as there are no limits to the cruelty of the powerful. One prick from a needle into the flesh of agitated Queen Isabel sends Ava to the dungeon until she is retrieved by the villainous Count Nicolas. The count sexually abuses her and then sends her to work in the nursery as his spy, where she meets Midi Sorte. After being kidnapped, chained, sexually brutalized, and brought north by ship, Midi, a “Negresse,” was presented as a gift to the court, naked, coated in sugar, and with a sugared plum in her mouth. Desperate to avoid continued mistreatment, the girls claw for survival in a court full of intrigue, disease, and sorrow. Ava and Midi evoke readers’ sympathy as believable protagonists in a cast of mad characters. Cokal eloquently presents a grisly and visceral world that she aptly refers to as a “syphilitic fairy tale.” There is no glossing over all manner of sexual abuse, miscarriages, death, and so on. After a gripping stroll through 550 pages, readers are left with a satisfying ending of justice and hope for Ava and Midi. This novel is distinctive in thought and elocution, but it is also dense and full of adult content. It could have a limited audience among teens.–Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT

Printz Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_MaggotMoonMAGGOT MOON  by Sally Gardner (Candlewick)  Gr 9 Up–In a grimly surreal alternate 1950s, 15-year-old Standish Treadwell leads a bleak life under a totalitarian government reminiscent of World War II Germany and Cold War Soviet Union. Struggling with an unspecified learning disability, he doesn't fit in-he dreams of a land of Croca-Colas and plans an imaginary mission to planet Juniper with his best friend, Hector-until Hector and his family are abruptly taken away because they know too much about the government's machinations. Standish's quirky first-person voice and fragmented storytelling gradually reveal that the government is intent on winning a propaganda-filled space race and will go to any length, including a massive hoax, to appear victorious. The story borders on allegory, and the setting is deliberately vague. It is implied that the details that led to this dystopian society are not important; the crucial point is that Standish becomes determined that he, an individual, can take action against a cruel and powerful regime. With brief chapters and short sentences, the prose appears deceptively simple, but the challenging subject matter makes for a highly cerebral reading experience. Stomach-churning illustrations of flies, rats, and maggots accompany the text, creating a parallel graphical narrative that emphasizes key moments in the plot. Though its harsh setting and brutal violence may not appeal to those seeking a happy ending, the story's Orwellian overtones will fuel much speculation and discussion among readers.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Printz Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_navigatingearlyNAVIGATING EARLY by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte/Random Penguin) redstarSLJ Best Book, March star Gr 6-9–When Jack's mother passes away, his military father returns home to pack him up and ship him off to boarding school in Maine. Wading through the emotional trauma of grief and trying to adjust to his new surroundings, Jack feels that he doesn't really fit in anywhere. It is not until he befriends the school's resident outsider that he finds someone who might be able to help him navigate the troubled waters of his future. Early's older brother, Fisher, is a school legend, and the boy refuses to believe that he perished in the war. He sees numbers as having colors and narratives and believes that the story of Pi is also the story that will lead his brother home. Early sets off on an epic quest to find the Great Bear that has been ravaging the countryside as he believes it will lead him to Fisher. When Jack teams up with Early to find a bear, a brother, and an unending number, both boys finally find their way back home. Set just after World War II, this novel, like Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest (Delacorte, 2010), once again meticulously blends an intricately plotted and layered story line with a fully realized historical backdrop. Interesting characters meander through the boys' adventure, fitting themselves into the pieces of their story as it begins to weave together. Readers will find themselves richly rewarded by this satisfying tale.–Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_PSBeElevenP.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins/Amistad) redstarSLJ Best Book, June star Gr 4-7–After their life-changing summer in Oakland with their poet-activist mother, related in One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010), sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern find it difficult to readjust to life in Brooklyn. In addition to their grandmother's strict expectations, the girls must navigate the return of their uncle from Vietnam, their father's new romantic relationship, and their own uncontrollable love for the Jackson Five. Delphine finds some solace in corresponding with her mother, who reminds her not to take on too much or try to grow up too fast; instead she should remember to be 11. But each adult in Delphine's life has a different idea of what that means. Over the course of the book, Delphine strives to balance these conflicting perspectives and to articulate her own beliefs. From the very start of the story, her well-realized voice pulls readers into her rapidly changing world. Williams-Garcia ably integrates historical information with Delphine's story. Even secondary characters are complex and her nuanced understanding of the 1960s brings the setting to life. P.S. Be Eleven is a must-read for fans of the first book, but it can also stand alone as an engrossing novel that will leave readers pondering important issues of race, gender, and identity.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_March-Book-OneMARCH: BOOK ONE by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf) redstarSLJ Best Book, September star Gr 8 Up–Beginning with a dream sequence that depicts the police crackdown on the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March, this memoir then cuts to Congressman John Lewis’s preparations on the day of President Obama’s inauguration. Lewis provides perspective on the occasion, explaining and describing his own religious and desegregationalist origins in Alabama, his early meeting with Dr. King, and his training as a nonviolent protester. The bulk of the narrative centers around the lunch counter sit-ins in 1959 and 1960 and ends on the hopeful note of a public statement by Nashville Mayor West. The narration feels very much like a fascinating firsthand anecdote and, despite a plethora of personal details and unfamiliar names, it never drags. Even with the contemporary perspective, the events never feel like a foregone conclusion, making the stakes significant and the work important. The narration particularly emphasizes the nonviolent aspect of the movement and the labor involved in maintaining that ideal. The artwork is full of lush blacks and liquid brushstrokes and features both small period details and vast, sweeping vistas that evoke both the reality of the setting and the importance of the events. This is superb visual storytelling that establishes a convincing, definitive record of a key eyewitness to significant social change, and that leaves readers demanding the second volume.–Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH

Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_DariusDARIUS & TWIG by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins Amistad) Gr 8 Up–In New York City's Harlem neighborhood, two high school friends approach graduation with different dreams. Narrator Darius knows it takes more than a high school diploma to have the life he wants and, despite mediocre grades, develops his creative fiction for publication in the Delta Review, boosting his hopes for a college scholarship. His best friend Manuel Fernandez, or "Twig," is a long-distance runner looking ahead only as far as the next race. Along with a high grade-point average, Twig has the athleticism to catch the attention of college scouts in the big race but is being pressured to quit the track team and work in his uncle's bodega. Both boys face daily run-ins with Tall Boy and Midnight, two classmates with rap sheets and vengeful thug behavior. Ultimately, Darius and Twig learn of a shooting and are faced with the moral dilemma of coming to the aid of their tormentors. The portrayal of Harlem is realistic and nuanced, describing the sweetness of the neighborhood vibe and its friendly and supportive adults while also showing animosity among ethnic enclaves, and random violence. Darius's alter ego, Fury the peregrine falcon, appears at the beginning of some chapters as both guardian and predator above the city streets. An unfinished story about a boy testing his limits by swimming with dolphins comes to a poignant conclusion, as Darius similarly overcomes his own obstacles. Less gritty than many of Myers's titles, this book will satisfy his legions of fans.–Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY SLJ_Award_2_3_14_WordsWingsWORDS WITH WINGS by Nikki Grimes (WordSong/Highlights) Gr 4-8–In this brief, free-verse novel, readers meet Gabby, whose imagination is fueled by "words with wings that wake my daydreams." Her daydreams have provided solace from her parents' arguments, but now her father has moved out and her parents are getting a divorce. At school, she finds it hard to make friends and avoid being labeled the weird girl who zones out in class. Gabby's dad is a daydreamer, too, but her practical mom chides her for not paying attention, and Gabby longs to win her mother's approval along with that of her teacher, Mr. Spicer. Gabby's struggles to stay focused in school will resonate with many youngsters, as she tries to: "…catch every single syllable that falls from Mr. Spicer's lips, pass the pop quiz, and still have enough time left to be bored." Most readers will recognize Gabby in someone they know, and this well-crafted tale should have wide appeal. With its focus on creative wordplay and imagination, it could also be an inspiring resource for creative-writing teachers.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_KnockKNOCK KNOCK: MY DAD’S DREAM FOR ME illustrated Bryan Collier (Little, Brown) K-Gr 3–Beaty tells a poignant, heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, and hope. A boy narrates how every morning he and his father play the Knock Knock game. He feigns sleep while his father raps on the door until the boy jumps into his dad's arms for a hug and an "I love you." One day, there is no knock. Left with his mother, the child deeply misses his papa and writes to him for advice, receiving a moving letter in return. Collier's watercolor and collage illustrations enhance the nuanced sentiment of the text. Following the protagonist's journey from a grief-stricken child to an accomplished strong adult, the lifelike images intermingle urban and domestic backgrounds with the symbolic innerscape of the narrator. As the boy writes the letter and tosses paper airplanes out the window, he glides out on a life-size paper plane expressing his plea, "Papa, come home, 'cause there are things I don't know, and when I get older I thought you could teach me." Author's and illustrator's notes at the end of the book elaborate on the personal meaning of this eloquent story that speaks especially to children who are growing up in single-parent homes.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Honor

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_NelsonMandelaNELSON MANDELA by Kadir Nelson (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen) Gr 1-5–This picture-book biography matches Mandela's outsize achievements with large, powerful images, resulting in a presentation that will seize and hold readers' attention. The front cover features a portrait of Mandela that fills the space. His pleasant but determined expression immediately projects a sense of strength. The title and author move to the back cover so as not to compete with the opening image. A stark graphic design incorporating black, green, yellow, and red, colors from the South African flag, on the title page helps set the stage for the narrative. Nelson's paintings range from poignant, when Mandela's mother tells him good-bye as he leaves home for more education at the age of nine, to exuberant, when Mandela and 100 men arrested for protesting apartheid respond by dancing and singing, to inspiring, when people organize rallies demanding his release. When freedom finally comes, "a colorful sea of people" celebrate. Mandela's heroic struggle might be new to many children today, and Nelson's dynamic treatment provides enough detail to give a sense of the man and to acknowledge his important place in history.–Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_BeatWasBornWHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN: DJ KOOL HERC AND THE CREATION OF HIP HOP illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (Roaring Brook) Gr 3-5–As a child in Jamaica, Clive Campbell aspired to be a DJ. At 13, he moved to the Bronx, where he gained the nickname Hercules because he grew to be more than six feet tall. He shortened the name to Herc, added Kool, and is credited as a pioneer of hip hop. He created a new art form for his parties when he plugged in two turntables to create longer breaks for dancing and began chanting the names of his friends during the breaks. Hill's descriptive writing is paired with Taylor's vibrant artwork, which features large crowds dancing, close-up shots of breakdancing, or Herc's hands masterfully spinning the dual turntables. This is a fine introduction to the topic, and the extensive time line, which spans from 1973 to 1986, will help students with reports and show them how this American art form was created.–Glynis Jean Wray, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ

Schneider Family Book Award (ages 0-10)

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_SplashRedA SPLASH OF RED: THE LIFE AND ART OF HORACE PIPPIN by Jen Bryant (Knopf/Penguin Random) redstar January star Gr 3-6–Born in 1888, grandson of a slave, Pippin loved to draw from an early age. He painted "…every day scenes in natural colors; then he added a splash of red." His classmates often begged, "Make a picture for us, Horace!" When he was in the eighth grade, he quit school and went to work. From rail yard to farm to hotel to factory, his workmates echoed the request, "Make a picture for us…." And when he enlisted in World War I, his fellow soldiers also entreated him to draw. "The war brought out all the art in me." But a bullet to the shoulder rendered his right arm useless and he was unable to find work due to his injury. Still, his drive to draw remained. One day, "using his good arm to move the hurt one, he scorched lines into the wood" to create a picture. With practice, his weak arm improved enough to allow him to paint, and paint he did. N.C. Wyeth recognized his talent and arranged for him to have a one-man exhibit. Today his work hangs in museums all over the country. Bryant's meticulously researched, eloquent text makes this a winning read-aloud, while Sweet's vibrant, folksy illustrations, rendered in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media, portray the joys and hardships of the man's life, using his trademark palette…with just a splash of red. Quotations from his notebooks, letters, and interviews are effectively woven into the pictures.–Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY

Schneider Family Book Award  (ages 11-13)

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_DragonSlayersHANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS by Merrie Haskell (HarperCollins) Gr 6-8–In this entertaining fantasy, 13-year-old Princess Matilda of Alder Brook yearns to abandon her royal responsibilities and run away to copy books in a cloister scriptorium or, even better, write a book of her own. Tilda never imagines how prophetic this is until she is taken hostage by her evil cousin Ivo, who is intent on wresting ownership of her castle away from her for himself. He believes it will be easy to take control of her principality because Tilda was born with a crippled foot and everyone believes she is cursed. He convinces her that no one in Alder Brook wants her as their princess. Secretly, Tilda is relieved because now she is free of her obligations and can make her own choices. With the help of Parzival, 14, a failed squire, and Judith, her loyal handmaiden, Tilda escapes, and they embark on a quest to slay dragons. During their adventures, the friends are captured and placed under a spell by a Bluebeard-like Lord who has buried seven wives and intends for Tilda to be his eighth. This fast-paced tale celebrates courage and perseverance. It refreshingly portrays Tilda as strong and intelligent yet flawed as she is forced to acknowledge her shortcomings and learn from her mistakes. Fans of Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale will be enchanted.–Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton ndbook for Dragon Slayers

Schneider Family Book Award  (ages 13-18)

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_RoseROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion/Disney) redstarSLJ Best Book, Oct. Star Gr 8 Up–This companion novel to Wein’s Code Name Verity (Hyperion, 2012) tells a very different World War II story, with a different pilot. Rose Justice, an American, has grown up flying, and when she is given the opportunity to ferry planes to support the war effort in England in 1944, she jumps at the chance. It is during one of her missions that she purposefully knocks an unmanned V-1 flying bomb out of the sky and is captured by Nazi airmen. Once on the ground, she is taken to the infamous women’s concentration camp, Ravensbrück. She is first treated as a “skilled” worker, but once she realizes that her job will be to put together fuses for flying bombs, she refuses to do it, is brutally beaten, and is then sent to live with the political prisoners. Once she’s taken under the wing of the Polish “Rabbits”–young women who suffered horrible medical “experiments” by Nazi doctors–she faces a constant struggle to survive. After a daring escape, she recounts her experience in a journal that was given to her by her friend, Maddie, the pilot from Code Name Verity, weaving together a story of unimaginable suffering, loss, but, eventually, hope. Throughout her experience, Rose writes and recites poetry, and it is through these poems, some heartbreaking, some defiant, that she finds her voice and is able to “tell the world” her story and those of the Rabbits. While this book is more introspective than its predecessor, it is no less harrowing and emotional. Readers will connect with Rose and be moved by her struggle to go forward, find her wings again, and fly.–Necia Blundy, formerly at Marlborough Public Library, MA


See SLJ’s "Adult Books 4 Teens" blogger Mark Flowers’s post on the 10 winners and links to reviews.

Andrew Carnegie Medal

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_BinkGollieBINK AND GOLLIE: TWO FOR ONE produced by Paul R. Gagne and Melissa Reilly Ellard of Weston Woods Studios redstarJanuary, 2014 star PreS-Gr 2–Best friends Bink and Gollie make a winning transition to CD and DVD with their adventures at the state fair. The animation is true to the book with black-and-white, mostly static, line drawing backdrops. The jaunty musical accompaniment perfectly suits the activities while the voice actors expertly bring to life the shy Gollie, exuberant Bink, and the mysterious Russian fortune-teller, Madame Prunely. The DVD successfully conveys the visual humor, including the talent show participants’ hiliarious missteps. When Gollie, a victim of stage fright, is unable to perform at the show, Bink ushers her into a barn; the video allows viewers to watch her construct the stage of hay bales and to see the comical reactions of the resident cows. At the end, scenes of their adventures play out as the credits roll, providing a recap of these sweet and funny stories. These media formats enhance an exceptional book.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement: Markus Zusak

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_BookThiefReview: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak (Knopf) Gr 9-Up Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book -although she has not yet learned how to read -and her foster father uses it, "The Gravedigger -s Handbook", to lull her to sleep when she -s roused by regular nightmares about her younger brother -s death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayor -s reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel -s story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative." -Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA"  (March, 2006)

Mildred L. Batchelder Award Winner

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_OrangeMISTER ORANGE by by Truus Matti, translated by Laura Watkinson (Enchanted Lion) Gr 6-10–Linus Muller not only inherits his brother's shoes when Albie goes off to fight the Nazis, but he also inherits his job as a delivery boy in the family produce business. The new responsibilities to live up to his father's expectations for customer service and punctual deliveries using a home-built fruit cart in their 1943 New York City neighborhood weigh heavily on him. An eccentric customer with a funny-sounding name suggests Linus calls him Mister Orange, and Linus looks forward to the deliveries and seeing the man's modern-art creations. The bold use of primary colors against a bright white background is an eye-pleasing curiosity he is certain his parents would deem frivolous. At home, he eases worries about Albie and the war by becoming the custodian of Albie's cartoon sketchbooks, and he begins to hold imaginary conversations with one character, Mr. Superspeed, who has promised with all his superhero powers to keep Albie safe. When Mr. Superspeed fails in his duties and Albie gets sick overseas, Mister Orange commiserates with Linus. This is Linus's coming-of-age story for the most part, but it also brings to light the life of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), who evolved the Neo-Plasticism style and was working on a painting known as Victory Boogie-Woogie during Linus's visits. An afterword offers factual information about the artist. The story is enough of an interest catcher for readers to explore further.–Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_NinoNINO WRESTLES THE WORLD, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook) SLJ Top 10 Latino-themes Books K-Gr 2–Playing alone in his room, Niño dons his Lucha Libre mask and lets his imagination take flight. (According to an endnote, Lucha Libre is a dramatic form of professional wrestling followed by fans in Mexico.) The young hero is then ready to take on an eclectic cast of monstrous opponents. Spurred on by chanting crowds, the boy handily defeats the Guanajuato Mummy (La Momia de Guanajuato), Olmec Head (Cabeza Olmeca), and the Weeping Woman (La Llorona), using a variety of clever strategies. Next up is El Extraterrestre and then El Chamuco. Niño remains undefeated until the dreadful hour arrives. Nap time is over and his baby sisters are ready to wrestle. Las Hermanitas will stop at nothing, and Niño soon realizes that it is better to join forces with them. Together, the siblings form a tag team, challenging all contenders. The fast-paced narrative is sprinkled with Spanish vocabulary and accompanied by energetic and vivid illustrations adorned with stars and rays of light that bring to mind stylishly designed event posters. In comic-book fashion, the bold portrayal of each match includes dialogue bubbles and sound effects printed in decorative fonts ("whunk," "bloop," "krunch"). The endpapers feature amusing profiles of the competitors. Captivated youngsters will cheer for Niño as he takes on each opponent in this action-packed story.—Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston, MA

Pura Belpré (Author) Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_DelgadoYAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS by Meg Medina (Candlewick) redstarSLJ Best Book, April star Gr 7 Up–Piedad Sanchez moved at the beginning of her sophomore year, and a few weeks into classes at her new school a girl comes up to say that "Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass." As a first line, it sets the focus for Piddy, who has always had friends, gotten good grades, and managed quite well in her old school. There's no real reason for the enmity, but the threat is more than real and begins to permeate Piddy's life. Gradually readers see that her mother's best friend, who works at a hair salon and has been her support, is the only adult who even has a clue about what is going on. The Queens, New York, neighborhood is solidly Hispanic and the language reflects the culture. Piddy does a downward spiral as the torment gets increasingly worse. The school reaction and the dilemma she faces are realistically portrayed. Yaqui can get to her in and out of school, and she is vulnerable to being terrorized by a whole group of Yaqui supporters. The way that the abuse and threats impact Piddy to try to become a bad girl herself is logically presented. The plight of a pair of abandoned kittens parallels her own loneliness and loss. The Latino cultural milieu adds a richness and texture that lifts this up above many problem novels. The plot points are dexterously intertwined, and the characters are distinct. A real bonus for those looking for a bullying book for older readers that is not simplistic.–Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO

 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_ParrotPARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore,  il. Susan L. Roth (Lee & Low) redstarSLJ Best Book; October star Gr 3–6—Before humans arrived on the island, parrots numbered in the hundred of thousands. By 1967, only 24 birds remained. Since then, scientists in the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program (PRPRP) have established aviaries to raise the birds in captivity and release them in the wild. Using a vertical page orientation, Roth has plenty of space for detailed collages that depict the parrots' lives and struggles above human activities that have altered the island's ecosystem over the centuries. Taínos, Spanish explorers and settlers, African slaves, and others hunted parrots for food, cut down nesting places, and introduced animals that ate their eggs. After the United States took control, deforestation continued. Some military history and political questions such as the debate about Puerto Rico's commonwealth status slow the narrative. When the focus shifts to the strategies, setbacks, and successes of the PRPRP, the story soars. From constructing nesting boxes to training captive-bred birds how to avoid hawks, the program is slowly rebuilding the parrot population. After the main story, several pages of photos accompany further explanations of the group's work. In addition to their list of sources, the authors supply a detailed time line of events. Like this team's The Mangrove Tree (Lee & Low, 2011), this title offers an engaging and hopeful look at environmental restoration.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Stonewall Book Award - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_BeautifulMusicBEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (Flux/ Llewellyn Worldwide) Gr 8 Up–Elizabeth Williams knows he has always been a guy, and if he can only get through graduation in a few weeks, he can begin his new life as Gabe. He is transitioning, but his family refuses to acknowledge him, and his classmates bully him. The only person who supports him is his BFF, Paige, and, predictably, he has a crush on her but can't take a chance on ruining their friendship. Gabe is a music geek, and his ultra-cool, grandfatherly neighbor John, a former DJ, lands him a community radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Gabe DJs as himself, and after working up the courage to tell John, who is fine with him being a "triangle," they put together a show about A sides and B sides, which becomes popular with the Ugly Children Brigade fan club and a running theme in the book. But when Gabe has a date with one of his fans, and she recognizes him as Liz, word spreads and some fans drop out of the Facebook club, while others get violent. When John is critically hurt defending Gabe at an Ugly Children event, the offenders are arrested, John's long-lost daughter shows up, Gabe's parents have a change of heart, and Paige and Gabe may have a chance together. While this transgender coming-of-age tale wraps up a bit too quickly, the quirky relationship between Gabe and John and their shared music obsession elevates this story above the average problem novel.–Betty S. Evans, Missouri State University, Springfield SLJ_Award_2_3_14_AngieFAT ANGIE by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo (Candlewick) redstarMay star Gr 9 Up–A father who abandoned the family. A couldn't-be-bothered mother. An adopted brother who is a criminal in the making. A high school full of peers who relentlessly tease her following a failed suicide attempt at a basketball game. And the only person who really understands her-her older sister-is being held hostage in Iraq and is believed to be dead by everyone except Angie. This is Angie's life. Then a gorgeous, punk-rock chick with a mysterious past, KC Romance, begins taking an interest in her. While the teen toys with the idea that she may be "gay-girl gay," she also begins to channel her pain and uncertainty by making her sister, a former state champion, proud by trying out for the varsity basketball team. Not only does Angie make the team, but she also leads it to a pivotal win. She returns home from the game to discover that her sister's body has been found. An explosive confrontation with her mother following the burial leads her to begin to see her otherwise-cold mother through a new lens. The author ends the story with no resolution in Angie's relationships with her mother and KC, leading readers to forge their own conclusions. The voice of a dry and direct third-person narrator works in a story laden with heavy topics, including war, death, suicide, cutting, bullying, and homosexuality.–Nicole Knott, Watertown High School, CT

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_WMelonSeedTHE WATERMELON SEED written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (Disney Hyperion) redstarMay star PreS-Gr 1–Children will love this hilarious book. Crocodile has devoured watermelon since babyhood and eats it every chance he gets. One day, however, he swallows a seed. This sends him into a panic. Will it grow inside him and come out of his ears? Will he grow larger and turn pink? The poor crocodile is so worried until he burps up the seed. He vows to never eat watermelon again, but will he be able to resist? The illustrations of the reptile's fear about what might happen to him are very funny and the oversize font on those pages reinforces the emotion in the story. The artwork was created by screen print in pink, green, black, and brown. This simplicity allows readers to fully appreciate the changes in the croc's facial expressions, which artfully contribute to the humor. The story has broad appeal, making it a great first purchase.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne's Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

William C. Morris Award

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_CharmStrangeCHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn (St. Martin’s Griffin/ Macmillan) Gr 8 Up—The dark and twisted heart of this YA novel unfolds slowly, every chapter revealing a hint of the terrible secret that holds Andrew Winston Winters deep in its painful grip. The narrative toggles between the present, as Win, a surly Vermont boarding-school student (chapters titled "matter"), and flashbacks to his past as Drew, the middle child between his sensitive older brother and doting younger sister (chapters titled "antimatter"). Kuehn's descriptions of the boy's violent impulses, confusion, and coping strategies are taut and precise. Although it is hard for readers to get a firm hold on his state of mind and character (since there is so much that he is hiding from himself), the other characters, although painted in broad strokes, are fascinating, and readers will be intrigued to find out more about them and how they relate to Andrew and to one another. There's Lex, Andrew's best friend turned enemy at boarding school; Keith, Andrew's protective older brother; and even Andrew's provocative Boston cousins, who seem to have played a role in the unfolding mystery behind his taciturn veneer. Teens who enjoy their novels with a shovelful of gritty realism will find this enigmatic novel gripping. And the shock of realization at the end, when everything clicks into place, is palpable.–Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

SLJ_Award_2_3_14_NaziHuntersTHE NAZI HUNTERS: HOW A TEAM OF SPIES AND SURVIVORS CAPTURED THE WORLD’S MOST NOTORIOUS NAZI by Neal Bascomb (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) Gr 8 Up–The author of the adult book Hunting Eichmann (Houghton, 2009) tells the harrowing story of the Israeli agents responsible for tracking down Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi leader who orchestrated the extermination of six million Jews. In the years following World War II, many Jews were involved in attempts to find Nazi war criminals who had gone into hiding all over the globe and bring them to trial. Eichmann was a prime target, but no one had heard anything about him for years until an offhand comment in a letter led to a seven-year saga that involved a diverse cast including Mossad agents, regular citizens, and politicians, all with the single purpose of capturing this man. From cafés in Buenos Aires to the halls of the fledgling Israeli government, from false identities to secret drops, this story has all the hallmarks of a spy novel. Bascomb has a knack for turning complex detail into a suspenseful, heart-pounding narrative. Every face is catalogued, every procedure thoroughly outlined, every moment accounted for in this tale that requires patience and perseverance; at times it unfolds at a breakneck pace and at others, it is tantalizingly slow. The author depicts Eichmann as more than just a soulless Nazi monster and target; he is also seen as a father and husband, giving this account some balance. The depth of research in this fine work is evident in the level of information provided and in the extensive bibliography and source notes. An excellent choice for libraries looking to extend their World War II and Jewish history collections.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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