I confess: my heart quickens this time every January when I think about the children’s book creators whose lives are about to be fortuitously changed, thanks to the awarding of a literary medal.
To me, giving hope to the reader is what our Children’s Book World is all about.
Jeanne Marie said it best in her Monday post when she reminded us we are writing for children.
To my way of thinking, a children’s book must always leave the reader hopeful. Not with the proverbial happily ever after ending; simply with the possibility that we could live happily ever after.
The brilliant editor Jean Karl, who headed Atheneum and discovered award-winning authors Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Judy Viorst and E.K. Konigsburg, wrote, “A good children’s book respects a child’s intelligence, his pride, his dignity, and most of all his individuality and his capacity to become.”
I have but one Very High Bar when it comes to choosing award-winners: Is this a book I’d want to passionately read aloud to my fifth graders, were I teaching? Is this a character who could and would change the way my students view themselves, each other, the world?
For those reasons, I so wanted Jack Gantos’ Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000) to win the Newbery. There’s an ADD Joey in every classroom, waiting to be understood.
For that reason, I so wanted Ruth White’s Little Audrey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) to win too. These are Hard Times in which we live; wouldn’t it be nice to know that if Audrey could make it in her depressed Virginia coal-mining town in 1948, so could we today. Booklist editor and reviewer Ilene Cooper starred this book, describing it as “tough and tender.”
Here are but two of the many starred reviews:
“This simply written but emotionally rich tale of an 11-year-old boy abandoned by his bipolar single mother will kindle profound responses in young readers." — Booklist Starred Review
“…Jacobson has great success putting readers inside Jack’s not-always-thinking-things-through mind, and by the end of the story, nicely tied together by the elephant theme, Jack comes to realize that he hadn’t been alone, that family and people he didn’t even know were there for him in a 'makeshift herd.' The happy yet realistic ending leaves Jack (and readers) 'light-headed with hope.'” – Horn Book
And here’s what Jennifer wrote:
"I believe in Jack and his ability to understand his mother in shades of gray. I believe in his ability to be fiercely independent: to try and try and try . . . and at the same time to recognize that he needs others. That others are right there, waiting to catch him."
I want young readers everywhere to know Jack, to take heart and hope from his quietly-powerful story.
Ironically, I’m cheering on between shades of gray (Philomel, 2011), Ruta Sepetys’ first novel, for Prinz attention.
The novel is based on Sepetys’ family. It tells the story of 15-year-old Lina who in 1941 is pulled from her Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp.
The concluding Author’s note begins with the words of Albert Camus: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
I am obviously, unabashedly all about Hope.
(Were this post about the Cubs, I'd tell you this year is The Year!)
When she didn’t call, I finally pinched myself, teared a bit, then out-and-out wept.
2011 saw more than 10,000 children’s books traditionally published.
To enter our drawing for an autographed copy of Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg, post a brief comment sharing an "oops" in your life and how you (or someone else) turned it into something beautiful. Be sure to include an email address (formatted like: teachingauthors at gmail dot com) or a link to an email address. OR...you can email your comment to teachingauthors at gmail dot com with "Contest" in the subject line. Entry Deadline is Wednesday, January 25th, 11 pm (CST). You must have a U.S. mailing address to win. The winner will be announced on January 27th. Good Luck!