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2009 Caldecott and Newbery Winners

Yesterday, the American Library Association released its 2009 list of Youth Media Awards. Drum roll please …

John Newbery Award
Most distinguished contribution to children’s literature.

The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman (Author), Dave McKean (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (September 30, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis:

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy.

He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family. . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, the graveyard book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.


John Newbery Honor Books

The Underneath

by Kathi Appelt (Author), David Small (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Atheneum (May 6, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis: A calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up hound deep in the backwaters of the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest, and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise her kittens there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use them as alligator bait should he find them. But they are safe in the Underneath…as long as they stay in the Underneath.

Kittens, however, are notoriously curious creatures. And one kitten’s moment of curiosity sets off a chain of events that is astonishing, remarkable, and enormous in its meaning. For everyone who loves Sounder, Shiloh, and The Yearling, for everyone who loves the haunting beauty of writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Flannery O’Connor, and Carson McCullers, Kathi Appelt spins a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love — and its opposite, hate — the fragility of happiness and the importance of making good on your promises.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom

by Margarita Engle

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 176 pages

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (April 1, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis: It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in reconcentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps. So she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her. Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war? Acclaimed poet Margarita Engle has created another breathtaking portrait of Cuba.

by Ingrid Law

Reading level:
Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Dial (May 1, 2008)

Review (July 13, 2008): Ingrid Law’s first novel, Savvy, has a colorful array of characters who collaborate on an unexpected and heartfelt journey.  The story revolves around the Beaumont family, and in particular Mississippi (Mib’s for short). Every family has its quirks, but none are quite as unique as the Beaumonts. Each person in Mib’s family possesses a magical ability, a ‘savvy’. When a member of her family turns 13, their supernatural gift shows itself. For some it is a clever awareness, and for others a major life change that has the potential to be a good resource once they learn to contain its unique power – such as creating hurricanes and electricity, like her brothers.

A few days before Mib’s turns 13, her poppa ends up in the hospital after a car accident. The morning of her birthday Mib’s awakens to believe that her savvy is just right for saving her poppa’s life, the only problem is that the hospital is miles from her house. Her solution … to sneak onto a bus belonging to a bible salesman – this is where the real fun begins and the unforgettable adventure takes off! Not thinking through the plan, Mib’s discovers that the bus is not heading straight to town. The driver has some deliveries to make along the way which turns the relatively short trip into an overnight saga. During the journey Mib’s discovers a lot about herself and realizes that she might not be the only one with a secret.

This is certainly a novel aimed at tweens, and manages to convey pitch-perfect messages dealing with peers, guilt and growing up. While the story is based on the family’s supernatural powers, the emotion and events are certainly the main features that carry this powerful story, and I am positive that any child who reads this will find an element to truly connect with. When an author’s first published novel is this ‘savvy’ one can only look forward to the future.


After Tupac & D Foster

by Jacqueline Woodson

Reading level:
Young Adult

Hardcover: 160 pages

Publisher: Putnam Young Adult (January 10, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis: D Foster showed up a few months before Tupac got shot that first time and left us the summer before he died.

The day D Foster enters Neeka and her best friend’s lives, the world opens up for them. D comes from a world vastly different from their safe Queens neighborhood, and through her, the girls see another side of life that includes loss, foster families and an amount of freedom that makes the girls envious. Although all of them are crazy about Tupac Shakur’s rap music, D is the one who truly understands the place where he’s coming from, and through knowing D, Tupac’s lyrics become more personal for all of them.

The girls are thirteen when D’s mom swoops in to reclaim D—and as magically as she appeared, she now disappears from their lives. Tupac is gone, too, after another shooting; this time fatal. As the narrator looks back, she sees lives suspended in time, and realizes that even all-too-brief connections can touch deeply.

Randolph Caldecott Medal
Most distinguished American picture book for children.

The House in the Night

by Susan Marie Swanson (Author), Beth Krommes (Illustrator)

Reading level:
Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children; None edition (May 5, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis: A spare, patterned text and glowing pictures explore the origins of light that make a house a home in this bedtime book for young children. Naming nighttime things that are both comforting and intriguing to preschoolers—a key, a bed, the moon—this timeless book illuminates a reassuring order to the universe.

Randolph Caldecott Honor Books

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

by Marla Frazee

Reading level:
Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books (March 1, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis: When James and Eamon go to a week of Nature Camp and stay at Eamon’s grandparents’ house, it turns out that their free time spent staying inside, eating waffles, and playing video games is way more interesting than nature. But sometimes things work out best when they don’t go exactly as planned.  In this moving and hilarious celebration of young boys, childhood friendships, and the power of the imagination, Marla Frazee captures the very essence of summer vacation and what it means to be a kid.

How I Learned Geography

by Uri Shulevitz

Reading level:
Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (April 1, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis: Having fled from war in their troubled homeland, a boy and his family are living in poverty in a strange country. Food is scarce, so when the boy’s father brings home a map instead of bread for supper, at first the boy is furious. But when the map is hung on the wall, it floods their cheerless room with color. As the boy studies its everydetail, he is transported to exotic places without ever leaving the room, and he eventually comes to realize that the map feeds him in a way that bread never could.

 A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

by Jen Bryant (Author), Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 34 pages

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (July 9, 2008)

Publisher’s synopsis: In this picture book biography of William Carlos Williams, Bryant’s engaging prose and Sweet’s stunning mixed-media illustrations celebrate the amazing man who found a way to earn a living and to honor his calling to be a poet. Full color.

Click here for the full news release of all of the ALA Youth Media Awards for 2009.

The award-winning artist’s most personal work to date is based on his childhood memories of World War II and features stunning illustrations that celebrate the power of imagination. An author’s note includes a brief description of his family’s experience, two of his early drawings, and the only surviving photograph of himself from that time.

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