ALA Children’s Book Awards 2012


Yes, it happened again this year, on Jan 23 the American Library Association named the 2012 winners of the most prestigious book awards in children’s literature, including the Newbery and Caldecott awards.  Given annually, the awards have become one of the most exciting  announcements in children’s literature, and the winners are notified only hours before the press conference is held.  There are always surprises, and favorites that create applause, screams, cheers, and sometimes gasps!  And this year’s winners are….

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

Dead End in Norvelt  by Jack Gantos, is the 2012 Newbery Medal winner. 

“Looks like a bummer of a summer for 11-year-old Jack.  After discharging his father’s WWII-souvenir Japanese rifle and cutting down his mom’s fledgling cornfield, he gets grounded for the rest of his life or the rest of the summer of 1962, whichever comes first. Jack gets brief reprieves to help an old neighbor write obituaries for the falling-like-flies original residents of Norvelt, a dwindling coal-mining town. Jack makes a tremendously entertaining tour guide and foil for the town’s eccentric citizens, and his warmhearted but lightly antagonistic relationship with his folks makes for some memorable one-upmanship. Gantos, as always, deliver bushels of food for thought and plenty of outright guffaws…   (Booklist)


The two Newbery Honor Books  named, books that were also judged as having an outstanding contributions in writing for children this year, are:

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai 

An enlightening, poignant and unexpectedly funny novel in verse is rooted in the author’s childhood experiences. In Saigon in 1975, 10-year-old Kim Hà celebrates Tet (New Year) with her mother and three older brothers; none of them guesses at the changes the Year of the Cat will bring.  On the eve of the fall of Saigon, they finally decide they must escape. Free verse poems of, usually, just two to three pages tell the story. With the help of a friend, the family leaves. Only one of her brothers speaks English, but they pick America as their destination and eventually find a sponsor in Alabama. Even amid the heartbreak, the narrative is shot through with humor.  In a school full of strangers and bullies, she struggles to learn a language full of snake’s hissing and must accept that she can no longer be at the head of her class…for now. In her not-to-be-missed debut, Lai evokes a distinct time and place and presents a complex, realistic heroine whom readers will recognize, even if they haven’t found themselves in a strange new country.    (Kirkus)   

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

It would be hard to find a boy more excited about becoming a Young Pioneer than ten-year-old Sasha Zaichik. While some kids might love soccer or baseball, Sasha loves Stalin and the Communist party. He embraces life in his crowded communal apartment; he doesn’t even mind knowing the intimate details of his neighbors’ eating and bathroom habits. Sasha is especially proud of his father, a hero and a member of the secret police, dedicated to catching enemies every day. It doesn’t take long for cracks to appear in the veneer of Sasha’s view of the world, however. First, his father is arrested in the middle of the night, leaving the boy alone. Sasha hangs on to his illusions until he cannot help but face the dreadful facts: he will not become a Young Pioneer, he is now a pariah at school, his father is not coming back, and his dream of meeting Stalin is dashed. For most middle graders, the history of Stalinist oppression will be new information, and this story is a start at filling in the blanks.    (Horn Book)



Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

A Ball for Daisy  illustrated and written by Chris Raschka, is the 2012 Caldecott Medal winner. 

Ever the minimalist, Raschka continues to experiment with what is essential to express the daily joys and tribulations of humans and animals. This wordless story features Daisy, a dog. The motion lines framing her tail on the first page indicate that a big red ball is her chief source of delight. The story’s climax involves another dog joining the game, but chomping too hard, deflating the beloved ball. A purple cloud moves in, and eight squares fill a spread, each surrounding the protagonist with an atmosphere progressing from yellow to lavender to brown as the canine processes what has occurred; a Rothko retrospective could not be more moving. When another day dawns, the frisky dog’s person proffers a blue surprise; the exuberance at having a ball and a friend is barely containable across two pages. Raschka’s genius lies in capturing the essence of situations that are deeply felt by children. They know how easy it is to cause an accident and will feel great relief at absorbing a way to repair damage.  (School Library Journal)


Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named:

Blackout  illustrated and written by John Rocco

It’s a scenario many kids are probably all too familiar with: a young boy wants to play, but older sis is gabbing on the phone, Mom is busy on the computer, and Dad is making dinner. When the power goes out, however, the family comes together to make shadow puppets on the wall, join the neighbors on the roof to admire the stars, and even head out front to the most idyllic city street you’ll ever see. All good things come to an end, though. The power comes back on, and everyone immediately slips back into walled-off family units, though the walls are a bit weaker now. Rocco’s lustrous, animation-quality artwork somehow manages to get richer the darker it gets, and features one of the silkiest skies since Van Gogh’s Starry Night. A versatile reminder to take a break and invest in quality together time once in a while.   (Booklist)

Grandpa Green illustrated and written by Lane Smith

Watering a garden, pulling a wagon, collecting dropped gardening gloves and tools, a little fellow works in an amazing topiary world made of memories. The trees tell the story of his great-grandfather’s life—from birth to chicken pox to high school to military service and, later, marriage. Many of the illustrations morph with page turns: Tears from the baby become water from a hose; a mysterious conical shape becomes a cannon; a bunny near a tiny tree munches a carrot topiary. When the boy reunites Grandpa Green with his missing things, readers discover that though Grandpa sometimes forgets, the garden remembers for him. The illustrations say what the text doesn’t need to—that the love between boy and elder is elemental and honest. One surprising and sparkling gatefold shows the whole garden, with Grandpa Green working on his newest creation: his grandson fighting a dragon. Readers who slow down will be rewarded by this visual feast that grows richer with each visit.  (Kirkus)

Me … Jane  illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell

Little Jane loves her stuffed animal, a chimpanzee named Jubilee, and carries him everywhere she goes. Mainly, they go outdoors, where they watch birds building their nests and squirrels chasing each other. Jane reads about animals in books and keeps a notebook of sketches, information, and puzzles. Feeling her kinship with all of nature, she often climbs her favorite tree and reads about another Jane, Tarzan’s Jane. She dreams that one day she, too, will live in the African jungle and help the animals. And one day, she does. With the story’s last page turn, the illustrations change from ink-and-watercolor scenes of Jane as a child, toting Jubilee, to a color photo of Jane Goodall as a young woman in Africa, extending her hand to a chimpanzee. Quietly told and expressively illustrated, the story of the child as a budding naturalist is charming on its own, but the photo on the last page opens it up through a well-chosen image that illuminates the connections between childhood dreams and adult reality.  This remarkable picture book is one of the few that speaks, in a meaningful way, to all ages.    (Booklist)


Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.   This is one of the most inclusive lists of distinguished children’s books each year, and you can find something for everyone!  Check out The Notables List.

Many other awards are announced during this same weekend, lists honoring informational books, media, audio books, and books for teens in all categories.  For the complete list of award winners, click here.  All of these awards are chosen by thousands of librarians and children’s literature specialists reading, listening, and discussing all of the eligible books, cd’s and dvd’s.  A huge thanks for their time and dedication to this amazing task!


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