In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Placing my bets

Dear Annie,

A big thank you to Holly.  Her post offered two excellent elements in kids' literature: good adventure series for younger kids, and heroic rodents.  But the thing that made me happiest about the post is that I didn't know about either series.  I always love learning about new books from people who have been enjoying them.  Way to go, Holly and Ian.  It seems not that long ago that Ian was an exclusively-train guy.

In the world of bookselling, we're in the annual run-up to the American Library Association awards, coming on January 28.  The two biggest awards will be the Newbery and Caldecott medals -- for writing and illustration, respectively.

As I've pointed out before, in my 14 years of bookselling, I've had many favorite books, but I've never successfully predicted the winner of either medal.  Speculation about the awards is all over the place, as often happens.  This year, one book in each category has really stood out to me as the best .

I wrote about Wonder by R.J. Palacio a year ago, and I've been recommending it on almost a daily basis since then.  I've been hoping all year that it will win the Newbery.  Today, as she was leaving the toy store, a customer came over to the book section to tell me how much both she and her children had loved the book -- I'd sold it to her in the fall.  She says she's given it to other kids several times since then.  It's about kindness and cruelty and a fifth grader's struggle to be part of a school community when his severe facial deformities "make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds."  He's a great character.  And Palacio advocates for understanding and kindness without moralizing or sledgehammering her point.  It will make me very happy if this is the year I'm right.

And for the Caldecott, I'm hoping Sleep Like a Tiger, with words by Mary Logue and amazing illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski, gets the Caldecott for best illustration.  It was in your Christmas box o' books from me, so you know what I'm talking about.  An I-won't-go-to-sleep child is ever-so-gently cajoled into sleep by parents with infinite patience and imagination.  A while ago I had a lovely conversation with a customer who started talking about all the symbolism in the illustrations and how carefully they'd been planned out.

Given my track record, it could be that my advocacy of these books is the kiss of death.  We've been talking about doing a promo for the books on the store's Facebook page listing these two titles with the line, "The book lady's never predicted the awards right.  Will this be her year?"

I hope so.



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