Great Books… award winners etc.

2016 has gotten off to a great start with some GREAT reads. Knowing that the NEWBERY and Caldecott Awards would be announced by the end of January, I was intrigued to read some of the popular predictions. (Note: A FISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mullaly Hunt was one of the books I was rooting for). Just cause a book wins an award doesn’t mean, it’s a GREAT book. I always believe that if you think it’s a great book, then it is. Here’s what one student said:

A good book is a good book if YOU make it a good book. If you really like the story, then it is a good story and no one can change that. It does not matter what others think. It is what YOU think is a great book that makes it a great book.

from, “This is a Great Book” by Larry Swartz and Shelley Stagg Peterson, p. 7


Here are some titles that Dr. Larry particularly enjoyed to start off the new year (listed alphabetically by author):

THE WAR THAT SAVED BY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This novel takes place in World War II and tells the story of a brother and sister who were forced to evacuate from their homes in London in order to escape the war. Ada and Jamie end up living with Susan Smith who does an admirable job of caring for these two children whose past is filled with poverty and abuse. Ada is burdened with a clubfoot which has crippled her both emotionally and physically, but in her new home, she learns to ride a pony, to read and to eventually have her tough exterior melt away as war surrounds her. This novel deservedly was recognized as a Newbery Honor Book.

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Pena; Illus. Christian Robinson

This book deserves recognition for being both the Newbery Award Winner and a Caldecott Honor book. This story is a testimony to the loving relationship of an African-American boy and his grandmother as they journey through an urban community and is a ‘winner’ in any category. Certainly would make Ezra Jacks Keats proud.

THE HONEST TRUTH by Dan Gemeinhart

Mark has always dreamed of reaching the top of Mount Rainier and early in the book we learn that he escapes from home to fulfill his dream. He meets some tough obstacles along the way, which don’t frazzle him because what could be tougher than fighting cancer, the treatments, and the imminence of dying. An interesting format is presented in this book: Each chapter labels the amount of miles Mark has to travel to reach his goal (e.g. Chapter 6 Miles to go:39) and alternating chapters are labelled with a fraction: (e.g. Chapter 6 ½) which tells the story from the viewpoint of those that Mark left behind at home, particularly his good friend Jessie). An emotional book about perseverance and survival, hope and truth.

ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson

An entertaining graphic novel. Readers will route for Astrid who his determined to be an to be an star Roller Derby player. Astrid is feisty and tenacious especially when trying to understand her best friend’s behaviours and her association with the mean girl in school. Though they might not want to be roller girls, many young adolescents will identify with the trials and tribulations puberty presents to those going through puberty who must deal with family, friends and growing pains. This book was a Newbery Honor Book.

FIREFLY HOLLOW by Alison McGhee; Illusrated by Christopher Denise

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this title on award lists next year. I am often a sucker for books with anthropomorphic animal characters (Abel’s Island by William Steig, The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo). McGhee has written about three heroes each with a dream. Firefly is determined to fly up to the moon, Cricket wants to learn how to catch a baseball, Peter, a little giant (i.e. human) wants to be a free spirit and not go back to school. And then there’s Vole, whose family was destroyed leaving him to live on his own on a riverboat. This book is an ideal read aloud for younger grades. The chapters are short and readers will likely cheer the characters who rebel against what is expected of them. Vivid colour plates appear throughout. Lovely!

ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

This is an important and timely book for young adolescent readers. The novel is told in mostly alternating voices, each written by one of the authors. Rashad is brutally beaten by a white policeman who accuses the black teenager of stealing (we know he was innocent). Quinn, a white boy saw it all, but is afraid to speak up because the policeman, Paul, is a close family friend who mentored Nick when his father was killed in Afghanistan. A book that helps readers understand the complexity of taking sides, but more important questioning not only prejudice but police brutality. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

Newbery Award Winner 2016

  •    Last Stop on Market Street Matt de la Pena; Illus. Christian Robinson


Newbery Honor Books

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Echo Pamela Munoz Ryan

Caldecott Award Winner 2016

  •    Finding Winnie: The true story of the world’s most famous bear
    Illus. Sophie Blackall; written by Lindsay Mattick


Caldecott Honor Books 

   Trombone Shorty Illus. Bryan Collier; written by Troy Andrews

   Waiting Kevin Henkes

   Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
Illus. Ekua Holmes; written by Carole Boston Weatherford

   Last Stop on Market Street Illus. Christian Robinson; written by Matt de la Pena


Next up on Larry’s bookpile:
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger
LIT UP by David Denby
PAX by Sara Pennypacker; Illustrated by Jon Klassen