Books: And The Winners Are ...
The annual crop of awards for children's literature, announced in early January, includes honorees running the gamut from poetry to prose and fairy tale to nonfiction. Chosen by various divisions of the American Library Association for their excellence in both writing and illustration, the books represent the best in juvenile literature.
The 1998 Newbery medal, the most prestigious award given to writers of literature for young adults and children, was presented to Karen Hesse for Out of the Dust, published by Scholastic Press. A coming-of-age novel written in unrhymed poetic verse, Out of the Dust is told through the voice of 14-year-old Billie Joe. The book, which is intended for ages 9-12, takes place during 1934-35, at the height of the Great Depression. Billie Joe's mother, severely burned in an accident, later dies in childbirth, and the rest of the family is left alone in the Oklahoma dust bowl. Poignant and subtle, Out of the Dust is the story of rebuilding and survival in the face of devastating circumstances and daunting challenges.
Other books honored by the Newbery Committee included Lily's Crossing, by Patricia Reilly Giff; Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine; and Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli.
Paul Zelinsky's art in his retelling of the classic Grimm tale Rapunzel garnered the 1998 Caldecott for outstanding illustration. Zelinsky modeled his oil paintings on Italian Renaissance masterworks, creating rich and vibrant illustrations that deepen the story's meaning even more than they support its plot. In his interpretation, Rapunzel is a story not of punishment and deprivation but of possessiveness, separation, and growing up. The book, appropriate for ages 5 and up, is published by Dutton Children's Books.
Harlem, written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by his son, Christopher Myers, was chosen by the Caldecott Committee as an Honor Book, as were The Gardener, written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small, and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, illustrated by Simms Taback.
Several other ALA honors also were announced recently, including the Coretta Scott King Award honoring outstanding African American authors and illustrators. The King Award was presented this year to Forged by Fire, by Sharon Draper, and to Javaka Steptoe for his illustrations for In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall. Forged by Fire, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, is the tale of a teenager's struggle with and ultimate victory over a home life that includes abuse and addiction. Steptoe's mixed-medium collages in In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall provide a colorful background for this collection of poetry celebrating African American fathers. In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall is published by Lee & Low Books.
The Pura Belpre Award, honoring Latino writers and illustrators for their portrayal of Latin American culture, went to Victor Martinez for his book Parrot in the Oven and to Stephanie Garcia for her illustrations in Gary Soto's book Snapshots From the Wedding.
Henry Holt and Co. received the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for The Robber and Me. The Batchelder Award is given annually to the English-language publisher of the most outstanding foreign title. The Robber and Me, written by Josef Holub in German, was translated by Elizabeth Crawford. Other honorees include Viking Publishing for Nero Corleone:
A Cat's Story, by Elke Heidenreich and translated by Doris Orgel, and Scholastic Press for Hostage to War: A True Story, translated by Anna Trenter from Tatjana Wassiljewa's original. Both books were originally published in German.
Lifetime achievement awards were also presented to children's literature legend Madeleine L'Engle and to 1988 Newbery winner Russell Freedman. L'Engle received the Margaret A. Edwards Award in recognition of her nearly 40-year career creating fiction known for its breadth of character, moral insight, and intellectual depth. Her books, numbering more than 40, include A Wrinkle in Time, which won the 1963 Newbery Medal. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal was awarded to Freedman for his "substantial and lasting contribution" to children's literature. Freedman's many works include 1987's Lincoln: A Photobiography and 1993's Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery.