When Kristin first suggested selecting our own nominees for the ALA awards, I was excited. But then came the agony of narrowing down all the wonderful and fantastic books that came out this year to a handful of titles! It was an impossible task, but after careful and painstaking consideration, here are my selections for the Newbery, Sibert, and Morris Awards.
John Newbery Medal
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai – This amazing title has already won the National Book Award and I think it has a real shot at winning the Newbery as well. Thanhha Lai, a debut author, based this free verse novel on her own childhood experiences. It features 10-year-old Ha, immigrating from war-torn South Vietnam to Alabama in 1975. Lai’s imginative prose depicts the beauty and culture of Vietnam in stark contrast to what Ha experiences in Alabama. Even though Ha struggles with her new life in America, her narrative is still full of humor and hope for the future.
The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright – This novel was featured on my Top 10 of 2011 post, and I believe it deserves the Newbery for its clever and imaginative plot, characters, and language. I think kids will have a great time reading about Skilley and Pip’s adventures, and they’ll expand their vocabulary without even realizing it!
Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor – This was another book featured on my Top 10 of 2011 list. I loved this story. I’m not usually drawn to realistic fiction for this age, but a friend recommended it to me, and I’m so glad she did because I thought the story was amazing. Raine is such a compelling character, and I loved taking the journey with her as she discovered secrets about herself and her past. To read more about this title, also check out my full review here.
Robert F. Sibert Information Book Medal
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson – From early slavery to the election of President Obama, Nelson takes a look at the African American experience through the eyes of a grandmotherly figure whose not afraid to look at both the good times and the truly shameful times in America’s past. Nelson’s exquisite illustrations bring dignity and honor to African American figures of the past.
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal – The proponents of the Eighteenth Amendment envisioned a stronger, more moral America. But a decade later, the results were from far the vision. Many people blatantly ignored the law, organized crime rose, children helped their parents make and distribute illegal alcohol, and many police officials were bribed to look the other way. Blumenthal’s engaging narrative takes readers into this tumultuous decade of our nation’s history.
Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins – Because I didn’t want to just pick historical nonfiction, I added Martin Jenkins’ title to the mix. Jenkins does a great job of presenting a difficult topic with a light and even sometimes humorous tone while Vicky White’s magnificent artwork brings the creatures to life on every page. By reading this, children will be inspired to do their part to save the endangered species featured in this incredible book.
William C. Morris Award
I have to admit I cheated a little when picked this award, because the five finalists have already been picked…so all I needed to do was pick a winner! And for me, that choice is obvious…Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is the clear winner. As I wrote in my review for this book, this is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time. The tragedies and horrors Lina and her family suffered through stayed with me a long time. Add in the fact that those events were based on actual people’s experiences, makes this novel all the more heartbreaking. Although the other nominated books are very good, I will be very disappointed if this book doesn’t win. For more on this title, check out my full review.
What are your picks for these awards? We would love to hear about them!