It's one of my favorite times of the year. I watched the ALA Youth Media Awards Monday morning. I used to conduct Mock Newbery events with my students, first with King County Library System and then on our own. So it's no surprise that nine years into retirement I'm still paying attention to the books that receive awards in the world of children's literature.
I follow the Heavy Medal SLJ blog which guides a few of my middle grade book choices during the year. With six grandchildren, six and under, I realize that I definitely have more exposure than before to possible Caldecotts.
So here we go with the winners that I read this past year:
The first one was Maizy Chen's Last Chance by Lisa Yee. It won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Youth Literature, was a Newbery Honor, and a National Book Award Finalist. I listened to this one and loved it. My interest in Chinese history and immigration stems from my time in Hong Kong as a missionary. I'm not sure where I heard about this book, possibly on the Heavy Medal blog which I follow throughout the year to stay abreast of books receiving Newbery buzz.
The second award winner that I read and loved was Wild Oak by C.C. Harrington. I just finished it recently and was so excited with its recognition as the middle grade winner for the Schneider Family Book Awards.
Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Frank Morrison won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator award. This gorgeous picture book uses the words of the old spiritual to portray events in African American history and points forward to provide hope and resilience for today and tomorrow.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff written by Mac Barnett won an Honor Audiobook Odyssey Award. I'm stretching a little with this one since I've read the book, but haven't listened to the audio version narrated by the author. I was surprised that our library system does not have the audiobook, but I'm sure that will be remedied soon.
I've read Hot Dog, written and illustrated by Doug Salati and winner of the 2023 Caldecott Medal. I've also read three of the four Caldecott Honor Books: Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Jason Griffin; Berry Song, written and illustrated by Michaela Goade; and Knight Owl, illustrated and written by Christopher Denise. I recommended Knight Owl on our Christmas card list of book recommendations and gifted it to both families of grandchildren.
I thoroughly enjoy reading children's books and following the buzz that surrounds the books prior to the award announcements each year. As I listen to the book awards, I open a tab to my library and request books as they are announced. It's a sure thing that I will have more books than I can read on my holds shelf soon. But isn't that the fun of the reading life? I'll enjoy perusing the titles and deciding which ones speak to me.
I can't wind up this post without a nod to some recent middle grade reads that I loved. I finished Katherine Applegate's Odder last night, a delightful free verse novel about an otter who faces a great white shark and the changes that come as a result of her encounter. And my favorite middle grade read of the past year was A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus. This debut novel features three orphans who join the WWII London evacuation after the death of their grandmother leaves them without a guardian. With wonderful nods to other British novels and a lovely librarian, I believe you'll find this one as delightful as I did. If you love middle grade as much as I do, leave a comment with some of your recent favorites.