Postcard from Planet Esme|
by Esmé Codell
Planet Esmé (www.planetesme.com)
Corks Are A-Poppin' at PlanetEsme.com!
Happy New Year! Look at all those empty champagne and sparkling grape juice bottles strewn around…you think the party's over? Oh my dears, it's only just begun! I hope everyone has gotten their gowns and tuxes dry-cleaned, because January is awards month in the world of children's literature. On January 27th, the Caldecott award for best illustration in American children's literature will be announced, along with the Newbery for best writing. These awards, given by the American Library Association, are the Big Kahuna, the Full Monty, the Whole Enchilada, in short, the Mother Lode that literary artists for children stand in front of a mirror and pretend to accept. The medal-winners are announced at a gala that might be considered the Oscar of the children's book world. You can find out who's crying "You like me! You really like me!" that day at http://www.ala.org/alsc/newbery.html for the writing awards
http://www.ala.org/alsc/caldecott.html for illustration.
Part of the fun of this whole endeavor is the heated speculation by booklovers over who will get Top Banana. Who, who, WHO will win this year? Don't bother calling Miss Cleo, the best bet for predicting the future is to read them yourself! There is a lot of buzz over Ann Martin's novel, A Corner of the Universe, about a girl whose mentally disabled uncle returns to her small town (read the complete review in the fiction section at http://www.planetesme.com/dontmiss.html). Will Linda Sue Park's When My Name Was Keoko make Park two-for-two, after snagging last year's gold with A Single Shard? (Some say her new book is even better…could that be possible?) Will the Newbery committee be brave enough to give medal recognition to Neil Gaiman's Coraline, one of the scariest books of this or any season? As for the Caldecott, Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith, illustrated by Marla Frazee is a strong contender, which would make for a bittersweet victory considering the author was lost to cancer. Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman is a child-accessible book that addresses the tragedy of September 11th…will the Caldecott carry it into the hands of generations to come? Will the sparse illustration style of Olivia Dunrea's Gossie and Gertie or Leon and Diane Dillon's Rap-A-Tap-Tap take the day, or will the fancier pants of Chesley McLaren's Zat Cat! A Haute Couture Tail receive the fanfare? Children can get caught up in the pre-awards froth via a mock election in your classroom. Order The Newbery & Caldecott Mock Election Kit: Choosing Champions in Children's Books directly from ALA at http://www.ala.org/alsc/nc_mock.html (or call 1-800-545-2433 if your computer is down). Or, if your pocketbook is in holiday postpartum, simply type "mock Newbery" or "mock Caldecott" in your favorite search engine, you'll come up with all sorts of fun local competitions like my favorite at the Allen County Public Library, http://www.acpl.lib.in.us/
Of course, the Newbery and Caldecott aren't the only awards that recognize contributions to children's literature. Also to be announced at the ALA conference are the Coretta Scott King awards, for "authors and illustrators of African descent whose distinguished books promote an understanding and appreciation of the ‘American Dream'" (http://www.ala.org/srrt/csking). The Pura Belpre Award honors Latino writers and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates their cultural experience (http://www.ala.org/alsc/belpre.html). The Michael Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature (books that usually have more mature themes and maybe a little swearing) gives propers to some fine entertainment for teachers as well as enticement for reluctant teen readers (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/printz/index.html). The Robert F. Sibert award for fabulous non-fiction (http://www.ala.org/alsc/sibert.html) is of particular interest for teachers who like to integrate their curriculum. All of these awards as well as others like the National Book Award and Children's Choices go far to help promote excellence in children's literature, and also serve as a compass to the page-turning public as to what's worth checking out. The only regrettable thing is that the Newbery and Caldecott seem to be among the few (if not the only) prizes that translate into media exposure and significant monetary gain for the talented count-em-on-your-fingers few. While the Newbery and Caldecott are perfectly Splendid with a capital S, wouldn't it be nice if there were more awards to say thank you for the gifts given to us by authors and illustrators?
With that in mind, perhaps the really exciting announcement this January is the initiation of the "Don't Miss" list created annually by PlanetEsme.com to recognize books with outstanding potential for read-aloud and classroom use! This commendation uses criteria of special concern to teachers, who are such dedicated liaisons between children and literature…please check out http://www.planetesme.com/chapman.html for more information as well as this year's champions. As long as we share the best of books with children, they'll always be the real winners!
Happy New Year (I hope parents gave you lots of bookstore gift certificates for the holidays) and happy reading always,
Esme Raji Codell,
Site Director, PlanetEsme.com
Also of interest:
Have You Made Your New Year's Resolution?
Many teachers have the goal of having their very own children's book published. Maybe this is the year it will happen for you! Diligence, love of language and an interest in children are some things that make you a great teacher, and those same qualities might work for you in the world of publishing. Visit http://www.planetesme.com/publish.html for books and helpful hints to get you started. Hope to see you at your booksigning!
Do You Have a Dream…
That all children will understand why we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King on January 17? The book that will make this dream come true may well be My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by Christine King Farris, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet. It is a powerful picture book in which King's younger sister recollects the day-to-day childhood they shared, and so discloses the upbringing that may have made King the powerhouse of peaceful protest he became. The end of the book includes a poem "You Can Be Like Martin" by Mildred D. Johnson, perfect for choral speaking, and a real photograph of Dr. King as a baby boy! This book is so personal and brave…see if you can manage the ending without crying. Read in combination with Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport and Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges for a birthday tribute and an excellent introduction to civil rights for all ages.
100th Day, Hooray!
January is usually when the 100th day of school rolls around…a monumental achievement for both students and teachers! Celebrate with some read-aloud! These books have lots of inspiring activities hiding in their storylines as well (don't we all just love Miss Bindergarten's "hundredth day hash"?)
Cuyler, Marjorie - 100th Day Worries
Harris, Trudy - 100 Days of School.
Kasza, Keiko - The Wolf's Chicken Stew
Pinczes, Elinor J. - One Hundred Hungry Ants
Rockwell, Anne - 100 School Days.
Slate, Joseph - Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the Hundredth Day of Kindergarten
Wells, Rosemary - Emily's First 100 Days of School
Also, be sure to check out I.Q. Goes to School by Mary Ann Fraser, about a class pet who dreams of being Star Student! This book gives a delightful overview of the school calendar and is a great way to start 2003. While the hundredth day of school is typically celebrated by primary students, older children can get in on the fun, too. How about coming up with a hundred story starters, or a hundred reasons they don't have their homework? Create a class anthology of a hundred poems? Each child writes a math story problem with the answer being a hundred? Write a journal entry imagining what life was like a hundred years ago? Children who read chapter books will also enjoy The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes or The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis, which both encourage the start of collections. Hang in there, only about 160 more days until summer vacation!
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