The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 23, 2009

Book review: Library offers award-winning titles


Each January, the American Library Association (ALA) holds its annual Mid-Winter conference. This weekend, the conference is in Denver and on Monday, all the annual book awards will be announced.

This event is usually early in the morning and is full of anticipation. It has been referred to as the “Academy Awards for Books” by people I know as well as some that I don’t. People come to acknowledge the work the various committees have done during the past year and to cheer on their favorite titles.

There are a number of awards given each year, often times with several titles taking “Honor” slots after the winner. There are too many awards to name here (see the ALA Web site for a complete listing of awards along with current and past winners: www.ala.org) but a few of the most popular or well-known are:

• Randolph Caldecott Medal, an award going to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”

• John Newbery Medal, an award going to “an author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for Children.”

• Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, an award that “honors the best book written for young adults.”

Here are some of the winners and honor titles from past years that I have enjoyed. And it was hard to just pick a few. For these and other winning and honor titles check the library’s catalog either in the library or at www.joplinpubliclibrary.org (click on “JPL Picks, Bestsellers, Award Winners” in the right-hand column.)

‘Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale’

By Mo Willems (Caldecott Honor Title, 2005)

A wonderfully done book about a little girl who goes to the laundromat with her father only to have her favorite stuffed animal left in one of the machines. Once the bunny is discovered missing, it’s a fast run back to the laundromat to reclaim the precious toy. The sequel, “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity,” was an honor book this year and the DVD version of “Knuffle Bunny” won the Andrew Carnegie Medal in 2007 as the “most outstanding video production for children.” (Note: The library does not own the DVD.)

‘The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural’

By Patricia McKissack (Newbery Honor, 1993, and Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner, 1993)

This is a collection of African-American-themed ghost stories meant to be told or read just before sunset. Patricia McKissack is from St. Louis.

‘The First Part Last’

By Angela Johnson (Printz Winner, 2004, and Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner, 2004)

This well-done story is told by a 16-year-old new father in chapters alternating between the “then” and “now.” He talks about finding out his girlfriend is pregnant, his feelings and the responsibility of parenthood. This is a fairly short book that is a quick read. It is one of my favorite Printz Award winners.

‘Looking for Alaska’

By John Green (Printz Winner, 2006)

Miles Halter has convinced his parents to send him to a boarding school, Culver Creek, his father’s alma mater, for his junior year of high school in hopes of finding what pet Francois Rabelais calls the “Great Perhaps.” This year, Miles finds new friends including Alaska Young, a young, funny, screwed-up and very attractive girl. She turns Miles’ world upside down as he learns about life, himself, and how to go on when someone you deeply care about is suddenly gone.

In John Green’s debut novel, he writes a wonderful coming-of-age story about a teen looking for something other than a normal, unexciting (at least to him) life.

Green’s second young-adult novel, “The Abundance of Katherines,” is a Printz Honor title from 2007.

Susan Wray is the director of Joplin Public Library.