2021 Newbery Award Winners

January 31st, 2021 by

During the pandemic, there are no more fancy awards shows with live performances, red carpets, and good-looking celebrities chatting with even better-looking celebrities while wearing glittering gowns. But you know one thing that social distancing cannot take away from us? Book awards!!!

On Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2021 Newbery Medal Winner and 2021 Newbery Honor Books. Every year, the Newbery is given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

This year’s big winner is When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller — which also won the 2021 Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature! When we were growing up, it seemed like only a few novels featured Asian-American kids like us, so it’s pretty exciting to see this book selected for both awards.

Plus, the double award was apparently essential to surprising the author with her Newbery news. Tae Keller told Publishers Weekly Magazine that she learned about her Asian/Pacific American Award on a Friday, but then her editor said the awards committee wanted to do a video call with her that Sunday. All weekend, she was super nervous and unsure what they were going to say. Then it turned out that the call was to surprise her with the news that she won the Newbery Medal! We don’t know about you, but that sounds about 100 times more thrilling than any of our recent Zoom calls!

So if you’re trying to decide what to read next, check out When You Trap a Tiger or Tae Keller’s first book, The Science of Breakable Thingsor any of this year’s Newbery Honor recipients (official descriptions from the publishers):

2021 Newbery Medal Winner:

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni’s Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now they want it back. And when one of the tigers approaches Lily with a deal — return what her grandmother stole in exchange for Halmoni’s health — Lily is tempted to agree. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice… and the courage to face a tiger.

2020 Newbery Honor Books:

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

On June 23, 2018, twelve young players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon’s adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a 17-day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe. As the world sits vigil, people begin to wonder: How long can a group of ordinary kids survive in complete darkness, with no food or clean water? Luckily, the Wild Boars are a very extraordinary “ordinary” group. Combining firsthand interviews of rescue workers with in-depth science and details of the region’s culture and religion, author Christina Soontornvat — who was visiting family in Northern Thailand when the Wild Boars went missing — masterfully shows how both the complex engineering operation above ground and the mental struggles of the 13 young people below proved critical in the life-or-death mission. 

BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood

Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next — as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope — and help — came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!

In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom.

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-tear-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf — her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in 7th grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties.

Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing 7th grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his 12-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.

The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project — they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

All light in Chattana is created by one man — the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

Are you adding any of these books to your to-read list? Or have you already read them? Leave a comment and let us know!

2020 Newbery Award Winners

February 3rd, 2020 by

The Super Bowl was last night, and apparently that’s exciting for some people… Not us! The only recent competition that we care about actually happened last week: the Newbery Awards!

Last Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2020 Newbery Medal Winner and 2020 Newbery Honor Books. Every year, the Newbery is given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” So if you’re not familiar with these awards, just think of them as the Super Bowl — plus children’s books, minus the nachos. We know, we know — nachos are delicious. But even without the cheesy chips and guacamole, the Newbery Awards are still really exciting.

And this year’s announcement was particularly exciting because a graphic novel won the Newbery Medal for the very first time: New Kid by Jerry Craft. Here’s what Karen had to say about it in her review: “I’d recommend this book to literally everyone. Okay, maybe not to little kids who can’t read yet. But everyone else should check out New Kid. Students, adults, everyone.”

So if you were wondering what to read next, check out New Kid or any of the Newbery Honor recipients (official descriptions from the publishers):

2020 Newbery Medal Winner:

New Kid by Jerry Craft
new-kid-jerry-craft

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds — and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

2020 Newbery Honor Books:

undefeatedThe Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

scary-stories-for-young-foxesScary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood.

No fox kit is safe. When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow… and other things too scary to mention.

Featuring eight interconnected stories and 16 hauntingly beautiful illustrations, Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night. Fans of Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Auxier, and R.L. Stine have found their next favorite book.

other-words-for-homeOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US — and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before.

But this life also brings unexpected surprises — there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home and, most importantly, finding yourself.

genesis-begins-againGenesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

There are 96 things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant — even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight — Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Are you adding any of these books to your to-read list? Or have you already read them? Leave a comment and let us know!

Dead End in Norvelt: 2012 Newbery Medal Winner!

January 26th, 2012 by

As you guys know, I’m a very impatient person. So even though it seems kind of backwards, I’m willing to go the extra mile in order to save time. If I want to see a TV show, I record it so I can fast-forward through the commercials. If I want to know what the President said in a speech, I’ll go online afterwards and skim the text transcript. If I know where I’m going to eat dinner, I’ll look at the restaurant’s website beforehand so that I’m already familiar with the menu when I get there. Like I said, I’m VERY impatient.

But in the last few weeks, I’ve watched three big-deal spectacles in real-time — which just goes to show you how super important they were. And the three events were: the Golden Globe Awards, the playoff game between the 49ers and the Giants, and the announcement of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards (ALAymas)!

What? You don’t know that last one? Well, I bet you’ve heard of the Newbery Medal, which is one of the ALAymas. Every January, it’s given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” in the previous year. Past winners include completely-awesome-major-big-deal books like The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.

And earlier this week, a new winner joined the ranks of this prestigious group:

dead-end-in-norvelt-by-jack-gantos

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

As you may recall from our book trailer for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Nancy and I have been fans of Jack Gantos for a while now. So we extend a hearty congratulations to the man of the hour! But we also have to give ourselves a disapproving shake of the head and a look of pure disdain because, well, we haven’t read this book yet!

But we definitely plan to read Dead End in Norvelt ASAP — not just because it won the Newbery, but also because it sounds totally awesome! Here’s part of the official description:

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is “grounded for life” by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack’s way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore — typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels … and possibly murder.

Cookies and murder in one book?! Obviously, WE ARE IN!

And we’ll also be adding the 2012 Newbery Honor Books to our To Be Read list:

  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

So, if you’ll excuse us, we need to go out and obtain some books, like, right now. But if you have already read any of these big winners, leave a comment and us know!

— Karen

Karen used to get lots of nosebleeds when she was a kid. She did NOT enjoy putting tissue up her nose to stop the blood. But to be honest, she kinda liked the feeling of pulling it out once the bleeding had stopped. That’s not gross, right?

More about Karen »

And the Award Goes to…

January 13th, 2011 by

The American Library Association Youth Media Awards. Some call it the Academy Awards of books. Others call it… well, I guess that’s mostly what people call it. But that’s because it’s a pretty good description! Just like folks host Oscar parties and invite friends over to watch beautiful people on TV, those of us who obsess over children’s books watch the ALAyma webcast alone in front of our computers. It’s the same thing, right?

No, really, the ALAymas are a BIG deal in the kidlit world — and I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of one award in particular: the Newbery Medal. Every January, it’s given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” (That’s actually kind of curious because the award itself is named for 18th-century British bookseller John Newbery… But that’s beside the point.)

This year’s Newbery winner was announced earlier this week, and the award goes to…

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Now, I’m very happy for Clare Vanderpool, but I also I feel a little ashamed — because I haven’t read this book yet! And now I’m just going to seem like a follower when I go get it, and the librarian will look at me all knowingly, like: “You’re kind of late to the party, aren’t you?” Sigh.

But I swear I won’t be reading it just because it got the Newbery! It really does sound like an intriguing read. Here’s part of the official description:

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was. Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

For the inside scoop on the book, you can check out the author’s website; she offers a behind-the-scenes look at how she came up with the idea for the story. I’ll give you sneak peek: it all started with map thieves! Egads!

But wait — before you go rushing out to get Moon Over Manifest, don’t forget to add the 2011 Newbery Honor books to your list too (they’re kind of the runners-up in the competition):

  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Whoa, Nelly! That’s a lot of books to add to the To Be Read pile! Sigh again…

Of course, maybe you’ve already read Moon over Manifest and/or some of this year’s Honor books. If so, leave me a comment with your thoughts! Do you think these books deserve the award? And if you could pick the Newbery winner, which book would you choose?

— Karen

Karen hasn’t read all the Newbery Medal winners in history, but she’s read quite a few. Her favorite is Holes by Louis Sachar.

More about Karen »

Breaking Book News: And the Award Goes To…

January 20th, 2010 by

Yes, the Golden Globes were on Sunday, but who cares about the glitz and glamor of Hollywood? I’m talking about the American Library Association’s annual awards that went out on Monday — including the Newbery Medal.

The Newbery Medal is like the holy grail for children’s book writers. Or if you’re not an Indiana Jones fan, then think of it like the MVP award for the best kids’ book author of the year. Or if you’re not into sports, you can consider it like the Blue Ribbon for, well, for anything that’s super competitive. In other words, the Newbery Medal is a really, really cool thing to get.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

And this year, the Newbery went to… [drumroll, please]… When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead! If you missed my previous blog post about the book, then you missed out on an excellent piece of writing. Whoops, I should probably be celebrating Rebecca Stead, not congratulating myself. So here’s a little rundown of When You Reach Me:

Imagine you’re just going about your life — going to school, hanging out with your best friend, spending time with your mom and her boyfriend — and then all of a sudden you get a message from the future. WHA?! Personally, I’d freak out and hide under my bed covers for a while. But not Miranda, the protagonist in When You Reach Me. And that’s good, because it makes for a much more interesting book!

So if you want to see who won the kidlit world’s version of the Heisman Trophy, check out When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

And then try out this year’s Newbery Honor books (aka, the runners-up):

Oh, man, I’m never going to make a dent in my To Be Read list, am I?!

— Karen


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