Sunday, June 14, 2009

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices

Paul Fleischman has created a truly unique offering for children in his Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. A collection of antiphonal poetry, the poems in this charming volume are all about bugs. Antiphonal poetry involves two people reading each poem; the lines of the poem are arranged in two columns so that each narrator can figure out his or her lines. In JN, the readers will sometimes be speaking alone, sometimes in unison, and sometimes overlapping--each with a unique line.

Fleischman's little book is organized by the seasons in that the first poems deal with the insects we first encounter in the spring (grasshoppers); the final poems end with winter and what that means for the world of creepy-crawlies. Most poem are in first person--from an insect point of view. The language changes for each insect, gaining speed in the "Whirly-gig Beetle" offering, moving rythmically in the "Waterboatmen" version, chirping away in "House Crickets."

This is one of those books that you simply must experience in audio format. It is less than half an hour long--it would make a nice preschool or kindergarten offering in the midst of longer, "older" books during a long car ride. It fits in well if you're simply running errands, too, since each poem is quite short. The narrators are top notch (I listed to the Recorded Books, Inc. version--those are often found in libraries), and poetry should always be heard, rather than merely read. I think the collection will most resonate with preschool-kindergarten-aged children, but anyone who enjoys bugs and the insect world will appreciate the subtle humor, the variety of language, and the intricacies of hive life that Fleischman includes in his charming poetry collection.

For other audio book recommendations (for those summer trips!), check out the audiobooks category in the right-hand column.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Award Winners--Newbery

The familiar Newbery Award has been around a long time! Nearly 100 years old, it was first awarded in 1922. Awarded annually, to the "author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children," it usually signifies a book worth reading. Still, though, remember that these books are judged by other people--it represents an opinion you are free to disagree with! They are worth getting to know because libraries stock them, and they often wind up on curriculum lists in elementary/middle school classrooms.

These are meaty books, even though they are for "children." They also range from Millions of Cats to Frog and Toad to The Giver in level and content. It's interesting to note that some of the now-standards were only "honor" books back in the day, partly because the committee wondered if their content was too dark (i.e. Charlotte's Web and Old Yeller). Here's the list of winners.

Here are Betsy's faves (I haven't kept up with the Newbery scene as of late; I haven't read many of the newer ones):
  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (2002 Winner)
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2001 Honor)
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (2000 Winner)
  • Holes by Louis Sachar (1999 Winner)
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (1998 Winner)
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997 Honor)
  • Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (1995 Honor)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (1994 Winner)
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1990 Winner)
  • Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples (1990 Honor)
  • Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleishman (1989 Winner)
  • Jacob, Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (1981 Winner)
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1979 Winner)
  • Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson (1978 Winner)
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1977 Winner)
  • The Perilous Guard by Elizabeth Marie Pope (1975 Honor)
  • The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (1974 Honor)
  • Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel (1973 Honor)
  • Sounder by William Armstrong (1970 Winner)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1963 Winner)
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (1961 Winner)
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1959 Winner)
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gibson (1957 Honor)
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (1953 Honor)
  • King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (1949 Winner)
  • My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (1949 Honor)
  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (1945 Honor)
  • Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (1937 Winner)

Award Winners--Printz

The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. The Printz Award is a relative newcomer to the award scene; it was first awarded in 2000. It is worth noting one of the key differences between the Printz Award and the more familiar Newbery: the age of the target audience. Printz Awards are given for young adult literature versus the children's literature that receives the Newbery. Sometimes, the protagonist's age doesn't differ greatly, but the subject matter, content, and overall tone will differ extensively.

The pattern, so far, in the Printz Award winners seems to be literature that is most definitely for the upper end of the YA spectrum (age-wise). These are not books to hand casually to your 11-year-old. They are edgy, complex, "messy," open-ended, and, admittedly, well-crafted. They merit much discussion and often include elements that parents are uncomfortable with. They also happen to be books that wind up in high school (or even middle school) classrooms on the curriculum list. It's worth knowing what your children may be reading in school. Certainly, their peers are devouring these books.

Betsy's favorites:
  • American Born Chinese by Gen Yang (2007 Winner): A graphic novel about a Chinese-American boy's struggle to find his cultural identity. Really, a fascinating and well-done book.
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (2000 Honor): This one winds up in classrooms regularly, particularly in 8th and 9th grade. It's a sobering, poignant book about a young girl who gets raped at a party during the summer between 8th and 9th grade; she struggles to find her voice (literally) throughout her freshman year. The ending was a bit overdone, in my opinion, but the book tackles a topic worth examining, and Melinda's "voice" in the book (she's the narrator) is readily identified with, even if you haven't undergone the trauma she has experienced.

Here's the list of winners.

Award Winners--Caldecott

"You can't judge a book by its cover" --even when that cover is emblazoned with an award seal!

Award winners are not always the best of the best; this is a subjective group of human beings judging and you are entitled to disagree!

Caldecott Medal (CM): Awarded annually since 1938 to the artist of the "most distinguished American picture book for children." Thus, the Caldecott is awarded to the illustrator, not the author. A quick sampling of the winners shows a fascinating peek into the ways in which children's illustration has evolved over this past century. Here's the list of award winners. Some of Betsy's favorites are (check them out from your local library!):
  • The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (2010 Winner)
  • Red Sings from Treetops illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman (2010 Honor)
  • Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (2005 Winner)
  • Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky (1998 Winner)
  • Golem by David Wisnewski (1997 Winner)
  • Tuesday by David Wiesner (1992 Winner)
  • Lon Po-Po by Ed Young (1990 Winner)
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears by James Marshall (1989 Honor)
  • Ox-Cart Man by Barbara Cooney (1980 Winner)
  • Noah's Ark by Peter Spier (1978 Winner)
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel (1971 Honor)
  • Drummer Hoff illustrated by Ed Emberley; text: adapted by Barbara Emberley (1968 Winner)
  • May I Bring a Friend? illustrated by Beni Montresor; text: Beatrice Schenk de Regniers (1965 Winner)
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1964 Winner)
  • Little Bear's Visit illustrated by Maurice Sendak; text: Else H. Minarik (1962 Honor)
  • Chanticleer and the Fox , illustrated by Barbara Cooney; text: adapted from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales by Barbara Cooney (1959 Winner)
  • A Tree is Nice , illustrated by Marc Simont; text: Janice Udry (1957 Winner)
  • Play With Me , by Marie Hall Ets (1956 Honor)
  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (1949 Honor)
  • The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (1943 Winner)
  • Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1942 Winner)