Award Winners

All posts in the Award Winners category

Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni

Published March 22, 2015 by Dagmar

There are so many incredible books to share during African-American History Month.  This compelling book made a real impression on me and on my fourth graders.

rosaRosa is a dramatic retelling of Rosa Parks’ story.  It begins with Rosa going to work at her job as a seamstress in the alterations department.  She is good spirits, and her supervisor has let her leave work early.  When Rosa gets on the bus, she sits in the neutral section, the area where both blacks and whites can sit.  As she sits, she thinking about the meal she’ll prepare for her husband that evening.  Suddenly, she hears the bus driver yell, “I said give me those seats!”.  This exclamation, coming after such a peaceful beginning to the story is a jolt, to the reader, to the listeners, and, you can imagine, to Mrs. Parks, daydreaming after a day’s work.  The other black people in the neutral section slip back to the crowded black section of the bus, trying to avoid trouble.  Mrs. Parks watches them go but decides that she will just sit.

Nikki Giovanni wraps the story of Rosa Parks in the history of the time: the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education that stated that separate was “inherently unequal” and the death of Emmet Till, a fourteen-year-old boy who was lynched in Mississippi, shortly after the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling.   It was these events and Mrs. Parks’ courageous action and arrest that led supporters band together with the Women’s Political Council, the NAACP and local churches.  The people gathered selected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as their spokesman.  Together, they chose to stay off the buses of Montgomery.  They walked in every kind of weather, at all times of day, every day.  On November 13, 1956, a year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was also illegal.

“Rosa Parks said no so that the Supreme Court could remind the nation that the Constitution of the United States makes no provision for second-class citizenship.  We are all equal under the law and are all entitled to its protection.”

Giovanni’s retelling of this important moment in African-American history is presented with the incredible illustrations of Bryan Collier.  This book won the Caldecott Honor in 2006.

Please don’t miss this great book.  African-American history month is over now; but, as a friend of mine correctly said, sharing the messages of this book is important all year long.


Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

Published October 20, 2014 by Dagmar

ManiacMagee1This book may be my favorite book of the year.  Written by the author of one of my recent favorites for middle and high school, Stargirl, was recommended to me by the students in one of my third grade classes.  They’d been read the book by their teacher.  I’d been given all sorts of recommendations, Captain Underpants, among them.  This one stuck in my mind, because I knew it had won the 1991 Newbery Medal and because I’d always meant to read it.

Jeffrey Magee was orphaned at the age of three when his parents’ trolley went off the tracks of the P & W Trestle into the Schuylkill River.  Jeffrey moved in with his aunt and uncle who always fought. One day, he ran away, literally.  He ran all the way to a town called Two Mills.  Two Mills was split by Hector Street.  The West End of town was reserved for whites.  The East End of town was for blacks.  The two populations didn’t mix at all.  In fact, no one who was white dared come into East End.  Likewise, no one who was black purposely went into the West End of town.  Until Maniac Magee, unaware of the rules, showed up in the East End of town.  He met a girl named Amanda Beale, a great lover of books.  He managed, unbelievably, to borrow a book from her, a girl who did not, as a rule, lend her books.  He promised to return it and ended up living in Amanda Beale’s house.  There, he had two little brothers, a sister and a mother and father – a home.  Maniac Magee was fearless.  He could do extraordinary things.  He hit home runs off a star pitcher, ran touch downs on the football field, untangled complicated knots, ran on a single rail of a railroad line and actually sat on the Finsterwald’s front steps to read a book. He never went to school but loved to read.  He was a maniac.  He was legend.  All was going well until one day someone pointed out that he was white.  Maniac, didn’t even realize it himself.  Things changed after that day.  People didn’t like that the Beale’s were sheltering him.  So, Maniac ran.  He ran and found a home at the local zoo, in the buffalo pen.  There, he met a true friend, Grayson, who would make him another home in the park.  Soon, Maniac had to run again, this time, to the West End and a house where two small boys needed someone who would keep them safe.  He was fine there, taking care of those two boys who needed him and for whom he would do anything.  Until the day they asked him to do something he absolutely could not do, and he ran again.

Like my students, I became completely absorbed in Maniac Magee’s story.  I hope you will too.



One Fine Day, by Nonny Hogrogian

Published December 7, 2013 by Dagmar

onefinedayThis 1971 winner of the Caldecott Medal worked really well with my kindergarten students.  One day, a fox, traveling through a forest, notices a pail of milk.  He quickly laps up all the milk but is caught by the old lady who owns the pail.  Angry that the fox drank all her milk, the old lady cuts of his tail.  He asks her to please sew it back on so his friends won’t tease him.  She tells him that she’ll sew it back on if he brings her more milk.  So begins fox’s journey to find milk.

The fox meets a cow who won’t give him milk unless the fox gives her some grass.  He goes to the meadow, but the meadow won’t give him grass until she gets water and so on.  Finally, after six different people ask him for something the miller takes pity on the poor fox, giving him some grain to give to the hen so he can have an egg to give to the peddler and so on until he has enough milk to pay back the old woman.  The old woman does finally sew back on the fox’s tail.  My guess is that our fox won’t be stealing milk again. 🙂


Seven Blind Mice, by Ed Young

Published July 2, 2013 by Dagmar

seven blind miceThis Caldecott Honor book is a favorite with my young readers.  I usually read it to pre-k through 1st grade.  The colors are brilliant, set on a black background.

Seven mice, red, green, yellow, purple, orange, blue and white, try to understand the large object in front of them.  Each one feels a different part of the whole and makes a guess as to what the object must be.  It isn’t until the seventh mouse runs “up one side, down another and across the Something from end to end” that he discovers that the “Something” is an elephant.  The others, then do the same and agree with the white mouse.   The moral? “Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but wisdom comes from seeing the whole.”

Holes, by Louis Sacher

Published June 25, 2013 by Dagmar

holesThis book has an effect on kids.  I’ve had countless kids tell me that it’s a great book.  I have one student that stood up and hugged me when I gave him a donated copy to keep.  I knew it was his favorite book in our library.  It’s also one of my son’s favorites, so I think I have a soft spot for this book.

Stanley Yelnats (read it backwards) is an unlucky child that comes from an unlucky family that is said to be cursed.  When a star basketball player’s pair of sneakers falls on Stanley’s head from above, Stanley  is accused of stealing the shoes.  Stanley goes to court, is found guilty and is sent to Camp Green Lake, a youth detention center in the middle of a dried up lake in Texas.  There Stanley and the other children are forced to dig holes every day for the warden, with little water and bad food.  You might think this book is too dark and might even want to give up on reading the book at this point. Don’t.  If you do, you’ll miss an amazing book.

Sacher cleverly weaves Stanley’s story with that of Stanley’s great, great grandfather, Elya, an old Egyptian woman named Madame Zeroni, a woman named Kate, a man named Sam, his donkey, Mary Lou, and Sam’s incredibly powerful onions. Woven together, Louis Sacher creates a powerful story of friendship and of good overcoming evil that you won’t forget.

Highly recommended for tweens and middle schoolers.  Holes is a Newbery and National Book Award winning book.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick

Published June 19, 2013 by Dagmar

hugo cabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret is very special.  It is unlike any other children’s book I’ve read.  Selznick masterfully intertwines illustration with words to create a captivating story.  When I first opened this book with my son years ago, I was amazed by the illustrations.  As my son and I turned the pages, he was completely taken in by the story, as was I.

This year, I had a student who was reading easy chapter books.  As a very bright fifth grader, I knew he needed to challenge himself with more difficult books.  I suggested this book and watched as it opened up the world of literature for this child.  He devoured the book in two days, brought it back and checked out Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick’s next book.  These two books led him to explore many different books in my library.  I was amazed at this student’s transformation from a child who liked books to a child who became an insatiable reader.

Hugo is an orphan, living in a train station in Paris. Hugo’s father and his uncle had a talent for fixing mechanical things, particularly clocks and taught Hugo their trade.  After Hugo’s uncle passes away,  Hugo hides in the train station in his uncle’s old apartment, maintaining the station clocks in order to fool the station master into believing his uncle is still alive.  But, Hugo has an even bigger secret.  Before he died, Hugo’s father was trying to repair a mechanical man that he and Hugo believed would draw a picture or write a message once he was repaired and able to write again.  Hugo’s one wish is to complete his father’s work and read the mechanical man’s message.   This endeavor leads Hugo to meet new friends and unravel more than the mystery of the message, but the mystery of of the mechanical man and his inventor.

This book won the 2008 Caldecott Medal and is unique and memorable.  It’s perfect for tweens, middle school students and adults.  Don’t miss it.

The Paper Crane, by Molly Bang

Published June 5, 2013 by Dagmar

the paper craneThis book never fails to please my students.  I usually read it to second or third graders, but it can be enjoyed by older students as well.

This is a story of a man who owned a restaurant on a busy road.  He loved owning his restaurant and had many customers, until a new highway was built.  Travelers no longer passed by, and the restaurant was empty.  One evening, a stranger wearing old and worn clothes comes to the restaurant.  Although the restaurant owner is very poor, he feeds the stranger. The stranger repays the kindness of the restaurant owner by folding a napkin into a paper crane.  He tells the restaurant owner that when he claps his hands, the crane will come to life and dance.  Sure enough, it works.  The crane dances.  People come from all around to see the dancing crane and soon the restaurant is busy again. One day, the stranger returns and takes out a flute.  The crane comes to life and goes to him.  Together, they leave the restaurant.  The stranger and his crane are never seen again, but travelers still come to the restaurant to hear the story of the stranger and the crane.

The illustrations are cut paper collage.  This book is the winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for illustration (1986).

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published June 2, 2013 by Dagmar

OCSOne Crazy Summer is an incredible book – not only because much of the book takes place just blocks from my school library in North Oakland, CA – but because the main character, Delphine, is a strong and capable 11 year old girl who really knows how to make the best of a bad situation.  I love her strength and her determination.  This book ran like wildfire around my school.

Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are three girls, 11, 9 and 7, who live with their father and Big Ma, their grandmother, in Brooklyn, NY.  Their mother, Cecile abandoned them when Fern was just a baby.  One summer, the girl’s father says the girls need to know their mother and sends them across the country to stay with their mother in Oakland, CA.  The girls, who don’t know their mother at all, are greeted by Cecile at the airport.  Cecile not only doesn’t hug them, when she takes them home, she doesn’t cook for them or care for them in any way.  Cecile sends them off every day to get their breakfast from the Black Panthers kitchen in the neighborhood and tells the girls to spend the day in the Black Panthers’ summer camp.  The girls learn all about revolution but also that the Black Panthers feed hungry people.  They also discover that their mother, a poet with a printing press, has been asked to print the Black Panther newsletter.

Delphine rises to the occasion.  She rejects her mother’s call to eat Chinese food every night and goes to the store so she can cook meals for her sisters.  She even plans an excursion into San Francisco so that the girls can actually see something of California, not just “poor people in Oakland”.  Delphine is smart. You just can’t help routing her on and hoping that her mother can see all the good that we see in her.

This book is a window into the world of the 1960s and those who believed in the work of the Black Panthers and those in the black community who saw things differently.  Delphine is forced to view both worlds, that of her father and grandma and that of her mother Cecile.  What a great book.  But, don’t just believe me.  This book won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery Honor and National Book Award Honor.  Don’t miss it.

I’m excited to read Rita Williams-Garcia’s new book, P.S. Be Eleven.

Mirette on the High Wire, by Emily Arnold McCully

Published May 20, 2013 by Dagmar

miretteMirette on the High Wire is a Caldecott Award winner and a big hit with my students.  I think my students particularly loved the fact that a young girl helps an adult through a difficult time.  This book is a real hit in my library.

Mirette’s mother operates a boarding house in Paris where many actors, jugglers and other performers like to stay.  A man comes and asks for a room.  Mirette discovers that the man is actually the Great Bellini, a famous high wire artist.  She watches, fascinated, as Bellini practices on a small wire in the back.  She begs Bellini to train her, but he warns her that once she begins walking on the wire, her “feet will never be happy again on the ground.”  Mirette can’t resist learning.  She practices and practices.  While she works with Bellini, she learns that Bellini has become afraid of working on the wire.  Together, Mirette and Bellini practice.   Their work together inspires Bellini to get back on the high wire, high in the sky in Paris.  Mirette, seeing him high in the air, quickly climbs up to the high wire and walks across to meet him in the middle.  It’s a wonderful moment in the book that my students love.

The Lion & the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney

Published May 2, 2013 by Dagmar

lionThis Caldecott Medal winning book is superb.  I have always been a fan of Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations, but this book is truly beautiful.  The Lion & the Mouse is a wordless retelling of  Aesop’s fable of a lion who spares a mouse’s life and then has his life saved by the mouse.  The moral of the story? “Even the strongest can sometimes use the help of the smallest.”

The illustrations in this book are breathtaking.  I love watching my students intently look at each page and then listening as they recount the story to me.  Pinkney says in his author’s note at the end of the book, “My curiosity and reverence for animal life has grown over the years, and my concern for them grows in equal measure.  It seemed fitting, then to stage this fable in the African Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya, with its wide horizon and abundant wildlife so awesome yet fragile – not unlike the two sides of each of the heroes starring in this great tale for all times.”  It is clear that Pinkney loves animals, because I honestly believe that the detail is so wonderful in these pictures, that I can read the animals’ expressions.

This is a book that would be an incredible addition to any child’s library.