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2012 Award Winning Books: Caldecott and Newbery Awards

by Miriam Downey 10. February 2012 10:06

Every year in January, the American Library Association announces the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott awards for the best children's books of the previous year. The Newbery is awarded to the author of the most distinguished children literature of the year. The Caldecott award is given to the best illustrated children's book of the year. That award goes to the illustrator, not the author.

I have followed these awards for most of my career. Some of the best books ever written for children have received the Newbery and Caldecott awards. Here are this year's winners and honor books.

 Newbery Award: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is a book about a boy named Jack Gantos, apparently no relation to the author. Smile It is very funny and both boys and girls will love it. The book jacket says it all: "...a sly sharp-edged narrative about a small western Pennsylvania town and a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air." (Grades 6 and up) Jack Gantos has written a lot of very funny books including the Joey Pigza series about a hyperactive boy with a very complicated life. (Grades 5-7)

 Caldecott Medal: A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

I fell in love with Chris Raschka several years ago with the publishing of his delightful books Yo! Yes? and Mysterious Thelonius, both of which were Caldecott Honor Books. A Ball for Daisy, is brilliant in its wordless simplicity. The dog is playing with his ball and the ball breaks. Raschka said he got the idea for the book when watching his daughter playing with a favorite toy which broke. Her reaction to the broken toy inspired the award-winning book. The School Library Journal's review (Aug. 2011) suggests that: "Raschka's genius lies in capturing the essence of situations that are deeply felt by children." (ages 3 and up)

Newbery Honor Books

Inside Out and Back Again by Tahnhha Lai. This is the moving account of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next. (grades 4-8)

Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin. Written for middle grade students, this short novel about a boy in the Soviet Union in the 1950s will thrill older readers as well. (grades 4-8)

Caldecott Honor Books

Blackout by John Rocco. What happens to the city when the electricity goes out? What do people do to entertain themselves? These issues are explored in the wonderful illustrations that move from color to black-and-white. (preschool-grade 2)

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith. Lane Smith is a well known illustrator, and his beautiful picture book Grandpa Green explores the life of a great-grandfather. (k-2) Lane Smith also illustrated the Caldecott Honor Book, The Stinky Cheese Man, which, by the way, is a very funny book.

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell is my favorite of this year's award books. McDonnell draws the comic strip, Mutts, so the illustrations have a signature comic strip quality. The remarkable story is about Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. It is accessible to very young children. (preschool-grade 2)

Here are some more of the year's best books

Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom by Shane W. Evans (The Coretta Scott King Award) (grades 2-4)

Heart and Soul:The Story of American and African Americans by Kadir Nelson. (Coretta Scott King Honor Book) (grades 4-6)

Two other must-read books of 2011 and award-winners in 2012

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. If you loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret, you will also love Wonderstruck. Graphic novel for middle grade students.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. While the movie was told from an adult perspective, the novel is told from the perspective of the horse. Excellent for grades 6-10.

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Blog | English

Finding Free Books Online: Project Gutenberg and Others

by Miriam Downey 3. February 2012 15:22

The library of Free World U is composed of three parts: a section for books available online, a section of recommended books that are available elsewhere, and a section of research websites. In creating FWU's library, I have utilized several sources to find the books that are important to the curriculum.

Today I would like to share some of my sources for finding books that are available free online. Although I have mentioned this in previous postings, copyrights for books last for 75 years. This means that a book is not legally available to be free online until it is 75 years old. The good news is that most literature we consider to be classic may be available online if it has been digitalized.

Occasionally, authors allow their out-of-print books to appear on book websites, or occasionally books by publishers that have gone out of business will also show up on free websites. This is particularly true of picture books. There are websites of of out-of-print stories as well.

Here are some places to find free ebooks

The most prominent place to find classic ebooks is Project Gutenberg. Thousands of out-of-print books and books whose copyrights have expired can be found on Project Gutenberg. For instance, if you are looking for a book of Mother Goose rhymes, you would would type in Mother Goose in the Gutenberg's book catalog search and up would come a listing of all the editions of Mother Goose Rhymes that are available in their database. There are many choices, and after you pick the one you want, you can either read the book online or download it to your computer or device.

Another way to access classic books is to go to Amazon and search for the title. Recently, I was looking for Wuthering Heights for my Kindle. I went to Amazon and was able to choose the free version which then downloaded to my Kindle. This process is the same as going to the Project Gutenberg website.

My favorite source for picture books that can be read online is We Give Books. For every picture book read online, a book is sent to a prominent charity. I am noticing more and more current books appearing on this website. For instance, the great children's book The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper can be found on We Give Books. Another site for classic books is Lit to Go.This site is sponsored by the Universitiy of South Florida, and it has a lot of Spanish editions as well as English editions. It also has books on audio.

Starfall is a website that has a lot of easy reader books for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. Starfall utilizes phonics and simple stories to teach reading. The stories are cute, and the settings are fun.

Another great source for online reading is East of the Web. This is a site for short stories, which are arranged by categories, including children's stories, crime, fiction, horror, humor, nonfiction, romance, sci-fi, and interactive. It is very user friendly and a delight for the reader.

If your older child is really into science, history, or social science and you are having a hard time finding materials to satisfy his/her quest for knowledge, I've got a treat for you. One of the best kept secrets on the Internet is the World Catalog, which is a catalog of the holdings of most of the libraries in the United States. For instance, my brother is a fanatic reader of Arctic exploration. By access the World Catalog, he is able to borrow books about Arctic exploration from any library in the United States.

To use it, simply type in a subject in which you are interested and your ZIP code. The search engine will tell you the books on that subject available, beginning with books in libraries closest to you. You can write down the title you are seeking and take it to your local library. They will be able to get it for you using Interlibrary Loan. Swift and nifty.

Perhaps you have discovered another source of online literature that I haven't discussed. Send me a comment, and I will check it out and post it in this blog.


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English | Lessons

Expanding Traditional Fairy Tales: Picture Books and Novels that Tell the Story

by Miriam Downey 23. January 2012 15:32

The library section of FWU contains many Internet links to the traditional fairy tales of Anderson, Perrault, and the Grimm brothers. However, when you read these stories in their original translations, you will find that the stories are a bit ... well, grim! They are cautionary tales, primarily, and there is a lot of bad stuff that happens, like grandmothers getting eaten, children left out in the woods to fend for themselves, and houses getting blown apart.

Let me recommend the retelling of the stories as presented by Andrew Lang in his fairy tale books. There are twelve books in all, and they can all be found at Project Gutenberg. Both of the stories talked about below can be found in the Blue Fairy Book.

Fairy tales are a large part of the Western European heritage, but in the last century, they have been cleaned up and redone by Disney and others. They are great stories, basically, and children love them, gore and all. Many of FWU's language arts flashcards use these stories and have children expand upon them with their original writing.

Most fairy tales have modern versions, "fractured" versions (funny versions) that have wonderful illustrations and text. Most of them can be used by young children and teenagers alike. The old text can be used and new illustrations added, or some of the great illustrations can be used and new text added. Here are some books to look for when planning extension activities utilizing fairy tales. I have chosen two fairy tales for this blog posting. I will add more to this list at another time. I have also included the names of some movies which expand on the stories in a cinematic way.

Cinderella. There are many versions of the Cinderella story. Here are but a few:

Cinderella by Perrault illustrated by Marcia Brown (1954). This is a beautifully illustrated version of the traditional story. It won a Caldecott prize for the illustrations.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill (2000). A novel written for middle-grade children features a lonely young farm boy who wins the hand of the princess. A good read aloud.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997) is written for 12-14 year olds and is a novelized version of the Cinderella story. A movie was made of this book in 2004.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel by Gregory Maguire (2001). An adult novel appropriate for older high school students. Written by the author of Wicked.

Cinderella stories from other cultures for comparison:

Yeh Shen: A Cinderella Story from China illustrated by Ed Young (1996).

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin (1998) Native American

Mufero's Beautiful Daughter by John Steptoe (1987) African

Rogers and Hammerstein wrote a delightful musical theater version of the story. It was on television three times and all three are available in DVD format. I would recommend the original 1957 version with Julie Andrews as Cinderella, but there is a multi-cultural version from 2003. Of course, there is the classic Disney version of the Cinderella story as well.

Little Red Riding Hood: Another story with many versions.

Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (1987) was a Caldecott Honor Book and is a retelling of the Grimm brothers classic version.

Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by James Marshal (1993) is done in a cartoon style which may be more palatable for younger children. It is a retelling of the Perrault version.

Carmine: A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet (2008) is a fractured retelling of the story and is also a very inventive alphabet book. Great for a read aloud.

Check out how George McClements retells the story in his book Jake Gander, Storyville Detective: The Case of the Greedy Granny (2002). Early Readers.

Wolf by Gillian Cross (1991) is a novel for middle readers and older.

Here are two cross-cultural versions for comparison:

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young (1990) is a powerful retelling of the Grimm tale and received a Caldecott award.

Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa by Niki Daly (1998). A version set in Ghana.

The stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and others are brilliantly retold in the musical Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim. The 1991 version of the musical is available on DVD, and there is a beautiful book of the entire story published in 2002 by Hudson Talbot.

You will be able to find all of these books at your local library and bookstore. Many of them are also available on Kindle or Nook as well.

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