Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Award Goes to Lemony Snicket

The Dark, written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen, is the winner of the seventeenth annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. The award is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will be presented in Madison this spring.

 Lemony Snicket’s playfully serious picture book personifies one of the most common fears of childhood. Laszlo doesn’t like the dark, which lives in his basement during the day. “At night, of course, the dark went out and spread itself against the windows and doors …”   One night, the dark, which has a voice “as creaky as the roof of the house, and as smooth and cold as the windows,” lures Laszlo out of his room. The narrative builds anxiety and anticipation as Laszlo hesitantly descends through the house. Then a wonderful cascade of language creates a sudden shift in pace, mood and perspective, inviting readers and listeners to consider the dark in new light—as a presence with purpose. Lemony Snicket never trivializes children’s fear of the dark. Instead he acknowledges that fear while elegantly traversing the tension it creates to arrive at a point of reassurance and humorous possibility, where the dark is both illuminated and illuminating. The Dark was edited by Susan Rich, editor-at-large, and published in the United States in 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The 2014 Zolotow Award committee named five Honor Books: Building Our House, written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean, edited by Wes Adams, and published by Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group; My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood, written by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, edited by Joanna Cardenas, and published by Viking, Penguin Young Readers Group; Sophie’s Squash, written by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, edited by Anne Schwartz, and published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Penguin LLC; This Is the Rope, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome, edited by Nancy Paulsen, and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Young Readers Group; and Year of the Jungle, written by Suzanne Collins, illustrated by James Proimos, edited by Kate Egan and Emily Seife and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic.
 The 2014 Zolotow Award committee also cited seven titles as Highly Commended:  Big Snow written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean (Farrar Straus Giroux / Macmillan); Max and the Tag-Along Moon written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Philomel / Penguin Young Readers Group); My Blue Is Happy written by Jessica Young and illustrated by Catia Chien (Candlewick Press); NiƱo Wrestles the World written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales (A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan); The Silver Button written and illustrated by Bob Graham (U.S. edition: Candlewick Press); Stripes of All Types written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale (Peachtree); and When No One Is Watching written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by David A. Johnson (Eerdmans).

Established in 1998, the Charlotte Zolotow Award honors the work of Charlotte Zolotow, a distinguished children's book editor for 38 years with Harper Junior Books, and author of more than 70 picture books, including such classic works as   Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present  (Harper, 1962) and William's Doll (Harper, 1972).  Ms. Zolotow attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison on a writing scholarship from 1933 to 1936, where she studied with Professor Helen C. White.  Ms. Zolotow died in November, 2013, at the age of 98. 

The award is given annually for outstanding writing in a picture book for children in the birth through seven age range published in the United States in the preceding year. Members of the 2014 Zolotow Award Committee were: Megan Schliesman, chair (Librarian, Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Madison, Wisconsin); Barb Huntington (Library Consultant, Retired, Madison, Wisconsin); Lynn Montague (Youth Services Librarian, Sun Prairie Public Library, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin); Duy Nguyen (Teacher, Emerson Elementary School, Madison, Wisconsin); and Kristine Klopp (Library Media Specialist, Boulder, Colorado). 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Authors and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Review

Every author gets a bad review now and then, but nothing is worse than the anonymous hyperbolic reviews that appear on sites like Amazon and GoodReads. Author Marc Tyler Nobleman turned it around by filming himself reading an excerpt from his worst review. And when he invited other authors and illustrators to join him, he was surprised to get 52 responses. They are all posted on his blog, Noblemania. Hilarious!

Book of the Week

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings

by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2013
65 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-10616-1

Age 9 and older

“Since earliest human history, we have used language to try to influence the world around us … We may no longer believe that words can make crops grow, prevent illness, or keep rivers from flooding. But we still believe in the power of words themselves.” Joyce Sidman’s introduction is the perfect entry into her collection of poems divided into “Chants & Charms,” “Spells & Invocations,” “Laments & Remembrances,” and “Praise Songs & Blessings.” The poems in each section are full of dreams but also the spirit and substance of our everyday lives. From A “Chant to Repair a Friendship” to an “Invitation to Lost Things” (Come out, come out / from your hidden places, / hair clips, homework, phones. …”), from an “Invisibility Spell” to slip away from the shame of being taunted to a “Blessing on the Smell of Dog” and “Blessing on the Curl of a Cat,” Sidman celebrates the music of language, the significance of words, and the meaning of moments and memories that may be small but are never insignificant. The beautifully designed, elegant volume features full-page and decorative spot illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski. (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book of the Week

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno & Alya

by Jane Kelley

Published by Feiwel & Friends, 2013
201 pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-02348-3

Ages 8-11

A self-centered African gray parrot named Zeno is on his own in Brooklyn after his owner dies. In search of his favorite food--banana nut muffins—he finds it just inside the third floor bedroom of a girl named Alya. Alya, who has leukemia, can’t stop thinking about that parrot after he flies away. She is about to start the next round of treatment and decides she needs Zeno, who kept saying “Try” when she couldn’t reach the muffins because she was too weak to walk across the room. Zeno, meanwhile, has been kidnapped and sold to a wealthy woman from the suburbs. But he’s heard through the bird grapevine that the girl with banana nut muffins he saw through the window is looking for him, and he’s determined to find his way back to her. “Does magic really exist?” Alya asks her mom, and her mom tries, kindly, to say no, not in the real world. But it turns out it does. Jane Kelley’s novel is an irresistible mix of humor and warmth, magic and the messiness of real life. Alya is scared and has almost given up. Her family doesn’t always know the right thing to do. Zeno is egotistical, entertaining, and poignant as he learns about the meaning of words he knew but never understood, like “friend” and “home.” His teachers are a heroic pigeon named Bunny, and, of course, Alya, in a story that is unabashedly moving, but also funny and tense and so very satisfying. (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center