written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans, is the winner of
the eighteenth annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a
picture book. The award is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center
(CCBC), a library of the School of Education at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, and will be presented in Madison this spring.
Offill’s clever twist on the familiar “I Want a Pet” scenario gives an absurd
premise masterfully understated treatment. The story begins with a
girl's heavy lobbying for an animal companion, followed by a compromise from
her mother: “You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn't need to be
walked or bathed or fed.” A little research in the school library results in a
match. “My sloth arrived by Express Mail.” The girl optimistically names him
Sparky. “It was two days before I saw him awake.” The marvelous humor is never overplayed as
Offill skillfully maintains a measured, evenhanded tone and perfect pacing. The
restrained narrative manages to be both outrageously funny and unexpectedly
tender as the girl comes to appreciate Sparky for what he is, rather than what
he is not. “I reached over and tagged him on the claw. ‘You're it, Sparky,’ I said. And for a long,
long time, he was.” The muted
illustrations perfectly echo the story’s tone.
Sparky! was edited by Anne Schwartz and
published in the United States in 2014 by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint
of Random House Children’s Books.
The 2015 Zolotow
Award committee named five Honor Books:
Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer,
written by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, edited by Howard
Reeves, and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers;
Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep, written and illustrated
by Barney Saltzberg, edited by Kevin Lewis, and published by Disney-Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group.
The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, written by Katherine
Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, edited by Anne Hoppe, and published
by Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Tap Boom Boom, written by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by G. Brian Karas,
edited by Joan Powers, and published by Candlewick Press.
Water Rolls, Water Rises = El agua rueda, el
agua sube, written by Pat Mora, Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez
and Pat Mora, illustrated by Meilo So, edited by Louise May, and published by
Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books.
2015 Zolotow Award committee also cited nine titles as Highly Commended:
the Sun written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance R. Bergum
- Edgar’s Second Word
written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Clarion
Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Go To
Sleep, Little Farm written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Christopher
Silas Neal (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
for Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- The Hula Hoopin’ Queen written by Thelma Lynne Godin and illustrated by Vanessa
Brantley-Newton (Lee & Low Books)
You Were a Dog written by Jamie A. Swenson and illustrated by Chris Raschka
(Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan Publishing Group)
- One Big Pair of Underwear written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by
Tom Lichtenheld (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
- Water Can Be… written by Laura Purdie
Salas and illustrated by Violeta Dabija (Millbrook Press, Lerner Publishing
- What Forest Knows written
by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by August Hall (A Richard Jackson
Book/Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster).