My nephew Willie let me read three of this year's medalists to him last night, and it was so much more fun to share them with a little person than to just read them to myself. I haven't gotten to do that nearly enough lately, what with overseeing sixteen schools instead of having one of my own, so it was a real treat for me. And these books were a treat for both of us. What fabulous work was rewarded this year. Just top notch. Of course!
I, Too am America by Langston Hughes and Bryan Collier won the Coretta Scott King illustrator award. The text in this book is only that of Langston Hughes's poem, "I Too, am America," so it is quite sparse, but the illustrations that Bryan Collier created to go with it are simply splendid. They are mixed media, oil paintings and cut paper, and somewhat muted in color, but they have lots going on in every page. The book uses Hughes's poem as a backdrop for a focus on the history of African Americans as Pullman porters. Many of the illustrations show the porters cleaning things in the train cars and then dispersing what they've collected along they're route, spreading words and music to African Americans all across the country. There is a note from that artists at the end of the book explaining his thoughts and illustrations, but young readers will enjoy the book whether they know the full backstory or not.
(The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.)
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown was a Caldecott Honor and a very fun and funny bunny story about Jasper Rabbit who picks and eats carrots every day, sometimes several times a day, from Crackenhopper's Field (which, in itself, is just fun to say). However, one day he's sure the carrots are stalking him, and he becomes very, very afraid. He asks his mother and his father about it, but they can't find any carrots after him. Everyone basically tells him it's his imagination. But Jasper's sure it's not. Is it? Will this story end with a bowl of carrot soup or a bowl of rabbit stew? Both? Neither? check this book out immediately to enjoy Peter Brown's very creepy (actually only a tiny bit creepy) black and white charcoal drawings highlighted by many things that are orange. Some of which are even carrots. Fun, fun, fun.
(The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.)
Martín de Porres, The Rose in the Desert - Gary D. Schmidt and David Díaz - Pura Belpré Illustrator winner. This is a picture book biography of Martín de Porres, the first black Catholic saint in the Americas. Martin was born illegitimately in Lima, Peru to a former slave and a nobleman. Later his father took him back to Ecuador to be educated. The book talks about his young life and then his adult life as a healer and priest. I learned all kinds of things about Martín de Porres that I didn't know, and I really liked the bright illustrations. There was a lot of detail in the illustrations that we could talk about while we read. This is an good foray into biography for younger readers, although I think that due to some complexities in the storyline, it is probably one best read together with an adult.
(The Pura Belpré award is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.)