By James Dunn

Since, 1966 the Mildred L Batchelder award has been given to the best book that was originally written and published in a different country, then later translated and published in the United States. The award was established to honor Mildred L Batchelder and her goal “to eliminate barriers to understanding between people of different cultures, races, nations, and languages.” (ALA) The award is used to help push publishers in the United States to find excellent works of literature from all across the world. It is awarded annually at the ALA Annual Conference every summer. This is also an award that doesn’t always have to be given out, if the committee decides that no book has met the standards of the award it is not given that year. This is so useful in the world of books because it shows students a different point of view on things they might alright be familiar with or just learning about.

The title, Hiroshima No Pika by Toshi Maruki, which translates to “The Flash of Hiroshima is story about a Mii, a little girl, living through the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in the second world war. Maruki, a Japanese artist, has created a book that shares the Japanese perspective so beautifully and heartbreaking at the same time. With her impressionist watercolor paintings, she takes us on a small girl’s journey through what must have been hell. Mii was eating breakfast like any other day when the bomb dropped and a “Flash” covered the sky. This would start a day that would change her life forever. Her father would be caught in the flames and badly hurt to the point where her mother had to carry him away to safety. They would end up making it to the beach outside of Hiroshima where they would fall asleep for four days. When they finally awoke from the darkness four days later, Mil is still clutching her breakfast chopsticks. The chopsticks would have to be pried from her fingers from her mother. They would finally get her father to some shelter, so they could go back to see their home. Returning to the city, the family finds “a burned-out wasteland as far as the eye could see.” (Maruki) This was a bomb like none ever seen before; causing the deaths of so many and the after effects would cause more deaths for years to come. The book ends with a description of the ritual followed by the people of Hiroshima every year on the anniversary of the bombing. Lanterns are inscribed with the names of those who died, and they are lit and set adrift on the rivers that flow through Hiroshima. “Mii, who is still like a small child after all these years, writes “Father” on one lantern and “The Swallow” on another. Her mother’s hair has now turned white, and she watches sorrowfully as her daughter sets the lanterns afloat. “‘It can’t happen again,’ she says, ‘if no one drops the bomb.’” (Maruki)

This book tries very hard to show the down side of war for both sides. In American schools it is often taught from the American point of view and that we did what we had to do to win the war. This shows students that sometimes war is dirtier than it seems and little girls like Mii and their families are forever affected by it. It also shows that there are long lasting affects after the war, because many of the survivors would later die from radiation poisons, which would often be a slow and painful death. Mii is also a great example of the after affects from war, because she never grows in size after the bomb drop. Seeing this is so important for students because it can put into perspective the world we live in and how war is not simply winners and losers, because in war both sides truly are losers. “The book reminds readers of the true cost of war— the inhumanity of both victory and defeat.” (Austin)

This book was also very controversial in its time because of is graphic illustrations and intense story. Many people felt that students or children rather should not be exposed to such things. Although possibly uncomfortable for some American readers, the book is factual and offers a Japanese perspective that is heartbreaking and surprisingly free of anger or much blame. There was however a large number of people including the committee that picks the winner of the Batchelder award that thought this story was important because it exposes students to things they might not have ever considered. Maruki presents the inhuman destruction as gently as possible and in human terms, so that what is stressed is an individual’s courage. Children are sensitive and resilient enough to face the truths depicted in Hiroshima No Pika. Books can touch the heart and soul in profound ways. We can never underestimate the power of children’s compassion and their ability to empathize with others. Getting students to empathize with stories like this can help them grow to understand new cultures to a better extent and also start asking questions. One of the main questions that could be asked from a book like Hiroshima No Pika, is how could we have let something like this happen to innocent people like Mii.

This story is so relevant for students in schools today because it shows the cost of war and how it can really affect everyone. Life itself can sometimes be dirty, gritty, and downright ugly, and exposing children to a safe way of confronting this is important. With all of the uncertainty right now across the world and all of the different conflicts, more stories like this should be shown in class, so we can start teaching kids at a young age the true cost of war. If things like this are forgotten, we can end up marching straight to our next world war with even more devastation than that caused the bomb dropped so many years ago. Maruki writes in the author’s note that Hiroshima No Pika was written for grandchildren everywhere, to tell them “about something bad that happened, in the hope that their knowing will help keep it from happening again.” (Maruki)

The story Hiroshima No Pika contributed so much in its time and even today. It did this by being so controversial that people just had to talk about it, and it was controversial for the right reasons. It didn’t try to shock the audience; it just tried to tell a simple story of a horrible moment in history. Its beautiful illustrations also give the story more value because it paints a picture that one’s imagination might not be able to capture on its own. This is a picture book that proves that middle level teachers can still use and truly gain something from teaching them in class. It was truly deserving of the Mildred L. Batchelder award because of it’s ability to tell a story that can truly spread understanding between cultures. The Mildred L. Batchelder award has the ability to spread knowledge that many awards don’t have because they are focused more on books that gain popularity in America. This award truly gets people to look at stories from across the world and gain knowledge that they might not have gained without such an award.


Work cited

“About the Mildred L Batchelder Award.” Association for Library Service to Children. American Library Association, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Austin, Patricia, and James A. Bryan Jr. “Hiroshima No Pika (Book).” Book Links 13.4 (2004): Academic Search Complete. Web 18 Nov. 2015

Maruki, Toshi. Hiroshima No Pika. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1980. Print.


The Edgar Award/Code Name Verity

The Edgar Award is a yearly award to honor the best horror, mystery, crime, and suspense authors. The Edgar Award is “widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious awards in the genre,” since its creation in 1946. With the selected genres that the award strives to recognize, it should be no surprised that it is named after Edgar Allen Poe. The Edgar Awards are administered by The Mystery Writers of America, an organization for “mystery and crime writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and folks who just love to read crime fiction.” The awards are given for 15 categories such as juvenile, first novel, biography, and short story.

The winner of the 2013 Young Adult Edgar award was Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. During that year, the book was on also the short list for the Carnegie Medal and selected as a Michael L. Printz honor book. This novel is a polyphonic narrative telling the story of two young women during WWII. The first part of the novel is from the perspective of Julie (code name Verity) a Scottish spy captured by the Nazis in France. The second half of the novel is from the perspective of Maddie (code name Kittyhawk) Verity’s best friend and the pilot that dropped her behind enemy lines. The two narratives share an overlap where the same story is told from both perspectives, but each story also contains a singular view of various points of history. Telling the story from these two perspectives allows the author great control over how and when information is shared with the reader. This does wonders in ramping up the tension throughout the book and rewarding the close reader. The novel is a fabricated story that draws loosely from historical fact (the author gives a bibliography for any reader motivated to learn more about the real stories of WW II), but it does give a detailed and accurate view of gender roles, religious persecution, and the class system during Great Britain during the early-to-mid-20th century.

The prominent gender stereotypes during WWII play an important role in Maddie’s life. Maddie frequently experiences career problems because of these anticipated gender roles; she enjoyed working on engines and flying planes at a time when these were predominately considered jobs for men. Differing from other people in Maddie’s family, her grandfather encourages Maddie’s love for fixing thing. Describing the motorcycle he gave her, Maddie says “He wouldn’t even give it to me until I’d taken the engine apart. I have to do it myself or I can’t have it” (Wein 9). Maddie’s grandmother would rather Maddie pursue more feminine careers. She would rather Maddie learn to type because no one will “give a girl a job fixing engines” (Wein 10). Maddie experiences similar problems in her career as a pilot. The novel frequently references how Maddie is unable to complete certain missions because of her gender. Not to spoil the story, but even after Maddie’s heroics people think she’s “pulling their leg” (Wein 37) when she identifies herself as a downed pilot. These gender stereotypes deny her the ability to fly bombing missions over France, but in a weird twist of fate these stereotypes give her an advantage in other flight opportunities in support of the war. When she applies, other men that are as qualified as her have already been selected for combat sorties, and she is among the most qualified women. The gender based hiring practices in some areas ensured that Maddie was among the best qualified applicants in other merit based positions. The novel allows Maddie to prove her skills and value as a great pilot despite gender oppression she faces. This is a great example for adolescents interested in career fields typically dominated by the other gender. Like Maddie, young women interested in STEM careers and young men interested in occupational therapy should work hard and chase their dreams even if it’s not fulfilling their anticipated gender roles.

Religious persecution is central to practically any story discussing WWII. The novel doesn’t delve into the ideology of Nazis, but it is hard to escape the reality of the situation. The persecution and genocide of Jewish Europeans isn’t the only reason for the war, but it was one of the most atrocious and easily identifiable reasons. That is always in the background while discussing any part of WWII. Code Name Verity isn’t a novel about the suffering of the Jewish people, but in unique ways it is brought up. While writing her confession, Julie is forced to use a prescription pad when the Gestapo HQ runs out of paper. The pad belonged to Dr. Benjamin Zylberberg, a Jewish doctor. The pad is equipped with a yellow star and a disclaimer that “Jewish doctors can only legally prescribe medication to other Jews” (Wein 59). Julie then ponders the doctor’s fate in the Nazi concentration camps. This allows the reader a break from the spy story to remember just how tragic the world is outside of the narrative. The novel also reminds the reader that anti-Semitism wasn’t a concept limited to Germany. Early in the novel, a local anti-Semitic group harasses Maddie and threatens her father for selling motorcycles to Jewish customers. People in the crowd come to Maddie’s aid, but only after the group has left. This is a very important commentary on current behavior, and the behavior of many Germans during WWII. At the time, very few Germans were Nazis. Those citizens didn’t support the persecution of Jews, but they weren’t willing to stand up to protect their Jewish neighbors. Beyond the problem of religious persecution, this has lessons for adolescent men and women and how they interact with bullies in their life. It’s not good enough to do nothing.

The class structure of Europe in the 1940s is frequently referenced throughout the novel. The reader is constantly reminded of Julie’s wealth. She is the descendant of royalty and lives in a massive castle in the Scottish countryside. She has a formal title; she is Lady Julie. This is in contrast with Maddie, a middle class girl living in urban England. Her grandparents made a comfortable living, but they worked for it. Maddie went to the local school while Julie studied in private Swiss schools. These two best friends would have never met outside of the context of the war. It would not be acceptable for them to have this relationship, but they would also probably never have the opportunity to meet each other. When they are allowed to disregard the class differences between them, it is clear what a successful team these two make. This makes the love these two characters have for each other seem even more profound because it just shouldn’t exist given the world they live in at the time. This can inspire adolescent readers to look beyond their neighborhood and find friends from diverse backgrounds.

Code Name Variety encourages young men and women to look beyond harmful gender stereotypes, understand the damage of religious persecution, and learn to appreciate that best friends can from anywhere.

Works Cited

Crime Doesn’t Pay… Enough. | Mystery Writers of America.” Crime Doesn’t Pay… Enough. | Mystery Writers of America. 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Edgar® Awards Presented 4/29/15. The Edgar Awards. Mystery Writers of America, 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. New York: Hyperion, 2012. Print.

The Will Eisner Award for Comics

By: Donnie Bates

The Will Eisner award was first awarded in 1988. The award represents creative achievement in American comic books. The awards were previously “known as the Kirby awards, but was replaced with the Will Eisner award after its discontinuation” (Brief History). The ceremony takes place every year at the San Diego Comic-Con, which is a place where fans of many kinds of pop culture go to celebrate. The award is named after the Will Eisner who practically pioneered the writing and artistry of the graphic novel. This award is given to comics and graphic novels of the “highest quality that deliver drama, suspense, and thrills to all who read them” (Brief). The winners are chosen by a board of five people. These people are often writers, artists, and publishers associated with comic books in some fashion.

Graphic novels and comic books have become a multi-billion dollar business. What was once seen as children’s reading has now become a pastime of children, young adults, and adults. In the 1980’s, comics were revamped by the new, darker, grittier stories of heroes like Batman and Daredevil. The writing began to take a more serious and mature tone. The artwork became much more explicit with over-the-top violence and blood. Along with these changes came lengthier comics. Comics now had just as many pages as a novel. Because of this comparison in length, these comics became graphic novels.

This new age of comics and graphic novels garnered the attention of many different readers from many different ages. Children who were already reading were now even more interested, young adults found the reading and art much more relatable, and adults had new reason to pick up these pieces of writing and begin reading again. The darker, mature tones began to pay out well for comic book companies.

Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke from 1988 was the second graphic novel to win the Will Eisner award (Brief). In fact, it won the awards for best writer and best artist. The novel follows the story of The Joker’s beginnings and blurs the line between superheroes and psychopaths. After The Joker kidnaps Batman’s friend, Jim Gordon, and paralyzes his partner, Batgirl, Batman is engulfed in a rage and decides that this may be the time where he must break his one rule: no killing.

The plot of the novel is very dark and deals with the childhood idea of good versus evil. A grand battle between two psychopaths isn’t relatable to many people, but it is subject matter often found in television dramas or thrilling movies. As with many novels in this genre, there isn’t a lot of reading involved. The dialogue used is straight to the point with little words wasted. As mentioned before, this story blurs the line between heroes and psychopaths. Batman stays true to character by being his usually serious and brooding self, while The Joker only sees the humor in everything. The ideas clash and slowly begin to merge at the end of the story when Batman actually laughs at one of The Joker’s jokes.

The theme of the novel is change. Change is inevitable and it happens to everybody. The change that occurs here is much more extreme than found in real life, but it nonetheless holds true. The theme details the mental toll a horrible life can have on somebody such as The Joker. To see an honest man struggle for a living, be conned into a robbery, and lose the person they love all at the same time is too much to bear. The Joker becomes a man bent on causing people the same pain he feels much like Batman became the symbol of vengeance after his parents were killed. The heartbreaking events affect people differently and it is interesting to see a comic tackle such a subject. Young readers could learn to understand a person’s feelings a little more. Sometimes there is more than meets the eye, and some people need a little help.

Artwork plays a massive role in comics. Drawing, coloring, spacing, and setting make up well over half of a comic’s story. Where novels use words to convey the physical details present within a story, graphic novels use the artwork. A picture is worth a thousand words and that is no different for a frame. The settings of The Killing Joke are in a variety of places and the colors reveal the mood of the scene. The scenes depicting the past are colored with an orange fuzziness, which make the frames seem like a dream or memory apart from the present. Frames featuring Batman are often dark colored much like a shadow, while frames with The Joker are vibrant and lend a sense of humor and excitement. The frames themselves are ordered in a straight flowing manner and give a sense that the story is to be read as is with no thought required. What is being shown is what the writer and artist want the reader to see.

Batman: The Killing Joke is widely regarded as one of the best Batman comics and The Joker’s backstory is often used in other mediums like movies, cartoons, and video games. The fact that comic books reach across and influence other genres reveals how popular the comic genre can be. It is debated whether or not they can be considered as learning material outside of an art class. The stigma that comics and graphic novels exist only for children is still very much alive. The genre is written and drawn by adults and it seems that the target audience is point towards young adults and adults. Because of interest and popularity, classroom use seems obvious. Activities could include simple ideas like describing how color symbolizes mood or the character foils of heroes and villains. A teacher could have a month worth of information from one graphic novel and having a character like Batman involved almost guarantees the attention of the students.

As with all literature awards, the Will Eisner Award shows works of art that are worth the time to read. The amount of comics that come out within a year is enormous and it is no easy task to award a winner. At first glance, the comics are nothing more than children’s hobbies, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What comics and graphic novels lack in words, they make up for with amazing artwork and plots. By drawing out the specifics of word choice, plot, and artwork, readers can see just how closely related comics can be to short stories or even novels. Many young adults are undoubtedly interested in superheroes and such. This alone should warrant a classroom home for this genre, if not to learn at least to keep attention and livelihood in the classroom. The Will Eisner Award represents the top-tier in comics and graphic novels, and just like any other award, it reveals just how important the graphic novel has become in this society.

Works Cited

Moore, Alan. Batman: The Killing Joke. DC Comics, 1988. Print

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: A Brief History. Comic-Con. Web. 7 Nov. 2015.


Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal

Sandy Sweeney

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal was established in 2001 by the Association for Library Service to Children and is supported by Bound to Stay Bound Books Incorporated. The medal is awarded to the most distinguished informational book of the year and is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children. The medal has specific terms and criteria that must be met. First and foremost the book must be informational. An informational book is defined as “those written and illustrated to present, organize, and interpret documentable, factual material” (welcome). Poetry, folk tales, and traditional literature are ineligible for the award. Authors and illustrators named on the title page must be United States citizens or residents. The book must also be an original work published in English the previous year. Robert F. Sibert, the medals namesake, was a longtime president of Bound to stay Bound Books Incorporated, and a strong supporter of the library profession and library education. Sibert saw the need to have informational books be a part of every school and public library because they help young people explore the world around them. Informational books can take children too many different lands, under the ocean, into space, and even places close to home. They can also be used to teach, diversity, science, and history in an interesting way. Informational books can be as fun to read as fiction books if the topic is interesting to the child, and the Sibert award has a variety of titles to spark the interest of young minds. The list of books that have won the award or were honorable mentions cover a diverse range of topics and many of the books could be used in integrated studies such as An American Plague: the True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 which will be discussed later.  There are also many fun factual books on the list, Balloons over Broadway: the true story of the puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, a fun picture book that tells about the balloon handlers and how they came about. Many of the books on the list cover aspects of history in a way that make it more interesting to a child than a history book can. The books cover a particular topic in a factual way, but also tell the story of the people involved and how they changed or affected history. The American Plague, the book I read, is one such book.

Readers should not be put off by the title of the book, thinking that a plague that happened two hundred years ago could not be interesting because it is a page turner from start to finish. Murphy uses a journal entry format to document the facts and bring to life the devastating course of the epidemic. He informs the reader about how the disease started, how it spread, and the horrific symptoms suffered by those who contracted yellow fever. One young doctor is quoted in the book describing the symptoms as, “The matter ejected [from the stomach] was of a dark color, resembling coffee grounds, sometimes mixed with blood; great flatulency; haemorrhages from different parts of the body; tongue frequently covered over with blood . . . ; urine very offensive” (Murphy 53). Murphy also gives vivid details when describing the medical practices of the time, something we would now think of as barbaric, like bleeding or drinking mercury, were common practices of the time. The book tells of the injustices suffered by the mayor of Philadelphia and the Free African Society when the plague was over, even though they were the ones who stayed and nursed the sick and dying, and kept the city running. Murphy depicts a more human side when it comes to describing the actions of George Washington, we see his compassion and worry about the city he fled, and all he did to try to run the country without the help of congress. The book is thoroughly researched and gives the reader a fascinating and informative glimpse of the conditions that existed in early American and draws parallels to modern-day epidemics.

You may wonder how a book about an epidemic in 1793 could be relevant to children today, but after reading this book I noticed that many of the circumstances in the book are still prevalent today. We still have epidemics, doctors are still looking for cures to modern diseases, and history is an interesting topic, especially when we look at the human side of those involved.

Epidemics in today’s society are not nearly as devastating to the population as those of early America, but we still hear about them and it is still frightful. Recently we had the Ebola scare and a few years ago it was swine and bird flu. Although children in America might not be affected by these diseases, each year they are affected by an epidemic that hits the United States and spreads quickly through school systems, the flu. By reading this book, children can learn how doctors learned to contain the disease and help stop the spread. The doctors of 1793 figured out that quarantining the sick helped stop the spread, the same practice we use today. When the flu epidemic hits many schools will close down, keeping those with the flu at home helps stop the spread to children without the flu. Another practice the early doctors discovered was keeping the area of the sick clean and sterile. When an infected school is closed it undergoes a thorough cleaning to kill the germs, a practice learned by Dr. Rush and still implemented today. Doctors may have been at a loss to what may have caused the plague of 1793, but Murphy shows the progress they made to stop the spread, and how those same practices are used today.

Children can learn a great deal about how medicine has advanced by reading this book, and can read all about the trials and errors of research and medical practices. Children can see the transition from the barbaric medical practices of bleeding or drinking a concoction laced with mercury and poison, to the modern day vaccines we have to combat illnesses.  The first part of the book concentrates on the practices of Dr. Rush, (known as the prince of bleeders) a prominent doctor in Philadelphia at the time. Murphy shows how when Rush’s traditional practice of bleeding did not work he turned to more drastic practices. Rush decided that the body must be purged of the blood that was pooling in the stomach and had his patients drink his “Ten and Ten” remedy, ten grains of mercury and ten grains of jalap ( a poison) which caused severe vomiting and diarrhea. Supposedly this concoction would rid the body of the bad blood and set the bodies humors back to normal. Now we know that the bodies humors are not what causes diseases, it is bacteria, germs, and viruses.  The second half of the book concentrates on the research of doctors like John Hopkins and his colleagues who eventually found the cause of yellow fever and developed a vaccine. The search for the fever’s causes and cure, not found for more than a century after the 1793 epidemic, teaches a great lesson in perseverance. Doctors struggled and had many upsets but continued the search until the source of the fever was found. Children can not only read about history through those that were there, they can see images of those that Murphy talks about in each chapter. Murphy uses newspaper clippings, illustrations of the time, hand written notes, and documented studies to show the progress of the researchers, which makes it a much more interesting read for adolescents.

Murphy takes the reader on a journey through early the history of the United States that is interesting and informative, but in a more personal way than history books can. He shows the emotions of those involved not just the facts of history. Although Washington is not a major character in the book, I learned quite a bit about our first president. Washington was one of those who fled, but he worried about leaving his papers behind, papers he needed for dealing with the French crisis and running the country. He consulted with others in Congress about meeting someplace other than the capital, which at the time was plague-ridden Philadelphia. Murphy also shows how Washington fought to change the laws when congress could not meet in a place that was unsafe.  Murphy not only shows how Washington worried, he also tells of his bravery when he rides into the city unescorted to retrieve his much need papers. Murphy does a great job showing the more personal side of Washington, which I feel children will find much more interesting than the typical facts found in textbooks.  The Free African Society is another aspect of the book that was very interesting and a part of history most have never heard of or read about, and that you will not find in classroom text. Murphy tells how when others fled they stayed behind to help Dr. Rush nurse the sick and bury the dying without regard to their own safety, but were ultimately villainized by the press after the epidemic subsided. The chapters on the Free American Society can teach children the importance of goodwill and courage, if were not for the goodwill and courage of those who stayed, many more would have died in the epidemic. Readers not only get historical facts about the government and political troubles during the time, they are introduced to a more personal and intimate side of those that lived through the plague. Washington, as with others in the book, are depicted as human beings, with goodness’s and weaknesses.

Murphy approaches the plague of 1793 as a story, and history is a story that Murphy knows well. His use of actual accounts, newspaper clipping and illustrations of the time let readers see first-hand accounts of the devastating and horrific conditions in Philadelphia. This is a very visual and brilliantly written book that could be a great tool for teachers to use in the classroom. Murphy tells the story from a number of angles, sociological, medical, scientific, political, and racial, which make it a good book for interdisciplinary studies. Murphy parallels the medical practices of yesterday to those that are used today, helping readers make a connection to history. This fascinating book is very deserving of the many awards it has earned (The Robert F. Sibert Medal, Newbery Honor, and National Book Award finalist) because it brings history to life in a way young readers can enjoy and understand.

Works Cited

Murphy, Jim. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever

Epidemic of 1793. New York: Clarion, 2003. 53. Print.

“Welcome to the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Home Page!” Welcome to the

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Home Page! Web. 20 Sept. 2015.

The Michael L. Printz Award

Michael L. Printz Award

For fifteen years, the Michael L. Printz Award has been given to books that display excellence within Young Adult literature. First given in the year 2000, the award honors one book every year, as well as naming up to four honor books alongside the winner. The Printz award was named after a librarian from Topeka, Kansas, who was not only a member of YALSA, but was also described to have real “passion for books and reading” (ALA). The award itself is sponsored by Booklist, which is a publication of the American Library Association.

The Printz award searches every year to find quality books, and has several criterion for doing so. One criterion for analyzing books for the award has to do with the genre. To be considered for the award, the book must be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or an anthology. Another criterion for the award has to do with being able to recognize what is quality work. The analysts must consider things like genre, theme, story, setting, and characters, among other qualities to really find a quality book. The chair of the 2015 Printz committee, Diane Colson, wrote that she “realized that for each book the questions asked and the answers uncovered will be different. As a result the way these criteria are interpreted can be different from title to title” (Colson). Certainly, each winner of the award is very different. How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff, won the Printz Award in 2005. Undoubtedly, it serves as an excellent example of the kinds of books that can win the award.

How I Live Now is a very intriguing novel, to say the least. It is work of fiction, first published in the year 2004. The main character, and also the narrator of the entire story, is a fifteen-year-old girl named Elizabeth. However, she promptly points out that she “has been more of a Daisy than Elizabeth from the word go” and has been called Daisy since birth (Rosoff 1). Daisy could be described as an average fifteen-year-old girl. Raised in New York City, she is fed up with her family situation. Her father and his girlfriend are due to have a new baby soon, and Daisy could not be less excited about it. To avoid the situation all-together, and to provide a new type of surrounding for her, Daisy is sent to England to live with her Aunt Penn and four cousins.

Living in England turns out to be more of a life-changing experience than Daisy bargained for. Her first few weeks are spent adjusting to life in England, as well as forming an intimate relationship with her cousin, Edmund. Edmund and Daisy quickly become infatuated with each other, spending much of their time in bed or just trying to be around each other. When their Aunt Penn is required to leave England for a few days, they do not think much of it, and instead take advantage of the alone time they are now allowed to have.

However, not long after Aunt Penn leaves, a war breaks out in England. Enemies infiltrate England, in something that is referred to as “The Occupation.” Things start to spiral slowly out of control at this point. With the war starting, Aunt Penn is now unable to return to England, leaving all of the children to fend for themselves. The children try to band together, but are eventually taken out of their Aunt’s home and separated, forcing Edmund and Daisy apart. Daisy must now fend for her life alongside her younger cousin, Piper. Every day is a struggle for Daisy and Piper, as they must learn how to survive on a small amount of food, as well as learn to cope with the amount of death going on around them.

Daisy and Piper want to reunite with Edmund and their other cousins, and spend much time and effort trying to do so. They follow footpaths and struggle to survive on very little food and water during their journey. However, before they can ever reunite with their cousins, Daisy is brought back home to America.

Daisy does not return to England until several years later, where she then finds that her Aunt Penn died near the beginning of the war, and that Edmund is in a state of depression. Edmund expresses his heartbreak over trying to find Daisy during the war, only to come back and realize she has been taken back to America. He feels that she left him alone. Daisy is deeply pained hearing this, as she had never wanted to leave to begin with. The novel ends with Daisy living in England, trying to repair her relationship with Edmund.

The novel sends several messages to the reader throughout the storyline. One key issue that was hinted to throughout the novel was the fact that Daisy had an eating disorder. Although never named, it was most likely anorexia. Several times in early parts of the novel she references food as something gross or unneeded. However, several months into the war, Daisy describes that “somewhere along the line (she) lost her will not to eat”, most likely due to the fact that food had become a very scarce luxury (Rosoff 159). Eating disorders are a very prevalent issue in young adults, and presenting it within the serious context of something like a war gives young readers perspective about it, in a way. It causes them to really think about the fact that something they take for granted, such as food, could easily disappear in a situation like Daisy’s.

Another thing that the novel really puts into context is how quickly one’s world can change. Daisy was presented in a way most normal teenagers would be able to relate to. The first thing she did when she got to England was check her phone, only to be annoyed by the fact it had no service. She makes references to taking for granted have clean clothes every day, or being able to take a bath. Only a few months later, she was concerned about even surviving through the next day. How I Live Now really puts perspective on the lives of young adults, as it forces the reader to come to reality with life in a war.

Overall, How I Live Now sends an empowering message to its readers. It shows young adults how they can grow in times of adversity, and become a stronger version of themselves. Daisy grows by hard work, and having to come to terms with death on a daily basis. While most readers will not have to experience this, it shows them that if Daisy can overcome in a situation like that, that they are also able to overcome any situation they may be in as well.

How I Live Now is an excellent choice for the winner of the Printz Award because it undeniably is an excellent piece of literature, which the award searches diligently every year for. Not only is the plot intriguing, but also the characters are presented in such a way that you cannot help but care about them. These qualities were mentioned as criteria for being a winner of the award, and are present in the novel in very strong ways. How I Live Now truly is an empowering piece of Young Adult fiction that will hopefully have an impact of young adults for years to come.

Works Cited:

“The Micahel L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.” Yalsa. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2015

Colson, Diane. ‘Selecting The Michael L. Printz Award.” Young Adult Library Services 13.3 (2015): 19-21. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2015

Rosoff, Meg. How I Live Now. New York: Wendy Lamb Books. 2004. Print.

The Jane Addams Award: Esperanza Rising

The Jane Addams children’s book award has been given annually since 1953. The award is given to books published in the preceding year who meets the criteria. In order for a book to be considered for this award it must have connections with: peace, social justice, world community, and/or the equality of the sexes and races. A basic standard to be nominated for this award is meeting the conventional standards for excellence. The award accepts fiction, non-fiction, and poetry writing styles. In 1993, a picture book category was added which opened up this award to many different books. All Jane Addams award winning books receives a certificate and cash award for their excellence. The seal for winning this award which is usually found on the cover of the awarded books are available through purchase to the publisher, school, or library.

Every year from 1963-2002 the announcing of the award winners fell on Jane Addam’s birthdate in September. Beginning in 2003, the announcing of the award was held on April 28. The significance of this date comes with the founding of the Women’s International League for Peace Freedom. Jane Addams was a co-founder and the first president of this organization. There is a huge presentation help in New York City on the third Friday in October to formally give the authors or illustrators their award.  This ceremony is fully opened to the public.

Jane Addams was a world renowned social worker. Many people know her from the extensive work she completed at the Chicago Hull House. She went on to be the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Addams had a deep passion for humanity and world peace. In 1942, the Jane Addams Peace Fund was created as a memorial to her and for hope to continue her work. Eventually the filing for the fund to become an association came about around 1948. This was the beginning of a wonderful thing to be. The Jane Addams Peace Association would be founded on the belief “to foster a better understanding between the people of the world toward the end that wars may be avoided and a more lasting peace enjoyed.” The mission of the association would ultimately be to continue the spirt of Jane Addams. She had a special “love for humanity, commitment to freedom and democracy, and devotion to world peace.” The goal of the Jane Addams Peace Association is to promote and execute projects connected to those aims.

“Esperanza Rising” was written by Pam Munoz Ryan. She got the idea for this book from her grandmother’s stories. As a young girl, Ryan heard stories about how hard her grandmother’s life was as an immigrant child. However, it was not until she learned that her grandmother actually came from wealth that Ryan was inspired. Now, it was time for the writing to begin. “Esperanza Rising” is a historical fiction novel. She used her grandma’s foundation and added a twist to bring about an amazing story. This story takes place after the Mexican Revolution, but it does not miss the Great Depression.

A twelve year old girl name Esperanza lived in Aguascalientes, Mexico with her family. Her Papa was a wealthy landowner so Esperanza wanted for nothing. Esperanza and her papa were very close. He taught her many things including how to become one with the land. Every year Esperanza had a huge birthday celebration. This year she was turning thirteen years old. However, along with her celebration came the death of her Papa.

Papa’s step brothers, Tio Luis and Tio Marco, had always been itching for Papa’s positon and possessions. There manipulative ways were shown immediately follow his death when they tried to claim ownership of all the land. Tio Luis wanted to take Mama, Esperanza’s mom, hand in marriage, but she did not accept. It was no mere coincidence that the family’s house was set to fire when she refused to play into this scandal. No one was hurt in the fire, but Abuelita, Esperanza’s grandma, hurt her ankle. The plan now was to runaway to the United States. Along with some family friends, they head out sadly leaving Abuelita behind.

Esperanza now has to face the transition of having everything she ever wanted to working for the things she needs to survive and support her family. Her new home is a shabby crowded cabin in California. Esperanza’s duties now included caring for the young and household chores. Of course she struggles in the beginning because it is all still very new to her. However, when Mama gets sick she has no choice but to step it up. It is now solely up to her to support them. Esperanza begins realizing her need for Albuelita and Mama’s need for her. Mama’s hospital bills forces Esperanza to put in long hard hours for pitiful wages.

Eventually, things begin to move into the right direction. Mama gets out of the hospital. Meanwhile, Esperanza has learns a lot about herself and she realizes she may have enough money to get Abuelita back with the family again. However, when Esperanza goes to look for the money it is all gone along with Miguel. This fuels her fire to say the least. With time Miguel arrives back to California with Albuelita. It turns out that her money actually went to the one thing she hoped for. Soon Esperanza realized she has everything she needed and her life had come in a full circle since here Papa’s death a year ago.

“Esperanza Rising” is a very empowering, encouraging, and meaningful novel for child readers. A major theme in this historical fiction novel is perseverance. The story starts with her losing one of the most important people in her life. However, through the guidance of her two roles models: Mama and Albuelita, she pushes through the impossible. Esperanza went from a dependent who lived the high life to basically an independent barley getting by. At different moments in the story one can tell she wants to give up, but she never gives up. She adapts to her surrounding and preserve in order to help her family. Social class is another theme shown throughout the novel. Often time one can see the same issues in the book in the world today. Many people of a higher social class do not understand the struggles of lower class individuals. In “Esperanza Rising,” Esperanza had a clear line drawn between where she and Miguel stood in society when they were back in Mexico. She said that they were on two different sides of the river and could not cross over. However, after her Papa’s death see soon got a glimpse or full life settling into lower class. Unlike other immigrant Esperanza had left a glamorous back in Mexico so it was much different for her. With growth and maturity she starts to realize there are a lot more important things than money. “Esperanza Rising” helps communicate the problem of prejudice in the world today. Esperanza notice that one of the store clerks, Mr. Yakota, actual treats them with respect. Often times Mexicans are labeled as “dirty greasers” while shopping for supplies. However, at this store the clerk has establish an environment where everyone is treated the same. When Esperanza realize that Americans view them as uneducated, dirty, and poor she does not understand how someone could be so stereotypical. She does not realize that she participated in these same actions when she was stuck in her “rich days.” Also it mentions how Mexicans are not allowed to swim except the day before cleaning due to their extreme dirtiness. Often time’s people do not realize just how crazy some of their view and actions are until they are the victim.

The Jane Addams book award helps promote social equality and overall peace. This award focus on some on the major problems in the world today. This award along with books like “Esperanza Rising” help introduce children to problems they are likely to encounter one day. They offer a solution and example of things we need to change/ focus on. It is also very important for minorities to see themselves in literature. “Esperanza Rising” is not only a voice for Mexicans, but a voice for all immigrants and minorities. This award shines light on books that may not be the first choice for most readers. Many of the books chosen for this award address deep rooted problems which opens up the possibilities for topics presented in children literature.

Works Cited

Ryan, Pam M. Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic Press, 2000. Print.

“Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s Book Awards.” Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s Book Awards. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

Seigfried, Charlene Haddock. “The Social Self In Jane Addams’s Prefaces And Introductions.” Transactions Of The Charles S. Peirce Society 49.2 (2013): 127-156. Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

The Phoenix Award: Under the Blood-Red Sun

The Phoenix Award is a children’s book award created by the ChLA, or Children’s Literature Association. The Phoenix Award shares its name with the fictional and mystical creature the flying Phoenix, who dies in flames and ashes only to resurrect itself into renewed beauty and life. Designed by Caldecott-winning illustrator Trina Schart Hyman, the image of the Phoenix was meant to parallel the idea of old, neglected, and often obscure books, rising from these ashes and once again being used to “touch imaginations and enrich lives.” Created in 1985, the  Phoenix Award began adding honor books for most years after 1989 (Phoenix Award). One of these honor books included Under the Blood-Red Sun in 2014. Under the Blood-Red Sun, a story of a boy whose life is shaken by war during the attack on Pear Harbor, clearly shows itself worthy of being a Phoenix Award honor book. It’s story is one of excellence, inspiring readers as it adds urgency to immediate political issues such as racism, and reminds them of the importance of both our countries history, and the value of culture.

Anne Jordan, a professor at Western Michigan University, had a dream: a dream of “creating an organization dedicated to the serious study of children’s literature.” Upon the realization and frustration that there was no place for scholars to go and intelligently discuss children’s literature, or find information about it, Anne gathered colleagues and scholars to share her dream. This dream became a reality when the Children’s Literature Association was formed  in 1973 (Carol 4). Today, the ChLA is made up of scholars, editors, authors, teachers, librarians, illustrators, and many others who value the importance of children’s literature.  From this Association, came both the Phoenix Award Committee, and the Phoenix Award. An award created with the intention of “recognizing a book of high literary quality that did not receive a major award…at the time of its publication, but has withstood the test of time.” Often the books chosen for this award are historical fiction, dealing with tough social and political issues from the past that still apply to current day (Piehl 21). Under the Blood-Red Sun, is an excellent example of a novel that functions exactly in this way.

             Under the Blood-Red Sun is a beautifully written book about a young Japanese, American boy named Tomi growing up during the very beginning of World War II.  The book was originally published in 1994 by Delacorte Press. Written by Graham Salisbury, it is a piece written as both historical fiction, and multiculturalistic children’s literature. Tomi’s story begins in Hawaii where he lives with his younger sister Kimi, his cranky Grandpa, and his Mama and Papa. Tomi spends most of his time going to school, and catching curve balls from his hard-pitching best friend, Billy. Billy is a haoles, or white boy. Even though Tomi and his family are American citizens, they come from deep Japanese roots. Neither Billy or Tomi care about their difference in race, they just want to play ball. Unfortunately there are people on the island who do not feel the same way about Japanese American Citizens, including Tomi’s neighbor and ex-friend Keet. Even in the face of adversity, Tomi, Billy (the only haoles), and the rest of their friends form a baseball team called the Rats. They spend their days like normal boys, going to school and playing ball, until the story is eerily interrupted when the boys experience first-hand, the horror of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Not only does this shatter the world of the islanders, but it creates great racial discomfort and mistrust. All Japanese were immediately seen as a threat, often accused of being part of helping Japan bomb Pearl Harbor, including Tomi’s family. Tomi and his family are forced to remove all Japanese-related memoir from their home and bury it, for fear of being caught with it and accused of helping the Japanese. Even Tomi’s father and grandpa are unjustly arrested and placed in prisoner-of-war camps because they are Japanese. During an unsettling time of turmoil for the United States, the boys are forced to find a “new normal” to life as the world awaits the U.S. plan of action. Even as they are pushed into growing up, helping provide for their families and working as volunteers, the Rats never stop playing ball. Baseball is their escape from the chaos of the world. Through it’s historical context, Salisbury’s book teaches children not only the importance of culture and race, but also how important it is to value those different from your own.

            Salisbury’s novel communicates several key themes to children: family and heritage, the importance of respect, and racial equality. Family and heritage is likely the main theme of Salisbury’s story. Though Tomi is an American citizen, his family deeply values their Japanese culture, especially Tomi’s grandpa. Grandpa is constantly reminding Tomi about their country, insisting on hanging the Japanese flag in the yard, and keeping an alter in the living room for his deceased wife (Tomi’s Grandma). Tomi is even taught to take care of the family katana, or sword, a symbol of honor passed down through the family. This theme of family honor has been taught to Tomi his whole life; he has been taught not to fight, but to remain honorable. His Papa tells him: “Tomikazu, we are Americans, it is true…but inside we are also Japanese. I don’t care how angry you get, you cannot fight. You must learn…patience.You cannot…bring shame on this family” (Salisbury 14). These familial values should be so encouraging to children. Children should learn to take pride in where they came from. Heritage and culture are important, wether or not one has a healthy immediate family. Tomi’s family also models healthy family interaction; they are close, honor one another, and work hard to take care of each other. Even if children are deprived of this type of family experience at home, they should be given a sort of model to know what is possible, to know they are not required to repeat their family’s history. From this idea of maintaining family honor comes a theme of respect. Many times throughout the story Tomi is made fun of or bullied by his neighbor Keet, but each time, Tommy just stands up and takes it, never seeking revenge. This is not out of an unwillingness to stand up for himself, but more out of respect for both his family and himself. Tomi knows that if he fights back he will look just as mean and ignorant as Keet, and even worse, Keet will get the reaction he wants. This displays an important idea for children to understand: the importance of respect, and by extension a level of forgiveness, even when it goes undeserved. Lastly, the book discuses race from a historical perspective of high racial tension between Japanese and Americans. Japanese people, including Tomi are derogatorily referred to as “japs” by many of the white Americans in the book. At this time, the war drove many white Americans to great fear, resulting in judgment of the Japanese, unfairly associating the whole with the group (the enemy), rather than separating the two. Comparatively, this hate before and after the bombing gave the Japanese many reasons to dislike white Americans, often unfairly judging all whites as white-supremacists. However both generalized assumptions were wrong, causing unnecessary pain and discrimination based on race. Not all white Americans disliked Japanese Americans, and many Japanese felt shamed by their own people when Japan bombed the island. Even Tomi’s grandpa exclaims: “we have been disgraced” in horror at his own people’s actions (Salisbury 133). Though this was a time of war, the same principles apply now. Racial tension is unfortunately still a very real and relevant issue in the world today, and child readers need to be aware of the genuine pain it can and does cause. Collectively each of these three themes work together to send an overlying message of unity: take care of one another, respect one another, and work together despite situation, skin color, or past.

             Chosen as a Phoenix Award Honor book for it’s endearing story set in a crucial time during American history, Under the Blood-Red Sun proves itself to be a book worth remembering. Tomi’s story encourages its child readers to build friendship bridges beyond the issues of the world. It asks children to look within themselves, find out what matters most to them, and stand up for it. Salisbury’s book empowers children to work together, stand up for others, to appreciate culture, and find value within family. The Phoenix Award and Salisbury’s book contribute to the world of literature by allowing readers to both compare, and apply the past to modern day, giving readers the opportunity to be inspired by writing resurrected from a different time.

Works Cited

“Phoenix Award.” Children’s Literature Association. Children’s Literature Association  N.p., n.d.Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

Gay, Carol. “ChLA:1973-1983.” Children’s Literature Association. Children’s Literature Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

Piehl, Kathy. “Phoenix Award Winners: Books Worth Remembering.” Book Links. 7.4 (1998): 21-25. Children’s Literature Association. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

Salisbury, Graham. Under the Blood-Red Sun. New York: Delacorte Press, 1994. Print.

Pura Belpre Award

Jackie Comerford

Literature for Grade Levels

Dr. Fritz

20 October 2015

Pura Belpre Award

The Pura Belpre award was established in 1996 and is “presented 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” ( This award gives many Latino authors and illustrators a chance to show their heritage in their writings for children to show a part of history in a more memorable way. This award was named after a Latina librarian by the name of Pura Belpre, who “enriched the lives of Puerto Rican children in the U.S.A. through her pioneering work of preserving and disseminating Puerto Rican folklore” ( This woman was not only a librarian, but an author and storyteller and made history by being “the first Latino librarian at the New York Public Library” ( The Pura Belpre Award is now given annually as a biennial (used for creativity and effort) award from 1996-2008 ( and This award is in cosponsorship with “the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking ( REFORMA), an ALA affiliate” ( This award was recently given to the book entitled “I Live on Butterfly Hill” written by author Marojorie Agosin, where in 2015 she won the winning medal for narrative ( After reading the book, you can see a clear understanding of how the book won a medal.

“I Lived on Butterfly Hill” is an inspiring book about a young girl whose world is instantly turned into destruction. Celeste is a young girl who lives in Chile when people are trying to conquer. She is now in a place where the destruction of Chile has caused her parents to go into hiding, and they have sent her to American to live with her Aunt on her mothers side. All these changes in Celeste life has made her scared and in constant wonder of a new place and if her family and home are safe. This inspiring book uses the hispanic language and color of scenery to take the reader to the place that Celeste holds dear to her heart. The author captivates the reader by adding the native language and describing the cultural appearance of the scenery. The book helps the readers see something in nature that has true value. Butterfly Hill is the main center for Celeste and the focal point of the story. This hill is the place that Celeste will always look to for joy in her life. She will call out the window to the birds and sit on the roof for hours watching her town. The main reason I think this book was written was to show children a different view of the world we live in and how other places are not like the U.S.A. The story shows that although Celeste continues to live in America, you can see she longs for her home. It shows children that life for those who are taken from their homes can be an adjustment and it can be a challenge all around. It also shows how Celeste went through many struggles, but continued to hold Chile in her heart and that one day she would go home. The government taking over and running people out is something we are unfamiliar with, and showing children a different society can help develop their sense of understanding of freedom we have. This book also reminds children that the connections you make with people around you will start to become your family. As Celeste interacted with the people of Chile, she made her town a huge part of her life. Leaving Chile and Butterfly Hill was one of the hardest things she had to do.

“I Lived on Butterfly Hill” has a key theme of family. Celeste family includes her mother and father, her grandmother and nanny, and all of her friends and the people of Chile. The entire town consists of people interacting with one another and caring for each other. Celeste’s parents taught her that caring for others is an important part of development. When Chile is being overrun by another government, Celeste is taken away from this important family closeness she has established. This has caused her to recount the importance of her values and what her family has taught her. This issue has taught children in today’s society that the world can have problems. In the U.S.A., we have been blessed with being a free country and have felt safe. In other parts of the world, people have experienced great turmoil and live with thoughts of never seeing home and having to leave it for safety. That feeling of being unsafe is foreign to most children. Another key issue is the idea of leaving homeland to another country. This novel shows that some children have had to travel great lengths to get where they are today. Their are people in our world that have traveled to different places, but this story reminds us that our ancestors had to travel like Celeste to the U.S.A. to get safety from those who wished to harm them. The final key issue the book presents is although things might be bad, never loose the values you have. Celeste has been surrounded by free expression and has grown up with the same people a majority of her childhood. When the new government comes and takes the values that Celeste and the people of Chile have created, it broke the spirit of individuals. This book shows that although something bad happened to flip her world upside down, Celeste continued to value what Chile had taught her and always dreamed of her beloved Butterfly Hill. The story continues to empower and encourage children because, like Celeste, if you value something and hold it close to your heart, it will become reality. Celeste valued Chile and all it taught her, and she was able to return and see her family again. The story continues to inspire those who want to accomplish something big, to pursue it.

The Pura Belpre Award has given Latino/Latina authors and illustrators the opportunity to show children the culture they hold close to their hearts. We come up with our own conclusions on how Latino culture is, but after reading this story, I feel I have a new view. The book “I lived on Butterfly Hill” shows young children another culture that is full of colorful words, and a story that shows courage and bravery. This award has made a splash in literature for adolescents by giving children the opportunity to learn about a culture we think we know. The story shows that children can have bravery and commitment to something they care about. Celeste is an example for children and she shows that sometimes things are not what we want, but we can manage. I loved getting to see a new side to a culture I thought I understood. The author captivated a story around something we are not truly familiar with, and executed it with grace. I recommend students read this book and see a culture in its raw form.

Works Cited

The Newbery Medal

The Newbery Medal: Maniac Magee
Awarded annually by the American Library Association, The Newbery Medal was created to honor “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” that was published in the preceding year (American Library Association). It was created in 1922 and named by Frederic G. Melcher in honor of John Newbery, an English bookseller, writer, and publisher who helped pave the way for children’s literature in the 18th century. It was the first ever award created for children’s literature and it’s become the most recognized and prestigious children’s book award an author can win. Every year, one book is chosen as the winner, and several more are chosen as honor books, or runners-up. Many of these books have gone on to become staples of children’s literature and elementary school classrooms, classics such as Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Johnny Tremain and more recent winners like The Giver and Dear Mr. Henshaw. Written and published in 1990, Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee won the 1991 Newbery Medal. It tells the story of a homeless orphan and his heroic feats that help unite a racially divided small town. Maniac Magee is a great example of a Newbery Medal winner, as it exemplifies the excellence, eminence, and distinction required of the award.
In 1921, bookseller and publisher Frederic G. Melcher proposed an idea for a children’s literature award to a meeting of the Children’s Librarians’ Section, a division of the American Library Association. Up to this point, there were no real awards for children’s literature, and the children’s librarians approved it instantly. The proposal was accepted in 1922, and the purpose is stated as: “to encourage creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field” (ALA). The award honors only American authors/books written in English, and only those published the year before the award year. The award can honor fiction, non-fiction, and poetry alike, and is only given to the most distinguished works. The American Library Association defines “distinguished” as being “marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement,” “marked by excellence in quality,” “marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence,” and being “individually distinct” (ALA). The Association considers themes/concepts, organization/clarity, development of plot, descriptions of characters and settings, and the appropriateness of style as it relates to children. While all of this seems broad, it serves a purpose that the books chosen for the Newbery Medal must display overall excellence. The Newbery Medal could be considered the Academy Award of the children’s literature sphere, so these books must display overall qualities of superiority.
One such book awarded for displaying these characteristics is Maniac Magee, written by Jerry Spinelli in 1990. It follows the life of Jeffrey Magee, a young boy orphaned at a young age due to a trolley accident, and sent to live with his aunt and uncle. He lives with them for several years until he can no longer stand their hatred and silence toward one another. That’s when he begins to run. He starts running, and as Spinelli’s folklore-storytelling style relays, he keeps running for a year until he reaches the racially divided (literally, as the town segregates along Hector Street, marking East End and West End) town of Two Mills, 2oo miles from his aunt and uncle’s house in Hollidaysburg. As he runs around town, passing by strangers and saying “Hi” to each one, word begins to spread about the “Maniac” who can catch impossible football passes, hit any baseball pitch, and even save a kid from the ominous Finsterwald house. He runs and runs, and finally runs into Amanda Beale, a young girl carrying a suitcase on her way to school. Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee sees Amanda and her suitcase and assumes she’s just like him—a runaway. He stops to talk to her, only to find out that she’s carrying her library of books in her suitcase so that she can keep them safe from her little brother and sister who destroy or draw on anything they can get their hands on. He goes on to stay with the Beale family once it’s discovered that he’s homeless, and starts a murmur around town about the white kid that lives on the black side of the neighborhood. This is where much of the conflict of the story begins. Even though Maniac (just Jeffrey to the Beale family) brings peace and harmony into their home, his mere presence begins to stir up trouble for the Beale family from those on the East End who aren’t fond of a change in the status quo. Realizing he’s bringing trouble into the Beale family’s life, Maniac runs away again, and ends up living with Earl Grayson, an older white man on the West End who rescues him from his stay in the buffalo pen at the zoo. Maniac and Grayson learn from each other: Grayson teaches baseball, while Maniac teaches Grayson how to read and that the black families across Hector Street are just like the white families on the other side. All is well until Grayson’s death, at which point Maniac is discovered and brought into the McNab house, a truly awful place that needs more than just a little bit of love and care. While staying at the house of the terrifying Big John McNab (standing at five-foot-eight and 180 lbs., he’s the leader of the Cobras gang), Maniac sees that this family needs someone to help get things in shape, so he sticks around and endures their overt displays of racism in order to get the two younger boys, Piper and Russell, to go to school. Things come to a head as Maniac sees the McNab family prepare their home for an invasion from the East End (that isn’t going to happen), and he decides to invite Mars Bar Thompson, his East End rival and friend, to Piper’s birthday party. This goes about as well as can be expected, and Maniac decides to leave the McNab house. Mars Bar ends up saving the life of Russell after the boys get in trouble, and a few of the threads from the East End begin connecting with a few threads from the West End. Maniac’s views on race challenge both sides of Two Mills, from the jaded adults to the kids who don’t seem to know any better. At the end of the story, Amanda Beale comes to find Maniac, who has decided to run away again, and forces him to come back home to the Beale house.
For a children’s book, Maniac Magee deals with some pretty serious issues, from homelessness to racism, but Jerry Spinelli’s lighthearted, fun storytelling style allows these issues to be adeptly handled without becoming too dark. Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee goes from an orphan to a homeless runaway to a legend that teaches an old man to read and dispels racism. Spinelli addresses the struggles of being an orphan, but not just being an orphan; The theme of belonging and finding a home is an undergirding theme. This extends beyond just losing your parents. Child readers of this book deal with abandonment and belonging in their everyday lives, whether it’s from divorce, neglect, or just struggling to find where they fit in life. Spinelli tells of Maniac’s journey to find a home, a place where he can know his address. Child readers may not need a physical address (although homelessness at a young age does happen), but they do feel the need to belong, whether in their group of friends or their own family at home. This story can be particularly relevant to children who struggle with belonging or abandonment. The theme of belonging and abandonment also feeds into a major theme of families. All Maniac wants is a family to belong to. He bounces around from the Pickwells (for a brief dinner) to the Beales to Grayson and then the McNabs. Each of these families represents a very different idea of what family should look like, either in ideals or dysfunction, but they appeal to the reader because children tend to have families. Amanda Beale’s relationship with her siblings and parents, and the McNab family’s relationships with each other offer stark contrasts that children on either extreme can identify with or take note of. The biggest and most important theme in Maniac Magee is probably that of race. Two Mills is literally split down the middle, whites and blacks on their own sides. The East Enders don’t want anything to do with the West Enders, and the West Enders are either ignorant or outright fearful of the East Enders. Maniac’s perspective is one of innocence, not realizing that there should be any animosity from either side. When he teaches Grayson that the black families are just like the white families, Grayson seems passively interested. He seems to have never thought that blacks and whites could be so similar. This is a crucial issue for children and students to be aware of and engage with, especially as tensions in modern culture and politics often hinge on it. Spinelli, in his acceptance speech for the award, describes a moment where racism reared its ugly head, saying, “And my friend, who until then had known merely that he was black, discovered now that it made a difference” (Spinelli). He notes that he and his mostly black group of friends experienced different things, and how his friend eventually became the first piece of inspiration for Maniac. Race plays a large part in this book, and it comes from a place of truth for Spinelli.
It’s obvious that the Newbery Medal is a substantial contribution to children’s literature. The advent of this award has provided for a boost in quality for children’s literature. Children’s books are not just mindless entertainment. They can be of incredible importance and influence, shaping beliefs and opinions, and encouraging students to think about complex issues and real-life problems. The Newbery Medal provides a stamp of excellence, giving teachers and students and casual readers a measure of quality. It gives writers something to strive for, and ensures that children’s literature is well done and inspiring. Maniac Magee is a wonderful book, one that inspires, encourages, challenges, and asks its readers to think. This book tells of the importance of family, advocates for the child who has no home (whether physical or metaphorical), and challenges misunderstandings and prejudices about race. Spinelli sought to encourage children with the legend of Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee, noting to a group of young kids in a speaking engagement that “You’re the funny ones. You’re the fascinating ones. You’re the elusive and inspiring and promising and heroic and maddening ones. Don’t you know that?”(Spinelli).

Works Cited
Spinelli, Jerry. Maniac Magee. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1990. Print.
“The John Newbery Medal.” ALA. American Library Association, nd. Web. 12 Sept. 2015.
Spinelli, Jerry. “Newbery Medal Acceptance.” Horn Book Magazine. 67.4 (1991): 426-
432. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Sept. 2015

The Coretta Scott King Book Award

Dominique O’Shea

Lit for the Middle Grades

Dr. Fritz

September 23, 2015

The Coretta Scott King Book Award

      Many people have heard of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but it is for his wife, Coretta Scott King, that an award was established for the celebration of books about people of color. The Coretta Scott King Award was founded in 1969 and commemorates her outstanding work for peace and the civil rights movement. This award pays annual respects to African American authors of great pieces of literature that “demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values,” (Hawkins). A second award was created in 1979 to honor illustrators as well. This award has been given to many popular authors of books such as Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and, as will be analyzed later, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. This award was founded by “Mable McKissick and Glyndon Greer at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey,” (Hawkins). To be considered for the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the novel must be for a youth audience, K-12, focus on the experience of being black in society, achieve high quality standard of writing, and, most importantly, inspire people to do their part to make the nation into a pluralistic society. (The Coretta Scott). This award is an amazing way to shine a light on the African American authors and illustrators working to provide a greatly underrepresented point of view and create an empowering story to inspire others.

      Bud, Not Buddy is a story about a young African American boy named Bud, not Buddy (a very important distinction he makes throughout) Caldwell, whose single mother has died, and a search for his father, family, and a place to call home, begins. This book was published in 1999, received the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000, and can still affect people and relate to issues going on today. During his journey, Bud meets many people who abuse, mistreat, and take advantage of him, yet he keeps up his faith that he will succeed. Set during The Great Depression, Bud provides an example of a poverty stricken boy that overcomes despite the many obstacles in life that try to bring him down. After series of orphanages and abusive foster homes Bud finally has enough and sets off on his own, following clues left by his mother, on a search to find a popular musician, he believes to be his father. Along the way he meets the people that will change his life forever. This story gives incredible details into the hardships people faced during the depression and provides insight into the lives of most people just struggling to get by at the time. It also delves into sensitive issues that surround Bud’s childhood such as his monetary hardships, his lack of a stable home life, and the discrimination against him because of his ethnicity.

Three resounding themes and issues that surround childhood in the Bud, Not Buddy would be poverty, family, and race. Bud is classified as an orphan and has nothing but his little old suitcase for the majority of his story. He has not experienced many of the same things that other kids his age have far surpassed and he is surprised by even little things, like the fact that his foster family had hot running water! It provides perspective for children who may not be able to relate to Bud, to see that growing up in that way can be rough and simple things that people often take for granted are completely denied to the people facing poverty in the book. However, one thing that is revealed is that this is where Bud finds community and kindness, from the people who have just as little to give as he. He leaves his suitcase with his brand new, rich foster family and they rifle through his meager belongs. Whereas when he comes across some fellow poor wanderers, they take him in, feed him, and respect all of his self and property. Another important aspect of Bud’s life is his family and his search for a place to call home. He flashes back to many fond memories of his departed mother and this can elicit a very strong reaction from anyone who has experienced this same loss. Bud recollects for a moment with a friend saying, “‘there had never been a little boy, anywhere, anytime, who was loved more than she loved me. She told me that as long as I remembered that I’d be OK.’ ‘And you knew it was the truth.’ ‘Just as much as I know my name’s Bud, not Buddy,’” (Curtis 47). Dealing with the loss of a parent can be a very meaningful connection to make with other people and Bud does it with great dignity and maturity for his age. However, this leaves him most often neglected by his foster caretakers and leads him to be a runaway. He has nowhere else to go, and nothing to live by but his own rules and for a child it is incredible that he made it. He searches far and wide for a place to call home and turns out to be lucky in his pursuit by finding somewhere that made him realize, “All of a sudden I knew that of all the places in the world that I’d ever been in this was the one. That of all the people I’d ever met these were the ones. This was where I was supposed to be,” (Curtis 110). Having an established and secure home is a privilege that every child should have, but in the reality of the times it was unfortunately not that way. This can really encourage children to be aware of that huge gap but it can also provide encouragement for any child without a home that there is hope for finding one still. Race is the third theme that can be one of the most defining aspects of a child’s life. Bud must be told by an older black man that, “Son, there just aren’t too many places a young Negro boy should be traveling by himself, especially not clear across Michigan, there’re folks in this state that make your average Ku Kluxer look like John Brown” (Curtis 91). Awareness must be brought to the discrimination and persecution that African Americans dealt with at the time and for many children of color that is a problem they will have to continue to face even today. Bud was in danger just being in certain areas of the state and he had to be demure when dealing with white people. The American Dream was attainable, but never for someone like him, a person of color. This is something that speaks to everyone who reads this novel and it can address to children the importance of the fact that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed and not be out casted because of their backgrounds.

This award has provided people of color with a voice in the world of literature. It brings a lot of focus into important and relatable topics for the African American community as well. People now have the opportunity, and a list of books, to read about issues that transcend time and can still be found to be relevant even today. Bud, Not Buddy is a book that has contributed so much to African American literature and history. It provides a gateway into the struggling lives of African Americans during the Great Depression and then goes further to tell it from a child’s perspective, yet still easily relatable to everyone. This book is filled with vivid details that can empower the community and that celebrates the black authors and illustrators who are working hard to inspire and edify the people in society today in hopes of reaching that pluralistic society.

Works Cited

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. Delacorte, 2 Sept. 1999. Print.

“The Coretta Scott King Book Awards for Authors and Illustrators.” The Coretta Scott King

Book Awards for Authors and Illustrators. American Library Association, 2012. Web. 23

Sept. 2015.

Hawkins, Valerie. “The History of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards.”The History of the

Coretta Scott King Book Awards. 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.