If I were on the Caldecott Committee, there is a book I would have added to this year’s list.
Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse.
This is the story of a girl who lives in a castle and longs for a dragon, and a dragon who lives outside and longs for a girl.
This lovely book sends shivers up my spine every time I read it, because of language like this:
One for the Murphys is the story of Carley, a tough, clever twelve-year-old who has always lived with her scrappy, care-free single mother in Las Vegas. The two of them have a decent life, stealing clothes from Salvation Army bins and cutting school when they feel like it. Until Carley’s mother decides to get remarried, and makes a series of awful choices that land her in the hospital and Carley in a foster family. Carley’s life, just like that, is turned upside down. Her mother is out of reach, and she is living with complete strangers. Enter the Murphys: picture perfect American family.
Carley has been through terrible things. She has a right to be angry, and angry she is–at everyone and everything: her mother, her stepfather, her new house, her new school, and this new family that seems too perfect to be real.
But real they turn out to be.
Though only sixteen, Prudence Galewski is no stranger to death. This is New York City, in 1906. Not only is New York teeming with unsanitary, crowded conditions, but Prudence acts as assistant to her mother, a midwife in a time when childbirth was dangerous business. Her father went missing in the Mexican war, and she watched her brother die of infection after he was injured by a horse. Rather than causing fear or aversion, all this death turns Prudence into an activist. When the time comes for her to go to work and help support her family, she asks, “Can a girl find work fighting death?”
It turns out that in 1906 New York, a girl can.
I love character-driven fiction about sisters, dogs, and fairy godmothers, and so do a lot of readers I know… only most of them are girls. Here are some book/movie pairs that work particularly well for girl readers. Not that boys won’t like them, it just might take a little convincing. For titles that might appeal more to boys click here or here.
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate Di Camillo is a charming book, with many ideas to talk about: isolation, being new in a community, the nature of friendship. The book is not so much plot-driven as it is a series of impressions about a small Southern town, where 10-year-old Opal moves with no mother and no friends. Her life turns around when an untrained, dirty, misbehaving stray dog adopts her.
Lonely kid moves to a new town seeking a fresh start, meets colorful characters and finds a Place to Belong. Sound familiar?
This basic storyline shows up a lot in middle-reader chapter books, and it’s a plot that works. Turtle in Paradise, Okay for Now, and Because of Winn Dixie are just a few of the terrific, award-winning books based on this very model. Like The Orphan Finds a Family or the Dystopian Revolt Against Authority, this storyline is often compelling, and when skillfully rendered can rise above stereotype.
Close to Famous does this very sweetly.
Helen Frost’s books for kids are written in verse. When I open these books I see poetry, and feel a flash of panic. Confession: reading poetry intimidates me. What my 12-year-old daughter sees is lots of white space. For her, white space on EVERY PAGE is a happy, happy thing (read more about My Own Reluctant Reader here).
She BURNED through Diamond Willow, also by Helen Frost, and is at this very moment devouring Hidden. I am a happy mother/librarian.
Because of my daughter’s enthusiasm for books in verse, I decided to overcome my resistance to verse and give Hidden a try before handing it over to her. Once I plunged in and started reading, I forgot my trepidation, and I read this captivating book without stopping.
Hidden is the story of Wren, a girl who is accidentally kidnapped when a convenience-store thief steals in her mother’s van to make a getaway. The thief drives the van home and locks it in his garage without realizing that eight-year-old Wren is hiding under a blanket in the back.