Sunday, February 07, 2010

147-149 (2010 #s 12-14). 2010 Sibert Awards

The American Library Association (ALA) awards the Robert L. Sibert Informational Book Medal each year to "to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in English during the preceding year....Information books are defined as those written and illustrated to present, organize, and interpret documentable, factual material for children. There are no limitations as to the character of the book, although poetry and traditional literature are not eligible. Honor books may be named; they shall be books that are truly distinguished."

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
by Tonya Lee Stone is the 2010 Sibert winner. It was also a finalist for the ALA's YALSA* Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (*Young Adult Library Services Association), a Boston Globe - Horn Book Award honoree for nonfiction, and a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus (another nonfiction award) honor book.

I wasn't originally planning to read and review its 115 pages of text in 12 chapters, but the period illustrations (black-and-white and full-color photographs) drew me in. This book is the story of the so-called "Mercury 13" female pilots who were tested in the early 1960s to see if they could meet the same requirements as male pilots to be astronauts. The book is not without controversy, mostly concerning its accuracy and whether or not it has an agenda. I was a little puzzled by the tone of the book, as I felt the bigger question was why couldn't women be in the military and allowed to be test pilots, which in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was the primary qualification for being an astronaut.

The book is certainly well documented. At the end, besides an author's note, there is an appendix, further reading list, webliography, almost four pages of sources (books, articles and documents, and videos), four pages of source notes (particularly for the quotations), a page of photography credits, a two-page index, and acknowledgments. Author Stone also wrote poetry tributes (that had to be left out of the book) to each of the Mercury 13, ten of whom are still alive today.
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, written by Austin resident Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani, is a Sibert Honor Book. It's about the brothers who invented glow-in-the-dark (under ultraviolet light) and "Day-Glo" (that also glowed in daylight) paints in the 1930s. I loved the ending. There are also explanations at the book's conclusion on how regular and daylight fluorescence work.

Barton's note at the end is also interesting for his appreciation of the primary sources he used to tell this story. Persiani's illustrations add a lot to the lighthearted tone of the book. He used a computer to create black-and-white cartoon-like drawings that were digitally colorized with Day-Glo orange, yellow, and green. Endpapers are also in those Day-Glo colors. At 44 pages, I see this book as appropriate for intermediate grade (4th-6th) readers, and especially appealing to boys.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, written and illustrated by Brian Floca, is another Sibert Honor Book, published in time for the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. The 40-page narrative is set in a very readable Helvetica, and Floca used watercolor, ink, acrylic, and gouache in his illustrations. The front and back endpapers have even more facts, while Floca identifies his sources on the dedication/copyright page. Floca even provides more data on his details on his website. The large picture book format and good balance of text to illustrations make this book accessible to younger children (1st-3rd grade), yet the added information is still of interest to older readers.

Besides providing lots of information on this historic event, Floca also evokes the emotions of all the participants--astronauts, Mission Control, and Americans watching at home. I especially loved the scene of a family intently watching the moon landing on television, with the children throwing up their arms in jubilation when the Eagle lands. I certainly remember being mesmerized and thrilled at age 12 by the moon landing.

The other Sibert Honor Book is Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose, which won so many other awards that I'll have to read it and write a separate post later.

[These books were borrowed from my university and the local public libraries, and go back tomorrow.]

1 comment:

  1. I love books that are illustrated well. It adds so much the book. Some of these sounds really great!

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