Tuesday, February 01, 2011

200-202 (2011 #5-7). Three Award-Winning Picture Books

When the American Library Association announced its annual Youth Media Awards on January 10, 2011, I went to my local public library and checked out the winners and honor books they had.  Here are three picture books that won awards:
The Randolph Caldecott Medal, which "honors the illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children," went to A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, and written by her husband Philip C. Stead.  This was Erin's first foray into book illustration.  She used "woodblock printing techniques and pencil" with, in her words, "subtle color and specifically for this book limited palettes," to illustrate this sweet fantasy of a zookeeper and his animal friends.  The soft but detailed drawings are reminiscent of children's book illustrations from my own childhood in the 1960s.  This book was named one of the ten best illustrated children's books for 2010 by the New York Times.  It's a bedtime story appropriate for younger children.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards "honor African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults that communicate the African American experience."  One Illustrator Honor Book was named in 2011, Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (daughter of John Steptoe), and written by Gary Golio.  The narrative stops before Hendrix' untimely death, but an afterword and author's note address some of those issues.  There are also a number of websites and books listed about substance abuse as well as about Hendrix, and a selected discography of music and video by and about him.  Steptoe used mixed media, including paint, collage, and silkscreen, and in an illustrator's note, says,
I thought about guitars--their sound, their vibrations, their look and feel--so I used plywood...I thought about how Jimi saw the world and how that differed from other people's views, so I painted Jimi one way and his surroundings another way.  I thought about the depth and texture of his music, so I layered and used bright colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple--rainbow colors.
The subject matter and complex illustrations make this book more appropriate for older children.  It would appeal to reluctant readers and could be tied into art and music curricula.

The Schneider Family Book Awards "honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."  The 2011 award for children ages 0 to 10 went to The Pirate of Kindergarten, written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Lynne Avril.  In this simple yet empathetic story, the main character, Ginny, suffers from double vision, remedied with "exercises, glasses, and for a while, a patch."  She becomes a "Kindergarten Pirate."  The genius of this book is the combination of Lyon's descriptive text and Avril's chalk pastel, mixed with acrylic medium, and colored pencil drawings that let the reader see what Ginny sees - two of everything.  The only wish I have for this book would be for a brief afterword that explains more about double vision (diplopia), patching (used to treat other eye problems too), and author Lyon's "own experience" on which the book is based.  The book is obviously appropriate for kindergarten, but would work for children slightly older and younger as well.  This was my favorite of these three books.

© Amanda Pape - 2011

[These books were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]


  1. Thank you so much for liking PIRATE and writing about it.

    The Japanese edition will have an endnote about double vision, and we're thinking about including that in reprints of the U.S. edition as well.

    When I talk with kids about the book, I do share more about my own experience, very different from Ginny's. My double vision wasn't discovered till 5th grade and required surgery when I was 13.

    I agree completely that Lynne Avril's illustrations are absolutely perfect. How lucky I was that Dick Jackson, our editor ( who is dyslexic!) and the vision to put us together.

    All best,

    George Ella Lyon

  2. Thank you SO much for commenting, Ms. Lyon, and for sharing your experience with double vision! Congratulations on this well-deserved award. I select books for my university library's children's collection (used by education majors) and I've already ordered a copy.

  3. Since Ms. Lyon (author) commented, I am inspired to do the same.

    My thanks for the thorough and lovely review of JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow. Funny thing, though, how everyone seems to imagine a different age range for the book--I love it!

    very best, and keep those reviews coming,

  4. Thank you for your comment, Mr. Golio! Your words alone were enough to help me visualize Jimi "painting with sound."

  5. Oh, and by the way, this book is also being purchased for our picture book biography collection!

  6. From Karen MacPherson, Scripps Howard News Service, dated July 6, 2011, about the banquet in New Orleans at the American Library Association annual meeting for the award winners: "Note: It's traditional for the Caldecott winner to design the evening's program, and it's always a special treat. Erin Stead's program was folded to look like a miniature book, complete with a Dewey Decimal number -- 793.2 for parties and entertainments -- on the spine. Inside the back cover, she placed an old-fashioned "date due" pocket, and filled it with "date due" cards on which the names of previous award winners were listed."