Category Archives: Awards – Newbery

Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children by Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association.

Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

By Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book & Newbery honor award

Freedom Over Me jumps into the lives of eleven slaves, their thoughts, feelings, dreams.  The eleven selected were from Mary Fairchild’s estate listing of her property, including their names, sex, and worth.

The story opens with Mary selling off her estate and returning home to England after her husband died.  Each slave is given a story, a voice to be heard.  While the stories are fiction, they are composites of true stories of real slaves.  Written in open verse, we learn of what they currently do, their past when they were ripped from their villages, their future, all with the same dream of freedom.  At this point in the story they wait, helplessly, knowing they will be sold, and likely separated.

Loose, color-filled illustrations bring life to the people, show the love they had and the pains they survived.  An insightful, heart-felt book that gives a deep look into the lives of those enslaved.

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The Crossover

The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Newbery Award Winner

This fast-moving story, written in poem, you will dive you into a family of basketball.  Twins, coached since they were three by their basketball winning father, “Da Man”, sizzle on the court.  Josh and Jordan know every move, every line-up; they know how to play off other’s strengths, and into other’s blindspots; they rule the court.  Coming into the final season games, headed for championship,   Josh’s world starts to change.  Jordan finds a girl friend and Josh becomes the outsider.  Angry, he makes a dumb move, and is removed from all games, but must attend the games from the sidelines.  During this growing up time, he asks that he not be called by his childhood name, Filthy McNasty.  His father’s world is changing too, and we learn why the title fits the story.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Books, 2014
Newbery Honor Book
Coretta Scott King Award
Siebert Informational Book Medal
National Book Award 

Written in open verse, Jacqueline Woodson provides a rich view of herself growing up in the 60’s in South Carolina and New York.  In a time where she is still referred to as a colored girl, she takes readers on a leisurely stroll, inviting a deep excitement to swell inside as they digest her phrases, images, dreams, and yearnings.  Walking in her shoes, readers can feel the joy of freedom and the confusion of racism poking at the young girl unable to respond, but knowing it’s wrong, just plain wrong.  Woodson’s writing is vivid, startling, fascinating, and from the heart.  It’s easy to see why she’s won so many writing awards.

A special treat for writers, Woodson walks readers through the inside thoughts of a young writer in the making, including the joy of her first composition notebook well before she could even write.  She shares the secret to her writing—listening—and with each story, she spills delectable foods across the table for readers to taste, savor, and digest.  This is not a book readers will want to breeze through, it is one in which readers will want to linger, contemplate, and experience.  Sure to be an award winner.

Originally published in San Francisco Book Review, December 2014

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Heart of a Samurai

Heart of a Samurai
by  Margi Preus
Amulet Books, 2010
Newbery Honor Winner

Heart of a Samurai is a captivating novel of John Manjiro, a poor Japanese fisherman’s son, who one day (impossibly) becomes a Samurai.

Caught in a storm and stranded on an island, Manjiro is rescued by an American ship.  But in 1841, Japan is isolated from the world, and boarding an American ship closes him off from ever returning to Japan, as well as risks his life with these “butter stinkers” (westerners).  Unlike his fellow fishermen, however, Manjiro wanted to know more about lands outside of Japan.  His inquisitiveness and yearning for adventure befriends him with the ship’s captain.  In his three years on the ship, he learns English well and becomes an interpreter.  Eventually Manjiro makes the decision to travel to America.  Unable to return to Japan and not exactly welcomed in America, he grows up to be a man from two cultures.

Based on the true story of John Manjiro, readers learn how Manjiro came to become the person who forged relationships between Japan and the outside world.  I found it easy to be drawn into the Heart of a Samurai.  It’s written simply and full of adventures that challenge Manjiro’s character.  Without realizing it, I slipped into Manuiro’s experiences, as if they were my own.

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Dark Emporer & Other Poems of the Night

Dark Emporer & Other Poems of the Night
By Joyce Sidman, Illustrated by Rick Allen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
Newbery Honor Book

Written by scientist and poet Joyce Sidman, readers are introduced to the creatures of night.  From the better known Raccoon, Porcupettes (infant porcupines) and spiders, to the lesser known Primrose Moth, efts and snails.  Readers learn how and why these creatures prefer the night and thrive in the darkness.  Readers even learn how the moon makes it light to shine at night and how trees use the night to recover and repair themselves, growing new roots and distributing water to nourish itself through its complex system of “veins”.  Told in a poetic voice, readers “experience” the night in a way no science book can.  Beautifully written, blending science of nature with the art of nature.

Each poem has an illustration and a few words in prose, further enhancing the poem’s subject.  Discover other science/poetry books by Joyce Sidman, including Song of the Waterboatman and other Pond Poems (Caldecott Honor Book, BCCB Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award) (See review by Susan), Butterfly Eyes and other Secrets of the Meadow, and Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold.

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