Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Reaction

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 15, 2011

I love the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. They always reward enduring literary quality, and, because of their unusual, off-cycle consideration schedule (books published between June of the preceding year and May of the current year), they often “catch” gems that went unrewarded during the big January announcements. I was eternally grateful, for example, for their recognition of the superb Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart by Vera B. Williams, in 2002.
This year’s selections add up to a sumptuous feast for readers and art lovers! Here’s the list, along with a few of my own thoughts about the ones I’ve read.
Winner: Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick) Joy! Heraldry! I love this book, and blogged about it and its author a while back here. Not only is this young-adult novel imaginative, with memorable characters and strong voices, but it’s structurally complex and accomplished. One of his all-time bests, in a career full of bests.
Honor: Chime by Franny Billingsley (Dial) O frabjous day! Caloo, calay! she chortled in her joy. I love THIS book, too, and blogged about it here. The language alone — its gorgeousness and evocative quality, its beautifully controlled lushness — reminds me what writing and storytelling can be, even (and especially) for young people.
Honor: Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke (Kane Miller) How did I miss this one?! I haven’t read it yet, but am going to knock over folks to get to it now. Anna Hibiscus received a starred review from Kirkus, and is part of a series of chapter books about a young girl in Nigeria, all of which look exceptionally charming. And if the BG-HB Awards say it is, then it is!
Winner: The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point/Roaring Brook) I had the great good pleasure of sitting with Steve Sheinkin on a panel last year, and was immediately impressed by his lively command of history, sense of humor, and ability to make the past seem like the freshest kind of adventure treat for kids to dig their teeth into. That is no small feat, and I’m glad Sheinkin’s excellent writing has been noticed and rewarded. I loved this book and his earlier works, too. (Teachers and librarians take note: this is a guy you want talking to kids about history. Book him if you can!)
Honor: Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air by Stewart Ross, illustrated by Stephen Biesty (Candlewick) This is one of those addictive books kids pore over. Biesty’s mesmerizing, detailed cross-sections illustrate a wide variety of great voyages throughout history (in addition to the more traditional latitudinal explorations of land and sea are some vertical ascents and descents: Tenzing Norgay and Edmind Hillary’s historic summit of Everest, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s trip to the moon, Jacques Piccard’s undersea voyage to the Marianas Trench).
Honor: Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White (Candlewick) I haven’t read this yet, but it looks quite handsome and worthy, received four starred reviews (PW, HB, Kirkus, and SLJ), and is billed as providing hope along with the realities of endangered species. AND, it’s by the author/illustrator team behind Ape, which I loved.
Winner: Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor (Houghton) This is an extraordinary artistic achievement by fabric artist Salley Mavor. Carol B. Chittenden of Eight Cousins alerted fellow booksellers to this one, and during the New England Children’s Booksellers Association’s “Best of the Best” roundup last fall, added this: “Pocketful of Posies…is so beautiful, so perfect for ages 0-4…. What a good feeling it is to offer customers something of obvious value far beyond its cover price.” She also mentioned that one of the big chains didn’t pick it up — another example of indie booksellers discovering and championing true gems!
Honor: Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (Houghton) I’m a sucker for Sidman’s clear, lyrical poetry, which is here beautifully matched by Allen’s prints, done in a twilight and nighttime palette. Not a single teacher (or poetry-loving parent) I’ve shown this to has passed it up. A beautiful, useful book.
Honor: Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Putnam) Jacqueline Woodson sure can write, and Sophie Blackall sure can draw irresistible characters! This story about an older sibling reacting to a new baby — “I’m so sick of that ding-dang baby!” — is one of those lovely, cozy family stories that makes you want to curl up with your loved ones, some hot chocolate and, yes, a big slice of pecan pie.
Congratulations to the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee for a terrific slate of winners and honorees this year!
Readers, how do you feel about the awards? Surprises? Delights? Is there anything from 2010 that you feel slipped under the radar from all the awards committees and should have been recognized?

2 thoughts on “Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Reaction

  1. Monica Edinger

    I’m happy with all the awards, but especially with Anna Hibiscus’s win. As someone always on the lookout for books set in Africa (due to my Peace Corps time in Sierra Leone, I can that this one is terrific and I’m so, so, SO glad that it is getting this attention. The first of a series and the author has another a new one in the works too. (Betsy Bird brought it to my attention in this blog review last August: and I blogged about it more recently here:

  2. marjorie

    We just whipped through four Anna Hibiscus books here. My book-fiend nine-year-old (who would ordinarily want NOTHING to do with an “easy” book) and my book-wary six-year-old both LURV this series. I worry that some parents will see these books as “virtuous,” spinach-y, obligation-y reading because they’re set in Africa. Serious and important, no? No! The series is hilarious and vivid and fun and thought-provoking without being didactic — just masterful storytelling. Super, funny, moving, written at a beginning-chapter-book-reader level…PERFECTION. It can be hard to find great stuff at this reading level and OMG I AM IN LOVE. The fact that kids will learn stuff by reading ’em is pure cake. ALL-CAPS LOVE HERE, PEOPLE.


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