Awards – 1981 through 2000

1981  Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

This is a complex book of jealousy, sense of self, and family relationships. Louise finds herself always coming short when in comparison to her twin sister. Her perceptions are magnified with every incident of her life. Eventually, Louise comes to accept her own perceptions of being worth less – and then she is able to begin to find out who she is, apart from her twin. Very good.  (Feb 2010)

1982 A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard

What a fun collection of poems inspired by William Blake. There is a feeling of whimsy and definite references to Mr. Blake’s poems. The illustrations are particularly nice. (Mar 2012)

1983 Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt

Dicey is such an interesting character – self-assured, strong, smart. This book is full of people learning to trust each other, to reach out and not give up on relationships. There is grief but there is also grace in this story. (Apr 2012)

1984  Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

There were quite a few things I enjoyed about this novel – and many of them were adult things!  Like, reading between the lines and imagining how Mr. Henshaw would feel about Leigh’s letters.  At one point Leigh explains to Mr. Henshaw how he read the author’s latest book and it wasn’t funny, but that was o.k. because a book doesn’t have to be funny to be good.  After finishing this book, I feel that way about Ms. Cleary.  Many of her books are funny – but this wasn’t and it was still good.  Ms. Cleary takes a realistic view of the effect of divorce on Leigh – he’s a good kid but unhappy and trying to figure out how to be happy with his new circumstances.  I liked how his parents were portrayed as well.  A nicely done book. (May 2010)

1985  The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Those tantalizing glimpses of Aerin in “The Blue Sword” find their full expression in this Newberry award winner.  Aerin is the quintessential misfit – wrong blood, wrong skills, clumsy, shy.   Yet it is those very things that ultimately make her the most valuable to her country.  I liked how Ms. McKinley handled the dual love stories – as a reader I didn’t have to choose who I liked better!  I love Aerin and even after so many readings, this novel still has the ability to bring me to tears. (Jun 2010)

1986  Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

A quiet look at getting a new mother. Set in pioneer times, there are lots of details about daily living and a sensitive look at the conflicting emotions of children missing their mother and hoping for someone to love them that way again.  (Jun 2008)

1987  The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

The story is familiar – spoiled prince, mistaken identity, a growing understanding of the meaning and value of friendship.  What makes Mr. Fleischman’s story different is that it is fun!  The bad guy is “Hold-your-nose-Billy” and though the prince and his whipping boy get into some tight spots, there’s always a sense that things will turn out o.k.  Perfect for a bedtime story. (Mar 2011)

1988  Lincoln: A Photo Biography by Russell Freedman

This biography of Abraham Lincoln presents a picture of Abraham Lincoln that is easily accessible to the younger reader, complete with photos and interesting details of his growing up years.  The chapters covering his presidency and the difficulties of the civil war are particularly moving. (Mar 2011)

1989  Joyful Noise:  Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

The poems in this collection are whimsical and evocative of the insects described.  Perhaps the most important thing to note about these poems is that they should be read aloud by two people – the full effect of the sound and combination really requires it.  These poems would offer a perfect choice for short performances. (Mar 2011)

1990  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I loved that this book was so kind, despite the horrors that were occuring.  Anne Marie’s parents don’t necessarily hide the war from their children, but at the same time they stand as an example of reasonableness and goodness.  I also liked that there was a happy ending for Anne Marie’s friends, where so many Jews found only horror and death in World War II. (Mar 2010)

1991  Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The story of Jeffrey Magee is told in a sort of mythical way, which defuses some of the real sadness of the story.  Just when the thought of Jeffrey living in the buffalo pen seems too awful for words, there’s a story of the frogball to bring a bit of humor to the table.  Along the way Jeffrey becomes a kind of bridge for his town, linking the white and black neighborhoods.  This is certainly a thought provoking novel. (Oct 2010)

1992  Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

This is a tenderhearted tale of a boy and his dog. There is something magical about the love that grows between Marty and Shiloh. It is also interesting that Marty faces some grown up dilemmas in deciding what is right and wrong, what is dangerous about lies, and what is honorable. The setting is unique but in a way that is just there, not full of explanations. You get a sense of the poverty of the area, but also of the hard-working ethic of Marty’s family, and of others in the community. Wonderful book.  (Mar 2010)

1993  Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

This short volume about the pain of losing a loved one is made more poignant given Summer’s background of losing a mother and being passed around her extended family, before coming to live with her Uncle Ob and Aunt May. While Summer is very concerned about her uncle, ultimately, the story is about her own grief and coming to terms with her own loss. A wonderful book for anyone who has lost a loved one.  (Mar 2010)

1994  The Giver by Lois Lowry

Not sure what all the fuss is about. It’s no more controversial than other dystopian books set in the future. Good book – I didn’t think it was inappropriate for kids. Classic exploration of what we give up for security and peace.  (Apr 2009)

1995  Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

This novel explores family relationships and death and grief in such real ways, but without becoming overwhelming. Ms. Creech introduces characters that are funny but also real. Also, the story reveals its truth little by little, in much the same way that one learns to see things from someone else’s perspective. It is sometimes hard to do, but as we keep looking at things, suddenly they begin to make sense.  (Mar 2010)

1996 The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Kushman 

One of the best parts of this book is watching Alyce become Alyce. Slowly, as she finds a place in her world and puts her curiosity and diligence to work, Alyce is able to both help herself and others around her. I enjoyed too the descriptions that allowed me to feel that the story was taking place in the past and that things were indeed different. Also, there is quite a bit of interesting lore about the profession of midwifery.  (Mar 2012)

1997  The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg

What a lovely story!  When a friendship comes together like the one written about in Ms. Konigsburg’s novel, it is a magical thing.  I liked seeing how each of the main characters is faced with a decision and ultimately chooses for kindness – and how that choice changes everything for each one of them.  I also like that the children in this story are portrayed with respect – not with condescension.  They are young, but they are perceptive, and they take responsibility to making things better. (Jun 2010)

1998 Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

I read “The Worst Hard Times” a year ago or so and this would be the perfect companion piece to that heartbreaking look at the Dust Bowl of the 30’s. Billie Jo tells her story in poems and the story she tells is torturous. Only daughter of wheat farmers, she endures the years of no rain, giant dust storms, and worst of all, the death of her mother following a horrible accident. There is hope at the end of the book, which makes it less difficult to read. Although written for younger readers, I’d be hesitant to recommend it to anyone under 12 without some major preparation. (Jul 2011)

1999  Holes by Louis Sachar

This is a multi-layered story of mis-carriages of justice, of loyalty and personal growth, and of friendship – all set in a slightly caricatured world. Watching Stanley and Zero claim their own dignity and sense of self is a rewarding part of the story. Likewise, seeing real wrong-doers get what they deserve is also satisfying. And then there is that slightly fairy-tale aspect to the story that delights. Well-done.  (Mar 2010)

2000  Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

I loved this book. I loved Bud and his determination and optimism. He was a survivor and a dreamer and in the end he was loved and at home again. Although there are only glimpses, the hardships of the Depression stand in clear contrast to the safety Bud finds. I also liked that Bud had a sense of humor – his “rule and things” made me laugh, even though they were mostly good ones!  (Mar 2010)

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