“For the first time he learned to think before he spoke.” Johnny Tremain: A Classic Revisited

Esther Forbes’s 1944 Newbery Medal-winning story set on the eve of the Revolutionary War turns seventy-five this year. To commemorate the milestone, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt recently released an updated edition with new jacket art and includes an illustrated forward by author-illustrator Nathan Hale (not the American spy executed by the British in 1776).

As riveting as ever, Johnny Tremain should be required reading for everyone, adults included. The book has never been out of print and Walt Disney turned it into a movie in 1957. Let’s not forget that Forbes also won a Pulitzer in 1942 for Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, a vivid biography of the patriot’s life based largely on his correspondence.

Forbes, for her part, was a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander and a trailblazer in her own time: born the fifth of six children to William and Harriette Forbes in Westboro, Massachusetts in 1891, she moved with her family to the county seat of Worcester, where her father practiced law. Forbes and her sisters were among the first girls to attend the private Bancroft School where, dyslexic and nearsighted, the young Forbes was once accused of plagiarism after sharing a story she had written to amuse her siblings. Undeterred, she continued to write, and at her death in 1967 was working on a book about witchcraft. The first woman to become a member of the American Antiquarian Society, Forbes left the Worcester institution the rights to her books as well as material for her unfinished final volume.

Johnny Tremain 75th Anniversary Edition, by Esther Hoskins Forbes, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $14.99, 320 pages. ages 9-12. 

American Library Association Announces Award Winners

‘Tis the season for award ceremonies, and on Monday the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults at its Midwinter Meeting, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. We reported on Tuesday that Kelly Barnhill took top honors with the Newbery; read who else was recognized for their contributions to children’s literature over on the Fine Books Blog.

literarykids:

UPDATE: Matt de la Pena was awarded the 2016 Newbery Medal 2016, and Christian Robinson received a Caldecott Honor.

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peកa, illustrated by Christian Robinson; Putnam Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-6. (January 2015)

CJ and his grandmother board the Market Street bus after church every Sunday, and spend the afternoon working in the soup kitchen of a homeless shelter. One day, the boy wonders aloud why his family doesn’t have a car or an MP3 player, and his wise and patient grandmother responds with encouragement, gentle humor and love by showing CJ that there is beauty even in the muddy and mundane city streets. Brooklyn-based author Matt de la Peកa (A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis) captures the child’s inquisitive spirit as well as the time-worn perspective of an older generation with short, snappy sentences that convey just enough detail about class inequality without weighing the story down. (When CJ and his grandmother board the bus, Peកa’s ‘They sat right up front" recalls Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in one simple sentence, and it’s perfect. ) San-Francisco native Christian Robinson (Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade; Josephine) expertly captures the charm and vibrancy of the City by the Bay with illustrations done in bright acrylic paint and collage. This celebration of life’s simple gifts and reminds us that what matters most isn’t the acquisition of stuff, but the time we spend with each other. 

Flora and Ulysses, The Illustrated Series  is out in paperback! Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery award winning story about a self-descrbed cynic and her furry sidekick is an uproarious tale that deserves pride of place on any child’s bookshelf. (Really, anything by DiCamillo is a surefire hit.)

Already read Flora and Ulysses? Check out Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, the latest offering from National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature where a lonely wannabe cowboy falls in love with an old mare named Maybelline. DiCamillo fans will recognize many characters from her Mercy Watson series who return here for some good old-fashioned horsing around.

2014 Newbery and Caldecott Winners

The American Library Association announced the winners of the 2014 Newbery and Caldecott medals on Monday.   A panel of fifteen librarians from across the country gathered to honor the very best children’s books.  What distinguishes the two awards? The Newbery Medal goes to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”   The Caldecott recognizes an artist’s excellence in picture book illustration.  Here they are:

 “Flora and Ulysses: The Illustrated Series,by Kate DeCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell; Candlewick Press, $17.99, 240 pages, ages 9-12.

In this adorable ode to superheroes, comic-book aficionado Flora sets on a series of adventures with a witty squirrel appropriately named Ulysses. DeCamillo’s humor (and wonderfully rich vocabulary) is perfectly matched by comic book artist’s K.G. Campbell’s black and white illustrations.  Readers will adore that this quirky action-packed novel matches a sensitive, sophisticated story.

 

Honor Books:

“Doll Bones,” by Holly Black; Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16.99, 256 pages, ages 10-14.

“The Year of Billy Miller,” by Kevin Henkes; Greenwillow Books, $16.99, 240 pages, ages 8-13.

“One Came Home,by Amy Timberlake; Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99, 272 pages, ages 9-13.

“Paperboy,by Vince Vawter; Delacorte Press, $16.99, 240 pages, ages 10-14.

Caldecott Medal Winner:

“Locomotive,” by Brian Floca; Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 64 pages, ages 4-10. 

This year’s Caldecott winner is a picture book rich with sensory details about America’s first trans-continental railroad.  The rolling text mimics the turning of the wheels and the rumbling of the train down the track.  Sumptuous images will easily captivate young readers, despite the book’s length. 

 

Honor Books:

Journey,” by Aaron Becker; Candlewick Press, $15.99, 40 pages, ages 4-8.

“Flora and the Flamingo,” by Molly Idle; Chronicle Books, $16.99. 44 pages, ages 4-8.

“Mr. Wuffles!”  by David Wiesner; Clarion Books, $17.99, 32 pages, all ages.

1922 – Gatsby, Newbery and Melcher

The release of a new film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic novel has reignited a mania for all things Gatsby. And why not? The story illustrates a prosperous, glamorous, yet sometimes garish, period in American society.  Today, we look at the creation of the first award for children’s literature, which was the same year in which Fitzgerald set The Great Gatbsy. 

While Fitzgerald described the cosmopolitan world of flapper culture set to decadent jazz music, American publisher and renowned admirer of children’s books Frederic Melcher commissioned the first Newbery Medal. Melcher named the award after the eighteenth-century British bookseller and printer Jon Newbery because he is regarded as the first dedicated printer and publisher of children’s literature.  

Newbery felt that making beautiful and accessible books for children was essential to their development. When he published Pretty Poems for Children Three Feet High he added the following inscription: “To all those who are good this book is dedicated by their best friend.”[1]

The first Newbery medal winner was a non-fiction history book called The Story of Mankindby Hendrik Willem van Loon (Liveright). In the 1920’s this book was considered the authoritative children’s resource on 5,000 years of history.  

Like The Great Gatsby, the Newbery Award isa uniquely American institution, since only authors contributing to American children’s literature and published in the United States by an American publisher are considered for the prize.

Source: Hazard, Paul. Books, Children & Men. (M. Mitchell, Trans.).Boston: The Horn Book Co., 1944.