The ALA awards will be announced Monday, always exciting! In a world where I made the big decisions, these would be the winners (not predictions, my picks; and not inclusive of all of my 04 faves; see my site for more recommendations):
Mystery At The Club Sandwich by Doug Cushman (Clarion, 2004). Humphrey-Bogart-esque dectective story in black-and-white illustrations about an elephant detective, Nick Trunk, on the case of Lola Gables' lost (lucky) marbles. Very tongue in cheek. Ages 7-up.
The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (Knopf, 2004). A picture book edition of one of the 24 stories in Hamilton's The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (1985) featuring breathtaking, heartbreaking, heart soaring illustrations by the Dillons. The text is a poem, a story, a fantasy, a celebration of freedom. Ages 7-up.
Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Karen Barbour (Simon & Schuster, 2004). A collection of poems that captures the wonder of language in a decidedly multicultural landscape. Should be required reading for every child. Ages 4-up.
Cesar: Si, Se Peude!/Yes, We Can! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz (Marshall Cavendish, 2004). Written in eloquent palm poems, this picture-chapter book eloquently illuminates the life of Cesar Chavez, Friend of the Farm Workers and American hero. Ages 7-up. Highly recommended.
My Father's Summers: A Daughter's Memoir by Kathi Appelt (Henry Holt, 2004). Poignant. Powerful. Poetic. Appelt's memoir is her best work to date. Heartfelt and hopeful, she describes the impact of her father's departure, her first kiss, and a surprisingly close connection to a defining day in American history. This book will resonant with young adult and adult readers alike. Five stars. Ages 12-up. Recommendation by author Anne Bustard. Note: marketed for YA but appropriate for most middle grade.
Mississippi Morning by Ruth Vander Zee, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Eerdman's, 2004). James always accepted that blacks and whites couldn't eat at the same tables or drink from the same fountains, but he's shocked and horrified when his fishing buddy LeRoy tells him about the misdeeds of the Klan, and even more stricken to see his own father walking home one morning in a white hood and robe. Ages 9-up.
Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004). Set in a rough New Mexico barrio in the latter 1960s, this story embraces a first true love and its loss, racism, homophobia, war, street violence, family, community...in others words "life." The prose is at times breathtaking in its poetry and at others jarring in its truths. Sammy's voice lingers long after the book closes and leaves the reader more thoughtful than before. An absolute triumph! Ages 14-up.
Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2004). Features stories by Joan Aiken, M.T. Anderson, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Celia Rees, Janni Lee Simner, Vivian Vande Velde, and Barry Yourgrau. Worth the price of the book for the introduction, though the collection itself is wickedly outstanding. Ages 14-up. Highly recommended.
Raising The Griffin by Melissa Wyatt (Wendy Lamb Books, 2004). Alex Varenhoff had grown up knowing his family history, that his forefathers had once ruled Rovenia. But that was the past. All his life, he'd been a well-bred British boy, no different from his boarding school chums. Then he's called--by his parents, by his ancestral homeland--to leave behind the life he's always known, the horse who's his best friend, and take on the position of Rovenia's prince! This modern-day story is no fairy tale. Alex, make that Alexei, is a reluctant royal who quickly finds himself overwhelmed--and worse--by paparazzi and politics, manners and expectations, but most of all, the questions of duty, identity, and whom to trust. Wyatt's novel offers a rich and thoroughly convincing fictional land, lovingly crafted with effective attention to detail. Ages 12-up.
Hannah Is My Name by Belle Yang (Candlewick, 2004). Hannah and her family are so excited to immigrate to the United States, to become Americans, to be free. But how scary and worrisome it is to wait to see if they will be sent green cards so they may stay legally and make San Francisco their home. Joyful, vibrant, and optimistic without minimizing the challenges faced by newcomers, Yang's book should be an essential part of any immigration, Asian American, California, and/or patriotism unit and a treasure for home and public libraries. Ages 4-up.
Jazzy Miz Mozetta by Brenda C. Roberts, illustrated by Frank Morrison (FSG, 2004). Miz Mozetta is dressed to dance, but who will be her partner? Jazzy, snazzy, and that's sayin' somethin'. Ages 4-up.
The Moon Came Down On Milk Street by Jean Gralley (Henry Holt, 2004). The moon has come down softly, and who will put it up again? Who will make things right? The fire chief, the rescue workers, the people. This brilliantly simple book speaks to our universal need for comfort, for heroes, for hope. It's perhaps the best "crisis" book ever published, as resonate and necessary for young readers as their grandparents. A must-buy for every school, household, and library. Ages 3-up.
Papa's Latkes by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by Stacey Schuett (Candlewick, 2004). Sisters Selma and Dora are facing their first Chanukah after the death of Mama. Papa is bringing home the ingredients for the latkes, but who will make them and how will the family celebrate with Mama gone? Warm, tender, deeply affecting prose; storytelling illustrations that resonate with emotional depth. Ages 4-up.
*I would consider art and text (hey, I'm a writer!).