These books live up to their medals

Books - April 2006


Judy Belanger

When parents ask for a list of books for their children to read, my first suggestion is books awarded the Caldecott Medal, first given in 1938, or books awarded the Newbery Medal, first given in 1922. Caldecott medals go to the artist of the winning books, and Newbery medals go to the author. I also recommend the many honor books recognized for either medal over the years.

If you’re interested in reading previous Caldecott and Newbery books, visit the American Library Association Web links at or

And now, without further ado, here are the winners of the 2006 medals along with the winner of the first Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, which recognizes an author and illustrator who demonstrates a distinguished contribution in a beginning reader book.

Caldecott winner

THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW, by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka, Hyperion, $15.95; ages 3-7.

A little girl likes to visit her grandparents, Nanna and Poppy. There are lots of fun kinds of things she can do at their house. The kitchen table is great for coloring. Nanna tells her she used to bathe her in the sink when she was little. Nanna has a garden and enjoys her granddaughter’s help.

Poppy’s specialty is breakfast, especially oatmeal with bananas and raisins. But the best part of the house is the kitchen window. The little girl can peek in at Nanna and Poppy through the window on her way into the house or wave goodbye on her way home because they always stand in the window and watch her leave.

If the little girl stays overnight, she can see all the stars in the sky before going to bed and when she wakes up in the morning she can look outside to see if it is raining or if the sun is shining. In between all this she can look all around the backyard.

Raschka has created pictures that look like a child’s work. What makes them interesting is the detail created by lines to define each picture. Another of his illustrated books, Yo! Yes?, was a Caldecott honor book in 1994.

A variety of illustrating techniques have been awarded the Caldecott over the years. A few of my favorites include David Wiesner, Paul O. Zelinsky and Ed Young. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, was selected for the Caldecott in 1964 and many librarians thought it too scary for young children; years later it was made into a play and is still a popular book. The winner in 1986 was The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, which was made into a movie in 2004.

Newbery winner

CRISS CROSS, by Lynne Rae Perkins, Greenwillow, $16.99; ages 10 and up.

When I began reading this story, I wasn’t sure I would like it. It didn’t tell me where or when it was taking place. Then I realized that didn’t matter. What was important was that the characters were friends; they had fun together, they weren’t troublemakers and they didn’t have problems. It is hard to find a book these days where kids are kids and they have a good time just being kids.

The story is about five friends, three boys and two girls, and others in their lives. It takes place during the summer of their fourteenth year.

Debbie is one of the five friends. As she sits on her sister’s bed, twisting her necklace and looking at a magazine, she wishes that something different would happen. That same evening Hector, one of the three boys, goes with his sister to hear a band play and decides he wants to learn to play the guitar. So begins the summer. On many Saturday afternoons, Debbie and Hector, along with Phil, Lenny and Patty listen to a radio show called "Criss Cross," a show with Mad magazine-like humor.

One afternoon Debbie and Patty are looking through their yearbook. Under each picture of a senior is a quote taken from history or literature. The girls decide they should use haiku and make up verses to go along with the pictures. Throughout the book, Perkins uses illustrations to get her point across.

The joy in this book is in the writing and the wonderful descriptions Perkins uses. There’s the afternoon when Hector waves to two girls he knows from school. As he watches them, he realizes the girls are turning into butterflies in his thoughts of them growing up. Another afternoon, Debbie and some friends are in the yard sun bathing. "Every half hour or so they turn 90 degrees like chickens roasting on invisible rotisseries," Perkins writes.

These young teens are true friends. They have many good times together throughout the summer. As the story develops, one event leads to another in surprising ways.

Among my favorite Newbery authors are Robin McKinley, Cynthia Voigt, Louis Sachar, Robert C. O’Brien and Madeleine L’Engle. In addition to their winning titles, they have all written books that have sequels.

Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.

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