Rebecca Caudill Award nominees: Books with great messages for Chicago tweens

Some of my favorite parenting moments have come while reading books with my child. I loved the rhythm of Sandra Boynton books as much as she did (okay, probably even more) and believed that “Good Night, Moon” was a delightful way to end the day.

Dr. Seuss was a big hit in our house, and, as Sarah Parisi recently pointed out in her blog post, his books are for everyone, which made me think that book selection is easier when kids are younger compared to when they are tweens.

There are a lot of fun options that appeal to little people regardless of gender or favorite activity. As kids become tweens though, finding great books can be trickier.

The Rebecca Caudill Award nominee list is a great source of new book ideas for tweens. The award is named for a writer who lived in Urbana, Illinois. Students in grades four through eight in participating Illinois schools vote for their favorite book on the list.

Caudill once said, “The first essential in any book is that it have something significant to say – a book that leaves the reader with bigger ideas than when he began reading – that stimulates his thinking, stretches his mind, deepens his feelings. A good book sticks to your ribs.”

Staying true this belief, Caudill nominee books deal with a variety of heavy issues. I have to say that I worried that they were too much for my tween. I was apparently judging a book by it’s cover and underestimating my tween. She has read several of these books in class and enjoyed them more than I ever anticipated.

The 2013 winner was “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier which tells the story of how a sixth grade girl deals with a dental disaster and other social and physical challenges that come with puberty, with healthy doses of compassion and reassurance. The graphic elements of the book definitely appeal to tween readers.

 Some of my tween's favorite fiction books on the 2014 nominee list are: 

* “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio is the powerful story of Auggie, a 10-year-old boy with a craniofacial difference has had a huge impact on both adolescent and adult readers. My child read this book with her class last year and she said every single kid loved it. Not only that, the book’s message addresses bullying and just unkindness that can be found in tweens and focuses on the idea of “choose kind.”

* “The Running Dream” by Wendelin Van Draaner, which tells the tale of 16-year-old runner Jessica who loses a leg in an accident. When she returns to school, she is seated next to Rosa, who has cerebral palsy. The book follows the development of their friendship and Jessica’s recovery and return to running.

* “The Lions of Little Rock” by Kristin Levine follows Marlee and Liz, two middle school girls in Little Rock in 1958. The New York Times Book Review said, “Readers will root for a painfully shy girl to discover the depths of her own courage and find hope in the notion that even in tumultuous times, standing up for the people you love can’t be wrong. Satisfying, gratifying, touching, weighty – this authentic piece of work has got soul.”

There are several nonfiction Caudill nominees as well, including “The Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917” and “Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s ‘Chocolate Pilot.'”

You can find the full list of nominees here.

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