Summer is here, and with it comes free time for reading. The Fort Worth Library is sponsoring the Mayor's Summer Reading Challenge, a great program open to all ages. Just drop by any Fort Worth Library location, pick up a reading card, and keep track of each day you read for at least 20 minutes. Participating makes you eligible to win some great prizes. For more information on the program, ask the library staff, or visit www.fortworthlibrary.org.
And if you are looking for recommendations in children's literature, here are some outstanding books that have won major awards this year.
Moon Over Manifest
By Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Press, 2010
For ages 9-12
This is Vanderpool's debut novel, and it won the 2011 Newbery Medal for outstanding children's fiction. The story is set in summer 1936 and focuses on 12-year-old Abilene Tucker. While he works on the railroad in Iowa, Abilene's father sends her away for the summer to live with a friend -- an old preacher named Shady Howard who lives in the tiny, run-down town of Manifest, Kansas, where her father once lived, too. Abilene feels abandoned. But soon she meets Hattie Mae, a local reporter who shows her some of Manifest's old newspapers, and then Abilene finds a hidden cigar box full of keepsakes. These discoveries lead to mysteries about the town's past that Abilene tries to solve. She meets a Hungarian "diviner" named Sadie, who tells her the story of two boys from 1917 named Jinx and Ned. The narrative begins to shift between Abilene's present and the time of the two boys. Sadie tells Abilene some dark secrets about Manifest's previous involvement with the Ku Klux Klan. But some mysteries remain. What is Jinx's real name? Why won't Sadie tell Abilene about her father? What is it about his life that they are hiding from her? And will he return for her at the end of the summer? The answers to these questions lead to some action-packed scenes and a surprising conclusion.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
By Philip C. Stead
Illustrations by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook, 2010
For ages 4-8
A Sick Day won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for outstanding American picture books. Amos McGee is a zookeeper who spends time each day with all of his animal friends. He plays chess with the elephant, races the tortoise and reads to the owl. However, when Amos is too sick to come to work, his animal friends decide to come see him. Erin E. Stead, the author's wife, provides calm and soothing pencil drawings on woodblock prints, featuring strategically placed splashes of pastel colors. The animals look realistic even when engaging in human behavior. This affectionate view of friendship will be a real favorite before bedtime.
Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring
Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Illustrations by Brian Floca
Flash Point, 2010
For ages 9-12
This beautiful picture book won the 2011 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. It is the story of the collaboration among composer Aaron Copland, set designer Isamu Noguchi and dancer Martha Graham, three artistic legends who created the 1944 ballet Appalachian Spring, about pioneers. The book follows each step in the creative process: Graham asks Copland to write the score, Noguchi creates the scenery, and Graham choreographs the dance moves. The production is hard work, and there are setbacks; at one point, Graham loses her temper and throws a shoe. But then, when the curtain goes up, the illustrations show the majestic beauty of the result, with vivid watercolors that celebrate the dancers in performance. For young readers, this is a great introduction to ballet or the arts.
By Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown, 2010
Notable science-fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi won the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature with this dark novel. It is set in a future in which the world's oil supplies have been depleted, and a teenage boy named Nailer makes his living as a "ship breaker." He spends long, dangerous days scavenging for copper wire in ruined oil tankers off the New England coast. The other teenagers he works with are treacherous, his supervisor is harsh, and his father is an abusive alcoholic. Then, one day, Nailer finds a ship with great treasure in it. It's a discovery that could change his life forever, but there's a catch: There's a girl living inside the ship, and without his help, she will die. Should he steal the ship's riches, or attempt to rescue the girl? And if he does try to save her, will either of them survive? This action-packed, suspenseful thriller combines great action with thought-provoking moral questions.
Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing
By Ann Angel
Amulet Books, 2010
Angel won the 2011 YALSA Award for young adult nonfiction for this book, a well-researched, visually exciting biography of '60s rock icon Janis Joplin. Angel brings Joplin to life, from her humble beginnings as an outcast teenager in a small Texas town to her days at the pinnacle of rock stardom. The book includes many anecdotes and quotes from bandmates and friends who knew Joplin best. There are eye-popping graphics on every page, including psychedelic posters, mementos and more than 60 black-and-white photographs that capture the legendary singer in both public and personal moments. The passionate personal story and vivid visual elements combine to create a compelling biography that is hard to put down.
Claire Abraham is a children's librarian at the Fort Worth Library. These books are available at most library branches.