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Thoughts on Some of the 2016 Award-Winning Picture Books


A Shout-Out to all of the 2016 award-winning children’s books! Congratulations to the authors and illustrators of those books as well as the picture books that appear on lists of best children’s books for 2015. Click here for a more complete list of awards for children’s books.

What exciting news that this year a picture book text won the Newberry Award. I believe it was well deserved. I rode the city bus quite often as a child, and can relate to some parts of the story myself.

Below are my thoughts on just a few of the award-winning picture books—I’m still reading! I hope it will make you run out to the library or local bookstore to read them for yourselves!

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, 2015

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2015
A Wall Street Journal Best Children's Book of 2015

I once heard Matt De La Pena speak at a conference, and I was inspired by his story. Now I’m equally inspired by his picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET.

When CJ and his nana leave church on Sunday morning they take the bus to the last stop on Market Street. CJ is feeling sorry for himself, and sees only what he doesn’t have. But when he begins to ‘see’ with more than just his eyes, he finds the real beauty in the people around him. I love how the illustrations add detail which adds to the overall experience.

Told with beautiful, poetic language, this is a wonderful story that shows that you don’t have to have a lot yourself to be able to help others, and that if you look around, you can find ‘beautiful where you never even thought to look.’

FINDING WINNIE, The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Balckall
Little, Brown and Company, 2015

#1 New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the 2016 Caldecott Medal

Maybe it was the long title, eleven words in all, but for some reason I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reading the text of this book. So I put it at the bottom of my pile. All of that changed when I started reading. I discovered that I’d saved one of the best for last.

FINDING WINNIE begins with the story of Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian who purchases a bear cub from a trapper on his way to England during World War I. Winnipeg, or Winnie as she was called, traveled to England with the soldiers and was put in a zoo when they left to fight in the war. The story of Harry and Winnie stops here, but as the narrator says to her young son, “Sometimes you have to let one story end so the next one can begin.”

The second part of the story begins with a real boy named Christopher Robin. The friendship between Christopher Robin and Winnie was the inspiration for the books about Winnie the Pooh, written by Christopher Robin’s father, Alan Alexander Milne.

What makes this book even more special is that the story is told to Harry Colebourn’s great-great-grandson by his mother. Wonderful illustrations add detail to the story, and include a family tree and an album with photos of Winnie with Harry and the soldiers. This is a wonderful read for all.

DON’T THROW IT TO MO! by David A. Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks
Penguin Young Readers, 2015

Winner of the 2016 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Mo is the youngest player on the Robins football team. He’s not the biggest or the fastest player on the team, but his passion for the game is an inspiration. Coach has a plan, but will it work? This is a great book for beginning readers with a good story, colorful illustrations and a great ‘take-away’ for readers at the end.

TROMBONE SHORTY by Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

2016 Caldecott Honor Book
Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award

TROMBONE SHORTY is the story of Troy Andrews, noted musician and trombone player from the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans. The language and use of dialect, along with the rhythm of the text and beautiful illustrations, puts you into the story. As you read you can ‘feel’ the influence of music in the main character’s life as you follow him from a young boy with the broken trombone twice his size, to Grammy nominated musician and inspiration to all young musicians. In the author’s words, “I’m living proof that as long as you work hard, you can make your dreams take flight.”

I want to linger just a bit on the last quote from Trombone Shorty, in particular the part that says “…as long as you work hard, you can make your dreams take flight.”

Success is sweet, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Anything that is done well takes time, and hard work. Like musicians, authors and illustrators spend many years learning the basics of their craft. And it's definitely worth the journey. Authors put in many hours finding just the right words that will connect with the reader and their emotions. Illustrators do the same, making their artwork a perfect fit for the text, then adding their own 'layer.' Having one of your picture books published and knowing that kids enjoy it is its own reward! Having your work recognized as one of the best is the icing on the cake.

Once again, my sincere congratulations to all!  Read More 
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