Choosing High Quality Children's Literature/Children's Literature Awards

By Jay Bitner

How do you find the best literature for your child or classroom? Begin with those books that have won awards for excellence. In an age of classification of literature into genres attractive to specific social groups, the number of awards created for recognizing high quality children's literature has grown in recent years, but it is still a manageable list. The table below is a listing of the most significant U.S. children's book awards.

Award Given or Sponsored by Given for
John Newbery Medal American Library Association (ALA) Most distinguished contribution to children’s literature
Randolph Caldecott Medal ALA Most distinguished American picture book
Michael L. Printz Award ALA Excellence in Literature for young adults
Coretta Scott King Author Award ALA Outstanding book for children and young adults (by an African American author)
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award ALA Outstanding work reflecting the life, work, and dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (by an African American author)
Pura Belprè Award ALA Outstanding book related to Latino cultural experience (by Latino / Latina author)
Schneider Family Book Award ALA Outstanding book for children about disabilities
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award ALA Most distinguished book for beginning readers
Orbis Pictus Award National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Outstanding nonfiction book
Children’s and Young Adult's Book Awards International Reading Association (IRA) Outstanding first or second published book of fiction or nonfiction
Robert F. Sibert Award Bound to Stay Bound Books (ALA) Outstanding nonfiction book
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award The Boston Globe and The Horn Book Outstanding books for children

Keep in mind that, in most cases, award winners are selected by adults with extensive exposure to children's literature. They judge books based on specific criteria and the award-winning books, though they may be technically superior to other books under consideration at the same time, may not strike the reading audience in the same manner as they did the judges. The selected books may also not be as popular as other books published within the same time frame as the winner. However, the long track record of the success and major influence of award-winning books is undeniable.

The most reliable resource parents and teachers have is the knowledge they possess of the strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes of their child(ren) or students. I suggest to adults that they read or research the books they want children to read prior to introducing the books to the children. Just as there is no one movie that appeals to all moviegoers, so it is with award-winning books. There generally is no one book that will appeal to every reader. Excellence does not imply acceptance, understanding, or appreciation, but quality is a permanent attribute. Use discretion, knowledge, and resources before asking your children to read a book. Take care to select books they will learn to know, enjoy, love, and share with others.

Reading is a wonderful skill that can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Allow your readers to develop their imaginations, their language, and their insight into how and why others behave as they do. Understanding is the beginning of knowledge and books are a perfect means to set our readers on that course. Reading is fundamental.

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John Newbery MedalEdit

The Newbery Medal is America's oldest and most prestigious children's book award. Since 1922, The American Library Association has annually awarded the Newbery Medal for the best children's book published in the previous year. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the medal award, often are selected as Honor books.

The importance of the Newbery Medal and Honor books is evident by the long-lasting appeal of many of the books that have received the award. Award-winning books that were of excellent quality in the year chosen, are still of excellent quality today. Charlotte's Web, a 1953 Honor book, is still read by children today with as much enjoyment as when it was first selected. Quality remains, no matter the passage of time.

2010 Medal Winner

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead


2009 Medal Winner:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

2009 Honor Books

The Underneath by Kathi Appeit

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle

Savvy by Ingrid Law

After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

2008 Medal Winner

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)


2008 Honor Books:

Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic)

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion)

Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam)

Medal and Honor Books from 1922-present (most recent are listed first)

Randolph Caldecott MedalEdit

Since 1938, The American Library Association annually awards the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished illustrations in a children's American picture book, published in the previous year. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the medal award, often are selected as Honor books.


2009 Award Winner

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson (Houghton Mifflin)

2009 Honor Books

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, by Maria Frazee

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant


2008 Medal Winner

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)


2008 Honor Books

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine (Scholastic/Scholastic Press)

First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter)

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtin, by Peter Sís (Farrar/Frances Foster)

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

Winning and Honor Books from 1938-present (most recent are listed first)

Michael L. Printz AwardEdit

Since 2000, The American Library Association annually awards the Michael L. Printz Award for the best young adult's book published in the previous year. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the medal award, often are selected as Honor books.


2008 Award Winner

The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean (HarperCollins/HarperTempest)


2008 Honor Books

Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet, by Elizabeth Knox (Farrar/Foster)

One Whole and Perfect Day, by Judith Clarke (Boyds Mills Press/Front Street)

Repossessed, by A.M. Jenkins (HarperCollins/HarperTeen)

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath, by Stephanie Hemphill (Random House/Knopf)

Past Winning and Honor Books from 2000-present (more recent are listed first)

Coretta Scott King AwardEdit

The American Library Association annually awards the Coretta Scott King Award to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding inspirational and educational books published in the previous year. Books selected for the award must promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all people. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the award, often are selected as Honor books.

The first Coretta Scott King Award for authors was presented in 1970, while the award for illustrators was initially presented in 1974. Honor Book awards for authors began in 1978 and for illustrators in 1981. A careful examination of the Past winners will reveal years when no Honor Book awards were made. In 1985, no book was awarded for illustrator.


'2008 Author Award'

Elijah of Buxton", by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic)

'2008 Author Honor Books'

November Blues, by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum Books for Young Adults)

Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali, by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Bryan Collier (Candlewick Press)


2008 Illustrator Award

Let it Shine, Ashley Bryan, written by Ashley Bryan, (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

2008 Illustrator Honor Books

The Secret Olivia Told Me, Nancy Devard, written by N. Joy, (Just Us Books)

Jazz On A Saturday Night, Leo and Diane Dillon, (Scholastic Blue Sky Press)


2008 John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, by Sundee T. Frazier (Delacorte Press)

Past winners and Honor Books from 1970-present (most recent are listed first)

Pura Belprè AwardEdit

Since 1996, The American Library Association biannually awards the Pura Belprè Award for the best literature for children and youth, which is representative of the Latino cultural experience and published in the prior two years. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the award, often are selected as Honor books. Beginning in 2009, the award will be presented annually.


2008 Author Award

The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano, by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Sean Qualls (Holt)


2008 Author Honor Books

Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!, by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (Marshall Cavendish)

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale, retold by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael Austin (Peachtree)

Los Gatos Black on Halloween, written by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Holt)


2008 Illustrator Award

Los Gatos Black on Halloween, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Marisa Montes (Holt)


2008 Illustrator Honor Books

My Name Is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez/Me llamo Gabito: la vida de Gabriel García Márquez, illustrated by Raúl Colón, written by Monica Brown (Luna Rising)

My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo, written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez (Children's Book Press)

Winning Books from 1996-present (most recent are listed first)

Schneider Family Book AwardEdit

Since 2004, The American Library Association annually awards the Schneider Family Book Award to an author or illustrator of a book that communicates to readers the experience of living with a disability. The disability may be that of a friend or family member and be physical, emotional, or mental. The portrayal of life with that disability is required within each book considered for the award. The award is given in age groups that approximate elementary school, middle school, and high school readers. There are no awards for Honor books.


2008 Young Children Book

Kami and the Yaks, written by Andrea Stenn Stryer, illustrated by Bert Dodson (Bay Otter Press)


2008 Middle School Book

Reaching for Sun, by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer (Bloomsbury USA Children’s Press)


2008 Teen Book

Hurt Go Happy, by Ginny Rorby, a Starscape Book (Tom Doherty Associates)

Winning Books from 2004-present (most recent are listed first)

Theodor Seuss Geisel AwardEdit

Since 2006, The American Library Association annually awards the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the best beginning reader's book published in English in the United States in the previous year. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the medal award, often are selected as Honor books. Judges look for creativity and imagination in books that engage children in reading.


2009 Winner:

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

2009 Honor Books

Chicken Said, 'Cluck' by Judyann Grant

One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Stinky by Eleanor Davis

Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah Campbell'

2008 Winner

There Is a Bird on Your Head!, by Mo Willems (Hyperion)


2008 Honor Books

First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter)

Hello, Bumblebee Bat, written by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (Charlesbridge)

Jazz Baby, written by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Harcourt)

Vulture View, written by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Holt)

Medal and Honor Books from 2006-present (most recent are listed first)

Orbis Pictus AwardEdit

In November each year, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) awards the Orbis Pictus Award for the best children's nonfiction book published in the United States in the previous year. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the award, often are selected as Honor or Recommended books.

According to the NCTE web site, "The name Orbis Pictus, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures (1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children."

Nominated books must meet detailed criteria for accuracy, organization, design, and style. The NCTE web site states: "In addition, each nomination should be useful in classroom teaching grades K-8, should encourage thinking and more reading, model exemplary expository writing and research skills, share interesting and timely subject matter, and appeal to a wide range of ages."

2007 Award Winner, Honor, and Recommended Books

Winner: Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop (Houghton Mifflin)

Children's and Young Adult's Book AwardsEdit

The International Reading Association annually awards the Children's Book Awards for the best fiction and nonfiction books for children through young adults, published in the previous year. There is not an award for Honor books. Books published in any country and in any language are eligible for consideration.

Introduced in 1975, the number and name of award categories have changed over the years, which is evident in a listing of Past Winners. The current categories were first used in 2002, though variations of those categories existed in years past.

FictionEdit

The International Reading Association annually awards the Children's Book Award for the best fiction books for children from birth to seventeen years of age, published in the previous year.

2007 Award Winners

Primary: Tickets to Ride: An Alphabetical Amusement, by Mark Rogalski (Running Press Kids)

Intermediate: Blue, by Joyce Moyer Hostetter (Calkins Creek Books, Boyds Mills Press)

Young Adult: Leonardo’s Shadow: Or, My Astonishing Life as Leonardo da Vinci’s Servant, by Christopher Grey (Atheneum Books, Simon & Schuster)

NonfictionEdit

The International Reading Association annually awards the Children's Book Award for the best nonfiction books for children from birth to seventeen years of age, published in the previous year.

2007 Award Winners

Primary: Theodore, by Frank Keating (Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster)

Intermediate: Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium, by Carla Killough McClafferty (Farrar Straus Giroux)

Young Adult: The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano, by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt)

Robert F. Sibert AwardEdit

Since 2001, The American Library Association, with support from Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc., annually awards the Robert F. Sibert Awardfor the best children's informational book published in English in the previous year. Those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the medal award, often are selected as Honor books.


2008 Medal Winner

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtin, by Peter Sís (Farrar/Frances Foster)


2008 Honor Books

Lightship, by Brian Floca (Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson)

Nic Bishop Spiders, by Nic Bishop (Scholastic/Scholastic Nonfiction)

Winning and Honor Books 2001-present (most recent are listed first)

Boston Globe-Horn Book AwardEdit

The Boston Globe and The Horn Book annually award the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for the best children's books published in the previous year. The number and name of categories have changed over the years, which is evident in a listing of Past Winners. Except for the initial award year of 1967, those books worthy of consideration, which also have been considered for the award, often are selected as Honor books.

Picture BookEdit

Since 1967, The Boston Globe and The Horn Book annually award the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for the best children's picture book published in the previous year. Honor books have been selected annually since 1968.

2007 Picture Book winner

Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories (Porter/Roaring Brook) written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

2007 Honor Books

365 Penguins (Abrams) written by Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Joelle Jolivet

Wolves (Simon) written and illustrated by Emily Gravett


FictionEdit

From 1967 through 2000, The Boston Globe and The Horn Book annually awarded the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for the best fiction children's book published in the previous year. Honor books were named and received awards from 1968-2000. In 2001, the classification was modified to include books of poetry and the award renamed Fiction and Poetry.


Fiction and PoetryEdit

Since 2001, The Boston Globe and The Horn Book annually award the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for the best children's fiction or poetry book published in the previous year. Honor books are also selected annually.

2007 Fiction and Poetry winner:

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party (Candlewick) by M. T. Anderson

2007 Honor Books:

Clementine (Hyperion) written by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Rex Zero and the End of the World (Kroupa/Farrar) by Tim Wynne-Jones


NonfictionEdit

Since 1976, The Boston Globe and The Horn Book annually award the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for the best children's nonfiction book published in the previous year. Honor books have been selected annually since the creation of this category.

2007 Nonfiction winner:

The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr (Groundwood) written and illustrated by Nicolas Debon

2007 Honor Books:

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Houghton) by Loree Griffin Burns

Escape! (Greenwillow) by Sid Fleischman

ReferencesEdit

  • Huck, C.S., Hepler, S., & Hickman, J. (1993). Children’s Literature in the Elementary School: 5th Edition. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Company
  • Norton, Donna E. (2007) Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children’s Literature: 7th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
  • Tomlinson, C.M. & Lynch-Brown, C. (2007) Essentials of Young Adult Literature: 5th Edition. Boston: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon
Last modified on 16 February 2010, at 23:43