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Building Bridges Behind Bars

NYLA 2018 Annual Conference Presentation Randall Enos, Youth Services Consultant for Ramapo Catskill Library System

ALA NotableChildren's Book List

Coretta Scott King Awards

Pura Belpré Award

ALA Notable Children's Books

Building Bridges Behind Bars

 ALA Notable Children's Books


Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children's books. According to the Notables Criteria, "notable" is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children's books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children's interests in exemplary ways.

According to the ALSC Notable Children’s Books Committee manual, these categories loosely represent the following:  Younger Readers – Preschool-grade 2, up to age 7, including easy-to-read books; Middle Readers – Grades 3-5, ages 8-10; Older Readers – Grades 6-8, ages 11-14; All Ages – Has appeal and interest for children in all of the above age ranges

Younger Readers

1. Bully. Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter
Bull becomes larger and more threatening with each animal encounter until a fed-up goat calls Bull on being a bully. Simple text and clever art make for a powerful tale.

2. Chalk. By Bill Thomson.  Illus. by the author. Marshall Cavendish.
In this wordless picture book, three young children arrive at the park to find a bag of colored chalk that turns their imaginary drawings into something very real.

3. Creepy Carrots! By Aaron Reynolds. Illus. by Peter Brown.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots until he notices they are everywhere and becomes convinced that they’re coming for him! (A 2013 Caldecott Honor Book)

4. The Day the Crayons Quit. Daywalt, Drew. Illus. by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel
Duncan just wants to color but his crayons have minds of their own. The imaginative humor and quirky illustrations will encourage creative youngsters to think outside the box.

5. Demolition. By Sally Sutton. Illus. by Brian  Lovelock.  Candlewick.
Through a mix of rhyming text, sounds, and onomatopoeia, and large gritty illustrations, children are introduced to what machines do at a construction site.

6. Dogs on Duty. By Dorothy Hinshaw Patent. Walker.
Brave, loyal dogs are hard to resist, especially those trained to serve on difficult military missions. Easy-to-read blocks of text are paired with photos to walk readers through the history of these hero hounds.

7. Draw! By Raúl Colón. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman.
Colón celebrates the power of imagination and creativity to heal a bedridden boy. The lush illustrations need no words as the boy goes on an artistic and exciting adventure. 

8. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. By Margarita Engle. Illus. by Rafael López. HMH.
In this story inspired by a real musician, a girl in Cuba longs to play the drums, and with perseverance, she breaks down the gender barrier, eventually becoming a famous drummer. (Belpré Illustrator Medal Book)

9. Float. By Daniel Miyares. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster.
In this wordless picture book, a gray, rainy day turns into an adventure when a boy makes a paper boat and plays outside in the rain. 

10. Flashlight. By Lizi Boyd. Illus. by the author. Chronicle.
In mostly black and white illustrations, a young child with a flashlight discovers many of the mysteries and joys of the night, then suddenly the tables are turned. Cut outs add to the fun of this highly imaginative book.

11. Flop to the Top! By Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing. Illus. by the authors. TOON.
Wanda is shocked to learn that her dog, Wilbur—not Wanda—has become an instant celebrity when a selfie goes viral. Bright, bold cartoon art tells this story, emphasizing that friendship and family are more important than fame.

12. The Great Pet Escape. By Victoria Jamieson. Illus. by the author. Holt.
The class pets at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary are on the loose! Second-grade classroom hamster GW has had enough and sets out to free his two best friends.

13. Growing Up Pedro. By Matt Tavares. Illus. by the author. Candlewick.
A young Pedro Martinez, inspired by his brother Ramon, rises from humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic to become one of the best Major League Baseball players of our time.

14. Horrible Bear! By Ame Dyckman. Illus. by Zachariah OHora. Little, Brown.
When a kite goes astray, an accident and misunderstanding bring together two unlikely friends in a story about the power of forgiveness.

15. A Hungry Lion; or, A Dwindling Assortment of Animals. By Lucy Ruth Cummins. Illus. by the author. Atheneum.
Why do a little calico kitten, a brown mouse, and a floppy-eared bunny disappear? Ask the hungry lion.

16. The Infamous Ratsos. By Kara LaReau. Illus. by Matt Myers. Candlewick.
Trying to follow in their tough father’s footsteps, Louie and Ralphie’s efforts go humorously awry. (Geisel Honor Book)

17. Last Stop on Market Street. By Matt de la Peña. Illus. by Christian Robinson. Putnam.
CJ’s journey with his Nana is not just a simple bus ride; it is a multi-sensory experience through which he discovers that beautiful music, nature, and people surround him. (Newbery Medal Book & Caldecott Honor Book)

18. Mango, Abuela, and Me. By Meg Medina. Illus. by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick.
When Mia discovers that her Abuela can’t speak English, she finds the perfect gift that helps them both with their language barrier. Vibrant illustrations and Spanish words blend together to create a warm family story. (Belpré Author & Illustrator Honor Book)

19. Niño Wrestles the World. Morales, Yuyi. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter
Niño, lucha libre hero, defeats almost all comers. Clever use of fonts, text bubbles, word art, and vibrant illustrations energizes this world-class wrestling match. (The 2014 Belpré Illustrator Medal Book)

Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas. By Yuyi Morales. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.
Wild adventures ensue when young luchador Niño is pitted against his little sisters, the lucha wrestling queens. 

20. School’s First Day of School. By Adam Rex. Illus. by Christian Robinson. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter.
In this charming account of first-day jitters, a brand new school building is the one wracked with nerves as the school year begins.

21. Thunder Boy Jr. By Sherman Alexie. Illus. by Yuyi Morales. Little, Brown.
Named after his father, Thunder Boy Jr. seeks a new name that’s all his own and celebrates something cool that he has done.

22. Trombone Shorty. By Troy Andrews. Illus. by Bryan Collier. Abrams.
In this autobiography, Trombone Shorty reminisces about his early life in the jazz music scene of his beloved hometown of New Orleans. (Caldecott Honor Book)

23. We Are Growing! A Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! Book. By Laurie Keller. Illus. by the author. Disney/Hyperion.
The exuberance felt by a few blades of grass as they celebrate their individuality and quick growth is cut short in the face of an approaching lawn mower. (Geisel Medal Book)

24. Weekends with Max and His Dad. By Linda Urban. Illus. by Katie Kath. HMH.
On weekends, third-grader Max visits his dad's new apartment and begins to adjust to his parents' divorce.

25. Where's Walrus?  By Stephen Savage, Illus. by the author. Scholastic.
Walrus escapes from the zoo and cleverly disguises himself around the city; the zoopkeeper and the children reading the book search for him on each bold, bright page of this wordless book.


Middle Readers

26. Brown Girl Dreaming. By Jacqueline Woodson. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen.
Woodson’s lyrical memoir chronicles her life as an African-American girl growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Elegant and evocative stand-alone poems weave a story of her development from a struggling reader and dreamer into a confident young woman and writer. (2015 Newbery Honor Book & Sibert Honor Book)

27. Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. By Laban Carrick Hill. Illus. by Bryan Collier. Little/Brown.
Poetic text and lush illustrations tell the true story of an extraordinary artist living in 19th-century South Carolina. Caldecott Honor Book & ALA Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

28. Dream Something Big: The Story of the Watts Towers. By Dianna Hutts Aston, Illus. by Susan L. Roth. Dial Books for Young Readers.
The human desire to make a mark is celebrated in this fictionalized account of Simon Rodia’s process in building the Watts Towers – a singular, eccentric, artistic creation now recognized as a National Landmark.

29. El Deafo. By Cece Bell. Color by David Lasky. Abrams/Amulet.
In this insightful and humorous graphic novel memoir, Bell portrays growing up with a giant hearing aid strapped to her chest.  Themes of navigating a new school, sleepovers, finding a true friend, and a first crush make this book universal in appeal. (2015 Newbery Honor Book)

30. E-mergency! By Tom Lichtenheld, Illus. by Ezra Fields-Meyer. Chronicle Books.
When the letter ‘E’ falls down the stairs and hurts her leg, the rest of the alphabet must do the best it can to limp along without its most-used letter.  Puns aplenty pack every page.

31. Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys. By Bob Raczka. Illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Six haiku for each season of the year, celebrating the interaction of boys and nature, combine with loose, expressive cartoons to make a winning combination.

32. Harlem Hellfighters. By J. Patrick Lewis. Illus. by Gary Kelley. Creative Editions.
Poetic vignettes depict the dramatic story of a band of African-American soldiers--who are also jazz musicians--during World War I.

33. Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories about Growing Up Scieszka. By Jon Scieszka. Illus. by author. Viking/Penguin.
A hilarious saga of growing up in a household with five brothers during the 1950’s and 1960’s by the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, illustrated with candid pictures from the period.

34. Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness. By Donna Janell Bowman. Illus. by Daniel Minter. Lee & Low.
Born a slave, William “Doc” Key, became a self-taught veterinarian. With much kindness, he raised a remarkable horse, named Jim Key, which he taught to answer questions, spell, and write.

35. Wet Cement. By Bob Raczka. Roaring Brook.
Children will enjoy the unusual format of the poems and their titles in this kid-friendly collection of concrete poetry.

36. Wonder. By R. J. Palacio. Knopf.
Born with facial deformities, August chooses to attend "regular" school for the first time.  Told from many perspectives, this is a powerful novel about friendship and acceptance.


Older Readers

37. Booked. By Kwame Alexander. HMH.
Twelve-year-old Nick excels on the soccer field but struggles to deal with his parents' divorce in this touching yet humorous novel in verse.

38. The Crossover. By Kwame Alexander. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Twelve-year-old narrator Josh uses the rhythms of a poetry jam to emulate the "moving & grooving/popping and rocking" of life on the basketball court. This novel in verse paints an authentic portrait of a closely-knit family on the brink of crisis. (2015 Newbery Medal Book)

39. Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War. By Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine. Illus. by Claudia Dávila. Kids Can.
Chikwanine chronicles the harrowing tale of his kidnapping at age five in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the horrors of life as a child soldier. A graphic-novel biography.

40. Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers. Stone, Tanya Lee. illus. Candlewick
Bolden introduces the unsung story of the U.S. Army's first African-American paratroopers unit, moving gracefully among portraits of individual paratroopers, the history of the unit, and the complex social issues of the time. (A YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Honor Book)

41. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. By Don Brown. Illus. by the author. HMH.
Heroes surface, and people find courage in this exceptional graphic novel that addresses incompetence, racism, and the resilience of the people of the Crescent City. (Sibert Honor Book)

42.  How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. By Georgia Bragg, Illus. by Kevin O'Malley. Walker & Co.
A wildly humorous collective biography featuring horrifying medical treatments and deaths of nineteen famous men and women, this surprisingly heavily researched compendium is terrific book bait for reluctant readers.

43. Lowriders in Space. By Cathy Camper. Illus. by Raúl the Third. Chronicle.
Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio enter a car-detailing contest to fulfill their dream of owning their own garage. This graphic novel celebrates Mexican-American culture and takes readers on a road trip through outer space. 

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. By Cathy Camper. Illus. by Raul the Third. Chronicle.
The Lowriders journey to the center of the earth to retrieve their beloved cat, Genie, in this energetic graphic novel.  (Belpré Illustrator Medal Book)

44. March: Book One. Lewis, John and Aydin, Andrew. Illus. by Nate Powell. Top Shelf
Using the inauguration of President Obama as a framing device, Congressman John Lewis and graphic novelist Powell tell the story of Lewis's life and his participation in America's civil rights movement. (A 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book)

March: Book Two. By John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illus. by Nate Powell. Top Shelf.

March: Book Three. By John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illus. by Nate Powell. Top Shelf.
This third graphic novel in Congressman John Lewis’ personal account of the Civil Rights Movement begins with the Birmingham church bombing and ends with the signing of the Voting Rights Act. (Sibert Medal Book)

45. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. By Pamela S. Turner. Illus. by Gareth Hinds. Charlesbridge.
Turner reveals the thrilling life of twelfth-century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune, the bloody feud between his family and the Taira clan, and his undoing by the political machinations of his brother.


All Ages

46. Press Here. By Hervé Tullet, Illus. by the author. Trans. by Christopher Franceschelli. Handprint Books/Chronicle.
A whimsical, interactive picture book that draws readers through its pages by having them tap, clap, and follow other simple but enticing instructions.

47. The Water Princess. By Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel. Illus. by Peter H. Reynolds. Putnam.
Princess Gie Gie walks miles every morning to collect water for her family, while dreaming of bringing clean drinking water to her parched African village.