Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s to shamrocks, shillelaghs, and most of all to shanachies!
For a thousand years in Ireland, storytellers known as shanachies were ranked second only to kings. Even into the twentieth century, they could be found telling stories in villages, where they kept alive the myths, history, folk and fairy tales of the Irish people. The shanachies may be gone, but their stories live on in the bounty of picture books and story collections for children.
The Newbery Medal, the world's oldest and most prestigious award for children's books, has come under fire recently. Last fall children's literature expert Anita Silvey wrote a widely read article, "Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?", that questioned the recent medal winners. She quoted librarians who claim the winners are too special, with appeal to only a few readers. Sales figures do bear out the fact that recent winners have sold less well than many earlier selections.
The American Library Association announced its prestigious children's book awards yesterday, including the Caldecott Medal for most distinguished picture book and the Newbery Medal for most distinguished contribution to American children's literature.
This morning's column takes a look at a few of the best books of the year that did not win either prize - not because they're not worthy, but because, being British, they're not eligible.
This historic Inauguration Day has inspired me to gather up a few of the best children’s books on American history. Check them out (the library’s open today) and share them with your family while you watch the festivities on television.
Which book will win the prestigious Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of the year? Join librarians and other interested folks at the Headquarters Library downtown to discuss five of the contenders. Our library’s Mock Awards program, a discussion of books eligible for the American Library Association’s Caldecott and Newbery Awards, runs from 3:00-5:00 in the library theater, and all are welcome.
The spirit of the season shines through several beautifully illustrated picture books. Stephen Krensky’s Hanukkah at Valley Forge retells the story of a documented encounter between George Washington and a Jewish soldier during the harrowing winter of 1777. Washington notices a man lighting a candle and praying in his tent and stops to ask what he’s doing. As the soldier explains the meaning of Hanukkah, the general sees the parallel between the Jews battling the Maccabees and the Americans battling the British. The story is fluidly told, while Greg Harlin’s luminous watercolors offer quietly dramatic portraits bathed in candlelight.