SCBWI 2012 Crystal Kite Winners

crystal kite awards

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators give this award annual to great books from the fifteen regional SCBWI divisions around the world.  Each member of the organization is allowed to vote for their favorite book from a nominated author in their region that was published in the previous year.

Here are the 2012 Crystal Kite Winners:



Finding Aunt Joan by Jenny Hatton, illustrated by Joan Rankin


The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen


Won Ton: A Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin



Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Bluefish by Pat Schmatz



Black & White by Larry Brimner


Pearl by Jo Knowles


Thelonious Mouse by Orel Protopopescu



The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine


Mine! by Patrice Barton


Witchlanders by Lena Coakley



Dark Parties by Sara Grant


Orchards by Holly Thompson


The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson

Review: The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

obsidian blade

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

This is the dazzling first book in a new trilogy by veteran author, Hautman.  It is the story of Tucker, a teen boy from Hopewell, Minnesota who sees his minister father suddenly disappear into a disk that hangs in mid-air.  His father returns an hour later, changed.   He looks older, his clothes are worn, and his feet are covered in odd blue boots.   But the most significant change is that he no longer believes in God.  After his father returns, Tucker’s mother begins a slow descent into madness.  She stops cooking, stops getting dressed, and her hair turns from red to pure white.  Tucker longs to return to the days when his family was not falling apart, but before he can even begin to hope for that, his father disappears with his mother.  Tucker knows they have both entered the disk again, looking for a cure for her.  This book blends family relationships, technology, time travel and religion into one intoxicating mixture that is impossible to sip slowly.

This book would definitely be categorized as science fiction, but that definition does not fit quite so easily here.  With its detailed look at modern life and families, the audacity with which it explores faith and religion, and the wrenching take on modern technologies, this book is far more than that narrow genre might imply.  Hautman has created a work that transcends simple definition, reaching quickly beyond them. 

Hautman whirls readers through time, creating places that read like Narnia, others that seem more like an Indiana Jones film, and then slows down to take in the crucifixion.   It is a trip through our shared past and future, dancing back and forth across the line until the reader is unsure which is which.  Hautman excels at asking impertinent questions, taking great risks, and exploring the lines that teens themselves like to toy with. 

The book is beautifully written.  The character of Tucker is well done, though others may need time in the upcoming books to come more fully to life.  The book is plotted tightly, picking up pace until by the end, you simply cannot read fast enough to figure things out.  And the final trick is the end of this first book, which is just like stepping through a diskos of your own.  

A triumph of a first book in a series, this reminds me strongly of the wonder of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness.  I’d suggest getting it into the hands of teens who enjoyed that series which had the same complexity both in terms of storyline and ethics.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts that you might find interesting:

5 (Mostly) Vintage Children’s Books by Iconic Graphic Designers #kidlit

67 Books Every Geek Should Read to Their Kids: A Printable List (GeekDad Weekly Rewind) #kidlit

The Artistry Of ‘Children’s Picturebooks’ Revealed : NPR #kidlit

Cannon: Should adults read books written for kids? | The Salt Lake Tribune

Celebrating the magic of Diana Wynne Jones | Children’s books | #kidlit

Charlie Kaufman To Adapt ‘Chaos Walking’ by Patrick Ness! #yalit

Children’s author GP Taylor on why he’s decided to self-publish #kidlit #ebooks

The Children’s Book Council – 2012 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners #kidlit

Children’s Corner: Poetry books that will register on the kid cool-o-meter » Evansville Courier & Press #kidlit #poetry

Cressida Cowell interviewed by young writers – Telegraph

‘The Dirty Cowboy’ author: Book ban ‘ridiculous’ – Lebanon Daily News #kidlit

Don’t Miss Free Rick Riordan Webcast May 1 #kidlit

Eye Candy for YA Book Lovers on Authors Pinterest Boards: #yalit

Grim Colberty Tales with Julie Andrews – The Colbert Report – 2012-24-04 – Video Clip | Comedy Central

How to Save the World: Kids are the Earth’s best hope-and librarians can play a special role

Judy Blume loves a good challenge #kidlit

Letters of Note: It is only adults who ever feel threatened #kidlit

The Most Highlighted Book Passage of All Time on the Kindle Is Like So Deep Man (and from Hunger Games!) #yalit

PSA: 61% of low-income families have no age appropriate books at home. #reading #literacy

A Rival For Pigeon In Willems’ New ‘Duckling’ : NPR #kidlit

Teach the Books, Touch the Heart – NYT #reading

Top 5 Reasons to Let Kids Choose Their Own Books « Nerdy Book Club

A trio of striking verse narratives for teen readers – JSOnline #yalit

What Does ‘Young Adult’ Mean? – Entertainment – The Atlantic Wire #yalit

Review: Kate & Pippin by Martin Springett

kate and pippin

Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story by Martin Springett, illustrated by Isobel Springett

When Pippin, a fawn, is abandoned by her mother, photographer Isobel Springett found her crying for help.  She took Pippin home and placed her by Kate their old Great Dane.  The two immediately bonded:  Pippin thought she had found a new mother and Kate started to mother her even though she had never raised any puppies of her own.  Pippin learned to drink from a bottle and when she got bigger started to adventure outside.  One evening, Pippin disappeared into the forest and didn’t return for bedtime.  Kate was very concerned, but the next morning Pippin came back just in time for breakfast.  Pippin returned to the woods every night after that, returning to the farm almost every morning to eat and play.  As she grew into an adult deer, she still continued to return to visit Kate and play.  She even still comes into the house once in awhile for a visit. 

This is one of the most lovely picture books about a relationship with a wild animal that I have seen.  I especially appreciate that Pippin was allowed to continue to be a wild deer, returning to the forest and being allowed to create a relationship on her own terms.  It’s definitely refreshing to see.  Here the human and dog were able to rescue, aid but also step back and not absorb this little creature.  The relationship that emerges is breathtakingly touching, seeped in fragility yet incredibly strong.

A large part of the success here are the photographs of this tiny deer bonding with the enormous dog.  By the end of the book, the animals are the same size.  It is clear that both of them adore one another on a deep level, and one that is delightfully separate from the humans. 

This nonfiction picture book reads like fiction, making it a great pick for a touch of nonfiction in a story time.  It’s a story that children will relate to easily and naturally.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.

Review: Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats by Barbara Joosse

old robert

Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Jan Jutte

Old Robert sailed his ship at sea during the day and docked it at night because it was so dark.  At night, he prepared his dinner of toast in buttered milk and ran through his list of things that were all in their proper place, including clean socks, a clock, one dish and one spoon, and the moon.  He was all alone until one night when a dancing cat asked to come aboard.  Old Robert hesitated because there wasn’t much room aboard, but in the end he agreed.  So he made dinner of toast in buttered milk for both of them and when he went to bed, he noticed the moon was bigger.  Now his list included the cat in its hammock as he went to sleep.  On subsequent days, another two talking cats joined him on board, for dinner, and on his list.  And the moon got bigger still.  Finally, a cat that didn’t talk at all arrived and Old Robert let it on board too.  There was no room for a hammock, for Old Robert let it sleep on his chest.  Finally, the moon was full and Old Robert sailed off into the moonlit night with all of the cats. 

I expected quite a different book when I saw the cover.  I thought it was going to be silly, zany, and rather wild.  Instead, this book has a beautiful quietness to it, a thoughtfulness, and makes for a perfect bedtime read.  Joosse incorporates repetition so well here that it becomes a lullaby.  His listing of his belongings doesn’t change much, except for the size of the moon and the number of cats.  It speaks to the simplicity of his life, but also to how lonely he is.  This is shown rather than told, giving the book a lovely little ache that heads right for the heart.

Jutte’s illustrations too have a mix of silly and quiet.  They have a vintage feel, of old comic books that will make readers feel right at home.  They have great color with explosions of pinks, blues and yellows that pop and glow. 

A great read aloud, this would make a great bedtime pick but it is also a good one to turn into reader’s theater for children.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books

Review: Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater

mrs noodlekugel

Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Adam Stower

Siblings Nick and Maxine have just moved into an apartment building where they live on an upper floor.  Soon after they moved in, they discovered a tiny house behind their apartment building, but they could not figure out how to get there.  They decided to ask the janitor of the building who told them they had to go through the boiler room.  But their parents told them not to bother the woman who lived in the house and not to visit.  Of course, the two children just had to meet her.  So they traveled through the dark, pipe-filled boiler room and off to the sweet little house where they met Mrs. Noodlekugel and her talking cat, Mr. Fuzzface.  She fed them apple cookies (baked by Mr. Fuzzface) and tea.  She insisted that the four mice be invited to the tea, because you can’t have tea without mice.  And that was just the first time that the children came to visit!

Pinkwater has created a jolly book for beginning readers here.  It has the wonderful charm of an old-fashioned story filled with baked goods, talking animals and more than a touch of magic.  At the same time, it takes place in an urban setting of apartment buildings and the city.  Pinkwater’s writing is as solid as ever, creating a strong foundation for the story. 

Stower’s art adds to that feeling of the juxtaposition of vintage and new.  There are full-page illustrations and then others that offer just small images on the page.  The illustrations have a wonderful sweetness to them, especially as the magic starts.

A cheery book for new readers, this is a confection of a book for children starting to read chapter books on their own.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford

secret tree

The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford

The neighborhood that Minty lived in had some very interesting stories.  There was the Man-Bat, a huge combination of man and bat that lived in the woods.  On the other side of the woods was the Witch’s House, where Minty’s best friend Paz was brave enough to knock but then lost her little sister’s favorite stuffed animal when the witch emerged and grabbed her.  When Minty saw a flash in the woods one day, she headed off to see what it was. That’s how she met Raymond, a boy who lived alone in the new development model house.  She also discovered the Secret Tree, a hollow tree where people in town left their secrets.  She and Raymond started collecting the secrets and trying to match them with people.  Who is the person who is only loved by their goldfish?  Who has put a curse on their enemy?  Who is betraying their best friend?  And what secrets are the people closest to Minty keeping?

Standiford has created a compelling story about the power of secrets, but also the necessity for them at times.  The slow unraveling of the mysteries of the secrets makes for fascinating reading that will capture the interest of children.  It is one of those books that reads lightly, but has a great deal of depth behind it, especially as the secrets of the community are revealed. 

Minty is a great heroine.  She is at the cusp of becoming a teen and her best friend is maturing faster than she is.  Minty isn’t interested in laying out in the sun at the pool (at least not without eating a snow-cone) and she doesn’t like the new, older girls her friend is hanging out with.  Instead Minty wants to plan on becoming a roller derby star, discover the secrets around her, and just be herself. 

This rich novel will be a great pick for classroom reading and discussions.  It is also the ideal summer read, especially for all of us who love a great secret.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Review: Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter

kalis song

Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter

Kali’s mother painted amazing paintings of animals on their cave walls.  Soon Kali would be a man and so he started practicing with a bow and arrows.  But on his first session of practice, he discovered that he could do something else with the bow:  he could make music!  Soon he was making music instead of practicing his shooting at all.  When the day of the big hunt came, his bow was taut and his arrows sharp.  The men and boys approached the huge mammoths, that were far larger and more impressive than Kali had ever expected.  Kali forgot all about the hunt and just felt that he had to play the music he was hearing in his head.  As he played, the mammoths gathered closer around him and the other hunters laid down their bows.  Everyone realized that Kali must be a shaman to charm animals in this way.  Even as Kali grew much older, he continued to play music on his bow.

Winter has created such a remarkable story here.  It is a story without modern judgment about killing animals, which would be out of place in this book.  Yet Winter does not turn entirely away from modern sensibilities either with this book about a young shaman who does not kill, but instead charms.  It is a book that celebrates innate talents of people, relishes in inventiveness, and demonstrates a large heart for acceptance too.  Kali is not shunned for being different, but instead embraced for it. 

Winter’s illustrations are also very special.  Framed with torn edges, the illustrations are filled with the texture of papers that mimics that of cave walls.  The characters are roughly painted, just as his mother’s cave paintings are with additional fine details drawn on in ink.  The result is a book that is a winning combination of rough and fine. 

This picture book embraces differences, celebrates art and music, and does it all surrounded by stars and mammoths.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

Review: Bambino and Mr. Twain by P. I. Maltbie

bambino and mr twain

Bambino and Mr. Twain by P. I. Maltbie, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

In 1904, after losing his beloved wife, Mark Twain shut his door on the public life he had led.  Instead, he stayed indoors spending much of his time alone except for his daughter’s cat, Bambino.  The two of them grew closer as they played billiards together, shared ice cream for his birthday, and stayed together in a bed crowded with books and papers.  One day, after spotting a squirrel outside the window, Bambino leapt out and disappeared.  Twain put an ad in the paper and many people came with cats and kittens just to meet the famous author.  But none of the cats were Bambino.  Three days later, Bambino appeared on the doorstep as if nothing had happened.  Mark Twain took inspiration from his small companion, and started being part of public life again. 

This book explores the powerful relationship between people and animals.  It is also an exploration of grief and could be used with children in elementary school to discuss death and grief.  Maltbie includes many small touches about Twain, including those white suits, details about his wife, and traditions of their family.  Those little points create a much more human story, even though we are talking about one of the most famous authors ever. 

The black cat and the figure of Twain in his trademark white suit make for a great pairing visually as well.  Miyares’ illustrations are filled with great textures and colors, with the palette changing as the mood of Twain lifts.  The shadows are stronger when the grief is at its worst, but lightens and even brightens as the book continues. 

A personal look at a great figure of American literature, this book about Twain offers the depth of grief and the joy of connection with a pet.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.