The Sydney Taylor Book Awards honor the best new books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Here are this year’s winners followed by the honor books:
Younger Readers Gold Medal
The Longest Night: A Passover Story by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Catia Chien
Older Readers Gold Medal
The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco
Teen Readers Gold Medal
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
Honor Books for Younger Readers
Stones for Grandpa by Renee Londoner, illustrated by Martha Avilles
Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov, illustrated by Cosei Kawa
Honor Books for Older Readers
The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
Dear Canada: Pieces of the Past by Carol Matas
Honor Books for Teen Readers
Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati
The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki
Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf
Originally published in Germany, this is a gorgeous coming-of-age story that is dark and immensely funny. It is the story of Mike who just doesn’t fit in. He’s considered one of the most boring people in his school, ignored entirely by girls and laughed at when he reads his writing out loud. He’s not even invited to the best party of the year though everyone else is. Everyone but Andre, better known as Tschick, who comes to school drunk, looks like he’s been fighting, and wears outdated clothes. Tschick and Mike have absolutely nothing in common, but when Tschick shows up unexpectedly in a stolen car when Mike has been left home alone for an extended time, they head on a road trip that no one will ever forget.
Winner of several awards in Germany, this book is much more than a standard teen road trip book. What could have been cardboard stereotype characters instead blossom in the hands of Herrndorf to become much more complex and intriguing. They get more and more interesting as the book progresses, steadily revealing themselves to one another and to the reader. It turns out that Mike is far from boring in any way and Tschick is far from any sort of stereotype.
Readers know from the beginning how the road trip ends, but the joy is in getting to that point. I guarantee it is not a straight line! The setting of modern Germany is one that many teens may not have explored, especially through the eyes of native Germans. The translation is done very well, leaving it particularly European, but also making it flow for English speakers.
I am usually not a fan of road trip stories, but this is definitely one trip worth taking. Funny with a lightness but also depth, this is a wonderful teen read. Appropriate for ages 14-16.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Arthur A. Levine Books and NetGalley.