The winner of the 2014 Costa Children’s Book Award is Kate Saunders for Five Children on the Western Front, a sequel to E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It. The Costa Award is given to an outstanding children’s book written by authors based in the UK and Ireland.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Emmanuel was born in Ghana, West Africa, with a deformed leg. His father left the family but his mother continued to encourage Emmanuel to make something of himself. Emmanuel taught himself to crawl and hop, so he was able to hop the two miles to school and then hop all the way back home at the end of the day. At school kids would not play with him at first, so he saved up his money to buy a new soccer ball that he shared with the others as long as they let him play too. Soon he was playing soccer using crutches to get around. It was at school that Emmanuel also taught himself to ride a bike. Then his mother fell ill and Emmanuel had to leave school to support his family. He headed for the big city of Accra where he looked for a job. It took time, but he started working as a shoe shiner and for a restaurant that also gave him a place to stay. He sent money home and two years later returned home because his mother’s health was failing. After her death, he decided to follow his dream to bike around Ghana. He worked to get help with his dream, becoming a spokesperson in his country for people with disabilities. He completed his journey of 400 miles in just ten days, an amazing journey that proved that one person’s dreams could deeply change a culture.
Thompson’s writing is in stanzas and moves between feeling like poetry and prose. This fluidity makes the book very readable, it also lets her make her points with a grace and brevity that is purely poetic. Thompson’s text shines with her appreciation for Emmanuel and his achievements in life. Where his culture told him that he was cursed and unworthy, he has become a hero. It is also a sort of tangible heroism that children will completely understand. They will know what his achievement is and how difficult it would be to accomplish.
Qualls’ illustrations are incredible. Filled with beautiful people, strong color, patterns and light, the illustrations let the backgrounds fade to white and black and the people come forward and shine. Bright colors ripple across skin, fill cheeks, and color the air around people. There is a sense of life within these illustrations, one that can’t be contained.
A truly inspiring story that shows the creation of a national hero from his infancy through his achievements. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House and Edelweiss.
After doing this for a few years, I just get happy if I can pick few enough to make the number somewhat sensible. Not sure that 30 counts for that! But I really had a hard time cutting the number down any farther. So here are my Top 25 Middle Grade Books of 2014:
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell
Categorical Universe of Candice Phee by Barry Jonsberg
The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Curiosity by Gary L. Blackwood
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
Nest by Esther Ehrlich
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf
Outside In by Sarah Ellis
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
The Swallow by Charis Cotter
The Thickety by J. A. White
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
West of the Moon by Margi Preus