The Children’s Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin has announced the 2020 Charlotte Zolotow Award winners. The award is given for outstanding writing in a picture book. Here are the winners:
Johnny’s Pheasant by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Julie Flett
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
A Map into the World by by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Seo Kim
Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe
Saturday by Oge Mora
Truman by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
HIGHLY COMMENDED TITLES
Beware of the Crocodile by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer
Goodbye Friend! Hello, Friend! by Cori Doerrfeld
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña
One Fox: A Counting Thriller Book by Kate Read
Small in the City by Sydney Smith
The Thing about Bees by Shabazz Larkin
Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley (9780062908025)
This verse novel for teens tells the story of two families shattered by one gun shot. Jonah had always been a daredevil, but that ended one day at his best friend Clay’s house when he was playing around with a gun. Now Jonah is bedridden, unable to do anything for himself. Most people don’t believe that he can understand things, but his sister Liv knows that he’s still in there. She spends most of her nights awake with Jonah and his nurses, since she’s often the only one who can calm Jonah down. Meanwhile, there’s a trial unfolding to see who is at fault for Jonah’s injuries and if his ongoing care will be paid for. Liv tries to protect her mother from the editorials in the newspaper and finds herself also making an unlikely connection with Clay’s mother in the center of the road between their homes. Liv also speaks to Clay, who has left school after the accident and given up his phone. She is drawn to him as they avoid talking about Jonah and find both new and old ways to communicate together. As Jonah’s trial goes on, the town becomes divided over the case, but Liv becomes all the more focused on her brother and Clay.
Culley’s verse is written with the tautness of a violin string. Her words stretch and hum, resonant with meaning. She doesn’t use any extra words, her poetry spare and rich with emotion that goes unstated but fills the pages. Beautifully, she manages to reach beyond the arguments about gun control to tell a deep story about the impact of a single gun on two families. That alone is a feat while still not ignoring the politically charged atmosphere entirely.
Liv is the voice of the book, her feelings and struggles crossing the page with her actions speaking of so much more pain than she can express even to the reader. She is a protagonist caught in a river current of grief and loss that she can’t find a way to process other than to just go through it. Again, Culley gives her the space to just be on the page, speak in her voice, and experience what her family is going through.
Tragic and profoundly moving, this verse novel is something special. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.