The Anna Dewdney Read Together Award is given annually to a picture book “that is both a superb read aloud and also sparks compassion, empathy, and connection.” The award includes a list of honor books that are listed below the winning title:
The great combination of Stead and Cordell return with another energetic and funny picture book collaboration. In a house full of chickens, there is a knock on the door. Sadie rushes to wake up Aunt Josephine. But Aunt Josephine is much more interested in sharing a tale of her time in Peru cataloging amphibians for Admiral Rodriguez who recently experienced a tragic banana accident. His son was flirting with Josephine when suddenly he was swallowed by a giant frog. Josephine gave chase, trying to catalog the fast-moving frog and rather disinterested in the fate of the Admiral’s son. The frog fled around the world, through deserts aboard an ostrich, into the waters of the Panama Canal, onto the back of a whale, all to lose sight of the frog forever. But who could be at the door?
Stead’s text is marvelous, moving from the rather wordy but fascinating Aunt Josephine into her story which is fast paced and frenetic. The journey around the world is great fun, dashing along behind the huge frog. There is so much to enjoy here, including Josephine’s ignoring of the Admiral’s son in all of this, her interest in nature and the world, and the story-within-a-story structure. The ending is also a delight sure to satisfy readers.
Cordell’s illustrations fit perfectly with Stead’s writing. His merry illustrations add to the wild storyline with their large fonts. His truly huge frog is interesting as are the chickens peppered around the place. Throughout there is a sense of giggles rising to the surface.
A grand escapade of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
This picture book biography tells the life story of the first Black justice on the Supreme Court. It begins with Marshall changing his first name in second grade from Thoroughgood. From a child, Marshall knew that there were things that needed to change in the world around him, including segregation. Marshall discovered a love of the law and of debate in school, before heading to Lincoln University for college. He wanted to attend law school at the University of Maryland, but they did not admit Black students, so he attended Howard University, another Black college. As a young lawyer, Marshall won a case to allow a Black student to attend the University of Maryland. He worked on all sorts of civil rights cases with his most famous being arguing before the Supreme Court against school segregation and winning. He argued seven cases before the Supreme Court in his career, winning new rights for Black people along the way. Marshall was asked by JFK to become a judge and was himself sworn in as a member of the Supreme Court in 1967.
Magoon has created a focused and interesting biography for young readers in this nonfiction picture book. She takes a man of many accomplishments and highlights those of the most importance. By starting in his early years, she shows how a passion at a young age can become a career and a way to make a difference in our world. Her writing is insightful and fast moving, taking us through his career and personal life without her pace dragging at all.
Freeman’s illustrations focus on Marshall and the people around him. Even on the pages focused on his education, Marshall stays right in the center of the images rather than the university buildings. This focus on Marshall as a person centers the book visually, matching the text. The captures famous faces beyond Marshall’s in a recognizable yet simple way.
A resounding success of a biography. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Returning to the world that Klassen has built in his previous picture books is pure joy. In this picture book, he presents a series of short chapters that tell the story of a tortoise, and armadillo and a snake. In the first story, the tortoise has his own favorite spot to stand that is near a flower. The armadillo though prefers a spot near a small sapling. Readers know a huge rock is hurtling towards them. But who has decided on the right place? In the second story, the tortoise climbs the rock and falls off, yet he doesn’t want any help at all getting turned back over. The third story has the friends imagining the future. Plants will grow up around the rock and there may be a terrifying one-eyed creature too. The next two stories deal with feeling left out until that same terrifying creature returns.
Klassen has such a delightful darkness to his stories. This one still has hats in it, but they aren’t the focus of any of the stories. Instead it is the rock itself that literally anchors the stories together along with the three animals who find themselves near it. Klassen creates real drama with the tension he builds in his stories, moving from the rock hurtling to the quiet of it afterwards. He also moves from imagining what could happen to that happening very quickly in reality. These elements add a dark humor to everything, making the books immensely funny even as they take a turn.
As always, Klassen’s art is simple and powerful. He uses the pages as almost a stage with a line of horizon that stays consistent throughout the book. The dialogue is either on its own page or on a distinctly separate part of the illustration, allowing the action to continue to play out in front of the reader and listener.
Dark, funny and full of surprises. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Jayne has moved from her Texas hometown to New York City to attend design school. Her older sister, June, lives in New York City too, but the two haven’t spoken in years. Jayne has spent a lot of time partying in clubs and bars and sleeping with boys. Now she lives in a horrible tiny illegally sublet apartment without running water or heat, but with a roommate who won’t pay rent, occasionally sleeps with her, and then ignores her. When Jayne and June get back in touch with one another, Jayne finds out that her sister has cancer. Even more, June has taken on Jayne’s identity in order to use her insurance for the surgery she needs. Jayne finds herself loving her sister’s fancy and safe apartment and basically moving in with her. Jayne has her own issues to confront, including her relationship with food, her hatred of her body, and the way she binge eats. As the two sisters grow closer, the truth must be shared between them in order for them both to recover.
Choi has once again created a novel that lays her characters bare before the reader. Jayne is so caught up in her own tragic life story, that it startles her and the reader alike when she must face a true tragedy, her sister’s cancer diagnosis. As Jayne obsesses about her classes, her future career, her awful apartment, her horrible roommate, and her family, she avoids thinking about her eating disorder or facing it at all. Readers will see the evidence of her imbalanced relationship to food, but the extent of the problem is only steadily revealed as the layers are peeled away.
Jayne is a captivating character, full of so much self doubt and self hatred. Her story is full of unflinching honesty paired with the poignant truth of a family who has immigrated to the United States and stands to lose one another along the way. Jayne’s relationships with her mother and sister are so beautifully crafted, they ring with such truth that they are frightening. Choi’s writing is masterful throughout, capturing the tragic, beautiful story of growing up as a Korean-American immigrant.
Heartbreakingly true, riveting writing and stellar characters. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
In My Mosque by M. O. Yuksel, illustrated by Hatem Aly (9780062978707)
Join children as they welcome you to their mosque. They show you how they worship, how their communities act, and demonstrate that everyone is welcome to enter and attend. A diverse range of children show how they take off their shoes when they enter, how the elders greet the children, how they help to set up the prayer rugs. In some communities the muezzin’s call brings them to prayer while in others the imam shares stories of living as one. Throughout, the focus is on a shared community, of loving and caring for one another, of helping the larger community. Clear connections are also drawn to other faiths and how similar Muslim beliefs are.
Yuksel writes with a joyous tone, welcoming children to explore and ask questions about the Muslim faith. The book combines straight forward explanations with imagery that really show how the children feel about their mosques. The imagery is lovely: “aunties’ hijabs sway like a sea of flowers as we move through our prayers” and “we line our shows in rows, like colorful beads.” All of the metaphors are approachable, offering a deeper understanding.
Aly’s illustrations are bright and friendly. They show a diverse array of children attending the mosques, including children of a wide age range. The backgrounds of the images are also filled with children and their families. Aly does a great job of including a wide array of mosques from around the world, transitioning between them in a way that makes it clear they are different spaces and countries.
A welcoming and warm look at mosques and the Muslim faith. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Zonia lives in the rain forest. Every morning, the rain forest calls to her and she heads inside. She follows a blue butterfly, visiting her friends the sloths. She chats with the birds in the trees. She sees her best friend, a coati, and her fastest friend, the jaguar. She stops by the water and greets all of the new babies. She has a baby brother of her own. She plays in the rain forest, hanging upside down like the snakes and enjoying a game of hide and seek. She has places to be quiet and places to run. But when she discovers something she has never seen before, she rushes home to tell her mother of the devastation she saw. Now it is time for her, and all of us, to do something to help the rain forest.
Zonia is Asháninka, the largest Indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon. The face paint that she wears on the final page speaks to her determination and strength. Like many Asháninka, Zonia must face the destruction of the rain forest that she and her entire people rely on to survive. By introducing us to the various animals in the Peruvian Amazon rain forest, Martinez-Neal shows all that we as a world have to lose by not protecting them and their habitat. The book ends with information on the animals shown in the story, information on the Asháninka people, and more facts about the Amazon itself.
The art in this picture book is exquisite. Caldecott Honor winner Martinez-Neal uses hand-made paper from the women paper artisans of Chazuta, Peru to paint the illustrations. These papers form the background of all of the images, providing an organic, speckled and natural feel to the scenes. The bright colors of the Amazon rain forest pop against this subtly textured warmth.
An important picture book about saving the Amazon rain forest, it is also beautifully written and illustrated. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
This touching picture book looks at a mother through the eyes of her baby. A mother is so many things, starting by being a house that the baby grows inside. Then a pouch where the baby is carried around town. She is a fountain of breast milk, a port in a crowded room, a mirror that reflects the baby, an island in the bath. She is protection from strangers, a doctor when needed, someone to play with or on top of. She is so many things, but most importantly she is home.
Petit has created a rhyming picture book just right for toddlers. The writing celebrates the role of a mother, showing all the various ways in which she protects, embraces, adores, and supports her baby. The book moves from the mother being pregnant all the way through to the baby becoming a toddler, clearly gaining skills and age as the pages turn. The writing is simple and never sing-songy. The art is modern and bright, using clean lines and a jaunty attitude. The images show a modern mother in an urban setting along with a father who is present and contributes his share.
A colorful celebration of baby and motherhood. Appropriate for ages 2-4.