The winners of the 2021 British Book Awards were announced on May 13th. Two of the Best Book awards are for children’s titles and several of the trade awards are for children’s publishers. Here are the winners in those categories:
This picture book by Caldecott Award winner Floca explores the Covid-19 pandemic. Through New York City streets, the book shows how most people were forced to stay indoors and watch the streets go quiet. But the streets never emptied entirely, since there were people working at essential jobs. People were still out and about using all sorts of vehicles. There were people delivering mail and packages, people heading to work in hospitals, others making food deliveries on their bicycles, still others picking up trash, and police and fire protecting everyone. Then every night, the windows opened and people shouted and banged their appreciation for these people who kept on working through the danger and the emptiness to keep everyone safe, fed and looked after.
The text in the book is simple, explaining what happened to cause the streets to empty as people took refuge in their homes to stay safe. The book shows vehicles of all sorts but also shows lovely moments of connection, of toys being delivered or taxis stopping to get someone with lots of grocery bags.
Floca tells us in his Author’s Note that he created these images during the pandemic’s height in New York City. As the streets emptied, he found solace in drawing the vehicles that continued to move through the city. He then took those images and made them into this book, which explains the aching melancholy of some of the images as they show the empty streets and the vast change to a normally bustling city.
A beautiful yearning look at New York City in 2020 with plenty of interesting vehicles to explore. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
It is Eid tomorrow, and Amira is thrilled. She gets her hands decorated by mehndi designs that she has to let dry from green to a rich brown. They also get to miss school tomorrow! Amira is happily helping her family make goody bags for the children at the masjid, when she sees the notice about tomorrow also being Picture Day at school. The class was going to be photographed all together and now Amira would miss it. The next morning, Amira got ready for Eid but still longed to wear the dress she had picked out for Picture Day. Once they were at the masjid, Amira was swept up in the celebration of Eid with lots of food, hugs and sharing of goody bags. But when the celebration ended, she once again thought about Picture Day. On their way home, Amira had a big idea that involved the leftover goody bags and maybe going to Picture Day after all.
Faruqi shows the push and pull of being Muslim in a country like the United States where children must miss school to celebrate holidays like Eid. When Eid which is based on the lunar calendar, falls on an important day at school, it can be very difficult for children. That’s what happens with Amira in the story and her navigation of it shows the tension between loving her family and her faith but also wanting to be part of her school community too. The book shows various parts of Eid without minimizing Amira’s wishing to be at school too.
Azim’s illustrations are bright and colorful. She shows the diversity in both the Muslim community as well as at Amira’s school. She creates great facial expressions as Amira navigates having to go to Eid and potentially miss out on Picture Day. Readers will clearly understand her happiness, wistfulness and pleasure at being able to find a solution.
A strong addition for school and public libraries that celebrates the diversity of children in our communities. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
This picture book biography of the great Nelson Mandela explores his adult life as first an attorney and then a prisoner and then president. Mandela defended people against the unjust White laws of apartheid that drove dark-skinned South Africans into impoverished communities and took away their rights. He joined the African National Congress, helping draft their Freedom Charter. Mandela was a leader in the fight for justice, soon arrested as an activist, tried and sent to Robben Island. Mandela was placed in a small, cold cell and separated from those he loved, allowed just one visitor in his first year and only two letters sent and received. But Mandela and others created ways to communicate and continue to learn. He saw ways to open the hearts of the guards in the prison, learning about their history as well as his own. Along the way, they gained more freedoms in the prison, eventually getting released as international pressure mounted. Mandela was elected President and formed a new multiracial government with new freedoms for everyone.
McDivitt shares in her Author’s Note that she was born in South Africa as a white person. Her background gives her an interesting lens of understanding from which to write a biography of Nelson Mandela. She does so with a real depth, allowing Mandela’s decades in prison to form a lot of the book and also focusing on the injustice of apartheid and its ramifications on its victims. Throughout her prose, she uses vivid imagery from South Africa that help readers better understand the impact and power of Mandela.
Palmer’s art beautifully captures Mandela throughout his adult life. From the days in prison to connecting with fellow prisoners and guards to eventually donning his signature vibrant tunics as President. The illustrations show the injustice of apartheid, the horrors of the prison, and the rise of Mandela as a world leader.
An important look at Mandela’s life and work. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
A grandfather gives his red hat to his granddaughter. He explains the amazing things that the hat is capable of. It can make you stand out in a crowd or blend right in. It can keep you warm and dry or keep you cool in the sun. It can be used for serious and silly reasons. Wearing the hat, you can go anywhere you like: low, high or on real adventures, until you are ready to come back home again. It is your hat.
Stubbs takes a very simple and familiar event, the gifting of a hat into a level of wonder and dreams in this picture book. Using very simple language, she has created a book that reads aloud brilliantly. The pace manages to be both fast and rather dreamy, revealing new opportunities that the hat provides at each turn of the page. It is the relationship between grandparent and grandchild here that is beautifully portrayed while never being overtly discussed in the text.
The illustrations are done in a limited color palette with teal, red and pink the primary colors. On each page, the red pops out, focusing on the hat itself. The illustrations have enough details to linger over, particularly the crowd scenes that fill double-page spreads.
A warm look at the role of grandparents to inspire discovery and self-esteem. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Boozhoo! Welcome to a new chapter book series featuring an Ojibwe girl. Jo Jo has two best friends. There is Mimi, her pet cat, who may need to be saved from having to get shots. Then there is Fern, her school best friend, who has been acting a lot more distant lately. Jo Jo lives on the Ojibwe reservation with her mother and grandmother. Because Mimi must get shots soon, Jo Jo tucks her into her bookbag and takes Mimi to school with her. At school, they have to do a rhyming exercise that Jo Jo doesn’t get quite right. But when she tries to hide Mimi in her shirt and Mimi escapes, Jo Jo suddenly speaks in rhymes much to her teacher’s surprise. With Fern not being overly friendly, Jo Jo realizes she needs to start making new friends besides Mimi, so Jo Jo tries following her grandmother’s advice and being friendly to everyone. But its’ not that easy!
Written with a ton of humor that will have you laughing out loud, readers will immediately love Jo Jo with her unique view of the world. She’s a girl who thinks that her gym teacher’s name is “Jim” and doesn’t realize that words spelled alike sometimes don’t rhyme at all. Meanwhile, she is a great friend, a great artist, and just has to find her own unique way through life.
Quigley’s writing is just right for a chapter book. It pairs well with the illustrations which show Jo Jo and her series of misadventures through a few days in her life. From the chaos of Mimi in class to Jo Jo’s humorous art style to her attempts to be more friendly, all are captured in the images with humor and empathy.
A look the life of a modern young Ojibwe with plenty of giggles. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Billy Thao (9781517907983)
In the Ban Vinai refugee camp, there is a group of young warriors who train together. They run drills, balance rocks on their heads, meditate and wield branches as sacred swords. They are led by Master Me, a ten-year-old who teaches them. One day, Master Me meditated and decided that the warriors must leave camp and forage for greens. But no Hmong person was allowed to leave the camp without permission. People had been beaten for doing it and some had even disappeared. But Master Me was set on carrying out the mission. The narrator of the story is a young girl whose older sister was in the warrior group. She was 7 years old, scared but determined to carry out the mission. That day, the warriors stealthily left camp and returned carrying morning glory greens. Many were injured on the mission, but that day they became more than children playing at being warriors and became true heroes to everyone in the camp.
Yang tells the story of life in a Hmong refugee camp through the eyes of her childhood self. The hardships, violence and rules of being in such a camp are foundational to the overall story, though not the direct focus. The tale really is about the power of children to be heroes for their families, the determination and courage to take action in the face of injustice, and the way that real life heroes are so much more important than those with capes.
The illustrations by Thao are unique and interesting. He makes each of the children recognizable even though they move as a group of warriors. He uses interesting frames throughout the images, showing the children through doorways or from the fire itself as danger increases. The illustrations are stirring and also show just how young these children were.
A tale of child heroes in a Hmong refugee camp that is worth cheering for. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by University of Minnesota Press.