Kate DiCamillo won the 2014 Newbery Medal for “Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures” at the American Library Association meeting Monday morning in Philadelphia. The Newbery is the nation’s most prestigious award for children’s literature. DiCamillo is the sixth writer to receive the prize twice (she won in 2004 for “The Tale of Despereaux“). Earlier this month, the Library of Congress named DiCamillo the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Writing in The Washington Post last month, reviewer Mary Quattlebaum called “Flora & Ulysses” “delightfully tart” and “swiftly paced”:
And the antagonist — 10-year-old Flora’s mother — is a bit of a nut. She’s a romance novelist “so in love with her books about love” that she frequently ignores her daughter and beleaguered ex-husband. In early chapters, a squirrel’s tussle with a vacuum cleaner (and subsequent rescue by Flora) imbues him with super-strength, intelligence and poetic talent. Flora is sure that, like her favorite comic-book character, Ulysses, as she names him, will fight evil and protect the weak, but perhaps his greatest power is his ability to breach this lonely child’s emotional barriers. Forcibly separated, squirrel and girl search for one another through a long, difficult night and, in the process, create a ragtag, endearing community that includes the owner of the vacuum cleaner, her temporarily blind nephew and an elderly philosopher with a mysterious past.
This year’s Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book was awarded to Brian Floca for “Locomotive.” Washington Post reviewer Kristi Elle Jemtegaard said, “Floca weaves a poetic text and dramatic illustrations into an appealing narrative, providing young readers with both factual information about early train travel and a visceral sense of what it must have been like to climb aboard an iron horse in 1869. Carefully varied perspectives — from spectacular close-ups of wheels meeting tracks to lonely long shots of a toy-size string of cars lost in a vast sea of grass — as well as wildly varying fonts give readers a sense of the thump-and-bump, start-and-stop, rush-and-wait of this week-long excursion.”
Rita Williams-Garcia won the ALA’s Coretta Scott King award for her young adult novel “P.S. Be Eleven,” a sequel to “One Crazy Summer,” which was a Newbery Honor Book. Both books describe the lives of three young sisters in 1968. Washington Post reviewer Yvonne Zipp said, “‘P.S. Be Eleven’ doesn’t have any show-stopping scenes like the climax of ‘One Crazy Summer,’ but this more quiet sequel covers a lot of ground and a lot of heartbreak”:
Plenty of changes have come to Herkimer Street. Their father is getting remarried, and Big Ma and Delphine aren’t happy about it. (Vonetta and Fern just want to be flower girls.) Their Uncle Darnell comes home from the Vietnam War, changed from the sunny, upbeat guy who left. Instead of the sixth-grade teacher Delphine was looking forward to, she has an exchange teacher from Zambia. . . . Amid the upheaval at home is one constant: The Jackson Five are playing Madison Square Garden, and the three sisters are determined to be there.
The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award was given to “Parrots over Puerto Rico,” written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, and illustrated by Susan L. Roth. This book for readers 8-11 years old describes the remarkably successful efforts of conservationists to revive the parrot population of Puerto Rico, which had fallen to just 13 birds in 1975. Washington Post reviewer Abby McGanney Nolan praised the book‘s “paper-and-fabric collages and its the succinctly informative text.”
For a full list of all the award winners and finalists named this morning, go to the ALA.