Picture Book Palooza
This conversation happens every year, so I’ll try to speed it up- but, did you know picture books are eligible to win the Newbery? They are! The criteria states Newbery books are for readers ages 0-14 and are judged on text. And picture books (for the most part, fit that criteria).
But how can a picture book stand against all these great middle grades you ask? It needs to be REALLY HIGH QUALITY, I reply! For a writer to nail the Newbery criteria in approximately 32 pages (where images take a lot of the space), is no small feat.
Do any picture books of 2021 rise to the ranks to join the (small, but growing) picture book Newbery bookshelf?
Can Matt de la Pena do it again? He won the Newbery for LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET in 2016 and his endearing tale of creativity, perceptions and incarceration may have what it takes. The language used to describe Milo’s emotions, “a shook-up soda,” and “butterflies flood Milo’s stomach when it’s finally their stop,” and “in this tight tangle of familiar arms that he feels most alive,” really convey the strong character of a young boy.
The only spread where I thought the photographs really helped move the story along was when Milo reimagined his drawings.
MILO IMAGINES has many similar themes to LAST STOP with observation and lead-up to an unexpected ending. Also, of course the setting of transportation. But really, it’s a new story with a new theme, new characters, and a new potential to win the gold.
Verse poetry creating perfect images in your head. Embarrassment paired with understanding. Simplicity paired with deep thoughts. Poverty paired with fortune. The stark comparisons are just a little glimpse of the magic of WATERCRESS by Andrea Wang. Each word of the text conveys setting, theme and characterization in a stunning story combining past and present.
“From the depths of the trunk ,
a brown paper bag,
and a longing for China.”
THE PEOPLE REMEMBER by Ibi Zoboi explains the meaning of Kwanzaa while traveling through African American history. The juxtaposition flows beautifully and the tough themes are eloquently worded to help children understand the past and present along with hope for the future. The setting and theme are very powerful in Zoboi’s language especially intertwined with the pillars of Kwanzaa.
The other two picture books that consideration are DEAR TREEFROG by Joyce Sidman and KEEP YOUR HEAD UP by Aliya King Neil. What are your thoughts on these or any other 2021 picture books?
And don’t forget, nominations are open until Saturday and no picture books are nominated yet!
About Emily Mroczek-Bayci
Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at email@example.com.
SLJ Blog Network