Picture Book Palooza: 32 page Newbery 2023 Contenders
Small but mighty. Short and sweet. Not just for little kids. It’s picture books, the sneak attack Newbery winners and to me the most difficult book to write and even more difficult to win a Newbery medal.
The age range for Newbery books is 0-14 which means even a board book could win the Newbery, although that is unprecedented. However, once LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET took home the gold in 2016 it started a steady stream of Newbery honorees. Just past year WATERCRESS took home an honor, with CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT winning love in 2018. An author has the extreme challenge of meeting the Newbery criteria in 32 pages or less, but it is possible.
We only have one picture book (BERRY SONG) nominated so far but a few others were suggested: BEAUTY WOKE, BARE TREE AND LITTLE WIND, BIG AND SMALL AND IN BETWEEN, GIBBERISH, and TINY DINO.
I’ll start with BERRY SONG, which yes reads like a song. Berries are depicted through words, pictures and song throughout the book. I especially appreciated the Note to the Forager on the endpages: Please only gather berries and other wild foods that you and an experienced adult can identify beyond a doubt There are many toxic look-alikes. Gunalchéesh!
I also appreciated how the names of the berries changed with the seasons and ranged from the common Strawberry and Blueberry to The not-so-common Salmonberry, Chalkberry and Bunchberry.
The recurring language/ theme of giving back to the land as the land gives to us is done poetically and not forced. This is really a beautiful, well-written book and I’m excited to see what others think about it.
The second title I’d like to focus on is BLUE by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond.
This non fiction picture book also reads like a poem and every word counts. There are questions that make you think: The color blue is all around us. Have you ever wondered where it comes from?
And then the metaphor/ riddles. It’s in the sky, but you can’t touch it. It’s in the sea, but when you cup it, it disappears.
The book travels through history starting in 4500 BC and gives examples of how the color was used internationally from Egypt to Japan to Mexico to Indonesia and beyond.
The good and bad sides of the color are described along with the feelings that go with the color. We feel blue when we’re sad, perhaps because the people who had to dig, grind, and grow passed down their painful memories of working the mines or of slavery on indigo plantations.
We feel excited when something happens “out of the blue” perhaps because the color was once so rare- a discovery that seemed to appear out of thin air.
I am particularly impressed with the transitions and how this title flows and covers so much ground. I think the illustrations help with that.
What are your thoughts on these two titles and any other picture books published this year?
Filed under: Book Discussion
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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