2014 Award Winners

Flora and Ulysses

DiCamillo, Kate. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. Illustrated by K.G. Campbell. Candlewick Press, 2013. 240 pages.  TR. $17.99  ISBN 978-0763660406

After saving a squirrel from death, Flora realizes he has superpowers and brings him home to be her friend.

Fantasy Fiction/Graphic Novel

Ages 8-12

Rating: 5 out of 5 for Quality. 5 out of 5 for Popularity

Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal

Flora is a self-defined cynic, which makes sense considering her parent’s divorce and the strange feeling she has that her mother, author of romance novels, loves a shepherdess lamp more than she loves Flora. Flora’s life changes dramatically when she witnesses the neighbor suck up a squirrel with a powerful vacuum cleaner and Flora must save the squirrel with CPR. From the moment he wakes up from the disaster the squirrel, Ulysses, finds he has super-strength, a penchant for writing poetry, and the ability to fly.  In her efforts to encourage Ulysses to embrace his superpowers, Flora makes new friends and changes her relationship with her parents. Filled with hope, this book is funny and charming, making it an excellent award winner.

Books with comic book elements draw me in because they appeal to reluctant and younger readers so well. The premise is hilarious and the characters all strange and endearing. I find the tense relationship of Flora and her mother to be realistic of this age set, and was so glad that the book allowed the characters to grow and have a happy ending despite the bleak reality that is life.

Read -alikes

What We Found in the Sofa (and how it saved the world) by Henry Clark

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire! By Polly Horvath

Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Book Discussion Points.

Why is Flora a cynic at the beginning of the book and does her cynicism last through the whole story?

Why does Ulysses get the superpowers he does? Why poetry? Is poetry writing a superpower?


Author Website http://www.katedicamillo.com/

Video interview with author



Floca, Brian. Locomotive. Atheneum/ Richard Jackson Books, 2013. 64 pages. TR $17.99 ISBN  978-1416994152

Using poetry and watercolors, this story both tells of a family traveling across the US in 1869 and the technical information about steam locomotives.


Ages 5-12

Rating: 5 out of 5 for Quality.  5 out of 5 for Popularity.

Winner of the 2014 Caldecott Medal

Silbert Honor Book

This is a stunningly illustrated poem that covers the journey across the United States by Steam Locomotive in 1869. Told in the second person, the story also explains how the train and the railroad and the terrain of the journey work and look and feel to those traveling. The family of a mother and two children are illustrated simply, cartoonish even, but all the scenery and the watercolors of the locomotives are detailed, rich, and stunning.  Even the variety of the typesetting gives the reader a feel of movement, action and the time period the book is set in. The inside covers are covered with illustrations and more technical information about the train and its journey. Despite its length, it is exciting and can hold the attention of a preschooler and an adult at the same time; it would certainly appeal to those young people for whom trains are THE THING. This is probably the most stunning train book I have come across. The cover itself is very striking, with a full color face-on view of the locomotive puffing steam and coming toward the reader, which is why I picked it up from the library when it first came in.

Read Alikes

Train by Elisha Cooper

Moonshot by Brian Floca

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

Book Discussion Points:

  1. Why are the people traveling drawn in less detail than the illustrations of the trains and the terrain?
  2. What is something you learned about trains that you did not know before?


Author Website http://www.brianfloca.com/Locomotive.html and blog http://brianflocablog.blogspot.com/

Horn Book review 

SLJ interview

Video interview clips

Brief interview with Brooklyn Public library on process of book writing


3 National Book Award Winners

national book award

“The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.” From the National Book award website http://www.nationalbook.org/aboutus_history.html#.U1yGmfldWSo

266904Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks:A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two rabbits, and a very Interesting Boy.  Yearling/Random House, 2005. 262 pages. Tr. $6.50  ISBN 978-0-440-42047-7

A summer vacation for the four Penderwick sisters gets a little more exciting when they meet their neighbor, Jeffrey, and his intimidating mother

Contemporary Fiction

Ages 9-15

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality. 5 out of 5 for popularity

Winner of the National Book Award, 2005

The Penderwick sisters, Batty (4), Jane (10), Skye (11), and Rosalind (12) all have different interests and yet are able to help each other out of trouble and support their friend as he tries to get out of his own sticky family situation. Rosalind is the mother stand-in for the sisters, especially young Batty, and takes on a great deal of the family responsibility and caretaking since they lost their mother soon after Batty was born, and their father is loving, but preoccupied with his botany. The book is fun and focuses on the relationships of the sisters and their friend while still carrying the funny stories of the mishaps the girls encounter.

This book is cited regularly for it’s innocence and harkening back to earlier books about families that have not had to deal with some of the harsher realities of modern life. This is certainly one of the draws of the book: the charming setting, the familial bonds between sisters and their father, the adventures which, while exciting and entertaining, are not traumatic or violent. Most people reviewing and discussing the book reference Little Women. I was drawn to it by the subtitle as well as the positive reviews I had read and the increasing popularity on many bloggers’ lists.

Read Alikes:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Five Little Peppers series by Margaret Sidney

Book Discussion Points.

1. How does the Father’s preoccupation with his work affect the sister’s relationships and their independence?

2. How does each sister’s order affect her relationship with her sister, for example, how does being the eldest affect the way that Rosalind treats her younger sisters?

3. Who is the interesting boy referred to in the title?


Jeanne Birdsall’s website http://www.jeannebirdsall.com/

A brief interview with the author from NPR  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5020429



the thing about luck Kadohata, Cynthia. The Thing About Luck. Illustrated by Julia Kuo. Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon and Schuster, 2013. 270 pages. ISBN 978-1416918820  $16.99

Summer and her younger brother Jazz travel with their grandparents as they work on a wheat harvesting team.

Contemporary Fiction

Age Range 9-14

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality. 3 out of 5 for popularity

Winner of the National Book Award, 2013

Summer’s parents have traveled to japan to care for relatives and she and her younger brother are left in the care of their Grandparents, Obaachan and Jiichan, for harvesting season. Jiichan drives a combine harvester and Obaachan cooks meals for the drive team as they travel through the Midwest. Summer is challenged by her obsessive compulsive young brother, the tense and confusing relationship with her grandmother, the feelings of first crush she experiences and her feelings of responsibility for her family. The story is told with attractive drawings of mosquitoes and combine harvesters, the writing is appealing and thoughtful. Despite the somewhat unappealing plot, the characters are full and rich and wonderful to read about. The cover itself is what made me pick it up, although I did leave it at the bottom of my book pile for some time. Like any good award winner though, once the book began I was hooked and interested in following the characters through to the end.

Read Alikes:

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

Journey by Patricia MacLachlan

Half and Half by Namioka  Lensey

Book Discussion Points.

1. How does the setting of a family of traveling farmers affect the storyline?

2. Why does Summer have such a hard time understanding that her grandmother loves her?


Publisher’s Weekly Article 

School Library Journal Interview



Part time IndianAlexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Illustrated by Ellen Forney. Little Brown and Company, 2007. 230 pages. ISBN 978-1439572740 $17.99

Junior decides to leave the reservation to attend high school at a nearby town in the hopes of having a future outside the limits of the reservation.

Contemporary Fiction

Age Range: 12-17

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality. 5 out of 5 for popularity.

Winner of the National Book Award, 2007

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 2008

Junior realizes that living and going to school off the impoverished reservation he grew up on will be the only way for him to escape the poverty, alcoholism and depression of his family and friends. Despite describing himself as awkward and strange, and being very unpopular at the reservation school, Arnold makes friends and succeeds in the new environment, even playing on the basketball team. His home life is hard and full of tragic death, and yet the book feels uplifting and encouraging without dipping into too much sentimentality.

This book comes highly recommended from everyone who read it, and is highly acclaimed in reviews. The style is of a personal diary filled with Arnold’s cartoons and drawings to illustrate his experiences. The voice feels young and real and appealing, thus making it a very popular books among youth as well as adults. There are some somewhat mature issues that cause the book to be a controversial addition to school recommendations.

Read Alikes:

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Book Discussion Points:

1. How does Junior’s idea of himself change on the reservation and in his high school?

2. How does all the death that surround Junior affect his relationships with his family?


Sherman Alexie’s website http://fallsapart.com/

New York Times Book Review

Sherman Alexie discusses his book in this C-Span video