Sydney Taylor Book Award

sydney taylor book award

The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories:Younger ReadersOlder Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. (From the website

number the stars

Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Laurel Leaf, 1989. 137pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0395510605

Annemarie and her family help their Jewish friends escape German occupied Denmark during World War 2.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 8-13

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

Newbery Medal, 1990

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 1989

National Jewish Book award, 1990

Annemarie and her best friend Ellen live in Copenhagen during World War II. There are food shortages and no one drinks coffee anymore. While the Germans have occupied the city for some time, suddenly word has come that they plan on relocating the Jews in Copenhagen, so Annemarie’s parents take Ellen in so they can help her and her parents travel across the bay to safety in Sweden. The story is exciting and sweet, the willingness of the young girls to accept the strangeness and learn about courage beautifully told. The story of Denmark, which surrendered to the Germans in World War II to protect its citizens, and the beloved King who still travels around the streets to encourage his people even in times of hardship is very moving. While this is a story about two families, it is also the story of a nation trying to do right, as well as of the resistance movement. The strength of this book is in its simple storytelling and its willingness to introduce children to the hard topics of the holocaust and racism. While the writing is good and the story important, what this book lacks is staying power, I distinctly remember the cover from reading is as a 5th grader, but a couple decades later and my reread was like a first time read. I have fairly good retention for books read and loved that long ago, but perhaps in the effort of taming an incredibly scary and violent story to one that could be read by young children takes away some of its punch.


Saving Sky by Diane Stanley

The Good Liar by Gregory Maguire

Journey to America by Sonia Levitin

Book Discussion

  1. Why does Annemarie choose to accept the limited information she gets from her uncle? Would you have been able to keep from being curious to be safe?
  2. Annemarie did not think she could was brave, do you think she was brave?

Book Talking

Would you be brave is soldiers came into your home and you had to pretend your best friend was your sister to save her life? Annemarie was brave, but she didn’t think so.


Lowis Lowry website

Information about the Occupation of Denmark

Video interview




Deutsh, Barry. Hereville #1: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Amulet Books, 2010. 144 pages.  $15.95 ISBN-13: 978-0810984226

Mirka must fight a talking pig and defeat a troll to follow her dream of being a dragonslayer from a small Orthodox Jewish community.

Fantasy Graphic Novel

Age Range 8-14

Rating 3 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 of popularity.

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers, 2011

Andre Norton Award Nominee for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2010

Mirka is 11 and lives in a small Orthodox Jewish community with her stepmother, father and pack of siblings. She tried to help her younger brother with bullies and ends up finding a witches house. After stealing a grape from the house, she is attacked by a talking pig who pursues her throughout the week until she is able to defeat him. After helping it she gets help from the witch who tells her how to get the sword that could lead her down her dream path of becoming a dragon slayer. In the midst of this fantasy adventure involving witches, talking pigs and trolls, the story tells details about the Orthodox Jewish faith, what Shabbos looks like and how Mirka’s family relationships are structured, both in their support and in the daily challenges. For me the book’s graphic novel structure makes it more interesting than the story would alone, since the artist does an excellent job of illustrating emotions and expressions of its characters. I also appreciate the religious setting, giving kids interested in comics and fantasy an introduction to perhaps an unknown lifestyle.  I think the cover and description of this graphic novel are irresistible. The unusual mix of adventure, knitting, and family make this very appealing book to recommend.


Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson

Book Discussion

  1. How does this story tell about the life and family of Mirka?
  2. How does the author tie in knitting? Why is knitting important?

Book Talking

How many comic books are about 11 year old Orthodox Jewish girls who fight trolls? What is not to love?


Author interview


2 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winners


Shange, Ntozake. Ellington Was Not a Street. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004. 40 pages. $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0689828843

A poem about black men who changed the world told by a little girl who meets them at a party.

Picture Book

Age Range: 5-14

4 out 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustrator, 2005

The book starts out with a painting of a street sign for Ellington St., under which all the people walk unaware. A young woman is telling of her memory being a little girl in a house through which the great black men of an era came and talked and played and sang. In each picture the little girl in a blue dress looks on while the stately, handsome men laugh and talk overhead. The attendants to the party include W.E.B. Dubois, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. The back pages give brief biographies 8 of these men, which is helpful since they are named in the text and shown together in a large family style portrait at the end. The illustrations look stylized and rich, all the people expressive and beautiful as they attend the party in the little girl’s home. There are lovely ties to the girl as a tiny child and a young woman in braids telling a story of her past. The book asks us to remember these men as world changers, not past memories. She wants us to realize the importance of their effect on the world, on each other, and on the children who grew up in their midst. The poem flows beautifully and is a wonderful testament to this rich black history. Looking through it for the first time, I was uninterested, but every time I looked through again I found more and more gems, and found more beauty in the pictures. Although the poem the first time through was a little hard to understand and the references to the men were vague, the biographies in the back helped considerably. This book would be a hard sell were it not for its award.


My People by Langston Hughes, Illustrated by Charles R Smith Jr.

In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans celebrating fathers by Javaka Steptoe

Hand in Hand: Ten black men who changed America by Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Discussion Questions

  1. How does the artist make this book about people from history into a book that feels like a family?
  2. How does the little girl feel about all these people in her home?


Biography of Ntozake Shange from the poetry foundation

Kadir Nelson Website

Video Interview with Kadir Nelson


Let it shine

Bryan, Ashley. Let it Shine. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007. 40 pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0689847325

Coloful illustrations are given to 3 traditional spirituals including “This Little Light of Mine”.

Art and Music

Age Range: 3-8

4 out of 5 for quality, 2 out of 5 for popularity.

Coretta Scott King Award, 2008

ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2008

Ashley Bryan’s art is bright and bold and colorful.  The images are vibrant and stylized collages. The multicolored children dance across the page to songs that are universally sung in Sunday Schools, yet these presentations make them more, giving the songs new life and a fresh perspective. In “This Little Light of Mine” the children each hold a light: flashlights, fireworks, candles, Christmas lights, and flowers. They travel in planes, cars, bikes, and roller skates to spread their light all over. “When the Saints Go Marching In” has crowds of people, each clearly from a stencil, but made unique in color and detail. This song is full of brightly colored flowers, kaleidoscopes of bright shapes. “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” starts with a scene of 8 different cultural buildings in the same collage of bright paper: an igloo, a cathedral, two tepees, three pyramids. The hands, patterned and woven are in each picture, holding people, babies, and lands; protecting and supporting the life filled images. The back of the book contains the musical notations for all three songs. It also contains a note about the historical context of spirituals. Bryan believes in the power of oral storytelling and songs to pass on the history of black people. His books are so beautiful and full of live and vibrancy and rhythm and playfulness. This collage style is stunning, woven together in unique patterns and shapes. I love this book, and picked it up for the bright cover, to find the inside even more impressive.


The Ant and the Grasshopper by Rebecca Emberly

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A celebration of poetry with a beat. Edited by Nikki Giovanni

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does the illustrator make these pictures so bright? How does that make you feel about the song?
  2. How do you think he made these pictures?

Book Talking

Do you like songs? How many do you know? Here is a book with beautiful pictures along with the songs you may know.


Illustrator Biography from the National center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.

Interview with author

The Mythopoeic Award


The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature honors books for younger readers (from “Young Adults” to picture books for beginning readers), in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia. Website



Pratchett, Terry. Nation. Harper Collins, 2008. 400 pages.  $16.99 ISBN-10: 0061433012

Mau finds himself on alone on his island after a storm, but as survivors trickle in, he becomes a Tribe Leader.

Speculative Fiction

Age Range: 13 and up

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry, 2009

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature, 2009.

ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers, 2009

Printz Honor, 2009

This book has probably the most depressing start of any novel I have ever read. Everybody dies. Mau is left alone on his Nation island while returning home to his manhood ceremony. Also on the island is Daphne, heir to the English throne (although she doesn’t know it), and the two being to communicate and help each other survive intense loss and grief.  Slowly, more island people arrive from neighboring islands in the hopes of help from the once strong, but now nearly extinct Nation. Mau and Daphne must work to help the people and create a new way of identifying themselves. This book is rich with questions of self, of God and of society. It is unusual in that it is an alternative history, set in Victorian times, but having the royal line all died in a plague. The Nation are an imagined people, but having an alternative history set somewhere other than Europe is refreshing. This book is strange in that it deals with issues of God and fate, and the author takes the reader through his own questions that have likely led him to his agnostisism. It is a very well written book, and even though some of the plot points are a stretch, absolutely worth a read.  I was familiar with the other works by Pratchett, and while this one maintains some of his humor, it is clearly a more serious piece.


Raider’s Ransom by Emily Diamand

Troubling A Star by Madeleine L’Engle

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you think the author was trying to do by having a lost civilization under the Island?
  2. Was there any other way for Pratchett to finish the novel? Why can’t Daphne choose to stay with Mau?


Here is Mau, almost alone on a beautiful tropical islands with a lovely girl and gods that boss him around, but can’t seem to help him figure out how to become a chief without having become first a man.


Author website

Author Interview about the Novel



mountain meets the moon


Lin, Grace. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. 282 pages. $17.00 ISBN-13: 978-0316114271

Young Minli goes on a journey to find the man in the moon to change her family’s fortune, befriending a dragon along the way.


Age Range 8-12

5 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Honor, 2010

Mythopeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, 2010

ALA Notable Book for Middle Readers, 2010

Minli lives in a poor village with incredibly poor parents. Her father shares stories about magical and wonderful things, but her mother’s bitterness about their life causes Minli to decide to travel to the Man in the Moon to change the family fortune. She finds a tangled dragon and sets him free, giving her a traveling companion. She makes friends with peasants and kings, and a village of people who are always happy. Finally she makes it to the Man in the Moon to ask her question so she can return to her family, who have also been on a kind of a journey waiting and trusting that Minli will come home.

The book has beautiful, simple drawings throughout, and it is an engaging read, full of folklore and magic, but without too much scariness. The read-aloud quality is regularly mentioned by other reviewers, and I think that is because it can be hard to find books that are interesting to listen to without having some mature themes or action. Here is a book that should have won more awards, I think, for its classic feel and wonderful emotional content wrapped up in an exciting story. The cover is appealing as is the illustrative design inside.


Odd and the Frost Giant by Neil Gaiman

Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Minli change her question at the end when she got to the Man in the Moon?
  2. What helped her mother lose her bitterness?


Here is a classic read aloud adventure. There are dragons, magical books of fate, evil green tigers, talking goldfish and an old man who controls the red strings of fate.


Author Website

Interview with author


ALA Notable Children’s Books

ala notable

“Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding. As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.” From the website

extra yarn

Barnett, Mac. Extra Yarn. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Balzer and Bray, 2012. 40 pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0061953385

A young girl finds a magical box of neverending yarn.

Picture Book Fantasy

Age Range 4-9

5 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2013

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 2012

Caldecott Honor, 2013

On a walk in the woods Annabelle finds a box of yarn. She knits a sweater, then one for her dog. Since the yarn is not running out, she just keeps knitting, covering her classmates, the townspeople, dogs, trees, houses, cars. When a duke comes and tries to but the box of neverending yarn, Annabelle refuses. He sends robbers to steal it, but when he gets it home, its magic is gone, until it finds its way back to Annabelle.  The book is beautifully and simply illustrated primarily in blacks, browns, and whites, except for the sweaters, which are printed in bulky textures with muted rainbow hues. The story is charming and subtly funny, but it is the illustrations that make this a truly worthwhile read. The faces are simple but expressive, and the scenes well designed, using the whitespace and block printing to excellent effect.  I picked this up because the artist is one I enjoy, his illustrations are funny, but without wackiness that could be offputting. This book was enjoyed by my five year old and all the adults he convinced to read it to him.


I Want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Magic Box by Katie Cleminson

Princess Hyacinth by Florence Parry Heide

Discussion Questions

  1. Why doesn’t Annabelle sell her box to the Duke? Would you have sold the box?
  2. Do you think Annabelle will suffer from the family curse?

Book Talking

When you start a project, you know that it will come to an end, don’t you? What if you liked to paint and the paintbrush never went dry? For Annabelle it is knitting, and she finds a box of yarn that never goes empty.


Artist Website

Interview with artist at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Author Website

Interview with book author and illustrator on



crayons quit

Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Quit. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel, 2013. 40 pages. $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0399255373

A box of crayons send letters to their owner Duncan with hilarious requests.

Comedic Picture Book

Age Range: 4-9

Rating 5 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2014

When Duncan sits down to color, he finds letters from many of his crayons. Red feels overworked, Grey wants to color small pebbles, not just elephants, Blue is used down to a nubbin. Orange and Yellow are fighting over who is the correct color of the sun, Green loves his work, but wants Duncan to make up his mind about the whole sun business so his friends will stop fighting. Peach has been stripped of his paper and feels nude. Each letter is written by the crayon and illustrated with the crayons hopes (Black wants a black beach ball, and not just to be an outline). The voices of the crayons are hilarious and kids will love the humor and the sentiment of crayons with personality. This book is getting a lot of attention, and I looked it up after hearing a number of good reviews. There are some concerns about it, one reviewer suggested that only referencing pink and peach as flesh tones makes this book a bit of ethnic insensitivity. I can see that a little, but not enough to devalue the book, which I fund utterly delightful and hilarious.


Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown


Book Discussion

1. Why is the blue so tiny? What does Duncan do to help him?

2. What would your green crayon say to you?

Book Talking

What would your crayons say if they could talk? Would they like your pictures, or maybe they would have some things to say about them!


Interview with Author at Kidlit411

Artist Website

Oliver Jeffers: Picture Book Maker

Jane Addams Award for Peace and Justice

jane addams award

“The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peacesocial justiceworld community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.” From the Website


oney judge

McCully, Emily Arnold. The Escape of Oney Judge. Farrar Straus Grioux, 2007. 32 pages. $17.99

ISBN-13: 978-0374322250

Picture Book Biography

Age Range: 7-12

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 1 out of 5 for popularity.

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 2008

Oney Judge is a slave belonging to George and Martha Washington. Although she is treated well by her owners, the reality of her life was one in which her decisions and family relations were not hers to dictate. As Martha Washington talks about her eventual death, she tells Oney that she will be passed on to a relative. Oney is appalled at the fact that she will be forced to separate from her family and work for people who she doesn’t like. The book is filled with many small examples of the ongoing injustices of life as a slave and one feels for Oney when she makes her escape through the resources of local friends. I found it very interesting that because of the status of her owners, her escape had to be kept hushed to an extent that even though they knew where she was, the Washingtons could not really do anything to get her back. The illustrations are lovely and vibrant, giving this interesting story life and movement. The facial expressions are particularly interesting, Martha Washington is often of sour disposition, or totally oblivious.  I am very drawn to the idea of an award for children’s books that emphasize peace and justice, and this one has some themes that are better suited to children that have a bit more experience in the world than a preschooler.

Read Alikes

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Taking Liberty: The Story of Oney Judge by Ann Rinaldi

Book Discussion

  1. Why does Oney run away? How does she manage to stay independent.
  2. One of the reasons Oney resents slavery is the loss of control families have to stay together, yet in order to be free she has to leave her family. How do you think that makes her feel?

Book Talker

If Martha Washington were your boss, you might have a life of ease and prestige, but what if she owned you. What if you could not use you skills or knowledge to pursue your own career or interests? What would you do if you had to choose between freedom and your family?


Author Website

Historical Biographical Note from Mount Vernon

Brief Interview with author at the blog Historically Speaking

 planting trees of kenya

Nivola, Claire, A. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The story of Wangari Maathai. Frances Foster Books, 2008. 32 pages. $18.99 ISBN-13: 978-0374399184

In an effort to overcome deforestation in Kenya, Wangari recruits other women to slowly plant trees, an effort which wins her the Nobel Prize.

Picture Book Biography

Age Range:  5-12

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

Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 2009

ALA Notable Book, 2009

When Wangari was a little girl, Kenya was a lush, green, beautiful place. After returning home from pursuing a biology degree in the United States, she finds her home trees gone and the fields and streams replaced with tea plantations. This transition took away the trees families used for firewood and fuel, as well as the gardens used to feed them. Wangari said “When we see that we are part of the problem, we can become part of the solution.” With this in mind she began to organize the local women to plant trees to help hold the topsoil and replace the fields to graze the cattle and goats. She spread her mission and over 30 million trees were planted in 30 years. This story is not only exceptionally inspirational by itself, this telling is simple, moving, and beautiful. Nivola’s illustrations are incredibly detailed, full of color, liviness and beauty.   This author has done other beautiful biographies of strong, environmentally aware women, so I would collect and recommend anything by here, but this book is especially beautiful.


Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya Donna Jo Napoli

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Book discussion questions

  1. Why did Wangari organize women to plant trees?
  2. Who else did she recruit into her work?

Book talking

Are there trees where you live? How about grass and bushes? What if you left and came back and your home was empty of all you remembered being beautiful? What would you be willing to do to make it better?


Interview with author at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast


The Scott O’Dell Award

odell award“In 1982, Scott O’Dell established The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The annual award of $5,000 goes to an author for a meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults.  Scott O’Dell established this award to encourage other writers–particularly new authors–to focus on historical fiction. He hoped in this way to increase the interest of young readers in the historical background that has helped to shape their country and their world.” From the website’DellAwardforHistoricalFiction.aspx


the land

Taylor, Mildred D. The Land. Speak, 2001, 2003. 375 pages. $17.60 ISBN-13: 978-0756915308

Paul-Edward, son of a white plantation owner and a slave, pursues his life-long dream to own land in the South during Reconstruction.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 13 and up

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

Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 2002

Coretta Scott King Award for Author, 2002

ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2002

Paul-Edward Logan is in the unique position of being the child of a slave and a white plantation owner who acknowledges him and has him educated along with his white brothers. Although this is set just after the Civil War and Paul is free, he still suffers from being a mixed-race black man. After a rough start with Mitchell, a young black man who’s family lives and works on the same plantation, they become inseparable friends. Together they run away after Mitchell hits a white man and they travel the South working in lumber camps. Mitchell wants to travel and be free, but Paul wants to own and work some land. Using his carpentry skills he eventually saves enough money and he and Mitchell together work to clear some land in exchange for its title at the end of the work. This is an interesting book, the characters are vibrant and Taylor excels at giving their internal feelings and impulses voice without letting the novel drag. There is some concern about this book and its use of the N-word, but the author says she needed to use the language to give it the proper historical context. While I hate that language, I agree with her that to take it out would take away the teeth of the racism experienced by her characters. This title has won a number of awards, and it is clear to see why; it is well written with a good story and complex, endearing characters.


Copper Sun by Sharon M Draper

The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers

Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriette Gillem  Robinet

Book Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Paul avoid his family for so long?
  2. Why is land ownership so important to Paul?

Book Talking

Living in the South after the Civil War was dangerous for a mixed race man with an education. Pursuing ones dreams could lead to danger and death, with little legal recourse.


Interview with author at the ALA

Interview with the author on The Brown Bookshelf


green glass sea

Klages, Ellen. The Green Glass Sea. Viking Juvenile, 2006. 336 pages . $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0670061341

Dewey and Suze, 11, must make friends against the backdrop of the Trinity project that developed the atomic bomb.

Historical Fiction

Age range: 10-14

Rating: 3 out of 5 for quality, 2 out of 5 for popularity.

Scott O’Dell Award, 2007

In 1943 the race for building the atomic bomb was in full swing, but the scientists and military involved had to live in a secret community in New Mexico, so their families did too. Dewy is 11 and has come to Los Almos to live with her father. When he has to travel on government business, she stays with the family of Suze. Both girls are social outcasts, but where Dewy involves herself in building radios and machines and doesn’t care what the other girls in class think about her, Suze wants to fit in. As they learn to be friends, bonding over comic books and dump runs, Suze learns to accept herself and Dewey learns to open up to someone else. This is such a sweet story of overcoming differences and finding friendship and similarities is the crux, but the mystery surrounding the building of the atomic bomb and living in a community surrounded by secrecy gives this book a unique flavor. This was a nice, although somewhat forgettable book. The characters were a little too typical: one an overweight outcast, the other a math minded nerd, but endearing. The author did a nice job of placing the story in historical context, full of comic books and military furniture. The unique historical setting was the drawing power of this book, and although I should not judge a book by its cover, the cover design did take away from the overall force of the book, looking more like something self-published than a professionally published novel.

Because of the historical context it contains an interesting discussion of the moral problems of the bomb development. The parents, both of whom were scientists working on the project are torn about whether the bomb should be used, or if they should sign the petition that hopes to influence the government to not use the technology they built. While these discussions were not central to the story, they were subtly added in to the conversations in a way to introduce the issues without being awkward.


The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle

Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman

Book Discussion Questions

  1. Why does it take Suze such a long time to accept Dewey? What is it that finally brings the girls together?
  2. How does living in a secret science community affect the lives of the girls?


Book Talking

What would it be like to live in a secret government community? What if all the adults around you were working on a secret gadget that could change the course of the war?



 Author website

Author interview with Publisher’s Weekly

Alex Awards


‘The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002.” From the YALSA Website


night circus

Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus.  Doubleday,  2011. 400 pages. $28.95 ISBN-13: 978-0385534635

A mysterious circus travels the world at the end of the 1800’s and is the venue of a magical competition between Marco and Celia.

Fantasy Fiction

Age Range: 15 and up

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

Locus Award for Best First Novel, 2012

ALA Alex Award, 2012

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Adult Literature, 2012

Celia is sent to her father the magician at age 6 and almost immediately is signed up for a competition of magic and illusion as her father’s player. When or how the competition will begin is unknown, as is the identity of her competitor.  The story follows her competitor, Marco and soon the competition begins, the venue a travelling circus that opens only at night and follows no set schedule. Celia works there as an illusionist, but Marco must set up his feats of magic and illusion from afar. The descriptions are beautiful  and rich, the plot slow and meandering. This book is lovely and a perfect autumnal read. It won an Alex award because while the characters are adults, the appeal to a teen audience is obvious with its dark, mysterious setting and the forbidden love of the two competitors. The Cover art is appealing, but I have wanted to read this circus book since it came out, and was so excited to have it be a book I could read for a class on award winning books. It also won an award by an organization devoted to promoting literature and the study of the works of the Inklings, which makes it even more appealing to me.


Jonathan strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Book Discussion Questions

  1. How does the author create such a magical environment, how does the circus make it more mysterious?
  2. It seems like the death of the characters was inevitable, did they escape it? What do you think happens to them?


There is magic in this book, Illusions and fantastical gardens held together in a circus that is a goth dream. Everything is in black and white, magic and mystery is everywhere.


Author Website

Article about author in the StarTribune



Knisley, Lucy. Relish: my life in the kitchen. Turtleback, 2013. 176 pages.  $30.60. ISBN-13: 978-0606324311

Lucy tells the story of her life through her foodie experience in this series of comics.

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Age Range: 14 and up

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

Alex Award, 2014

Lucy Knisley was raised by foodies, her mother an excellent chef and caterer, her father a lover of all things fine.  She writes these fun comic chapters to illustrate the importance of food in her life, and to give omage to her mother, especially. Raised first in New York City and then in Upstate New York, Lucy developed tastes for both complex, rich, unusual foods, as well as the McDonald’s French fry. Her stories are sweet and funny, the illustrations perfect for the lighthearted and earnestness of her voice. Each chapter has an illustrated recipe at the end which add to the design and complete feeling of the book: she is trying to pass on her love of food to the reader. Although written for adults, this memoir is perfectly suited to young adults and even children (my 5 year old is enjoying it and requesting it over and over).


Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Calling Dr. Laura: A graphic memoir by Nicole J. Georges

They Draw and Cook: 107 Recipes Illustrates by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell

Book Discussion

  1. How effective is the life story through food stories? How does it help you get to know the character?

Book Talking.

Here is a book for food lovers and comic book fans. Also, learn how to make chai.

Author website

Interview with the Graphic Novel Reporter

Castles and Cooks Interview