Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reviewing the 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Winners

The Charlotte Zolotow award is given each year for outstanding writing in a picture book and is awarded by the Children's Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As friend of the CCBC, I received an email recently announcing the award recipients. I immediately put in library requests for those that I had not yet, so that I could assemble this review post.

2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner

Sparky!, written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans, is the winner of the eighteenth annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. This is an unusual tale of an unusual pet. When a girl's mother tells her "No Pets" but then makes her reasons specific, our narrator discovers ... the sloth!

This book did not do a lot for me, but some of my students have really enjoyed it. Sparky, as you might expect, does not behave like a normal pet, and it is amusing to see how our narrator tries to feature his strengths and downplay his weaknesses. The Zolotow Award focuses on great writing for children, and while I enjoyed this book, I think some of the honor books did an even greater job!

2015 Zolotow Award Honor Books

Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer (2014) written by Tonya Bolden and illustrated by Eric Velasquez. This is a lovely and simple story with big lessons. As the young boy of the cover scrambles out of bed to remember his prayers, the reader is taken on a journey to see examples of individual people who match the situations that the little boy is praying for. A powerful reminder of how we are all connected and the need for people to care for one another.

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep (2014) written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg. This book is precious and adorable, because who would not immediately fall in love with a poor little panda who cannot fall asleep? That said, I found the choice of flaps in the this book confusing, especially at the beginning, and did not feel that they added much to the overall experience of the book or the progression of the story. (Perhaps its just a holdover from my skepticism of the flaps in Flora and the Flamingo which also felt purposeless and gimmicky.) But flaps aside, this is a lovely and humorous little story.

Ivan, the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla (2014) by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This lovely nonfiction picture book is a great companion piece to The One and Only Ivan. though I would be wary of students reading this one first and 'spoiling' some of the power of the novel. This would also be great to use with older students as part of a discussion about zoos, animal rights, or perspective and point-of-view.

Tap Tap Boom Boom (2014) written by Elizabeth Bluemle and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This poem of a book uses repetition and quick choppy lines to render this story of an urban rainstorm as a melodic ode to the unexpected. The collage illustrations add to and expand the story by highlighting the diversity of the people (and pets!) affected by the storm. This is a book that begs to be read aloud, likely again and again.

Water Rolls, Water Rises = El agua rueda, el agua sube (2014) written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Meilo So with Spanish translation by Adriana Domínguez and Pat Mora. This is by far my favorite of the bunch. Water Rolls, Water Rises = El agua rueda, el agua sube is a gorgeous poetry tribute to water and the role that it plays in the lives of all people, plants, and animals on our planet. I love how the author and illustrator relied on different locations around the world as the basis for the illustrations, and the style is so fun-loving and free. Another amazing book to share and read aloud.

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