Street Children’s Book Awards: Another Important Election
Lore and Language of Schoolchildren
by Iona & Peter Opie. republished by New York Review Books,
2001, 417 pp
makes a children’s book award most meaningful? If children themselves
vote on it.
The Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s
Literature, presented annually by the Bank Street College of Education,
is the only competition of this kind; children are the final judges.
The award goes to the outstanding book for young children where
text and illustrations combine to produce a singular entity of
enjoyment, entertainment, education and excellence.
The selection process is almost as creative as the winning books
themselves. A set of 30 to 35 books is selected by a committee
of adult readers and delivered to Bank Street classrooms. During
the course of four weeks the children, ages eight to ten, read,
re-read, and extensively discuss the books. Then, 12 books are
selected as finalists, and these are once again discussed and
reviewed with the children’s librarian, who is the director of
the award. Finally, a group of three or four titles are selected,
by vote, to send on to the final judges who are, most appropriately,
1,500 children in cooperating public schools all over New York
City and the United States.
Jim LaMarche, author and illustrator of The Raft, was the winner
of the 2001 award. “The Raft [is] a book of truthful small moments
in a little boy’s life. And also truly a labor of love,” explained
LaMarche in his address at the presentation at the Harvard Club
where he received his award. The Raft is the adventure of a little
boy, Nicky, who is sent to spend his summer vacation with his
eccentric grandma, a “river rat.” Nicky learns about life, love,
the magic of the river, and his grandmother who is a little bit
was driving down on Highway 10 one day, when it occurred to me
just how hard could it possibly be to write a children’s book?”
LaMarche said. “Well, it only took me two ands a half years and
the book went through about eighteen different forms.”
decided to make a mental list of things I really knew about in
life: kids, baseball, the river, etc,” he continued. “I wanted
to write a great story of small moments. And I wanted to model
the hero of the story on Dominic, my 10 year-old son. He’s the
person I know the best, of course,” he said. “And that’s what
I decided to write about.”
The 2001 runner-ups, given Honor Book Awards by Bank Street, were
Basho and the Fox by Tim Myers and Oki S. Han, Click, Clack, Moo
Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, and Mammalabilia
by Douglas Florian, a repeat recipient of book awards at Bank
Street who received a huge ovation from those attending the presentation.
cannot imagine growing up without books,” said guest speaker Julie
Cummins, editor-in-chief of School Library Journal. “For me, they
were the most valuable treasure of the mind. And picture books,
in particular, opened up my small world to the universe.”
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the publisher. © 2001.