What a pleasure it is each year to discover which books the Jane Addams Peace Association has chosen to honor. Since 1953, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually acknowledges books meeting standards of literary and artistic excellence, published in the U.S., with themes or topics that engage children in thinking about peace, justice, world community, and/or equality of the sexes and all races.
Winner, Books for Younger Children:
Nasreenâ€™s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster). Nasreenâ€™s parents are gone, her father taken one night by soldiers, her mother lost on her search to find him. Now living with only her grandmother, Nasreen stays inside herself, silent with trauma. Whispers about a forbidden school reach her grandmother who, with stealth, bravery and hope, brings Nasreen to the secret school hidden in the home of an equally-brave woman, a teacher of girls. Framed stylized paintings in hues that symbolically reflect the path of Nasreenâ€™s healing extend the story told in the plain, heartfelt voice of her grandmother. The power of education and resistance stand out in this all-too-true contemporary tale of the human toll exacted by war and the oppression of women. We were fortunate enough to hear Ms. Winter read this out loud … it is an inspirational book.
Honor Books, Younger Children
Sojourner Truthâ€™s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney (Disney-Jump at the Sun Books). Born a slave in upstate New York, Sojourner Truth, an iconic figure in the abolitionist and womanâ€™s suffrage movements, was â€œMeant for speaking. Meant for preaching. Meant for teaching about freedom.â€ Told with punch and vigor, this energetic picture book biography marches along with Truth as she frees herself from bondage and ultimately delivers her legendary womenâ€™s rights speech to a church filled with white men in 1851. Short storyteller-style sentences punctuated with exclamation points and meaningful capitalizations evoke Truthâ€™s spirit and force. Illustrations in a palette of yellows alive with whirling lines keep the momentum, energy, sorrow, seriousness and fervor of Sojourner Truthâ€™s unwavering quest for social justice front and center in an original rendering of this remarkable womanâ€™s life.
You and Me and Home Sweet Home by George Ella Lyon and Stephanie Anderson (Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books). Sharonda and her mother have been living in the back room of Aunt Janeyâ€™s apartment for more than a year now. When the pairâ€™s church family declare that they are going to build them a house of their own, Sharonda responds: â€œRight … Like Iâ€™m going to tap dance on the moon.â€ Nurtured by Diane, the wise head of house construction, Sharonda benefits from shared work and a sense of community. Poetic text written in Sharondaâ€™s voice captures the girlâ€™s shifting emotions during the house-building process. Illustrations from many perspectives reinforce Sharondaâ€™s growth in a blend of soft, primary and secondary colors held together by the brown tones depicting the African-American protagonist, her mother, the church family and the larger community.
Winner, Books for Older Children
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Donâ€™t You Grow Weary, Elizabeth Partridge (Viking), is a breathtaking tribute to the courageous, passionate African-American children who demanded voting rights through nonviolent action in the historic 1963 March from Selma to Montgomery. Riveting chronology, stunning photographs, and telling details from oral history interviews recreate the childrenâ€™s anger, terror, solidarity and purpose moment-by-moment. This palpable sense of immediacy crystallizes the commitment of young people who acted on behalf of human rights when they were most frightened and â€œthe endâ€ was unclear and out of sight. Vital and forceful, this testament to the power of youth and
collective nonviolent action inspires activism by delving deeply into the heart of a pivotal moment in the history of youth and civil rights in the United States.
Honor Books, Older Children
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick Press). Fifty years ago, in the midst of the race into space, thirteen women pilots performed consistently better than men on the battery of psychological and physical tests required to become astronautsâ€”and did not become astronauts. The spirit, resilience and determination of this group of women, now called the Mercury 13, infuse this gripping, well-researched chronicle of overt and institutionalized sexism. Framed by the launch of the space shuttle Columbia in 1999, the first space shuttle commanded by a woman, this heartbreaking story of untapped talent and lost dreams emphasizes that no effort on behalf of human rights is lost; indeed, each movement toward equality helps the next one along.
Claudette Colvin, by Phillip Hoose (Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar Straus Giroux). A biography of Claudette Colvin, a teen-ager whose energy, drive, intelligence and thirst for justice pushed her to put herself on the line not once, but twice, in the battle for African-American civil rights. On her own, Colvin challenged Montgomery, Alabama, bus segregation laws through civil disobedience months prior to the challenge that tripped the massive 1955 boycott. And, with characteristic determination, she challenged them again through the courts as a plaintiff in the Federal class action suit that ruled bus segregation laws unconstitutional. Intricate history of the period based in impeccable research blends smoothly with Colvinâ€™s own words and adult reflections on her life and actions. This substantive photo-biography explores both the effects of Colvinâ€™s activism on civil rights and the effects of the civil rights movement on her life.
For additional information about the Jane Addams Childrenâ€™s Book Awards and a complete list of books honored since 1953, visit their website.