Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

Celebrating Books and Readers: 2014 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

Celebrating Books and Readers: 2014 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

Article excerpt

Celebrating Books and Readers: 2014 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

The unique writing styles and vivid language of the 2014 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts evoke smells, sounds, sights, and responses in the mind of the reader.

MACARONI AND CHEESE. Peanut butter and jelly. Individually, each food in the partnership has merit, but the combination of the two, in perfect proportion, results in a tantalizing taste all its own. Some things are better when they are together. Just as macaroni needs cheese and peanut butter needs jelly, books need readers. At the beginning of The Winter Room, Gary Paulsen (1989) speculates about what would result "if books could be more, could show more, could own more" (p. 1). They would have smells and sounds and light-elements that would combine with the written word to create something greater than the book itself. However, books do not have these things. They cannot have these things. Paulsen says, "If books could have more, give more, be more, show more, they would still need readers, who bring to them sound and smell and light and all the rest that can't be in books. The book needs you" (p. 3).

The Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts (NCBLA) Award recognizes the language used in books and values the smells, sounds, sights, and responses evoked when those books come to life in the hands of a reader. While each book presented here meets expectations for quality for the genre in which it is written, has an appealing format, and possesses enduring characteristics, it is the language of the book that sets it apart. NCBLA Selection Committee members carefully evaluate each book on the following criteria:

? Deal explicitly with language, such as play on words, word origins, or the history of language;

? Demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or style;

? Invite child response or participation. (Children's Literature Assembly, 2011, sidebar)

The committee proudly presents the 2014 NCBLA winners and celebrates the relationship between books and readers. "Books do not simply happen to people. People also happen to books" (Rosenblatt, 1956/2005, p. 62). As you read, we are certain that you will find cause to join in the celebration. (PEB)

Fiction Picturebooks

Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me Beaty, D. (2013). (B. Collier, Illus.). New York, NY: Little, Brown, unpaged.

Each morning, an African American father plays a game of "knock knock" with his young son, knocking on the bedroom door and sneaking inside to give the boy a good morning hug. But one day, the knock does not come. The boy hopes and listens for the knock and for his father's return. While waiting, the boy pleads, "Papa, come home, 'cause there are things I don't know, and when I get older I thought you could teach me." As young people confront the loss of a loved one through death, divorce, or incarceration, they, like the narrator, will ask why. Although the answer does not come, the father reminds, "Knock knock for me, for as long as you become your best, the best of me still lives in you." Daniel Beaty partners with acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier to create a soul-stirring book that focuses on the impact of an absent parent. Collier's collages demand that the reader pause, breathe in the images, and ponder their relationship with Beaty's words. (SPC)

Journey Becker, A. (2013). Somerville, MA: Candlewick, unpaged.

A little girl sits on her front stoop, bored. Her dad works diligently on his computer, her sister is busy with a digital device, and in the kitchen, her mom talks on the phone and cooks dinner. With her family too busy to play, the little girl retreats to her room, where a red crayon sparks her imagination. First, she draws a door and enters a magical world. Her desire to discover more about this world compels her to draw a red boat, which carries her to the gate of a waterfall city. When danger approaches, she quickly outlines a hot air balloon and finds herself aboard an aircraft. …

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