Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

In Search of Excellence: The 2015 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

In Search of Excellence: The 2015 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

Article excerpt

AS READERS OF Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (1952), we find ourselves entangled in Charlotte's web of words, anticipating what words might appear next. We lurk in the dark of night with Templeton as he rummages through the trash pile searching for expressions that articulate the wonders of Wilbur. Language pulls us into books and the hearts of characters, giving us a livedthrough experience (Rosenblatt, 1983).

Like Charlotte and Templeton, the Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts Selection Committee has been on a search for words-exquisite words that take us to familiar and unfamiliar worlds. We give special attention to our specific guidelines, including finding books that "deal explicitly with language, such as plays on words, word origins, or the history of language"; books that "demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or style"; and books that "invite child response or participation" (Children's Literature Assembly, 2015, sidebar). We look, too, for books with "an appealing format," "of enduring quality," and that "meet generally accepted criteria of quality for the genre in which they are written" (sidebar). The committee collectively read over 600 books, conversed via email, met, debated, defended our choices, and in the end, came to agreement over which titles best fit our criteria.

As readers, we often seek out books that will help us find our way or will provide us with new insights. We select books for classrooms and children based on their interests, questions, and life situations. With this in mind, our selections this year are organized around the theme of searching. We search for peace around the world, among our own citizenship, and within our own families. We live our lives trying to find our own voice and the best path for us to take. We seek better lives for ourselves and those around us. We thirst for answers to our biggest and smallest queries. We go in pursuit of understanding the wonder and awe of what we may not have noticed before. Each search we undertake leads to another.

The Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts Selection Committee is pleased to share with you the 2015 award-winning titles. We invite you to devour them with Wilbur's gusto and pass them along. Our hope is that you will find them as terrific as Wilbur himself.

In Search of Peace

Voices From the March on Washington

Lewis, J.P., & Lyon, G.E. (2014). Honesdale, PA: WordSong, 114 pages.

Many students know about the historic March on Washington in 1963 solely through Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech. Yet, the march was attended by hundreds of thousands of people, all with their own reasons for attending and their own perspectives on the event. Through a series of riveting poems, six fictional characters share their experiences of the historic march in J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon's novel. The authors have woven into the story line the distinct voices of Dan Cantrell, 16, from Georgia; Ruby May Hollingsworth, 6, from Arkansas; Raymond Jarvis, 25, from Texas; Renée Newsome, 15, from Washington, DC; Annie Ross, 19, from Georgia; and Emma Wallace, 23, from Iowa-all of whom have stories to share. The poets' introduction sets the stage for this extraordinary gathering. The back matter includes a guide to the voices, historical and imagined, and additional resources and websites that can extend the reading experience. These poems give readers a feel for the significance and emotion of the march that are missing from typical history books. (CAD)


Wiles, D. (2014). New York, NY: Scholastic, 544 pages.

It is 1964 in Greenwood, Mississippi, and Freedom Summer has arrived in this small town. The stories of Sunny, a 12-year-old White girl, and Raymond, a 14-year-old Black boy, intersect in this coming-of-age documentary novel about the Civil Rights Movement. Sunny is experiencing many changes in her personal world, with a new stepmother and stepsiblings, and now her hometown has become one of the sites for the Mississippi Freedom Project. …

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