Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Glance at the Sibert Winners for Excellence in Nonfiction

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Glance at the Sibert Winners for Excellence in Nonfiction

Article excerpt

If you have a young reader who loves nonfiction, check out the 2012 winner of the Robert F. Sibert Medal, and the four 2012 Sibert Honor books.

There's something for every reader in this year's choices. Kids can meet the man responsible for the enormous balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, journey to Africa with a scientist studying elephant communication, travel back in time to the Salem witch trials, explore the human dynamics of the 1960s civil rights battle in Birmingham, Ala., and peek into the memorable youth of artist/ author Allen Say.

The Sibert Medal was established in 2001 to honor the most distinguished "informational," or nonfiction, book published each year for children from birth through age 14.

The award is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, and named for Robert Sibert, the longtime president of Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc., which specializes in pre-bound books for the library market.

Each year, a committee composed of librarians and other children's book experts chooses the Sibert winner and any honor books. I served on the 2012 Sibert Medal panel, and I'm thrilled about our choices.

Here's a closer look at the winning books:


In "Balloons Over Broadway" (Houghton Mifflin, $16.99, ages 4- 8), author/illustrator Melissa Sweet combines a kid-friendly text with colorful detailed illustrations to create a truly distinguished picture book biography.

It tells the story of Tony Sarg, who decades ago created the forerunners of the gigantic character balloons that are the trademark of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Ms. Sweet focuses her story on Mr. Sarg's fascination for tinkering; she opens her book with the story of how the 6-year-old Tony developed a rope-and-pulley system for feeding his family's chickens while staying snug in his bed.

The adult Mr. Sarg became famous for his marionettes, which caught the eye of Macy's executives looking for someone to devise a parade for Macy's employees. As the parade crowds increased each year, Mr. Sarg eventually developed the technology for the huge balloons that float overhead and allow all watchers to enjoy the spectacle.

Ms. Sweet's text is filled with evocative vocabulary, as she writes that the balloons "sailed past Central Park" and "sallied down Broadway." With her illustrations, done in gouache (thick watercolors), collage and mixed media, she spotlights Mr. Sarg's passion for play; he once said: "I have never done a stroke of work in my life."

"Balloons Over Broadway" is definitely fun to read, but it's also a model nonfiction book for young readers. Ms. Sweet includes a bibliography, sources for her quotes, an author's note with more information about Mr. Sarg and a brief explanation about her artwork.

"Sweet's book rose above all others this year by brilliantly showing and telling the story of one person's ideas with passion and panache, demonstrating the very best of what an informational book can be," said Sibert Medal Committee chairman Andrew Medlar. …

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