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kids'books

Culture | This year's five winners of American Library Association awards for children's books

Issue: "1st-grade murder," March 11, 2000
Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis Newbery Medal (writing for children) and Coretta Scott King Author Award (writing by an African-American author)
PLOT
Ten-year-old Bud Caldwell runs away from his new foster parents in search of the famous bandleader who may be the father he never knew. Along the way, he must deal with dangers, real and imaginary, and learn a bit about the adult world.

Gist
Even in Depression-era Flint, Mich., a resourceful and imaginative young boy like Bud can find happiness and a place to belong.

Message
When one door closes, another opens. Make the best of your situation.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
illustrated by Simms Taback Caldecott Medal (excellence in illustration)
PLOT
When Joseph's overcoat gets worn out, Joseph makes it into a jacket. When the jacket is worn out, it is made into a vest. This process goes on until nothing is left of the original overcoat, yet Joseph still finds another use for it.

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Gist
Creatively constructed picture book from the illustrator of classics such as There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and Too Much Noise.

Message
Thriftiness: "You can always make something out of nothing."

26 Fairmount Ave.
by Tomie DePaola Newbery Honor Book (writing for children)
PLOT
The year 1938 as remembered by illustrator Tomie DePaola. He relates, in short chapters, his memories of a hurricane hitting his hometown in Connecticut, his first day of school, the building of his new house, and moving day.

Gist
Fans of Tomie DePaola's books may enjoy this gentle first chapter book set during DePaola's fifth year. The book is an affectionate reminiscence of family and childhood friends, which may please adults more than its target audience of early readers.

Worldview
Sentimental

Monster
by Walter Dean Myers Michael L. Printz Award (literature for young adults)
PLOT
The story of a 16-year-old arrested and tried for murder.

Gist
To keep his anger and fear under control, the teenage protagonist writes a screenplay of his trial, which reveals elliptically the choices he made that led to his current situation. Interspersed with the text of the screenplay are emotional journal entries that show his struggle to figure out who he is, how others perceive him, and the nature of guilt.

Message
Existentialist: You are what you choose.

Caution
Language, prison violence

Hard Love
by Ellen Wittlinger Michael L. Printz Award (literature for young adults)
PLOT
A high-school boy falls for a lesbian and learns life lessons.

Gist
From its handwritten pages, to its funky layout, Hard Love screams "I'm hip." It features selfish, distant, and overbearing parents and a confused young man who only awakens emotionally after meeting a teenage lesbian "zine" writer. She teaches him to confront his parents and embrace his difference.

Worldview
Existentialist: Authenticity is the only absolute.

Caution
Vile language, implied sexual situations

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Bud, the protagonist of Christopher Paul Curtis's Bud, Not Buddy (Delacorte Press 1999), is a 10-year-old boy in a difficult situation. His mother died when he was six and he has been shuttled between foster homes and the orphanage ever since. After a particularly disastrous experience with a foster family, Bud decides to set out in search of the father whom he has never met. His only clues are a few fliers his mother left him, advertising an appearance by "Herman E. Calloway and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression." Although Bud is only a little black boy in the middle of a Great Depression, he makes his way across Michigan from Flint to Grand Rapids. Along the way, he stays in a Hooverville, meets a kindly labor organizer, and finally finds a place to call home. Although Bud, Not Buddy deals with touchy issues such as racism and labor unions, it never becomes too heavy-handed. Christopher Paul Curtis is blessed with the ability to capture a certain era in American history and create endearing characters such as Bud to inhabit that era.

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