(Back l-r) Wakako Rollinger, Alison Bonn, Andrea Ellickson, Mort Bernstein, Abi Estrin Cunningham, Laurisa White Reyes; (Front l-r) Colleen Paeff, Cheryl Manning, Nancy Whitesides. Not pictured: Sue Welfringer.
Our judge appreciated the rebellious nature of Tira, a teenager in the fresh sci-fi world of "Stricken", the second runner-up. Tira’s mother was “stricken” six weeks ago, but Tira remains unconvinced of her death and embarks on a mission to find her. Resisting her untouchable “beta-husband” and her powerful all-seeing father, Tira outwits the Regulator machine that forces the rest of the population into a dreamless controlled sleep, and strikes out for the Edge – a place that will undoubtedly take her beyond the safe but sterile world she inhabits. "Stricken" is part of "The Chronicles of Meridian" series by Abi Estrin Cunningham.
A sable coat made at a fur farm in 1884 Russia forms the center of the deftly crafted first runner-up – "Across the Silver River" by Mort Bernstein. The fur coat ends up in 2015 China on the arm of our Chinese-American heroine, Zoe Zarkov, as she heads through airport security to catch a flight home to San Francisco. Zoe’s been in China seeking connection to her Chinese heritage, which the coat promises to deliver – until security cameras detect something hidden in its seams and she’s arrested for smuggling. As Zoe unravels the mystery to save herself, the reader undoubtedly will travel through time and across continents in a thrilling rediscovery of Zoe’s lineage and the coat’s history.
Sparkling with humor and a strong sense of place, "Blanca and the Ruins" is the first-place winner about a fiery and passionate young woman living in San Francisco. Blanca is determined not to inherit the family curse of becoming a nurse. She wants to pursue her artistic passion, but when she sneaks out to draw one night in Dolores Park, she crosses paths with a bleeding boy who needs her help. Once he gets hold of her hand neither of them is able to let go, and Blanca’s life takes the turn she has been resisting. Writer Andrea Ellickson leaves us wondering what will end in ruins – Blanca’s future or her dreams?
Fun from the start, the runner-up is "Warling" about a wannabe vegetarian goblin. Not all is well in Warling’s vividly described world – where his hairy-footed dad takes him hunting for two-headed rabbits and other creatures he doesn’t want to kill. Then there are the fearsome “paradeathics” that disappear dark creatures including Warling’s grandfather and neighbors. But Warling has a plan to make things right – if only he can pass the Alchemy Trials reserved for Light Creatures. Like spaghetti and eyeballs, the perfect ingredients blend together in this middle grade adventure by Nancy Whitesides.
Written from the perspective of a Japanese boy in Hiroshima during World War II, the winning novel provides a needed perspective in American literature. Twelve-year-old Kenji is full of pride in his country, and its tradition of the samurai warriors he emulates. "The Last Crane" begins playfully with an innocent game of war between brothers, but something darker lurks in the family nursery with the ancient bonsai trees – foreshadowing the personal and public devastation to come. Our judge says Cheryl Manning has written a page-turning story filled with nuance and character depth that is sure to ask the bigger questions about war and the price we all pay.
OTHER (NON-FICTION AND POETRY)
The first runner-up is a how-to book on the craft of writing fiction that should be well-received by youngsters – from struggling students to budding novelists – as well as by teachers, and even adult aspiring writers. Following an excellent and encouraging introduction, author Laurisa White Reyes presents key elements of fiction writing and clarifies them with examples and worksheets. Concepts are explained in simple, clear language and gently introduce vocabulary words. "The Kids’ Guide to Writing Fiction" will offer welcome guidance to storytellers of all ages.
The winner is Colleen Paeff for her high-interest, high-energy non-fiction picture book "Art on Wheels: Pakistan’s Decorated Trucks". The book takes readers on a thrilling ride through the landscape and popular culture of Pakistan, following a decorated truck over road bumps, across deserts, and through mountains, as it delivers merchandise. The ending is a delightful, kid-friendly surprise that sparks artistic creativity as it celebrates the joyful creativity of Pakistani truck owners.
The second runner-up features a train powered by music. All the musical instruments board "The Orchestra Train" then compete with each other to see who can play the best music. The resulting “clanging and banging” keeps them stuck in Symphony Station until the train’s conductor teaches them to work as a team. Told in delightful rhyme, our judge believes "The Orchestra Train" by Alison Bonn offers a wonderful opportunity for illustration.
Our first runner-up is a humorous tale of what happens to a town "When Mice Move In". Though the comforting night sounds made by the mice help little Anabel sleep, the mayor insists the mice have to go. A committee introduces all sorts of other creatures to displace the mice – but matters only get worse and Anabel can’t sleep a wink. Finally the committee circles back to mice to get rid of elephants, and decides mice aren’t so bad after all. With descriptive language by writer Sue Welfringer, "When Mice Moves In" will make for wonderfully detailed storyboards of all the chaos the different animals create.
First place features a happy dog who finds himself displaced by a new baby in the family. The baby gets all the attention, cries and gives Puggy nightmares. Puggy’s tail is down. He does not like the new baby, he tells his friends, who remind him he was once a baby who did “wild things.” One day the inconsolable baby grabs onto Puggy’s tail and stops crying. Puggy has newfound importance and a new friend in the family. With cute, simple action "Puggy and the Baby" by Wakako M. Rollinger creates interesting opportunities to illustrate from the dog’s perspective.