(L-R) Sara Bayles, Kay Slowey-Sly, Kara B. Wilson, Cheryl Bommarito Klein, Kate O’Shaughnessy, Kristen Baum, Cindy Marcus, Kes Trester, Jeannette Manning, Christina Wise
The number of awards given in each category is proportional to the number of qualifying entries. First place winners receive a free written critique from a faculty member and free tuition to next year’s event.
Winner: Cheryl Bommarito Klein for The Elephant Road
Lyrical writing and an intriguing backdrop set the stage for an endearing story of friendship between two elephants. “The road is long. Sanaa arrives at the hot and dusty tree with a hot and dusty thirst. She stretches her trunk as high as she can and grasps the bark of the tree, just as her mother had taught her.” Sprinkled with non-fiction elements, readers will delight in this tale, without noticing they’ve learned things along the way.
Runner-up: Kara B. Wilson for Moving Again
A rejuvenation of a familiar subject using a military spin and sweet, fresh writing. As he packs to move, Chris leaves a letter for the incoming occupant of his room conveying insider information about the house and neighborhood. We cheer when he finds, after a long journey overseas, that the former resident of his new room left a similar note for him.
Runner-up: Kay Slowey-Sly for Harry Sleeps
A burst of fun, with lots of sounds to add to the read-along pleasure. Kids will love the way the family dog sleeps through the raucous noise the family makes on cleaning day. They’ll smile at the fun twist at the end, when Harry is rested and ready to play, but his family has fallen fast asleep.
OTHER (NON-FICTION AND POETRY)
Winner: Sara Bayles for Trails of Light in the Dark: One Boy’s Story of the Iranian Revolution
Filled with sensory details, this non-fiction picture book takes the reader into the heart of Iranian culture. We taste the eggplants, tomatoes, and pistachios. We hear the laughter, the clinking of dice, the street music. These rich descriptions of pre-revolutionary Iran make the disruption of young Oshin’s life even more heartbreaking when war begins. Though the story takes place decades ago, the themes resonate today: A child’s life disrupted by war. A family separated. The adjustment to life in a new land. Author Sara Bayles’ story of her husband’s boyhood is nonfiction picture-book writing at its best.
Winner: Cindy Marcus for Red Pioneers
A science fiction novel with wonderful world-building featuring a feisty 13-year-old called Abra Dalton who lives in Hubble City on Mars. From the Scribey smart watch Abra wears to the POD system that automates everything in her home, the technological details are fascinating. But Abra also has an intriguing personal story – her mom abandoned the family and her all-important dad has saddled her with looking after her younger brother. Keeps the reader eager for what happens next.
Runner-up: Kristen Baum for Soni & Professor P
A story that cleverly unfolds from multiple perspectives all in the first-person. Young Soni starts noticing strange things, but has no idea her world is about to unravel. Her clumsy and not very bright pursuer, an ogre named Olaf, is on a mission to find an amulet. And Professor Possum, who is sent to the Otherworld to thwart Olaf’s mission and protect Soni, has his heart set on earning the Order of the Golden Carrot. This is witty writing with a suspenseful ticking clock.
Runner-up: Kate O’Shaughnessy for The Great Rainy Schmidt
A realistic portrayal of a girl whose life has been shattered by an accident that left her paralyzed and the impact this has on her family. With a clear set-up, information about Rainy’s situation is shown not told, keeping the reader curious about this strong protagonist who has an intriguing relationship with a crow. “His feathers are jet black and very shiny, like someone took him by the feet and dipped him in motor oil.” This is clean simple prose that stands out.
Winner: Christina Wise for Eye of the Gods
Features a history-loving teen named Andrea whom we meet as she visits her grandmother in Greece. Rich details of setting and character frame a growing sense of mystery as Andrea puzzles over Grandma’s odd knickknacks and superstitions. What is the secret of Gram’s past? Did that statue of Aphrodite just smile at her, or are both she and Gram completely cracked?
Runner-up: Jeannette Manning for Animacy
An attention-grabbing story about two sisters who can give life to inanimate objects. It literally starts at 80 miles an hour as the younger sister animates her mother’s sports car to speed toward her older sister, Rachel, who appears to be in grave danger. Alas, Shira arrives to find her sister murdered and decides to do the one thing Rachel told her never to do – reanimate something dead back to life.
Runner-up: Kes Trester for The Nine
Featuring snappy dialogue, wonderful description and strong character development. Blake is a secret clairvoyant trying to remain anonymous on her California college campus. When a boy in class accidentally touches her, she has a vision of him in a red car going up in flames, but she refuses to make this her problem; she’s done tampering with fate – until a stranger changes her mind.