Sibert Award: “The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award… is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year.”
2015 Sibert Award Winner, Honor award:
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
written by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson. Published January 14th 2014 by Chronicle Books. 104 pages. $14.22 ISBN 1452103143
A picture book biography, written as a free verse poem (poetry itself does not qualify for the Sibert Award). It tells the story of performer Josephine Baker in St. Louis, Paris, and NYC, and her impact on civil rights.
The biography is well-researched (accurate) and concise (3400 words), and illustrations are a feast for the eyes – each, mostly full-page spreads complimenting the text with intense colors, bold images, and comfortable white space.
NCSS Carter G. Woodson Award: “NCSS established the Carter G. Woodson Book Awards for the most distinguished books… in the United States. This award is intended to ‘encourage the writing, publishing, and dissemination of outstanding social studies books for young readers that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and race relations sensitively and accurately.'”
2015 NCSS Carter G. Woodson Book Award Winner, Elementary Winner:
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
written & illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Published May 6th 2014 by Abrams Books for Young Readers. 40 pages. $14.53 ISBN 1419710540
Separate Is Never Equal tells the story of the precursor to the Brown v. Board of Education trail. Sylvia Mendez, and American citizen of Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage, was denied access to a “whites only” school. Her case, The case, Mendez v. Westminster, gives her access to equal education and ends segregation in California’s education system. It also paves the way seven years later for Brown v. BoE. The narrative is simple and engaging. Quotes, when they were originally spoken in Spanish are written first in Spanish, then translated to English.
Illustrations are expressive and appealing, and depict the events that occurred leading up to, and including the trial. A thorough author’s note, glossary, bibliography, and index include photos and materials that make it easy for the reader to further research the events for themselves. This book is also 2015 Sibert Award Winner, Honor award.
Because I chose two informational picture books with racial themes, they could have both been candidates for the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Book Award and the Sibert Book Award. I would not venture a guess at why Separate is Never Equal won both awards, and Josephine won the Sibert Award. Both are worthy of the acclaim they received, and further attention. Separate is Never Equal addresses the single topic throughout the book, while Josephine also details her exciting life, performances, travels, etc. I suspect that both were nominated for both awards. In both cases, the writers and illustrators have been lauded for their accuracy of information and depth of research – critical qualities in informational texts.
Horning, K. (2010). From cover to cover : Evaluating and reviewing children’s books (Rev. ed.). New York: Collins. Ch. 2
Vardell, S. (2014). Children’s literature in action: A librarian’s guide (Second ed.). Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.