Some top 2006 awards conferred

Rosa Parks, a barnyard cat, and the Hitler Youth Movement are featured in books that take some of the top prizes.

In the crowded field of books for children, a single award can make or break a career. So aficionados of children's literature were eager for last week's announcement from the American Library Association which, at their midwinter meeting in San Antonio, announced the winners of some top children's book awards. These include the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, and the Printz Award.

The winner of the 2006 Newbery Medal is Criss Cross, by Lynn Rae Perkins (Greenwillow Books).

In a Monitor review, (Nov. 15, 2005, p. 13), "Criss Cross" was described as "a combination of straightforward prose, pure dialogue, and poetry," by an author deft "at capturing all trials adolescent."

The plot of "Criss Cross" follows a story line loosely woven around the lives of a group of teenagers. Unusual graphics, haiku, song lyrics, and split-screen scenarios give this book a unique and experimental feel.

2006 Newbery honor books include Whittington by Alan Armstong (Random House), a barnyard fantasy about the arrival of a cat on a farm; Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Scholastic), a non- fiction look at the history of the Hitler Youth Movement; Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury Children's Books), the story of a prince who must choose a princess in a Highland village; and Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, a poem about slavery and emancipation.

The Caldecott Medal (named for 19th-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott) is given to children's book illustrators. The 2006 winner is The Hello, Goodbye Window illustrated by Chris Raschka and written by Norton Juster (Michael di Capua Books).

This gentle book is narrated by a little girl telling us of her experiences as she visits her grandparents' house.

2006 Caldecott honor books include: Rosa, illustrated by Byran Collier and written by Nikki Giovanni (Henry Holt and Company), which tells the story of Rosa Parks; Zen Shorts, illustrated and written by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic), about siblings who befriend a panda and then learn lessons from their wise friend; Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride, illustrated and written by Marjorie Priceman (Atheneum), about an aerial adventure over 18th-century France; and Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, illustrated by Beckie Prange and written by Joyce Sidman (Houghton Mifflin Company), a collection of songs about life on the pond.

The Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature went to Looking for Alaska, by John Green (Dutton Juvenile), a novel about the suicide of a girl named Alaska at an Alabama boarding school.

The awards were quick to work their magic in the marketplace. "The Hello, Goodbye Window" jumped to the No. 6 spot on Barnes & Noble.com's Hourly Top 100 almost immediately after the winners were announced, and "Criss Cross" rose to the No. 12 spot list shortly thereafter.

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