Winners for Young Readers

The cream of artisits and authors sweetens this year's batch of children's books

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA: A TREASURY OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE AND FOLK SONGS Compiled by Amy L. Cohn Scholastic, 399 pp., $29.95 all ages.

THE BIG BOOK FOR OUR PLANET Edited by Ann Durell, Jean Craighead George, & Katherine Paterson Dutton, 136 pp., $17.99 all ages.

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE By Nancy Willard Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon Blue Sky/Scholastic 32 pp., $15.95, all ages.

THE DREAMER By Cynthia Rylant Illustrated by Barry Moser Blue Sky/Scholastic 32 pp., $14.95, all ages.

WE ARE ALL IN THE DUMPS WITH JACK AND GUY: TWO NURSERY RHYMES By Maurice Sendak HarperCollins, 56 pp., $20 all ages.

THE AMAZING FELIX Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully Putnam, 32 pp., $14.95 ages 4 to 8.

GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY Written and illustrated by Allen Say Houghton Mifflin 32 pp., $16.95, all ages.

SCOOTER Written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams Greenwillow, 147 pp., $15 ages 8 and up.

CITY OF LIGHT, CITY OF DARK Written by Avi Illustrated by Brian Floca Orchard, 192 pp., $15.95 ages 9 and up.

WESTERN WIND By Paula Fox Orchard, 201 pp., $14.95 ages 10 and up.

BABY By Patricia MacLachlan Delacorte, 132 pp., $13.95 all ages.

HAVELI By Suzanne Fisher Staples Alfred A. Knopf 266 pp., $18, ages 12 and up.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: A LIFE OF DISCOVERY By Russell Freedman Clarion, 198 pp., $17.95 ages 9 and up.

SHIP Written and illustrated by David Macaulay Houghton Mifflin 96 pp., $19.95 ages 10 and up.

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING By Jean Craighead George Illustrated by Thomas Locker Philomel, 32 pp., $15.95 ages 6 and up.

IF you've ever picked up a children's book with a shiny embossed medal on the cover, you undoubtedly held an award winner, and most likely a Newbery or Caldecott Medal winner. This season, releases from almost every major publishing house include works by previous Newbery award-winning authors and Caldecott award-winning illustrators.

With this elite group of writers and artists dominating the new book scene, readers will recognize many names in book stores. To help sort through the thicket of talent, these reviews focus exclusively on some of the current works by winners of Newbery and Caldecott Medals and Honor awards. Treasuries

If one Caldecott winner is good, 15 must be better - especially if they've been pulled together for the landmark collection ``From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs,'' compiled by Amy L. Cohn. A sequel to the best-selling poetry book ``Sing a Song of Popcorn,'' this anthology includes poems, essays, folk songs, and traditional tales inspired by America's rich history. Fifteen notable artists - such as Marcia Brown, Barbara Cooney, and Trina Schart Hyman - each illustrate a chapter representing a typical American theme or time. Exciting, sad, and funny, this collection of deliberately unhomogenized tales covers everything from creation myths and tall tales to ghost stories and baseball lore. Lavishly illustrated, meticulously researched, and thoroughly documented, this treasury will be used and loved in homes and schools by both children and adults.

``The Big Book for Our Planet,'' edited by Ann Durell, Jean Craighead George, and Katherine Paterson, shares an important message: ``What the Earth needs is more clean water, fresh air, trees, bats, whales, and mushrooms - and less garbage, traffic and pollution.'' Numerous Newbery and Caldecott medalists - Patricia MacLachlan, Chris Van Allsburg, and Tomie dePaola, to name a few - contributed original stories, essays, poems, and illustrations to this environmental treasury. As was the case with its predecessor, ``The Big Book for Peace,'' royalties normally paid to authors and illustrators, as well as some of the publisher's profit, will be donated to six environmental organizations. Picture books

Newbery Medal-recipient Nancy Willard and two-time Caldecott Medal-winners Leo and Diane Dillon combine talents for an amazing retelling of ``The Sorcerer's Apprentice.'' This version, written in rhyme, tells of Sylvia, whose assignment is to sew clothes for all the animals. Trying to shorten her work and failing to accurately repeat the sorcerer's spell, disobedient Sylvia ends up with an uncontrollable sewing machine: ``It stitched the dishes to the table,/ it stitched the noodles to the ladle.'' The sorcerer wakes from his nap in time to help, but not before the Dillons capture the pandemonium in ``Fantasia''-like illustrations.

A sense of gentle beauty and quiet wonder accompanies ``The Dreamer,'' written by 1993 Newbery Medal-winner Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Barry Moser. This interpretive creation tale, based on a fairly literal reading of the first chapter of Genesis, may not match the doctrine of any one faith, but it has universal appeal. Respect and reverence for all life is captured here in poetic text and stunning watercolors.

Caldecott medalist and frequent Honor-winner Maurice Sendak creates a sobering and thoughtful book with ``We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy.'' Combining two old English nursery rhymes as the text and using somber colors, chaotic illustrations, and an ever-present guardian moon, Sendak makes a stark social statement about homelessness, violence, and lack of care for children. Despite the disturbing topics explored in this book, the ending is hopeful when Jack and Guy rescue an abandoned baby and vow to ``bring him up as other folk do.''

In ``The Amazing Felix,'' Emily Arnold McCully once again uses the watercolor technique that garnered her the 1993 Caldecott Medal. Here bright and sparkling illustrations, which accompany a text also by McCully, capture upper-class life of the 1920s.

Felix and his sister Fanny travel with their mother from New York to London on a grand ocean liner to meet their Papa, a world-famous pianist. Having instructed, ``Practice, practice, practice,'' Papa expects both children to play the piano for him. Fanny is ready, but Felix only practiced a magic trick. Things go wrong in London, and Felix is pressed into performing. Nervous at first, he is surprised and relieved that his coin trick impresses an audience as well as Papa.

``Grandfather's Journey'' is a tender and personal story written and illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winner Allen Say. Instead of photographs, delicate watercolors in the Say family album chronicle Grandfather's journey from Japan to the United States and back again. Books for middle readers

Two-time Caldecott Honor-winner Vera B. Williams has written and illustrated a delightful story, ``Scooter.'' Exuberant Elana Rose Rosen and her mother have just moved to the Melon Hill Houses in New York City. The lively story of Lanny's eventful summer is told with cheerful honesty: She rides her beautiful blue-and-silver-wheeled scooter, has a bloody (but not serious) trip to an emergency room, and turns apartment-house neighbors into friends. The summer culminates in a boroughwide field day with a special ``feel good'' ending. Many short chapters, illustrated acrostics, and fresh art make this an inviting book.

``City of Light, City of Dark'' is bound to be a favorite for even the most reluctant readers. Written by Avi, a two-time Newbery Honor winner, this book is not only a fast-paced, action-packed adventure story, but it's also a hardback comic book. Brian Floca's black-and-white cartoon illustrations create dramatic energy as Carlos and Sarah struggle to outsmart the evil Kurbs and keep New York City from freezing. Contemporary topics of urban living and single-parenting are integrated into the bigger theme of good over evil.

``Western Wind'' is a bittersweet story by Newbery-medalist Paula Fox. An almost deserted, sun-drenched, and salt-sprayed island in Maine is the setting for 12-year-old Elizabeth's visit with her artistic grandmother. At first Elizabeth is angry, thinking she has been sent away for the summer so her parents can dote on her new baby brother. But through her affectionate - and sometimes prickly - relationship with Gran, Elizabeth learns a great deal about being wanted and loved. Although the novel ends with Gran's health failing, her expressions of love, independence, and courage are the indelible images in this book. Young-adult novels

In ``Baby,'' Newbery Medal-winner Patricia MacLachlan - best known for ``Sarah, Plain and Tall'' - creates a family full of love, but dealing with loss. As the last tourists of summer pack onto the ferry to leave the island, baby Sophie is temporarily abandoned with 12-year old Larkin and her family. Everyone reacts differently to the baffling situation: Papa is distant; Mama melts instantly, perhaps feeling Sophie is a substitute for her infant son, who has died; Grandma Byrd loves Sophie quickly but knows she's not theirs to keep; and Larkin struggles to make sense of her mixed feelings. Regardless of initial reactions, no one - not even little Sophie - is untouched by the eight, love-filled months they spend together.

In ``Haveli,'' Newbery Honor-winner Suzanne Fisher Staples has written a riveting sequel to her award-winning ``Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind.'' Vivid descriptions of exotic sights, sounds, and smells transport readers to modern Pakistan. Here 18-year-old Shabanu - the youngest and most attractive wife in a polygamous arranged marriage - is always on guard against the cruel and jealous actions of the other wives. A devoted mother, Shabanu tries to find a way to secure her young daughter's uncertain future. Her plan leads to the haveli (large house) owned by her husband's family where centuries-old traditions and present-day violence change Shabanu's life forever. The ending of this haunting book is not conclusive, which leaves the way open for an exquisitely written and eagerly awaited sequel. Informational books

With some observers comparing our present first lady to Eleanor Roosevelt, Newbery award-winner Russell Freedman has written a timely book, ``Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery.'' This engaging study of an extraordinary woman focuses at length on Eleanor's childhood before carrying the reader into the turbulent times of the Great Depression and World War II. Generously illustrated with 140 photographs, this book is factual enough to use as a reference resource and interesting enough to read for pleasure.

Caldecott Medal-winner David Macaulay's latest contribution is ``Ship,'' which he both wrote and illustrated. His enthusiasm for 15th-century caravels reveals itself in the fact that he ended up creating two books in one.

The first, with black-and-white illustrations, is an account of contemporary underwater archaeologists discovering a long-lost caravel in the reefs of the Caribbean. The second, a full-color journal, is a Seville boat-builder's record of constructing the ill-fated caravel ``Magdalena.'' Macaulay's ample talents as illustrator and architect bring credibility to these fictional accounts.

Newbery Medal-recipient Jean Craighead George begins ``The First Thanksgiving'' with the evocative phrase, ``In a time so long ago that only the rocks remember....'' From here, she tells of the glacier that brought the famous rock to Plymouth and of how the Pilgrims made their way to Cape Cod.

The real hero of this balanced and well-research story is Squanto, the Pawtuxet brave who shares his knowledge of plants, animals, and land with the struggling Pilgrims. Stunning land and seascape illustrations by Thomas Locker re-create the impressive splendor of the New World.

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