As the galaxy of books for children has expanded, parents and young readers have come to rely on the annual children's literature awards to identify the bright stars.
The most prestigious of these honors, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, were awarded to a relatively unknown author and illustrator this month by the American Library Association.
Sharon Creech won the John Newbery Medal for her novel ``Walk Two Moons,'' which is written for readers in Grades 6 to 9. The book, published by HarperCollins, tells the story of a 13-year-old American Indian, Salamanca Tree Hiddle. As Sal travels with her eccentric grandparents from Ohio to Idaho to visit her mother, she tells the story of her friend Phoebe Winterbottom and her disappearing mother. ``Walk Two Moons'' is Creech's first book published in the United States.
Illustrator David Diaz received the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book, ``Smoky Night,'' (Harcourt Brace) by Eve Bunting. His mixed-media collages portray a night of urban rioting from a child's perspective. This is his first fully illustrated picture book.
The Newbery Committee also named two authors as runners-up for the medal. The Newbery Honor Books are Karen Cushman's first novel, ``Catherine, Called Birdy'' (Clarion Books), and Nancy Farmer's second novel, ``The Ear, the Eye and the Arm'' (Richard Jackson/Orchard Books).
The Caldecott Committee's three Honor Awards went to illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky for ``Swamp Angel'' (Dutton) by Anne Issacs, Jerry Pinkney for ``John Henry'' (Dial Books) by Julius Lester, and Eric Rohmann, author and illustrator of ``Time Flies'' (Crown).