I already posted about books I wish could win the Sibert but probably won’t. Here’s my list of books I hope are in the running:
A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrations by Sophie Blackall. This book has been the center of a firestorm because one of the families featured is an enslaved woman and her child. Many thoughtful commenters have been concerned that the book will cause pain to African American children, that its depiction of the mother smiling at her daughter, and of the two hiding to enjoy a taste of the dessert, will suggest that slavery is less than a brutal institution. Emily Jenkins, the author, has even apologized for the book.
I think, though, that it is a distinctive and fascinating book, elegantly structured. Don Tate has a thoughtful post about writing enslaved narratives, and I think many of his justifications for his artistic choices in Poet apply equally well to this book. Kelly Starling Lyons also dives into the issues, as she discusses her own books. The questions that remain for me are, first, can we write about slaves when the topic is not slavery? I surely hope so! Otherwise we eliminate many, many important stories and individuals from our collective memory. The second question is, can we write about ethnicities or races not our own? That’s a trickier question. I hope thoughtful writers can do so, being respectful of the traditions that those stories come from.
I hope that this wonderful book isn’t lost in the storm of controversy it has raised.
And now on to less controversial contenders…
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavolva by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad. Stunning text and perfect illustrations to accompany it. Nice back matter, too.
Funny Bones: Posada and his Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh. Fascinating biography of the illustrator of early twentieth century handbills for Day of the Dead. The illustrations combine Tonatiuh’s distinctive drawings with historical reproductions of the handbills. I love unexpected topics in nonfiction picture books, and this picture book delivers!
Trapped: A Whale’s Rescue by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor. Dramatic retelling of a news story, this is a gripping story, well-plotted, well-told, and well-illustrated.
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. Wonderful marriage of history and science, plus a surprise ending–just when you think the book is all about the scientific method, you find out it’s also about the placebo effect! I loved it.
In Mary’s Garden by Tina and Carson Kugler. I loved the simple language and gentle illustrations in this biography of Mary Nohl, a folk artist who built a quirky outdoor sculpture garden at her home. The back matter tells about the continuing furor over her work.
High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs by Lisa Kahn Schnell, and illustrated by Alan Marks. Lyrical text and luminous illustrations depict the web of dependency among horseshoe crabs, birds, and people. Extensive and fascinating back matter.
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. There aren’t too many picture books about court cases, but this is a well-crafted story of the Supreme Court case that did away with laws that prohibited interracial marriages. I was especially impressed with how ably Alko provided historical framework for young readers.
Tricky Vic: The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli. Such an unexpected topic! The biography of a con man. Pizzoli’s illustrations are fantastic and the story is almost unbelievable, but it’s all true! I liked the back matter where Pizzoli talks about his experiences while he researched the story.
Those are my favorites for the year (until I think of all the ones I forgot…)