First, I want to say that I am thrilled that people are making comments, and I am eager to see how this ideas and insights exchange evolves. I sense great potential here...
On to the Sutherland Awards. As many of you already know, we moved to Chicago last summer. Matt started his job as the high school principal at the University of Chicago Lab Schools in July, and Alex became a kindergartner at Lab in the fall.
There are many, many things to say about Lab, but I will limit my comments to the Sutherland Awards, an annual event in which Lab students become judges of children's literature. The whole Sutherland process is one that goes on for months, and it's extraordinary how students in grades 3rd-6th read, discuss, and evaluate picture books. I think it's fair to say that this is basically an Academy Awards for picture books, and you would very much think that too if you had been at the ceremony when the winning books were announced. The kids went crazy, and it was inspiring, almost overwhelming, to be in a room with a large group of kids so excited about books.
What I want to share with you here are the titles of the finalists and the winners, as you will then have a short list of some of this year's best picture books (worth buying in hard cover, as I just did). I imagine that many of you may have already encountered these terrific books.
The Lab librarians initially create a list of 15-16 books, and then the sixth grade committee narrows that list down to five titles, over many weeks. Students in grades 3-6, after studying the books themselves, vote.
Here are the five finalists and the winners:
Flotsam by David Wiesner (won Best Illustrations)
John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith (won Best Text and Best Overall)
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson
Probuditi! by Chris Van Allsburg
Wolves by Emily Gravett
One of the winning authors from the previous year is invited to Lab to make a presentation at the awards ceremony and to announce the new winners. Last year's winner for Best Text and Best Overall was Captain Arsenio: Inventions and (Mis)adventures in Flight, so Pablo Bernasconi came to Lab (all the way from Argentina).
I highly recommend this book as well. It is brilliant. I would also recommend another book by Lane Smith (done with Jon Scieszka) called Seen Art? -- just fabulous (about MOMA). All of these books are Alex-approved. He especially loves John, Paul, George, and Ben, which is a hilarious romp through early American history -- quite creatively re-imagined. Let's just say that there's a good underwear joke that six-year-old Alex is still laughing about two weeks after first meeting the book.