Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Makes an Award-winning Nonfiction Book for Children?

Last weekend, Alexis O'Neill, Mary Ann Fraser and I presented a talk on Funding Author Visits at the CRA (California Reading Association) conference in Riverside.

Here we are with the Barnes & Noble booksellers.

One of the highlights of the event was a session introducing this year's CRA's Eureka! Awards for Nonfiction. Coordinators Sandra Yoon, Helen Foster James, and Armin Schulz gave us insights into why the books were chosen.

Factors included:

1. Tie in with the curriculum, and/or with excellent fiction (Larry Dane Brimner's Birmingham Sunday, for example, would pair up nicely with The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis). Several titles were recommended for Women's History Month.

2. Innovative, appealing book design and illustration.

3. Unusual take on biography (The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)).

4. Relevant for a range of grade levels.

5. Dramatic narrative (or poetry) was enhanced by factoid sidebars (in one case including photos).

6. Useful, accessible glossary of terms.

7. Subject matter pertinent to their students' cultural background.

8. Inspirational story with kid appeal (Pierre the Penguin).

It was a pleasure to learn what leading educators value in nonfiction, and to hear so much excitement and praise for it. Kudos to the committee for all the time and thought they spent on bestowing these awards.

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