Monday, January 7, 2008

Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award

ETA (Jan. 28): If you're looking for the list of the 2009 Rebecca Caudill nominees, you can find it here! Happy Caudill reading!

Ahhh... Award season. The Cybils shortlists have been announced. Best-of lists are bouncing all over the web. We're right around the corner from the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Coretta Scott King, Odyssey, etc. But the award I want to write about is one that is near and dear to my heart (at least for the past year since I moved to Illinois): the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award.

Now, sometimes we get parents coming in to the library looking for a list of good books for their middle-grade readers. Nothing seems to satisfy quite like a list of award-winners and often parents ask for a list of the Newbery winners. I love the Newberys as much as the next librarian, but you have to admit that not all of them have great child-appeal. One option is to hand them a list of your local kids' choice award books. In Illinois, this is the Caudill.

The Caudill award is a state book award in Illinois for kids in grades 4-8. Every year there is a list of 20 nominated titles. These can be fiction or non-fiction (incidentally, the 2008 nominees are all fiction). The books are nominated by students, teachers, and librarians, and a committee made up of teachers and librarians from all over Illinois whittles the list down to 20 nominees. Any student that has read or heard at least 3 titles from the list is eligible to vote and the votes are tallied at the end of February. (You can read more about official rules and all that jazz here if you're interested.)

The Caudills were big in my library this year. Over the summer, teachers in our school district could earn a Continuing Education credit if they read a certain number of nominated books. We've also had various schools offering extra credit for reading Caudill books or assigning Caudill books.

(It struck me as funny that kids from one of our middle schools were coming in and telling us that if they read all 20 Caudill nominees, they would be exempt from one assignment in their English class... I love that they want to read Caudills, but don't they realize that it's probably a lot more work to read 20 books than it would be to do the one assignment??)

ANYhoo. The great thing about the Caudill is that it gives you a great list of 20 books that kids will probably like. They are books that are nominated by kids and people who love kids. Unlike the Newbery, which is based on "distinguished contributions", the Caudill is simply about books that kids LIKE. Books they want to read. Books that are awesome.

The list of 2008 nominees has some great books on it. I didn't read all of them this year. I read 15 of the 20. Some of my favorites were Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick; East by Edith Pattou; Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach; Princess Academy by Shannon Hale; and Adam Canfield of the Slash by Michael Winerip. If I had to guess which book would win based on our circs at my library, I would have to say Princess Academy or The Ruins of Gorlan. We absolutely could not keep those titles on the shelves. You can see a list of previous winners here. Previous winners include such notable titles as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Giver, Matilda, Eragon, and Stormbreaker. (See? Awesome books...!)

One of my favorite games of late is to think about which books might be on the nominated list for 2009. We won't know for a couple of months yet, but I've got a couple of guesses: Whittington by Alan Armstrong, Firegirl by Tony Abbot, Larger-Than-Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall, Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson.... I could go on and on...

The moral of this post is that I think the Caudill award rocks. Even if schools in your area don't participate in a kids' choice award or a state book award, the nominated lists can be really useful in finding recommendations for kids and for parents. There's a nifty list of state book awards on Cynthia Leitich Smith's site. Check out the lists of current nominees for some top-notch recommendations.

Happy reading... and I'll be back in late February or early March to report the results of this year's Caudill voting!