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Contacts: Macey Morales/Jennifer Petersen
ALA Media Relations

For Immediate Release,
January 14, 2008

Schlitz, Selznick win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

PHILADELPHIA - Laura Amy Schlitz, author of “Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village,” and Brian Selznick, illustrator of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” are the 2008 winners of the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals, the most prestigious awards in children's literature.

Schlitz and Selznick were among the award winners announced January 14 by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, January 11 - 16. Considered the “Academy Awards” of children's book publishing, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals honor outstanding writing and illustration of works published in the United States during the previous year.

In “Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village,” thirteenth-century England springs to life using 21 dramatic individual narratives that introduce young inhabitants of village and manor; from Hugo, the lord's nephew, to Nelly, the sniggler. Schlitz's elegant monologues and dialogues draw back the curtain on the period, revealing character and relationships, hinting at stories untold. Explanatory interludes add information and round out this historical and theatrical presentation.

“Schlitz adds a new dimension to books for young readers - performance,” said Committee Chair Nina Lindsay. “Varied poetic forms and styles offer humor, pathos and true insight into the human condition. Each entry is superb in itself, and together the pieces create a pageant that transports readers to a different time and place.”

Schlitz is a professional storyteller, playwright, novelist and a librarian at the Park School in Baltimore. The book is published by Candlewick.

The 2008 Caldecott Medal for illustration was awarded to Brian Selznick for “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” published by Scholastic. From an opening shot of the full moon setting over an awakening Paris in 1931, this tale casts a new light on the picture book form. Hugo is a young orphan secretly living in the walls of a train station where he labors to complete a mysterious invention left by his father. In a work of more than 500 pages, the suspenseful text and wordless double-page spreads narrate the tale in turns. Neither words nor pictures alone tell this story, which is filled with cinematic intrigue. Black & white pencil illustrations evoke the flickering images of the silent films to which the book pays homage. Selznick has won a previous Caldecott Honor Award for “The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins,” in 2002, as well as numerous other awards. Selznick splits his time between Brooklyn and San Diego.

“Selznick's brilliant use of perspective heightens the book's drama as well as the sense that another surprise is just around the page turn,” said Caldecott Award Committee Chair Karen Breen.

Three Newbery Honor Books were named: “Elijah of Buxton” by Christopher Paul Curtis, published by Scholastic; “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt, published by Clarion and “Feathers” by Jacqueline Woodson, published by Putnam.

In “Elijah of Buxton,” Elijah is the first free-born child in Buxton, a Canadian community of escaped slaves, in 1860. With masterful storytelling, vibrant humor, and poignant insight into the realities of slavery and the meaning of freedom, Curtis takes readers on a journey that transforms a “fra-gile” 11-year-old boy into a courageous hero.

In Schmidt's “The Wednesday Wars,” seventh-grader, Holling Hoodhood, is convinced his teacher hates him. Through their Wednesday afternoon Shakespeare sessions she helps him cope with events both wildly funny and deadly serious. “To thine own self be true” is just one of the life lessons he learns.

Jacqueline Woodson's “Feathers” tells the story of how a new boy's arrival in a sixth-grade classroom helps Frannie recognize the barriers that separate people, and the importance of hope as a bridge. Transcendent imagery and lyrical prose deftly capture a girl learning to navigate the world through words.

Four Caldecott Honor Books were named: “Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad,” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine, and published by Scholastic; “First the Egg,” illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and published Roaring Brook/Neal Porter; “The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain,” illustrated and written by Peter Sís, and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Frances Foster; and “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity,” illustrated and written by Mo Willems, and published by Hyperion.

Inspired by an antique lithograph, Kadir Nelson has created dramatically luminous illustrations that portray Henry “Box” Brown's ingenious design to ship himself in a box from slavery to freedom. “Henry's Freedom Box” is Nelson's second Caldecott Honor Book, and he has won several Coretta Scott King awards; he lives in San Diego.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger's innovative concept book on transformations, “First the Egg” uses strategically placed die-cuts to provide an astonishing visual explication of the word “then.” Her richly textured brushstrokes creatively reveal the process of metamorphosis for young readers. The recipient of numerous Children's Notable Book designations from the ALA, Seeger resides on Long Island.

Peter Sís's “The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain,” a graphic memoir of his youth in Prague, brilliantly weds artistic and design choices to content: tight little panels with officious lines and red punctuation; full-bleed line-and-watercolor spreads of nightmares and dreams; color and absence of color. Sís has won innumerable honors, including two Caldecott Honors and a MacArthur Fellowship, and lives with his family in New York's Hudson Valley.

Willems sets the stage for one of the most dramatic double-paged spreads in picture-book history in “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity.” Masterful photo collages take Trixie and her daddy through their now-familiar Brooklyn neighborhood to the Pre-K class where Trixie discovers that her beloved Knuffle Bunny is not “so one-of-a-kind anymore.” Willems is also the creator of “Don't Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus” and “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale,” both past Caldecott Honor Books.

Members of the 2008 Newbery Award Committee are: Chair Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, Calif.; Yolanda Foster Bolden, Forsyth County Public Library, Winston Salem, N.C.; Barbara Jones Clark, Birmingham Public Schools, Southfield, Mich.; Monica Edinger, The Dalton School, New York; Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library; Tami Chumbley Finley, Bettendorf Public Library, Bettendorf, Iowa; Kathleen Isaacs, children's literature specialist, Pasadena, Md.; Bonnie Kunzel, youth services adolescent literacy consultant, Germantown, Tenn.; Cindy Lombardo, Cleveland Public Library, Ohio; Martha V. Parravano, The Horn Book Magazine, Boston; Michael Santangelo, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Victor L. Schill, Harris County Public Library, Houston; Dean Schneider, Ensworth School, Nashville, Tenn.; Luann Toth, School Library Journal, New York; Maureen White, associate professor, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Canyon, Texas.

Members of the 2008 Caldecott Award Committee are: Chair Karen Breen, Kirkus Reviews, New York, N.Y.; Ilene Abramson, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles; Marilyn Ackerman, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Irene L. Briggs, Prince George's County Library, Hyattsville, Md.; Jos N. Holman, Tippecanoe County Public Library, Lafayette, Ind.; Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Charlottesville, Va.; Debbie McLeod, Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, Kan.; Sue McCleaf Nespeca, Youngstown, Ohio; Rhonda Puntney, Lakeshore Library System, Waterford, Wis.; Sue Rokos, Mohawk Valley Library System, Delanson, N.Y.; Ken Setterington, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, Ont., Canada; Megan Smith, Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center, Fayetteville, N.C.; Vicky Smith, McArthur Public Library, Biddeford, Maine; Roger Sutton, The Horn Book Magazine, Boston; and Roberto Zapata, San Antonio Public Library, San Antonio.


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