Avi, Rohmann win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

Contact: Paige Wasson



For Immediate Release

January 27, 2003

Avi, Rohmann win Newbery, Caldecott Medals

(PHILADELPHIA) - Avi, author of "Crispin: The Cross of Lead," and Eric Rohmann, illustrator and author of "My Friend Rabbit," are the 2003 winners of the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott medals, the most prestigious awards in children's literature.

Avi and Rohmann were among the award winners announced January 27 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 24-29. Considered the "Academy Awards" of children's book publishing, the 2003 Newbery and Caldecott medals honor outstanding writing and illustration of works published in the United States during the previous year.

"Crispin: The Cross of Lead," published by Hyperion Books for Children, is an action-filled page-turner set in 14th-century England. "Asta's son" is the only name the 13-year-old title character has ever known when he is suddenly orphaned and stripped of home and possessions. Accused of murder and wanted dead or alive, Crispin flees his village and falls in with a juggler, Bear, who becomes his protector and teacher. Relentlessly pursued by Crispin's enemies, the pair flees to solve the mystery of his identity and fight the injustices of feudalism.

"Avi masterfully creates a plot that sustains tension and suspense from beginning to end, while seamlessly weaving in details of daily medieval life," said Starr LaTronica, chair of the 2003 Newbery Award Committee. "Readers experience Crispin's surroundings through Avi's sensory descriptions; they see, hear, smell, taste and feel his world. In the hands of a superb craftsman, 'Crispin' is a fascinating coming-of-age novel that brings to readers a riveting adventure and invites them to consider how life hundreds of years ago echoes our contemporary search for freedom."

Avi is the author of more than 50 books for children and young adults, including "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" and "Nothing But the Truth," Newbery Honor Award winners. His work has earned numerous other prestigious awards, including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction, and is revered by children of all ages. Avi currently resides in Denver.

The 2003 Caldecott Medal for illustration was awarded to Eric Rohmann for "My Friend Rabbit," published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of The Millbrook Press. In the book, Mouse shares his brand-new toy airplane with his friend Rabbit, and no one can predict the disastrous-but hilarious-results. When the airplane lands in a tree, the chaos only builds as Rabbit drags, pushes and carries the whole neighborhood, including Elephant, Hippo and Crocodile, to the rescue. It's a lighthearted celebration of a friendship that will last - even if whatever Rabbit does and wherever he goes, trouble follows.

"Eric Rohmann's hand-colored relief prints express a vibrant energy through solid black outlines, lightly textured backgrounds and a robust use of color," said Pat Scales, chair of the 2003 Caldecott Award Committee. "The black frame cannot contain Rabbit's enthusiasm in this dramatic visual romp, as the characters tumble and spill from the page and back on again. The artist shows his respect for his audience and keen understanding of picture book design. Whatever they do and wherever they go, children will claim Rabbit as their friend."

Rohmann is the author and illustrator of two previous children's books, "The Cinder-Eyed Cats" and "Time Flies," which was a 1995 Caldecott Honor Book. He also has illustrated "The Prairie Train" by Antoine Ó'Flatharta. A painter, printmaker and fine bookmaker, Rohmann holds fine arts degrees from Arizona State University and Illinois State University. He lives in the Chicago area. "My Friend Rabbit" is his first book for Roaring Brook Press.

Five Newbery Honor Books were named: "The House of the Scorpion," by Nancy Farmer, A Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division; "Pictures of Hollis Woods," by Patricia Reilly Giff and published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.; "Hoot," by Carl Hiaasen and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.; "A Corner of the Universe," by Ann M. Martin and published by Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic Inc.; and "Surviving the Applewhites," by Stephanie S. Tolan and published by HarperCollins Children's Books, a division of HarperCollins.

  • "In the House of the Scorpion," Farmer tackles the provocative topics of cloning, the value of life, illegal immigration and the drug trade in a coming-of-age novel set in a desolate futuristic desert.
  • In "Pictures of Hollis Woods," the 12-year-old title character unfolds her story of foster care and a search for family in images from her sketchbook, which reveal both her memories and her artistic soul.
  • Hiaasen's wildly funny satire features the new kid, Roy, joining forces with tough Beatrice and the elusive Mullet Fingers to defeat a bully, thwart an avaricious corporation and save a colony of burrowing owls.
  • With the surprising arrival of a mentally disabled uncle, 12-year-old Hattie Owen's world is turned upside down in "A Corner of the Universe."
  • In "Surviving the Applewhites," Tolan features pierced and spike-haired Jake, who has been expelled from every possible public school before his unwilling arrival at Wit's End, N.C., and the homeschool run by the chaotic and outrageous Applewhite family.

Three Caldecott Honor Books were named: "The Spider and the Fly," illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, written by Mary Howitt and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; "Hondo & Fabian," illustrated and written by Peter McCarty and published by Henry Holt & Company, LCC; and "Noah's Ark," illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney and published by SeaStar Books, a division of North-South Books Inc.

  • "The Spider and the Fly," DiTerlizzi's wickedly delicious tribute to silent film - based on the cautionary tale penned by Mary Howitt in 1829 - presents an old-fashioned, cackling villain and a naïve damsel in distress in this ambient, moody picture book with all the allure of the flickering silver screen.
  • "Hondo & Fabian" skillfully interweaves a beach outing for the dog and a full day at home for the cat in this quiet tale of friendship with spare text and soft, flowing illustrations.
  • In "Noah's Ark," a strikingly beautiful rendition of Noah and the Great Flood, Pinkney has integrated the well-known story from Genesis with masterful pencil and watercolor illustration to create a stunning whole.

Members of the 2003 Newbery Award Committee are: Chair Starr LaTronica, Four County Library System, Vestal, N.Y.; Rita Auerbach, Manorhaven School, Port Washington, N.Y.; Susan Erickson, San Bernardino County (Calif.) Library; Mary Kay Feltes, Owatonna (Minn.) Public Library; Lee Galda, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis); Nancy J. Johnson, Western Washington University (Bellingham); Roger Kelly, Pasadena (Calif.) Public Library, Marijo Kist, Phoenix Public Library; Leslie M. Molnar, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library; Cecily Pilzer, Georgetown Day School, Washington, D.C.; Amy Sears, Teaneck (N.J.) Public Library; Kathy Toon, State Library of Florida (Tallahassee); Lisa Von Drasek, Bank Street College of Education, New York City; Jan Watkins, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library; and Gail Zachariah, Keene (N.H.) Public Library.

Members of the 2003 Caldecott Award Committee are: Chair Pat R. Scales, South Carolina's Governor's School of the Arts & Humanities; Diana M. Berry, DeKalb County (Ga.) School System; Barbara L. Brand, Johnson County (Kan.) Library-Blue Valley; Sandra Kennedy Bright, New York City Board of Education (Brooklyn); Candace E. Deisley, College of St. Rose-Neil Hellman Library, Albany, N.Y.; Caitlin E. Dixon, Pierce County (Wash.) Library; Celia Holm, New York Public Library-Mid-Manhattan; Erlene Bishop Killeen, Stoughton Area Schools (Wis.); Phyllis Mattill, Hennepin County (Minn.) Library; Walter Minkel, School Library Journal, New York; Torrey Postal, Tucson-Pima (Ariz.) County Library; Linda Staskus, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library; Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County (S.C.) Library; Bina Williams, Bridgeport (Conn.) Public Library; and Wendy Woodfill, Hennepin County (Minn.) Library.