2023 Batchelder Award honors HarperCollins for 'Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II'

For Immediate Release
Mon, 01/30/2023


ALA Media Relations

Communications and Marketing Office

American Library Association


NEW ORLEANS — HarperCollins is the winner of the 2023 Mildred L. Batchelder Award for “Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II.” The award was announced today by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA’s LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience held January 27-30, in New Orleans.

The Batchelder Award is given to the most outstanding children’s book originating in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

Originally published in Italian in 2020 as “Una bambina e basta. Raccontata agli altri bambini e basta,” “Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II” was written by Lia Levi, illustrated by Jess Mason and translated by Sylvia Notini. During Mussolini’s reign, Lia and her family leave their home because of the persecution of Jews. Based on her adult memoir, Levi retells her story through the eyes of a young girl who experiences the racism and hatred of Jews during this period.

“The interpretation of the theme, the clarity of presentation and plot, and the believable voice of the narrator make this book a clear choice,” said Batchelder Award Committee Chair Barbara Scotto. 

Three Batchelder Honor Books also were selected: “Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War,” published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; “Dragonfly Eyes,” published by Candlewick Press; and “João by a Thread,” published by Elsewhere Editions.

Originally published in Spanish in 2020 as “Los distintos,” “Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War” was written by Mónica Montañés, illustrated by Eva Sánchez Gómez and translated by Lawrence Schimel. “Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War,” focuses on the daily life of siblings Paco and Socorro, whose lives are affected by their father’s political beliefs; details like Paco’s secret plan for stealing another’s lunch and Socorro’s cruel treatment at school emphasize the deprivation they faced during this time. The book alternates between Paco and Socorro’s voices and brings the Spanish Civil War to life for today’s children.

“’Different’ is a well-written story about the effect of war on the lives of children and their families,” said Scotto. 

Originally published in Chinese as “Glass-Eye Beads” in 2016, “Dragonfly Eyes” was written by Cao Wenxuan and translated by Helen Wang. “Dragonfly Eyes” is a beautifully written novel that spans three generations over a 50-year period and tells the story of a family whose wealth brings them great honor, yet during the Cultural Revolution their mixed heritage and possessions makes them a target for abuse and persecution. The evocative language allows readers to experience the settings in both France and China.

“Full of detail, the compelling story give the reader a sense of the insecurity and hatred that living in an unstable society can produce,” said Scotto.

Originally published in Portuguese in 2006 as “João por um Fio,” “João by a Thread” was written and illustrated by Roger Mello and translated by Daniel Hahn. João dreams of floating through watery landscapes covered by elaborate embroideries until a hole swallows them. Startled awake, he weaves words together into a comforting lullaby.  

“Mello’s artful use of word pictures conveys a child’s anxiety in a world unraveling and the comfort to be found in words,” said Scotto. 

Members of the 2023 Batchelder Award Committee are: Chair Barbara Scotto, Brookline, Massachusetts; Therese G. Bigelow, Coupeville, Washington; Doris J. Gebel, Rutgers University, Melfa, Virginia; Dr. Africa S. Hands, University at Buffalo, Louisville, Kentucky; and Dr. Terrell A. Young, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. 

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC members are committed to engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children. To learn more about ALSC, visit their website at www.ala.org/alsc.

For information on the Mildred L. Batchelder Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit www.ala.org/yma.



The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Founded on October 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” For more information, visit www.ala.org.

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