Annal: 2003 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2003.

Book:The Canning Season

The Canning Season

Polly Horvath

Love under trying circumstances

One night out of the blue, Ratchet Clark’s ill-natured mother tells her that Ratchet will be leaving their Pensacola apartment momentarily to take the train up north. There she will spend the summer with her aged relatives Penpen and Tilly, inseparable twins who couldn’t look more different from each other. Staying at their secluded house, Ratchet is treated to a passel of strange family history and local lore, along with heaps of generosity and care that she has never experienced before. Also, Penpen has recently espoused a new philosophy – whatever shows up on your doorstep you have to let in. Through thick wilderness, down forgotten, bear-ridden roads, come a variety of characters, drawn to Penpen and Tilly’s open door. It is with vast reservations that the cautious Tilly allows these unwelcome guests in. But it turns out that unwelcome guests may bring the greatest gifts.

By turns dark and humorous, Polly Horvath offers adolescent readers enough quirky characters and outrageous situations to leave them reeling!

Book:An American Plague

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

Jim Murphy

1793, Philadelphia. The nation’s capital and the largest city in North America is devastated by an apparently incurable disease, cause unknown…

In a powerful, dramatic narrative, critically acclaimed author Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on the city”s residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. Drawing on first-hand accounts, Murphy spotlights the heroic role of Philadelphia”s free blacks in combating the disease, and the Constitutional crisis that President Washington faced when he was forced to leave the city—and all his papers—while escaping the deadly contagion. The search for the fever”s causes and cure, not found for more than a century afterward, provides a suspenseful counterpoint to this riveting true story of a city under siege. …[more]

Book:Breakout

Breakout

Paul Fleischman

Del has spent 17 years bouncing among foster homes. Smart, sharp-tongued, a master mimic, she’s fed up with her world and with being Del. Faking her own death, she leaves both herself and L.A. behind — until her escape lands her in an all-day traffic jam. Fast-forward eight years. It’s opening night for the one-woman play she’s written and is starring in — a show called Breakout, about a Los Angeles traffic jam. Wildly funny, she skewers workaholics, road ragers, pickup artists, and car culture in general. Readers will see what her audience can’t — that the show is a portrait of herself, of her hunger for her mother and her terror of rejection, her free-floating identity and yearning for connection. Flashing between Del’s present and future, Breakout gives us a backstage pass into a young playwright’s psyche, letting us watch her life being transformed into an art, heartache into comedy, solitude into community, and anger gradually giving way to acceptance.

Book:Locomotion

Locomotion

Jacqueline Woodson

When Lonnie was seven years old, his parents died in a fire. Now he’s eleven, and he still misses them terribly. And he misses his little sister, Lili, who was put into a different foster home because “not a lot of people want boys-not foster boys that ain’t babies.” But Lonnie hasn’t given up. His foster mother, Miss Edna, is growing on him. She’s already raised two sons and she seems to know what makes them tick. And his teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper.

Told entirely through Lonnie’s poetry, we see his heartbreak over his lost family, his thoughtful perspective on the world around him, and most of all his love for Lili and his determination to one day put at least half of their family back together. Jacqueline Woodson’s poignant story of love, loss, and hope is lyrically written and enormously accessible.

Book:The River Between Us

The River Between Us

Richard Peck

Richard Peck is a master of stories about people in transition, but perhaps never before has he told a tale of such dramatic change as this one, set during the first year of the Civil War. The whole country is changing in 1861-even the folks from a muddy little Illinois settlement on the banks of the Mississippi. Here, fifteen-year-old Tilly Pruitt frets over the fact that her brother is dreaming of being a soldier and that her sister is prone to supernatural visions. A boy named Curry could possibly become a distraction.

Then a steamboat whistle splits the air. The Rob Roy from New Orleans docks at the landing, and off the boat step two remarkable figures: a vibrant, commanding young lady in a rustling hoop skirt and a darker, silent woman in a plain cloak, with a bandanna wrapped around her head. Who are these two fascinating strangers? And is the darker woman a slave, standing now on the free…[more]

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