Annal: 2003 Young Reader’s Choice Award Junior Division

Results of the Young Reader’s Choice Award in the year 2003.

Book:Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie

Kate DiCamillo

The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket-and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar.

Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends, and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship-and forgiveness-can sneak…[more]

Book:After Hamelin

After Hamelin

Bill Richardson

Implicit in many folk and fairy tales is the question, “Then what?”

After Hamelin picks up the story where the Robert Browning poem—or other tellings of The Pied Piper of Hamelin—leaves off. In a quest that is both contemporary and timeless, Richardson creates a magical world through inventive wordplay, uninhibited imagination and a facility with rhyme. Here is a raconteur who spins a narrative tale that takes readers into strange lands inhabited by unusual characters, both good and evil, where adventure abounds and unlikely saviors emerge.

Penelope is 101 years old, but she can remember the story like it happened yesterday. On the morning of her eleventh birthday, she wakes to discover she can no longer hear. It is on this same day that the Piper returns to Hamelin to spirit the children away in an evil act of revenge upon the townspeople. Spared because she is deaf to the Piper’s bewitching tune, Penelope is…[more]

Book:The Austere Academy

The Austere Academy: Book 5 of A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist

Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire arc intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.

Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.

It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

Book:The Doll People

The Doll People

Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin, Brian Selznick

Annabelle Doll is eight years old—she has been for more than a hundred years. Not a lot has happened to her, cooped up in the same dollhouse, with the same doll people day after day, year after year…until the Funcrafts move in! Now Annabelle has a friend! Sure, she’s made entirely of plastic, and she’s living in the scariest room in the house, but she’s an adventurer, and after a hundred years of boredom, an adventure is just what Annabelle needs.

When a secret diary surfaces, these two unlikely friends venture into the exciting and dangerous world outside the dollhouse to unravel an age-old mystery.

This masterfully plotted adventure is illustrated throughout with remarkable black-and-white illustrations.

Book:Don't Tell Anyone

Don't Tell Anyone

Peg Kehret

Megan makes daily visits to a vacant field to feed a group of feral cats. Then she learns that an apartment complex will be built there soon. Can Megan rescue the cats before the bulldozer levels their home?

Megan’s efforts to save the cats lead her into danger when she inadvertently thwarts the plans of an ex-convict who had depended on the money from the construction job to cover up his criminal dealings. He kidnaps Megan and takes her with him on a perilous nighttime flight in a stolen hot-air balloon. When the balloon lands in the wilderness, Megan has only her wits to help her escape.

Page-turning suspense, surprising plot twists, a warm-hearted animal rescue, and a plucky heroine who must outsmart the bad guy all play a part in Peg Kehret’s latest adventure.

Book:I Was a Rat!

I Was a Rat!

Philip Pullman

“I Was a Rat!” So insists a scruffy boy named Roger. Maybe it’s true. But what is he now? A terrifying monster running wild in the sewers? The Daily Scourge is sure of it. A victim of “Rodent Delusion”? The hospital nurse says yes. A lucrative fairground freak? He is to Mr. Tapscrew. A champion wriggler and a budding thief? That’s what Billy thinks. Or just an ordinary small boy, though a little ratty in his habits? Only three people believe this version of the story. And it may take a royal intervention—and a bit of magic—to convince the rest of the world.

Set against the backdrop of a Royal Wedding—and a playful parody of the press, I Was a Rat! is a magical weaving of humor, fairy tale, and adventure.

Book:Joey Pigza Loses Control

Joey Pigza Loses Control

Jack Gantos

When Joey Pigza meets his dad, Carter, for the first time in years, he meets a grownup version of his old hyperactive self—the way he was before his stint in special ed, the way he was before he got his new meds. “ He was wired, No doubt about it…, Now I knew what Mom meant when she said he was like me, only bigger.”

During their summer visit together, Carter is eager to make up to his son for past wrongs. He wants to teach Joey how to be a winner. He wants to show Joey how to take control of his own life. And Joey is willing to do whatever his dad says, even though—in this high-energy sequel to the acclaimed Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key—he fears it will do him more harm than good.

“All I could imagine was the worst part of me getting or a train a long ways off. That old Joey was coming to get me and I couldn’t do anything about it… There was nothing to do but wait, and worry.”

Book:Nory Ryan's Song

Nory Ryan's Song

Patricia Reilly Giff

Nory Ryan’s family has lived on Maidin Bay on the west coast of Ireland for generations, raising a pig and a few chickens, planting potatoes, getting by. Every year Nory’s father goes away on a fishing boat and returns with the rent money for the English lord who owns their cottage and fields, the English lord bent upon forcing the Irish from their land so he can tumble the cottages and clear the fields for grazing. Times are never easy on Maidin Bay, but this year, a terrible blight attacks the potatoes. No crop means starvation. Twelve-year-old Nory must summon the courage and ingenuity to find food, to find hope, to find a way to help her family survive.

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