The Association of Jewish Libraries announced the winners of the 2011 Sydney Taylor Book Award winners today:
Howard Schwartz and Kristina Swarner, author and illustrator of Gathering Sparks, Barry Deutsch, author and illustrator of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, and Dana Reinhardt, author of The Things a Brother Knows are the 2011 winners of the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience. The award memorializes Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. The winners will receive their awards at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Montreal this June.
Schwartz and Swarner will receive the 2011 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for Gathering Sparks, published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing. Both are second time winners. In 1992, Schwartz received the Sydney Taylor Book Award for The Diamond Tree: Jewish Tales from Around the World. Swarner earned the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Award for her illustrations in The Bedtime Sh’ma: A Goodnight Book by Sarah Gershman.
Gathering Sparks is based on a sixteenth century teaching of “tikkun olam,” or “repairing the world.” Committee member Debbie Colodny commented, “Schwartz spins a calming tale that suggests that the way to bring peace and well-being to our world is by doing good deeds and loving
one another… Swarner’s art and Schwartz’s poetic words interpret the concept of the vessel as a fleet of ships outlined in the night sky by millions of starry points of light.”
Deutsch will receive the 2011 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Older Readers Category for Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams Books. This is the first graphic novel to win the Award. Committee member Aimee Lurie noted, “Mirka is a clever, headstrong and imaginative heroine who will appeal to a wide audience. Teens who feel like they don’t fit in will have no trouble relating to her balancing what is best for her family versus her desire to fight dragons. Grounded in her religious beliefs, she is willing to put her fantasies aside to celebrate Shabbat. The illustrations strike the perfect balance of showing a realistic Orthodox community, while creating the perfect backdrop for a fairytale.”
Reinhardt will receive the 2011 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers Category for The Things a Brother Knows, published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Levi’s older brother Boaz is a military hero, and Levi has always lived in his shadow. Now Boaz is returning from war and it seems everyone thinks Levi is the luckiest boy in town. When Boaz refuses to engage with his family and barely leaves his room, Levi wonders if his brother will ever be normal. Committee member Rita Soltan said, “Reinhardt creates a moving portrayal of teen characters … She provides balance through Levi and Boaz’s Israeli grandfather, who served in Israel and has experienced war and suicide bombings. Realistic and subtle, her story unfolds with enough suspense, sardonic humor and pathos to keep readers focused until a conclusion that leaves room for pondering interpretation.” In 2007, Reinhardt earned a Sydney Taylor Honor Award for A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life.
Nine Sydney Taylor Honor Books were named for 2011. For Younger Readers, the Honor Award Winners are: Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book by Sarah Gershman with illustrations by Kristina Swarner (EKS Publishing), Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser with illustrations by Claire A. Nivola (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children), and Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale by Barbara Diamond Goldin with illustrations by Jaime Zollars (Marshall Cavendish Children). Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners for Older Readers include: Resistance by Carla Jablonski with art by Leland Purvis (First Second, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group), One Is Not a Lonely Number by Evelyn Krieger (YM Books, an imprint of YALDAH Media, Inc.), and Black Radishes by Susan Lynn Meyer (Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books). For Teen readers, the Honor Award Winners are: Hush by Eishes Chayil (Walker & Company, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing), Once by Morris Glietzman (Henry Holt and Company), and Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman (Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.).
In addition to the medal-winners, the Award Committee designated twenty-seven Notable Books of Jewish Content for 2011: thirteen in the Younger Readers Category, seven in the Older Readers Category, and seven for Teens. Notable titles, and more information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award, may be found online at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org.
A blog tour, featuring interviews with winning authors and illustrators, will take place in early February, with participation from a wide range of children’s literature, family interest, and Jewish blogs. The blog tour schedule will appear on the Association of Jewish Libraries’ blog “People of the Books” at JewishLibraries.org/blog.