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Bank Street Celebrates the 2014 Children’s Book Committee Book Awards

March 24, 2014

On March 6, the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee presented awards to its choices for the best children’s books of the year in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.

Michelle Markel, Joyce Sidman, Pamela Zagarenski

Michelle Markel, Joyce Sidman, Pamela Zagarenski

Michelle Markel accepted the 2014 Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for “a nonfiction book that serves as an inspiration to young readers,” Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (who was unable to attend), published by Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins. She said, “I want children to read my stories and feel them. I look for stories children can relate to and that I can tell in 900 words or so.” Although some of the obstacles Clara Lemlich faced are difficult to share with children (such as the physical abuse she sustained while on strike), Markel explained, “Children couldn’t know her bravery without also knowing the strength of her adversary.” The author closed on a lighter note that shed light on the woman Clara Lemlich became: Even in her retirement home, Lemlich organized the orderlies, Markel reported.

Michelle Markel

Michelle Markel

No strangers to the Claudia Lewis Award for the best poetry book of the year, Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski were both present to accept the 2014 award for What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). They have won for two previous collaborations: This Is Just to Say and Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors (both also published by Houghton Mifflin/HMH). Sidman said that the collection began with the poem “Chant Against the Dark,” followed by “Sleep Charm,” and “Invitation to Lost Things” came to her when her keys went missing. She sent them off to her editor, Ann Rider, who told Sidman to keep writing, and added “I can see this almost like a prayer-book to carry and pull out when you need it.” Later that morning, when Sidman and Zagarenski visited the 11s/12s, one of the students asked Zagarenski why she uses crowns in so many of her illustrations. She replied that a crown signifies the “invisible specialness” of each living creature.

Joyce Sidman

Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski

Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski

Elizabeth Wein won the 2014 Josette Frank Award for her book Rose under Fire (Hyperion/Disney). The Josette Frank Award honors “a book of “literary merit in which children or young people deal in a positive and realistic way with difficulties in their world and grow emotionally and morally.” Although she visited Bank Street at the end of February from her home in Scotland, Wein was unable to be present for the awards ceremony. However, she prepared some remarks and shared with us her inspiration for the book and some mementos she had collected from the grounds of Ravensbrück while she was conducting her research.


The Children's Book Committee members gather after the ceremony.

Children’s Book Committee members gather after the ceremony.

The complete list of recommended titles published in 2013 will be available soon on the Children’s Book Committee website.

–Jennifer M. Brown

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