Saturday, November 16, 2013

The FOCAL Award Committee: We Have a Winner!

Being on the FOCAL Award committee is a little like being in a book club.  We read lots of books, talk about them–often with great passion–and then have the difficult task of choosing which one we like best. This year the winner is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, a book full of memorable characters and universal themes, with a window onto a period of history–the turbulent 1960's and Black Panther movement–seen through the eyes of three spunky girls sent from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, for the summer. We are delighted with our choice and looking forward to meeting Rita Williams-Garcia at the Award Luncheon on December 7th at the Border Grill, downtown Los Angeles, across from the Public Library. Please join us! (See below for link to details about the luncheon.)

This year’s FOCAL Award committee consisted of myself, past chair Nancy Reich, FOCAL President Caroline Gill, and members Marcia Melkonian, Lisa Schloss, Barbara Stone, Annette Goldsmith, Rachel Kitzmann and Alexandra Stewart--representing school, public and university libraries, classroom teachers, and writers. Each year the committee is given the task of choosing from a list of nominees (this year there were eleven), that includes both fiction and nonfiction ranging from picture books to novels. It is not an easy job, as every book we review has elements that recommend it. To qualify, the book must exhibit high standards of excellence in literature for young people, literary and/or artistic merit, interest and readability, universality, and California enrichment content. One Crazy Summer certainly did.

One Crazy Summer is beautifully written. We care for eleven-year old Delphine, in charge of her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. The committee felt that readers will identify with them as they adjust to life in a new place and to a mother they are meeting for the first time. The story is fiction, but the setting is real--from the People’s Center next to the library, to the park where the rally takes place at the end of the book. We felt that the book is a good introduction for kids to learn what it was like to live as a Black American in the 1960's. Most importantly, though, the  book is simply a good story–a page turner.

Essay contest: Part of the FOCAL Award is an essay contest for kids about why they would like to meet the author. We think that readers of One Crazy Summer will find plenty to write about! Winners are invited to the luncheon and sit with the author. We hope to see you there too!

See www.focalonline.org for details about the luncheon and essay contest.

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