Earlier this spring, some deeply purposeful accolades for distinctive children's books were quietly presented: The Jane Addams Book Awards. The awards are named in honor of the founder of the Hull-House settlement house in Chicago and the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1953, these awards have been given by the Jane Addams Peace Association to works for young people that, along with being beautifully written and illustrated, also call attention to, to borrow the Association's words, "the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and races."
This year, the awards were given to two books, one for younger and one for older children, about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, by Amy-Lee Tai, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino, tells its story, through bilingual Japanese and English texts, about one family's dislocation during the war years and the attempts by a young child, through whose eyes we experience these events, to understand what has happened to her world and how to find hope in it. Weedflower, by Cynthia Kadohata, set in an internment camp on the Mohave Indian reservation, is a novel for older children that looks, with penetrating clarity, at both racial discrimination, as well as the healing powers of nature and the possibility of friendship to bridge those gaps between cultures.
There were also four honor books named this year that you will find listed and described on the Jane Addams Book Awards website. Together, these recent books and the others that have received the awards over the years would make a valuable list for summer and, indeed, year-round reading for your whole family, and they should all be available at your local public libraries. These are books that will promote thought and discussions and awareness. Together, these works encourage those soul-searching questions that the very best children's books have always asked.
Copyright 2007© John Cech
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Friday, 29-Jun-2007 20:04:55 EDT