The Schneider Family Book Awards were announced at the American Library Associations Midwinter conference. I think they hold this conference in January because I can’t think of a better way to spend winter than reading books.
Of course, I was excited to hear all the Newberry and Caldecott winners as well. And thanks to my friend Janssen at Everyday Reading I already had the Caldecott winner Hello, Lighthouse in my stack of library books. It is a beautiful read! Of course, the Newberry winner Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina looks interesting as well. But my interest is always in the Schneider Family Book Awards.
The Schneider Family Book Award is, “for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.” And in case you’re new around here, I will explain why that interests me.
I think literature should mirror one’s own experiences on occasion, and occasionally it should push the boundaries of what you know. But to read literature and never see anyone like you in a book is a hollow experience. It can turn a child away from reading. So when I found an award that celebrates diversity and characters with disabilities, I rejoiced.
My children need to read books like that. More people need to read books like that. Did you know that 1 in 20 people have a disability of some sort? That gives 19 of us the opportunity to learn about having a disability by reading these award-winning books.
Young Children Category
The book Rescue & Jessica A Life-Changing Friendship written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon was the winner this year. Jessica and Patrick are real-life survivors and amputees from the Boston Marathon bombing. In their story, they write about Jessica, who loses both legs and learns to walk again with the help of her dog, Rescue.
One surprise for me this year is that extra honor books were chosen in each category. In the category of young children, the honor book selected was The Remember Balloons, written by Jessie Oliveros and illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte. In this beautifully illustrated book, a young boy loves looking at all the memories in his grandfather’s balloons. But his grandfather begins to lose his memories and he worries that he will forget the times they shared together. This book reminded me of my own grandfather’s memory loss, and I may have cried right there in the library. I can see why this was awarded an honor.
Middle Grades Category
The selected winner for middle grades was The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, written by Leslie Connor. Mason is a large, lonely, and often bullied sixth grader who lost his best friend last year in a suspicious accident. He has some learning disabilities and struggles at school. When his new friend goes missing, the police and others begin asking Mason hard questions. This book is a beautiful book about friendship and truth. I enjoyed reading it and thought Mason was an amazing character.
The Collectors, written by Jacqueline West, was the selected honor book. In this fantasy tale, Van learns about the power of wishes and how sometimes, they can go so very wrong! When someone tells Van, who is hard of hearing, that he wishes Van had full hearing, he says: “Why does everybody think I want to hear the way THEY do?!” I will be thinking about the power of this line for a long time.
Anger is a Gift, written by Mark Oshiro, was the teen category winner. This book is definitely for older teens given the nature of the content. Moss has anxiety attacks from when his father was killed by police years ago. Anxiety is such a relevant topic for today’s teens, and I really was glad to see this topic addressed.
(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health edited by Kelly Jensen was an honor book. This book is different from those chosen in the past, as it is not a work of fiction, but a selection of essays written by actors, authors, athletes, and artists with a diversity of disabilities. I think this is a great read for teens and parents. I loved the viewpoints expressed in these essays and the resources many of the authors listed.
Congratulations to all the winners this year and to the Schneider Family Award panel. They chose some amazing, diverse books this year!