Baltimore librarian wins Newbery medal

January 14, 2008 11:45:39 AM PST
A Baltimore librarian's classroom project is now part of publishing history. "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices From a Medieval Village," first conceived a decade ago by Laura Amy Schlitz, is this year's winner of the John Newbery Medal forbest children's book.

The Randolph Caldecott award for top picture book went to Brian Selznick's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," a 500-plus page hybrid of a graphic novel and traditional illustration about an orphan boy and a robot in Paris at the turn of the 20th century.

Also Monday, science fiction author Orson Scott Card won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for "lifetime achievement in writing for young adults." Mo Willems' "There Is a Bird in Your Head!" received the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for "the most distinguished book for beginning readers."

The awards were announced by the American Library Association, which is currently meeting in Philadelphia.

"Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!" began in 1997 at the Park School of Baltimore, where Schlitz has been working since the early 1990s. Working with fifth graders on the Middle Ages, she noticed the students were so enthusiastic, "going at it hammer and tongs," that she saw a chance to combine education and entertainment.

"I wanted them to have something to perform, but no one wanted a small part," Schlitz, who has written three other children's books, said in a statement issued Monday by the Park School. "So I decided to write monologues instead of one long play, so that for three minutes at least, every child could be a star."

The Coretta Scott King Book Award for best African American young adult author went to Christopher Paul Curtis for "Elijah of Buxton." Ashley Bryan's "Let It Shine" won the King award for illustration.

Walter Dean Myers, a frequent winner of children's book awards, was this year's recipient of the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award for "contributions to children's literature." Geraldine McCaughrean's "The White Darkness" won the Michael L. Printz Award for "excellence in literature written for young adults."

Previous winners of the Newbery, founded in 1922, include such favorites as Louis Sachar's "Holes" and Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time." The Caldecott prize, started in 1938, has been given to Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express" and Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings" among others.

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