If you grew up in the ’90s, you might remember the Kids’ Choice Awards. It was the big TV awards show that was made just for kids on the Nickelodeon network. The show was filled with kids’ favorite music, shows, sports, celebrities and a whole lot of slime – Nick’s signature prank to pull in good fun. The best part of the show was that kids were both the audience and the awards committee, having voted for their favorites in advance. The awards show still takes place today; although I’m not certain if its popularity among young viewers has sustained the test of time.
Admittedly not to the same scale, Ohio also has awards chosen by kids for kids … for books! The Buckeye Book Awards were designed to encourage students in Ohio to read literature critically, to promote teacher and librarian involvement in young adult literature programs, and to commend authors of such literature.
Established in 1981 through a collaborative effort of several Ohio agencies, the program spends the majority of the year receiving nominations from students (and also teachers and librarians on behalf of their classrooms). The nomination period only closes for a five-day transition period in March to close one year’s nominations and open the next. From Sept. 1 through Nov. 10, the voting opens for the top five nominees and winners are announced in December.
Since students make all the nominations and vote for the winners, this award is especially meaningful to the authors and illustrators who receive the winning votes. The titles may not be the ones receiving Caldecott or other similar honors, but they are the ones that kids are reading and loving.
You can work with the little ones in your life to see if they’ve read any of the books on the list, read them together if they haven’t, and then guide them online to cast their vote for their favorite.
The full list of nominees is available online at BCBookAward.info. Look for the “Students” button to vote. All that’s required is the student’s current grade and zip code. They can cast a vote in just one age category, or multiple if they’ve read titles across a variety of age groups.
This year’s nominees include some very popular authors like Rick Riordan (“Daughter of the Deep”), Gary Paulsen (“Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood”), and Ryan T. Higgins (“The Bruce Swap”). Some titles bring back familiar characters in a series and others are new, stand-alone novels.
Today’s reading recommendations feature the nominees for Grades 3-5, but I’d encourage you to request titles from the full list at the BCBookAward.info website.
• “Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood” by Gary Paulsen. Beloved author Gary Paulsen portrays a series of life-altering moments from his turbulent childhood as his own original survival story. If not for his summer escape from a shockingly neglectful Chicago upbringing to a North Woods homestead at age five, there never would have been a “Hatchet.” Without the encouragement of the librarian who handed him his first book at age thirteen, he may never have become a reader. And without his desperate teenage enlistment in the Army, he would not have discovered his true calling as a storyteller.
• “Inside Cat” by Brendan Wenzel. Told in rhyming text, Inside Cat views the world through many windows, watching the birds, squirrels, and people go by – but when the door opens it discovers a whole new view. As the cat wanders, wonders, stares, and snacks, roaming from room to room and place to place, both cat and reader discover worlds and sensations beyond what’s right in front of them. And just when Inside Cat is sure it knows everything, another surprise awaits!
• “Linked” by Gordon Korman. Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town. But it’s woken up very quickly when someone sneaks into school and vandalizes it with a swastika. The mystery deepens as more swastikas begin to appear. Some students decide to fight back and start a project to bring people together instead of dividing them further. The closer Link, Michael, and Dana get to the truth, the more there is to face – not just the crimes of the present, but the crimes of the past.
• “Pity Party” by Kathleen Lane. Welcome to “Pity Party,” where the social anxieties that plague us all are twisted into funny, deeply resonant, and ultimately reassuring psychological thrills. There’s a story about a mood ring that tells the absolute truth. One about social media followers who literally follow you around. And one about a kid whose wish for a new, improved self is answered when a mysterious box arrives in the mail. Delightfully dark stories ultimately offer a life-affirming reminder that there is hope and humor to be found amid our misery.
• “Red, White, and Whole” by Rajani Larocca. Told in verse, Reha, already dealing with being the only Indian American student in middle school, must now take care of her mother diagnosed with leukemia. Young Reha commits herself to a future different from her dreams when she decides to help make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.