Alice B. McGinty | Two American Library Association award-winners to check out

Alice B. McGinty | Two American Library Association award-winners to check out

In browsing through many of the 2018 American Library Association award-winning books, here are two that caught my eye.

The Caldecott Honor book, “A Different Pond” (2017, Capstone Young Readers, written by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, ages 5-11) brings us into the early morning of a Vietnamese family as a father quietly wakes his son in their small city apartment to go fishing. Driving along deserted streets, dad tells stories. The thoughtful narrator reflects, “A kid at my school said my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.”

Walking through “tangle and scrub” to the fishing pond, the illustrations bring the dark silence of the pond to life. “Bui’s evocative thick black ink brushstrokes with graphic novel panels create a cinematic experience, powerfully capturing facial expressions, mood and quiet moments,” the award committee states.

With stars twinkling “like freckles,” the father fishes for food for their struggling family and reminisces about the pond in Vietnam where he used to fish. “With your brother?” his son asks. Dad nods, but says no more. He rarely talks about his brother and the war where they’d fought side by side ... until his brother did not return.

After catching several large crappies, the pair returns home. Both parents leave for work, and the narrator (watched by older siblings) looks forward to their fish dinner together. “Good fish,” his father will say to him. “And I will smile and nod, and later, when we sleep, we will dream of fish in faraway ponds.”

An author’s note recalls his father’s experience and struggles as in immigrant, and their fishing trips, which this story portrays. The book is dedicated by the author, “For my family, and for refugees everywhere.”

Next is a 2018 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, awarded to the most distinguished informational books published in the United States.  

“Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix” (2017, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One, Readers to Eaters, ages 6-10)  is a biography that introduces the reader to an immigrant from Seoul, Korea, who came with his family to Los Angeles when he was only 2. After years of trying to find his path, he became a fancy chef ... but wanted to do something else with his skills.

The musical free verse text, exploding with energy on the page, reads, “Chef Roy Choi can chop an onion in an instant, carve a mouse out of a mushroom. He’s cooked in fancy restaurants, for rock stars and royalty. But he’d rather cook on a truck.”

So Choi and a partner develop a fleet of food trucks that mix elements of Mexican and Korean food.

“Roy calls himself a ‘street cook.’  And he wants to cook for everyone,” the text reads. Bringing his trucks to the poor, overlooked neighborhoods of Los Angeles, “He used mad chef’s skills to build flavor ... to create ‘Los Angeles on a plate’ -- Korean short ribs, crispy slaw on corn tortillas, with a squirt of Roy’s Awesome Sauce.”

The unique illustrations, created by a pioneer of Los Angeles graffiti art, have a wild, comic book energy, set against a background of spray-paint on canvas to convey music, motion, food and urban life.

“Part biography, part culinary adventure, this vibrant and energetic book captures the essence of the L.A. street food scene. Graffiti-inspired art and hip-hop flavored text blend food, community and identity into a delicious feast for the eyes and ears that reflects the melting pot of America,” the award committee says of this unique book.

Alice B. McGinty (, is the award-winning author of over 40 books for children, and named the recipient of the 2017 Illinois Reading Council’s Prairie State Award for Excellence in Writing for Children. Each summer, Ms. McGinty runs a writing camp for teens called Words on Fire.

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