To continue introducing you to the winners of the 2021 American Library Association awards, here are two more deserving picture books, which each won awards.
The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children was given to “Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera” (2020, Neal Porter Books, written by Illinois author Candace Fleming and illustrated by her partner, award-winning illustrator Eric Rohmann, ages 4-10).
We begin on a summer morning deep in the nest when a brand-new honeybee “squirms, pushes, chews through the wax cap of her solitary cell and into … a teeming, trembling flurry.”
Rohmann’s detailed illustrations share a stunning, close-up view of the honeybee pushing through the cell of the hive.
The poetic text introduces us to Apis, as she’s known throughout the rest of the book, and follows her in a personal, close-up narrative as she rests in the busy hive then eats and begins to grow strong.
“Strong enough for flying?” the text asks. “Not yet … cleaning comes first.”
After hearing just enough detail to satisfy the most curious of young readers how she cleans the hive, we move to her next job. “Flying?”
Not yet. We follow her day by day as she nurses the larvae, helps tend to the queen, building the comb, and guarding the nest.
“At last, on the twenty-fifth day of her life — with the sun just rising and the dew still drying — she leaps from the nest and … Flies!”
The pages unfold into a long, glorious spread. And off flies Apis, searching for nectar.
“Her antennae taste the breeze.” After her work, does Apis rest? “No … she will dance!” — to show the other bees where to find the nectar.
After flying over 500 miles in all, 35-day-old Apis “… grows thinner and slower ... Her wings fray and tatter.”
This beautifully-crafted book ends by following Apis to her death (“She stills.”) and beginning the cycle again as a brand-new honeybee “squirms, pushes, and chews” into the world.
The winner of the Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience was “I Talk Like a River” (2020, written by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith, Neal Porter Books, ages 5-10).
“I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me. And I can’t say them all,” our narrator says.
“The P in pine tree grows roots inside my mouth and tangles my tongue.”
Muted watercolor art brings us into the character’s world as he stays “quiet as a stone” and hides in the back of class at school.
But when the teacher asks him a question, classmates turn to look.
“All they hear is that I don’t talk like them. All they see is how strange my face looks and that I can’t hide how scared I am.”
Our character must tell the class about his favorite place, but it’s a “bad speech day.”
His dad picks him up and they go to the river. In the quiet, his father recognizes his sadness and says, “See how that water moves. That’s how you speak … Bubbling, churning, whirling, crashing.”
The river, proud, has rapids and a calm beyond the rapids. “This is how my mouth moves. This is how I speak. Even the river stutters. Like I do.”
The next day at school, our character tells the class about the river, ending by saying, “and I talk like a river.”
This empowering, compassionate, poetic book finishes with an author’s note in which the author explains his own experience with stuttering, which the story is based on.