This is amazing good news. Great news, in fact. I’m happy and proud to say that my book, Bystander, is included on the ballot for the 2012 New York State Reading Association Charlotte Award.
To learn more about the award, and to download a ballot or bookmark, please click here.
The voting is broken down into four categories and includes forty books. Bystander is in the “Grades 6-8/Middle School” category. Really, it’s staggering. There are ten books in this category out of literally an infinity of titles published each year. You do the math, people.
For more background stories on Bystander — that cool inside info you can only find on the interwebs! — please click here (bully memory) and here (my brother John) and here (Nixon’s dog, Checkers) and here (the tyranny of silence).
Below please find all the books on the ballot — congratulations, authors & illustrators! I’m honored to be in your company.
GRADES pre K-2/PRIMARY
Bubble Trouble . . . Margaret Mahy/Polly Dunbar
City Dog, Country Frog . . . Mo Willems/Jon J Muth
Clever Jack Takes the Cake . . . Candace Fleming/G. Brian Karas
Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes . . . Margie Palatini/Barry Moser
Memoirs of a Goldfish . . . Devin Scillian/Tim Bower
Otis . . . Loren LongStars Above Us . . . Geoffrey Norman/E.B. Lewis
That Cat Can’t Stay . . . Thad Krasnesky/David Parkins
Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! . . . April Pulley Sayre/Annie Patterson
We Planted a Tree . . . Diane Muldrow/Bob Staake
The Can Man . . . Laura E. Williams/Craig Orback L
Emily’s Fortune . . . Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Family Reminders . . .
Laura E. Williams, illustrated by Craig Orback,
The Can Man
Lee and Low Books, 2010.
In Laura E. Williams’ The Can Man, a young boy awakens to compassion. Tim’s bi-racial family remembers when Mr. Peters lived in their building, so they don’t respond to him as the homeless can collector he’s become since he lost his job. Plot tension develops quickly: Tim wants a skateboard for his birthday; his family, not well off themselves, can’t afford it, and Tim’s solution is morally dubious.
Craig Orback’s respectful, sensitive oil paintings depict life in a tree-lined neighborhood of neat three-story apartment buildings. One day Tim gets an idea, and while young readers will identify with his excitement as he begins to collect cans himself to earn money, they’ll also experience an unsettling prick of conscience, for Tim hasn’t realized, as they will have, that he’s taking the cans Mr. Peters relies on for income.
The neighborhood grocer and Tim’s mom both mention that Mr. Peters usually collects those cans, but Tim’s fixation on the skateboard has deafened his conscience. It’s only when he runs into Mr. Peters himself, clutching at his tattered coat on a winter Saturday, his shopping cart nearly empty, that Tim begins to consider the consequences of his greed.
Orback and Williams, who have each won numerous awards for their respective projects, make a fine team for The Can Man. Both Mr. Peters and Tim get what they need by the end of the story. Between the lines and through the images, an unspoken message is that young people develop moral sensitivity through the example of their elders. Tim has wise role models in his mother and the grocer as well as in Mr. Peters, whose humanity shines through despite potentially embittering circumstances. Tim is a fortunate boy, and young readers will likely take in many levels of meaning from this subtle, powerful story.