Weekends with Max and His Dad, written by Linda Urban and illustrated by Katie Kath, and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is the winner of the 2017 Gryphon Award for Children’s Literature. The Gryphon Award, which includes a $1,000 prize, is given annually by The Center for Children's Books (CCB). This year's committee was chaired by Assistant Professor Deborah Stevenson, CCB director, and Kate Quealy-Gainer, assistant editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.
The prize is awarded to the author of an outstanding English-language work of fiction or nonfiction, for which the primary audience is children in kindergarten through fourth grade, that best exemplifies those qualities that successfully bridge the gap in difficulty between books for reading aloud to children and books for practiced readers. With a core of regular committee members, the award has become a way to contribute to an ongoing conversation about literature for inexperienced readers and to draw attention to the literature that offers—in many different ways—originality, accessibility, and high quality for that audience.
"Urban's book is an absolutely classic chapter book, yet it's also completely contemporary," said Stevenson. "Third-grader Max is adjusting to the new reality of his parents' divorce in this story focused on the time he spends with his father, and Urban deftly employs small details and pays careful attention to Max's emotions as father and son forge their relationship on new grounds. The prose is inviting and cozy, humorous and respectful, with a smooth flow and careful pacing that will give transitional readers plenty of momentum and frequent rewards."
- Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan (Dlouhy/Atheneum), written by Frances O’Roark Dowell and illustrated by Amy June, features young Sam and his efforts to become a "chicken expert" with his acquisition of Helga, a hen reputed to lay blue eggs. Brief chapters and a spirited cast of characters lend a simple ease to this story.
- Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems (Roaring Brook), by Bob Raczka, offers poetry that packs a double punch—first with the deft shaping of the verses themselves, and secondly with visual twists built into each piece, using pictographic clues to help young readers along.
The Gryphon Award was established in 2004 as a way to focus attention on transitional reading. "These are some of the most important books children will ever read," Stevenson said. "We love having the opportunity, as a committee, to draw attention to the many wonderful books available to encourage early readers to move beyond the practical challenge of decoding to the skill of reading for content and for pleasure."
The award committee consists of members drawn from the youth services faculty of the iSchool, the editorial staff of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, public and school librarians, and the library and education community at large.
The award is sponsored by the CCB and funded by the CCB's Gryphon Fund. Income from the fund supports the annual Gryphon Lecture as well as the Gryphon Award for children's literature.
Gifts may be made to the fund by contacting Diana Stroud in the iSchool Office of Advancement at dstroud [at] illinois.edu or (217) 244-9577.