Baby Monkey, Private Eye written by Brian Selznick and David Serlin and illustrated by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2018), is the winner of the 2019 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). 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, and which 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.
"By making a few tweaks to familiar formats, Selznick and Serlin have created something new and irresistible," said Deborah Stevenson, director of the CCB and editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. "Playful pages with huge print are paced for maximum momentum as the titular detective solves five different goofy mysteries, stopping along the way to have a snack and put on his pants. It's a title that will segue neatly from read-aloud to read-alone and invite savvy older sibs to share reading with kids just getting the hang of narrative literacy. Selznick's soft grayscale pencil art, with significant items picked out in red, maximizes the cuteness factor on Baby Monkey but also throws in sophisticated details (identified in a concluding key) that foreshadow each mystery and add seek-and-find entertainment for readers and their grown-ups."
Two Gryphon Honors also were named:
- Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2018), written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins: Readers join Alix, her older sister, and their parents on a summer beach vacation for sunny days, yummy sweets, and family time. Perkins (who also illustrates in homey vignettes) writes with confiding intimacy and thoughtful accessibility; although there's clear story arc, the chapters are each satisfying adventures in their own right, giving readers plenty of breathing space.
- Dear Substitute (Disney Hyperion, 2018), written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Chris Raschka: In sixteen short entries written in direct address, our narrator chronicles the various disruptions and oddities that occur when a substitute comes to class, from troubles with the student roster to missed library time to changed class rules. Big print, simple vocabulary, and Raschka’s eye-catching watercolors make this an excellent choice for young readers.
The Gryphon Award was established in 2004 as a way to focus attention on transitional reading.
"Kids who've mastered decoding words and letters are at a crucial 'What's next?' stage, and the Gryphon Award answers that question," Stevenson said. "It's our mission and our pleasure to draw attention to the amazing books in a variety of genres that serve readers who are starting to stretch their reading muscles and find books to learn from and love."
This year's award committee consists of Stevenson; Kate Quealy-Gainer, assistant editor of The Bulletin; and Elizabeth Bush, reviewer at The Bulletin, iSchool adjunct faculty member, and longtime school librarian.
The award is sponsored by CCB and funded by 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 Jill Gengler in the iSchool Advancement Office at (217) 265-6252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.