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Top US literature prizes for Rebecca Stead, Jerry Pinkney

Published:Sunday | March 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM


Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me and Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse, two highly praised books for young people, have received the top US prizes in children's literature.

Stead's intricate, time-travelling narrative set in 1970s Manhattan, which was inspired in part by Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, won the John Newbery Medal for best children's book. The Randolph Caldecott prize for picture books was given to Pinkney's wordless telling of the classic Aesop fable.

The awards were announced recently in Boston at the American Library Association's annual midwinter meeting.

The awards, both founded decades ago, bring prestige and the hope of higher sales to children's authors. Previous winners such as A Wrinkle in Time and Louis Sachar's Holes have become standards, but more recent picks have been criticised by librarians as being too difficult (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz) or for having inappropriate content (Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky).

Stead's book, the adventures of a sixth-grader named Miranda, was praised by The New York Times as a "taut novel", in which "every word, every sentence, has meaning and substance".

Elizabeth Bird of the School Library Journal called When You Reach Me among "the best children's books I have ever read" and cited Pinkney, a five-time runner-up for the Caldecott, for creating "wordless picture gold".

Latin-american winners

Julia Alvarez, known to adults for the best-selling How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, won the Pura Belpre Author Award, for best book by a Latino or Latina, for Return to Sender. The Belpre prize for illustration was given to Rafael Lopez for Book Fiesta! written by Pat Mora.

Vauna Micheaux Nelson's Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy US Marshal, won the Coretta Scott King award for best book by an African-American author. The King award for best illustrator went to Charles R. Smith Jr for My People, with text written by poet Langston Hughes.

Libba Bray's Going Bovine won the Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature. Jim Murphy, whose tales of American history include The Long Road to Gettysburg and A Young Patriot, received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in young adult books.