2018 Caudill Award Nominees

This was my first year as a member of the RCYRBA evaluators committee. Here are the books we chose, narrowed down from hundreds of nominations put forward by students, librarians, and teachers throughout Illinois:

  1. Roller Girl
  2. Full Cicada Moon
  3. Goodbye Stranger
  4. Last in a Long Line of Rebels
  5. Listen, Slowly
  6. Awkward
  7. Drowned City
  8. I Will Always Write Back
  9. Hour of the Bees
  10. A Night Divided
  11. I Am Princess X
  12. The Boy on the Wooden Box
  13. The Seventh Most Important Thing
  14. Beneath
  15. The Bitter Side of Sweet
  16. Fuzzy Mud
  17. Book Scavenger
  18. House Arrest
  19. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
  20. Orbiting Jupiter

I’ve listed them roughly in order of my own personal preference – Roller Girl and Full Cicada Moon were my absolute favorites!

It’s a genuine thrill to be a part of this committee, and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. 4th-8th graders all over the state of Illinois will read these books, and I tried really really hard to influence the rest of the committee to give those kids a list worthy of their time and effort.

The lack of diversity on the list is my biggest disappointment, and by that I mean diversity of all kinds: not just the race of the main character, but their religion and socioeconomic status. The race and religion of the author. The length of the book, and the difficulty of it. The genre. The format. The style. For the most part, these books are racially white realistic fiction, and that bums me out – but this is a list that depends 100% on nominations, so I’m doing what I can to push for a more diverse nomination pool for next year’s list. If you are a student, teacher, school librarian, or public librarian working or living in the state of Illinois, let me know! I can help you nominate some books!


Books That Rock: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Book-cover_Absolutely-AlmostWhat you need to tell readers: This is a realistic story for readers who liked Wonder & Counting By 7s. The main character loves donuts, comics, and his friends.

Main character: Albie, boy, age 11. Average intelligence, superhuman good friend.

#WNDB: Albie is mixed race – his father is white and his mother (and briefly present grandfather) are Korean.

Page Count: 288 (hardcover)

Recommend it to: Teachers, parents, and librarians especially. Also recommend to children grade 3-7 who like realistic stories about empathy and bullying and fiction with characters you want to know.

Booktalk This: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

SteelheartAn edge-of-your seat thrill ride, this novel is as close as you can get to a summer blockbuster between the covers of a book.

There isn’t much subtlety – ok fine. There isn’t any subtlety in this book. But we’re talking about Junior High book talks in this series, so are you looking for subtlety? Gods, I hope not. David, our hero, is ‘just an ordinary dude.’ He’s made it through his teen years in dystopian Chicago as an orphan; his father was murdered by the villain Steelheart when David was a child. This is a universe very similar to that of X-Men, where some individuals, seemingly at random, have unique superpowers (or a combination of them). Instead of mutants, Sanderson gives us Epics. While mutants offer a powerful parallel to the real world struggles of marginalized groups like homosexuals and persons with disabilities, Sanderson’s Epics are a lot more simple: all Epics are Evil. Period. David joins up with a rebel group of Epic-hunters to dole out vigilante justice against the monster that killed his father (and thousands of others).

Highlights for booktalks:

  • This is a readalike for comics like X-Men, the Avengers, and Batman. If you love any of those comics or their big-screen adaptations, this book will feel very familiar to you.
  • Non-stop action with a lot of thrills. This is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Booktalk This: Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Greenglass HouseGreenglass House by Kate Milford

An absorbing cozy mystery with a POC lead and a maelstrom of secrets to uncover. Greenglass House is a hotel for smugglers, and over the years its seen violence, crime, and tragedy. When a large group of unexpected guests turn up in the dead of winter, all with secretive ties to each other and the history of the house, Milo knows that investigating them and their secrets will take a lot of courage.

Greenglass House creates a mesmerizing spell from the very first page. The sense of place is palpable as Milford spins a web of mysterious interactions, hints, and paths to discovery. Milo, the adopted Chinese son of American parents, explores not just the mystery at hand, but also his self-confidence as an adopted child. He does so with the help of Meddy (the hotel cook’s daughter) and a role playing game that lets him inhabit a character of his own invention, one with the confidence and charisma he thinks are beyond his reach (spoiler alert! They were inside him all along).


Highlights for booktalks:

  • Like every good mystery, this one has a few twists you’ll never see coming.
  • Milo’s Chinese heritage makes him feel like a fish out of water, even though he loves his parents very much. Maybe you’ve had an experience where you felt happy and sad about the same thing at the same time.
  • For fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, Holes, and The Westing Game.

Recommended for grades 5-8.

Booktalk This: Audacity by Melanie Crowder


Audacity by Melanie Crowder

An outstanding historical fiction novel in verse based on the early life of Clara Lemlich Shevelson, an activist most famous for organizing the Uprising of the 20,000 which led to widespread reform in the garment industry.

Audacity is in free verse, with a strong and often thrilling narrative thread. As a result, the poems feel incisive, exciting, and purposeful. You fly through them, anxious to see what happens next, and get snared once in a while by the beauty of the words. Crowder punctuates the narrative poems with occasional lyric ones where Clara reflects on her life, her situation, and her surroundings.

Teenage Clara is a recent immigrant to the USA and cherishes the ambition to become a doctor. Her parents force her to find work instead, so Clara ends up in the hellish world of New York’s garment industry circa 1905. The work is difficult, dangerous, and low-paying; the factory bosses are cruel and abusive. When Clara protests their behavior, she’s fired on the spot. When she goes to English classes after work, her parents are furious, claiming that girls don’t need education. When she implores other factory girls to join with her and protest their hellish work environment, they ignore her.

Clara defies them all, over and over again, until she’s achieved the impossible: a massive walkout of 20,000 workers that leads to widespread reform of the industry.

Highlights for booktalks:

  • Clara was a real person: you can read more about her in Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet
  • Have you ever felt like the school day stretched out and out until it lasted forever? In the factories where Clara had to work, bosses would change the time on the clocks so that the workers had to stay late.
  • Free verse poetry shows Clara’s internal monologue and the way she’s thinking, so it’s very easy to identify with her even though your lives are very different. Also, since the whole book is in poems, you can finish it very quickly!

Recommended for grades 7 and up.

Storytime All Star: Bee-bim Bop!

bee bim bopThis book by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Ho Baek Lee is a must read. The text has a bouncy, pleasant rhyme and the repetition makes it easy for children and parents to chant along with you. My storytimers did this without any coaching! The pictures are warm and friendly, the main character is relatable, and the ending – a full tummy – is a happy one. This is a perfect fit for food storytimes, Korean culture storytime, or family storytime. At the end, there is one page that shows the family gathering for a (presumably Christian) prayer before eating their meal. I work in a very multicultural and multi-religion library, where we avoid storytime themes about any religious holiday out of respect for the audience members who aren’t part of that tradition, but this page was innocuous enough that I read it anyway. If you want to skip it, though, you certainly could.

Try this out for your storytime! Toddlers and preschoolers alike will be enchanted by it, and grown ups will clamor to take it home so they can follow the recipe for bee-bim bop (which translates to ‘mix-mix rice’) in the back matter.

Storytime All Star: Clip Clop

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee

This fabulous storytime title is, regrettably, out of print. My library’s hardcover was hugged to death before I started here, so I bought the hardcover used from Amazon and donated it to the Office collection. I’ve read this book more than any other storytime title, and in three different formats: the tiny board book, the full size hardcover, and a stick puppet I made from the photocopies of the hardcover book. My favorite is the puppet – it’s so fun to throw all the animals when they go flying into the haystack! My storytime students are starting to really know this book – when they see it propped up in the front of the room, they shout “clip clop!” at it.

Clip Clop is so successful because it’s so adaptable. You can do a straight read aloud, but that’s not going to make this a storytime all star. If you add a rhythm slap on your thigh when you read out “clip clop, clippety-clop!” you’ve suddenly got an interactive, exciting book that lets kids practice gross motor skills. But it doesn’t stop there: for very little listeners, you can break on each page to count the animals riding on Mr. Horse, name their colors, or make their sounds.

Read during: Toddler Time, winter-spring-summer sessions 2014

clip clop

Clippety-cloppety! Clippety-cloppety!