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Annual Awards Honor Children's Authors

January 22, 2002|NANCY PATE | SUN SENTINEL

Three little pigs carried off one of children literature's highest honors Monday, but none of the pigs was named Olivia. David Wiesner's "The Three Pigs," an unconventional retelling of the familiar story, won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for best picture book.

Linda Sue Park's middle-grade novel "A Single Shard," about a 12th century Korean orphan, received the John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

The American Library Assn. also named three Caldecott Honor Books: "Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." with illustrations by Bryan Collier and text by Doreen Rappaport; "The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins," illustrated by Brian Selznick and written by Barbara Kerley; and "The Stray Dog," illustrated and written by Marc Simont.

But Ian Falconer's popular "Olivia Saves the Circus," about an energetic piglet, and a sequel to "Olivia," a Caldecott Honor Book last year, went home empty-handed.

Fishing Village Tale

Polly Horvath's quirky middle-grade tale of a girl from a small fishing village, "Everything on a Waffle," was named a Newbery Honor Book along with Marilyn Nelson's "Carver: A Life in Poems," a biography of George Washington Carver for young adults.

"David Wiesner was stunned when we called to tell him he had won," said librarian Ann Cook of Altamonte Springs, Fla., who served as a judge on the 15-member committee that selected this year's Caldecott winners.

Committee members talked by speaker phone with the winners Monday morning before the awards were announced.

"That was the highlight," Cook said of her judging experience, which had members meeting past midnight to discuss the many candidates. "Bryan Collier was speechless, literally. You could hear him trying to gather himself."

Simont, a 1957 Caldecott medalist who is in his 80s and illustrated his first book in 1939, laughed when he first heard the news about "The Stray Dog." He told the committee it had made his day.

"Then he started to cry," Cook said. "And Brian Selznick said he couldn't wait to tell his parents. That was so sweet. Then he started to cry."

A 'Rewarding Process'

Although Cook can't reveal details of the committee's weekend deliberations, she called it "a long, draining but rewarding process." She praised Wiesner for "thinking out of the box" and for his talent and vision.

Wiesner won the Caldecott 10 years ago for the picture book "Tuesday," and his "Sector 7" was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2000, as was "Free Fall" in 1989. His "The Three Pigs" begins on a familiar note, but then the wolf huffs and puffs the pigs off the page into a new world as Wiesner plays with the structure and conventions of traditional storytelling.

"Pigs burst through the pages' boundaries and soar into new dimensions," said Caldecott committee chairwoman Kate McClelland in an official statement. "Witty dialogue and physical humor make this a selection that will have children squealing with delight."

The Newbery awards committee recognized Park, a first-generation Korean American and author of "Seesaw Girl" and "The Kite Fighters," for "her powerful and precise writing as she explores universal themes about loyalty and art."

In Park's "A Single Shard," a 10-year-old who lives under a bridge with his disabled guardian is fascinated by a nearby community of potters and overcomes great odds to pursue his dream of becoming a potter.

Nancy Pate is a book critic for the Orlando Sun Sentinel, a Tribune company.

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