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Published: Tuesday, 1/16/2001

Best of children's books honored with awards


WASHINGTON - When the telephone rang early yesterday morning, David Small was in his pajamas, making coffee and feeling grumpy about yet another overcast day.

The caller cheered him immensely. Connie Rockman, head of the selection committee for the Randolph Caldecott Medal, told him he had won the prize awarded annually for the best illustrations in a children's book.

Mr. Small won the 2001 Caldecott Medal for his watercolor, ink, and pastel chalk illustrations for So You Want to Be President? (Philomel, $17.99), written by Judith S. George.

“The sun came out all of a sudden,'' Mr. Small laughed later in an interview.

Richard Peck also received a good-news telephone call yesterday. His was from Caroline S. Parr, head of the John Newbery Medal selection committee. The Newbery Medal is awarded annually to the best novel for children.

Mr. Peck, who lives in Manhattan and has written 30 books mostly aimed at young adults, won the 2000 Newbery Medal for his novel A Year Down Yonder (Dial, $16.99). The book is a sequel to A Long Way From Chicago, which was a Newbery Honor, or runner-up, book in 1999.

Both awards were announced yesterday in Washington at the annual midwinter meeting of the American Library Association (ALA). The ALA administers the awards, which are selected by committees of librarians.

Also announced were the winners of the Coretta Scott King award, given by the ALA each year honoring African-American illustrators and authors. This year's winners were writer Jacqueline Woodson for her novel Miracle's Boys (Penguin Putnam, $15.99), and illustrator Bryan Collier for Uptown (Henry Holt, $15.95).

Marc Aronson, author of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Quest for El Dorado (Clarion, $20), was the first winner of the new Robert Sibert Award, given for the most distinguished “informational,'' or non-fiction, book for children.

David Almond, author of Kit's Wilderness, won the Michael Printz Award for the best young adult novel. And Milton Meltzer, author of numerous historical non-fiction books, won the 2001 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which honors an author or illustrator whose books “have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.''

But it's the Caldecott and Newbery medal winners who grab the lion's share of public attention each year. Books that win the two awards, often called the Academy Awards' of children's books, are virtually assured of being best-sellers, and generally become classics, printed year after year.

Three Caldecott Honor, or runner-up award, books were chosen. They are: Casey At the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888 (Handprint Books, $17.95) illustrated by Christopher Bing and written by Ernest Lawrence; Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (Simon & Schuster, $15), illustrated by Betsy Lewin and written by Doreen Cronin; and Olivia (Atheneum, $16), written and illustrated by Ian Falconer.

Four books were chosen as Newbery Honor books. They are: Hope Was Here (Penguin Putnam, $16.99) by Joan Bauer; The Wanderer (HarperCollins, $15.95) by Sharon Creech; Because of Winn-Dixie (Candelwick Press, $15.99) by Kate DeCamillo, and Joey Pigza Loses Control (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $16).

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