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Published: Saturday, 8/31/2002

Prinz awards honor writers for young adults

This is one in a series of periodic reviews written by four area teachers of children's literature. Today's are by Dr. Alexa Sandmann, associate professor in the University of Toledo's college of education.

The Michael L. Prinz Award, like the Caldecott, Newbery and Coretta Scott King awards, is announced annually at the midwinter meetings of the American Library Association.

The Prinz Award, named for a Topeka, Kan., school librarian, is given for literary excellence in young adult literature. Each year, an award winner is named, and up to four honor books are chosen. The award winner can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or an anthology, must be published the previous calendar year, and be designated by its publisher as being either a young adult book or one published for the age range that the Young Adult Library Services Association deems as young adult, ages 12-18.

Here are the 2002 winners.

A Step from Heaven. By An Na. Front Street. $15.95.

In this triumphal first novel, An Na describes the bittersweet experience of moving from Korea to the United States. Like most immigrant families, they hope that America will be a better place.

As the years unfold, adjusting to this new life is not easy for anyone, but Apa, the father, especially wants to maintain the traditions of the country they left behind.

Strikingly written, this is a story of being true to oneself both within and outside one's family.

Heart to Heart. Edited by Jan Greenberg. Harry N. Abrams. $19.95.

Subtitled, “New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art,” this anthology is a treasure of visual and verbal art. Celebrating “the power of art to inspire language,” a group of “distinguished American poets were invited to choose a 20-century American artwork and write a poem stimulated by it.”

Organized into four sections, the poems in “Stories” share a narrative, while in “Voices” they assume the perspective of a person or thing in the poem. Within “Impressions,” poems describe the content of the art, and in “Expressions,” comment on the form of the art itself.

Poet Hettie Jones, who wrote in response to Elizabeth Murray's “Open Drawer,” a 1998 oil-on-canvas painting, seems to personally invite the reader to explore this colorful and visually appealing volume to find, as with life itself, “Forever another surprise.”

Freewill. By Chris Lynch. HarperCollins. $15.95.

Told not in conventional chapters but in three sections, “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity,” Freewill explores the state of mind of 17-year-old Will, whose art, especially in creating garden gnomes of wood, become the focal point of a death investigation.

Left the first two times as memorials to teens who have committed suicide, the third time the gnome seems to predict yet another teen death. When a fourth gnome appears, the mystery is compounded.

A story fascinatingly told, this book would be well worth studying by an aspiring writer eager to learn the nuances of the craft.

The Ropemaker. By Peter Dickinson. Delacorte Press. $15.95.

Lovers of fantasy will find the rich detail of The Ropemaker quite to their liking. Tilja's grandmother, like her mother before her, can hear the whispering of the forest cedars. Tahl's grandfather, like his father before him, can hear the chatter of the waters. Both confirm that the magic that has protected the valley for more than 20 generations is waning.

Consequently, Tilja and Tahl, their grandparents, and an obstinate horse named Calico set out on a quest to find the one man who can renew the ancient protective power. While on the journey, Tilja discovers she, too, has power, however different from her grandmother's, mother's, and sister's. She is key to the success of the mission.

This is a challenging tale written by one of Britain's greatest storytellers.

True Believer. By Virginia Euwer Wolff. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. $17.

In the second in the Make Lemonade trilogy, LaVaughn is now 15 and life, as always when adolescence is solidly met, becomes more difficult.

Her best friends, Myrtle and Annie, are becoming more involved with their church and less involved with her. Even her mom seems to have less time for LaVaughn as she gets to know a new man in her life. And the boy LaVaughn thinks is interested in her is actually interested in someone else.

It's a confusing time, and LaVaughn's questions are clearly presented as puzzling issues by the literal questions which punctuate the text.

The novel, written in free verse as opposed to traditional prose, will be a most enjoyable, engaging, and comforting text for teens who will find reassurance in knowing their questions are universal, and the solutions individual.



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