A Closer Look at the 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Children's Finalists

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The 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards will be announced at the Celebration of Bookselling, on Friday, June 4, during this year's BookExpo America (BEA). Here, BTW takes a look at the 10 finalists in the two children's categories -- Children's Literature and Children's Illustrated. (For the complete list of finalists, click here; for a closer look at the Paperback finalists, click here.)

All nominated authors and illustrators are being invited to attend the award ceremonies and the Book Sense 76 Lunch, also to be held on Friday, June 4, at BEA.

All current ABA member bookstores can vote for the Book Sense Book of the Year awards. A ballot was mailed to all ABA bookstore members on April 1, and is available in downloadable PDF format by clicking here.

The Children's Literature Finalists

ARTEMIS FOWL: THE ETERNITY CODE (Book 3), Eoin Colfer (Miramax)
Down but hardly out, boy genius Artemis Fowl must submit to a memory-erasing "mind wipe" at the conclusion of the third installment of Colfer's nail-biting series. Fowl, now 13 years old, is still tripping through danger, double crosses, and inviolable security systems to secure the Fowl family its billion-dollar payoff. The entertaining escapades are clearly not yet over. Book 2 in the series, The Arctic Incident, was a 2003 Book Sense Book of the Year finalist.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"In the latest of the Artemis Fowl series, Colfer plays with tone beautifully, maintaining the feeling of a noir adventure series and, bringing the series full-circle, perhaps anticipating further Fowl feats." --Ben Gibbs, Book People, Austin, TX

ERAGON: THE INHERITANCE, Book I, Christopher Paolini (Knopf)
Paolini, who is now 19, began writing Eragon when he graduated from high school at the age of 15. In an essay, he has described the work, for which he drew the many maps and cover art, as "an archetypal hero story, filled with exciting action, dangerous villains, and fantastic locations. There are dragons and elves, sword fights and unexpected revelations, and, of course, a beautiful maiden who's more than capable of taking care of herself." Eragon was nominated for the American Library Association 2003 Best Books for Young Adults Award.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"Eragon is a guaranteed hit for any reader who loves fantasy. Drawing on the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip Pullman, and other great fantasists, Christopher Paolini has woven together an exciting suspense-filled adventure of one young man coming of age in partnership with the first dragon born in over a century. I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy." --Peter Glassman, Books of Wonder, New York, NY

INKHEART, Cornelia Funke; Anthea Bell, Translator (Chicken House/Scholastic)
German children's author Funke debuted in the English-language market in 2002 with the bestselling The Thief Lord, winner of the 2003 Book Sense Book of the Year for Children's Literature. In Inkheart, Funke demonstrates her reverence for the power of books: The protagonist, 12-year-old Meggie, lives alone with her father, a bookbinder with a secret gift. Like many parents, he can bring to life the characters in the books he reads aloud. "To life" must be taken literally, as, for better or worse, heroes and villains can leap from the pages he reads.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"Inkheart is a wonderfully told fairy tale and adventure that will be enjoyed by both young and old alike. Cornelia Funke is a remarkable storyteller, who holds you spellbound until you've read every word. I will be treasuring and handing this story down to my children and, I hope, to their children one day." --Lee Musgjerd, Lee's Book Emporium, Glasgow, MT

This sequel to Brashares' bestseller, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, winner of the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children's Literature, is the only non-fantasy finalist -- if one believes that a single pair of thrift-store blue jeans, purchased for under $5, can fit four differently configured teen girls to perfection -- and that they can equitably share them for two consecutive summers. Through their individual adventures in the company of the pants, the four best friends continue their passage to young womanhood with requisite romance, heartbreak, family angst, and, above all, friendship.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"Hip, realistic, and smart, Second Summer is a sequel that really is better than the first. This time around, the girls delve into their feelings about their families, particularly their mothers, and find some things out about themselves in the process." -- Sara Yu, Bank Street Bookstore, New York, NY

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, Kate DiCamillo; Timothy Basil Ering, Illus. (Candlewick)
Despereaux Tilling, born a sickly, fearful, smaller-than-average mouse, is a most unlikely hero and suitor for a human princess, but still he dreams well above his station. Joining forces with him to battle evil -- the light and soup-loving rat Roscuro -- is a servant girl who longs to be a princess. DiCamillo's debut novel, Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick), was winner of the 2001 Book Sense Book of the Year Award in Children's Literature and a 2001 Newbery Honor Book; her second book, The Tiger Rising, was a National Book Award finalist. For The Tale of Despereaux, DiCamillo won the 2004 Newbery Medal.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"I'll confess: I've got a thing for books about mice. The Tale of Desperaux definitely twitched my whiskers. Kate DiCamillo again proves herself to be a master of narration, creating characters who practically whisper in the ears of her readers, drawing us ever closer to the marvelous worlds of her oh-so-imaginative invention." --Alison Morris, Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, MA

The Children's Illustrated Finalists

DIARY OF A WOMBAT, Jackie French; Bruce Whatley, Illus. (Clarion Books)
What do wombats do all day? "Monday Morning: Slept. / Afternoon: Slept. / Evening: Ate grass. / Scratched. / Night: Ate grass." After discovering its human neighbors, the Australian native's life becomes far more interesting and appetizing.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"Jackie French is one of my favorite discoveries. In this hilarious picture book, she teams up with Bruce Whatley, who perfectly illustrates a day in the life of your friendly neighborhood wombat. Two incredible talents combine to make this one of my favorite children's books of the year!" --Beth Henkes, University Book Store, Bellevue, WA

DIARY OF A WORM, Doreen Cronin; Harry Bliss, Illus. (Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins)
From the author of the Caldecott Honor Book and 2001 Book Sense Book of the Year finalist Click, Clack, Moo (S&S) and New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss comes the story of the unassuming animal's highs and lows. Spanning the year from March to August, the diarist includes essential family wisdom from Mom: "Never bother Daddy when he's eating the newspaper."

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"A favorite author comes up with another big family hit. Would you believe a precocious worm who keeps a diary documenting his life discoveries?" --Elsie Peterson, The Cottage Book Shop, Glen Arbor, MI

HOW I BECAME A PIRATE, Melinda Long; David Shannon, Illus. (Harcourt)
On the positive side, pirates can throw food across the table and ignore bedtimes and all rules of etiquette discovers Jeremy Jacob when he joins Braid Beard's pirate crew. There may also be buried treasure and plenty of sea chantey singing, but, to his great disappointment, pirates don't read children bedtime stories or tuck them in.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"A witty tale that pirates of all ages will enjoy. Readers will not be able to resist jumping into pirate-speak as they enjoy the catchy rhyming verse and the bold and colorful illustrations." --Lisa Fabiano, Hearts & Stars Bookshop, Canton, MA

OLD TURTLE AND THE BROKEN TRUTH, Douglas Wood; Jon J. Muth, Illus. (Scholastic)
The Earth is full of suffering and war until one brave little girl seeks the wisdom of Old Turtle, who tells her about a "broken truth" and how finding the missing part will help her community understand the common bond of all humanity. When the broken truth is made whole, the people and the earth are healed. In 1993, Old Turtle was named the American Booksellers Book of the Year (ABBY) in the Children's category. (The ABBY was the precursor of the Book Sense Book of the Year.)

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"Douglas Wood's ability to capture the wise lessons of nature and to voice them through Old Turtle is better than ever in this sequel to the bestselling, award-winning Old Turtle. John Muth's illustrations understate and, as a result, beautifully illuminate the well-written text." --Marge Grutzmacher, Passtimes Books, Sister Bay, WI

OLIVIA … AND THE MISSING TOY, Ian Falconer (Atheneum)
Ian Falconer returns with a third picture book featuring Olivia, the fashion conscious, can-do piglet, who is hot on the trail of a toy-napper when she discovers her "best toy" missing. The mystery is solved on a dark and stormy night when Olivia discovers the thief. Olivia and Olivia Saves the Circus were winners of the 2001 and 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards in the Children's Illustrated category.

From the Book Sense 76 recommendation:
"Olivia is back! This time, Ian Falconer has surpassed himself with a great mystery and even more incredible illustrations." --Dallas Holmes, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA