Booktalking Awards: Letting Students In On the Buzz by Amy Estersohn

downloadIf your readers have ever played fantasy sports or filled out a March Madness bracket, they’ve experienced the same feelings that book lovers do over awards announcements.   And just the way sports fans are making predictions about championship winners all season, readers spend all year making predictions about which books will win which awards.

The recently announced longlist for the National Book Awards’ Young People’s Literature category gives readers a lot to talk about.  When I introduced the list, I did a brief book talk on each title and added some color commentary as well.

Obvious picks: Pax by Sara Pennypacker, Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, and Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina are three of the best books I’ve read this year.  All three books have received heaps of critical praise from a variety of sources, including from Book Whisperer Donalyn Miller.   

download-1Pleasant Surprises:  March: Volume 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, Booked by Kwame Alexander, and GHOST by Jason Reynolds.  These three books have tremendous teen reader appeal, and I was concerned that reviewers wouldn’t find them distinguished on their own merits.   

Unknown Quantities: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson, The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon, and When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin haven’t been released in bookstores and libraries yet, so it’s hard for me to weigh in right now.

Introducing these books to my readers was an effective way for books to gain exposure without my being the primary endorser.  I had five readers yelping for my two copies of Pax, I encouraged my graphic novel readers to check out March, and my World War II buffs are now deeply interested in reading about the United States’s aggressions in Japan.

I’ll continue to monitor the National Book Awards announcements for their finalist and winning books.  By then, I hope more readers will have a chance to read these books and chime in on how they feel about the results.


Amy Estersohn is a middle school English teacher in Westchester County, New York.  She  reviews comic books for and is a judge for the CYBILS book awards this year.   Follow her on twitter at @HMX_MSE


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