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  • 2018 Comstock Read Aloud Book Awards

    2018 Comstock Read Aloud Book Award

    The Survivor Tree written by Gaye Sanders, illustrated by Pamela Behrend, and published by The RoadRunner Press, 2017.

     Survivor TreeA large American elm is planted by a loving family on the Oklahoma prairie. The prairie gradually evolves into Oklahoma City and the tree enjoys all that makes for a growing city – paved streets, skyscrapers, and more and more people. As the tree narrates the story we learn about all it loves: the construction workers who seek shade underneath it as they eat lunch, the children who play in and around it, and the view it enjoys overlooking the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The tree doesn’t notice the yellow moving van that parks next to the building on April 19, 1995, but watches the chaos that ensues as a bomb from the truck explodes and people run toward the building to help. In the aftermath of the bombing, the future of the tree is uncertain, especially as it is charred and devoid of any greenery. What will happen to the tree? And to the people of Oklahoma City?

    Third, fourth and fifth-grade students listening to the book enjoyed it, sitting with rapt attention and even moving closer to be able to see the color illustrations. They felt that hearing the story from the perspective of the tree was unique, and commented, “I liked how the story was like a lifespan of the tree.” Each of the classes discussed the message that love is stronger than hate. They also thought it was “really cool” that a seedling from the survivor tree grows in every state in the U.S. and that one was planted at the 9/11 Memorial Site.

    Author Gaye Sanders is a fourth-grade teacher in the Mustang Public Schools in Oklahoma and this is her first book. Pamela Behrend is an artist, musician and former public school teacher who lives and keeps her art studio in Pennsylvania. [MARCI GLESSNER]

    2018 Comstock Read Aloud Honor Books

    Her Right Foot written by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris, and published by Chronicle Books, 2017.

    Her Right Foot

    In an unconventional, chatty style, author Dave Eggers tells the history of the Statue of Liberty from its design, to construction in Paris, to its final assembly on Bedloe’s Island, now called Liberty Island. This nonfiction picture book includes many engaging details, including the fact that Her Right Foot appears to be moving. “After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant, too. And this is why she’s moving. This is why she’s striding” (Eggers).

    Shawn Harris’ full color illustrations in construction paper, India ink and collage bring the text to life with vignettes and full-page and double-page spreads. The back matter includes photos, a list of sources, and suggestions for further reading.

    This well-designed book was especially popular with nine to ten-year-olds. During the read aloud, they paid intent attention, asked questions and made comments, and even clapped at the end of the reading. They learned many new facts, said the pictures were “really cool,” and even mimicked how the Statue stands. Teachers commented: “This is a book that was looked at often and students saw new items each time. Students loved the story and found it to be a great message for today’s world. I would read this every year.”

    Author Dave Eggers grew up in the Chicago area and is the owner of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. This is illustrator Shawn Harris’ first book. He lives in Morongo Valley, California. (CAROL HANSON SIBLEY)

    Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, illustrated by Brigette Barrager and published by Atheneum, 2017

     Pocketful Of ColorsThis bright, bold book tells the story of a little-known artist who contributed to one of the most well-known companies in the world. Mary Blair grew up collecting colors like russet, azure, fuchsia, and lime green into her pallet of colors. Eventually Blair looked for a job and was one of the first women to be hired at Walt Disney Studios. She brought vibrant, unusual colors to Disney, even though “the old men” at Disney wanted her to stick to boring black and white. Many of her ideas were considered “just not right,” so finally she left the company. But one person at Walt Disney Studios really missed Mary and her bright colors. That person was Mr. Walt Disney and he had a special project for Mary. Together Mary and Walt created a ride of beautiful colors that traveled around the world. We all know it now as “It’s a Small World”.

    Children loved the bright, imaginative illustrations on every page and learning about new colors. Adults and children alike could relate to the Walt Disney Studios and found it inspiring and informative to learn about one of the first women to work there.

    Author Amy Guglielmo is a writer, illustrator, and artist. She is the co-author of the Touch the Art children’s series and How to Build a Hug and is also the founder of Via Verde School of Art in New York City. Guglielmo divides her time between the shores of Lake Champlain and Costa Rica. Co-author, Jacqueline Tourville is the author of the children’s picture book, Albie’s First Word. Tourville is very interested in child development and family life, contributing as a blogger and producer for multiple websites. She currently lives in Maine with her family.

    Brigette Barrager is an artist, designer, illustrator and author of children’s books living in Los Angeles. She graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a degree in character animation and worked at both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios before freelancing. She is a New York Times best-selling illustrator of children’s books, including Uni the Unicorn. [CASSEY ORRE]

    The Youngest Marcher: the Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist written by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, and published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2017.

    Youngest Marcher  

    The Youngest Marcher tells the true story of Audrey Faye Hendricks who was arrested at a civil rights protest in 1963. Nine-year-old Audrey knew the rules of segregation for blacks in Birmingham, Alabama—hand-me-down schoolbooks, using freight elevators, and sitting in the back of the bus to name a few. When the idea to let the children march and protest was announced in church, Audrey immediately decided she wanted to participate. She was going to break the law and go to jail to help make things right for her people because she wanted the same rights as all Americans. Newton’s bright, digital collages highlight the details of the experience showing Audrey first being arrested during the protest and then sleeping in a stark jail cell with only a bare, dirty mattress for a bed.

    Students ages eight to twelve showed intent attention and asked many questions while listening to the story. They felt that Audrey was very brave and were shocked that she went to jail. The story allowed teachers to discuss segregation in the 1960’s and to help students realize that even 9-year-olds can make a difference.

    When author Cynthia Levinson met Audrey Faye Hendricks 45 years after she went to jail, she knew she would write a book about her for young readers. The book became a reality after three years of interviewing marchers and researching the events. Levinson has written other books on social justice including Watch Out for Flying Kids!: How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community and We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March. Illustrator Newton is a self-taught artist who used brightly colored digital collages to captivate the reader in this book. She has illustrated many books including We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song and The Hula Hoopin' Queen. [KATHY VANDERVORST]