The Annual Awards For Children's Books Are Out

Flora & Ulysses, written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated in black and white by K. G. Campbell, is this year's best children's book. The American Library Association made the announcement Monday. Locomotive, by Brian Floca, is the most distinguished picture book.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, the Grammy Awards are behind us. The Oscars are around the corner. And now, we have another award that also gets a lot of attention this time of year, from people who love kids' books.

The American Library Association has announced this year's Caldecott and Newbery Award winners. NPR's Lynn Neary reports.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: Kate DiCamillo should be used to accolades by now. She was nominated last year for a National Book Award, and the Library of Congress named her the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. She won a Newbery Medal for her earlier book, "The Tale of Despereaux" as well as an honorable mention for "Because of Winn Dixie."

Even so, DiCamillo insists she was not expecting the early morning call she got, telling her she had just won her second Newbery for "Flora and Ulysses," the story of girl and a super hero squirrel.

KATE DICAMILLO: They called, and I thought that I had dreamed the whole thing. And I thought, what am I supposed to do now? And I just came downstairs and wrote, you know. And that's what I want to keep on doing - (Laughter) - is writing.

NEARY: DiCamillo says she never set out to write kids' books. But she got a job in a book warehouse in the children's department, and started reading some of the books.

DICAMILLO: And I entered into that job, I think, with a lot of what, you know - serious adult readers, like a bias that they have, that oh, children's books, you know, that's the duckies and bunnies. But I fell in love with what you could do with a children's book. And I found where I am supposed to be. A lot of times people say to me: Oh, when are you going to write an adult book? And it's just like, this is it. I've found what I'm what I'm supposed to do.

NEARY: The Newbery is given for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature The Caldecott honors the best illustrated picture book. This year's winner is "Locomotive," by Brian Floca.

Marion Rutsch, chair of the Caldecott committee, says the book is part historical fiction, part family story, and succeeds on several levels.

MARION RUTSCH: The book has got huge, double-page spreads of the train crossing the country, beautiful landscapes of the West at that point. It's got dizzying shots looking down on the engine, or as it crosses a train trestle. And then it's got little, small vignettes on other pages of eating in the dining car; the little boy who needs to use the facilities, and what it was like. (Laughter) There are a lot of little, small details that will have great appeal for the children.

NEARY: The American Library Association gives out a number of other awards for kids' media, including the Coretta Scott King Awards, which this year went to Rita Williams-Garcia, for "P.S. Be Eleven"; and Bryan Collier, for "Knock, Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me."

Kate Patton, head of the King jury, says the King awards are celebrating their 45th anniversary this year.

KATE PATTON: Had we not had this award, there is a lot of wonderful art and literature that would not have been recognized. And I think it's important that we have a wide spectrum of things that are recognized as award-winning.

NEARY: Patton says she hope kids of color will be able to identify with the characters in these books. And that the prize will also help lead other kids to books they otherwise might not have known about.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

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