Did you know that Illinois has not one, but four major awards for children’s literature? The Monarch Award (grades K-3), Bluestem Award (grades 3-5), Rebecca Caudill* Award (Grades 4-8), and Lincoln Award (teen) each carefully select 20 nominees every year, and students across the state vote on their top picks. The winners are announced in March.
Find below several recent winners from the past few years.
The S-Collection houses many materials about these and other children’s awards; search “children’s literature awards” in the catalog to get started. You can also find resources on the S-Collection page here.
(*Fun fact: Rebecca Caudill, who is honored with the use of her name for the middle grade award, was an Urbana-based children’s book author who received a Newbery Honor in 1950.)
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole. 2014 (Won 2018).
Sam and Dave are bored and decide to dig a hole. They dig, and they dig, and they find nothing at all. Yet somehow, the day does not seem wasted. This Caldecott Honor book is perfectly paced, with a kind of side-eyed humor that leaves readers wanting more, yet feeling satisfied.
Gaston. 2014 (Won 2017).
In this heartwarming tale of what it means to be family, Gaston the bulldog tries very hard to fit in with his poodle siblings. When, in a chance encounter in the park, it becomes clear that Gaston was accidentally switched with Antoinette the poodle puppy, the two try swapping families. But even though it looks right, does Gaston belong in the bulldog family?
[Q. SE. D626ga]
Breaking News: Bear Alert. 2014 (Won 2016).
Packed full of puns and sneaky nods to other famous bears, this hilarious story is told entirely as a news broadcast covering the antics of a pair of bears loose in the city. Observant readers may notice that in the bright and colorful illustrations, a second, more sinister plot is afoot. How will these two stories converge?
[Q. SE. B475b]
Wish. 2016 (Won 2019).
Charlie Reese makes the same wish every day, but when she moves to North Carolina, it seems less and less like her wish will come true. As new characters come in to her life, Charlie soon realizes that what she has been wishing for may not be what she actually needs.
Roller Girl. 2015 (Won 2018).
When Astrid first encounters a roller derby match, she is hooked. Upon trying it out for herself, however, she discovers that not only is it significantly harder than she thought, but also that her best friend is really not interested. On top of that, she’ll soon be starting middle school. Is Astrid strong enough to stay true to herself? Find out in this Newbery Honor graphic novel.
El Deafo. 2014 (Won 2017).
This funny and heartfelt graphic novel details author Cece Bell’s experiences growing up with hearing loss, and the clunky and awkward hearing aid that came with it. When Cece discovers that she can hear her teacher even after she has left the classroom thanks to her Phonic Ear, Cece revels in this new superpower and becomes El Deafo. But even superheroes get lonely, and Cece wonders if she will ever find a true friend.
Rebecca Caudill Award:
Ghost. 2016 (Won 2019).
When he was very little, Ghost’s father chased him and his mother out of their apartment with a loaded gun. Ghost has been running, and causing trouble, ever since. Then he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic medalist who heads the middle school track team and can see the untapped potential in Ghost. In this first installment of the Track series, Ghost must come to grips with his past in order to plan for his future.
The Crossover. 2014 (Won 2017).
This recipient of the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award tells the story of twin basketball players Josh and Jordan. In this coming of age novel in verse, the boys struggle to make sense of the world as they begin to grow apart for the first time.
Legend. 2011 (Won 2015).
In a dystopian North America, notorious criminal Day and prodigy soldier June unexpectedly cross paths when June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the main suspect. In a surprising twist, the two discover that they may not be as different as they thought when a powerful common enemy comes to light. This action-packed adventure is sure to keep readers on their toes.
We Were Liars. 2014 (Won 2016).
Cadence Sinclair can’t remember what happened during the fifteenth summer she and her family spent on their private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Between the migraines, painkillers, and amnesia, Cadence tries to piece together fragmented memories. Suspenseful, romantic, and with a shocking twist ending, this one will be difficult to put down.
Thirteen Reasons Why. 2007 (Won 2013).
This controversial novel, popularized by the television series of the same name, contains several dark themes and depictions of events that may be upsetting to some readers. When Clay Jensen opens the mysterious box sent to him in the mail, he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah, his crush, who committed suicide two weeks previous. Each tape details one reason why Hannah decided to take her life. One of them is about Clay.
The Maze Runner. 2009 (Won 2012).
Thomas wakes up in an elevator, and the only thing he can remember is his name. He finds himself in the Glade, a deadly and dangerous location surrounded by an enormous maze that no one has ever escaped alive. Who did this to Thomas and the others that have been sent to the Glade? Will Thomas live long enough to find out?