2013 Bluestem Award Master List (Part 2 of 2)

The Bluestem Award is an Illinois readers' choice award for grades three through five. The 2013 nominees were announced yesterday.

The award is designed for students in grades 3-5 who are ready for longer titles than found on the Monarch list, but not quite ready for the sophistication of some of the Rebecca Caudill titles. Named in honor of Big Bluestem which is the state prairie grass, the award may include both timeless classics and current titles, as well as books that have appeared on Monarch and Rebecca Caudill lists.
I divided the list into two posts. Click here to view part one.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo [Candlewick | 2006]

About the book:

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost. . . . Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle -- that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.
Download Candlewick's teachers' guide.

Bring Edward's journey to life with this reader's theater script.

Jenny Brown chats with Kate DiCamillo about writing. The inspiration for Edward Tulane makes an appearance.

"Life makes more sense when I write." -Kate DiCamillo

"If you want to write, you should read — a lot. And not only in a certain genre, but outside of what you're interested in." -Kate DiCamillo

"That was unbelievable, you know, because the amazing thing about the Newbery is that, as far as literary awards go, it's something that the layperson recognizes. People who aren't in the book world know that award and pick up a book because of that award, and I, as a child, knew to look for that medal on a book — that it guaranteed me that I was going to like the book." -Kate DiCamillo

The Familiars by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson [HarperCollins | 2010]

Is the kingdom's fate in the hands of an orphan cat?

Running fast to save his life, Aldwyn ducks into an unusual pet store. Moments later Jack, a young wizard in training, comes in to choose a magical animal to be his familiar. Aldwyn's always been clever. But magical? Jack thinks so—and Aldwyn is happy to play along.

He just has to convince the other familiars—the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert—that he's the powerful cat he claims to be.

Then the unthinkable happens. Jack and two other young wizards are captured by the evil queen of Vastia.

On a thrilling quest to save their loyals, the familiars face dangerous foes, unearth a shocking centuries-old secret, and discover a destiny that will change Vastia forever. Their magical adventure—an irresistible blend of real heart, edge-of-your-seat action, and laugh-out-loud humor—is an unforgettable celebration of fantasy and friendship.

I interviewed Adam and Jay about The Familiars.

Question 1: How did you come up with the idea for The Familiars?

Question 2: What's the best thing about writing with a friend?

Question 3: Which animal would you pick as your familiar?


Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It by Sundee T. Frazier [Delacorte | 2007]

Ten-year-old Tae Kwon Do blue belt and budding rock hound Brendan Buckley keeps a CONFIDENTIAL notebook for his top-secret scientific discoveries. And he's found something totally top-secret. The grandpa he's never met, whom his mom refuses to see or even talk about, is an expert mineral collector, and he lives nearby! Brendan sneaks off to visit his grandpa Ed DeBose, whose skin is pink, not brown like Brendan's, his dad's, or his late Grampa Clem's.

Brendan sets out to find the reason behind Ed's absence, but what he discovers can't be explained by science, and now he wishes he'd never found Ed at all...

Listen to an excerpt from the audio book.


The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff [HarperCollins | 2008]

The thing about poodles is that Georgie hates to walk them

The thing about Jeanie the Meanie is that she would rather write on her shoe than help Georgie with their Abraham Lincoln project.

The thing about Georgie's mom is that she's having a baby—a baby who will probably be taller than Georgie very, very soon.

And the thing about Georgie . . . well, what is the thing about Georgie?

Take a look at The Thing About Georgie discussion guide.

Visit Lisa Graff's website to learn more about Georgie and dwarfism.

Honus and Me by Dan Gutman [HarperCollins | 1998]

Joe Stoshack lives for baseball. He knows everything there is to know about the game -- except how to play well. His specialty is striking out. Stosh feels like a real loser, and when he takes a low-paying job cleaning a bunch of junk out of his neighbor's attic, he feels even worse -- until he comes across a little piece of cardboard that takes his breath away. His heart is racing. His brain is racing. He can hardly believe his eyes. Stosh has stumbled upon a T-206 Honus Wagner -- the most valuable baseball card in the world! And he's about to find out that it's worth a lot more than money....


Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord [Scholastic | 2010]

Never whistle on a boat.

A rainbow means change is coming.

It's bad luck to change a boat's name.

If you write your wish beneath the stamp on a letter, the letter will carry the wish with it.

Start your journey with your right foot and good luck will walk with you.

Touch Blue and your wish will come true.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo [Scholastic | 1982]

This book recounts the adventures of a horse as he moves from life on a farm into the battles of World War I, the story of a friendship lasting through the toughest of tests.

Through the eyes of the war horse, Joey, Michael Morpurgo tells this moving and powerful story of survival on the Western Front.

Scholastic created lesson plans, videos, and student interactives inspired by War Horse.


Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford [Putnam | 2009]

About the book:

Growing up in the shadow of his football star brother, Chris, Newt Newman has never felt particularly special. When Chris is knocked into a coma, Newt's two best friends decide that taking him out for Halloween is the best way to cheer him up. Using some of Chris's old, oversized clothes, Newt creates his best costume ever - Captain Nobody!

Newt feels so strong and confident in his new getup that he keeps wearing it after Halloween is over. In no time, Newt assumes the role of a hero in a string of exploits that include foiling a robbery and saving a planeload of passengers. But will Captain Nobody be able to save the one person he cares about most?

Captain Nobody, the acclaimed author of The Big One-Oh, Dean Pitchford, has skillfully crafted a heartfelt blend of action, humor, and family drama.

Read an interview with author and songwriter Dean Pitchford. It includes a video montage of the songs he has written.

Check out the interactive Captain Nobody website.


Guyku by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds [Houghton Mifflin | 2009]

About the book:

The wind and I play
tug-of-war with my new kite.
The wind is winning.

When you’re a guy, nature is one big playground—no matter what the season. There are puddles to splash in the spring, pine trees to climb in the summer, maple seeds to catch in the fall, and icicles to swordfight with in the winter.

Nature also has a way of making a guy appreciate important stuff—like how many rocks it takes to dam up a stream, or how much snow equals a day off from school.
So what kind of poetry best captures these special moments, at a length that lets guys get right back to tree-climbing and kite-flying? Why, guyku, of course!

The Official Guyku Headquarters has teacher resources, downloads, activities, certificates, and more.


Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin A. Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper [Carolrhoda | 2010]

About the book:

Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family's new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren't treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws...

Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth's family
The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook—and the kindness of strangers—Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma's house in Alabama.

Download the official Ruth and the Green Book bookmark. :)

Artist Floyd Cooper discusses the history of the green book.


Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse [Dutton | 2010]

Scope Notes and I named it one of the best books of 2010.

First things first: a reversible poem, or the reverso, is a new poetry form created by Marilyn Singer. It allows the reader to see two sides to a story – one perspective going down the page, another coming up. This is a fascinating way to look at twelve beloved fairy tales. On one side of the page, Little Red Riding Hood is skipping through the forest in her hood – on the other side, the Wolf is watching Little Red skip through his “hood.” Josee Masse’s expressive illustrations are rich in detail. The juxtaposition of shadow color versus pure color in the same illustration enhances the concept of the reverso. This unique poetry collection is sure to be a winner with everyone, especially elementary school teachers.

William Shakespeare is Marilyn Singer's favorite writer.

Marilyn has always loved poetry. She thinks all people love poetry when they're small.

"The very first non-fiction book I wrote was actually on garlic, leeks, and onions. It was supposed to be a short book and it turned into this mammoth fat thing because there was no editor there." -Marilyn Singer

The Shadows [Books of Elsewhere Vol. 1] by Jacqueline West [Dial | 2010]

About the book:

Old Ms. McMartin is definitely, dead, and her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, Olive is right to think there's something odd about the place--not least the strange antique paintings hanging on its walls. But when she finds a pair of old glasses in a dusty drawer, Olive discovers the most peculiar thing yet: she can travel inside these paintings to Elsewhere, a place that's strangely quiet...and eerily familiar. Olive soon finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It's up to her to save the house from the shadows, before the lights go out for good.

Jacqueline West talks about the inspiration for The Books of Elsewhere series.


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