William Allen White Children's Book Awards

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2016 White Book Award Winners Announced

Grades 3-5:  “The Boy on the Porch” by Sharon Creech

Grades 6-8:  "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library" by Chris Grabenstein

EMPORIA, KAN. — Solving puzzles and finding a new family are the themes for the winning titles in the 2016 William Allen White Children’s Book Awards.

“The Boy on the Porch,” by Sharon Creech was selected by voters in Grades 3 through 5.

"Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library," by Chris Grabenstein, was selected by voters in Grades 6 through 8.

Creech’s book tells the story of a new family after john and Marta find a boy asleep on their porch. Unable to speak, the boy Jacob can't explain his history. All John and Marta know is that they have been chosen to care for him.

And, as their connection and friendship with Jacob grow, they embrace his exuberant spirit and talents. The three of them blossom into an unlikely family and begin to see the world in brand-new ways.

“Three mornings in a row, I woke hearing this phrase in my head: ‘the boy on the porch,’” said Creech, explaining her inspiration for the book. “I had no idea to whom or what those words referred, but after the third day, I thought I’d better pay attention and write a story about the boy on the porch!  I’ve learned to trust those instincts. …

“I discovered that the boy, who does not speak, is like all characters that do not have a voice until a writer is ready to listen to them; and he is like so many children who do not have a ‘voice’ in this world; and he is like all children who come into our lives: when they arrive — at any age — we wonder who they are and what they think and fear and feel and who they will become.”

Before beginning her writing career, Sharon Creech taught English for fifteen years in England and Switzerland. She and her husband now live in Maine.

Puzzles take center stage in Grabenstein’s book, the first of two featuring Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, described as an action-packed cross between “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Night at the Museum.”

Hero Kyle Keeley is the class clown and a huge fan of all games—board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the construction of the new town library. Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot as one of twelve kids invited for an overnight sleepover in the library, hosted by Mr. Lemoncello and riddled with lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route!

“I wanted to make young readers excited about reading and doing research,” Grabenstein explained. “I tried to turn a trip to the library into an incredibly fun scavenger hunt, filled with puzzles and surprises. 

“In my perpetually 12-years-old mind, that’s what doing research actually is.”

Grabenstein begin writing in grade school, winning his first writing award in fifth grade. He studied communications and theater in college. His writing career has included writing comedy sketches, projects for television including Jim Henson’s “Little Muppet Monsters” show and a Christmas-themed TV movie as well as radio and television commercials.

He lives in New York City with his wife, two cats and a dog.

The William Allen White Children’s Book Award program began after the famed journalist’s death on Jan. 29, 1944 — Kansas Day — when two memorial foundations were created in his name. Emporia State University launched the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, which was guided by Ruth Garver Gagliardo, who was hired by White to write for The Emporia Gazette.

Passionate about books, Gagliardo wrote a regular column that commented on books, music and art, and often concentrated on books for children. She was one of the first to review children’s books for a newspaper, which gave parents, teachers and librarians the chance to know about good quality books for children.

Gagliardo’s column led to “The Children’s Bookshelf,” a book review column in the Kansas Teacher magazine. She also started the Children’s Traveling Book Exhibit, which helped introduce children all over Kansas to good books for 23 years.

The 64th annual celebration of the WAW Children’s Book Awards program, directed by Emporia State University and supported in part by the Trusler Foundation, will be Oct. 1, 2016. During that day, schoolchildren from across the state of Kansas travel to Emporia for special events including lock-ins, author readings and book signings along with a pep rally on campus before the awards ceremony itself. Many teachers use travel to the book awards as incentives in their school reading programs.

Student representatives present the winning authors with their White Award medals during the awards ceremony that concludes the special day.

Additional resources:

The William Allen White Children's Book Awards directed by Emporia State University/