EMPORIA, Kansas -- A story about a sixth grader who has been selected to avenge a murder and a story about someone plagued by bad luck because of a family curse have been selected by Kansas children as the 49th annual William Allen White Children's Book Award winners.
"The Ghost of Fossil Glen," by Cynthia C. DeFelice, is the 2001 White Award winner in the third- to fifth-grade category and "Holes," by Louis Sachar, is the 2001 White Award winner in the sixth- to eighth-grade category, according to Joyce N. Davis, director of the William Allen White Library at Emporia State University and executive director of the White Awards Program. The White Awards Program, which is the nation's first statewide reader's choice award, is directed by E-State and is supported in part by the Trusler Foundation.
More than 65,000 boys and girls in the third through eighth grades in Kansas schools participated in the voting for this year's awards. This year, for the first time in the history of the award, winners were selected from two master lists to better accommodate the developmental levels of a wide age range of children. Additionally, third graders were eligible to vote. The boys and girls voted for their favorite book from master lists chosen by the White Awards Book Selection Committee, which is made up of representatives of educational institutions in Kansas, as well as Kansas educational and professional organizations concerned with children.
DeFelice's "The Ghost of Fossil Glen" is the thrilling tale of sixth grader Allie Nichols, who has been selected to avenge a girl who was murdered four years before in the glen. The book received the 2000 Texas Bluebonnet Award.
In discussing her writing, DeFelice said, "I want to write a story to entertain, to engage the minds, hearts, and senses of young readers. I really think that kids are the most challenging audience to write for. They demand a satisfying story."
DeFelice was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 28, 1951. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from William Smith College in 1973 and a Master of Library Science degree from Syracuse University in 1980. She was an elementary school media specialist in the Newark, New York, public schools from 1980-1987. She currently lives in Geneva, New York.
She is a member of the Authors Guild, the Authors League of America, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and the National Association for Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling.
Sachar's "Holes" is the story of Stanley Yelnats, plagued by bad luck because of a family curse, who is sentenced to forced labor at a desert juvenile correction facility. The book received the 1999 Newbery Award, the 1998 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the 2000 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the 1999 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction, and the 1999 Christopher Award for Books for Young People in the young adult category.
In his acceptance speech for the 1999 Newbery Award, Sachar said that "the book was written for the sake of the book, and nothing beyond that. If there's any lesson at all, it is that reading is fun. I know that when I finish reading a book that I love, I feel somehow enriched by it. My favorite books have become a part of me."
Sachar was born in East Meadow, New York, on March 20, 1954. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1976 and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California at San Francisco in 1980. He was a practicing attorney from 1981-1989. He currently lives in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Authors Guild and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Since 1952, more than 2,673,000 votes have been cast by the children of Kansas to select the annual winners of the White Book Awards. In that year, the White Award Program was founded by Ruth Garver Gagliardo, a specialist in children's literature, to honor the memory of one of the state's most distinguished citizens by encouraging the boys and girls of Kansas to read and enjoy good books. Gagliardo's dedicated and inspired leadership guided the White Award Program from 1952 until her death on January 5, 1980.
The Ghost of Fossil Glen. Cynthia C. DeFelice; PUBLISHER, 1998; Awarded 2001.
Synopsis: When sixth grader Allie Nichols goes searching for fossils in Fossil Glen, she finds more than she bargains for. As she clings to a dangerous cliff, a calm voice softly offers life-saving advice for getting her down the steep wall safely. Later, when Allie realizes that the voice is Lucy Stile’s ghost speaking, only her good friend Dub believes her. With Dub’s help, Lucy’s old diary, and a great deal of courage, Allie sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding Lucy’s death.
Themes: Ghosts, Diaries, Imagination, Friendship, Ecology, Murder mystery
Discussion questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3
1. Allie has an active imagination. What are the advantages of having an imagination like Allie’s? What are the disadvantages?
2. Allie learns about Lucy from several sources. What are some of the ways she learns about Lucy? List some of the important facts she learns.
3. Lucy discovers that keeping a journal has several positive results. What are they?
1. Cut out a fossil shape from paper. On one side tell what you admire about Allie. On the other side tell what you admire about Dub. Standard 5, Benchmark 3
2. Pretend you are Allie. What will you write in your next journal entry to her teacher, Mr. Henry? Standard 3, Benchmark 2
3. Create a pamphlet for the new Fossil Glen Nature Preserve. Include information such as what one can see there, a map of trails, history, etc. Standard 3, Benchmark 4
Holes. Louis Sachar; PUBLISHER, 1998; Awarded 2001.
Synopsis: Caught with a stolen pair of shoes, Stanley Yelnats is given a choice to go to jail or to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility in the Texas desert. Since he is poor, he chooses the camp. Camp Green Lake is so outrageous it is hard to imagine such a place. An evil warden uses the boys to dig holes in search of buried treasure. The plot weaves a story that involves four generations of the Yelnats family who are under a curse. Allegedly, Stanley’s great-grandfather was robbed by Kissin’ Kate Barlow, a famous outlaw. Stanley’s best friend at the camp is the great-grandson of a woman who also knew Stanley’s great-grandpa. Zero and Stanley run away from camp and survive on onions and dirty water. They return, continue to dig holes, and find a suitcase which belongs to Stanley—and the one which had been stolen from his grandfather. The discovery of this treasure eventually breaks the curse and helps to unravel the complex, mysterious plot.
Themes: Belonging, Sense of self, Courage, Friendship, Mystery
Discussion questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3
1. A reviewer describes Holes as a ‘dazzling blend of social commentary, tall tale, and magic realism’. Cite examples of each of these elements in the novel.
2. Stanley develops a true friendship with Zero. What do each of the boys contribute to this friendship?
3. Cite examples of how the present and past are inextricably intertwined in this novel.
1. Divide class into groups of seven. Each member of the group chooses an item from a brown paper bag—a gold tube of lipstick with the initials K.B., a set of onions, a copy of the “If only” lullaby, a picture of a pig, a pair of sneakers, a jar of spiced peaches, and a picture of ‘Big Thumb’—and then tells class how the chosen item fits into the story. Standard 3, Benchmark 4
2. Pretend you are Stanley. Based on your experiences in the novel, write your version of the “If only” lullaby to future generations of Yelnats. Standard 3, Benchmark 2
3. Have students chart Stanley’s acts of courage in the novel. Standard 3, Benchmark 1