Grades 3-5: Ghost Sitter, Peni R. Griffin, Dutton

Grades 6-8: Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps, Andrea Warren, Harper Collins

Press Release

Books by Griffin, Warren selected as 2004 White Book Award Winners

EMPORIA, Kansas – A story about the ghost of a ten-year-old girl and her friendship with a girl who comes to live in the house she haunts and a story about a twelve-year-old Polish boy who survives the Nazi concentration camps have been selected as the 52nd annual William Allen White Children’s Book Award Winners.

Ghost Sitter by Peni R. Griffin is the 2004 White Award winner in the third to fifth grade category and Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren is the winner of the sixth to eighth grade 2004 White Award, according to Joyce N. Davis, Dean of the University Libraries and Archives 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 Emporia State University and is supported by the Trusler Foundation.

More than 55,000 Kansas boys and girls in the third through eighth grades participated in the voting for this year’s awards. 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, Kansas educational and professional organizations concerned with children, classroom teachers, and school or public librarians working with children.

Griffin’s Ghost Sitter, winner of the third through fifth grade award, is the story of ten-year-old Susie, a ghost who does not realize she was killed 50 years ago in a fireworks accident. Susie cannot understand why people, including her own family, move in and out of her house, and why no one, except very young children, ever seem to notice that she is there. When ten-year-old Charlotte moves into the house with her family, including a younger brother, she and her new friend Shannon try to help Susie understand that she has died so that she can stop haunting the house and move on. Alternating between Susie and Charlotte’s points of view, this thrilling but not-too-scary ghost story provides just enough tension and emotional impact as all three girls learn valuable lessons about family and friendship.

Peni R.Griffin is the author of many books for children and young adults and claims that her audience generally is herself at age ten. She learned a love of reading during long car-trips as a child and reads true ghost stories “extensively,” during which she noticed that “ghosts seldom understand that they’re dead, and haunt all sorts of places, even suburban tract homes, not just Gothic mansions.” She was born in Texas and currently lives there in a 90 year-old house with her husband, a housemate, and two cats, but she also lived many places in between.

Warren’s Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps, winner of the sixth through eighth grade award, is the story of Jack Mandelbaum, who is imprisoned with his family in the Nazi concentration camps after being forced to flee from his Polish neighborhood at the age of twelve. Told from fifteen-year-old Jack’s point of view, the story describes the horrifying living conditions and the bonds created between fellow prisoners as they struggle to survive. Using black and white photographs from the era to provide a visual historical context for the story, Warren creates a true-to-life tale about courage, friendship, and family ties, during a time of dreadful violence, and about a boy attempting to stay alive long enough to be reunited with his family.
Andrea Warren, a Kansan, says, “I’m always looking behind facts and dates in search of how extraordinary times impact ordinary people. I think the most engaging way to study history is by seeing it through the eyes of participants. Each of us wants to know, If that had been me at that time, in that place, what would I have done? What would have happened to me?" Among Warren's honors are the prestigious Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story, which was also selected as an ALA Notable Book. She won the Midland Authors Award for Pioneer Girl, Growing Up on the Prairie. A former teacher and journalist, Warren writes from her home in the Kansas City suburb of Prairie Village, Kansas.
Since 1952, more than 2,800,000 votes have been cast by the children of Kansas to select the annual winners of the White Book Awards. The White Award Program was founded by Ruth Carver 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. Gagaliardo’s dedicated and inspired leadership guided the White Award Program from 1952 until her death on January 5, 1980.


Ghost Sitter

Ghost Sitter
Ghost Sitter. Peni R. Griffin; Dutton, 2001
Grade Level: 3 - 5
ISBN & Cost: 0525466762 $14.99

Synopsis: Susie and Charlotte are both taking care of Charlotte’s little brother Brandon. The only problem is that Susie died 50 years earlier and won’t or can’t understand that she is dead. This ghost story is seen from both Susie and Charlotte’s viewpoints.

General Review: The suburban setting and the ordinary activities in this story make it all the more eerie. It is a fun ghost story for the middle of summer.

Author Information:

Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

Why is Susie waiting in the house? Who is she waiting for? Have you ever been left somewhere by yourself and wondered when your family was coming back to get you?
How do you celebrate the 4th of July? How is Charlotte’s family planning to celebrate the holiday?
Charlotte wanted to find out about a family that lived in her house many years ago. Where did she look for information and how did she find it?
How did Susie and Gloria feel when they finally are together again? How did that meeting change both of the sisters?

Activity Suggestions:
Look up the fireworks regulations in your area? Talk about safe ways to celebrate. Standard 1, Benchmark 4
Research your town or neighborhood’s history from 50 years ago. Look in newspaper articles or books about that time. What was your area like? Did your house exist? How has the area changed in 50 years? Standard 1, Benchmark 4
Do a unit on babysitting safety. Check with the Red Cross or a local hospital to see if they have babysitting clinics available. Make a list of babysitting tips and a fact sheet to fill out. Standard 1, Benchmark 4

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Surviving Hitler

Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps
Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps. Andrea Warren; HarperCollins, 2001.
Grade level: 6 - 8
ISBN & Cost: 0688174973 $16.99
Synopsis: The story of Jack Mendelbaum’s childhood in Poland, young adulthood in the Nazi concentration camps, and new life in Kansas City following his liberation from the camps constructed from interviews with him and those who know him.

General Review: Mendelbaum’s story is simply yet thoroughly told, making it an ideal introduction to Holocaust survivor stories for young readers. The author’s background information on concentration camps, multimedia recommendations, and index which follow Mendelbaum’s story make it useful as a resource as well.

Themes: Holocaust, World War II, Jewish religion

Author information:

SATA Vol. 98;

Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3
1. Describe Jack’s life in Gdynia before he moved to Grandfather’s.
2. Life changed for Jack and the Jewish community when the Nazis conquered Poland in September 1939. What things could he no longer do?
3. What vow did Jack make on his first night in Blechhammer concentration camp?
4. The advice given to Jack by other prisoners keeps him alive. What were some of the “rules” he followed?
5. Name some of the things Jack has done since he moved to America.

Activity Suggestions:

1. Mr. Mendelbaum told the author, “I speak hoping I can make a difference.” Write a letter to him and share your thoughts and feelings after reading the book. Standard 5, Benchmark 3
2. Make a timeline of the important events in Jack’s life, starting with life in Gdynia in 1939 and ending with his trip to Poland with Uncle Sig in 1999. Standard 3, Benchmark 1
3. Visit the website of the organization Jack co-founded in Overland Park, KS, Standard 1, Benchmark 4
4. Read one of the books recommended for your age group in the back of the book. Standard 5, Benchmark 1